PlanetSKI Turns Into PlanetBOAT – Part Two
15th July 2021
Last modified on July 20th, 2021
With the mountains effectively out-of-bounds PlanetSKI is confined to the UK. So, we’re trying a few outdoor activities within our shores. We’re on the Thames for a few days of river cruising and hoping to improve after an, er, challenging start. Surprisingly there are quite a few similarities with skiing.
Our editor, James Cove, and his wife the PlanetSKI social media supremo, Kisia Cove, are heading towards Marlow in Buckinghamshire on a 4-day and 3-night trip.
With the inland waterway specialist, Le Boat, and this is their home and mode of transport.
See here for the start of their adventure in their first blog when things didn’t, er, quite go to plan:
There’s 10+ hours of cruising with 18 locks to progress through.
Passing through Windsor, Bray, Maidenhead and Cookham.
They may be able to ski alot, but can they boat a bit?
More importantly would their marriage survive?
Words and steering: James Cove
Pictures/Videos and knots: Kisia Cove
We set off with a plan.
Today was an early start for 5 locks, 6+ hours of cruising and then dinner with friends on the boat in Marlow was the idea.
The first lock, Boveney, was a doddle, but only thanks to the lock keeper, Georgia, who saw our lack of experience and offered immediate help.
As a ski instructor I can usually tell how a person skis before they even put skis on.
The way people carry their skis, their clothes, what they say, how they get on a lift and their general demeanour.
It is likely the same with river cruising.
The Le Boat emblem and poor approach angle were probably a giveaway to Georgia.
She guided us in and gave invaluable tips on steering to me, and a lesson in throwing the ropes with knotting techniques to Kisia.
The next lock at Bray should now pass without incident.
Unfortunately it didn’t.
As I nudged the boat into the Bray lock Kisia expertly secured the rear (stern) of the boat, but then the front (bow) started to drift out from the side.
I turned the wheel, which of course made no difference as we weren’t moving forwards and out it went some more.
For some reason I gave the boat a bit of throttle and that just made the situation worse.
The front (bow) hit the other lock wall and the boat spread out across the width of the lock.
I began to have some sympathy for the poor person who was in change of steering on the ‘Ever Given’ container ship that became stuck in the Suez canal back in March.
“Have you got a bow thruster?” the lock keeper enquired.
“No idea. What’s a bow thruster?” I replied.
“Ok, just throw the rope and I’ll secure it”.
Kisia expertly threw the rope to the lock keeper in a single flick of the wrist and we were secure once more.
I was then admonished by Kisia for not ensuring our boat had a bow thruster, though I remain unsure exactly what a ‘bow thruster’ even is.
“You told me you would be able to steer the boat and to be honest you are utterly useless,” she correctly observed.
“I am doing all the hard work with the ropes and with the added danger of falling in.
“You just sit up top, moving the steering wheel in the wrong direction,” she said.
I was about to respond, but then realised she had a valid point.
We have managed 29-years of marriage.
I remain keen to celebrate our 30th anniversary, though I detected Kisia at this precise moment in time was perhaps less enthusiastic at the prospect.
It is sometimes a good idea to know when to keep quiet and admit incompetence in a relationship.
Especially as the facts were plain for all to see.
I bit my tongue.
We exited the lock with a small single glancing blow to the right (starboard) side of the boat which I judged as an achievement.
Mrs Cove chose a different interpretation.
“You’ve hit the side again, you utter idiot. All you had to do was go straight.”
She had a point.
We then progressed up stream without incident.
We passed the millionaires’ houses around Bray.
And a few fancy restaurants too.
We were not stopping off at the Fat Duck or the Waterside Inn – for us it was a mix of on-board catering and pubs.
Le Boat also offers pre-ordered food that can be delivered to your home ahead of your trip or to the marina to collect on arrival.
We had decided to bring our own and do our own cooking.
Duck for supper and scrambled eggs for breakfast.
It was not just the locks testing my steering skills – there were bridges too.
The narrow bridge at Maidenhead approached once we had passed Bray.
I didn’t realise Kisia was videoing me as I was concentrating rather hard.
Best not to watch our passage under a very narrow bridge at Maidenhead if you are offended by swearing ;-).
Though please do admire the steering skills and remember our boat is 12m long – the exact length of a London double-decker bus and 1.2m wider.
It weighs in at 8 tons – the weight of three African elephants, the largest land animals on earth.
It doesn’t turn, stop or do things quickly.
I then had the brainwave of comparing my skiing technique to my steering technique.
It may sound a bit odd at first but there are remarkable similarities between steering a 12m, 8-ton river cruiser on water and steering a pair of skis over snow.
It is not the technique itself, but rather the attitude and mental approach.
Patience and calmness is required.
On the boat the most common mistake is moving the steering wheel and then, when nothing happens, moving it some more.
And then perhaps a bit extra.
When the boat does change course it then moves too far and so one over-compensates by turning the steering wheel too far the other way.
The way to do it is a small movement of the wheel and then wait for the boat to do its thing.
As well as patience and calmness, confidence is required.
It is the same with skiing, especially in powder.
Put some downward pressure on the ski and then wait for it to do its thing.
In powder snow people are usually too aggressive and one ski sinks in and over they go.
Same when carving on the piste.
Put the ski on its edge and wait.
Many people put the ski on its edge and when nothing happens immediately they twist their ankles (or worse still their shoulders) and the ski then skids rather than carves.
It is all about patience and trust – on skis and on a boat.
It began to get a bit easier.
Kisia and I had only done two locks and it was approaching mid-day.
There were three to go and the next day we needed to return to Chertsey coming back though all the locks.
The return journey would be nine locks – an early start with a late finish and no time to stop.
Sometimes there are long queues to get into the locks, so predicting time was a bit haphazard.
Then the rain began, with a forecast of more to come.
When I am leading groups off piste in the mountains with a route in mind and circumstances change (weather, group ability, mood or just a feeling) then I alter my plan.
And that is what we did.
We decided not to have nine locks and a full and frantic day of cruising on our final full day.
Rather take it easy and enjoy the Thames at a slower pace.
We turned around as we passed Maidenhead.
Marlow could wait for another time.
It proved to be one of my better nautical calls.
It gave us time to admire some of the other river users as we passed back through the Bray lock.
This beauty was built in 1904 and weighs in at 47 tons – the equivalent of 15 African elephants.
We saw the full spectrum of boats and the people had a single thing in common – a love of the water.
Our return trip through Bray lock passed without incident.
“You see to have got the hang of things,” said the lock keeper to us as we glided out (without hitting the wall this time).
Perhaps, just perhaps, I was beginning to master the art of steering.
Our overnight mooring was to be at Runnymead as there was public mooring by a pub.
Kisia was certainly getting the hang of her knots.
And I was almost getting the hang of steering the beast of a boat as I applied the same mental attitude I have when skiing.
Magna Carta was sealed in Runnymead on June 12th 1215, which we thought might be interesting to visit in the morning now we were in no rush.
We had no late arrival in Marlow with a long day ahead – rather time to relax, and chill out.
I read about the Magna Carta.
Clause 39 of the document sealed between King and the Barons of England declared thus:
“No free man shall be taken, imprisoned, outlawed, banished or in any way destroyed , nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by lawful judgement of his equals and by the law of the land”.
This was written in 1215.
It has been the basis for law and individual rights, plus the basis for reform and protection against tyranny that has led to the development of democracy throughout the world.
Kisia and I were looking forward to visiting and discovering more.
Time for a drink as the sun must have gone over the yardarm somewhere.
And to take in our location with fellow water dwellers in Runnymead.
Dinner at the Bells of Ouseley pub was perhaps not up to the standard of the Michelin starred restaurants in Bray we had passed, but for me it was one of the tastiest fish ‘n’ chips I had eaten in a long while.
We celebrated our growing skills on the water.
Back on the boat as the sun set, I found time to start writing these articles of the boat trip while everything is fresh in my mind and with some time on my hands.
I could think of worse places to be working…
Le Boat is the No.1 provider of inland water boating holidays, bringing together 50 years of experience, expertise and memories.
Le Boat has a fleet of large self-drive cruisers, allowing entire families to stay on board and to explore their chosen region.
The self-drive Benson Return river cruise, allows holidaymakers to explore the western section of the River Thames.
Here moorings are easy to find and the distance between locks is greater than at the river’s eastern end, which means more cruising.
Staying on Le Boat craft means that guests have their own private bubble, with no need to worry about social distancing.
The dreaming spires and universities of Oxford are a six-hour cruise to the west of Benson, or head east and in six hours boaters can be in Henley-on-Thames, the home of British rowing.
Perfect for those seeking an affordable staycation and with no previous experience necessary, Le Boat’s Thames holidays can be whatever guests want them to be, from a full-on action-packed adventure to a slow-paced, relaxing chance to unwind.
This year, Le Boat’s boating season will run until 31 October 2021 in England. Next year’s boating season will run 1 April – 31 October 2022.
The boat and accommodation For the three nights of your trip you travelled on a Le Boat Caprice sleeping a maximum of six.
The two en-suite staterooms are located forward, leaving lots of room in the rear for the saloon and aft deck. The saloon has a radio/CD player and MP3/USB connectivity.
A three-night self-catered cruise on the River Thames during the 2021 boating season, starting and finishing at Le Boat’s base at Benson, is priced from £389 per boat.
Transport to and from the base is not included.
Contact Le Boat: (023 9280 9124) or www.leboat.co.uk
Summer on PlanetSKI
Across this summer as we can’t get to the mountains of Europe PlanetSKI is trying its hand at some UK based activities.
From hiking the South Downs Way & the SW Coastal Path, to taking a flying lesson over SE England.
We’ll be reporting on our adventures later.
Visits to Scotland and Wales are on the cards.
We’re planning to reach the top of Ben Nevis and Mt Snowdon.
Plus, we’re taking to water with kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and more besides.
But in terms of this Thames riverboat cruise do check back later this week for our blog from Day Two…..