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October 14, 2008

First Lock

Blogging offline. To be posted when connected.

We shouldn'ta watched the DVD before starting our canal boat adventure. All of the easy docking demos showed at least three crew members. One's at the helm; two (always a man) jumps ashore; three (always a woman) throws lines to two. That's all easy.

But son Jarah isn't joining us until six days after we begin. Mary and I are going to have to do a lot of docking before that. Doesn't matter that just the two of us often dock our own boat or rented boats; Mary saw the video and there are three people doing the docking. She does have a point that the helmsman of the canal boat is high on the upper deck with no good way to throw or cleat lines. A coupla times Mary asks me are we sure we can do this; a bad sign.

Plan was to just spend the first night aboard at the place on the River Siles where we picked up the boat; after all we're old enough to be retired; have six hours of jet lag and got what sleep we did on our transatlantic flight. But it turns out there's nowhere to provision there; next day is Sunday when stores in Italy are closed; got to go just a mile downstream to Casier. And dock!

The boat boy from the place gets us out of the crammed boat parking lot. I take the helm and halfcrash, halfland the stern on a dock so he can hop off with his bike. We're on our own. This thing is about forty feet long; it's wide. Doesn't steer in reverse but does have a bow thruster (side facing prop in the front of the boat that can push the bow left or right. Should make everything a piece of cake). We're festooned with bumpers.

"I think that's the place," says Mary pointing out a concrete wall with some pilings in front of it and steel ladders imbedded in it.

"I don't think so," I say. "It's not far enough."

"I think it is."

Well, I think, we have to dock sometime. Might as well get it over with. "Ok." I remember that it's best to dock heading upstream; current about two knots; no wind. We've already discussed that she wraps the first line around something onshore; cleats it back on the boat; then does the same for the second line.

"Do you want me to do the rope in the front or in the back first?" Mary asks.

"Back, because then I can use the bow thruster to push the bow in and you'll be able to grab that." Bad decision. I don't get the stern close enough to a piling so Mary somehow leaps with the line to a ladder and wraps the line around a rusty rung. She's onshore now; the bow is pushed out by the current. I can push it back some with the thruster but Mary's stuck on the ladder and I'm at the helm.

"Tie the line to the ladder," I try to say in a calm voice of command which isn't quite calming. "Then I'll throw you the bow line."

"How'll you do that?" Mary asks still clinging to the ladder. "You're up there." She doesn't remember the part of the DVD that says one person is chosen as captain and everyone does what he (sic) says.

I leave the helm and go to the bow so I can throw that line. "Where are you?" asks Mary. "Are you OK?"

But we get it all sorted out and the boat safely docked. Turns out it's the wrong place and there's no store. It's getting dark.

Look, we're experienced now. Untie. Go downstream another half a mile; turn into the current; pull up to the concrete quay. Do the bow line first this time because the current'll swing the stern in. Piece of cake. We ignore the laughing little boys who want to help us. Even get to the grocery store before it closes.

Oh yeah. The first lock. The lock tender laughed at us a little when we rammed the side of the lock. But we're on the other side now in the Venetian Lagoon proper. That's what happens when you're a good team.

UPDATE: whoops. Hubris. Really screwed up docking in Burano in a small space between a houseboat and a dredge with deadly protrusions. Ok, though.

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