Autumn is a wonderful time for cruising the waterways.
The summer crowds have receded, the Indian Summers experienced over the last few years have welcomed unexpectedly balmy daytimes and nature�s colours are arguably at their most stunning. All in all, it�s a pretty great time to be on the water.
Here are six top tips to making the most of your post-summer boating�
Why is my boat going slowly?
While the foliage framing the waterways maybe at its most aesthetic, it is also at its most fragile. The waterways provide one of nature�s dumping grounds for trees and bushes shedding their leaves and as your boat moves through, it will inevitably collect some of this debris in the propeller. Check your water pattern and propeller wash is clear. If not, a quick reverse will get any leaves off and speed you back up.
Feed the power
Even if the daytimes are pleasantly warm, cruising hours are still shorter and nights are cooler, meaning the drain on your domestic battery is greater. Recharging the batteries requires engine power so try to get enough cruising hours in the day to make sure your battery is sufficiently topped up for when you stop. Common sense housekeeping, such as turning lights off or switching to LEDs, all prolong battery life.
This is the time of year people start to fire up solid fuel stoves, but with that comes an additional carbon monoxide danger. Check your stove and flue joints for gas leaks and is the chimney clear? Also make sure all ventilation around the boat is clear, especially fly screens, which can get very bunged up after a summer of cruising. Check your carbon monoxide detector is working and even change the battery so that should a leak occur, you will be alerted to the presence of the silent killer gas in the cabin. Portable generators MUST be used outside of any cabin space - the bank is the best place. Do-it-yourself exhaust systems can be killers.
Dress for success
Even the warmest days get cooler much quicker during the autumn months and whereas a t-shirt might be adequate at the height of midday, by mid-afternoon it won�t be. Don�t forget the skipper needs to be kept warm when everyone else has retreated to the sheltered comfort of the cabin. It isn�t unheard of for helms to suffer the first degrees of hypothermia at this time of year, so keep checking they have enough layers to stay warm and deliver a solid stream of hot drinks too.
It might feel warm during the day but autumn inevitably brings more moisture, whether in the form of rain or dew, while that moisture becomes frozen as frost and even ice the closer to winter we get. This means extra care needs to be taken moving around the boat, towpaths and locks, as deck surfaces get slippery, paths get muddy giving you less grip underfoot and, if very chilly, lock mechanisms can freeze and the metal can become extremely cold to touch making gloves with good grip a must.
Autumn will quickly merge into November and December when winterization of your boat becomes crucial. Your oil should always be changed at the end of the season so that your engine isn�t sitting in dirty sludge, and this is one such winter preparation job you can get on top of during the autumn months.�
For information on the RYA�s Inland Waterways training courses visit www.rya.org.uk/training