Sailing on the Canals of Birmingham

One of my boyfriend’s longstanding dreams was to hire a canal boat and drive it himself. This seemed highly unrealistic. My friend did that, crashed it and dropped his mobile phone over the side. Not to mention expensive – a day’s hire is around £150, plus £100 refundable deposit. But my BF convinced me, and it was fun! It’s better value in a group so we went with my BF’s family when visiting Birmingham.

Tunnel under Broad Street, BirminghamWe all had a go at driving  steering sailing the boat. My BF’s mother had particular “issues” with her steering, in that she kept crashing it into the sides. In the end my BF’s Dad had to shout “Stop steering, it’s not fair on the dogs!” – which sounded funny but the poor dog was absolutely terrified and shaking like a leaf.

I thought I’d have a go – how hard can it be? Maybe I’ll be a natural and buy a canal boat and drive it round town. Maybe I’ll race it at the Olympics? Well no – my dreams were crushed as for some bizarre reason, whenever I touched the steering wheel driving stick the boat swerved straight into the nearest bank! Under my diligent steering the boat even got beached! I’m not sure how that is even possible in a canal – surely there shouldn’t be sandbanks at the sides?! I started to freak out thinking we were going to need to get some sort of boat equivalent to a tow. Which come to think of it is probably, well, a tow.  Luckily it was all fine, as a slightly more competent member of the family used a pole to push us away from the side.

Canals, BirminghamCanal under Broad Street, BirminghamBrindley Place, BirminghamHence followed a serene sailing session, culminating in a pub lunch which was very delicious and would have been more so had we had time for dessert. We were forced to make a dash back to Birmingham to return the boat on time, or face a fine!

However we had to turn the boat around first. Then proceeded a farcical manoeuvre when we attempted to turn the boat around in the canal which was not really wide enough so we ended up in that scene from Austin Powers when he tried to do a 3-point turn in a corridor and ends up doing a Million-Point-Turn as there isn’t room. Yeah, we did that. In a boat. Cue the usual family shouting and flapping around in panic that we have once again got us stuck. BUT we wiggled free and got back ok.

Canals outside BirminghamWe also had to go through a 2km-long tunnel, which was insane and went on longer than the eye could see. In the middle you couldn’t see daylight at either end, and it took about 30-40 minutes to pass through the tunnel. It was wide enough for 2 boats to pass with just an inch to spare on each side. A crazy experience and I was thankful that some members of the family seemed to have a natural ability for steering the boat in a straight line.

So to sum up, we beached the boat and got it stuck perpendicular in the canal. I think this takes special skill. We are the kind of people the boating types probably despair of! Not me, obv, it was all my BF’s family! 😉 But we had a fun day, and the canals were beautiful. It was expensive but if you have a big group to share the cost it is a fun experience!

Next blog: Liverpool, UK

Previous blog: Birmingham, UK

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