|The best boat tool|
of all: boat hooks
So...in no particular order, here's my list of the uses I made of this wonderful tool while we were cruising the French and Belgian waterways this summer:
1. Putting ropes on bollards that are just out of reach. I sometimes think lock designers deliberately challenge the boater by placing bollards or cleats just out of normal arm's reach or throwing distance. A good long boat hook solves this problem nicely. Just slip the noose of your line over your hook, reach out and slide it over the offending bollard or cleat. It can sometimes be a bit tricky extracting the hook without taking your carefully positioned noose with it, but practice makes perfect!
2. Fishing the bucket you've dropped in the water out of it. Yep. I do that at least once a week. I chuck my bucket into the river, canal or harbour with gay abandon and manage to let go of its rope in the process. A handy boat hook can rescue it and stop it floating away from your barge, never to be thrown again.
3. Pushing yourself off boats you've got way too near by getting distracted. One of our stock phrases while we were away was 'keep steering!' There's always something to catch your attention on a canal meaning that the steering can go haywire as you gaze around. If you get too close to other moored-up barges, your boat hook can be a saving grace - quite literally.
4. Pushing yourself off the quay when starting up and the wind is determined to keep you on land. This doesn't happen all too often, but it can, and with some heavy grunting as added help, shoving the boat hook hard against the wall can really get you unstuck from these close encounters with stony things.
5. Passing something like a bag of goodies to someone on another boat. As I've mentioned, you don't want to get too close to other boats, so if you do need to pass something over, then put it in a carrier bag, hang it on your boat hook and stretch out across a suitable divide.
6. Passing your rope up to a lock assistant in a deep lock with no ladders. In some of the French flights of locks, there is an assistant to take you through, but some of these locks are pretty deep, so they will use a boat hook to 'collect' your rope from you and pull it to a bollard at the top. If they don't have one (which happened to us once), use your own get it up to him or her.
7. Using the hook as a machete to hack your way through nettles and brambles on an overgrown bank-side to which you have moored. I did this when we improvised our own mooring on a Belgian canal. The hook did a grand job of breaking down nettles and flattening brambles, so we could climb up the bank with our ropes.
8. Testing the depth of the canal where you think it might be a bit shallow. If you like 'off the well-dredged track' as much as we do, you might sometimes run the risk of running aground. A boat hook is a great way to test the depth of the water in shallow parts.
9. Measuring how much fuel you have in your tank. Our fuel tank has a gauge on the side, but you can't always see the diesel in it if the light is wrong, so then we stick the shaft of the boat hook through the filler cap, then we can check how much we still have from where the wet bit stops on the wood.
10. Grabbing a cleat or ladder rung on a wall you want to tie up to when the wind is making it difficult for the skipper. The boat hook can make a great hold fast in windy locks. Once you've got the hook on a ladder rung or a cleat, you can pull the boat into a more manageable position.
11. Using the hook to hold the barge in position when pulling in and out of a 'car park' type mooring between other boats - either keeping the barge steady and preventing it from swinging out, or keeping a suitable distance when it wants to swing into another barge.
12. Fishing flags, cushions and other items out of the water that have blown overboard in a gust of strong wind, or...when we've forgotten the flag pole is higher than the rest of the barge when going under a low bridge. This has happened a few times over the years, and adopting a 'stuff overboard manoeuvre' (which is like man overboard but with more laughter), our boat hook has saved our flags and other sundry items many a time.
So there you have it, the twelve uses for this wonderful, indispensable item of boatery. I really really couldn't manage without it - for both the conventional and unconventional uses we've made of it. We have two on the Hennie H and they were very well used throughout our trips.
Have a lovely sunny Sunday one and all, and in the meantime, can you think of any other uses I might have for my haakstok?