#Volunteering on canal boats: Louise’s story

Louise (centre) as a teenager

Louise (centre) in 1995

Continuing our series of interviews about how community boats have affected individual lives, I recently got the opportunity to interview Louise Yeoman, a nurse who lives on a narrowboat on the outskirts of London.

As a teenager she was eager to learn more about boats and her local canal and so in 1989 she became involved with Hillingdon Narrowboats Association as a voluntary steerer.

Louise’s Story

I found that volunteering at Hillingdon was a great way to give my time and energy and learn so much in return.

I was first drawn to boats when l saw all the pretty boats bobbing around at Henley-on-Thames. After completing my steering course with HNA I was soon organising boating trips for friends, and taking the adults that l worked with at Mencap on days out.

Hooked on boating

After going out on a week’s holiday trip with a school group, l was hooked on boating and exploring the country in such a wonderfully peaceful and tranquil way.

Six months after completing my nursing studies l bought my first boat; a 45ft Colecraft. l now have a 62ft tug and continue to love living on and cruising the waterways.

Beautiful waterside places

I have cruised the London ring, Oxford ring, the Lea and Stort, the Kennet and Avon and up to Worksop  in Sheffield, passing through the River Trent and other waterways. I particularly liked the Erewash, Newark and Lincoln on the Fossdyke navigation as it was such an unexpected surprise that these waterside places were so beautiful: l was generally unfamiliar with the North of England until then.

I mainly cruise in the south east now, as it’s my favourite stretch of canal and close to my lifetime friends and family.

l no longer volunteer for HNA as my time is very limited due to my own cruising pattern, working, looking after my daughter and my involvement with the  Association of Continuous Cruisers. The ACC  is a newly-formed independent organisation providing support and advice and advocacy to its members. l am the welfare officer addressing any concerns our members may have about their health and welfare.

If you love boating…

I would recommend community boating and undertaking a training course to anyone who loves boating and helping other people enjoy the benefits of a day or two cruising in the fresh air passing scenic routes. The adults with learning difficulties l took out especially enjoyed steering the boats and it was great to see them having such fun and feeling confident in charge of the boat.

Ready to get involved?

Find your nearest community boat or find out about training courses with the NCBA.

You may also like: How I became a professional skipper

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