“What if your boat starts leaking?!” Another common question, no doubt brought on by too many Channel 4 re-runs of Titantic .
Firstly, if your boat starts leaking, that is clearly not a good thing.
It wouldn’t sink very far: at the edges, the canal-bed is only a couple of feet lower than the bottom of the boat.
It would still be awful though, with everything in the boat that wasn’t attached to the ceiling suffering water damage, much in the same way that flooding affects people in houses.
One of my friends’ boats has sunk, destroying most of his possessions and leading to a disheartening afternoon pumping the water out.
However, this is a very rare occurrence. Modern narrowboats are generally made of thick steel and unless they are old or in bad condition it would be very difficult for anything to break through the hull.
There are, as you may have noticed, no icebergs gently floating down the Grand Union Canal. Boats that sink are usually either made of plastic (like my friend’s – and therefore not a narrowboat but more like a yacht you would take to sea) or made of wood (ie. really old narrowboats).
Still, on two occasions I have had water flooding into the bottom of my boat. One morning when I was about 10 years old, I was woken up by my mum running through my bedroom yelling: “Oh my god! There’s 80 gallons of water pouring into my boat!”
For once, I got up fairly quickly.
Another time my dad realised that there was icy water slowly making its way up over the floorboards of my bedroom. I spent the rest of the evening with a bucket and a sponge, whilst my dad found a pump.
Neither of these were caused by a hole in the side. Instead, the water was coming from (to be said in a dramatic whisper) inside the boat.
The first time was because my illustrious cat had brought in a giant mouse, which had then chewed through the pipe connecting our water tank to our taps. The tanks then began emptying themselves into the hull. The second time the pipe had just worn through.
Thankfully in both cases there was no lasting damage and I could quietly put my Celine Dion CD away.