Taking narrowboating to new heights

Having diverted to Goole, we realised we were in an ideal location to deviate from our plan to cross the Pennines and cruise up to York. So on Saturday afternoon we left the Aire and Calder canal and joined the Selby Canal. As luck would have it, there wasn’t space for us to moor at our prefered destination so we soldiered on through thick duck weed and hot sunshine, until we got to Burn Bridge less than an hour’s cruise from Selby.

Burn Bridge visitor mooring

Having checked my trusty map, we realised that we were within 10 minutes walk of the Burn Gliding club. We’d seen several gliders in the sky during our cruise and looked up in envy. We nudged each other childishly, daring each other to see if we were really prepared to tick off another goal on the bucket list. I phoned the number on the website and was greeted by a friendly “come along and we’ll see if we can fit you in”. Did I say 10 minute walk? I’m sure we were there in 5.

That doesn’t look very high tech

We were collected at the gate and taken across the field to the flight control, which looked more like an old caravan and social club. Several middle aged men and women milling around looking up to the clouds, discussing the lack of thermals. But they were keen to encourage us and we were soon offered a choice of winch launch or aerotow. I opted for the winch which is more or less a giant elastic band style catapult. As soon as the next available glider was free we were led over to meet Mike our pilot. And to be strapped into a parachute. “No one’s ever had to bail out from this airfield ” we were reassured.

Parachute on

Gliding is a comparatively low tech hobby. No fancy equipement to manouver onto the runway, whoever was hanging around, pushed us onto the narrow strip on repaired tarmac.

I was to fly first. Mike ran though a check list with me and explained where the pedals and steering were, but gliding wasn’t something on my list of things to learn, I was happy just to experience being up in the air.

Calm and relaxed

I sat and contemplated while they set up the winch and elastic band.

Attaching the giant elastic band

I was warned that the winch would catapult me into the air at 45 degrees travelling from 0 to 60 faster than a Ferrari, I was allowed to scream if I wanted…

Up up and away

Oh boy was that fun, I didn’t know which way to look, so I kept an unknowledgeable eye on the instruments

Wonder what the red lever is for

Unfortunately for me the heat of the day had vanished along with the thermals and I’m not sure we even managed to climb to 1000feet. Mike knew where the canal was, so circled over where we were moored.

Looking down on firecrest

Firecrest is moored just above the bridge, the canal is running west (top of photo) to east. Looking to the east I could see the Drax power station (in the header photo) and north east I could see Selby in the distance.

Looking towrards Selby

That roundabout and covered crop were useful landmarks for me to see Firecrest

We’re down there somewhere

The lack of thermals and consequently lack of height meant that I only got about 5 minutes in the air and all too soon I was heading for the runway.

Coming into land

However they only needed to take one look at my face to realise how much I’d enjoyed the experience. And much to my surprise they offered to take me up again with no extra cost.

Unfortunately the thermals were still avoiding us so it was a similar 5 minute low level flight. Then it was Eric’s turn. He was happily strapped in, I’m not sure what Mike the pilot was thinking

Should I be worried?

Eric opted for an Aerotow. His glider was attached to the clubs motorised glider and towed to approx 2000feet. when the cord was released Mike took over circling until he found a thermal .

I lost sight of them as they reached over 2500 feet and circled wider than I’d been able to do. He was in the air for over half an hour.

Yes, there’s a glider in that photo

Eric had a go at taking the controls but Mike brought him home safely

A smooth landing, despite the crumbling runway

What the instructors hadn’t warned us about, is the indignity of getting out of a glider- they dont build these things for comfort.

Where there’s a will there’s a way

And so that was another amazing day, one that we had no idea what we would end up doing, we will never take it for granted just how lucky we are to be living on a narrowboat. Good job tomorrow is just a short cruise into Selby.