Sunday, August 17, 2008

Troubles come in threes...

Day 18, Radcot to Abingdon

Most of the day actually went very well. We made an earlyish start for a change, on our first Baz-less day; so early in fact that we arrived at the next lock, Radcot, before the lock keeper and got to work it ourselves. Well, I hogged that particular bit of glory. The instructions were clear and all the gear and the gates worked beautifully and so easily. When the lock keeper arrived, he said to carry on because we looked like we knew what we were doing. How little he knew!

Things started to go wrong a couple of locks down the line when, while trying to steer us in to the landing stage I finally did it; got the rope round the prop. Luckily, it was going very slowly at the time, so wasn’t at all like I’d imagined (my nearest analogous experience being with shoelaces getting caught in the hoover brushes). The rope wasn’t suddenly whipped out of sight, but slithered away at a rather leisurely pace. I banged it into neutral, whilst swearing very loudly (proving that I can still multi-task even at times of stress), and we drifted and then pulled the boat into the lock, which by now was ready for us. Thanks to our magnificently situated weed hatch, Jim was able to untangle the rope and get it off in one piece, without one of us having to get in the water. It was only round about twice though; it would have been a much harder task if we’d been going faster when it happened.

Having got that out of the way, we had some more pleasant hours cruising, passing the point at which we joined the river and thus entering new territory, at three o’clock. Back in Oxford, we saw a slightly nicer aspect than before, but still much prefer Cambridge. Then it all started to go a bit wrong(er). Over most of this I will draw a veil, except to say that if you think it might be a good idea to remove the chimney, then it probably is, and you really shouldn’t dither whilst approaching a low bridge downstream.

The final thing would have been nothing on its own, but definitely counts as the Third Thing – we went too fast into Osney Lock and got the fore end jammed under the bottom gate’s walkway. The lock keeper wasn’t very helpful (and who, perhaps, can blame him), and anyway I was avoiding his eye. Fortunately, there was a very fat bearded man standing by, who stood on the fore end for us and lowered it enough to get it unstuck. In return for his kindness, we gave him a lift to his daughter’s boat a mile or so downstream in the middle of a rowing regatta. By now we thought we’d entered some kind of surrealist nightmare. I have to say, pace Amy and James, that I think Cambridge’s charming, diverse, small and old boathouses are far superior to Oxford’s flash, new, expensive and samey ones.

We had decided to try to make it to Abingdon, where Bones and Maffi were to meet us. I telegrammed ahead (OK, texted) to let Bones know that a stiff drink would be required on arrival, and bless them, they came over later with vast quantities of claret, and I was able to get the wine glasses out, thus justifying carrying them about unused ever since Huddersfield.

This river is bloody hard work. I like the challenge of steering, especially on the bendy bits, but stopping anywhere is a nightmare. It’s not so much the physical or technical effort, but the constant worry. There’s also the added danger – actually my biggest worry – of ramming an expensive bit of tupperware. We have hit a couple of other boats in various tying up attempts; fortunately they were all steel ones, but I dread to think what would happen if we did the same to a plastic one.

Oh well, onwards and upwards. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, etc. Sunday has dawned bright and fair, with dark clouds on the horizon. I wonder what the day will bring.

4 comments:

MoominPapa said...

Sympathetic vibes - chimneys on bridges and ropes 'round props are all part of the rich pattern of life afloat, at least you've not put a knee through a window. We would never be so unkind as to laugh at your boating misfortune. However, shoelaces in the Hoover: snigger! snort!

Sarah said...

Not while I was actually wearing them...

Amy said...

ooh! you are catching up with us! We are still in Reading thanks to family commitments... :)

James said...

Reason to have a slow-revving vintage engine no. 101: Should a rope become entangled with the prop, it's likely to be wrapped in far less turns than with a modern engine...

Claret from Bones, eh- we only had plonk. Perhaps she covets your boat more than ours!