21 May 2008

You live and learn

You are never too old to learn. And that’s especially true for boating. I’ve been around canals and narrowboats since I was a tot but I don’t think there’s been a trip in all that time where I haven’t learnt something new. A bit of humility is helpful here – ‘I am always right’ is not the most endearing, or indeed useful of qualities.

So there’s omniscient me going up the Baddiley 3. At the top of No 2, A goes on ahead to set the top lock and I stop the boat in the jaws and go and shut the gate. When I come back, some stupid gene – despite a small voice saying ‘this is a dumb-ass thing to do – leaps into action and tells me to go and sort out the weedhatch as I’ve got the old tiller shakes. I’m just refitting the hatch when I hear a dull thud. I stand up and look to see the boat firmly pinned against the wall of the spill wear. I say firmly – it was as if a huge magnet had drawn me on and clunked me against it and was never going to let me go from its vice-like death-suck. No tooing or froing, heaving and hoeing had any effect. A came back and no tooing or froing, heaving and hoeing by two people had any effect either. I think the Olympic tug of war gold medallists would have struggled, to be honest. There was no-one else around and A’s idea to hotwire the BW workboat moored further on was a non-starter from the off. So while we could have stayed there and worked it out and emptied the pound while doing so, we did the sensible thing and rang BW.

From the tone of the jovial Welsh chap we eventually spoke to, ours was not an uncommon occurrence. I was mortified that we should have made a common or garden mistake! Anyway, his advice to whip up all the paddles, top and bottom, to draw the water – and the boat – off the weir soon had us on our way and A and I agreed that that had been a very useful lesson indeed. It was a bonus that no-one had witnessed our discomfiture...shame the same can’t be said for my next little episode, which involved public shame and ridicule. Well not really but I did go a bit red....

We were going up Hurleston locks and waiting for a boat to exit the lock ahead – number three for us. The pound between two and three is quite short and for some unknown reason, instead of waiting in the lock, I decided to be a bit cheeky and leave the lock, holding the boat on the left hand bank. I expected the boat coming down to then do-si-do around me, a manoeuvre I’m sure I have done in the past. Anyway, when he finally nosed out of the lock, he was a long old boy and it was clear that he was going to struggle to get around. Before an impasse could develop, Linda the lockie rushed down to me and gently admonished me for being on the left. Apparently I should have kept right, as with the rest of the cut. Now I honestly didn’t know this – not the right on the cut bit, obviously, but that it applied to these squeaky bum tight pound situations. I just thought whoever got in there first could have first dibs and as it was a bit blowy, I’d taken the precaution of getting in to the left side so that I could hold the boat in. Well, that all backfired big time didn’t it? I was the one who ended up having to do-si-do and it really had ‘this is a big fat cock-up waiting to happen’ written all over it. Amazingly I didn’t find myself thrashing around on the far side of the pound but, with an expectant, chuckle-suppressing audience looking on, managed to dink past him very nicely, and straight into the lock without touching the sides. So yah-boo to you! Of course, Linda was quite right, I had got it wrong and I apologised to everyone for mucking them about. It would all have ended there if A hadn’t spent the next couple of hours saying – with heavy sarcasm – how desperately disappointed he was in me as he thought I knew everything. Well, I don’t and I now know two more things than I did this time last year. I’ve always known how to pay back a husband for taking the pee though...

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