We’d passed the time of day with the narrowboat Magpies once or twice on the way up from Reading. We’d stopped in Wallingford after a very wet morning for food, ladies hair-dos and stuff and they’d been moored across the other side. So we were unsurprised when shortly after leaving Wallingford she slid in beside us to share Day’s Lock going up. It was unattended, so we both just held our boats stable with a single top rope each, intending to let them out as the water level rises.
They say you should never wrap a rope right round a bollard when you want to slip it, because is some circumstances the rope can jam… don’t think Magpies’ crew had read that bit. As the level went up, their top rope tightened, and started to tip the boat sideways. Looking round at the sound of crashing china falling off shelves, it was clear what was happening – their rope had jammed immovably.
It’s a big lock on electric power, and by the time we managed to lower the paddles and stop the water level increasing, Magpies was was heeled over by nearly 45 degrees, there was a horrendous crash as the microwave hit the floor, and it was in imminent danger of taking on water.
Letting some water out of the lock soon restored them to an even keel, the rope was unjammed, and hopefully a lesson learnt. We both moored up above the lock, us for lunch, them to clear up, I guess. They set off before us, and – failing to make Abingdon that day – we moored overnight at Culham Lock. But the next morning we found them safely moored at Abingdon with the stove alight, so I guess no serious harm done. The black boat moored behind us is Magpies.
A salutary lesson – you can’t let your attention wander for a second. Another few seconds and it could have been a serious incident. There but for fortune…
Actually, the journey from Wallingford to Abingdon is a bit weird: the river does some huge loops around without ever obviously going round sharp corners. So the ever-present (half-a) Didcot Power Station looming on the horizon in the mist, low cloud and rain keeps appearing in odd places. One minute it’s back over your left shoulder, the next it’s off the starboard bow. Then it’s somewhere else. All very unnerving.