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Boat/Dog Blog: Rain stops play…

Posted by indigodream on 5 May, 2012

Wallingford as was – Sunday 20th April

Saturday 28th April

We subscribe to the Environment Agency’s “Thames River Conditions” alerts – there a link here – so far the river has been quiet but last week we started to receive regular updates as the river gradually went to yellow boards (Caution stream increasing) then to red boards “caution strong stream”. With heavy rain forecast for the forseeable future, it looked pretty certain that we wouldn’t be cruising this weekend.

It was difficult for us to get back to the boat last Friday but we did get through to the proper moorings person to authorise another week’s mooring. The District Council was very helpful – especially as boats now needed to find places to moor up safely while the river did its work.

We did go up to the boat on Saturday to check the ropes and were quite surprised to find that the river levels had gone up by around 2 feet. What had been a substantial step down onto the back deck was now a small step over! The flow was impressive and I was glad that we were staying put. As we pottered about the boat, two narrowboats came upstream, toiling against the flow. They moored gratefully on the far bank, joining the little community of narrowboats riding out the storm in Wallingford.

We didn’t stay long, just enough to lengthen the ropes, tighten the knots and give our contact numbers to the neighbouring boats……

Wallingford on Saturday 28th April – the Thames is on yellow “stream increasing” boards at this point…

Sunday 29th April

If ever there was a day for staying in bed with the duvet over our heads this was it – horizontal rain and apocalyptic winds – the hounds were happy to join in with the air of indolence, though they weren’t troubled by apprehensions about what was happening to the boat!

Late afternoon we got a phonecall from Ben, moored just behind us. He reported that the river had come up another 18 inches and was over the towpath. He’d slackened our ropes but he was concerned that Indigo Dream’s bow might float over the towpath – not a problem unless she was left high and dry when river levels fall. Richard had a chat with the local lock-keepers – our section was now on red boards but Cleeve Lock, downstream, reported a much smaller rise in river levels than we’d seen at Wallingford. They reasoned that this was because the multi-arched bridge at Wallingford holds the flow and causes a bulge of water upstream. Of course, I’d have thought this was fascinating if we hadn’t been moored on that ‘bulge’.

Richard hopped in the car to check – he, and the boat behind, reckoned she’d be ok, but we just had to be sure. He was glad that he went. Indigo Dream was in no danger but the bow section was an island – with river on one side and flooded towpath on the other. Luckily the towpath at the stern must have been a little higher and wasn’t flooded so he could get on board, check the inside and get access to the front ropes. He adjusted the ropes and added another to ensure that Indigo Dream could not float over the towpath – there are stout posts set in the bank to prevent this from happening but you have to get your boat position just right so that the bow/stern can’t swing in.

Wallingford on Sunday 29th April – at this point we started to adjust our ropes in earnest…..

Monday 30th April

I had planned to go up to the boat this afternoon but everything became immensely complicated by the breakdown of my car – remember when my printer stopped working because of a mouse nest in the paper tray? Well, my car broke down because a rat has moved into the engine and eaten the wiring! With my car in for repairs (£600 worth!!!!!), I borrowed Richard’s car…and got a puncture…and found that his spare tyre was flat…in a spot with no phone signal…..on a narrow road with no pavements….and with four hounds on board…..on a day too hot to leave them in the car while I went for help -WAAAAAHHHH!!!!

Luckily I know the road very well and anxiously walked the four hounds (running through the narrows) the mile or so to the local veterinary hospital, who I was sure would offer us shelter and help. They were magnificent – they gave the hounds (and me ) some much needed water, let me use their phone and gave the dogs a huge duvet to lie on while we were waiting for Richard to come an rescue us (with a hammer to fix the spare). I was so very grateful -Lou is not well (again) and Ollie has been in pain with his muscles, so they really needed to lie down after their forced march along the hard tarmac.

Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up…..

Wallingford on Tuesday May 1st – the river has risen another 10 inches since then – some of the moorers behind us are already extending those posts to stop their boats from drifting over the towpath. In total we reckon that the river has risen by FOUR FEET in just 10 days….

Tuesday 1st May

We had another phonecall from our boating neighbour Ben – the river had come up shockingly and our ropes needed more attention than he could give them. Richard had to get the train home to get his car from me so that he could give me a lift to the station to get my car from the garage while he went to the boat at Wallingford….

In the meantime, I spoke to the local lock-keepers at Cleeve lock (downstream) and Benson lock (upstream) to see if there was any merit in our moving to their lock moorings. Sadly their moorings were full of boats desperate to get off the navigation; the moorings at Goring lock (further downstream) aren’t much better off than Wallingford (the ones below the lock are flooded) and the Benson lock-keeper reckoned that if we tried to turn downsteam the flow would slam us sideways into the bridge. Ok, I guess we’ll stay where we are then!

I did ask who we should ring if we thought the boat was in trouble – “no-one” was the opinion – apparently the Environment Agency won’t help boats not to sink (too risky) but we could ring the emergency services if we thought our lives were in danger. To be honest, I’m quite glad that we’re not on board – I’m immensely grateful that the dogs are not on there -that would be a recipe for disaster!

Richard texted me some truly alarming photos – the towpath is now totally flooded and Indigo Dream is an island. He had to roll up his trousers and wade out bare foot to the boat in order to adjust the ropes; now he tells me that he lost his footing and almost took a tumble – when I said “lucky you didn’t fall into the flow”, he said it was a close-run thing. Worse thing apparently was stinging nettles underwater …

On top of this, Lou is really unwell today – she is seemingly in disabling pain but we (and the vet) haven’t been able to pin down exactly what’s causing it – could be exhaustion from yesterday’s adventures or something completely different – if she doesn’t perk up overnight she’ll go in for tests tomorrow.

I love river cruising and Indigo Dream has been designed with rivers in mind; but I’ve always said that you have to treat them with respect or they’ll turn around and metaphorically bite you on the bum!

Having said that, the Thames is just doing the job ordained by fate and geology, which is carting immense amounts of water from it’s vast catchment area towards the brimming sea…..

Our boating neighbour, Ben – he has been fantastic, we’d have struggled without his help. Zoom on to the bridge – the arches are starting to disappear!

Friday 4th May

Ok, the good news is that Indigo Dream is still afloat, though the river levels have come up yet again and are now halfway up the posts that are meant to prevent moored boats from floating overland. We’ve been watching the weather forecasts and EA river bulletins with a great deal of anxiety but sadly we’re in a position where we have few attractive alternatives.

The mooring itself is now well under water, making it difficult to get to the boat and keep the ropes flexible enough to allow Indigo Dream to rise with the river but tight enough to prevent her from drifting away! If the river rises much more then we’ll need some DIY to add extra height to the mooring posts – that’s what the boat behind us has done. A local building site has also helped out with scaffold poles and the Coumcil came out to install flood poles on the other bank

The other option is to see if we can get back to the mooring upstream of Goring Lock – this means cruising a few miles downstream on red boards. Of course, it’s not just the flow (there’s plenty of that on the tideway), it’s the debris being swept downriver, the limited width/headroom at some of the bridges and the lack of easily accessible help (on the tideway you have Thames VTS, other river traffic, lifeboats and police boats, and, of course, the VHF radio so that you can let people know you’re in trouble). (Sue watches disaster movies).

I think it’s a difficult choice, but Richard is up for the excitement of a white knuckle ride downriver…

But whatever happen to the boat this weekend, I won’t be part of it. Lou became very ill indeed on Wednesday and subsequent investigations (involving a 2-night stay at the royal vet college hospital in Potters Bar) have shown that she has a large tumour in the back of her throat. He prognosis depends entirely on what type of tumour it is – we should get the biopsy results on Tuesday.

In the meantime she is at home where she belongs, but is in need of a lot of TLC. She is having difficulty swallowing and is very reluctant to eat – she needs to be hand-fed little bits of soft food no more than around 3mm across and we need to make sure that she gets enough to drink. They had to pull her already painful joints around to get her into position in the CT scanner – this has left her in extreme joint/muscle pain which is making her reluctant to get up to drink etc.

There is so much to fret about this week that I can’t manage it all so I have delegated worrying about the boat to Richard and I’ll keep all my worry for Lou (leaving some to spare for the other hounds!)….

Saturday 5th May

We had been watching the downstream levels at Benson Lock via the Environment Agency’s web site, they said that levels had dropped by 200mm so Richard went up to the boat this morning with the intention of moving downstream to Sonning or perhaps further. First bad sign was finding that the car park near the moorings was flooded, next bad sign was that water was still a few inches higher then it had been on Tuesday, the final straw was that the water was running as fast as Richard could walk along the bank, well walk until he did not notice where he was walking and came to an abrupt halt. Verdict for today: Lets see how water levels are tomorrow!

6 Responses to “Boat/Dog Blog: Rain stops play…”

  1. neil said

    Flippin ‘eck! That sounds horrendous. if there is any way I can help, please consider me at your disposal over the next couple of days. We don’t live all that far from that bit of the Thames and I’ve got nothing else on.


  2. Adam said

    Neil, I know this is a flooding situation, but I’m not sure that stripping off is the answer…

  3. carrie said

    Sorry Lou is struggling. I know you must be worried sick. Big hugs xx

  4. Fingers crossed for Lou tomorrow – before moving ID, just remember that you will not be insured if you move her on red boards xx Jill

  5. Anne Winwood said

    Whew, what a nightmare for you both, I think I am glad I haven’t got a NB! Or hounds, just my 2 wussy little rat dogs! Thinking of you and hope that it’s good news for Lou. And that the river changes for the better.

  6. Halfie said

    I’m intrigued to know how you can inflate a tyre with a hammer, Richard.

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