Friday 7th September
The first half: “pastime in good company…”
I’ve been working with the NHS stop smoking team in Teddington for many years – mainly as a freelance trainer but more recently as a smoking cessation adviser – it’s great work – rewarding, worthwhile and tremendous fun to boot!
We’ve been meaning to have a team cruise for ages and we finally made it happen on Friday afternoon – out of working hours so that a) it’s a pleasure cruise b) my ‘crew’ could have a wee drinkie – if you currently work in the NHS you’ll understand why a wee, nay large, drinkie is needed!
We set off from the Teddington moorings at 5pm – cruising conditions were perfect, blue skies, sweet sunshine and the air cooling to a palatable temperature after being roasted through the afternoon. It took me some time to untie the boat – I was surprised to see a centre rope wrapped round a bollard (I’d seen Richard remove both of our centre ropes when we moored) – I assumed that he’d added it just before leaving – ah well….. then I tackled the back rope – it took ages – the knots weren’t how we would usually do them – I assumed that Richard had decided to tie them more intricately in order to secure the boat against the pull of weir – ah well…. I got my crew to untie the front – noticing in passing that the front was tied in a most unusual fashion – I assumed that Marina had tied it and, being a cruiser person, does thing differently – ah well….
Before we set off upriver, I got our deck wine-cooler out, not having realised that one bottle of wine divided neatly between my crew’s four glasses and that the bottle (and subsequent ones) would never need to be parked in a cooler. As responsible skipper, I stayed on the ice-cold diet coke!
So we set off upriver in high spirits – I had told them that narrowboaters always wave as passersby – the whooping and chatting up of stray men was entirely their idea….. 🙂
Richard had an afternoon meeting, so it was a girls-only cruise – I worried, as usual, about the prop becoming fouled but it was fine. Anyway, stuff women’s lib – had we broken down I’m sure that my crew would have enlisted some male help from passing boaters!
We cruised up to Hampton Court then wended our way back to Teddington – it’s such a good cruise – it’s a neat 2 hours and there’s plenty to see – from modern urban to eclectic riverside houses to a grand park and culminating in a palace! Hence the title “pastime in good company…”, apparently one of King Henry 8th’s compositions and one which we sing in the choir that I run!
My crew seemed to enjoy themselves immensely – it was a real refresher after a hard few weeks – our smoking cessation service is changing hands in the great NHS/Social Services re-organisation and we’ll all find out our fates in the next few weeks….
We got back to Teddington around 7pm and I was not pleased to see a group of boys jumping in and out of the water at the lock moorings. I found a spot a safe distance away from them. I was so preoccupied with worrying about the boys in the water and by the stern being close to the weir, that when I turned the boat I managed to crash the front straight into the pilings – bah! No damage done other than to my pride – this all happened shortly after a crew member had asked – “do you ever crash” and my smug reply “not often and usually when we have a novice at the helm!”. Serves me right!
When we moored, the boys decided to stop swimming and were ready to head for home – leaving a trail of litter behind them. Lucy, our youthful and exuberant boss, and herself a mum, gave them a right telling off – they obediently picked up their rubbish and she told them to put it in our deck bin – sigh! I was really pleased that they’d obeyed her without question and that the towpath was now clean, but less pleased that their rubbish was now mine to dispose of!
We said our goodbyes – it wasn’t in any way a team build, but a relaxing cruise on an autumn’s afternoon was a bonding experience – I do hope that the team survives the re-organisation intact – we’re surely too good to split up 🙂
The Second Half: an unpleasant revelation…
Once my guests had gone I set about my usual ‘leaving the boat tasks’ – on impulse, I thought I’d better ring Richard and see if he wanted me to moor with a centre rope again. We don’t usually do that, because it can heel the boat over if the water levels change, but I thought I’d check. It was then that I found out that he had not moored her with the centre rope; in fact he had removed both centres – the rope I had untied earlier turned out to be our offside stern rope!
I thought back to all of my “ah well….” thoughts from earlier – it was obvious, in hindsight, that our boat had been re-tied, but why? We speculated on whether another boater had moved us to make room (though there was plenty of space when we moored) or had a lockie loosened our roped because of the high tides overtopping the weir (though we had taken changing water levels into account when we tied up) – it was a mystery! Richard suggested that I talk to the lockie – I popped down and there it was – a log entry for Wednesday 5th saying that a trip boat had found Indigo Dream adrift across the lock cut – the lockies reported that she had been untied and cast adrift – probably by local youth.
I am grateful to whoever managed to re-tie her – thanks!
Now, Indigo Dream came to no harm, despite being set adrift in a busy lock cut flanked by one of the most powerful weirs on the Thames; nothing had been stolen and the boat had not been vandalised. But I was both furious, horrified and plain sad. Furious, because petty crime always makes me so angry – the youths who cast us adrift will never be caught, disciplined or even deterred – though I have reported the incident to the police. Horrified because it’s such a potentially dangerous thing to do – especially on a big river. Sad, because Teddington is one of my favourite mooring spots on the entire network and it’s a bit tarnished now, though I hope that the incident was a one-off and not the start of a new anti-social relationship between the local youth and visiting boaters.
Nonetheless, I was thoroughly dispirited after talking to the lockie – I wandered back to the boat and disconsolately retied all the ropes, adding another at the front, making sure to use a ridiculous number of half-hitches so that it would take such a long time to untie that any vandals would get bored before they finished! I then secured the free ends of the ropes under heavy things – like the anchor! I also, at the lockie’s suggestion, set up a battery operated night light.
I toyed with the idea of staying on board overnight – I was working nearby the following morning – but I wended my weary way home instead. I did pop over to the boat on Saturday morning and she was fine – no signs of interference. This was a great relief – we can’t leave Teddington until Monday and we can only hope that she’ll be ok for the last couple of nights on the lock moorings….
Note: We’re back on board and she’s fine – let’s hope it was a one-off incident….