December No.1 2020

Club News – Ian Payne

Martin Bergs is in Guildford Hospital under treatment for a tumour, CT scan, colonoscopy, piles, dislocated hip, etc. He should be released in a week but will have to attend regular chemo sessions. The good news is that the family are building him a log cabin with all mod cons in that glorious 3-acre garden we all appreciated at Maija’s memorial. The house and garden now belong to his daughter and family so no more responsibilities for Martin – whew. Wishing Martin all the very best from all our members.

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A Weekend on the river by Norman Williams

When some friends of ours enthused about their holiday on the Norfolk Broads and how modern their boat was, we thought that it would be a good idea to try this for ourselves.

We spoke to our friends Pat and Patrick to see if this was something that they fancied and it was decided that we would give it a go but since we had time limits something nearer to home was preferable. Eventually we settled on the River Thames and arranged a hire of a boat from a company offering boating holiday breaks on the Thames at very good prices. We were all looking forward to our weekend boating not that we had any idea where we were going or how to pilot a motorboat but, with all the confidence of young people, off we went one weekend.

We arrived at the boat yard expecting something sleek and modern and instead got a great lump of a boat that had obviously seen better times and we were informed that that was what we had ordered so, basically, “take it or leave it”. The interior is best described as cosy with the main functions of kitchen, dining area etc in the middle with two bedrooms one each of the boat. These were very small – there was not enough room to get down the side of the bed, so you had to crawl along the top of the bed to get under the covers. 

We were given very limited instructions told which side of the river to keep to and to watch our speed and off we set. It was not too difficult to steer but it was very slow to stop (well, it seemed that way to us novices).

We were getting quite confident and when we came to a fork in the river. We took off to the left without hesitation and it was noticeable that this was more residential with very nice houses and lovely gardens which went down to the riverbank.

Suddenly we could see people waving to us and shouting. We thought, that’s nice, and waved back shouting hello. How nice we thought until we came to a shuddering halt, were firmly grounded, and going in reverse made no difference.

So Patrick and I changed into our swimming trunks, (which luckily we had brought) and jumped overboard. Just as well that we had not dived in since the water only came up to our knees. Pushing while the girls attempted reverse had no effect and we were getting very concerned not having a clue what you had to do in these circumstances. When all of a sudden, a small boat with two teenagers on board arrived. They explained that they had tried to alert us and then the penny dropped about the people waving to us. It was very embarrassing especially when they threw a rope to the girls and told them where to tie to our boat and that they would pull whist we pushed. The girls did not have a clue what to do, so one of the lads took it upon himself to climb aboard and tie the rope and said he would steer until we were free.

Luckily it did not take too long and they went ahead of us until we had room to turn round  (apparently not something you should really do but in the circumstances our only option) .We then had to suffer the further embarrassment of returning past all the people who had tried to warn us – no doubt we had given them much amusement.

We did wave our thanks and tried to give our rescuers some money, but they would not take it.

Our confidence had now gone so we decided to moor up for the rest of the day and night which proved to be easier than we had thought. Fortunately, our choice of where to stay had a pub very close by. This turned out to be very pleasant so we enjoyed a great meal and drinks whilst getting a lesson in how it should be done from the passing boats.

Returning to our boat in good spirits we retired early and for Carol and I this meant crawling the length of our bed. We had a fit of the giggles (due no doubt to the alcohol) doing this but we did sleep well.

The pub landlord had told us that there were small shops along the river that sold basic essentials and fresh produce and that the nearest was just a short distance along the river so we motored down to find this to get some food.

To access the shop (more like someone’s shed), you had to moor alongside the bank and cross over a short plank – not something I would recommend when getting over the night before. Having purchased some food, we moved along, moored again and cooked breakfast. Now fully replenished we set off again wondering what perils we had to face this day. We soon reached a lock whereby we had someone shout at us again due to our not tying up properly whilst awaiting the lock to fill up. The rest of the day went without incident until we reached our final destination and joined a queue waiting to berth. The boat in front was just as we had imagined them all to be, modern sleek with all the mod cons. I got into conversation with the couple and complimented them on having such a lovely craft. Obviously they did not return the compliment but did say that for novices we were doing well (we made no comment).

Finally, all the boats started to move forward, and it was my turn to pilot. Unfortunately I was going a bit too fast and realised to my horror that I was going to bump the very nice boat in front. I frantically tried to get into reverse but inevitably we hit. Passing the piloting to Patrick, I rushed to the front full of apologies and fearing the worst. However much to my relief there was no damage and the extremely nice couple told me not worry and to not let it spoil our break. We asked if they would like to join us for a drink once they had moored up, but they declined saying that they had an early start next day. 

Carol was probably right when she said it was more likely they wanted to make sure not to risk being near us.

We enjoyed the rest of our journey which was suffused with a glow of achievement, fading slightly when the owner asked us if we had emptied the Elsan. We learnt that an Elsan was a chemical toilet that needed emptying! Something that he had failed to tell us, so as far as we were concerned it was his fault!

As much as we did enjoy ourselves, we have never had the urge to hire a boat again.

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