Monday, 3 May 2010

Curious about a curious canal boat

I’m no Sherlock Holmes but last Tuesday when we set off back to base (nearly a week ago already), we came across what I can only describe as a suspicious “situation.” Read on…
A green narrowboat about 40 foot long came towards us as Dave was backing up into the lock, (in case you didn’t know, that’s correct). With a crew of two this other boat was totally out of control. I mean ok it was windy, but other narrowboats had been past us going in a straight line despite the conditions. As the problem driver(s) tried to go past a moored up boat they just missed hitting it several times then gave up, backed up, and moored up behind. Good.
Unfortunately they hadn’t given up entirely and started coming our way again, practically side on again past the moored up boat, thankfully there was plenty of room.

So with high revs forward the woman driving slammed the bow into the concrete edge where you tie up just before the lock. The boat bounced back to the other side of the canal with some force.

The guy took over “driving” and I stood back in disbelief when the woman jumped off the bow, nearly fell in and let go of the only rope they had. Meanwhile the guy backed up again and ended up with the stern stuck fast on the other side – totally grounded. He was there with a pole for ages. I mean they didn’t look drunk, just in a hurry whilst swearing a lot. 

Suspicion began to set in especially when I got a better look at this sad looking boat, there was no rope at the back, no centre rope, no fenders, but more importantly there was no name on the side, no licences in the windows, no number visible.
Even worse the glass in the two bow doors had been smashed and boarded up (like a jig-saw) with plywood. Some bits were nailed on inside and some outside! Thankfully TT was already in the lock with the gates closed as they bounced off them as well:

Then while I was stood on the bridge taking photos of Dave slowly sailing off into the distance (backwards). The woman came towards me, and a bizarre conversation ensued, call it the “alternative version” of Question Time…
QU: “Is that your boat?” (Dave was backing down to the secret windy hole that isn’t really one).
Me: “Yes” (Dave starts turning TT to face forward with a pirouette).
QU: “So are you coming this way then?”
Me: “No he’s turning the boat round” (cheeky cow thought we were also out of control).
QU: “So you went through the lock forwards?”
Me: “No, he went through the lock backwards and now he’s turning the boat round to face the way we’re going.” (I’d already said this once hadn’t I?) AND I saw her watching TT going in the lock while her partner was losing it – both his temper and the boat.
QU: “Can you leave all the lock gates open in our favour then?”
Me: “No, it doesn’t work that way.”
QU: “Why not?”
Me: “Well we’re going downhill and you’re following us.”
QU: “What difference does that make?”
Me: “Well, they’ll all be against you by the time we’ve been through won’t they?”
QU: “Will they?”
Final answer: “Yes, you’ll have to fill each lock up again before you go in.”
[I mean what did the weird woman want, a diagram or something?]
By the time Dave got TT in the next lock, the same performance was happening all over again behind us. This was the best photo he could get of the mystery boat because the lock gates were in the way. Which as you can see was a blessing in disguise. AGAIN.

This is what you call underwater undercover photography, only trouble is it’s not that good. But you get the jist…

When we emerged from this lock, two narrowboats were waiting at the other side to go in, so we left the gates open for them. I warned them to be extra careful at the other side because of the wayward boat and they’d already spotted it.

This was a huge relief because the delay was long enough for us to get away from the disaster boat and we never saw it again. By this time we were convinced they were suspects in a robbery!

We’ve never come across anything like this on the canal that seemed so “wrong.” It was only later on I wondered if this is something you’re supposed to report to your local British Waterways office or not?

There must be a fine line between acting on a hunch and playing safe,, or getting the wrong end of the stick and coming across as a right berk…

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