Having deliberated for months over whether to buy a river boat or a sea boat, the river won, but it had to be a proper boat, and the dutch do know how to do it. Blue Dolphine was probably built in the 70s and has a 110hp Bedford diesel. I’m sure it would be quite capable of making sea passages in favourable conditions, but lacks any navigational or safety equipment, so the rivers it is.
We picked it up from Chertsey and motored up to Shepperton, not without incident, before lifting it out and transporting it to Fosdyke on the Wash. Having mostly sailed and being quite cautious, the 6 mile two lock journey to Shepperton didn’t look much of a challenge. It was a nice day and I motored gently using the upper helm position on the rear deck. Slowing down in good time I motored towards the bank to moor up and wait for the first lock. A touch of reverse, er a touch of reverse, what no reverse! It was a choice of what to hit. Fortunately there was a small landing stage, and a tweak of the wheel enabled Dolphine’s steel bow to ram it squarely.
A pre-flight check is mandatory on an aircraft, but a river boat? Complacent I was. I tried reverse again, it definitely wouldn’t engage. The lock keeper was understanding and caught our lines as we motored into the lock. We proceeded cautiously to the second lock and repeated the procedure.
Whilst in the lock it occurred to me that the morse on the inside helm position might be capable of engaging reverse. It did, and so I changed position.
It was very windy and the lock keeper warned us to be careful on leaving the shelter of the lock. To be on the safe side I switched the power on to the bow thruster. The gates opened and we motored out. There was a canal boat waiting to come in, and so a touch on the wheel, er a touch on the wheel, no response. A blast on the bow thruster, yes, that did it. Wheel hard over, nothing. The strong wind blew the bow back towards the canal boat. Reverse, bow thruster, ahead. Wind blows bow over, repeat.
I can see the canal boat skipper’s face now, the fear, the disbelief. Finally we were past him and with some difficulty and several pirouettes managed to moor on the weather bank, there being no other options.
With the road transport arranged for the following morning and overnight berth in Shepperton arranged and the evening approaching the answer was obvious, a tow. We were close to the marina and the work boat could pull us in.
Unfortunately the workboat was elsewhere and a commercial tow was quoted at nearly £400, which I thought outrageous, no, I’d steer from above and my wife, the crew, would at the sound of loud rapping on the coach house roof pull the morse lever back and engage reverse.
This worked a treat, and we moored safety just outside of the marina. However, with all of those very expensive boats inside, and with some persuasion we obtained the assistance of the marine manager, who took over the helm, whilst I manned the morse control. We moored on the craneage berth and all heaved a sigh of relief.
The moral of the story, go by bus.