Lady Lucy, the 72 year old veteran that plies the Thames in search of pleasure, suffered an accident yesterday but, were it not for the quick thinking and uber-serenity of lock-keeper, Simon Shepherdson.
We had arrived at Hambledon lock during the Henley tea interval to find the lock-gates open and – following a couple of pleasure craft returning to Henley, having been on the layby, found ourselves front of the queue of waiting craft. Having given the relief lock-keeper our beam, we were ushered into the lock and carefully made our way alongside Salter’s 70 tonne passenger boat – Hampton Court.
All seemed fine with some space between us and our neighbour until we started going down, at which point the boats touched and then locked together. The further we went down the worse it got.
At this point all the passengers on both boats had been evacuated and the hullaballoo alerted the resident lock-keeper who was having a day off. He came back to the lock and immediately took control.
Expertly working the sluices, he managed to float both boats independently and Lady Lucy was able to get out of the lock in reverse.
From hero to zero
While Simon and the relief lock-keeper were calm and helpful, some of the comments made to me following the 40 minute struggle were less than helpful. In particular, the skipper of Fringilla managed to disgrace himself with a tirade witty of Air Warden Hodges in Dad’s army. For the avoidance of doubt, you cannot but do what you are told in a lock- I did what I was told, an error of judgement had been made. Similarly comments that I took my boat too quickly into the lock are self-evidently specious. The gap I was asked to take my boat into made it impossible for me to move at anything more than “dead slow”. So some zero-rated behaviour from some people not involved!
State of the boat.
Lady Lucy made her way back to Hurley without further incident. Though some water had been reported entering the exhaust, (we were for some time at a considerable angle to the water’s surface, both engines are working this morning.
The footplate on the starboard side is cracked and the boat is severely marked – losing quite a lot of trim. I will take her out of the water following Henley to see if the hull has been damaged, but – subject to the inspection of John the engineer and Richard Freebody this morning, we will go out again today and Sunday.
Lessons to be learned
We must always do what we are asked to by the lock-keeper, they know best. Occasionally they make an error, and this was such a time. The lesson is to stay calm and not blame others, a lesson that lock-keepers have taught me over time.
We remain indebted to them , and particularly to their assistants who are volunteers and greatly to be cherished.
Accidents happen, this was one such- fortunately the damage appears to be limited and Lady Lucy will live to sail another day!