Containing my Anger.
It was 6PM on a Tuesday evening and I had had a long day cutting
planks for "Hazel" with the chainmill
order to minimise disturbance to residents in the various flats I
worked on this across on the towpath side, next to the junction with
the Peak Forest Canal.
It had been a long day, made less comfortable by a vicious wind
that whipped up the sawdust into a desert storm. As I inserted the
resharpened saw into the groove for the final cut, an Anderton Marina
hireboat emerged from the Peak Forest Canal and started to turn into
the wind towards Manchester.
The lady of the boat, a solidly built cheerful scotswoman, walked
by on the towpath with a big collie dog. We exchanged smiles and she
carried on, then backtracked to ask about a safe mooring for the
night. Her husband was now frantically backing up to avoid the boat
hitting the newly repainted "Community Spirit" on the
outside of the turn. The wind caught the flat cabin side like a sail
and took the boat sideways.
I suggested that they back up and tie on the outside alongside the
flats, the site of the prophet John Wroe's magnificent but long
disapeared house. This was good advice from the point of view of
having an undisturbed night, but would involve some manoevring that
beginners would find challenging even on a still day.
As we spoke the boat reversed into the shallow water on the far
side of the bridge and the rudder crunched into the stone copings.
The bonny lady hurried over the bridge to help push it off and pass
on my advice to her partner. He engaged forward gear and attempted to
get the stern away from the bank, but an ominous underwater
clattering indicated that the blade had picked up something that was
battering the bottom of the counter as it rotated.
Its ability to manouvre further inhibited by rubbish on the prop,
the boat moved slowly forwards, still in the grip of the wind. I
could see that he wasn't going to get the boat to its destination
without hitting one of our boats, but I wouldn't have minded if he
simply scraped his bow along the side of "Southam". The
sensible thing to do would have been to forget about engine power and
use the shaft, which lay idle on the cabin roof, to get control of
the errant fore end. I have always, however, found a great reluctance
among trainee, and sometimes experienced, boaters to use the shaft.
The strategy employed to control the boat was a surprising one. As
the bow headed into the arm where the boats awaiting restoration
float in shallow water I expected to see a flush of sterngear from
the still clattering prop. Instead the boat carried on until it
impacted "Elton"s stern. She gave a lurch, then resigned
herself to being used as a fulcrum as, still in forward gear, the man
put his tiller over to lever the boat round. As soon as he backed up
the wind caught the bow and he lost control again. He repeated the
manouvre, but this time, the hireboat's bow having moved a few feet
Eastwards, it was "Queen"s turn to suffer the indignity of
I stood watching, open mouthed and dumbstruck. I knew that both
boats were tough enough to withstand these blows, but I was amazed at
the sheer disregard for other peoples craft.
The boat backed up again. The next boat in line for a blow from
its bow was "Hazel", our most fragile boat. Somehow he
managed to miss her, but, as anticipated, scraped his bow along the
side of "Southam" instead. As his stern end approached the
footbridge he threw a line up to his wife, who sensibly led the boat
back to the overnight mooring that I had suggested.
I started the saw and quickly completed the last cut, by which
time my anger had subsided a little. I shafted "Lilith"
back across the basin to tie up abreast of "Southam", then
went to dig out some leaflets from "Forget me Not"s cabin.
I walked over to the moored hireboat and tapped on the roof. The
woman emerged and reddened when she saw me. I sought to defuse her
embarrasment with a smile, it wasn't her who had been steering, and
handed her the leaflets. I said "Here's some information about
the historic boats you just rammed". She was full of apologies,
but she didn't call her husband out to face me. I diverted the
conversation away from the incident as she was clearly uncomfortable,
but it was her partner that I wanted to feel that discomfort. He had
not once looked in my direction as he carried out his cavalier
careering around the basin.
I went off to get some food. Early in the morning the boat left to
work down the locks to Manchester. I wonder what sort of night the
arrogant man had. It would be no surprise to me if the ghost of Jack
Monk ( "Queen" was his first motor boat and remained his
favourite) had visited him in the night and given him terrifying
dreams of boatmans justice.