by our roving reporter Paddy O' Basin
As severe storms battered their narrowboat Herbie, retired couple Kath and Neil Corbett (126) were stranded miles from home yesterday. Tied to a floating pontoon in Paddington Basin in a howling gale, down to their last shovelful of coal, the couple were rocked and rolled and bashed all night by the storm.
"We were due to go home today, but the chances of a safe passage are virtually nil." said the skipper. "I doubt we could even escape the basin without coming to grief. Worse still we could get lee shored on the uninhabited island in Browning's pool and have to eat the geese, or we might get stuck to the side of the North Circular Aqueduct. Our coal is nearly all gone and we are on our last toilet cassette. If it doesn't blow over soon, we'll have to spend the whole day in the pub."
Every movable item had been taken off the roof of the boat, or it would have been lost. Luckily the new solar panel weathered the storm without damage.
As Friday morning dawned, help arrived in the shape of Baron, the coal boat. Emergency supplies of coal and diesel were taken on board while the lad on the boat relayed his version of the storm. Apparently his mate was very nearly blown backwards off the stern yesterday afteroon. The butty towed behind the motor vessel was blown sideways on to the canal on several occasions. (And this is in a very very heavily laden boat sitting low in the water). Lastly he reported that a boat had actually been blown sideways onto the island in Browning's Pool suffering serious hull damage.
" These coal boat men are real heroes," said an emotional Mr Corbett " without them we would have had a cold night tonight. Although we have a backup diesel fired heater, we were getting too low on diesel to risk it. Tomorrow promises to be calmer and dry so we can make a dash for home. Only one problem remains. Before we left the boatyard at the start of our cruise, our car engine was proving very reluctant to start. I fear we may need to call out the RAC to get us going."