having changed the title of yesterdays nomination group to Best Sight Worth Seeing, the Herbie Academy has cast its two votes and unanimously settled on Port Meadow – Oxford. It’s an impressive sight at any time because of its vastness and the spires of the city in the distance, but when we cruised alongside it in the Autumn sun this year with the herds of cattle standing in the water it was spectacularly beautiful. We can’t wait to go back.
Now then –Scariest Moment. At this stage in our boating career we don’t scare easily and this year we don’t have anything like the infamous Thames estuary pitch and toss of a couple of years ago on Indigo Dream. Nevertheless there were two occasions this year when we were distinctly apprehensive.
The first was a simple thing. Osney Bridge – the lowest on the Thames. The problem was our chimney had become stuck on so we couldn’t remove it (since fixed) and we had visions of being wedged under the bridge. What made matters worse the day before was "Maffi saying “Oh Osney’s OK, it’s the bridge across the Sheepwash channel you really have to worry about.” Well when we dropped down onto the Sheepwash we peered down the channel and could see the aforementioned bridge that looked to be only about five feet above the water. We couldn’t believe a bridge could be so low. Visions of our Thames holiday being abandoned flashed through our mind. We cruised forward to take another look and then saw that the span over the navigation channel was a good bit higher. Scary? More worrying than scary I suppose, unlike our next and final example.
It was a very windy day. I mean really really windy. So windy that we stayed put until mid afternoon when according to the Met Office, the wind was due to drop. Well it didn’t seem to drop much, but having (misplaced) faith in meteorology, we set off towards Radcot, blissfully unaware of the course of the river ahead and that the Met Office was over optimistic. As you get up that end of the Thames the river becomes staggeringly twisty. I have no idea of how many hairpin bends there are - let’s call it n, where n is a large positive integer as mathematicians like to say. The wind was howling across these bends, many of which had warning buoys on the inside, where sandbanks waited to snare us. On the opposite bank (not many feet away as the river is narrow up there) were large banks of rushes also beckoning us into their clutches. Had we strayed into either, there was no way we could have escaped. The bends really are tight hairpins only half a minute apart, it doesn’t take long to lose all sense of direction. No other boats were stupid enough to be out and about so we would have been marooned in the middle of nowhere for at least overnight. Had a boat come from the opposite direction, we would have been done for. The bends were so sharp that each one was a challenge in that wind and it’s fair to say that our hearts were in our mouths for about an hour. Well you can choose between my brilliant helmsmanship or just good luck but we got through. What I do know is that in our first year or two of boating, we wouldn’t have made it.
You want photos? Are you kidding? I’ll get some next time when I have a hand free and my hat isn’t being blown off.
I don’t think we need to dwell overnight on the decision. Lets give the Scariness Award to The Upper Thames Slalom Course in a Gale.
Phew, all this is making me thirsty, so next time we’ll talk about our best Pint of Beer 2018.