Sunday, 22 November 2009

Proper Boating, and proper boaters.

Today's trip to Cambridge could not have been less similar to last week's catalogue of disasters, misunderstandings and PR issues.

We set off this morning at about 8.45 a.m. Jackie took the car to Rosemary Road to buy gas. I took Pippin upstream to Bait's Bight where I met Jackie and loaded the cylinders. We had a nice chat with Jimmy, the lock-keeper, who was happy to let us leave the car there while we chugged to Cambridge.

The sun shone brightly, so the world was treated to the vision of me at the helm in full foul weather gear and my ludicrous (but very expensive in their day) 1992 sunglasses. Sort of 'fading movie star meets Sir Ranulph Fiennes'. With a paunch.....

It had the makings of a good trip: fine weather, not too windy, and the rowers would all be safely tucked up having exhausted themselves the previous day in a lengthy series of racing divisions.

(This, incidentally, delayed The Lucky Duck's return to base until after dark. So when the Ducks boarded Pippin last night armed with fresh chicken, peri-peri sauce and a desire to cook supper for us, it seemed churlish in the extreme for them to be repelled. James and I cooked while the girls talked about important stuff. (It is the way of the world.) We had a lovely time so thank you James and Amy!

All this, by the way, was on top of a visit by bro'-in-law David who joined us on Friday night for a relaxing time away from being a high-powered journalist and magazine editor. So Saturday would have been hard to better!)

Now where was I? Oh yes, rowers, tucked up safe and warm on Sunday after their exertions on Saturday.

Some hope.

We saw lots of crack no.1 type crews hacking up and down once we'd past Bait's Bight:(you can't miss them, they splash so much less....) and we gave The Tree of Death a wide berth, despite having un-shipped the chimney before setting off as an added precaution.

No, it wasn't until the railway bridge that things got a little hectic. I lost count of the number of novice eights out, all in fancy dress! Yes, we saw pirates, smurfs, Dalmatians, reindeer, but not, as far as I could see, any crew dressed as Muppets....... Hmmmmmm.

But Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear et al were certainly present in one boat.....

When they altered course, with the speed of vegetable growth, across our bows and towards the bank, I thought "No, surely not, they're just lining up to come in round our stern so they can form up with the other crews"


Thirty feet from Pippin's stem and they've crossed our tee and aren't moving. Jackie was in the bow and later told me the novice cox was rigid in her seat, transfixed, as 26 tons of widebeam bore down on them. Her crew were similarly 'rabbit-in-the headlights'.

By this time The Mighty Pippin's Beta 50 was bellowing at 2000rpm in reverse. We stopped in time. Just.

I do wish the young people of today would have a little more consideration for the tired old hearts of more senior folk. And the fact that it's not fair to frighten me like that when I've got clean underwear on........

Anyway, no harm done, apologies offered and accepted with no more admonition than a weary shrug, we carried on to the pump-out.

The man who owns the pump-out and water-point was thankfully absent when we arrived, so we experienced none of last week's unpleasantness. Indeed, we chatted with tourists who were curious about the boat, it's generator and that sort of thing.

I decided we needed a treat, so we chugged back down stream to moor up at The Fort St. George for lunch. Here we were helped immensely by Elisabeth from nb Sirius who rendered us a huge favour by taking in our bow line and helping us make fast in a vicious crosswind and a torrential rain shower. She joined us later for a drink in the pub where we lunched, wetly.

Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and the high wind plus sudden downpour seemed to have dampened the ardour of even the hardiest novice crew. The racing had been called off, and we chugged out of Cambridge in very light traffic and in that sublime post-storm light.

Back home now, the wind is blowing so hard that our traffic light says amber, despite having had the Ship's Computer and some lights on all evening.

Good old Windy, our Marlec Rutland 913, is moaning his head off as the free amps pour into the batteries.

Night night, all!

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