Having just spent a wonderful week with Deborah and Bob at their Devon retreat (see www.retreatsforyou.com). I am relaxed and feel ready to impart to you the dreadful day when I almost met my watery grave.
I was glad to finally get out of the marina at Whilton. They certainly seemed a bad tempered lot there. I thought they were waving me off, but I would swear one man was indicating something very rude. Maybe it was a sort of special boater's wave that was not yet aware of, like semaphore. I tried to remember my brief time as a girl guide and then abandoned the idea, concentrating on getting up speed to about 3 miles per hour. I felt very relaxed and self assured.
After all narrowboating is not an extreme sport, what could possibly go wrong? Anyone can drive a narrowboat surely. And with my almost unblemished driving record... ok I know, so maybe I was a little overconfident.
I quickly began to realise that one of Argy’s little quirks was to pull to the right. What I didn’t bargain for was trying to un stick the throttle to slow down and at the same time get the gear into neutral or reverse as required. It all takes good coordination, (not my strongest trait) and sometimes leads the brain to confuse left and right on the tiller, especially when you are tired. (I had been awake with excitement at collecting my boat, most of the previous night.)
It is incredible how time seems to stand still and how many thoughts you can have in what must have been less than a couple of minutes.
The speed that the overhanging branch of the tree hurtled towards my head.
How warm the water was for the time of year as I sank deeper and deeper.
How dark it was in the depths of the Grand Union.
How the hell I was going to get my feet out of this deep mud they were stuck solidly in.
What is is really like to have Weil's Disease.
Oh and luckily, I somehow knew I must stay away from the propeller that was still whizzing round.
When I eventually came to the surface I still had my specs. on (both pairs).
I escaped my ordeal with a bruise (the size of Wales on my bum and a small graze on my hand. My mobile phone was still in my pocket and amazingly still worked although all my contact numbers were lost.
The other thing I lost was my dignity, although I did gain something much more important on that fateful day - a real respect for the possible dangers of narrow boating.
Something that has stood me in good stead ever since.