Sunday, 15 August 2010

River swim!

I went for a short swim on Saturday!! I didn’t intend to go for a swim and I certainly didn’t enjoy it very much!

We were coming in to moor our boat in what appeared to be a light-ish off-shore wind and I was in my normal position, sitting on the deck ready to step on to the quay, with a rope in my hand. The stern, port side, got close, I got my feet on the quay and suddenly a rogue gust of wind caught the boat and blew it slowly away from the quay, towards the middle of the river!

By this time I was at the point of no return, either way – I couldn’t launch myself on to the quay, nor could I return to my comfortable seat on the deck. By this time, the skipper realised I was in difficulties, cut the engines and raced out of the cockpit to help me.

I had slid off the deck, down the side of the boat – not yet in the water, but clinging on for dear life to one of the stanchions with my right hand. He grabbed my other hand and started to try and pull me back into the boat. However, my ***lbs weight defeated him but he refused to let go, despite my cries of ‘let go, let go’. My first plan was to gain a foothold on the small step on the side of the boat and lever myself back up on to the deck but I needed my left hand to pull myself up to do this.

He wouldn’t let go – I could see the panic on his face! I should explain that where we were trying to moor was on a fairly strong tidal part of the river and I think he had pictures of me being swept down river to the sea. My concern was that the boat was drifting out to the middle of the river and I knew that if I went in it would be a long swim to the quay! At this point I had completely forgotten that we had a bathing platform on the boat with a drop-down ladder which I could have climbed up. However, with the river flowing fastest in the middle and other boats around, I preferred the thought of dry land!

Whilst all these thoughts were going through my mind (my life didn’t flash in front of me!) I could feel my feet and legs getting wet, water creeping up to my cut-offs and I knew there was no going back. I eventually managed to persuade the skipper to let go of me and made the decision to drop into the water. Unfortunately I had my mouth open so when I completely submerged, got a dose of brackish river water – not pleasant!

As I went down I drew up my legs, mainly to avoid getting tangled in whatever nasty things might be on the bottom – someone had lost a guitar overboard from a dinghy a week before incidentally – but ready to kick out for the quay as soon as I surfaced.

At this point I would like to thank the Broads Authority from the bottom of my heart for putting in these wonderful steps and looped chains on the public moorings on the Broads! I headed for the steps but knew that if I didn’t reach them, I could grab a chain and make my way to the steps. However, after about a dozen strong swimming strokes (thank goodness I kept up my swimming ability) I reached the steps and felt for the bottom step. I found it immediately and was eternally grateful that the steps were set at small intervals, suitable for someone of my age to climb.

By this time a number of fisherman who had been watching with interest along the quay came up and asked if I was all right! Thank god I had enough breath to say ‘yes, thanks * but can you help moor the boat’, as by this time the skipper had started the engines and managed to power it into the quay where the fishermen and I (didn’t forget my duties, although exhausted and obviously dripping wet) grabbed the stanchions and got it alongside.

* My first words after ‘yes thanks’ were ‘well that’s a first and I managed to keep my shoes on’ to which one of the fishermen replied ‘and your glasses’. Quite impressive I thought!

I have never been so glad of hot water on a boat and a wonderful shower but it took a couple of brandies before I managed to get rid of the taste of the river ;-))

I have to say that I nearly always wear a life jacket when mooring or casting off but for some reason I totally forgot on Saturday.

No after effects, apart from a very stiff left arm which was stretched by the skipper but when I went to bed that night, I started to think of what could have happened and it took me quite a few hours to get to sleep. Needless to say, the life jacket is now hanging by the door on the boat so it doesn’t get forgotten again.


  1. BTW Tim, it wasn't a Stratocaster that went overboard apparently, so don't worry!!

  2. That's a relief!
    Wow, what a horrendous experience - and what a superb panic-free set of reactions by you!
    I'm especially impressed that your major concern about the ageing process seems to be to climb up some steps - after a performance worthy of an agile teenager ...

  3. I've been comparing notes with my 6 year old grandson who slid into a river last weekend - not as deep as mine I hasten to add. He was very amused by my experience.

  4. Terrifying. You surely must have been in the girl guides to remain so clear thinking. I would have choked to death before I even let go.

  5. Sea Rangers Rosie! Trained for all eventualities!! I know how to row a whaler!