Another three men in a boat…
Jerome Klapka Jerome was not the only person to wax lyrical about the adventures of three men in a boat. Back in the 1970s, three editions of the BBC’s anthology series Play for Today told of the adventures of another trio in a boat – three Yorkshire miners named Art, Ern and Abe.
The episode that I remember best was entitled Stratford or Bust and it regaled us with the tale of their haphazard journey by canal boat from ‘up north’ to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a Shakespearean play at the RSC Theatre. (Spoiler: they arrived in Stratford, but the theatrical performances were already sold out.)
The TV production obviously made an impact on me as I have now travelled by narrowboat to Stratford on three separate occasions, most recently just a few weeks ago when two friends and I ventured on to the Grand Union Canal at Warwick to tackle the famous flight of broad locks at Hatton and to enjoy the equally famous mega-breakfast sold by the Hatton Locks café.
We then cruised and locked down the South Stratford canal to descend into the town where we moored in the Bancroft Basin and had a day in Stratford before retracing our steps back to Warwick.
My attempt to reverse park our narrowboat into a tight bay in the Bancroft Basin was successful, so much so that one owner of a private boat, who had emerged to ensure that a mere ”hire boat’ helmsman didn’t damage his pride and joy, reckoned that I’d done it perfectly before adding that “… of course, the wind helped to blow your bow around”. Condescending b*****d!
At the end of our trip I also reverse parked at the hire boat marina into a very tight space with precious little room for manouevre. That went so well that another hire boat returnee asked us where we wanted his boat to be moored. He expressed surprise when he was told that we too were hirers. Our mooring manouevres had looked so professional to him that he thought we were the boatyard staff. And that’s when it nearly went all pear-shaped…
So, I was reversing along a pontoon towards a concrete wharf when I realised I needed to slow down a bit, so I did what I always do to slow down and gunned the engine in reverse.
Whoops! Now I was reversing rapidly into the wharf, so suddenly it needed to be full steam ahead.
Phew! That successfully avoided a collision with the concrete, but in shallow water with a only a metre of it behind us, it created an enormous wash that violently flooded the wharf.
It also flooded our crew member who was standing on the wharf holding our stern line. Laugh? I nearly pooped the deck!
Here’s the limerick:
‘Twas Jerome K. Jerome who once wrote
Of a trio of blokes all afloat
And that’s why, perhaps,
Three modern day chaps
Thought the canals might just float their boat!
Postscript: Hands up if you thought my expression about ‘pooping the deck’ was an unecessarily lavatorial reference made solely for a cheap laugh? Honest answer? It was, but, in fact, I had pooped the deck! In nautical terms, the poop deck is usually the highest deck level at the stern of a boat and, if it was ever flooded by a wave washing over it from behind, the boat was said to have been pooped. My emergency stop when reversing may have created a huge wash that flooded the wharf (and my mate), but it also bounced back off the wharf and flooded the aft deck of the narrowboat – we’d been well and truly pooped!