Thursday, 9 June 2011

Three Hazards 3. Collision

Of course it's always the other guy's fault (or the tree's or that stationary lamp post that came up and hit you ...). But this is my third (and final) hazard experienced in a single trip down the Ouse.
We were a short way north of St Neots in a fairly narrow stretch of river with reeds at the edges when some distance ahead of us appeared a cruiser, bobbing a bit, as they do, like corks, as it came round a bend. I edged a little nearer the reeds but there was enough space to our left for him to pass and we each maintained our course.
Then, suddenly, for no apparent reason, just yards ahead of us, he swung violently in front of us, his midships straight in front of my bow. I went into full speed reverse and stopped while he continued to turn anti-clockwise. I was stationary as his turn took him round 180 degrees so he was facing the opposite direction, parallel with me, his stern starboard bumper nudging my stern port side.
I was too shocked to say anything, though I distantly heard his wife saying that they couldn't find reverse gear! I set off again, leaving him wallowing - the nearest I've ever been to a serious collision.
My wife, who had seen it all from the bow, came back to share a word or two and she confirmed that he must be an incompetent idiot. Neither of us had the presence of mind to catch either the name or number of the boat. Both of us, however, can confirm the sequence of events.
What do we make of it? He had to have been on the look out or he wouldn't have made it round the bend. Even if his throttle had been stuck full on, he could have made it past us - it was narrow but there was room for two. If his throttle had been stuck he wouldn't have ended up alongside us - he'd have been past us or right in the bank. And why swerve so violently in front of us? I have never seen a GRP cruiser hit full on by a narrow boat bow but I was only a foot away from finding out what happens.
I suppose he panicked (but why?) and he could very easily have dropped himself, wife and two children into the river - and sunk the boat.
What Learning Points can I draw from this? Only that you should allow room for all vessels and be prepared for the unexpected. I did the only thing possible - full reverse and steer straight. But I wish I'd clocked his number. I imagine a 1 ton GRP cruiser is more likely to suffer than a 12 ton steel narrow boat, but I have no wish to test this again - as I know surprising things can happen ....

No comments:

Post a Comment