Saturday, 10 November 2012

Boat Stuck in River Nene

Since we moved from the Ouse to the Nene we've become increasingly aware of the unpredictability of the river and have faithfully signed up for Floodline advice.
Here's what can happen if you don't ... This is Ditchford lock near Northampton. But we note that Gurnamore got stuck on Thursday 1st Nov - and we received our flood warning at 9.35 on that day. Were the warning notices in place by the time they arrived? Had the locks already been "reversed" and the helmsman noticed too late? Here's a description on reversing locks, by the Environment Agency.

John has often quizzed me about "what I would do if ..." and here's a real poser.
The real answer is that you wouldn't set out if there is a Floodline warning and if the river is moving uncomfortably fast. I understand the owners of Gurnamore thought they'd signed up for Floodline but had not done so for the Nene. Perhaps this is a case for blaming the division between the EA and the CRT. Of course the Nene and the Middle Levels are used not only for leisure boating but also as a drainage system taking water from the East Midlands out to The Wash and surges of water are common. The EA has a different job from the CRT.

Evidently the boat was going downstream, west to east in this aerial view, heading for the lock to starboard then - perhaps because he was travelling too fast with the stream and would have hit the guillotine - slewed over to port, maybe hit the edge of the island and the force of the stream swung him round across the line of the green weir floats. Thank heavens he didn't keep on going ....
I feel sorry for the unhappy couple and their frightening experience, but am bound to say that if the water gets too fast or the conditions too challenging, it's far better to moor up and sit it out - even on the Nene, where good moorings are few and far between. Easy to say of course; tempting to plough on regardless; so hard to judge how fast the stream is while you're afloat; and if you're already scudding along at 6mph can your full power in full reverse actually stop you? I'm sure we couldn't stop in a straight line ....

* For more on this, including a video clip go to ITV News.
* For more pictures and for details of the two owners (who abandoned ship safely) read The Daily Mail.
* For details of the River Canal Rescue operation read this article.
* For detailed advice on coping with a narrow boat in fast river conditions read the thoughtful comments on Canal World. They are the best answers to John's quiz.
And anyone who thinks it's easy to cope in these conditions should read those comments very carefully indeed. There but for fortune go you or I ....

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