Anyway, last Friday, I did my usual rounds, tightening ropes and checking attachments, but of course I have no control over certain factors, one of which is that a neighbour might decide to move; another is that we might have extreme weather conditions that can cause all sorts of havoc. This last weekend, I have a suspicion that both of these unforeseen factors came into force so when I arrived back at the Vereeniging on Tuesday, I found a 'situation' that confirmed all my 'what if' anxieties.
When I stood on the quay looking at the normal scene, I noticed three things that puzzled me. One was that the information board about my barge was missing. Being museum exhibits, many of the barges have an official sign with a description of the boat's history. I had one too, but on Tuesday it had disappeared. The second puzzle was that the rope I'd attached to hold my gangplank to the bollard on the key was broken, and the third was the presence of a very long boat hook on my foredeck. Oh dear.
As I cautiously stepped onto my gangplank, I felt it wobble alarmingly. I crept very carefully down and stepped on board. Then I thanked all my collective neuroses for my care. The steel support on which the gangplank normally pivoted was completely loose and looked liable to tip off at any moment. The plank was also alarmingly close to the edge of the quay, so one puff of our unruly wind was likely to send it sliding over the side.
Bearing in mind it had been rock solid when I left it, something had clearly gone very wrong. Not bothering to change from my work clothes (typical me), I grabbed a spanner and a large five pound hammer and knelt on deck to try and secure it again. To cut a long story short, one pair of shredded tights later and with my dress and boots smudged with mud, I realised I'd need someone with more strength than I had to release the bent bolts and repair the damage. As an interim measure, I loosened the ropes at the back of the Vereeniging, and then pulled it as far forwards to the quay as I could to avoid any risk of the gangplank sliding off. I then used another rope to tie the barge end of the plank to the bollard on the foredeck of the Vereeniging. Satisfied it would not now disappear into the depths, I went inside to change into clothes more suited to the task. Better late than never.
But that got me wondering what had actually happened. I thought about the broken rope, the missing sign and the boat hook and put a few twos together. Over the weekend, we must have had an exceptionally high tide, in which case the rope holding the Vereeniging to the bollard in quay wall must have slipped up and off it. I also noticed I was no long tied to one of my neighbours; they must have moved away for a day. This all meant the Vereeniging probably drifted backwards; the gangplank slid off, hit the information board in passing and sent it hurtling to the bottom of the river; and the rope holding the plank probably broke in the process. I also guessed that some kind soul had rescued my plank with the very long hook and had left it on deck to come and collect later.
And indeed, I was right. It had all happened exactly as my fertile imagination had deduced. My other neighbour came home and recovered his boat hook. He had kindly saved my plank from a certain death although the info board wasn't so lucky. I think I owe him a bottle of wine for helping me out, don't you?
As I've said before, life with a barge on a tidal reach is never boring, even when you are harbour bound. As for my anxieties, I guess they will never be put to rest now. What was that about 'life's rich tapestry'?