Wednesday, February 24, 2016

High tide trauma

In previous posts, I've mentioned the troubles I sometimes have with my gangplank. This is an issue that causes me unease, especially when I am away, as is often the case at weekends. I don't know about you, but I am the world's worst 'what if' worrier and spend far too much time tormenting myself over what could, might and probably will go wrong when I leave my barge on a Friday to head south. Such anticipation of disasters can be an awful spoiler to enjoying myself, but it can also be a good thing as I tend to anticipate every possible problem. As a result, I am paranoid about checking things before departing. And even then I worry about what I haven't done right up until I'm back again. Healthy huh? Well, maybe not.





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'?


22 comments:

  1. Super detective work Val, and thankfully only a sign has gone. I am guessing it could have all been much worse. I also try to think of every possibility, and plan for it, when I go away - only to find something unforeseen happens anyway. Attention to detail must be of great help to you as a writer, however. Wishing you peaceful times, and a safe haven.

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    1. Thank you, Patricia! Sometimes I'd like to be in a slightly safer haven, I must admit! xx

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  2. Gosh you were very lucky there Val proving once again that it is as well to keep an eye on the tide table ;)

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    1. Yes, Mel, but I wish it was just the tide table I had to keep an eye on, not the shipping forecast and neighbour's movements as well :)

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  3. What a wonderfully unpredictable life you lead, Val - and how resourceful you are in dealing with everything the tides throw at you!

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    1. Thanks, Jo, but I could do without some of the stress it causes my collective neuroses, I must say :)

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  4. Hi Val - well that was interesting .. but well done on being so aware of potential challenges ... and for sorting things out. Have some safe weekends ahead .. a bottle of vino seems a goodly thought .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Ah, Hilary, these days I stick to coffee. I need my wits about me too often to indulge in the vino :)

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  5. Great story, Val! Having taught in a preschool and having always been on watch for dangerous situations that could hurt the children, I tend to do the "what if" surveys too. One event that I could never have "what if"ed happened when men working down inside a manhole in our street accidentally touched two electric wires together and the manhole cover, which weighed several hundred pounds, blasted up into the air and sailed over the fence to land in the playground. To this day I thank God for His protection. It landed in the middle of a full playground of running, laughing children - and didn't hurt any of us. And we adults managed not to have heart attacks over the near miss either! Your life is a constant challenge, so I think your "what ifs" are a good thing, not a bad thing! But hope you have a good weekend this week with no new unexpected challenges!

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    1. Oh my goodness, Steoh. That could have gone soooo wrong! What a blessing no child or adult was hurt and no one had a heart attack as a result! Xx

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  6. I've always been told, you can never check your ropes enough, I afraid I exactly the same, I have a thing about checking, I think it drives Jill mad at times, but when it's your home and your lives, and it's only takes a few minutes, so we are late, better than never getting there.

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    1. I totally agree, Gary, and if I could I'd find a mooring on a canal rather than on this river harbour. There are just too many worrying variables that even all my checks can't avoid. You keep being late...that's what life in the slow lane should be about, anyway :)

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  7. Oh my and I used to worry when the wind took the fences several feet down the drive (often) due to being exposed to open fields. Glad it was settled and what a fab neighbour.

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    1. Yes, I am extremely grateful to him, Jane. I'd like to say they would all do that, but I'm afraid it's not true, so I'm very thankful he did! Thanks to you too for commenting!

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  8. Val, How can you bear the stress of leaving the boat alone when so much could happen! You are lucky to have good neighbours. All we have to worry about is the badgers digging up the garden....

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    1. Well........I don't know, Stephanie. But somehow, I do manage it :)

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  9. You have such lovely neighbours, a great community. Thank goodness that they were there. High tides are always a worry, Pete is often up in the middle of the night, adjusting ropes etc and then I lay in bed worrying about him going overboard in the dark and listening for the splash! X

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    1. Tides are a constant battle aren't they Fran? I'm sure Pete is glad to know you are listening out for him on his night time forays among the ropes :) I'm very grateful to my neighbour...his bottle of wine awaits him! Xxx

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  10. Good thing for good neighbours! And I personally think there is no such thing as being too careful when it comes to gangplanks and watery ways! ;)

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    1. How lovely to see you here, Stevie! Thanks for dropping by and yes, I shall continue to be careful! Xx

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  11. What a scary situation. You've clearly developed a highly useful kind of sixth sense - and obviously it helps that one is closer with neighbours in a boat community than in flats or houses, too.

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    1. Thanks, Jenny. Life on board certainly keeps the heart pumping. And yes, I think we know our neighbours better than most people in a large urban area.

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