LAST year in this column, I wrote that I thought the authorities should introduce a mandatory test and a licence of competence before anyone was allowed to take a boat out on the water – and several people jumped down my throat, berating me for proposing to introduce more bureaucracy into our leisure time.
To answer those people, I will pass the next few paragraphs of this week’s column over to my colleague Kevin Walker who was wiling away a pleasant couple of hours with his son down by the river near Walton Bridge a couple of weeks back when they spied a boat coming towards the bridge. I’ll let Kevin describe what happened:
“There are always unusual and amusing snapshots of life along the river, but there was little to laugh about over this snapshot of a ‘clown’ complete with family – I’m probably doing an injustice to clowns now – trying to motor his dinghy, The Seahawk, complete with its mast stepped, under Walton Bridge.
“The skipper was completely oblivious to warnings shouted to him from the riverbank and it was no surprise when the mast hit the bridge under motor, lifting the front of the boat and thankfully, bouncing them backwards. Not realising the lucky escape, both for him, his family and the boat, ‘the Clown’ then made a further attempt to pass under the next arch nearer the bank, where the height is even lower!
“All throughout this reckless manoeuvre, a young girl aged about 10 was jumping around the boat pulling on the mast. In fact, there was only one life jacket between all four crew.”
Kevin reports that after two or three failed attempts to get under the bridge – with only five or six feet of mast sticking up above the parapet – the hapless sailor turned round and headed back from whence he had come.
Kevin’s closing comment exactly mirrors my own thoughts. He said:
“I would now like to propose a law that states these ‘Sunday bloaters’ must all wear red pointed ‘dunce’ hats emblazoned with a large ‘L’ for Looney, along with lifejackets, so we can all see them coming and take avoiding action.”
I wonder if we had a licensing system whether this twit would ever have been given control of a boat..? Thanks for that, Kev, and well done to your boy, James, for being quick-thinking enough to snap off a few pictures.
THANKS for your continuing tales of swimming in the Thames. My old mate Doug Millson – Doug the Ancient Angler to his friends – tells me that he learned to swim at the age of just three – when he fell into the river while out walking with his sister in 1930 close to D’Oyley Carte Island.
“I did the doggie paddle to get back to the bank,” says Doug, “but after that I spent a lot of time in my youth swimming in the Thames.”
Doug recalls there were bathing facilities at Weybridge – including changing huts, which cost you tuppence or threepence to hire. There was also an attendant with a pole, a rope and a tyre who taught dozens of kids to swim.
It obviously paid off for Doug. “I got a certificate for swimming three miles in the river,” he told me. “That was from Desborough Island all the way to Walton Rowing Club and back again.”
Doug also remembers that before it was known as D’Oyley Carte Island, the landmark was called Lady Mary’s Island. Anybody out there know why?