Take six men (old), one boat, one car (and no dog) who decided to row down the Thames.
We started from Newbridge, East of Lechlade in a boat hired from Helena Smallman-Smith’s company,
However we soon realised that speed was not going to be easily achieved after the first two severe bends resulted in forced beachings of the boat; but the cox (Harry) soon got the hang of the rudder and we then faced our first major obstacle, after 5kms, at Northmoor Lock.
How to get a boat balanced in the middle of the lock when it is too narrow for the blades to be extended? Easy - Let the blades go downstream and have the handles behind you.
But then - how do you back down to hold the boat steady as the water runs out to lower the level often at an alrming rate- with some difficulty.
At our first changeover point we faced a challenge which we grappled with all the way - the infrequent landing areas were designed for powered craft and were usually about a foot above the riggers which gave rise to some serious acrobatics and not a little hilarity; except when the cox and bow decided to exit at the same time. The look of panic on John Benson’s face said it all. ‘THAT WAS STUPID’ was all he could manage.
The first night’s stop was at Radley College Boathouse, south of Oxford where we politely declined the offer of young muscles to get our boat out of the water.
Off to our overnight stay at the Travel Lodge when on arrival we were told that as they assumed (for whatever reason) we were three disabled couples they had provided rooms accordingly - including baths with grab handles and a raised toilet.
Dinner and a lot of beer resulted in an early night in our now twin rooms.
The next day got off to a slow start because of the Oxford traffic but we set off by 9.30 to travel the 56kms that day.
There were 9 locks to contend with which slowed us down quite a lot as each lock can take up to 30 mins to complete
We were pleased we had a support car to ensure there was a steady supply of coffee and goodies to provide sustenance during the day.
We didn’t complete the second day until 5.0pm (over 7 hours) and we were followed by a Red Kite for the last 30 mins.
Some-one quipped that it realised we were on our last legs and was waiting for his next meal of carion.
We decided to shorten our last day from 50kms to 35 and finish at Marlow which Helena quickly arranged.
We briefly stopped at the Registration Tent for the Combined Services Regatta which was happening at Reading, to try to enter the Elite 4x+ but there were no other entries so we tried to impress with a racing start followed by 250m at 28 until we collapsed round the next bend.
We were soon at Henley on pracice day and again I’m sure we impressed but are still waiting for the call.
It was Harry’s turn to act as support driver after the first 10kms and we arranged to meet him 10kms further on at Hambledon Lock, which we had not inspected, and so it was some suprise when we realised there was no easy car access and no Harry to meet us.
‘He’ll be at the next lock’ but he wasn’t and so on to the next but again no Harry. To help quell our worries we enjoyed a toasted sandwich from the lock cafe and a super cup of tea.
We finally caught up with Harry at Marlow at the end of our trip.
Vet H 4x+ at Henley
Success is sweet.