Messing about on the river

English: Building a Dugout Canoe at Basecamp K...

English: Building a Dugout Canoe at Basecamp Karuskose in Soomaa National Park, Estonia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a means of transport, boats must be among the very earliest discovered by mankind. A wandering caveman probably saw something like a log drifting down a river and had a brainwave. All he had to do was climb aboard and he could float effortlessly wherever the river went. Logs are not particularly stable, so it wasn’t long before he became fed up with falling in and had the idea of hollowing out the log to make a boat.

The form factor of modern boats has not really changed that much from these early days. With the odd departure into hovercrafts and hydrofoils, pretty much every modern boat relies on Archimedes principle of displacement in order to float. There have been advances in things such as instrumentation and propulsion but the shape of modern vessels has barely changed from the prehistoric dugout canoe.

I have always been fascinated by boats and having just finished The Voyage of the Princess Matilda by Shane Spall, I find myself pleasantly reminded of the days when we had a boat. It was a small cabin cruiser which we moored down near Staines on the River Thames. It is barely a 15 minute drive between Staines and Windsor by car, but in our boat it took 4 hours. Firstly because rivers aren’t straight. Secondly, because boats aren’t quick and lastly because there are 4 locks that lie between them.

The nicest feeling in the world is waking up early and drinking a steaming hot cup of tea whilst sat in the morning chill on the back of your boat. The swans would drift silently through the mist with Windsor Castle as a backdrop.

We had our fair share of thrills and spills and how I didn’t receive a ducking is beyond me. I came very close on a couple of occasions. The first was when I leapt from a moving vessel onto a mooring pontoon. That was when I learned the valuable lesson that every action has an equal and opposite reaction and I barely managed to keep my footing.

English: Canal boat entering Lock on the Thame...

English: Canal boat entering Lock on the Thames river. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second time was in a lock. It doesn’t matter how much practise you have at going through a lock. It is still very easy to mess it up and when it goes wrong, it causes much merriment among anyone there to see it. My brother was driving, I was on the rear rope and my sister in law on the front rope. Somehow I managed to end up horizontally with my hands on the side of the lock and my feet on the boat looking down into a rapidly expanding chasm of water. Somehow I managed to crab my way to the front of the boat.

So why did I get rid of it? Boats are expensive. A friend of mine maintains that a boat is something you pour money into until it sinks. Take any product or service and insert the word “boat” and the price trebles instantly. We just weren’t getting enough use out of it to justify the expenditure.

Also – boats get filthy. If ever there was a technological advance worth making, it must be the self-cleaning boat.

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