Monday, October 02, 2006

Am I a Jonah!

I delivered a 45 foot princess from Brighton to Shepperton last week. We left brighton at 22.00 hours arriving at Hammersmith bridge at 16.00 approximately. As we were about to pass under the bridge we picked up a rope on the starboard engine, stopping it dead and refusing to operate in gear, this caused the boat to turn broadside, I tried to correct this by going astearn on the only operational engine and picked up the rest of the rope causing that engine to stop too. I announced that we had a problem and immediately headed for the anchor to stop the boat from continuing with the tide and impacting with other moored boats close by, whilst the owner and friend who were lowing the radar arch at the time, tried to regain control of the engines ( without any luck).

The pin that released the anchor was firmly stuckin in and no amount of my cursing and pulling would let it free, so I called to the owner, that we would need plenty of fenders to prevent damage in the impact with the by now fast closing moored vessels. I grabbed a large ball fender and fitted it to the most advantageous point and then instructed him to to throw me a long mooring line which he kept on the fly bridge and made my way to the bow (we passed under the bridge broadside with 300 mm to spare and were now able to straighten up the vessel with the use of the bow thruster only, but were travelling astearn in the current of about three knots) I fixed the line to the Anchor winch via the port fairlead and as we were about five metres off the first lot of passing boats, but heading straight for a group of plastic small boats (moored to a footbridge type pier) I instructed the owners friend to take the wheel and the owner who had by now lined the rest of the boat with fenders, to get another long rope ( all though this was unneccery as he was on the case already) and deal with the stearn should he get along side first. I spotted a large mooring ring on the roof, of a soon to pass, canal boat and instructed the owners friend to forget our attitude and just get the boat as close to canal boat as he could with the use of the bow thruster, which he did. We were just about to pass the canal boat when I jumped onto the roof and ran for the ring passing the rope through it with two turns. The flimsyg ring (about 8 mill in diameter) didnt seem strong enough but that was all we had for the moment, I took a quick look around as the rope took the strain, and the boat pulled around to face into the stream. and spotted a stronger cleat on the bopw of the canal boat should I need it in an "emergency". The fenders did their job and the owner jumped off the stearn onto another vessel.

After a few ajustments we breathed again, and our pulse rates returned to normal. The pier "superintendant" immediately appeared (as they do, looking for fees) and asked how long we were intending to stay as we couldnt moor where we were. He was dispached with a king size hornet in his ear as out plight was pointed out to him. we checked the depth of the water and found that it was reducing rapidly which would mean that the vessel would ground in about an hour (something that Princess 45`s cannot do as the rudders are forced through the hull and the integrity of the hull is breached. We called the coastguard explaining our plight and that the vessel was in imminent danger of being holed who dispached the RNLI river rescue to our aid.

Within about four minutes of the call the sirens were heard and the blue light was approaching fast. they pulled along side assesed the problem and we affixed our lines to them for a tow to their station at Chiswick pier, where we could sit quite happily until we fixed the problem (as it didn`t dry out) I have to say that the Lifeboat crew acted with the greatest of proffessionalism, they were well trained and cheerful and their equipment was of the highest standard, they did however pickup a blockage to their port water jet whilst they were towing us and were forced to reduce speed to barely more than the surging current, we all looked at each other with a single thought, would we and they now be sent off down river ajoined, without any control power? It didn`t happen and with good spirits we arrived at the pier where two of the crew were waiting for us, to take lines etc. They (the lifeboat) went alongside inbetween us and the pier and acted as an actual buffer to the pier and lines were exchanged. They then went out astearn and down the pier to their berth, where they commenced the clearing of their jet drive.

We telephoned for the services of a Diver as the owner refused to let me have a go at clearing the blockage when the tide was slack, the current was by now running well. He arrived at slack water the next day and managed to clear the port prop and shaft, but the tide beat him and he wasn`t able to clear the starboard one. We waited for the tide to be suitable ( draft wise) for passage along Sion reach and on to Richmond half tide lock where the barrier would be open and progressed up river on one engine and entered the non tidal waters above Teddington lock where the diver could work with impunity having little worries about the tide.

The diver returned at 08.30 the next day and cleared the rest of the rope ( which was 9 inch circumference, green and white barge rope, about thirty feet of it, Ouch! Thankyou Mr Cory) We returned up river to Shepperton where the owner was supposed to be attending a Commodores sail past and was by now a couple of hours late he did however make a run past the other moored boats whith the commodore aboard and we dipped our ensign in salute, whereupon the commodore replied with his own salute. God only knows what they all thought of the ragamuffing crew in heavy weather gear, no blazers and white slacks for us that day. We settled on the owners mooring about ten minutes later as the torrential rain stopped. The boat will be lifted out for drive train inspection, on Tuesday and the gearbox integrity investigated for damage.

As a "govenor", and full supporter of all things to do with the RNLI and having now had to call them twice in my boating life ( the first time whilst diving off Selsey Bill and watching the boat sink past me in mid water) I have to say that they provide a brilliant service, their crews are fully dedicated and professional, and their tea is brilliant! thanks again Guys for a job well done.

Lifes never dull is it?
"Am I really a Jonah?"

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