When the **** hits the prop

You’re chugging along on your boat at 3mph when suddenly something gets caught on your propeller, maybe  it just makes a brief noise, so you give a blast in reverse and it clears, or maybe it stops dead and so you engine stalls. Either way its usually just a minor inconvenience, it just slows you down if you carry on or delays you whilst you delve down the weed hatch if you stop and clear it. This isn’t too much trouble when you are out on the cut, but there are times when it causes more of a problem, for instance doing the Warwickshire Ring in 2007 my prop got snared on the way into Birmingham when time was an issue – it was early evening and I still had a flight of locks to get through to reach the city centre mooring. That wasn’t too bad, a slightly more frantic time was when I got a ground sheet on my prop just as I was entering a lock. It stopped my engine and I just carried on into the empty lock until my bow fender met the cill and brought me to a stop.

However getting a snag on a river can be a completely different kettle of fish. Kevin, a fellow time-lapse boater, told me about the time his engine gave out turning his boat into a very large  Poohstick bobbing along the river until he was eventually brought to rest on the bank downstream. My experience wasn’t so gentile, mainly due to the sound of rushing water – that’s right whilst approaching a weir!

Heading down the Avon I got something on my prop, but after giving it a blast in reverse it seemed to clear so I carried on. I guess as we were going downstream and taking our time it wasn’t apparent that anything was wrong. It was a sunny day and waters calm, so something we could do when we stopped, after all it probably had cleared itself. As I approached IWA lock on the Avon, a tight turning infront of the weir I found I didn’t have enough power (so there was something on my prop slowing me down enough that I couldn’t go much more than tick over) and the boat turned, caught by the current, and turning broadside straight for the weir … well, straight for the safety buoys. So after shouting for everyone to brace themselves it was a case of leaning away until we reached the buoys and it took the strain bringing us to a halt.

I  was now running on adrenalin and after checking we were okay, it was a matter of rescuing the boat! The bow was near the bank and luckily there was a hire boat in the lock who’s crew came to help. So I put the boat into gear pushing it forward as everyone else pushed the bow round to the lock channel entrance (luckily not far, a couple of feet) and the boat went forward and we were out of danger. Quite an experience, and all captured on camera!

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