One thing I omitted to mention about our first enforced break from cruising was that I contrived to fall in. My first time. The boat was tied as close as I could get it to the high bank, but that wasn't close enough, owing to insufficient depth at the edge, as you can see in the photo. Only the grass is firm enough to stand on; the hairy weedy stuff is hiding the gap. (That's the Bablock Hythe (chain? rope?) ferry in the background, by the way. Not used since the flooding a couple of years ago.) Anyway, somehow I lost my footing, and slipped between the boat and the bank, bashing my shin on the way, but getting wet only up to the bottom of the pockets on my shorts.
That's me squeezing the Thames out of my socks.
Now the above is relevant. When talking to the lockie at Radcot Lock, at whose lower lock landing the second prop came off, he suggested I went for a paddle in an attempt to find it. As raking the bottom with the keb was unlikely to dredge up the propeller, and as I already had a set of still-wet-with-Thames clothes, I decided to take Mr. Lock Keeper's advice and get in.
I'm not sure that "paddling" accurately describes it. Neither does "wading". Both words suggest that a large part of the body remains dry. If there's a word for moving slowly in water, feet just touching the bottom, and head just about staying above water, then I was doing it. Yes, that small blob in the middle of the above photo is my head.
I traversed the area by the lock landing, feeling for the prop with my feet. I was surprised to find the river bed reasonably level, albeit deep, and with no large stones or squidgy mud. It was like walking on marble-sized balls of clay. I had attached a thin rope to myself, the other end of which Adrian held on to. The weir stream was a hundred feet away, and at no time did I get out of my depth, so I felt safe. The water was warmer than my old school swimming pool, but I did get cold. Evidence from the photographs shows that I spent at least 16 minutes in the water; it was probably more like 20.
I walked around, feeling with my feet ... and ... what's this? A propeller!
The wrong one - this looks like it belongs to an outboard engine - but it gave me extra hope.
I was getting very cold now. If I had been swimming it would have been fine as the exercise would have warmed me. I knew I would have to get out soon. My methodical traverses had yielded only the wrong prop. It was time to give up. In a last ditch attempt, I decided to walk from where I was in a straight line to the boat, following approximately the line I would have taken coming in to the lock landing.
Almost immediately my foot struck something sharp and rounded. And heavy.
I'd got it! I knew I'd got it! Determined to savour the moment, I pushed it closer to the landing stage, while saying that I was giving up. I hooked my foot under the object and, after a few attempts, managed to get it balanced long enough to bring it within reach of my hand. I think my demeanour must have given me away, though, as I was asked, "Have you found it?"
With a flourish worthy of a Wimbledon winner I raised my golden trophy out of the water.
Shivering elation! After a warm shower it took me two hours to warm up. I was told my lips were blue. It was worth it, though! Now all we had to do was get the prop refitted. Properly this time.