Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th August
Yup, that's right. The new propeller, only just fitted, went the way of the first. Down to the bottom of the Thames. Here's what happened.
The engineer, as I have indicated, left us at 1715 on the Wednesday. We wasted no time in getting under way, and pushed on to Tadpole, arriving at The Trout at Tadpole Bridge in the gloom at just before 2100. Jan rushed to the pub to see if we could get food at that late hour, leaving me to tie up. Back came the message: yes, but it's either fish and chips or ribeye steak. Not being a huge lover of fish (despite getting rather too close to their habitat for comfort earlier in the day) I opted for the steak, but did a double take at the price: nearly £20!
The next morning, to try to catch up with our schedule, we set off at 0605, and negotiated the sharp twists and turns of the next two miles upstream. Until ... on the approach to the lock landing at Radcot Lock, tickover forward ... into neutral ... into astern to slow some more, and CLONK. I don't believe it! The exact same thing has happened! The prop's come off ... AGAIN!!
No problems this time with getting to a safe place with no drive: we glided to the landing stage and I stopped the boat on the centre rope and tied up. There were no other boats about, of course, as it wasn't much past 7.00 am. I hardly needed to take up the weed hatch to verify that the boat was deficient in the propeller department to the tune of one - indeed, I couldn't.
I couldn't open the weed hatch because the engineer had sealed it with a black mastic. Brilliant. Even with a long piece of four by two (conveniently found lying nearby) wedged under a handle welded to the cover I couldn't budge it. Using the claw of a hammer I could begin to prise up a corner, but I was scared of distorting it. Leave it to the rescue service, I thought. But if I couldn't open the weed hatch, how could I be sure that the prop was gone, you ask? Simple: rotating the prop shaft by hand was easy and produced no disturbance in the water. Besides which, as I observed when the first prop came off two days earlier, the propshaft whizzes round under engine power, but there's no drive.
Right. Phone the rescue service. They talked about getting a diver to look for the prop, and about getting the boat towed up to Lechlade. Even though I had a much better idea this time of where it could be, there was no point chucking the Sea Searcher in as the prop was non-ferrous. (Phosphor bronze?) David phoned, saying that he was on his way to Greenbelt at Cheltenham, could he pick up his things, and where were we? Hmm. Radcot Lock, and we're unlikely to move for a while.
When the lock keeper turned up for duty at 0900 I told him of our predicament, and that assistance would be on its way. David arrived, and while I was making coffee, or doing something similarly useful, he borrowed the lockie's keb. I fished around with it for a while, but it was pretty hopeless.
In the next instalment: a turn-up for the books.
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