Friday, 11 July 2008

Henley - 2008

With Shirley still incapacitated with bandaged foot and crutches (so landlocked so to speak), I enjoyed a couple of nice, but fairly cool for July, days on the River Thames a week ago along with my good friend Chas Watkins (yes, yes I know all the old 'Chas 'n Dave' jokes!!) along with his son Mark plus our old friend and business colleague Philip Henson and his son James; I was on Chas's boat 'Bumble' (as in bee!) and Phil and James were on Phil's Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat which he calls interestingly 'Chota Memsahib II' - I think that means 'Little Wife' or something like that!

We set off from Harleyford Marina and travelled downstream for 3 hours or so to Windsor where we tied up on the Eton Bank and waited for Phil to arrive - about 30 minutes later.

The routine for what is simply known in our diaries as 'Henley' is fairly well established - I think in one boat or another Philip has been doing this for almost 20 years so it doesn't take a whole lot of planning; it's just the way it's always been done!!

Chota Memsahib II

We enjoyed a nice few beers and a curry on Thursday evening in Eton, just down the High Street from the famous College, followed by probably too many brandies and port on the boat afterwards!

The first night for me was absolutely aweful! Because I (apparantly so it seems) snore a little I was relegated to the back of Bumble which was fine at first but as the night wore on it got colder and colder - and I mean COLD; as in unseasonal UK July cold. In the middle of the night sometime I remember getting up and putting on a few layers of clothes!!

When dawn arrived (no guys, not dawn as in a sexy female Dawn!) at around 4am I was still awake trying desparately to get/keep warm - I gave up at 6am and got up for a brisk walk along the River bank; it was actually warmer outside by this time!!

Friday was better - after thawing out we headed back up to Harleyford stopping on route for a beer or two and lunch at the Bounty Inn at Bourne End, a popular riverside pub-stop after which Phil suggested I should swap with James, take the helm and navigate 'Chota Memsahib' upstream. The distance to the next Lock gave me some much needed practice at steering the 51 foot beast but then we turned a corner and there was Marlow Lock, one of the deepest on the Thames with a rather nasty offset turn to squeeze into the Lock.

Now I've sailed quite a few boats in my time from small dinghies to 40 foot yachts but it's quite amazing just how far 51 feet looks from the back of a narrowboat!!

Anyway I gingerly edged forward with bow thrusters left and right steering slowly into the Lock - the Lock Keeper above shouted down to Philip positioned on the front of the boat 'now that IS impressive' and for just a nano-second I thought he was referring to my navigation skills! Sadly I realised that he was just talking about the numerous 'Save our River' posters which Philip had plastered his boat with!!

Friday evening was fun with a hearty BBQ on the River Bank accompanied by copious amounts of wine - and the night somehow felt a lot warmer too!!

We awoke on Saturday to heavy rain so I wasn't too disappointed to shower and head for home later that morning leaving the guys to join up with the girls for the traditional Henley Regatta day.