Marlow 2nd May 2022. The River Thames is such a jewel of a river. A group of six boats travelled in convoy from Harleyford Marina down to The Bounty in Bourne End. That’s two Locks and about six miles of very picturesque English countryside, passing through the celebrated town of Marlow. The Complete Angler looked a bit noisy, so we continued down to The Bounty where the band was playing, the beer was flowing and everybody wore a smile on their face.
We were a flotilla of six boats, Adelaide, Azzurra, Billie Bean, Eddy Current, Edwin James, and Silent Adventure. We hardly made a noise apart from Barry Goldring shouting out to passers-by ‘We’re all Electric!’. All in all, we were about twenty persons and camaraderie and bon ami was very much in evidence. More about this in a moment….
After the first Lock there was an unspoken need for speed. I was sailing on Edwin James, a 21-foot cedar and mahogany canoe on what was for me, and my three passengers, our maiden voyage. Normally a cautious person, I decided to go against my nature and follow the crowd racing off and using 1.5 kW when everything stopped. Bugger. Bugger. Bugger. Bugger said myself and my passengers.
What I was about to discover was that electric boaters love it when things go wrong. And up and down the flotilla I could hear ‘Tim’s blown a fuse, Tim’s blown a fuse!’ My wife, Sue, and our friend Polly were in the right position to take up the emergency paddles. With instructions from Tom, we managed to get to shore at Bisham Abbeys Moose Canoe hire. By chance I had spoken to the proprietor, Guy Fisher, on the phone a little while ago. And although we didn’t know what each other looked like; we did know of each other’s existence. So, when I asked if he had a 40-amp fuse, he had a good rummage in his toolbox, no was the answer, but he did have a split pin.
Armed with a split pin, I hotwired the Edwin James and tentatively we continued our voyage of discovery. We were soon to catch up with Ian and Sylvia Rutter who were hugely excited by the fact I’d blown a fuse and Ian was very keen to show me his workshop and his vast collection of fuses a mere couple of miles downstream.
Jealousy caught up with me at this point. Ian lives in a beautiful stretch of the river, has a boat house, and to help him get to his house with splendid views across the meadows, he has a funicular railway. I regret taking a photo of his workshop, it’s more than a workshop, it’s a living museum of one man’s work throughout his life, and yes, he did have a fuse that suited.
From Ian and Sylvia’s, we continued down to The Bounty, passing some lovely houses, and whilst it wasn’t overly sunny, the weather was very pleasant, and the Edwin James was performing well.
One of the wonderful things about travelling in a flotilla of electric boats is that we can chat to each other. In some respects, it reminded me of elderly ladies swimming, breaststroke, side by side, heads out of the water under the illusion they are doing some exercise. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and find out what they had been doing over the winter.
It’s not possible to arrive at The Bounty late because it’s a place where time doesn’t exist. However, around lunchtime, we moored up four abreast on the excellent jetty and made our way to our reserved table. It was a very busy day, with a queue coming out of the door for bar service. That said, our esteemed organization and the grandeur of our party assured back door service, with the Edwin James’ ladies, Polly and Sue taking orders for drinks and food.
Our hearty meals and drinks arrived incredibly fast, many thanks to Damien the Manager and his mum Sue. They really looked after us and I think every one of us would recommend this pit stop as a pit stop with aplomb!
Time for the return journey, and a little bit about the boats. Azzurra is a 60 foot narrowboat owned by Mark MacAulay. A pretty boat to look at from my perspective sitting in a tiny canoe and she motors along effortlessly with her AC induction motor. Another boat with an AC induction motor was Eddy Current, owned by the Rutters. I really like this boat. Beautiful bottle green hull and splendid timber work above the gunnels. Billie Bean was a picture too, a cedar strip boat built by its owner Philip Paddy. I don’t know what Philip does for a living but he has boat builder in his DNA. Adelaide, owned by the Bissett-Powells, caught everybody’s eye. I think that’s why boats are given a feminine pronoun. A very pretty boat and a splendid way to pass a lazy day on the Thames.
Silent Adventure, owned by Nick Goldring, reminded me of an MG Midget. The smallest boat in the fleet but incredibly agile. Her acceleration was fantastic. If only they put electric motors in MG Midgets.
And then there was my party on the Edwin James, I think I have already told you all about her except for the leak. I have a little bit of work to do stopping a little ingress into the mid-section battery box, but no need to panic.
I am a man, and as such I am challenged when it comes to doing more than one thing at once. I would have liked to have shown you some aerial footage of our flotilla using my drone, however, the power/steering mechanism on the Edwin James is evidence that I have limits. Like the Ark Royal I launched the drone from the canoe but trying to fly the drone, film something relevant and drive the boat using the joystick like control left me in a bit of a panic. Then Sue spotted an ice-cream van. You might have imagined that everything started to go wrong. But the Top Gun in me landed the drone next to the icecream van and Sue went to fetch it along with four 99’s.
We could have been in Venice.
A beautiful day and thanks to all of those taking part in this rally. Keep communication channels open, I’ll let you know about the next event soon.