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Monday, May 19, 2008

The Continuing Adventures of the River Rats

In Which we are Rescued by Firemen…Twice

This post is a little late in coming, as the incident concerned took place last Wednesday. It started, as have all out punting expeditions, with Laura procuring a boat for us through her college. This time, instead of starting from Magdalen Bridge, we began at the Cherwell River boathouse. This meant that we would be following the river as it ran near my house. Our purpose in this was a desire to go down the punt rollers next to the University Park. The punt rollers allow one to roll the boat either up or down into a different section of the river.
Punt Rollers near my house, picture from Wikipedia.
The trip began without incident. We took turns punting, reading out loud, and snacking on the strawberries and muffins Laura had brought. The pole got stuck in the mud once while I was punting, but we were able to paddle back to it and retrieve it without much trouble. We continued peacefully along the river until we came to the punt rollers. Laura was closest to the front of the boat, so she climbed out and grabbed the tie-up rope. As she pulled the punt towards the rollers, I steered from the back. Once the punt was straight, we all climbed out and, pulling and pushing, got it out of the water and onto the rollers. Watching people go up and down the rollers is quite the spectator sport and soon a small group was watching us. There was a group of about five firemen at the park (I guess they were spending their break there) and, taking pity on the four American girls trying desperately to pull their boat down the rollers, offered to help. One of them grabbed the rope and helped us pull the boat across the top, flat part of the rollers.

Once we were near the bottom, we thanked him, put the pole back into the boat, and continued to push it down, ready to jump back in once the punt hit the water. The fireman again offered to help, and suggested we all get back into the punt and he push it off the rollers for us. We agreed, and climbed back in. I was at the front (technically the back-end of the boat), with the pole, ready to turn us around once we hit the water. The fireman pushed the boat, and we rolled down the ramp, just like we were on a small flume ride. It was then I had the quick thought that, when a flume boat hits the water, the front end always dips down and soaks the person sitting there. Sure enough, we hit the water at full speed and the front/back submerged, completely soaking me. We were going so fast that we weren’t able to control the punt, and crashed into the bank. We tried to push off, only to find that we were stuck.

The firemen, seeing this, came down and helped us to get loose, one of them commenting, “If you ever need help again, now you know not to ask the fire brigade”. After exchanging a lot of “thank yous” and laughter, we continued down the stream for a bit, before we had to turn back.

The rule with rivers, of course, is what comes down must go up, and so back up the punt rollers we must go. There were no firemen this time, so we were on our own. I got out and was helping to pull the boat around in line with the rollers when I over-balanced and fell into the river (I know—stories of me falling into rivers while punting are getting kind of old now). Samantha helped me back out, and chanting “One, two, three, PULL”, we somehow managed to get the punt back up the rollers and into the water. Being thoroughly soaked, and having a tutorial later in the day, I decided to head back home, since my house was only about a 5 minute walk away. I’ve been told the rest of the trip back upriver went uneventfully, which apparently is only possible when I’m not around. But I like to think I add a bit of entertainment to what would otherwise be a very monotonous three hours.

P.S. Samantha and I finished hiking Cotswold Way this weekend. Details to come…

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