New Internationalist

Rising tide sinks boat

I am becoming sensitive, not to say jumpy, about sound.

As the tide rose again last night there was a sharp crunching, cracking noise, which might or might not have come from my own barge. Any small oversight – a mooring rope left too tight – can have disastrous results.

I went on deck, to find my neighbour on the opposite bank tussling with a tree, into which his narrowboat was slowly rising. We shone lamps across the river to illuminate his struggle, which was fortunately successful.

Next to him, a deserted plastic boat was rocking ominously in the water, sending out waves that flashed in the light from the beaming full moon, the distant source of the trouble.

In the midst of all this, the pleasure boat cruised by, oblivious to the drama, lights blaring, carefree young people dancing inside, a full-body tiger costume at the helm.

This morning I discovered that a small boat had been tipped on its side and was on the verge of sinking. A group of cursing men, two of them swimming around in wet suits, was attempting in vain to lift the boat up. Several hours and many more curses later, it’s still in the same state.

Then, an ominous hammering noise, getting louder. Was some ravenous underwater predator, carried in from the sea on the tide perhaps, trying to get inside my hull?

No. A dragon boat. The dozen or so male paddlers were being kept in time, and up to the mark, by a bored-looking young woman beating a large drum in the bow.

The river parade just keeps on coming. Yesterday a pedalo, powered by two exhausted middle-aged women, dragging a canoe laden with bags and advertising the website of a bookshop, zig-zagged upstream without any obvious destination in mind.

They were followed by three Canadians dressed in battle fatigues, paddling with such intensity that they must surely have been on their way around the world.

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