Confession: Bayliner owner runs into lock trouble on maiden trip

In this month’s Confession, we hear how a Bayliner owner’s maiden voyage resulted in a run-in with a shopping trolley on the River Wey

Having spent several years hiring boats on the Thames, I finally persuaded my wife that we should buy our own. After searching for some time we settled on a 1998 Bayliner Ciera 2355 in good condition, and named her ‘Hilary’.

I took her out several times on my own on to practise my boathandling and lock skills before I felt confident enough to take my wife and our one-year-old daughter out for the first time.

In order to encourage my wife I promised that all she would have to do was hold the odd rope or two. As we left the confines of our sheltered marina, strong winds pushed us onto neighbouring boats and I could feel myself getting tense.

However, I negotiated the exit without any dramas and cruised up the River Wey praying that the first lock of the day would be empty. No such luck.

I rounded the corner to see two narrowboats preparing to fill it up and a host of people enjoying the sun sitting on the grass on either side.

Recommended videos for you

I glided towards the pontoon hoping the lock-keeper would say there was no room, but we were waved on. As we entered the lock I feigned an air of confidence as we steered towards the side the
lock-keeper pointed to.

I gave the reverse gear a nudge as I nestled gently alongside the lock wall and knocked ‘Hilary’ into neutral. I then left the helm and stepped on to the lock side. Mission accomplished.

I took hold of the side of the boat and pulled her towards a mooring post to attach the forward line, only to find she wasn’t going anywhere. As I wrestled with her, the lock-keeper moved in to help but we were both being dragged backwards.

I looked up with horror as I realised my knock into neutral must not have been hard enough. ‘Hilary’ was reversing toward the lock gates.

My wife was happily cuddling our daughter when she got the shock of her life as I bellowed at her to push the throttle forward. I should point out that although I’d tried to run through the basics of our boat with my wife, all she wanted to know was where she could sunbathe.

Fortunately, despite the baby’s high pitched screams, my wife reacted quickly and ‘Hilary’ stopped inches before crashing into the lock, but the ominous sound of the boat scraping along the lock wall left me in no doubt there was some damage.

I raised a chastened smile as I secured the boat, and as the lock emptied my heart sank as I sneaked a look at the damage.

When the gates opened I let the narrowboaters leave to minimise embarrassment but I felt very aware of the shore-side audience peering down on me.

As I nudged through the gates I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d made it. I gave ‘Hilary’ a further nudge forward but as soon as I did the engine stopped and the gear went loose.

I told myself I’d simply stalled but when I tried to start the engine nothing happened. As my wife peered over the back of the boat, a guy on the lock side shouted: “You’ve picked up a shopping trolley”. I couldn’t believe it. What more could go wrong?

With no means of power we managed to drift our way to a nearby mooring, where I lifted the sterndrive to see the cage part of the trolley drop back into the water but the wheel section firmly wrapped around the prop.

I rushed into the cabin, grabbed my pitching lump hammer and let loose on the trolley. It wasn’t long before it worked free. Once clear I crossed my fingers and turned the key in the ignition, the engine fired first time.

I informed the National Trust about the hazard by phone, swiftly followed by a call to my engineer. What an expensive first outing that turned out to be.

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:


Latest videos