In this month’s Confession, we hear how the Catherine wheel of fate sunk all hopes of a bonfire night cruise for one Fletcher owner
After hiring a speedboat on Lake Garda 12 years ago, my wife and I decided that this sport was definitely for us and soon after we bought a Fletcher 170GTS.
This was in the good old days when Windermere wasn’t under a fascist dictatorship, so the Lakes were a regular weekend destination.
Being novices, each weekend was usually littered with problems ranging from minor issues, such as leaving the boat keys at home or having a flat battery, to major ones like finding the prop in little pieces in the prop bag after reversing the boat into a wall.
However, one weekend stands out above the rest as nothing more than a catalogue of disasters that would shame Frank Spencer.
It was bonfire weekend in November and we decided to sit on the lake with mulled wine and watch the firework displays put on by the wealthy lakeside residents at no cost to us. Genius.
With arrangements made, we journeyed up the M6, and at some point were forced onto the hard shoulder by roadworks.
During this diversion we hit a pothole with such force that I saw the boat and trailer bounce into the air. I didn’t mention this matter to my wife, who was snoozing at the time, as I didn’t want to worry her.
On arrival at our hotel we proceeded up the steep driveway, which was covered in wet autumn leaves.
Quite why my front-wheel drive saloon car couldn’t haul a two-tonne trailer up this drive remains a mystery, but as we slowly skidded backwards in a jack-knife style towards a nice BMW, I was amazed to discover the power of prayer.
We stopped inches from the BMW and I breathed a sigh of relief. I reported the incident to reception and my wife and I spent the next hour wrestling with the trailer with three female receptionists in high heels.
In the end we managed to manoeuvre it back down the drive, whereupon one of the girls gestured towards the perfectly flat second entrance at the rear of the hotel.
After checking in we headed off to launch the boat and repaired to a lakeside hotel for a well-earned drink. After a couple of hours we decided to go to Bowness for dinner before heading back out on the lake as it grew dark.
I lifted the engine hatch to turn the battery on. I closed the hatch, then re-opened it swiftly. No, I hadn‘t imagined it – the enginebay was flooded and the engine was almost totally submerged.
I flicked the pump switch and peered over the side to see water gushing out. To my amazement the engine started first time, and so, ashen faced and with tremble of hand, I untied and cast off. Again, I decided not to mention it to my wife.
All was fine until after dinner, when we came back to the pontoon to find the boat sitting much lower down in the water than when we had left it. I lifted the hatch to find the engine, once again, almost completely submerged.
It was at this point I offered up the vague possibility of the M6 pothole being responsible, realising by now that the bounce had indeed punched a hole in the hull.
With the pump running at full chat, we drained the bay, started the engine and took the boat to a shallow spot where it wouldn‘t sink overnight. The fireworks would have to wait until next year.
The following day was a total washout and we decided to quit and go home. We hauled the boat out and were staggered by the gaping hole in the hull. We loaded the gear up and got in the car only to find the driver’s door wouldn’t close – it kept springing open.
The lock had broken, so I used a mooring line to tie my door to the passenger door across our legs. We finally set off back home like wounded animals, and as we turned on to the M6 the black clouds finally broke up, giving way to glorious sunshine.
I didn’t mention this to my wife as she was snoozing.
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.
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