Confession: Locked on a collision course on the Thames

In this month Confession, we hear how three Royal Marines’ Thames cruising mission on the river went awry

A number of years ago, as a young Royal Marine, two colleagues joined me for a week’s trip on a hired cabin cruiser on the Thames.

We arrived at the boatyard in Maidenhead, and following a comprehensive safety brief, we were required to produce our driving licences. One of our number, who could not drive, was told in
no uncertain terms that he was not to attempt drive the boat, or our insurance would be void.

Suitably chastened, we set off on our adventure. We decided that the non-driver and I would share the forward twin cabin, whilst the third member, a very large, bodybuilding type, should enjoy the space of the main aft cabin in which to flex his considerable pecs.

After a few pleasant days of cruising, we moored up close to a lock, and headed into one of the Thames-side towns with the sole intention of drinking it dry.

Several hours later, and worse the wear for imbibing, we returned to our mooring and fell into our beds, looking forward to a fresh start in the morning.

I was rudely awakened by a deep throbbing noise in my head, followed by a lurching feeling which almost tipped me from my bunk.

I quickly realised this wasn’t an excesses of alcohol, but the over-revving of the engine, coupled with sudden forward movement. As the clouds of fog left my sore head, I realised that my cabin mate, the non-driver, was missing.

Knowing that the bodybuilder was even less of a morning person than me, it left only one possibility…

I rolled out of bed, and as I opened the small door into the middle cockpit, a deafening, sickening crunch shook the boat to its keel and stopped us dead in the water.

In the same instant, I was hit by 20st of prime Royal Marine Commando, as the bodybuilder, having had the same sudden awakening as myself, was flung headlong across the cockpit and into me.

We crashed into the narrowest part of the bow section, and as we did so, I saw daylight streaming through a gaping hole in the hull where the bow (and my head) had recently been…

We confronted our errant ‘Captain’, who, bored by our lack of morning zest, had decided to take us through the lock by himself. He very nearly succeeded.

Our state of shock was quickly overtaken by the loud remonstrations of the purple-faced lockkeeper, who rained profanities on us from on hig.

Profuse apologies offered, we reluctantly called the boatyard, fully expecting to have to pay the full cost of the boat, or be arrested, or keel hauled.

A short time later, two chaps appeared, verbally abused us for a short time, then jumped into the water and slapped some glass fibre onto the missing bow section.

Having fashioned a rough point, they abused us some more, and left, laughing. The rest of our trip was more subdued, and only two of us ever drove the boat.

On our return, we apprehensively entered the office, fully expecting to pay some outrageous fee for the damage. To our amazement, we had all our deposits returned, and a warm invitation to hire with the company again.

We left quickly without arguing and never discovered whether this was an everyday occurrence or an oversight. And we never asked, either.

Within a few years, the reckless ‘driver’ who almost destroyed the boat, became the Officer Commanding Landing Squadron, Royal Marines, Poole. RJR you know who you are.

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:


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