Confession: Misfiring dinghy goes with the flow on River Trent

Tackling a river in full spate with a hobbled dingy proves embarrassing in this month’s Confession

The Trent was in flood and running fast. My dad and I were busy thinking of things to keep us occupied and were quickly running out of ideas.

Now I can’t quite remember whose plan it was but we decided it would be fun to see if our 2.3hp four-stroke Honda outboard engine could fight the fast-flowing river and deliver us to the other side of our marina.

At the marina in question, to get to the other side we first of all had to leave the pond in which our boat was berthed and travel about 100 metres upstream to the entrance from the river.

We put on lifejackets and lowered the dinghy. The outboard purred into life and we set off. The river was in sight and we could see how fast the water was flowing, but still we pressed on. What you read next may sound unbelievable but is all true.

The exact second the nose of our dinghy showed itself to the current, the engine started coughing and spluttering. This was worrying in itself but when the engine died completely, that’s when we started to panic.

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As the water began to carry us downstream my dad repeatedly tried to restart the engine but to no avail. It was at this point that we grabbed the oars and started rowing as hard as we could. (I should explain that 80 metres downstream there is a small weir).

It became clear that we would never be able to row hard enough to fight the current, so we tried to angle the dinghy towards the bank, which was lined with overhanging trees and bushes.

We got to the bank, only to be dragged through branches and leaves and then back out towards the middle of the river.

By this time our predicament had been spotted by various people wandering around the marina and towpath, and it had been brought to the attention of the marina owner, who climbed into the small tugboat moored outside and made his way towards us.

Once we had attached a tow line and were on our way back to our berth the lecture started about how it was not dinghy weather, we could have put ourselves in serious danger, and so on and so painfully on.

When he had finished and we were back on board our boat my dad started the investigation into why the engine had cut out. After about 45 minutes of testing and investigating he returned looking rather sheepish.

It would appear that he hadn’t turned the lever that allows fuel to enter the engine. Once my mum got to hear of this, the second lecture of the day began.

The moral of the story is, always do your engine checks before attempting to do battle with a fast-flowing river in full spate.

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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