Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Little Red Button

Anger management is a strange thing.

Modern life is very stressful and the frenetic pace and overcrowding that many of us are subjected to in the UK, don't make it any easier.

The other day, we got into a forum discussion about how there appears to be an ever-increasing number of rude people about, on the canals these days.

It's a widespread problem on the waterways with people generally being in a great hurry and having little patience when their progress is slowed by external forces beyond their control.

It's not unusual to be sworn at or even threatened with violence.

About 2 years ago, I came cruising round a sharp bend in the river on the Lee and was suddenly alerted by angry shouts.

Looking round, I saw a fisherman in a very concealed tent waving his arms around.

It transpired that he had placed the concealed tent behind the bridge buttress on the other side of the bridge from the direction I came from, had concealed himself in the tent and then consumed copious amounts of Stella Artois, the fishermans tipple of choice.

He complicated matters by ledger fishing in the middle of the river and not bringing his lines in, when we approached (probably because he was in the tent with his missus and he was half cut).

The outcome of this, was that his lines got well and truly wrapped around my propeller.

I stopped the propeller turning as soon as I heard his shouts and rod alarms sounding.

I opened the weed hatch and tried for some considerable time, to un-wrap his lines from my propeller shaft, but alas they were well and truly wound on.

When I said that I would have to cut them, he insisted that I give him money by way of compensation.

When I refused, pointing out that it was his own fault for:

a) Hiding from boats behind a bridge buttress
b) Usings ledgers that boaters could not see
c) Failing to retract them when said boaters approached

he went bezerk and said he wanted to kill me.

I refused to step off the boat and kept it midstream, where he couldn't reach me, at least until he came down off the ceiling.

The situation then became a complete farce.

Imagine the scene - a grown man, holding a can of Stella Artois, going first from one side of the river and then to the other, backwards and forwards across the bridge, like a demented troll.

His wife was begging him to calm down (he obviously had a history of anger management issues) and his Staffy dog was going crazy because it sensed his darkening mood.

He wasn't calming down. If anything, he was getting worse. He was doing his level best to get from the shore on to my boat, to do unspeakable things to me.

I armed myself with a windlass and in the mood he was in, would have definitely whacked him with it, in self defence, had he managed to get onboard.

I've been in a few sticky situations during my time at sea and feel that I've become a good judge of character and people. I really didn't think he was bluffing.

In the end, I cut his lines with a knife and carried on cruising, ignoring the bad language and threats of violence.

He then started walking along the towpath, promising to kill me when we reached the lock, which was about a mile away.

At this point, I realised that narrowboats are not a vehicle for escape. As a boater, you are very vulnerable - in a slow moving, land locked craft.

The only method of escape was to call the police.

They arrived quickly.

He then started threatening them - it took three of them to quieten him.

The sad thing is that they wouldn't arrest him. They had plenty of evidence as he threatened them too, but apparently, they couldn't agree about jurisdiction - one bank of the river was Essex and the other bank was Hertfordshire. Two counties and two forces.

In the end, we had to cancel our stopover at Broxbourne and just keep going - as far away as possible, the police advised.

They kept him talking until we had a healthy headstart.

Part 2 tomorrow....


  1. Bloody hell! It was just fishing line... the blokes a complete idiot! Shame you missed Broxbourne... it's lovely. You'll have to head back in disguse lol

  2. I know. Stella Artois fishermen for you. We have a house on the Stort and used to moor the boat there, so we know Broxbourne well. It's just the principle of having to avoid him rather than the other way round.


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