Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Incident at Honey Street

In the last five months we have met a lot of people on our narrowboat travels. We have had some wonderful interactions, some pleasant interactions, some interactions we were indifferent to... and today we had our first bad interaction with a fellow boater.

We were stopped just before the Honey Street 24 hour visitor moorings on the Kennet and Avon. We have heard these moorings are very popular and when we arrived we weren’t surprised to see that they were pretty full, we speculated that at least 4 of the boats using them have been there well over 24 hours. Not a shipmate to be seen between them. When a hire boat that had been moored in the middle of a rather large space moved off, we pulled pins and set off to take a place, Michael steering the boat and George and I on the tow path. As we approached another boat, who was filling up on the water point two spaces down, started shouting at us not to go in as it was ‘her space’, even though Michael was already pulling in at this stage. I could see that there was plenty of room for us both, so I shouted back that there was room for both boats and to hang on till Michael had stopped. She didn’t listen, she pushed off and at full speed went round the boats between us, shouting about it being ‘her space’ over and over as she went. She then cut across Michael’s right of way, causing him to take evasive action to prevent a collision. Pretty dangerous and completely unnecessary behaviour on her part.

Once both boats had come to a standstill, Michael enquired as to whether she would switch places with us. We were moored on a bend and at 57’ our bow was sticking out into the canal meaning that we had to step over a gap of at least a couple of feet when getting on and off. Her boat was 45 foot but she'd taken the longer space, and would have comfortably fitted onto the straight part of the mooring we were now occupying. She was not yet tied on, so all she would have to do is haul her boat forwards (with my help) as Michael pushed off and swapped positions with her. She didn’t want to do that. Fair enough, but instead of explaining this to us she moaned that she had only just got there and wasn’t about to move and that our boat was fine where it was. When Michael tried to explain way it would help us out she became unnecessarily nasty, and I can honestly say I have never had an encounter with someone so passive aggressive.

Apparently Michael had interpreted what she was saying wrong and so that was his problem, not hers. We should use the front door instead of the back door, though she insisted that the door at our bow (the front of the boat) was our rear door, while the door at our stern was our front door, and that we were wrong for calling them anything different. Also, in her considered opinion dogs love water, and so it was no problem if George fell down the two foot drop between the bank and the surface of the water, not understanding that dogs can’t climb vertical walls.  It was about time George just ‘manned up’ and got on the boat instead of cowering on the tow path.  She also aggressively asked how long we had been living aboard, I think implying that she was more experienced than us. She asked how long we were planning to say, but with the sign directly beside us stating that the moorings are 24 hours only, it was a bit of a silly question unless she was implying that we were intending to overstay. She also announced that she had travelled the whole network. She may well have done, but her boat is from Newbury which is less than 30 miles away, and at any rate it was actually irrelevant to the situation. Also, what is the point of boasting how far you have travelled and how experienced you are when you blatantly ignore and endanger the boat who has right of way in a situation, nevermind show no consideration for a fellow boater.

I am well aware that you are only getting one side of the story, and Michael certainly wasn’t entirely calm when he was trying to make his point, but ultimately she wasn’t listening.  Maybe she didn’t realise how deliberately cutting across our longer, heavier boat's path when it was in motion was dangerous for everyone. Or that having a gap between our bow and the bank was also dangerous, especially following our experience with Michael's concussion last month. Maybe she genuinely didn’t realise how passive aggressive she was. Maybe she didn’t understand that given the same situation, most boat owners would have had a simple conversations to work out who should moor where and that you can’t just call dibs on a spot when you are the boat furthest away and not even in motion. If there had only been one space then we would have happily had her moor up against us for the night.

Realising that the the conversation was going nowhere, Michael forced himself inside and I stayed on the towpath with George who for the next half hour refused to get back on the boat.  Our new neighbour then announced that she was moving on before trying to start up the argument again, not wishing to engage I simply stated that she didn’t need to move (she had wanted that mooring very badly after all) and then left her to it.

All in all a thoroughly and unnecessarily horrible start to the morning.