On Wednesday evening Raymond, Krisztina and myself set off from the boat shed for a gentle evening paddle in sea kayaks. We never could have imagined the adventures that lay ahead. We headed up to Osney in pleasant evening sun, and took a channel round Osney Island aiming to head up to Tumbling Bay. This plan was thawrted as there was very little water in the river and we ran aground on sandbanks just below the Holly Bush Inn.
Instead we headed back to portage around the lock, and as we were lowering our boats back into the Thames I discovered that I had inadvertently caught a fish in the back of the kayak! Once the creature had been photographed for prosterity it was released back into the water - although it did appear to sink fairly rapidly rather than swim away contentedly, so we believe that it may have been a suicide attack.
Heading up the river we came to the junction where the canal joins the Thames, and decided to portage across and continue up the canal whilst conducting a critical assessment of the properties that back onto the water. In several we saw kayaks lodged at odd angles in the trees, which we imagined were left unsalvaged from Simon's friday trips of past. Just past Jericho Boat Yard we turned to head back.
With the light begining to fade we passed Folly Bridge and were about to pass the University boat houses when we were hailed by a policeman from the riverbank. He told us that the river was closed, but could not tell us why. A helicopter hovered omniously above our heads. We twiddled our thumbs for a while, but it was clear that we were not going to be allowed to continue for some time so we headed up the mouth of the Cherwell and shared a can of cider for sustainance. We stopped to watch the sunset with the Oxford spires illuminated in a pink glow, and then by this time rather bored, we headed back to the main river.
The bad news was that the lock down continued, but the good news was that Helen had returned to her boat, the Ambling Rose, by this time and was able to offer a hot drink as we admired her single electric light. Having passed on our news and finishing our drinks the policeman allowed us to continue back to the boat shed. We got back at 10.30, putting the boats away with just enough time to reach the Prince Of Wales for last orders!
It turns out that the river was closed as armed police were carrying out a search for a man suspected of a murder a couple of weeks ago, thought to be sleeping rough under Donnington Bridge. They didn't find him, so if you happen to see a heavy set Jamaican man in his 40s paddle quickly in the opposit direction.- Martin Ffitch