Adventures of a Past Commodore

In response to The Commodore’s appeal for articles relating to members boating activities, I think I’m correct in saying that currently I’m the only Past Commodore and Member of our Elite Club who owns a Canal Narrow Boat, rather than a Yacht or Sea Going Cruiser.  Although, a few years ago I often participated in our Cowes events in one of my Clients Yachts, ‘Jaynor’, a one off beautiful Bermuda Cutter rigged yacht built in Ireland, in which we acquitted ourselves by winning several trophies, including one which was instigated by ‘Jaynor’ for sailing the Motor Sailer Course without using the engine, the trophy being a fixed propellor on a plinth.

For the last 10 years have cruised the inland waterways and rivers single handed since the passing away of my wife, my Beloved Julie. I’ve enjoyed a very varied boating career, including scuba diving, even diving under ice, being trapped in the wreck of an aeroplane 100 feet under water, as well as organising two diving expeditions to the Mediterranean Islands of Corsica and Sardinia, and I doubt if any of our members have been attacked by a predatory fish, a Zander, a member of the pike family, which is what happened to me whilst boating last year!


Hopefully this article related to my very varied activities may be of interest, being somewhat different to the usual items featured, so here goes…


I’m very fortunate that rapidly approaching 90 years of age, I’m still physically active enough to undertake the extensive activity of single-handed canal and river cruising, involving manually working through several hundred locks during each voyage, and ensuring that I don’t let the boat go without me, which could be highly embarrassing and very inconvenient.


Being trapped in the wreck of a flying fortress shot down during World War Two, off the town of Calvi in Corsica, which I wouldn’t be relating had I not got out, and that’s because you always should dive with a buddy, rather than unaccompanied. The water in the Mediterranean was very clear at the time of our dive on this wreck, and as you dive deeper the colour spectrum gradually fades away into a monochrome blue, normally green in UK waters. It was quite eerie swimming over the sandy floor of the sea, from which was growing eel grass, rather like gliding over an underwater grass covered field, and as we approached the wreck of the plane it slowly appeared through the blue haze, sitting there on the sea floor looking as though it was ready to take off.


As we got closer you could see the propellers were bent as they were still revolving when it hit the water. The main fuselage had broken away just behind the main wing span, so access into the fuselage was easy. My buddy, the owner of the diving school, went ahead of me into the cockpit, but I thought there wouldn’t be much to see as the wreck had been well ravaged over the 20 years it had lain there, so I decided to turn around and exit the fuselage, finding that my compressed air bottle had got tangled into probably some loose cabling inside the fuselage, I was trapped! “Don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring” springs to mind, as in such a situation your extensive diver training clicks in, and you think through the alternatives of extricating yourself. My first thought was to take off my air bottle to see what had caught round it, but then I thought that may not be a good idea being at that depth under water. I then assumed that as I had turned round to come out, the tap on my air bottle may have got entangled in some loose cabling, so if I went into reverse gear, so to speak, with a bit of luck it may come free, but if not, my buddy had to swim out from the plane cockpit past me, and could release me.


My idea to release the tap on my air bottle from the cabling worked, so I was released from this danger, and here to tell the tale. This event took place on an earlier dive to one several years later I organised for a fortnights diving expedition for my diving club, again to Calvi in Corsica, that’s another story in itself, when we collected some langoustine from their burrows in an underwater cliff face, and had the chef at our digs cook them for our evening meal; you can’t get them fresher than that, delicious!


One of my many other activities is walking, and over the years have walked six National Trails, including the West Highland Way, Hadrian’s Wall, the Ridgeway, to name a few, so even more stories to relate. One just two years ago when I had an accident up a 5,000 foot mountain in Switzerland, having to be rescued by an air ambulance, so just two occasions at opposite ends of the spectrum, from 100 feet under water to 5,000 feet up a mountain.

To end with the Zander fish attack…during my solo boating last summer l fell into the canal at Penkridge lock in Staffordshire and a Zander fish saw this tasty morsel in his shorts inadvertently wallowing in the canal, and took a chunk out of my right calf muscle, most unfriendly. It was very fortunate that having transited four very remote locks beforehand without incident, there were other boaters nearby to haul me out. I won’t elaborate further on that incident as to the difficulty of getting the necessary medical treatment, in the Penkridge area, and later whilst in remote areas, but just to say that having damaged my left calf muscle up the mountain, and then my right calf muscle last year, at least I’ve now balanced things out, and can truly call myself, ‘Peg Legs Pete’!


Norman Woolley
Past Commodore