WHEN the rudder fell off Sinead and Matthew Hands’ narrowboat Recalcitrant, they set about trying to find it in the icy water of the Grand Union Canal. Sinead takes up the story…
“The rudder fell off, we think because it banged on the sill a month or so prior to this. A mistake we made that shows you should never be complacent in locks; even after nine years’ cruising and doing thousands of locks it just takes seconds to make a silly mistake.
“We were cruising along fine, I was walking alongside as I prefer to walk when we move. I heard a loud bang and turned to see Matt holding the tiller in the air. He was about to go around a right-hand bend so the boat just carried on into the side and we moored up. Quickly realising that the rudder had fallen off we tried to work out the approximate place so we could try to retrieve it.
“After using a small magnet and having no success Matt decided to get in the water and look for it. The temperature was set to plummet that night and we knew the canal would freeze over so time was of the essence!
“He got in and tried to feel with his feet but after half an hour he gave up. It was just too cold and he could have been stood on top of it and possibly not realised if the silt had covered it as quite a few boats had gone by at this point.
“Thanks to the powers of social media another boat lady, Jan Pickles Price aka Nancy May Crochet, put out a call for help on a magnet fishing group and a lady and her partner (I can’t remember his name) from Tracey’s Treasures Magnet Fish (YouTube) turned up with a super powerful magnet and by the time I had made them a coffee she had pulled it out. I was so shocked at how quickly they found it and obviously delighted.
“We had an interesting chat about their amazing finds such as guns, bullets, safes and money. It looks like a very interesting hobby to have. Another YouTuber arrived to help and said more were on the way but the rudder had been found so they left to fish somewhere else.
“The rudder was slightly bent so we tried heating it in the fire to straighten it but that didn’t work so Matt took it to some friends and got that straightened. A lot of jiggling later with the help of some pond gloves we refitted the rudder and were on our way. We had run out of water in the tank so this was an essential move.
“With the canal frozen we had to break through ice for a mile or two but everything is up and running again and we are good to go. It was a stressful time but the willingness of strangers and fellow boaters to help just shows that the community we have around us is really supportive and kind. I had lots of messages and offers of help and that is something that I’m very grateful for.”