Boaters quick response saved stupid canoeist being crushed in tunnel

Published: Monday, 04 December 2017

JUST as I was about to enter Edgebaston Tunnel yestersday, heading towards Birmingham in our 58ft narrowboat, a canoeist tried to overtake me on the starboard side to get into the tunnel ahead of us, writes Julie Phelps.

Our bow was possibly six feet away from the tunnel entrance when he passed our stern. He had to come to a grinding halt to avoid being crushed against the side of the tunnel as we entered. We stopped as quickly as we could. He clearly had no idea that our boat weighs nearly 20 tons, and that it is 58 feet long! And because he didn’t warn us, we had no idea he was there.

Foul language

He startled me so much—having crept up on us without warning—that I shouted out, and my husband was also alarmed. The canoeist was then so abusive that I was actually shocked by his attitude and his foul language! He even suggested (twice) how happy we’d have been if we had injured him! Unbelievable! It was the last thing we wanted to happen.

We explained that our boat weighs nearly 20 tons and can’t stop on a sixpence, and asked him to follow us through the tunnel. We pointed out that there was an oncoming boat, and what our strategy would be to pass it. So he followed us through, then overtook—this time on the port side—as we exited, still pouring out abuse to us. I couldn’t resist pointing out that we pay to use the canal, while he does not!

A passerby walking on the towpath was also shocked at his attitude, and agreed that there was no need for him to be so abusive. In fact, our actions prevented a nasty accident.

Others friendly

We didn’t see him again, but we did meet a further four canoeists coming the other way who were friendly and helpful, and they also said how unfriendly the first guy had been. They restored our faith somewhat...

No boater wants to injure a anyone in a canoe—so why did this one have to be so nasty? Is it any wonder that there’s animosity between boaters and canoeists?

Julie Phelps
Nb Hakuna Matata