Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Wife Swapping at Stockton Top

This story, which I'm assured is true, was told by OwnerShips' MD Allen Matthews at the owners' meeting, and is also published in the latest OwnerShips magazine. It originally came from one of the firm's local managers, and happened a few years ago. Names of people and boats have been changed to protect the innocent.

Mr and Mrs Smith arrived at Stockton Top at midday although not expected until mid afternoon. They checked in with the manager and found that nb Sofar (launched about a year before) was ready and waiting. However, the Smiths had planned a pub lunch so put their luggage on board before going to The Boat Inn. Being the careful sort of chap he was, Mr Smith read the logs and the end of holiday reports. He also checked the two gas bottles, the diesel tank level, the water tank level, and even checked to his own satisfaction that the toilets had been pumped out. All was well, except that the water was a little low. The local manager told him he could either wait until the top of Calcutt Locks, or use the hose and extension there at the marina. The manager warned Mr Smith the the marina suffered from low water pressure, and filling the tank might take a long time. "Not a problem", said Mr Smith, planning to fill the tank while he had his pub lunch.

While Mr and Mrs Smith were having lunch at The Boat Inn, Mr and Mrs Jones arrived. They were owners on nb Sogood. It just so happened that nb Sogood and nb Sofar were of the most popular layout, and had been launched within a few months of each other. Indeed, they were a little difficult to tell apart, especially when moored stern-on in the marina. The local manager had solved this problem for staff with dynotape stickers of the boat's name above the rev counter. On this particular day, the boats were moored side by side.

Mrs Smith, while enjoying her lunch, was somewhat concerned that the water tank might be full, and told her husband she was returning to the boat to check. She added that she would start unpacking. At the boat, she found the hose still filling so she started to unpack while waiting for Mr Smith to finish his lunch. Very shortly afterwards, Mr Jones noticed water pouring out of the filler of his neighbour's boat. So he removed the pipe from the boat, and used it to top up his own tank. Being a tidy sort of man, he also moved the hose, which had been running over his neighbour's boat, so that it now ran the length of his own roof. Shortly afterwards, Mrs Jones discovered she had a slight catering deficiency, and Mr Jones was dispatched to Southam with a shopping list.

Mr Smith having now finished his meal, returned to his boat. Or rather, he returned to the boat with the hose running along its roof. He turned off the tap, reeled in the pipe, replaced it by the standpipe, and started his holiday. A few minutes later, Mr Jones returned from the supermarket to find his boat missing. A quick search drew a blank, so he went to see the manager, who told him he'd just seen the boat leaving the marina. Mr Jones said his wife would never have taken the boat by herself, so after a short discussion the manager decided to phone the boat.

Manager: "Is this Sogood?"
Mrs Jones: "Yes..."
Manager: "Is this Mrs Jones?"
Mrs Jones: "Yes it is."
Manager (trying to be clever) "This is the manger at the marina. Can I speak to Mr Jones please?"
Mrs Jones: "I'm sorry he's steering the boat, can I get him for you?"
Manager (slightly confused): "Can you actually see Mr Jones from where you're standing?"
Mrs Jones: "No the back door is shut."
Manager: "Well, I have someone here who says he is your husband."
Mrs Jones: "Well who's steering the boat then?"
Manager: "That's what we're trying to find out!"
Mrs Jones: "Hold on, I've just had a look through the keyhole. I can't see his face but it's not my husband. I can tell by the legs!"
Manager: "Pardon?"
Mrs Jones: "My husband never wears shorts because of his varicose veins. This man is wearing shorts, and his legs are completely different."
Manager: "I'll bring your husband to you. Can you tell me where you are?"
Mrs Jones (seeming unfazed): "We're passing some moored boats on the right..."
Manger (groaning): "It'll have to be Calcutt Bottom Lock."

The manager and Mr Jones drove to Calcutt and ran to the bottom lock. A few minutes later, nb Sogood arrived with Mr Smith at the helm. He was rather surprised to learn that he'd taken not only the wrong boat, but the wrong wife as well. Mrs Jones seemed more concerned that her husband had left the shopping in the manager's car than at having a strange man steering her boat for more than half an hour. A rather quiet and deflated Mr Smith was returned to Stockton Top.

The following Friday, the manager saw Mr and Mrs Smith and innocently asked them if they'd had a good holiday. It was obvious from the frantic gestures made by Mr Smith, who want standing slightly behind his wife, that she remained in blissful ignorance of what had happened.

The moral of the story is that you can check the gas, the diesel, the water, and even the loos. But the most important checks to make before setting off are that you have the right boat ... and the right wife.

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