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Boulters Weir

In the mean-time here are a few pictures of Boulters to remind us of the glories that once were before the environment agency wrecked it. Believe it or not I moved to Maidenhead just so I could be closer to Boulters and paddle it before work in my squirt boat. 

Check out the links to the pictures of Boulters and the true story above, then the video below. 

Here is Boulters on a good day (complete with old skool moves). The best bit though is probably the story - read on


They say you take the biggest risks closest to home when you feel the most safe

.. and I sadly am proof that this can be true. I used to live in Ray Park Avenue - just a short walk from Boulters Lock.

It was January 1st, after a particular boring New Years Eve. I did not have a hangover so I went out to play on Boulters, which had been up for weeks. Clearly, no one else had has a skin-full either because the weir was crowded. They were queuing fifteen deep in the eddy at the far side along the wall.

As a local, I had been out boating every day and was feeling pretty hot. Not for me, the waiting by the wall. No, like many, I paddled up the weir-side, amongst the vicious boils and currents, that oscillated, first dragging you left towards the weir of death, then back to the right and into the main flow with it’s fierce capsizing and suck-you-out of your boat boils. With practise you could pick you way slowly up the side until you emerged in to the comparative calm at the top. All you needed then was a big burst of power and to ferry glide over the fast flowing current emerging from the corner where two ledges of the weir meet in a violent pour-over that had killed several people. That day as I paddled hard to cross the flow, I realised that instead of pushing out hard, the current was sucking in hard. I wobbled, recovered and launched myself at the wave. But I had gone to far left, I was stuck on the eddy line. I tried to recover my balance, failed. I tried to scull upright and failed. I tried to roll and I rolled faster than I ever had before but it was now too late I was sucked into the weir. I felt the boat cartwheeling faster than I ever had anywhere before. Faster even than the pour-over I got stuck in on the North fork of the Payette in Idaho. Bugger! Then a thought flashed through my head, “this weir is terminal, I am going to die”. My mind wads in overdrive and I realised that I had been pushing my personal envelope so long I had always expected to die canoeing!  It was too weird. I still had some fight left in me so I popped the spraydeck and the boat was ripped from me. I felt forces fight and push my body around and around and around until I had stopped fighting for breath… and things became very quiet and still.

It was calm, everything was black. I could not see or feel anything. I had time to reflect on my life and how it was gone. I was thinking “Am I dead yet? Is this death? Do I believe in God?”. I remember thinking that if I ever survive this then I must be immortal, because I had had no chance. I was stuck in limbo, neither live nor dead. I had all the time in the world to think. As I mused over my life over life and death, I suddenly popped up to the surface, and I could breath! I did not choke and once I got my breath back I could shout to people to attract their attention. They were all looking at my boat still stuck in the weir and cartwheeling. I had gone down into the flow down toward the bottom forty-three feet below the surface and I must have caught the exit current which had carried me underwater for seventy yards downstream. Most people would have died if they had had to hold their breath for over three minutes. A few people still have the babies’ reflex where rather than suck water into your lungs your throat automatically closes. Maybe it was that or maybe I was lucky, who knows?

I was rescued my Neil, who towed me behind his canoe across the river and onto the island where I stood shaking with fear. Eventually, I was reunited with my boat and paddle. I remember standing on the bank, shaking with fear, thinking that I do not get back in my boat then I will not paddle ever again. I got in and launched gingerly into the current which whipped me suddenly down stream. I recovered; span the boat towards the current and ferry-glided untidily across the flow to the big eddy on the far side. Still shaking, and not so sure I was doing the right thing, I paddled up the eddy and dropped onto the wave. I braced too timidly and fell off almost immediately, just in time to get soundly munched in the second wave. I resolved to try again, but shaking even more this time I paddled even worse. Enough I thought, I had proved I was stupid and could get in a boat again. I paddled home.

The aftermath:  

I packed up, got changed and drove to my house 400 yards away I told my story to my girlfriend. She was so shocked that I might have killed my self selfishly that after 5 tempestuous years she decided that she was better off without me. We split-up on the spot.

I took me some time to recover from the drowning experience. I was so shocked that every time I closed my eyes to blink for the next two days I thought I was dead. I tried to go swimming the following day, but I could not hold my breath. Not even for a few seconds, my body just could not take it.

I told my friends and they were so shocked that I might have killed myself, that I felt guilty for the impact my death would have had on them. I decided not tell my family and they still don’t know.

Later that year, I met a new girlfriend (I rescued her on a river trip) and things slowly returned to normal.

Ten months later, and I return from Costa Rica, and my friends surprise me. They are all waiting for me at the airport. I have no idea how they knew I was in Costa Rica nor about my flight time. They tell me to sit down. They have some bad news. My ex-girlfriend has died in a car crash in a car driven by her new boy friend, the funeral was whilst I was away. We had only recently got back on speaking terms before I left to go to Costa Rica.

Two weeks later, after a boozy evening with friends, I became engaged and got married !




(double click picture for youtube video)