Life on the canals is generally deemed to be life in the slow lane - hardly the scene for a 13-mile police “chase”.
But anyone assuming that those who while away their days meandering along the waterways are anything but super sharp might have another think coming.
A narrow boat stolen from its moorings at 6am on Saturday morning was apprehended by police after a "career first" 13-mile police pursuit down a canal thanks to the quick thinking of fellow boat owners.
Chris Tomlinson, a trials pilot who purchased the Elusive No.1 just 18 months ago, endured a stressful few hours after discovering that his family’s “pride and joy” had been stolen.
He was at the family home between the Lakes and the Dales in Lancashire on Saturday morning when he discovered that the boat had been taken from its mooring at North Kilworth Marina in Leicestershire almost 150 miles away.
“I checked my email at 8am and had an alert saying that the boat had been disconnected from the electric,” he told the Telegraph.
“I didn’t think much of it so just emailed the marina to ask if there had been a power cut.”
He got a shock when the manager contacted him to say that his boat had “gone out” at around 6am.
As Mr Tomlinson called the police, he was told that one of the other boat owners, who lives full time on the marina, had heard the boat’s engine at dawn and, thinking it suspicious, got up to take a photograph as it glided slowly into the distance.
“As people were getting up, they were beginning to talk and everyone realised that something was wrong,” he said.
“After I emailed in, they put two and two together and swung into action.”
The marina’s management team watched back CCTV footage to determine whether the boat had been taken north or south.
On determining it was headed south, they worked out roughly where it would be three hours later and headed straight out to lie in wait and take photographs at their chosen spot.
Mr Tomlinson contacted the Canal and River Trust, whose volunteers man the Watford Locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal, to alert them that his stolen boat was headed their way.
Meanwhile, Leicestershire Police visited the marina, where they were shown the relevant photographs and equipped with the information they needed to apprehend the vessel.
The message, and photographs of Elusive No.1, were also widely circulated amongst members of the canal boat community. Those who spotted it quickly realised the name and registration number had been crudely painted over at the back.
Officers duly caught up with the stolen boat. They called Mr Tomlinson to confirm the description before the suspect "surrendered on sight", they said.
The force posted on social media: "In a career first and following a 13 mile 'follow' we completed a hard stop on a stolen canal boat."
Chief Constable Simon Cole wrote on Twitter: "Well, they say that you never know what to expect. In a landlocked force we have pursued a barge. One in custody."
Mr Tomlinson revealed that, by chance, one of the officers knew how to drive a boat and had been able to guide it along the final stretch of canal to the nearest lock.
“All credit to the police,” he said. “But it’s also testament to the camaraderie amongst the canal boat community.
“Everyone knows everyone on the canals and the people are so friendly. It’s such a diverse community - people who have taken to the boats because they have nowhere else to live and others who have spent hundreds of thousands on a boat as a luxury.
“The jungle drums were out and people went out of their way to spot my boat and help get it back.”
Mr Tomlinson said the vessel, which he lives on part of the week for work, had some damage from being "bashed" and its name had been painted over.
He also found an empty beer bottle in his bed and a vodka bottle in the sink, leaving him feeling “violated” in a way similar to that when a house has been burgled.
Leicestershire Police confirmed that Ian Silman, 46, from Blackpool had been charged
with the theft of a narrowboat in Lutterworth. He is also charged with taking a conveyance without consent and causing criminal damage to the boat.
He is due to appear at Leicester Magistrates Court on November 27.
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