J. and Harris make George pull the tow-line, and J. complains to the reader about the way tow ropes always get knotted and cause arguments between the people on the boat. J. remembers one time when he saw boatmen get so worked up with their tow rope that they lost track of the boat.
Boating isn’t easy—it takes hard work to get moving. Towing the boat—pulling the boat along from the shore with rope—is a job nobody wants to do. It’s difficult and certainly not leisurely.
After dinner, the three men continue to discuss the perils of towing. George tells the others of one particularly “curious instance” that he remembers. In this anecdote, George and three friends are on a boat and notice two people walking up ahead on the towpath. They are carrying tow rope and boat hooks but seem to have lost their boat. George has the bright idea to attach the walkers’ equipment to their own boat and hitch a ride. The couple on the towpath are very disappointed when they later realize that they have been towing George and his friends.
George’s prank is clever and allows him and his friends to get out of some of the work involved in moving their boat. Most likely, if they could go boating without any of the hard work they would do so.
The three men continue talking about towing. J. and George remember seeing someone pull the wrong tow rope once, sending everyone in the boat flying. J. says, “there is never a dull moment in a boat when girls are towing it,” because they always get tangled up in knots or run the boat aground.
J. criticizes girls’ towing, but there’s no evidence that he’s any better.
George tows the group to Penton Hook. They decide to sleep in the boat that evening once they have gone a little further. J. remembers a time when, boating with his cousin, they got lost while searching for Wallingford Lock. Fearing for their safety they eventually found some other boaters. It turned out the lock had been demolished over a year before.
Boating on the river also has its dangers, like getting lost or stranded. In a way, that’s true “wildness”—but that’s not really what the men want. They want to feel “wild” but stay safe.