Cruising Notes

Right, boat now fixed and serviceable. Boat safety test passed with just a few niggles to be fixed before the next one in four years time. We are going to get some cruising done unless the boats resident gremlin teams up with the boats resident poltergeist.

We are so delayed (about 14 weeks now) that plans include just drifting around and getting a suntan. We will still go up the Nene to Northampton but have no plans beyond that. There is very little water in the canal system at this moment. A dry spring and a dry hot summer combined with the lack of maintenance on the canal system has meant that canals are being closed (for the first time that I can remember) for simple lack of water.

Still Peterborough has been great. So no complaints there apart from the fact that they have, like so many others spent squillions of pounds on re-furbishing their town square. Even I could tell them that they don't wear out.

The odd wisps of water are from the fountains that are inset giving highly localised rain

During our stream of problems with the boat I ended up using our railway system a few times. It's pretty good these days, lots of very fast modern rolling stock. But this one was worth a snap

It is a rather ancient, single carriage, diesel powered and unusually for the UK, has a sort of cow catcher, although it may be a snow plough. Now the big problem for me, being a pedant, is “can you call it a train being only a single item of rolling stock”. Thoughts on an email if you know the answer.

Our departure from Peterborough was hastened by an incident where a couple of drunks decided that our boat was public property and to be used as a swimming platform and general place to dance on the roof. The police did remove them but it was a little interesting waiting the 15 minutes for them to arrive. Naturally after such an incident the best place to be is somewhere else as they might just come back and re-open the disagreement. We get an incident about every two or three years on average that merits police intervention. It stops life getting boring and gives one stories to tell.

So full tilt at the Nene. The Nene is the most beautiful river we travel. A truly magical place full of wildlife and the very essence of nature. Damsel flies dance above the water, tiny moorhen chicks walk on the lily pads, kingfishers dart in front of the boat, red kites, and the occasional buzzard soar overhead, and other boaters are a rarity. A great deal of the river probably hasn't changed significantly for a couple of hundred years, It is raw nature.

Interestingly, if you throw bread to the ducks, coots, moorhens or swans on the Nene they assume you are trying to harm them (except in the towns). No self respecting canal duck would act in such a way. They know what bread is (and where it comes from). Mind you they may just be being smart, we don't throw bread away unless it has acquired a certain brick like quality.

Most of the “chocolate box” pretty villages lie back from the river for their own safety (it floods regularly). It is a dangerous river for the boater and is, frankly, hard work. You have to repair whatever loss or damage results, we rarely get away unscathed.

The locks are one of the major problems. They are much improved since we started using the river but can still be described as fearsome. Most are “guillotine” locks comprising a huge steel sheet at one end and steel “mitred” gates at the other. Some pictures will give you some clue as to what I am probably failing to describe.

Judy about to wind the paddle gear on the upstream gates with the guillotine down

fortunately most of the guillotines are electric these days.

but not all, this is known (disparagingly) as a “dustbin lid” and is used to wind the guillotine up and down hundreds of turns are required and they are very slippery in the wet.

There are chains to damage your paintwork

And often waterfalls that will flood or even sink your boat in just a few seconds if you should let it go too far forward. Filling a lock causes the boat to go forward contrary to common conception

And to comply with “health and safety” a few warning notices to make sure it is the boaters fault.

But there are other obstructions, bridges that are OK till the river rises, it then becomes very fast flowing. Naturally the depth boards cannot be read until you are stuck under the bridge and it has cleaned your roof of all loose and fixed obstructions.

It's a wild but wonderful ride!

The following shots are how to negotiate Irthlingborough bridge. This on a very calm day with the river at normal to low levels.

Naturally it's not a straight line

Down the dog-leg

Hold your nerve and hope there is nobody coming the other way

try to line up

and through, the only trick now is to do a quick left turn as the bank is directly in front just slightly less than a boats length away.

Of course Irthlingborough bridge has no earthly use whatsoever. It was by-passed years ago. Boats regularly get stuck under it, and the local Fire brigade un-stick them. It's just been left there to rot and endanger boaters and damage boats.

There are signs of civilisation at a few points along the Nene. The Nene valley railway is close by for part of the trip. The sound of steam trains running their scheduled (and on time) service takes you back forty or fifty years.

Their “Thomas the tank engine”, (picture taken from the boat at the mooring close by)

an old signal box complete with the lever controls

And a royal mail train (the sort that used to scoop up the mail without stopping).

They have a pretty good collection of steam and early diesel trains, most working, and an infrastructure that is totally authentic because it is original and still working.

By the time we had reached Northampton we had received an email or two which would outline our cruising for the next 3 months. First was a family get-together and one from Deborah (our daughter) saying she was flying back to the UK for a holiday and would like to use us as a hotel (to which we have no objections at all as it will be great to see her). So we route planned to London, it was only 19 days cruising so that's where we are headed at the moment. ETA on, or before, the 21st of August. From there to wherever is easiest for Debs social calender, probably Milton Keynes.

That's it folks. Now I can devote my whole attention to the swallows in the tree opposite. They are beautiful.


P.S. Our run up the Nene was one of the few damage free runs we have managed.