Cruising notes

The adventure before the dementia


First let me refute the comments that lack of cruising notes means that I am dead, my brand of sarcasm cannot be ghost written. It just means that we have not been cruising much recently, and that the cruising we have done has been over waters that there has been little change to.


Our life has changed over the last couple of years. Not better, nor worse, just different. Instead of revelling in the winter in ice breaking down a frozen river or canal to get essentials such as water, coal or diesel we now reside in Northampton Marina and have just about everything delivered to us, including mains electricity. We miss the solitude of winter storms on isolated moorings but have to admit that we are getting a little bit older and going soft in our dotage.


Last year was a nearly complete bust as regards cruising as Judy had an internal rebuild and was prohibited from working locks. This was limiting as just outside the marina are 17 of them, however son and his friends came to our rescue and did all of the lock work to get us to the lock free area of Milton Keynes, and returned several weeks later to get us back to Northampton. For this we were, and still are highly grateful. Many thanks Steven, Robbie and Caz.


This year we are back up to speed, if that is really an appropriate word for our method of transport.


So, I did take a few pictures last year. This picture of a penny farthing. I know that older people are being encouraged to cycle more and it is nice to see the message is so well received by the older folk.





Naturally there are not enough cycle paths to accommodate all of these cyclists so they are now invading the rivers. Makes having a puncture slightly more interesting.





Naturally Milton Keynes has it's very own brand of lunacy as the following pics show.


First a slightly over engineered bench



and then a heap of rusting steel that may (or may not) represent a horse. They reserve concrete to represent cows there.




So back to the plot. What plot you ask. Well for once we actually had one. Our boat has to have a safety check every four years and I always use the same examiner. He is in Peterborough so we headed to Peterborough. This is either a delightful trip of several days through raw and beautiful nature, or a slightly terrifying trip where I earn my captains pay whilst ignoring the “Strong Stream” advice put out by the Environment Agency as the river acts as a storm sewer. This time it was a delightful trip and we timed it so that Judy could attend the huge Car Boot Sale at Irthlingborough. I still wonder what they call people who hail from Irthlingborough, Earthlings would seem appropriate.


To give you a clue as to what the the river Nene is typically like



And while there is habitation, there is not a lot. It takes anything from 3 – 10 days to traverse the Nene, this was our 21st transit of the Nene. It took us 11 days this time as we met up with friends.


There are sights to be seen, but it's mostly the locks on the river that get real attention.



Judy working a “normal” lock, a bit simpler than the average washing machine in reality.



and an intriguing semi circular gate lock (the only one on the river) obviously designed by someone doodling on a crumpled piece of paper.





Not a good place to let a boat drift towards the back of a lock, I guess it could sink the boat in less than 20 seconds.




The villages along the Nene are usually set a long way back from the river (it floods frequently) but it seems that god's architect (probably named Canute) ignores this good advice



The bridges are a little worrying too. I stopped short of one because a lorry was about to reverse over it, yes 1795, they don't make infrastructure like that these days



The Nene keeps on giving, when approaching this, I always wonder if the boat is being required to do some limbo dancing.




And then, for me a real treat, a Dalescraft. When I was in my twenties I always wanted one

but never had the money. In my opinion, one of the best designed boats ever produced. As this one is probably around 40 years old, it still looks good.




And so to Peterborough. Boaters, for some reason have a reputation as drinkers, but you rarely see this many barrels stacked on a boat. The boat is a bar and not used much by boaters.



The boat had it's safety check, and passed, so without further ado it was on to the Middle Levels. The Middle Levels is a motley collections of old rivers and land drains which keep the whole area from flooding We traverse the so called “link route” for about 30 miles, it always seems longer because land drains are rather boring. It has it's moments though.



This would not be a good place to meet another boat.


There are parts f the Levels where the roads have been constructed next to the waterway. This results in signage that may have relevance for drivers appearing to be for boaters. I was not very sure how to respond to this one.




And there are the Middle Level Commissioners who run the levels. Their untiring efforts to ensure boaters have an easy and safe passage must be recognised.





Even a trip across the Levels comes to an end (in about 4 or 5 days) and we cross onto the Great Ouse which is a big wide river. That description is relative. To me a big wide river is one where I can turn the boat without using reverse.



To get there we have to do about half a mile of tidal river, after a 270 degree turn and then dodge a sandbank to get into the Denver complex. This is Denver.



The Great Ouse is really the province of plastic boats, more correctly it's called GRP, but actually referred to (by the steel boat community) as yoghurt pots. These people do their boating a different way. One of the differences is the way they moor. Narrow-boaters tend to moor at the ends of a mooring and fill a mooring up towards the centre. Yoghurt pot drivers park in the middle of the biggest gap.



Bless them with their captain's hats and barbeques as they stream out of their crowded marinas on good weekends to the few mooring spots on the river where they are even more crowded together. 


We had a little incident at a mooring named Diamonds 44. Named such as the Oxford vs Cambridge boat race was held there in 1944 because there was a war on at the time. We are familiar with this mooring which is out in the wilds and is fenced off as cattle graze the bank and glower at you through the fencing.



We had been there for a couple of hours when the boat started rocking. No wind, no boats had passed so we went to investigate. A very large black cow had got itself between the prow of the boat and the bank, and was being held in by the front mooring rope. Now we only have a small gas barbecue on the boat so we had to untangle it and let it go.



Of course it's that time of year, not only do animals abound, but so do insects. Where are all those spiders when you need them.




So finally we catch a glimpse of Ely cathedral, where our daughter received her first degree, and we are just about there. They, the council, have started imposing fines of a hundred pounds a day for people who overstay more than the allowed 48 hours in Ely. We will see how it works out.



However a cruising notes would not be complete without some birds, our constant but ever changing companions. Not many ducklings, moorhen chicks, or coot chicks this year, but lots of swans.







And finally the closest we get to seeing a lock keeper on the Nene




I have received quite a few comments, mostly from people complaining about a lack of cruising notes. To them I can only say:



So now we are just hanging around the Ely area for a bit to see what civilisation is like. Maybe we should run for home before the water runs out, maybe we should go further upriver. Naturally Judy and I will have a long and serious discussion about what is best before tossing a coin.


Have fun




All, well most, previous editions of cruising notes are still available at if you are really bored.