Cruising Notes

So we were stuck in the Ely area due to simultaneous flood and drought in various parts of the river and canal systems when I decided that enough was enough. It was going to be me against the river and canal authorities. Time to be a skipper, and not just a boater.

We set off and the first 10 miles or so were pretty straightforward. When we got to Denver it all changed. This part is a tidal river crossing which varies between tricky and downright hairy depending on the wind and tidal flow. The Environment agency had allowed a sandbank to grow outside of the lock and I frankly told the lock keeper that I doubted I could turn the boat in the distance between the lock exit and the sandbank.

This is the sandbank pictured through the lock. It's a bit like an iceberg, most of it is underwater and our boat is 58 foot long and draws 2 foot of water. The route is as shown below except that as you get to the bit marked river you have to turn right.

We decided to give it a shot, after all I've been stuck on their mud-banks before and at worst we would just get stuck again. In any event it would make good video for cruising notes.

Well this is the video. We did indeed get stuck, and got free again (mostly due to the rising tide) and then got blown about a bit going downriver but made a near perfect entry into Salters Lode Lock which requires a 270 degree turn (in said tide and wind). The video is 15 minutes as it was shot in real time.

So having got onto the Middle Levels (the navigable drains between the Great Ouse and the River Nene) we had three days of simple cruising to Peterborough. We stopped at Upwell at their pretty mooring.

We stopped at March, which is about half way across the Middle Levels, and then at Whittlesey to give an easy run to Peterborough the next morning. I had booked the lock, agreed to sign a disclaimer as the Nene was in flood and all was fine. Now my friend Murphy came visiting. There was a major chemical spill into the Nene. It was killing all of the fish (The Middle levels are a MAJOR coarse fishery) so the lock was closed as they did not want their fishery damaged. There are not many fishermen around but for over an hour we were fascinated by a Tern who was looking for breakfast using the fish disturbed by the boat's passage. Many of it's dives for fish were within a few feet of the boat.

After five days, and me writing dirty emails to everybody they finally let us through. We did have to sign a disclaimer as the Nene was still in flood. I always find these disclaimers amusing. After all the safety of the craft is always the responsibility of the skipper.

We made our way to our normal mooring, and watched that flood a few times in the next few days. It made shopping expeditions interesting.

At last calm descended, and they lifted the flood advice, so we shopped, watered etc. and moored up just below the first lock for overnight to get an early start in the morning.

All was going well but I was surprised to see the boat clubs still had the red flags out (indicating flood conditions).

I assumed that the first club was just tardy, but by the third I had my doubts. I phoned the floodline and found that so called “Strong Stream Advice” had been re-imposed.

I decided I was not impressed. The river was fast and high but I have travelled in worse, so we carried on. It is my right to ignore their advice, I do not do it lightly but we have a very nanny state over here. I almost certainly travel the Nene far more than the people telling me what I should do. I was going upstream so could back off from anything I didn't like the look of. Some of the locks were a bit ferocious, this one had a foot or so of water coming over it.

I just stayed well back to stop the boat being sunk, Judy loved it as the locks filled all by themselves without her having to do any work.

And so we made Northampton, the end of the Nene for us, with no particular problems apart from the fact that the moorings were pretty full with boats who had obeyed the Strong Stream Advice and moored up and gone home.

However I did take a video of going through my most hated bridge.

I also took one of my “5 minutes” videos of the Nene, although this one is six minutes.

It gives the flavour of travelling through the relatively unspoilt countryside that makes the Nene such a joy to travel through.

Just 5 miles and 17 small locks to go from Northampton. We usually get up early (4 am) for this one as it is through “bandit country”. A doddle before breakfast. However we ran out of water at lock 7 (the locks count down) and Judy had to bring down water from the higher locks for the last 7. Her language was not pleasant and it took a few more hours than normal, but we got to the top! We were finally on the main canal system.

The plan was, and still is, simple. To go to Milton Keynes and refurbish the inside of the boat. We are now up to our elbows in sugar soap and varnish and the inside is looking much better for it. I can well imagine that pictures of us working (however rare) are not very interesting so I'll return to the ooh aww pictures I took (mostly) in Ely.

To a quick chorus of “There's cygnets off the starboard bow, Jim” for the trekkies amongst us.

A very proud and smug looking mum.

Mind you, when they get a bit older, the Canada Geese crèche their chicks. It get's to be an impressive sight.

Very lazy cygnets, I have only seen them do this after the Grebe chicks are around. Grebes carry their chicks on their backs, maybe the cygnets learn from them.

Of course some birds are a bit cheeky. This one climbed aboard without us noticing him, so we fed it and it seemed happy and left.

This is a short eared owl looking for high tea, or at least that was the timing.

And this is what Milton Keynes thinks a swan looks like!

Mind you, this is what Milton Keynes thinks a pedestrian crossing is. It's almost impossible to think why, is it to provide bunched targets for the motorists! Why have crossings if pedestrians have no rights, I just wander across the road anywhere.

Then again, I suppose that they consider this to be store security. They even had an indoor beach in the shopping centre, at the other end from the concrete cows I hasten to add. Still it's probably cheaper and easier than providing decent pavements for us pedestrians.

However, to round off, most of you will have visited caves and heard stories of how stalactites take zillions of years to grow. Can someone explain how this lot appeared with just one rainstorm from nothing more than a few bags of coal.

Well that was the main show.

However I crave a little indulgence!

A friend, ex colleague, and cruising notes reader recently had a heart attack while riding his bicycle. Luckily there were people to hand who started CPR straight away and he is well on the road to recovery. CPR keeps some oxygen flowing to the brain, saves lives and stops people suffering irreparable brain damage. Please watch this short, and, in my opinion, very funny video and maybe save a life. It's better than standing around not knowing what to do and having them die right in front of you. Credits to his wife for finding the video.