Cruising Notes

We are in the middle of the first winter storm at the moment. While material damage is being done not so far from here we just have “Rock and Roll”. Today I brought the boat through about 5 miles of rough weather, white caps keeping up with the boat and 20+ mph winds. It's kinda fun seeing the boat bobbing up down and sideways. But that's life on the Fens in the winter.

The fact that it's so flat and deserted means that it's a wonderful place to see wildlife. One of our frequent “miles from anywhere” moorings is now the haunt of a short eared owl. I could easily lose a finger watching it (I often kindle firewood there). Lots of kestrels riding the updraughts caused by the river banks and the swans, ducks, geese, and canada geese along with the ever present seagulls. Oh! and a kingfisher or two to be seen most days we travel. It's a good thing as the land is pretty featureless and the river is wide, cruising is somewhat boring, as well as being cold. Still, this time last year we were frozen in.

Talking of windy, I took this shot on the middle levels, I was actually travelling in a straight line in a crosswind, but due to the wind had to crab the boat to avoid being pushed into the bank. Dead easy till you meet another boat coming the other way, then you earn your captains pay!

As you can see the land is lower than the drain that we are travelling on so, despite the wind the water remains fairly calm. I also wonder if land drains should really be called “drains” if they are higher than the land.

Since the Last cruising notes we have had to have a new stern gear, Basically the propeller shaft and the sleeve that it goes through. Still, the temporary repair I had made had lasted 2 years, and would probably have lasted a lot longer, but the drought conditions last summer resulted in the prop hitting the canal bed (or in reality the junk thrown into the canal) too many times and jarring the repair. It proved that the old boating saying (BOAT=bring out another thousand) remains true.

It's easy to forget just how massive the boat is, here is a pic of it out of the water and on a trolley, which, it seems, is always pulled by a superannuated tractor. I guess they renew the tractors at 100,000 miles or 100 years, whichever comes the sooner. Some look like WWI army surplus.

Sill at least our boat can come out of the water, I have always wondered about this one at Peterborough. It's actually a bar/restaurant but as you can see it's too big to fit under the bridge, and in the other direction there are locks a small fraction of it's size. I guess it will just sit there as it has nowhere to go.

Mind you, there are some bridges that we have problems with, here is one where meeting a boat coming the other way would be “interesting” to say the least. It's about the length of the boat, you have to start turning the boat while under the bridge to avoid the bank on the other side. And, do all of that while crouching to get under the bridge yourself. Much more fun than being stuck in a motorway traffic jam I assure you.

Mind you, we got well and truly stuck on the tidal stretch of the River Great Ouse. Just in front of the lock entrance there are underwater sandbanks. Well, about 60 foot from the lock entrance of the Denver complex we hit one and got bounced onto the other one. It took about a half hour to grind our way to within rope distance of the lock mooring and get pulled in by the lock keeper. It's not dangerous or anything like that. It's just that with all that sand being churned up you have no idea what the result of any action would be. It's just part of the general decay of the river and canal system due to lack of money (A typical example below). There was of course no sign of anyone working.

However, to more fun things, We saw a guy selling mushrooms. Not magic, not edible, and not vents but hand carved.

I'm not sure why he bothers, but people with more artistic minds than mine can probably figure it out. If they do, I offer a slightly more bizarre bit of art for them to get their brains around.

Not that I am against recycling, I just see more practical re-use than trying to imitate a heron and it's nest, and I prefer real herons. By the way, herons nest in trees, not in the river, but let's not let facts get in the way of “art”.

However I was confronted with a very unusual bit of re-cycling. A bridge no less.

Now to my mind it is absolute brilliance to re use such a structure but you first have to find your disused bridge

We pulled in at Atherstone to have our starter motor and alternator re-furbished and met this friendly soul.

He liked apples. Perhaps we as humans need too much to keep us happy.

After all civilisation gives us pretty ugly things as well as convenience.

As someone who lives “off grid” it's all wasted on me. Much as the way farming has changed.

However even boating has it's occasional disappointments. This legend on this bridge is a case in point.

Every time I go through it, I expect the other side to read “Starboard of Berkhamstead”

Perhaps they just didn't have room.

Video time.

A couple of videos

Firstly of my most hated bridge.

Going through Salters Lode Lock.

This was just prior to us getting stuck (please note the lock keepers comments on mud)

It's about 11 minutes run time but I make no apology for that. Ours is a pretty slow way of life as things take time. I did in fact keep the video on but it ran out of battery power long before we stranded on the sandbank. A shame as it is a pretty rare event in the grand scheme of things. However I was a bit busy and dealing with the video was very low on my priority list at the time.


Have fun!