Friday, July 13, 2012

Racing the Red Boards

With pretty well continuous rain from mid-afternoon yesterday till early this morning, the river was rising again as we set off.
Radcot Lock was the first opportunity to talk to a lock keeper, he told us that he was likely to be putting up red boards (do not navigate) in the next hour or so, but at the moment we were still on “Caution Stream Increasing” (find a safe mooring).

Leaving Radcot Lock, the lower landing on the left is just under water.SAM_1536 Radcot Lock

Between Radcot and Rushey Locks there are a series of meanders which the fast stream made interesting…
At least it gave George and I a chance to perfect the “power slide” approach to getting round the corners. Edge fairly gently up to the inside of the bend (no risk of running aground with the water up), then, as the corner is turned, the stern is caught by the faster current on the outside so put some power and tiller on to square up as the boat drifts sideways. Steer back into the centre of the channel and ease up ready for the next bend.

Rock’n’Roll power sliding through Tenfoot BridgeSAM_1541 Tenfoot Br
We had planned to get to Swinford Bridge, but the lockie at Shifford told us that Red Boards were now posted at Eynsham Lock just beyond, so we had to stop earlier. As we ran down the river the Stream Increasing boards were being swapped for red boards behind us, and we had hoped to outrun the high water, but we had to go for the contingency plan of a stop at Bablock Hythe.

Leaving Shifford Lock. The weir stream comes in from the left and the lock landing is a couple of feet under water.SAM_1546 Shifford Lock
New Bridge was “challenging”, we aimed to go through the larger, left-hand arch, but the flow conspired to push us across to the right so we had a last minute course correction to scuttle through the lower, middle, arch instead.

Approaching New Bridge. The River Windrush comes in from the left just before the bridge, pushing the flow to the right.SAM_1550 New Bridge You can’t see the largest arch from this angle, it’s behind the reed-bed on the left.

George made a better approach and came through through the same arch a lot more elegantly…

Still not a lot of room, though.SAM_1551 New Bridge It would have been a shame to hit it, it’s been here for 800 years!

The lock-keeper at Northmoor was ready to change over to red when we arrived, but was happier for us to carry on down to Bablock Hythe rather than stay on the upper lock landing. It’s right opposite the weir stream and could have been difficult for any other boats daft enough to be coming downstream.

The river is also fairly straight here so it was easy cruising, just a matter of staying in the middle.

So here we are at Bablock Hythe, within sight of the Ferryman Inn. Since we arrived all the upper Thames from Oxford to St. John’s Lock has gone onto red boards, so I guess we’ll not be going anywhere for a few days. We’re OK though, we’d filled water tanks and emptied loos on the way down today.

It’s been a fast trip, averaging around 6mph, but we’ve never felt in any real danger. Both boats have plenty of power to cope with the conditions, and both crews are competent.

The river has continued to rise since we moored and is now streaming past. This mooring is very popular, it was chock-a-block when we came upstream, but we’re on our own at the moment and not expecting company….

Locks 4, miles 12.


Adam said...

So different from when we did the Thames last September. Then the levels were down everywhere, many of the weirs hadn't had any water over them from months, and there was no discernable flow at all. I don't think it would have been possible to have conditions any more benign.

Anonymous said...

With rain forecast till sept you must be mad going on a river.

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Adam
Yes, George and Carol (Rock'n'Roll)had a very quiet trip on here last year. It's a little more challenging this time around....

Hi Anon.
Mad?? MAD???
I'm trying to persuade the skipper to cross the Wash on the way to the North-east....

jan said...

Hi Geoff. we were the first nb up towards lechlade in march a few years ago. we got lodged on a sandbank for a few hours. bit worrying with the dog but we did see an otter. we hope to go from Keadby to the chesterfield canal today dependant on the weather! scary stuff

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Jan
Not good, as you say, especially with a dog on board. Watch out for the sandbanks on the Trent, they may have moved around a bit with all the water going down. All being well we'll be up that way in August, coming off at Keadby then up to Ripon. Water permitting.....