Saturday, June 06, 2015

A bit of an anti-climax as we headed for Peterborough.

Well, it would have taken an exceptional day to top Thursday’s crossing, after all. Of course the weather didn’t help.

Wisbech Yacht Harbour is a welcome overnight mooring after the crossing, but it’s not the sort of place you’d want to stay for too long. The mooring cost us £23, but did include access to water and power. Meg wasn’t too happy, it’s a long walk to find any grass!

After consulting both Daryl the Pilot and the lockie at the Dog in a Doublet where we leave the tidal section, it was decided that we should leave before 06:30. It could have been an hour as it turned out, but still.

So, bleary eyed and a bit stiff (that was Meg, I was worse…) I took Meg for her constitutional at a quarter to five.

The tide was still running out at this time, revealing banks of mud under the piled walls. IMG_5341

At 06:00 barge Viator went past, having spent the night on the fuel berth, and then Panacea peeled off followed by Clarence. We all had to go downstream to turn around, and the still rapidly ebbing tide made getting clear of the pontoon difficult.

Our berth, with the tide running away from my viewpoint we were carried back towards that large catamaran as soon as I untied.IMG_5342
It took me three attempts to get far enough away from the pontoon to make the turn around the cat’s bow, and even then  only just made it!

Turned around and heading upstream we passed where the breasted-up Yarwood and What a Lark (henceforth known as Whatwood, thanks Derek!) had spent the night. They had gone, leaving Dave and Lisa boat-shorn on the pontoon!
It was a deliberate move, they were heading back home for a few days while Joe and Lesley look after WaL.

We started plugging away up the still receding tide only to come up behind the others at the first corner. The oncoming flow and constricted, shallow channel had reduced Whatwood to a crawl.IMG_5348

They waved us past and I hung back a bit to make sure they were OK before carrying on.

Whatwood under Freedom Bridge. 

Headroom under this and Town Bridge were given as a reason we needed to go early. I don’t think it would have been a problem  a little later…

Out of the town the channel runs straight and with high, muddy banks at this state of the tide. The plan was that the incoming tide would push us up to Peterborough, but it was only when we were clear of the built up area that the water went slack.

It was around this time that the sky turned ominous, too…IMG_5353
…and we were soon treated to the mother of all thunderstorms, accompanied by driving, torrential rain.

Well, we needed water, but it would have been better under us…

The storm passed, leaving a period of tranquility during which we gently steamed, then further grey clouds moved in from the west and we were treated to an hour of gentler but persistent rain.

Fen Road Bridge near Guyhirn relieved the monotonyIMG_5356

Supports for a removed railway viaductIMG_5357

… and sheep
Getting desperate for something to take a picture of!

Summat flying…
It’s not a heron, the neck’s wrong. Nor is it a cormorant or egret. Derek thinks it’s some sort of stork, maybe?
Further research indicates that it’s probably a white stork, wild birds uncommon in England. I wish I’d got a better picture.

We were slowly overhauling the dutch barge that left this morning, Clarence and Panacea had actually passed them. But the going was getting harder and harder as the river channel got narrower and shallower. We were too early for the rising tide and the expected shove from behind.

Viator struggling around the kink at Popley’s Gull.IMG_5364
We actually passed them after the bends, but then ran aground so they reclaimed their position. It was a hump in the river bed I was stuck on, only mud but I was going nowhere.
By this time there was noticeable uphill movement of the water, so I gave it five minutes and then was able to pull off.
A very slow trip up to Dog in a Doublet Lock followed…IMG_5369

I wasn’t sure if we’d all fit, but we did after a bit of a squeeze.

Five narrowboats and a Dutch barge in Dog in a Doublet LockIMG_5371
It took a while to pass the lock; the lockie was taking it slowly with this many boats in the chamber, then we had facility keys and in my case an EA visitor licence to purchase, which all took time. Just under an hour, in fact.

Another 5 miles of wide, deep river saw us arrive at Peterborough and mooring on the embankment at around half past twelve.

A couple of days of R&R after a heavy two days is called for…

Locks 1, miles 19¼

Now then, a few details about the actual crossing.

Total distance 38 miles, Boston Moorings to Wisbech Yacht Harbour.
Cruising time around 6¾ hours, total transit time around 9½ hours. The difference is accounted for by waiting time in the lock at Boston, and our time beached on the sandbank.
A GPS track of the route is here..IMG_5376 

The blue line is the rough projected route, following the marked channel. The red line is our actual track. You’ll see they mainly coincide, the deviations being when Daryl took us off line to kill a bit of time. I’ve marked where we beached as well, right on the edge of the military firing range!
The furthest we were from land was around 6¾ miles.

Our average speed was 5.65 mph (although that should be in knots, of course), maximum speed was 9.34 mph at one point, being pushed by the tide up The Nene.

People you should contact – Daryl Hill, the pilot, Boston Grand Sluice lock-keeper. Wisbech Yacht Harbour Office. We also booked moorings at Brayford Pool in Lincoln, although we may have got away with finding moorings on the 48 VM. Oh, and don’t forget to tell your insurer. They might want to take some more money off you…

Equipment. Anyone tackling this sort of trip will already have most of the kit required.  VHF radio (with operators licence) is pretty much a necessity, although in our case Daryl travelled on the one boat without.
Anchor with chain and warp which you’ll already have if you’ve done any river cruising. And you will have done to get here in the first place!
Life ring with a rope connected at both ends!
Lifejackets for all crew including the canine (or feline) ones.
Navigation Lights, although you don’t really want to be in a position where you need them. Come to that, the same applies to all of the above!
Binoculars, camera, mobile phone. Phone signal is weak to non-existent the further out you go… Make sure that if it can be charged up, it is.

A full tank of clean fuel. If you’ve any doubts about the quality of the red stuff in your tank, get it polished. Make sure you’ve a water trap and pre-filter in the fuel line, and carry spare filters just in case. The same goes for alternator belts, carry spares.
Half a tank of fresh water. A full tank means you can’t get so far up if you can beach. The water’s deeper the further out you are, as I found out! You can top up again on the pontoons at Wisbech Harbour.
And if the day’s as good as ours was, a hat and sunscreen.

I didn’t block up any drain or exhaust holes in the hull, they’re all double clipped on the inside. Although we did finish up with a half inch of sea water in the shower tray, which must have come up the drain pipe when we turned across the swell. Not a problem though, it went out the same way it came in!

That’s about it. It’s not rocket science, just sensible preparation. Listen to the advice of the lockies and the pilot. They know what they’re talking about, Or at least you hope so…

This photo courtesy of Anne on Viator as we prepared to leave the sandbank.
Enjoy it, we did!


Sue said...

Gosh you did leave Wisbech early!

Yes, we found that bit to Dog and Doublet a bit scene free as well but we only saw a couple of horses on the floodbanks, at least you saw a bit more wildlife!

I remember we were so cold by the time we got to the lock we were covered up in blankets and duvets on the back of the boat such was the cold wind!

I wondered where all those thunderstorms went! Oher!!

Chas and Ann said...

Wow, wot an adventure Geoff. Hope Margaret enjoyed it as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this and your earlier blog. I might pick your brains on the run up from Wisbech in advance of my trip in August. I had assumed you would set off from Wisbech after the flood starts.

As you can see I am quite pleased with the low amount of gunk in my fuel filters, after crossing the other way..

Lisa said...

Oh Geoff you forgot an important piece of equipment..... A LADDER!!!