Friday, June 05, 2015

Narrowboat convoy across the Wash

If you’re ever tempted to do something a little adventurous with your boat, you could do worse than cross from Boston to Wisbech. Apart from any thing else, it saves doing the 241 miles and 131 locks that even the shortest alternative route entails! It’s a long day, mind, and a pilot really is indispensible, but it’s doable so long as the weather is appropriate.

I don’t intend writing a lot on this post; I’ll let the pictures do the talking. After taking nearly 200 there’s plenty to choose from!

So, captions only unless I feel the urge to wax rhetorically…

The crews assembled the evening before the trip.IMG_5175

Stacked up waiting for Boston Grand Sluice at 10:00 on Thursday morningIMG_5181In the chamber are Yarwood, What a Lark and Clarence, waiting just outside are Seyella and another boat joining us, NB Panacea, and finally a motor yacht and a small motor cruiser.
Not all were going our way, just the 5 “narrers”.
The lock is only 55’ long so will only accommodate shorter boats in the conventional way. Longer boats have to wait for the bottom gates to open when the falling tide makes a level with the river above. And there’s only a short window of opportunity to go through due to the speed at which the tide ebbs. Two and a half minutes today to move seven boats through…

Bugger, I‘ve waxed already!

Red and green showing on the status lights – start your engines! The gates are just opening…IMG_5183

And we’re off!

Several derelicts lie revealed on the mud as the tide ebbsIMG_5195

And some in rather better condition are tied to the wall. One of these passed us further down The Haven.

Boston Port is quiet…IMG_5199

And that’s the Wash, 6½ miles after passing through Grand Sluice!IMG_5206

Our route took us north-east along the edge of Toft Sand and Roger Sand. As we were on an ebb tide the sandbanks slowly revealed themselves.

Dolly Peg is the northern marker for The Haven channel entrance.IMG_5210


Panacea follows us outIMG_5211

Keeping up with the Yarwoods

The red and green buoys are are designed to mark the channel for incoming craft; hence on the way out we keep the green to the left (port) side.

Panacea as tail end charlie

We were not alone in taking advantage of the fine morning.IMG_5221

At the bright yellow Freemans Inner marker we start the right turn to the south west into Freemans channel.IMG_5230

First (long distance) shot of grey seals on the drying sandbanksIMG_5232

A fine motor yachtIMG_5242

Now turning to head south towards The Nene estuary, but it’s a way off yet.IMG_5244

Dave, Jo and Sarah on PanaceaIMG_5248

Sarah, Lesley and Andy with Floyd enjoying the sun.IMG_5249


Boston Stump way over to the west now. You can see the sands in the foreground.IMG_5254

And that’s the open sea, Northern Denmark the first landfall, around 475 miles away!IMG_5256

Here we are, 7 miles from the nearest land and plagued by flies! Why, with all this water around, did two choose to land in my tea? 
I think the one on the left has just farted… Rude!

A lot more welcome was a flock of turnstones, diving around the boats and picking off the flies
The birds were correctly identified by Lisa and Daryl the Pilot.

The tide was heading towards it’s lowest level now, time for a run ashore…IMG_5275


It’s not always possible to do this, it depends on the wind and the state of the sea. We were very lucky.

Out came food and drinks, and the wreck of a barge, beached during a storm, was investigated.IMG_5287

The local seal colony sent one individual across to check out the intruders. IMG_5292

We had about 2 hours on the sand before the rising tide forced us back aboard. We’d been joined by a Dutch barge by this time, Viator had come out of Kings Lynn and was heading into Wisbech like us, so joined our little flotilla.

Viator reversing off the sand.

The wind had picked up and the sky had been covered by light cloud, so it was considerably cooler and quite a bit choppier as we negotiated the channel to the mouth of the Nene.


Heading for the Outer Trial Bank
We’ll get closer to this earthwork in a bit. The doughnut shaped mound was built in the 1970s as part of a government project. It was intended to investigate the feasibility of developing tidal power using a string of such structures to control and use the flow.

The chop eased as we entered the shelter of the estuary, passing the twin lighthouses at Guy's Head, now both in private hands.Panorama_0

The course of the river runs fairly straight to Sutton Bridge, with it’s small port and road crossing.

MV Fri Lake on the wharf

Sutton BridgeIMG_5329

It was an uneventful 10 miles from Guy’s Head to Wisbech Yacht Harbour, where we’d berths booked for the night. They were a bit full, so we had to breast the boats up.

Yarwood and What a Lark breasted up mid-stream, Daryl the pilot intending to take them into a rather constricted space, but in the end they finished up on the outer end of one of the pontoons.


With the tide still making strongly we turned the boats and went backwards under control, ferry gliding into the pontoon berths.

So that’s it, the end of a fabulous day. It would have been nice to have been all together at the end of the day as we were at the start, but we finished up at opposite ends of the marina, and no-one had the energy anyway. We had an early start the following morning, but I’ll post about that tomorrow, along with some more detailed information.

Locks 1, miles 38.


Sue said...


Great pics Geoff and so pleased you all managed to beach. We couldn't due to the possibility of swell on the incoming tide, I'd have love to have done that!

'Spose I better go back and do that then!!

So very pleased you all enjoyed the day, great blog.

I bet Mags loved it!


Ade said...

Well done all glad you all made it safe and sound. Looks truly amazing.


Adam said...

Great pictures of a fantastic experience. One to go on the must do list.

KevinTOO said...

What a brilliant photo blog, with excellent words too, anyone would think it was a text written by Alan Wicker... LOL

But seriously though it looked like a 'Grand Day Out', looks like the weather couldn't have been much better either :)

I hope that Mags enjoyed it as much as you did ;)

Mark Reeves said...

Hi folks, what an interesting day! I am headed towards Boston myself at the moment and would be interested in doing something similar. Can you tell me how your organised it / found the pilot?

Many thanks

Mark Reeves
Cloud Nine