Saturday 24 June 2017

Across the Wash: The Trip

Tuesday 13 June 2017 Across the Wash to Kings Lynn and Denver Sluice
Chris Turner (Jophina 2), friend Val Sylvester who came to see us off, with pilot Darryl Hill

John and Liana (Annie), Chris (Jophina 2), Cleveland and Mick and John (Pennine Dream) waiting at Grand Sluice

testing the VHF radios

Elaine and Chris, Jack and pilot Darryl

passing through Grand Sluice lock with both gates open

looking back at Grand Sluice closing

passing Boston Stump, St Botolph's
High tide 0930 but level water both sides of Boston Grand Sluice about 1130, when we emerged to pass past Boston Stump, St Botolph's Church down the tidal Witham, past the Port of Boston and fishing boats, for miles between green and red channel marker posts, until eventually we saw the wide horizons and distant shores which marked the Wash.
passing through Port of Boston
the end of the channel to the Wash

Annie, with Jophina 2, Pennine Dream and Cleveland ahead

Fishery research vessel

Liana steering across the Wash

It was cloudy with a gentle Force 3 breeze 7-10 mph, distant fishing boats, survey vessels and sand banks gradually appearing as the tide ebbed. Darryl led on Cleveland, followed by Pennine Dream, Jophina 2, with Annie at the rear.At first we headed north east up the coast until we had cleared Roger Sands, where narrowboats sometimes beach at low tide. We turned south and headed for Norfolk about ten miles, with the open sea on our left and very distant low coastlines to south and west.

Eventually we headed south west towards the Great Ouse Estuary, along narrow channels between vast sand banks, watched by seals.

fishing boats on sand banks waiting for high tide

erm, avoid the bigger vessels ...

 Nearing the Norfolk coast, Darryl had us all beach for a while, waiting for the flood tide. Elaine's plastic palm tree made an appearance!
beaching on a sand bank

Elaine going ashore

Liana, Jack, Elaine and palm tree!

Later, Darryl took us to see loads of basking seals nearby, until the rising tide allowed us to enter the Great Ouse tidal section.

Grey Seals
The river narrowed gradually as we neared Kings Lynn, but Darryl wanted us to reach the safety of Denver Sluice and the non-tidal river above it, so we passed by quickly, seeing the Port and the huge sluice gates marking the end of the Relief Channel, which drains much of the fens during floods.

Kings Lynn

Buoy maintenance vessel at Kings Lynn

bookable visitor pontoon at Kings Lynn

Sluices at the end of the Relief Channel, which drains much of the fens during floods
the boats moved crab fashion to avoid the tide pushing them onto the banks at bends

moving the ten miles upriver in the evening light

navigation lights on!

erm, almost dark at 10PM as we reached the pontoon mooring below Denver Sluice and lock!

Tuesday 6 June 2017

RWBC Cruise across the Wash: Starting out

May 31 2017: Starting out

Today was a busy one, preparing, packing car, unpacking then filling Annie: All boaters know about this! Finally John set off, leaving our Retford & Worksop Boat Club behind. At the moment, the Chesterfield Canal is particularly full of green, slimy blanket weed, and is shallower by a few inches, so we travelled slowly, avoiding the worst of the weed. Once through Drakeholes tunnel things improved a little. We passed through the Grindley locks under cloudy skies in a gentle breeze with NB Bob, returning to Lincoln, and we both moored at the scenic country piled and bollarded visitor mooring three miles from West Stockwith.
1 June: up the Trent to Torksey and Saxilby
Liana decided we didn't need some excellent sausages from the Misterton butcher (sob), so we moored up at West Stockwith. Our friends, RWBC Secretary Chris & Elaine Turner on NB Jophina II, are a day ahead of us, while Mick Baines and friend John on NB Pendle Magic joined us today. We both dieselled up with Mick Ogden by the river lock,  before heading upriver, an hour late due to a wait for an incoming boat, Annie heeling over slightly  as she turned in the strong flood tide. Thankfully, the weather stayed fairly sunny as both boats headed south fifteen miles through  Gainsborough, past West Burton power station to Torksey Lock. We met several boats heading up and down stream as we approached Torksey Cut, all advised by the lock keeper to go before bad weather arrives. Saxilby moorings had room for us, thankfully.
2 June: through Lincoln to Bardney
Next day, Pendle Magic set off early to stay in Lincoln, while we tested out assembling our newly purchased folding bikes, which felt a bit wobbly. I hope we cope! At Lincoln, we idled through the Brayford Pool and under High Bridge before mooring by the Waterside Centre to shop. Liana took the bus to get the car, while John took Annie through Stamp End Lock, where we passed through with NB Melita, to Bardney Lock moorings for the night. The kind folks on Melita chased after John to give him his CRT key back - he saw them waving behind! We passed Jophina II at the full pontoon at Fiskerton Fen nature reserve, a lovely spot. At Bardney, another kind boater moved his boat along so Annie could moor, while yet another offered to link us up to electricity: Aren't folks good!
3 June: Kirkstead Bridge
After  seeing Annie through Bardney Lock,Liana visited friend Amanda and young Alby in Lincoln. John had a quiet but pleasant time idling down eleven miles to Kirkstead Bridge pontoon visitor mooring at Woodhall Spa, where Liana rejoined, parking the car by the splendid station building near the pub. Today we heard the weather forecast sounded bad for 6 June, when Jophina II joined us before rain and wind ended the day. Chris and Elaine had a long walk into Woodhall Spa with their dog, while we chilled. Liana does brain stretching puzzles. John is still reading Harry Potter in French, bought on the Canal du Midi.
4 June: Kirkstead Bridge
Today John refitted a fairlead for the centre rope in between showers and checked the oil pressure sender connections. Liana's friends Val Sylvester and Liz Boucher visited Annie for the first time, as they live nearby. Both seemed impressed with the facilities, although the rocking by the wind perturbed them a little! We had tea cakes and scones with jam - very English! We are told that we will have to wait until Friday 9 June at the earliest to cross the Wash, due to bad weather - ho hum. Darryl Hill, our pilot, later confirmed Tuesday 13 June as first calm day to go to Kings Lynn and Denver. We took the opportunity to go home, do jobs, see friends and attend church.

Canal du Midi Adventure 19-29 June 2017 unfinished

19 June Castelnaudary

After a week with our cousins in Aytua, a tiny hamlet up a precipitous road from Villefranche de Conflent, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, we spent today moving cars to our canal destination, Port Cassafieres, near Beziers. Dropping off our hire car in Carcassonne, we taxied the rest of the way to Castelnaudary, where we boarded this big plastic boat! The girls, Aileen, Geri and Liana had had the briefing, as we had been delayed, but the office kindly gave us a quick run through again before they left for home. We had a drive around the large basin before dropping them off and having a short run up the canal to the first lock above, where John turned the boat using a tiny joystick, which spun the boat on its axis! At the first narrow bridge hole, he found that you cannot go in reverse and turn at the same time, however. The boat, or Le Boat, just fits under the smallest bridge, we are told: time will tell .....

Returning to the Port Basin at Castelnaudary, our place had been taken, so we reversed in to a gap further along: The square sterns make this straight forward. We moor like this at West Stockwith Basin with Annie, on the Chesterfield Canal, but there is a post 20 feet out to tie to, to stop the boat swinging there.
Next morning we have to queue for the four staircase lock flight. Strangely, the lock keeper sees three boats together all the way down, then one up, before we can go down. In England, two or three boats might follow one another. Maybe it is because there is just one person.
Most of the 62 locks are earlier in our trip, as we descend from the hills: Later, there is a 53km (33 mile) pound before the seven Fonsarennes staircase locks at Beziers, near the end of our trip. There are lock keepers at all these locks, each with a remote control to operate the lock gates and paddles. It is our job to control boats, including using two ropes, in each lock. More or less all the locks are oval shaped, like sideways arches, and this design has stood the test of time. It means that you can often fit three boats in together, if the biggest stays in the middle on one side. This is usually us, as our boat is the biggest they hire out. It has a large kitchen / saloon, behind which are three en suite double bedrooms for we three couples. Above, we can eat and lounge in the sun, with or without the large blue pram top type sunshade. The boat has a steering position inside, but we used the rooftop position, with its better views of scenery and for manoeuvring.