Join me as I take Olivia on her latest adventures.
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Monday, 24 December 2018
Update on my 2018 travels
On the rivers it was necessary to move every other day which along with all this area being a new road for me, I neglected to write any blog posts. Even worse, I took hardly any photos!! Since the last post I only had one more incident which was to get stemmed up on the silt by Perio Mill. Once again local boaters came to my rescue. I was sceptical about whether this small cabin cruiser would be able to move me but hurray a sharp pull did it and I managed not to crash into them which was a bonus :-).
I moored at Oundle, Elton, Alwalton and Peterborough exploring on foot Elton, Yarwell, Wansford, Nene Park and Flag Fen. I did lots of walking on the very hot, sunny, lush days. At the beginning of July I entered the Middle Level. I had been warned that it was boring and I have to admit that some of it was just a matter of head down and press on. However, Whittlesey was quite a sweet place and I enjoyed a spell in March where I moored by a park just a short stroll from the main street. As I left March I heard someone shouting my name. Who would know me around here? It took me a while to realise that it was Pete, an old friend that I hadn't seen for about a decsde. I had known him from teenage into early parenthood but now here was a mature guy who has grown up children!! I hadn't anywhere to pull in so had to press on. Shortly I realised I was being followed (unusual, I discovered, on the ML) and was delighted to find Pete and Tina had chased after me for a quick catch up. When they turned back I carried on, unable to moor at Upwell as all spaces were taken up by the Cotswold Cruising Club I moored on the Outwell mooring which is called a basin but is actually just a bend in the navigation. Next day I went up to Salters Lode....this was the bit of the journey that I was most wary of as I had to go onto tidal waters and after our escapades on the Thames (head gasket blown) I wasn't sure how Olivia would cope. I timed my arrival so that I missed the tide and was, therefore, able to moor at the lock landing and walk the route at low tide to ascertain where all the sandbanks were. I had a chat with lock keeper Paul who put my mind at rest. Next day I was the first boat through Salters and as I left the lock Olivia seemed stuck on the tyre wall. With verbal encouragement from Paul I put on the revs and despite billows of black smoke from the exhaust Olivia was reluctant to turn. More revs and she slowly just in time (before it would be too late and I would hit the opposite bank) she turned and we were off. Big thumbs up from Paul. The arrival at Denver Sluice not very many minutes later was uneventful and I was through, on the Great Ouse, and soon found a mooring for the night. From now on I moved just short but regular hops. At my next mooring we had the company of a seal, apparently a local celebrity. He (or she) was not at all shy and jumped up onto the mooring next to me. A really special moment.
I spent the next days walking and appreciating the big skies afforded by the fenlands. I quickly realised that my best weekend strategy was to move early on Friday and stay until Sunday as this was when many boats came out of marinas and would snap up the best spots. I stopped at Ely and then onto the Old West - a narrower part of the navigation which for that reason was weedy and slow going. I moored at Earith lock where, with the lock keeper's permission, there is room for a boat (or maybe two if they are small). Once through the lock I was back on a tidal stretch so I had to remain wary when reaching the next lock and I then carried on to moor at St Ives. I found some very nice walks and also sussed out potential future moorings at Hemingford Grey and Houghton Mill. I discovered that there was to be a regatta at Hemingford the next day and the GOBA moorings would be suspended for the weekend, so I moved up to the village mooring there. The regatta was well attended by (mostly) locals and I spent a bit of time there watching events. Next mooring was Godmanchester which is only twenty miles from home but had taken me six weeks to get to by water. I had a day in London for Luke's birthday and then on to St Neots where I managed to get a nice mooring. In fact I was in this area for almost a week finding different 48 hour moorings here and at Eaton Socon which is only a short walk away. I quite liked the town. It has good parkland and walks and the high street is very different to most town centres. Kate and Paris came to visit and we had a nice meal in the pub on the Bridge.
I turned and started to make my way back towards Hemingford where I was planning to meet up with Christine. We went to the nearest pub for an appetiser, then Houghton Mill for lunch and then ate a light supper on Christine's boat. We decided that the next day we would get the guided bus to Cambridge which we could pick up in St Ives just a short walk away. We enjoyed the day at Cambridge but disappointed with the facilities for visiting boats. There is room for around eight boats on visitor moorings and they are all 48 hour moorings. The cost to use the River Cam was quite a lot and I would have liked to stay a week! Anyway we decided not to take the boats down to Cambridge which really does seem to want to discourage boaters. We moved on down to St Ives for their food/beer festival. It was fun. On the Sunday we met Brian and later Kath for a meal and drinks. Kath has her boat at Hartford Marina, Huntingdon, but is moving it elsewhere for the winter. On the Monday we moved to a super little mooring at Holywell. I hadn't seen it on my way up river but eagle eyed Christine had. Had some fun and games on the way back through the Earith tidal stretch. I wanted to pull in to take on water but there was a boat already there so I thought I would turn and pull in next to them. What a farce, Olivia was struggling to get round as the tide kept pushing her downstream semi broadside...eventually I managed to get her around and by now the other boat had left so I managed to tie up. Phew! Turning to go back was easy as the tide was with me. It made me realise that I was still a river newbie. We were now back on the weedy Old West River mooring at Aldreth - a nice very rural mooring - and then at the Lazy Otter. Christine had a friend visit and she went cruising while I had the afternoon off.
By now it was the beginning of August. We turned right at the junction and made a run down to the Lodes where we moored on Reach Lode near the junction with Wicken Lode. We walked to Wicken Fen where we discovered the gorgeous gooseberry and elderflower icecream at the cafe. Although we had been unable to moor at the Five Miles from Anywhere pub we were within easy walking distance so that is where we went for dinner. I haven't wanted to mention this but I have had an oil leak problem since starting out. Oil is coming out of the engine breather and I have had to top up regularly. I rang a couple of engineers and got conflicting advice which comprises: live with it by draining the pipe into a container; or have the breather connected back to the engine via the air inlet; or the engine is caput. So for the moment I have been living with it. Anyway we took a cruise down to Burwell for one night and then back to the Five Miles pub where we could now moor. Christine made the most of having a shoreline by doing her washing and ironing. She also had a go at my leaking shower outlet and seems to have fixed it. What a girl! Back to Little Thetford and Ely for a few days. Both of us needed to use the train for various events we were going to so Ely was the perfect place to moor.
As this post is getting rather long I will speed things up. Christine headed back to St Neots for the IWA festival while I headed to Littleport which also has a train station - noted for future use. I cruised the Little Ouse to Brandon and back to The Ship PH on the junction. Then back to Littleport to use previously mentioned train to the IWA festival for the day. From here I was backtracking all the way to Peterborough. The Denver/Salters Lode crossing was good. Paul was off duty so I had to award myself 10/10. Managed to moor on the good mooring at Upwell, then March and again at Whittlesey. There is only really space for two narrowboats to moor but that night there were twelve of us in various locations. I was about sixth boat to arrive so got a reasonable spot using gangplank to get on and off. Back to Peterborough the next day where I stayed for a while. Took the opportunity to visit Tim Peake's Soyuz capsule which was being exhibited in the cathedral. Back up the River Nene through Alwalton, Elton, etc. Christine caught up with me at Ashton and we had some good cruising days through Oundle, Thrapston and Woodford to Wellingborough (where we were marooned through stormy weather - but able to get to Northampton and Earls barton for events). I had Mark and Elaine come out and do a fix on the oil breather issue by feeding it back via the air inlet. Time will tell if this actually works. Cruised on to Northampton and then up the locks to the Grand Union. There was little water in the Northampton Arm and both Christine and I got things around our props. Hers was a sports bag which didn't take long to remove. Mine was a thick duvet type coat. I got some of it off but gave in and called River Canal Rescue to help. They arrived in an hour and it was fixed by midday so I could continue through the sixteen remaining locks. I got to the top just on 6pm when the lockies were padlocking them for the night. (They knew I was on the way and wouldn't have locked me in!) Basically this was the end of this year's cruising. Christine headed North to Tamworth and beyond while I had a couple of weeks at home and then slowly took Olivia back towards her winter mooring.