We have a weak internet signal today, moored on the pontoon in Torksey Cut, so I shall just about manage to transmit text. The photographs will have to follow later.
We’d arrived at Newark last Saturday and I planned to stay there on Sunday anyway, so I could do some sightseeing. I would leave for Cromwell Lock at the head of the tidal River Trent on Monday morning. However I found I needed to use the post office and as that wasn’t open on Sunday I decided to stay an extra day and then travel on Tuesday.
But I managed to do the post office and all the necessary seeing of sights by noon on Monday, so phoned Cromwell lock and they advised me to travel down to them, only a couple of hours away, that afternoon so that I could go through the lock, at the right state of the tide, at 0930 on Tuesday.
So straightaway I let go and off we jolly well went.
It was a lovely run on the lovely wide river. The Sun was shining in between fair weather cumulus clouds, blotted out occasionally but mostly showing its happy face through.
But soon from the south and moving rapidly in our direction there was a build up of tall black cloud showing the telltale streaks and poor visibility beneath a low base. There was a chance it might miss us but it looked doubtful as the cloud covered such a wide area. Within minutes the wind increased from the south to gale force building up quite a following swell. So there was no doubt now that we were destined for a bit of wetness.
For a few seconds I left ‘Futurest’ in auto pilot (well I left the helm anyway) and dashed all over the ship making sure all was well battened down. Having donned my wet weather kit, I then stood on the top step of the companionway, closed the back cabin doors behind me and slid the hatch to, so I was wedged tight in the hole, though with gaps at the sides. I have a long tiller and can steer easily from this position.
I was anxious to keep the heavy rain from getting into the Boatman’s Cabin and filling the after bilge, which is what happens if everything is left open. Even though there is an automatic pump down there I don’t like allowing the after cabin to get wet generally. So as the first heavy spots of rain arrived I put up my big umbrella, pointed it into the fierce wind and this kept us all nice and dry while the rain bucketed down on us with a savage vengeance.
It became very dark and the thunder clapped loudly right overhead. Visibility was reduced to about two boat lengths in front of us as the hail speared down all around. It had picked up a lot of momentum on its way down from thousands of feet up.
But then about ten minutes later, just as quickly as it had begun, it stopped raining and the Sun shone brilliantly just as if nothing had happened.
After that we soon arrived at Cromwell Lock and though the rain had disappeared from the horizon the wind was still showing us its strength from the south. It hadn’t abated at all and I had to turn about in the wide water adjacent to the pontoon above the lock and weir, in order to counteract it and at the same time stem the current to come alongside nice and gently. With fingers crossed it all went well for me.
Yesterday morning as scheduled at nine thirty I entered the large Cromwell Lock in the company of another fifty seven foot narrow boat and after a drop of seven feet we were let out at the other end somewhere in the distance (I exaggerate very slightly!). My companion shot off quickly as they all invariably do and he soon disappeared in a white wash ahead.
The weather was fine again with no threat of black clouds at all and even though I was taking it easy with ‘JP2’ we were still flying along at about 5 knots on the ebb tide. Villages passed by on either side but because of the high banks at this stage, we didn’t see much of them except for the top of the odd church tower as it passed swiftly by. The banks weren’t steep though and cattle were frequently seen in the water up to their bodies drinking contentedly. Woolly sheep with bleating lambs were also at the water’s edge drinking, though they weren’t bold enough to get their feet wet. The birdlife was prolific and every species of waterfowl was represented I think, including a Kingfisher who flew across ahead of us.
About a mile from Torksey, deep in my reveries and contemplation I began to negotiate a left hand hairpin bend in the river, keeping well to the outside of it, where the deep water was likely to be and it was here that I came across my swift footed friend from Cromwell Lock stuck fast on the inside of the bend. It looked as if he had been trying to cut the corner. As he had raced so far ahead me from the start he must have been aground there for sometime, which on the ebb tide meant that he would be well fast by now and have to wait till the tide turned to refloat him. Though the white water at his stern was churning furiously and he was trying to pole himself off, nothing seemed to be happening.
However though he would probably need to be patient and wait till Nature refloated him, it would have been very churlish of me to just cruise past without offering a hand. And as he was still surrounded by water there was a chance that I might be able to tow him off.
But it was to no avail with the strong southerly breeze and the flow of the tide I did manage to manoeuvre close enough for him to attach a line to my bow but by then I was fast aground too and nothing would budge me either. ‘Futurest’s stern was in clear water but no matter how much I tried; no matter how much poling or rocking, she wasn’t going to budge her bow; both boats would now have to wait for the turn of the tide!
I contacted Torksey Lock on the VHF and they said that the tide would be turning in about ten minutes so it could be a wait of up to two hours before we were released. By this stage my new friend was aboard ‘Futurest’ with the gap between the two boats too wide for him to get back. So I made us a cuppa and we sat in the cratch and chatted to his wife across the ten foot gap for an hour or so. But I could see the water rising again and quite soon I started ‘JP2’ and we managed to get clear, eventually towing him off too. He was able to step back aboard his own boat and both husband and wife were most grateful for my help but soon shot off ahead of me again in a cloud of spray almost; they were well delayed by now of course. But an hour later when ‘Futurest’ and I chugged quietly into Torksey Cut they were both on the pontoon to welcome us and take our mooring lines.
It had been another adventurous day.