THURSDAY 6TH JUNE 2013
Along time since the last blog post and a lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge. Our last cruise in SKYY in 2012 was to take her to ABNB's marina at Crick. There she waited patiently for her new owners to discover her, she looked very smart, having been re-blacked down to the waterline and gunnels and rear deck all repainted.
In the meantime we returned to our home in Surrey and set about decorating and refurnishing. Following the arrival early in 2013 of my step daughters second child we have decided to stay put for the foreseeable future and we spend many enjoyable hours helping out in looking after the 3 three year old Emily and 3 months old Cameron,
Determined not to become bored I ordered the first part of a kit car, a replica of an old Morgan three wheeler, I anticipate that this will take between two to three years to complete to my satisfaction and for those sad enough to follow my hesitant steps in achieving this I have started a new blog Hopefully the following link will take you to it. http://macsmorgan3wheelerbuild.blogspot.co.uk/
The kit arrive on Tuesday and so far I have managed to drill the first of many holes in the right places.
The really good news is that SKYY has indeed got new owners, Steve and Elaine to be precise, I went up to Crick on Thursday to hand SKYY over to them, the formalities of contracts and money all having been sorted out by the great team at ABNB. A lovely, warm hearted couple and their friend Peter were on board as I walked Steve through the boat and then went for a short spin. New engine mounts, that the surveyor had called for had returned the smooth low speed running and I wished that I had had that done a year or so ago. Steve and Elaine were delighted with SKYY, I took a few farewell pictures and as I walked away and waved to them, I had to hold back a tear or two. They obviously know what they are about, having hired boats many times, so when you see them out and about on the cut do shout out a welcome.
BYE BYE SKYY
Sunday, 23 September 2012
THUSDAY 6TH TO SUNDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER 2012
The River Nene does not make a very impressive passage through Northampton; surrounding the Town Lock are offices and by the old town bridge there are converted warehouses. We did moor, just before the bridge for the convenient Morrison’s supermarket and shortly afterwards arrived at the rather scruffy entrance to the Northampton Arm.
We had been warned that the going was very slow for the first couple of miles and indeed it was. The first five locks are initially well spaced but the canal is very narrow and weedy and the slow going was made even more so as I had to continually apply full reverse to blow the weed of the prop. Immediately before one lock contractors had fenced off the towpath, making it very difficult to access the lock, apparently this was to enable towpath repairs to be carried out, but it seemed a little premature as the canal was to be closed to navigation for three weeks from Monday. Hey ho, too early to expect the new CR&T to have got its house in order yet, but at the next lock, chaps in their new CR&T sweatshirts happily helped us through.
The M1 tunnel heralds the proper start of the Northampton flight. By now we had got into a good routine, with Jacquie doing all the work, as I was still hopping about, with my dodgy knee. I let the boat push the upper gate open whilst I closed the paddle, then I hopped across the stern as SKYY excited the lock and tied up just beyond to close the gate, pushing with just one leg, I then lowered the other paddle and with a little tug on the stern rope I hopped back on board and proceeded to the next lock.
Several wooden lift bridges adorned the way and the good weather made it an enjoyable journey, although Jacquie was truly exhausted by the time we reached Gayton Junction. We stopped to use facilities at the junction and only travelled a mile or so up The Grand Union before stopping for the day.
The weather was delightful so we decided to stay where we were on Friday and relax before tackling the Buckby flight of 7 locks the next day. It was lunch time on Saturday when the locks came into sight, so we stopped for a bite and then paired up with another experienced crew to avoid having to lock through with one of the several hire boats that were happily banging into one another. I had promised Jacquie a well earned drink and dinner at Norton Junction’s New Inn, but when we eventually arrived at the top lock, disaster, the pub was closed and although Jacquie was able to rustle up an evening meal there was no wine on board.
Before we left our mooring at Norton Junction on Sunday morning I thoroughly rubbed down the scars on the starboard gunnel and did my best to avoid any more scars as we traversed Braunston Tunnel, however a small boat coming the other way seemed to think the best thing to do when confronted with an oncoming boat, was to stop, resulting in the boat ending up diagonally across the tunnel. He complained that he was dazzled by my headlight, but if he had kept both ends of his boat on his side of the tunnel my light wouldn’t have been in his eyes.
We paused halfway down the six Braunston Locks to buy a bottle of wine for Jacquie from the Admiral Nelson and again at Wharf House Chandlery for some red oxide and blacking for me. Just before we got to Wigrams we stopped to allow me to red oxide the bare metal of the newly sanded gunnel and for the first and possible the last time I entered the marina without touching the sides, got it right at last.
Well that’s it, the adventure is over; yellow marker was applied to the canal map, leaving only a very small proportion of the system which we haven’t explored.
The following week was spent catching up with check up’s at the doctors and dentist and I made the most of the glorious weather to re-black SKYY down to the waterline and sand the port gunnel and repaint both side, ready to have Skyy looking her best for when ABNB come to take photos. The good news is that the doctor thought that I hadn’t done any serious damage to my knee and thankfully it is gradually getting better.
I will occasionally blog just to keep folk up to date with our plans to move back on land, in the meantime a big thank you for all those who took the time to follow and comment on our super five year adventure aboard SKYY.
Friday, 7 September 2012
SATURDAY 1ST TO WEDNESDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER 2012
Our mooring by Thrapston Bridge was used by the Canoe Hire Company for launching its boats and the guys had said that they were putting into the water this Saturday morning 13 canoes and their occupants. I said we would be out of the way by 9.30 but on Friday evening we were joined by two other boats, happily both skippers agreed to be gone by then and dead on time we swung SKYY around and got on our way. The sun was desperate to break through the cloud and eventually it succeeded.
Five locks later we stopped on the extensive mooring beside the Doc Martins sports facility, Regrettable none of the indicated boaters facilities were available, not even water, fortunately we weren’t desperate except for rubbish disposal. We enjoyed an alfresco lunch after which the boys fell asleep in the sunshine. Later in the afternoon we took a stroll up to Irthlingborough, but it turned out to be an uninspiring and tired looking town, only the unusual church tower saved it from total sadness.
On Sunday we intended to move on to Wellingborough, but on the other side of the river the walks around Stanwick Lakes are extensive so most of the morning was spent walking off Jacquie’s last night’s three course meal and as Brian and Marilyn needed to get a taxi back to their car in Thrapston that afternoon, we stayed put.
On Monday we did get going, under the largest arch of the old medieval bridge before passing under the 1930’s bypass bridge. We did now need water and at Wellingborough we were able to fill up, although the pumpout and Elsan sluice was not operational, it has to be said that this river is almost totally devoid of any useable facility other than at a boatyard and as for rubbish disposal, EA provide none at all and we were reduced to getting rid of it in small quantities in litter bins, one might be forgiven in thinking that EA is doing its best to deter boaters, but maybe I am just getting a bit jaded.
The embankment mooring was right beside a park with a child’s mini funfair and it was buzzing, we did think we would move on, but were too lazy and as the sun went down it quietened except for the noise from the Whitbread flour mill on the opposite bank. It was in fact the most disturbed night’s sleep we have both had in five years of cruising, so be warned.
It was a bright Tuesday morning and soon there were lots of mums and children about, feeding the swans and ducks and we got chatting to one of them, the two children whispered to mum, they were asking if they could come on board to have a look, no problem, except as I picked the second child up to swing her on board, my left knee went ‘PING’ and now I am hobbling, amazingly there is no pain when I am resting it, but I can’t put much weight on it and the seventeen locks of the Northampton Arm aren’t too far ahead.
Jacquie did all seven of the locks on the way to Billings Aquadrome Marina, which is on the outskirts of Northampton, we had hoped to moor riverside before we got that far, but the indicated moorings had ‘Private No Mooring’ signs so the marina was the only option. I do wish they would put up some descent signage, as the entrance to the marina is immediately beyond a bridge and you are past the entrance before the tiny sign is visible, the only way in is to reverse back under the bridge before turning into the arm, even once into the marina the sign for the pumpout and visitor moorings is so small I couldn’t even read it with binoculars until we were right on it. Anyway the charge is only £6.50 a night, cheapest yet.
It was still another six locks to get into the centre of Northampton and the plan for Wednesday was to get that, far ready to push up the seventeen locks on Thursday. Just before the Northampton Town Lock a new pontoon mooring had been installed alongside the Becket’s Park and we decided to take advantage of this pleasant spot for the rest of the day.
Monday, 3 September 2012
SUNDAY 26TH TO FRIDAY 31ST AUGUST 2012
Ahhhh! That’s better, back on the river, lots of bends to keep you guessing, willow trees trailing their leaves in the water, old multi arched bridges, and mellow mills and the hoot of a steam whistle. Shortly after passing under Peterborough High Road Bridge and the railway bridges, on the left hand side is the Peterborough terminus of the Nene Valley Railway, unfortunately from our position down on the river we couldn’t see the source of the hooting, but we would later.
After three locks and nine miles we arrived at the railway bridge at Sutton, the map showed the EA mooring to be on the far side of the bridge and it may have been once, but now there was a floating pontoon just before. As we walked up from the river Wansford Station, level crossing and signal box were immediately in front of us and then followed all the fun of a size train set. Thomas and friends were in full steam on this bank holiday weekend as we joined the many other train spotters wandering around the station and sidings.
The next morning, Monday, we walked Duggie down the rail track to where they do demonstrations of mail bag pick up and drops offs, in fact in the sidings, they have the last surviving Royal Mail coach that was involved in The Great Train Robbery back in the 60’s.
We passed several more picturesque lock side mills before we stopped for the night just after Ashton Lock. Here we met up again with Ken and Linda, who Jacquie had firat met whilst I was in hospital in Selby in 2010. We walked into thatched village of Ashton, we didn’t visit the Chequered Skipper, but it has a good reputation: apparently the village is owned by the Rothschild family and is an immaculately maintained estate village.
This part of the river is very lovely with several church spires or towers visible at any one time. By Tuesday lunch time we moored at the bottom of the garden of The Kings Head pub at Wadenhoe. We were seduced by the menu and went for a full three course lunch, the deserts were especially delicious and we slept the afternoon away and didn’t eat another thing until breakfast on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning we wandered around, Wadenhoe and it is delightful, in one of the paddocks a couple of pretty Alpacas regarded us over the fence. The village is a trust as the last squire George Ward Hunt died without an heir and it is again, beautifully maintained.
Unfortunately although the sun was shining brightly this morning the forecast was for heavy rain showers later and we had the notorious Islip footbridge to get under. Before we left Wadenhoe moorings I filled the water tank to the top of its 450 lt, capacity, calculating that this was equal to six fellas sitting in the bow and got away in the sunshine. Sure enough just before Islip Lock an iron footbridge seemingly blocked our way, I had been advised to keep well over to the right as supposedly there is a little more head room here. I sighted along the cratch cover and decided it would just clear and it did by ½ an inch, however an overhanging tree stopped our exit and I had to back up and go though at a slight angle, but we made it. I had seriously been considering dismantling the cratch and was very relieved that this wasn’t necessary.
I thought this was an end to our headroom problems, until the first arch of the medieval Nine Arched Thrapston Bridge came into view, I thought we would never get through that, but thankfully as the other arches came into view I realised that the navigation arch was much bigger. As we began to exit the arch I had to turn hard right to reach the mooring, even then bow was on the opposite bank, leaving just enough room for the stern to clear the bridge parapet, but we were soon snugly tied up before the rain came down.
We sat out the rain on Thursday, with other boats moored alongside us waiting for the water level to drop before attempting the footbridge, that made me feel really smug about pushing on yesterday. On a bright and warm Friday I decided to clear out the engine bay, rub down the rusty bits, prime and top coat it all. The forecast was no rain, so I felt comfortable leaving tools and paint pots on the grass beside the boat whilst the paint dried overnight, the weather had other plans and it started to rain, so very hurriedly we bundled it all under the cratch.
Marilyn and Brian joined us for the weekend on Friday evening in time to enjoy an excellent meal in the Woolpack pub in Islip before we welcomed them back on to Skyy for a farewell cruise.
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
THURSDAY 23RD TO SATURDAY 25TH AUGUST 2012
It has to be said “The Middle Level is very boring” OK the big cloud splattered blue sky does help a little to alleviate the boredom, but from Upwell to Marchmont Priory Lock, the gong is narrow, weedy and very slow. We did call ahead to the lock, this time and the elderly couple who operate it, were very helpful. Shortly after the lock the water opens up to dead straight stretches and you can get a move on, with just the wind farm to stop you from falling asleep. Eventually the outskirts of March arrived to spice things up a touch and then the copper covered tower of the Town Hall came into view and we found a mooring right under it. We sallied forth to the shops and a well stocked card and gift shop provided all we needed for forthcoming, birthdays etc.
Moored just in front of us were Mike and Sally from NB October House and their Whippet, Socks, who, enjoyed playing with Duggie. We also enjoyed their company as we swapped our cruising experiences. The next morning we waved goodbye and made way for the arrival of the first of ten narrow boats that were all decked up with white ribbons and balloons, a couple who keep their boat at Floods Ferry were getting married in the Registry Office in March and were then going to be towed back to Floods Ferry in a pedalo and fortunately it looked as if the sun was going to shine on the happy occasion.
We moved on to Whittlesey, a pleasant market town and moored for the night just beyond Ashline Lock. Tina from Stanground Lock said it would take us about an hour and al half to get to her lock from here and that gave us plenty of time for our midday passage. Friday night passed peacefully and we left just after ten o’clock on Saturday. Once again the going was very slow and we arrived only just before our appointed time. Tina said that she had been very busy as many boats were travelling to Peterborough for the Bank Holiday weekend beer festival.
Just before we turned onto the River Nene, I grabbed this shot of a real pirates house, without doubt the most exciting place on the Middle Levels and the only thing worth getting the camera out for.
We could just hear the rock band from our chosen mooring spot on the river and as we walked into town we were very glad that we hadn’t moored closer, as the crowd in the football stadium, on the other side of the river were in competition with the band. We took the precaution of taking our golf umbrella with us, which was just as well as it took the brunt of the sudden torrential rain storm as we scurried into the shopping centre.
Considering all that was going on in Peterborough, we again had an undisturbed night, so if you are planning bringing your boat to this town do not be put off by mooring on the so called Embankment, our experience has showed to be a pleasant untroubled place, although the pumpout facility is still not working.