About Me

My photo
70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


TUESDAY 19TH TO TUESDAY 26TH JUNE 2012            

To have arrived at the Dog in the Doublet tidal lock just before high tide, a few miles downstream from Peterborough, would have meant leaving Wisbech at 6am on Tuesday morning; this didn’t appeal so we spent a very pleasant day wandering around Wisbech. Like so many towns in this area it had once been wealthy and the merchant’s houses looking at each other across the river were very elegant and half way along on the right side was the Red Lion pub where we enjoyed lunch.

It was fascinating watching the flow on the river from the comfort of our chairs on the pontoon and suddenly the flow stopped.  We consulted one or the guys from the marina and he confirmed that this would indeed be a good time to turn our boats around so that they would be pointing in the right direction for tomorrow mornings departure, but this slack water would only last for about fifteen minutes. No sooner said than done and with the boats still tied together we headed a little way down stream and as before with one engine astern and the other forward we swung round and just got back and tied up to the pontoon before the incoming tide started to push upstream. We could sleep easy now.

We departed Wisbech at 6.30 am Wednesday and had a delightful three hour cruise, carried by the incoming tide almost all the way to the Lock. Mick welcomed us in, but informed us that we would not be able to get onto the Middle Level via Stanground Lock as it was closed up tight to prevent a toxic chemical spillage that had polluted the river Nene, from getting onto the Levels. Also a ‘Strong Stream’ warning was in place preventing us from travelling further up the Nene than Peterborough. We would be stuck here for a few days, but the situation could have been far worse. We waved goodbye to Kim and John as they boarded a taxi to take them to the station, before using the convenient facilities and moving a little out of town before mooring up. 

Thursday and Friday we relaxed, the one downside of being here was the huge number of dead fish, killed by the spillage, which were floating down the river and lodging around the stern of our boats, mostly predators, big pike etc. and some eels, we kept sweeping them away but within an hour another dozen or so would have collected. The city centre is very attractive, pedestrianized with fountains in front of the old market square and cathedral, with plenty of spaces to sit and people watch. 

 The really good news is that Jacquie’s son and girlfriend had announced their engagement and on Saturday we took the opportunity top hop on train and tube to South London to enjoy a celebratory dinner with them with. We travelled back on Sunday, Duggie now having experienced every form of transport except flying and proving himself bomb proof.

In the meantime Don had booked our passage through Stanground Lock with Tina for 10.30am on Monday; twenty four hour notice has to be given for this lock and now that the pollution threat to the Levels had passed Tina would be able to let us through. We used the facilities for the last time before travelling down the cut to the lock and then it all went pear shaped. Don’s boat was too high to pass under a bridge over the lock, we both might have been able to have got through if we entered astern, but where as our 57ft would be able to turn again after the lock, Angonoka’s 60ft would have had to have gone astern for a mile or so before being able to turn. Tina said that providing there was no more rain, by the end of the week the water level should have dropped sufficiently to get us under the bridge and through the lock in the traditional way, nose first.

A disappointment, but time to attend to some odd jobs, plus doctor’s appointment for repeat subscriptions etc. One of those jobs was to fit a car 12v cigarette lighter socket to SKYY. We are turning off the inverter at night, as I now understand that even if there is no draw on the inverter, there is still a substantial drain on the batteries Night-time, however is a good time to charge the mobile phones, now, via 12v phone chargers we can charge them much more efficiently.  Happily on Wednesday the water stopped flooding over the river bank and we are now booked in for 10am on Thursday, fingers crossed.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


MONDAY 18TH JUNE 2012                                                   

I had for a year or more been seriously considering crossing the Wash in our narrow boat and it was Andrew Denny’s excellent article in a magazine last autumn, about 10 boats crossing the Wash from Wisbech to Boston, that spurred me on to make the necessary arrangements. The first thing to do was to recruit another boat and crew to accompany us on this venture and fortunately Judy and Don from N.B Agonoka were up for it.  The next and without doubt the most important thing was to secure the services of a pilot and after an initial email and a phone call to Daryl Hill, who was the lead pilot of last year’s ten boats flotilla, he agreed to take us across on the 16th of June.

The forecast was correct, grey cloud and drizzle, but hardly any wind; that was the good part and I confirmed all of this as I poked my head out of the hatch at 6am on Monday the 18th June, atrocious storms had been battering the West coast and our booked passage for the Saturday was considered unwise, but sea conditions for Monday were looking good.

 Mike the lock keeper, at Boston Grand Sluice, had said that both boats should be at the lock by 7am, as the timing for the ‘second level’ would be tight and he wanted us to be there, ready to go, in plenty of time. The tides were not very high and with a lot of fresh water coming downstream he couldn’t be sure of the timing, but it should be a little after 8am  The sluice or as we canal folk usually refer to it, the lock, is just over 40ft long, so for canal boats to pass through, both the sea gates and the river gates have to be open at the same time and this can only happen when the water level on the tidal side is exactly ‘level’ as on the non tidal side of the river. This is a very short window of opportunity and would occur approximately 2½ hours after high tide and we would have an ebbing tide to assist us downstream and out to sea. Accordingly at 6.30 we slipped our mooring from the BW finger pontoons and headed down towards the lock and the famous Boston Stump.

Full of fuel, engines serviced and running well, charts of the Wash ready, emergency navigations lights attached and First Mate John and Dangerous Cargo Kim on board, we awaited Daryl’s arrival. The five flower tubs on the roof, which are normally in line astern were now in line abreast and had been strapped together to prevent them tipping overboard if things cut up rough. Doors and drawers were gaffer taped to prevent them suddenly opening and discharging their contents, shelves were cleared, their contents placed on the bed and life jackets donned, including the dogs, we were as ready as we would ever be.

Daryl appeared promptly at 7am, his dry sense of humour was immediately apparent and we knew we would have a good day, despite being disappointed when told it might not be possible to beach the boats for a picnic, which we all thought would be the highlight of the trip. At 8.38 the lock gates started to open and as the lights turned green Angonoka, with Daryl relaxing onboard, took the lead through the lock and we followed on down the windy river, passing the many rotting hulks and then a large coaster reminded us that we really were heading for the open sea. Duggie was looking bored until we passed the buoy marking the junction of the River Witham and the Welland and Skyy started to gently rise and fall to the incoming swell a motion that Duggie was not used to.

We followed the buoys, green cones to port side and red cans to starboard; it was a bit like joining the dots, but not quite touching. The cans were lettered from F to A or Foxtrot to Alpha and at Delta can we start to change direction from North East to South East. Roger Sand on our starboard side was exposed and we saw our first seals. After we passed Alpha can, we headed out towards Boston Roads Buoy and the boats began to pitch a little and Duggie now looked a bit sorry for himself, but as we turned south at Boston Roads the motion eased and we were again heading back towards land. There was still a lot of open water before I spotted RAF 7 buoy. I needn’t had worried, Daryl knew exactly where he was instructing Don to point Agonoka and we just followed along. The rain had stopped and at times blue sky was seen, but not for long.

We were making good progress and had been on the move for nearly five hours, when huge red banners were visible on the sands on our starboard side, when we consulted the chart we saw that this is the Holbeach Firing Practice Area and a nearby wreck was obviously used by the RAF for target practice, the red signs indicated the range was in use but this didn’t stop Daryl instructing Don to drive Angonoko up onto the sand, naturally we followed. Many seals slid into the sea and swam around to eyeball us whilst we climbed down our ladders, deployed our anchor for the very first time and handed down the dogs. They chased each other excitedly around the sand whilst the girls opened a bottle of bubbly and the guys quenched their thirst with beer, wriggling our toes in the damp sand. Daryl assured us that our presence would have been noted from a distant control tower and no planes would be coming our way, but just as the sun broke through the boats started to swing as the tide turned and there was no time for a beach picnic, but no matter. The boats were backed off the beach to deeper water, Angonoka’s anchor was thrown out and we moved alongside, breasted up and enjoyed a lovely lunch whilst Daryl entertained us with plenty of anecdotes and a fast fisheries protection vessel kept its watchful eye on us.

The sun was shining brightly now and would do so for the last part of our journey, the incoming tide would help push us up the River Nene to Wisbech. Daryl, thought it would be a good idea to stay breasted up (tied side to side), as mooring at the yacht harbour can be tricky, the lines were tightened and the anchor recovered, initially the boats jostled against one another, but as the entrance to the river became more confined the boats moved together as one. Suddenly the air was rent as a jet fighter screamed overhead on its way to the firing range and many more followed as we moved on. Navigating from one buoy to another was much more difficult as the incoming sea kept pushing the boats sideways, and it was here that Daryl’s vast experience paid off, with instructions such as “keep that buoy lined up with the centre of that island”, followed up “well it’s not that critical” as I was obviously making hard work of it, but it all came right in the end. The green cones were now on our starboard and the red cans on the port side.   

There were several boats moored nearby, all involved in laying high tension electricity cables to connect to shore the new wind farm which we had seen far out in the Wash and a strange looking trenching machine up on the mud, as we approached the two unofficial lighthouses at the entrance to the river. Just before Sutton Swing Bridge Daryl pointed out one of his several offices; the Pilot Boat. His proper job is skippering this boat taking the pilots out to bring in the coastal boats to Boston, Wisbech and Kings Lynn ports, no wonder he knows these waters so well.

Just five miles of fairly straight river to go before we would arrive in Wisbech and our adventure would be over. All too soon the pontoons of the Yacht Harbour came into view and Daryl started to swing the boats 180 deg. With one boat’s engines astern and the other forward, just like a twin engine cruiser, he accomplished this very neatly despite the fast flowing water coming up behind us. He now very gradually let the boats float backwards pushed by the current, controlling our arrival at the pontoon by deftly manipulating the throttles. At 6p.m with the ropes secured, we were surprised to learn from Daryl that only five to twenty narrow boats a year make this crossing and that we can therefore consider ourselves to be part of an elite group. We settled our dues and said farewell to Daryl thanking him for a great day.

In conclusion, anybody looking for a little extra excitement, should consider this, as it was nowhere near as challenging as we thought it might have been, but Daryl is essential.  

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


John and Kim appeared coming down the pontoon having just arrived by car at Woodhall Spar on Thursday morning; whenever we consider doing something out or the ordinary or risky, they are always invited to join us, after all, they are the ones who persuaded us to buy a boat and if we are going to go ‘down’ in the Wash then they are definitely going with us. Judy and Don had, earlier in the day moved on five miles to Dogdyke and as we set off to catch them up, we were continually over flown at very low levels by Typhoons, John knows about these things, as they did circuits and bumps at the nearby Coningsby Airfield.

We moored on The Packet Inn’s pontoon and in the evening enjoyed a good meal there, whilst J & D got to know J & K.

In the morning we decided to take the short walk to Coningsby Airfield whilst J & D looked after Duggie. After some come confusion, caused by us getting on the wrong queue, we were rescued by Dick who took us on a close up tour of the hangar where the Battle of Britain Memorial flight is kept. A Dakota stood on the tarmac and inside there was  Hurricane, several versions of Spitfires, a taildrager trainer and right at the back of the hangar there, loomed the menacing bulk of the black bellied Lancaster Bomber. Dick was a great guide and having served in the RAF for 45 years there was nothing he didn’t know, his knowledge was passed on to us, with just the right amount of technical detail and humour so much so that the girls really enjoyed the tour. As we left we were treated, to what seemed to be our very own, personal aerobatic show, from fast jets to an old wartime Seafury, fabulous. 

In the afternoon we all moved on to Geordies Boat Sales at Langrick Bridge. This is really a small garage and shop, but with a landing stage for boat services and very accommodating and helpful the owners were. A couple more miles and we stopped for the night at Anton’s Gowt. There is a lock here which leads onto the Witham Navigable Drains, which if we were further delayed from our crossing we might explore.

The weather was gradually improving, as we did the final couple of miles into Boston on Saturday and the famous Stump of St. Botolph’s Church came into view. We were concerned about the supposed lack of visitor moorings, in fact there was plenty of space on the finger pontoons and it was all very secure and only a short walk into town. I called Daryl, our pilot, to confirm that we were in place and ready for Sunday, when he said that he thought the water on Monday would be smoother. Slightly disappointed we decided to spend the time exploring Boston, relaxing and chatting to Mike the Lock Keeper, who was a mine of information, but be warned, leave plenty of time. Whilst sitting in the town square having coffee, who should walk pass? but Dick our Coningsby Guide, now in his weekend role as verger to St. Bolotph’s, he invited up to climb the 365 steps to the top of the tower and with good intentions some of us thought we would, but in fact none of us did.

A little more exploring on Sunday, but unfortunately the splendid Maud Foster Mill was not open, we should have visited on Saturday. We viewed the tidal river downstream from the Grand Sluice, we would be cruising this stretch on Monday and on the way back we were puzzled by what the building with the huge swan on the roof could have been built for. The evening presented us with a lovely sunset, a good omen, but the forecast for Monday morning was drizzle, no couldn’t be, sunshine and calm seas all the way tomorrow was what we had ordered, we should soon see.

Monday, 18 June 2012


Yes at last we have safely crossed the Wash. very enjoyable, but a long day and we are now exhausted, so pictures and words will follow shortly.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


MONDAY 11TH TO WEDNESDAY 13TH JUNE 2012                          

On a cold Monday morning it was our turn to slip through the Murder Hole and under suspended sculptures before passing the shopping area of Lincoln and arriving at Stamp End Lock. Something else to pass under here; the top gate is a guillotine and drips on you, but fortunately electrically operated. We are now on the River Witham and this will take us all the way to Boston. The first eight miles to Bardney Bridge are nearly as straight as the Fossdyke and here we stopped on the pontoon, just before the sugar beet factory. Afternoon tea was taken with chocolate birthday cake as I am now clickety click, lucky 66 and Judy produced a delicious lemon meringue pie for evening desert, proving just how lucky I am.

The plan for Tuesday morning was for the girls to walk the dogs the three miles to Southrey, where Don and I would stop for the water point and pick them up. Unfortunately the tow path appeared to be impenetrable and a mile or so downstream after a phone call I turned around and at 2,200 revs. stomped back up river, I have never cruised this fast, but although SKYY didn't quite get up onto the plane, she did handle well and soon I glided back to the pontoon at Bardney to collect the girls and pooches and catch up with Don at the Southrey pontoon. Unfortunately there are now no facilities here not a problem as neither of us are short of water, so after coffee we moved onto to Woodhall Spa.

As you leave the river to walk to the town you first have to traverse a section of the Water Railway, this is the path that runs from Lincoln to Boston along the old railway track. The platform, signal box and level crossing gate of Woodhall Station still survive, the station now converted to a delightful home. The guide says that this small town looks like a seaside holiday resort, and it’s not wrong, Frinton on Sea definitely came to mind. The old Spa Hotel still looks very smart and everything is unspoilt and unchanged. There is an ancient cinema tucked away in the wood that has been continuously showing films since 1922, it is complete with a Compton organ, whatever that is, but more unusually, the films are back projected onto the screen. 

The ‘Dambusters’ were based here and the memorial on the green shows the breaching of the Rhur dams and now delta winged aircraft regular streak across the sky.

The forecast for our Saturday Wash crossing is not good, with winds in the region of 20 mph I have had a chat with our pilot who has agreed that from Sunday onwards the winds are dropping and in the main blowing from the South West, which is much preferable than from the North East. Accordingly we have decided to stay put on the pontoon and move down to Boston on Friday and hopefully cross on Sunday or Monday. The dogs got a surprise on this morning walk when they came upon some rusty sheep that refused to move, it took a bit of reassurance before they would approach these remarkable metal sheep.