THURSDAY 27TH JUNE TO SUNDAY 1ST JULY 2012
Skyy has been on rivers, great and small, canals, straight and bendy, over aqueducts and through tunnels, but never down a drain, but that is exactly what we are doing today. The water level has dropped nine inches and this was more than enough for us to leave the Nene and travel down the Back River (Drain) and pass under the footbridge that crosses the top of Stanground Lock and. Tina, the lockkeeper provided us, for a small fee, with the necessary windlass and key for facilities.
The drain is actually quite pretty, but quickly became very narrow up to an extremely tight bend at Whittlesey. The way keeps changing its name, first to Kings Dyke (Drain) and then Briggate River and again to Whittlesey Dike (yes, dike with an i this time). At Flood’s Ferry the River Nene Old Course flowed in and the way became much wider and river like. A little passed the junction we moored for the night at the small Flood’s Ferry marina, the weather was very hot and humid and just as I got the chairs and the sun umbrella out the heavens opened. We were lucky the news next day showed areas under water, we only got covered in rain dust.
About four miles on and we arrived at March on Friday morning, the riverside properties are a mixture of tumbledown and smartly refurbed cottages and is the most attractive part of the town. The town moorings are immediately opposite the Town Hall and its clock, fortunately it stopped chiming the hours between 11pm and 7am and it would have been a peaceful night apart from the noisy revellers making their way to the park at 1.30 am.
Before moving on to Upwell on Saturday we took advantage of the pleasant weather and washed that rain dust off of one side of SKYY and after collecting my prescription from Boots we hurried on to rejoin Angonoka. The river is wide and deep as it passes the twenty five wind turbines that are on the left bank, they were definitely earning their keep on this bright and breezy day. Shortly afterwards there is a fork in the river and our way became much narrower. We got our knuckles wrapped at the Marchmont Priory Lock, as we should have phoned ahead, but I can’t believe that water conservancy is a problem at this moment, never mind we were soon through. Upwell and Outwell are two connected linear villages that line either side of the narrow river. These are ancient an at one time isolated places and it still feels like it, beware the very low bridges, I snapped off my radio aerial and the satellite dish got knocked flat, whilst the poor wind battered flowers on the roof got seriously ruffled. Angonoka was moored by Upwell church and we glided in behind her, for a very peaceful night.
July 1st has not brought summer with it, but we did wash the other side of SKYY before leaving Upwell for the two and a bit hours cruising to Salters Lode. We arrived in time to watch two other boats exit this tidal lock onto the River Great Ouse and travel one mile upstream to the imposing structure of Denver Sluice. The lock Keeper invited us to watch the procedure so that we would know what to do when our turn came tomorrow morning at 7 am. The first boat through the lock, applied plenty of power and successfully turned upstream, but instead of getting over to the extreme right side of the river he was more or less in the middle. Our lock keeper said “I told him to get over to the right and not to turn towards Denver Sluice until its lock keeper waved him over” A sand bar had formed in front of the lock following the April floods and if you chickened out and turned too soon you would be on it and that’s exactly what happened to this boat. The second boat through, did as instructed and turned between the stricken vessel and the sluice. He took a rope, but with the tide dropping fast and despite his efforts the first boat would be going nowhere until the next high tide. We certainly now knew what was ahead of us on tomorrow’s high tide, but with the added complication that we might be required to pull the boat of the mud, that’ll give us something to dream about tonight.