Sunday 31 August 2014

Night-time drama in Newark

While staying up too late writing last night's post, and reading on CWDF about Fairstar, a 1939 wooden cruiser - one of the Dunkirk Little Ships - currently sitting on the bottom of the Thames, I was disturbed by a helicopter flying low overhead and not going away. This was at about 0115 (yes, I know). After it hadn't gone away for some time I looked out of the window and saw a lot of flashing blue lights on the other side of the cut.

A police helicopter was illuminating the scene with a searchlight. There was activity in the water at the foot of a ladder set into the wall. I feared the worst, but this evening I read on the Newark Advertiser website that a woman who had apparently fallen in was being rescued.

At a more civilised time in the morning we went to Newark Evangelical Church, then we carried on our way. Just the other side of the bridge is Newark Castle, reaching right down to the water.

Newark Town Lock was surrounded by gongoozlers, and we were joined in the lock by a splendid-looking wooden boat 111 years old. (Another Dunkirk boat.)

Here is Shahjehan bearing down on us preparing to overtake.

Apparently she was once owned by Semprini, the famous musician.

One more shot as she passed:

We tied up for the night against a highish wall just above Gunthorpe Lock. We discovered later that there was space on the floating pontoon moorings just before the bridge, but we managed to get the stern aligned with a ladder so decided to stay put.

After a walk after tea we got chatting to the owners of a cruiser moored in front of us, Papillon Two. Simon and Stella invited us on board for a glass of wine, so we climbed up to the flybridge (I think it's called) and watched the stars come out. We were a bit nearer to hem up there! It did seem like quite a long way down to the water. I think it was the first time I'd been on one of those tall cruisers. Then S+S came for a look round Jubilee.

Nottingham tomorrow.

Saturday 30 August 2014

The persistence of duckweed, and up, down and up Newark Nether Lock

Just a quick update as I've been distracted by Canal World Discussion Forums - and I can't believe the time!

We're now moored at Newark, having had a smooth passage up the rest of the tideway.

I got a big surprise before setting off, though.

After ploughing through acres of duckweed on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal on Thursday I quite expected to see the stuff in the weedhatch, and this is what it looked like.

This morning I lifted the weedhatch - and found it was still there!

This was after miles of fast running between Keadby and Torksey. How could anything stay in there for so long?

I cleared out as much as I could by scooping it with my hand, then I used a cloth to "mop up" most of the rest.

The cruise up to Cromwell Lock was uneventful, and less windy than yesterday. The flood tide wasn't as strong, and we averaged only 4.8 mph. In fact, the tidal bit below Cromwell Lock felt no different from the non-tidal bit above.

I took fewer photos; this one needs a caption.

Soon we were approaching Newark Nether lock, the only other lock we were to do today.

There were more boats around; at Cromwell Lock there were three narrowboats, one widebeam and a cruiser; at Nether Lock we'd lost the widebeam and the cruiser but gained another narrowboat. The lockkeeper was being very gentle - it took ages for the lock to fill. Even when he raised the sluices a bit more to produce more bumpy stuff than any of the tidal waters we were on.

Nicholson's suggests that there's a water point below the lock. In fact it's on the lock side, so we were invited to water up still attached to the cables in the lock wall while the lock emptied and filled again. Interesting!

And this is where we tied up. The place looked busy, so we grabbed the first space we came to.

By the time we'd got ourselves settled, and bought some supplies from Aldi, we'd left it too late to move to the nicer moorings opposite the castle.

We had a good curry at Asha.

Friday 29 August 2014

Now THAT'S what I call BOATING!

We made it! Well, we got from Keadby to Torksey on the tidal Trent. I won't deny that we weren't a little apprehensive of venturing onto the tideway, with no St. Pancras Cruising Club organised convoy nor Indigo Dreamers to hold our hands, so to speak. Oh, there was one other boat, nb Florence, but, well, we'll see what happens to him.

The day started with the phone alarm going off at 0600. I had woken a minute before, in keen anticipation of what lay ahead. Being up at this hour meant I was able to catch the sunrise over Keadby Swingbridge, with keel Spider T.

The lockie knocked on our roof at 0630 to check we were ready and to say that he'd be opening the bridge for us at 0645.

In a very short space of time we were through the bridge and going down the lock, together with mountains of duckweed. And Narrowboat Florence, crewed by Andrew and Howard.

We had been told that we'd see the flood tide start to come in, and that that would be the signal to leave the lock. However, as the gates opened, we could see that the flow was still right to left, i.e. heading downstream towards the Humber and the North Sea.

That didn't deter Florence, who immediately zoomed out of the lock and headed upstream. We stayed in the shelter of the lock, waiting for the direction of the flow to change.

We would have been waiting a long time, had the lockie not appeared above us after two or three minutes giving us the thumbs up. If the lockie says "go" it must be all right, mustn't it?

So we went.

Later we realised that the apparent direction of flow was merely the strong south wind blowing ripples northwards. I say "ripples" - perhaps that should be "waves" (see later).

So we were now under way on the tidal Trent. It was all slightly anticlimactic, really. The water was calm, the sun peeped out from the clouds, and we chugged along quite nicely.

The first thing of note was the King George V bridge, carrying both road and rail, one span of which used to lift to allow high-masted boats through. (Florence is just passing through the centre span - we were told to use the former lifting span.)

Then came the M180 motorway bridge. There were to be no more bridges until Gainsborough, 14 miles further on. Florence is a speck just before the bridge. But we were gaining.

To show that I didn't hog the tiller, here's Jan steering into the headwind.

With our Isuzu doing a steady but not overworked 1300 rpm we overtook Florence, taking lots of photos of them which I have e-mailed to Andrew. As you can see, there was plenty of room for the manoeuvre. And no oncoming boats to worry about.

This shot shows how choppy the water got, with the southerly wind over the tide. Jubilee rode extremely smoothly over the waves, with barely any detectable movement out of the ordinary. And the speed we were going! Yes, we had the tide with us, but we hit 8.2 mph at one point. And that was at engine revs which often don't push the boat more than 3 mph on the usual shallow canals.

One little job which I had been saving up was to put a car-type sat nav on the slide. I actually got round to doing this yesterday, and it was useful in showing where we were on the river. This is the bit where Garmin's mapping of the Trent shows it suddenly narrowing to a thin blue line. I suppose the river banks did get slightly closer, but not quite so dramatically.

The junction with the River Idle (navigable, but you wouldn't know it from Nicholson - and I'm told you have to fork out a hefty fee to the EA to open a sluice) came up on the right ...

... followed closely by West Stockwith Lock, the junction with the Chesterfield Canal.

I took two photos; in the first the man sitting on the balance beam waved ...

... and in the second the CRT man waved.

Here's proof of our speed (over ground) from the Garmin e-trex device.

There are lots of power stations along the Trent. Here's West Burton Power Station:

... and this is Cottam Power Station:

After not much more than four hours we saw the welcome black and white sign announcing Torksey Lock on our left. We didn't need the actual lock, but we turned into the lock cut.

This was where we had planned to stop for the night. We could have gone on to Cromwell, but we were both happy to stick to our original plan. Anyway, the tide was in now, and we might have had to end the trip unnecessarily having to punch the ebb tide.

Winding in the cut before the lock was interesting in the wind, but we made it OK and tied to the floating pontoon.

It has been a fantastic day's boating, and I'm looking forward to getting to Cromwell and beyond tomorrow. We'd actually coped with wind stronger than many boaters would have been happy with. Indeed, some of our neighbours here on the pontoon chose to sit out today's conditions hoping for a calmer day tomorrow.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Going with a swing (and a lift and a slide)

We travelled only ten miles today, from Thorne to Keadby, but it was one of the most interesting days of our cruise so far. There were no locks, but moveable bridges galore: swinging, lifting and sliding.

After the Princess Royal Swing Footbridge comes Wykewell Lift Bridge.

Yesterday the duckweed started drifting towards our mooring in Thorne; today we were well and truly in the thick of it.

Duckweed in front of us ...

... and duckweed behind us.

It didn't really impede our progress much, though, an occasional blast of astern cleared the prop. It's nothing like as bad as leaves.

There isn't time to document all the wonderful variety of moveable bridges here, but I can't not show a few photos of the amazing Sliding Railway Bridge just east of Vazon Swing Bridge.

The railway - and it's a busy one - crosses the canal only just off the level. Rather than swinging or lifting out of the way, cables pull a great slab of angled bridge, complete with rails, so that it retracts to one side of the line to the east. It's difficult to describe without an aerial photo or plan.

As we went through the gap we could see the ends of the rails (with white marking).

As soon as we were through the bridgeman closed the bridge. It's a 24 hour a day operation.

We tied up briefly on the bridge landing so that I could go and see the bridge from above. The towpath conveniently crosses on the level affording excellent viewing. Just as I had crossed a train came past, its whistle preceding it by only a couple of seconds.

Here you can see the angled cut through the tracks. The rails either side of the join take a hammering - the noise of trains going over is incredibly loud.

Especially when a freight train crosses. This is a coal train on its way to or from Drax Power Station I expect. How do I know it's coal?

Because it says so. The noise carries straight down the canal to our mooring half a mile away.

I also have to show the reason for our being at Keadby: the lock onto the Trent. Shortly after we tied up three boats came into the lock from the river, followed by two more. The lockie had the first three wait before the swing bridge until the other two had come up the lock, then he let all five through the swingbridge at once.

This is where we are; Jubilee is the middle boat.

To end a glorious T-shirt and shorts day there was a nice sunset over Keadby (gas-fired) Power Station.

An early alarm call for us tomorrow as we'll be checked in at 0645 by the lockie ready for an estimated 0710 release onto the flood tide to take us to the safety of Torksey Cut.

I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Stocking up at Thorne Boat Services and preparing for the Trent

We were in no rush, so we left the mooring outside the New Inn at 0945. As expected, it had been a quiet night. I forgot to mention yesterday that the coleslaw accompanying the meal there appeared to have been home made. It was very good.

Thorn was only three miles away, so we were soon at the swing bridge and lock. The swing bridge is manually operated but the lock is electric; when penning down (the terminology in these parts) you have to fill the lock and open the top gates, then close the road barriers, then swing the bridge before entering the lock, closing the bridge and working down.

We tied up initially on the linear moorings before the boatyard. The man on a neighbouring boat told us how his boat and that of a friend had recently been set adrift from there by members of the local populace. As soon as I'd done some more diesel sampling we moved onto the boatyard's services mooring for a tankful of diesel, after which we moved to the finger pontoons by the CRT services block, with entry by BW padlock.

At the boatyard, Thorne Boat Services, in addition to the diesel we bought two new automatically inflating life jackets, two 40' lengths of rope and a tin of grease. The long (ish) ropes are for Keadby Lock; the helpful boatyard man spliced eyes in them for us.

Now, on the subject of diesel, the result of my sampling the far recesses of the tank this morning was a jam jar filled mostly with good clean fuel, but with a certain amount of crud at the bottom. I showed this to the boatyard man who said that the dirt probably contained water, and suggested that I drain the agglomerator. I will do this tomorrow; if a significant amount of water comes out I will consider replacing the filter as well. This despite having put a new one on only a few weeks ago. The man (I really should have asked his name) said that if the fuel take-off is not at the bottom of the tank then, over a period of a few years, a lot of water/muck can build up without becoming apparent. This could lead to a problem when entering bumpy water for the first time. On the other hand, had the boat been built with the take-off at the bottom, the tank would constantly be "cleaned" by the filters preventing build-up of anything which isn't diesel. He approved of my "small" diesel tank, though, agreeing that a relatively high turnover of fuel is a good thing. (Jubilee's tank is 100 litres; many narrowboats have tanks double that capacity.)

As well as checking the agglomerator tomorrow, I shall get the anchor out and attach it to the boat, and check that the insurance covers me for the tideway.

Oh - we had a barbecue this evening, while the smoke from a neighbouring boat's stove drifted across...

Tuesday 26 August 2014

No water found in diesel

The first job this morning was to sample the bottom of the diesel tank. The way I did it was to strap a thin flexible plastic pipe to the dipstick and suck up fluid to nearly the top, then allow it to empty into a jamjar.

I had to fix the pipe to the dipstick to keep it straight.

This was what I got out. There are a few bits of muck, but no water that I could detect.

Having done this, and satisfied myself that there was no water in the diesel tank, we set off. But, later, I had another thought (dangerous). What if the bottom of the tank slopes, or the boat itself was listing slightly? Then any water would have found its way to the lowest part, not necessarily where I put the sampling tube.

I'm going to have to do it again, this time poking the tube into different "corners".

To the travelling, then. I know I took photos of Conisbrough Viaduct on our way into Sheffield last week, but it really is a splendid structure.

Just beyond Barnby Dun is Bramwith Junction, where the Stainforth and Keadby Canal forks right, with the New Junction Canal on the left. We took the right fork - now we are on yet another waterway new to us.

Just past the junction, past more boats than we've seen for a long time, is Bramwith Lock. Time to get the windlass out again; this one has more conventional paddle gear (although there is no pawl on the easy-to-wind gate paddles - one just winds the paddle down again without having to do anything else. That fooled me for a moment or two). One interesting feature is the chain and hook used to keep the gates shut after use.

There are a few more locks on the system where this would be a good idea!

After eight hours on the engine clock we tied up in Stainforth right outside the New Inn. Saving the meal which Jan had been cooking for later in the week, when we might be far from shops or pubs, we ate a good meal in the pub. And the beer, Kelham Brewery's Easy Rider, was excellent.

We now have time in hand before our scheduled entry onto the Trent on Friday, so tomorrow we'll just pootle the three miles to Thorne where we'll spend a lot of money in the chandler's. On the list is proper lifejackets and long ropes.