Sunday, 26 September 2010

Godmanchester to The Lazy Otter

We spent the weekend bringing Patience back from Godmanchester.
Moored under trees at Godmanchester Backwater

Knowing Saturday would be fine but rain was predicted by Sunday afternoon, we had a good meal on Saturday evening (good value, well patronised, good atmosphere, magnificent website though inefficient male loos) at The Old Ferry Boat at Holywell. There are good walks around here too,on  The Great Ouse Valley Way. Then Jenny and Sarah made their excuses and left us to it.
The Old Ferry Boat, Holywell, and Patience moored below
 So on Sunday John and I beat our way against the winds through Brownhills Staunch and Hermitage Lock back to the Lazy Otter, at which point the downpour began.
This is a delightful stretch of water with lovely towns and villages when seen from the river - Brampton, Godmanchester, Hertford, Houghton, St Ives , Earith ... with swans and geese, cormorants, grebes ... not to mention riverside pubs and restaurants with ample moorings. A pleasure to wander along.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Single Handed Boating

I mentioned my single handed venture in the previous post then came upon some notes I'd made a while ago. Worth reading. 
Harvested from an article in Waterways World January 2010 by Peter Fellows.

Anticipate problems! Work out a solution before acting!

Have at hand (ie not deep in the cabin): map, phone, windlass, waterproofs, refreshments (eg tea or coffee in a flask) and camera. Get used to packing all you need in a bag right next to you. Also have mooring pins and a hammer nearby for quick mooring.

When leaving a mooring reverse and push the stern out. Only when you are clear swing the bow into the middle.
If stopping briefly nudge the bow into the bank and hold it in place with the engine in forward at tickover speed.

Be very careful at obscure junctions or where bends or trees block your view. Sound your horn and listen carefully.
A sudden collision could knock you off and leave you stranded, or worse. Always stand in front of the tiller.
Wear a life jacket. imagine what could happen if you fall in and there's no-one else around ....

Pulling in
A centre rope is essential. Aim for the bank with the bow at a shallow angle. Swing the tiller to bring the stern against the bank and simultaneously reverse. Step off holding the centre rope and secure it to a bollard. Place engine in neutral and either wait for your lock or moor up with mooring ropes.

Mooring in wind
An offshore wind can pull you away from the shore while mooring so try to choose a sheltered spot, apply the centre rope immediately and prepare by tying the centre rope to a mooring pin before you manoeuvre, hammering it in instantly.

Plan carefully, use the centre rope – and ask for help from bystanders if possible.
Keep the stern away from the cill but place engine in tickover reverse for downhill or tickover forward for uphill while holding onto the bow rope.
Keep the roof clear at all times so you can climb on and off the boat roof in deep locks.
The Heron is also a solitary soul ....

Solo to Godmanchester

Patience at rest in Godmanchester backwater
I share Patience with John and we've had a great time together pootling up and down river, fixing improving and generally mulling over the ways of the world. I've found boating very sociable. However I've always fancied venturing out by myself from time to time though I've been put off by the realisation of how hard it can be to control a 45 foot narrow boat in difficult conditions (currents and winds can be real problems on the east anglian rivers.)
Anyway, having read up about solo techniques at this blog and it being a beautiful day with plans to go boating at the weekend too, I set off from the Otter aiming for Godmanchester. Why Godmanchester? Well it's a pretty little village (er, ancient town!) with a backwater (literally, that's no slur!) and at the bottom of the garden at the offices where I work there is an ideal unused mooring (though an overhanging branch is in wait, ready to scrape off the TV aerial).
It means I can commute (in a very round about, wholly impractical way) to work.
It also serves as a convenient staging place to explore the further regions of the Great Ouse instead of always returning to our main moorings at Stretham.
So I had a great trip, the weather was fantastic, I managed some of the locks single handed and at others was helped by other boaters in a small cruiser heading from Holywell to Huntingdon. It's also handy to be going upstream in locks where the gates are downstream and most of the locks are guillotines (no arm-tiring winding).
Approaching mill and bridges at Huntingdon
The Old Bridge from the Godmanchester side

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Neptune Staircase

While John and Sarah cared for Patience in East Anglia Jenny and I made a regular pilgrimage to Scotland and amongst many other things took in the Neptune Staircase at Fort William, on the Caledonian Canal.
It's a pleasant walk and particularly fascinating to watch as a tall yacht goes through the full staircase, which is the longest lock in the UK (according to wikipedia). To go through the whole stair the lock keepers must close both road and railway and swing both bridges aside to let the boats through.
Here's the step by step record:
First the boat in a higher lock, making its way down

Now, viewed from the bottom of the locks and to my left,  the road ...
... and  here to my right is the railway (Fort William to Mallaig)
Now the road is swung around ...

and the railway bridge is also swung away, to allow the boat finally to pass through to another part of the Caledonian Canal. A sight to see!

Ely and back

A very pleasant day trip from our base at the Lazy Otter (near Stretham) is to motor the 6 miles down river to Ely, moor up, have lunch in 'The Cutter' on the waterfront, visit the Ely Boat Chandlers (always a source of useful equipment and good advice) and return leisurely to base. We have done this a few times over the summer.
The attached photo shows Patience moored up right outside The Cutter, not always possible, on Friday 3rd September. On this occasion we also took the opportunity to top up Patience's diesel and water tanks at the Cathedral Marina.