Sunday, September 28, 2008

Home alone with Molly and Tara

Ann went home to help our son and family move house. It is surprising how many people and organisations need to know where you are. We, Molly and me, are in a new routine, she tales me for a walk in the misty mornings and in the warm afternoons. We found a stick in the field which is being chewed and thrown if Molly will let me. It becomes a game next day trying to find where it was left the day before. Poor Tara does not do much as she is old and has gone blind but is happy because she can still purr.
I can cook for myself providing there is something to eat. One spud, cabbage, carrot and even a parsnip goes down with meat pie and gravy. Ann went to the local butcher to stock up before she left. I must remember to get it out of the freezer in the morning. “Done that”. Mince and bolognaise sauce with extra mushrooms and a fresh tomato served with spaghetti for Sunday.
A community of boats has arrived for the weekend. They are all quite friendly with some dogs and a cat among the boaters. But there is always one that runs engine with prop trying to bore a hole in the bank. It was only the other day that some men arrived to fill a hole with sand bags. Well at least the Environment Agency do respond and carry out repairs when needed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On the move again

We are going up through the locks on the Nene many of which have a weir to one side where the river rushes over a waterfall. It has become a habit to use our front rope to prevent the boat heading over to the weir as we leave the lock.

We stopped a night at Fotheringay after topping up with water. The stone arched bridge showing some damage caused during the flood where boats coming down stream had smashed into it.

St Mary & All Saints church here has a huge lantern tower but because part of the original building was demolished it now looks out of proportion.

An air balloon landed in the field in the evening not far from the boat. The balloon was slowly deflated as darkness fell. Ann went to watch and felt all the hot air being forced out. The owner of the field had charged us for staying the night here and also asked the owner of the balloon for a landing fee!
Later on we intend to get back to the canal system. Must be before November when the Northampton flight is closed for winter maintenance. We are concerned about items of news in Narrowboat World on the internet. Two narrowboats stuck in a bridge hole! “Some disagreement about who should go through first”. Apparently there is a rule about giving way if you are on the towpath side. “Just stop and wait by the tow path then”. The other rule is to give way to boats coming down stream while on rivers. Also reported is the boater who’s boat, with fenders down, got stuck in a narrow lock! The ‘old’ boaters would never move with fenders down.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Situation improving

RCR located an engineer and they arrived in the afternoon. Two young well mannered lads set about sorting the problem. Not the cable but the gear box lever which had moved on the shaft, apparently a common problem on PRM 120’s. Having been reset and tested the gear box was given a clean bill of health. The lads accepted a tip with our gratitude. During the dry warm day a few more boats passed by us some still suffering from the strong flow on the way down river.
Meanwhile Ann goes for walks round the fields and into the woods. On the way discovering these Herdwick Sheep. An ancient Lake District breed regarded as the hardiest sheep breed in Britain. Lambs are born black and woolly and go grey with age. The wool is waterproof while the meat has exceptional quality, dark, fine grained and well flavoured.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Day ten

Never before have we stayed in one place for so long. The Environment Agency officially opened the river to navigation at 2 pm today. Several boats had already come up stream. One sailor boat owner told me he had come over from France entering from the Wash, passing Wisbech and Peterborough. I pointed out that the river was still closed to traffic. “No Strong Stream Advice is going to stop me after coming across the channel”.
Later a narrowboat coming down stream had hit a bridge and smashed up the front of his boat. The cratch and cover destroyed. And still they come from far and wide muttering about low bridges. Many coming from Denford which is 14 locks and 23 miles away! Why do they do it? “Got to get back to work” they said. Oh was it worth it.
The river inspector came to see us again, this time delivering containers of water which we poured into our tank. We told him that we could not move yet because we had a problem with the gear box. Since then I discovered how to remove the cable and found that the gear box worked ok. Somehow it is the cable that needs adjusting. We wait for the engineer to be sure it is all working ok before moving on.
That evening a boat went by in the darkness at about 10 o’clock. When we went out later with Molly we discovered that the lazy boaters had left the gates open and guillotine up. This is not the correct procedure. All locks on this river should be left with the guillotine up thus providing a safe haven for those who may be coming up against a strong stream. Just wondering how many other locks have been set wrong.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Up to trouble

“It is ok to go up through the lock but no further”. Well we did ask. We had got so depressed and desperately needed a change of view. The top lock landing looked so inviting so when we could we moved into the lock. Like being let out of a cage it was. Opened the gate and moved slowly out, we had used the centre rope while in the lock but as the boat struggled to get round against the flow it had fallen off. Luckily the boat had started to inch towards the bank when it happened. The engine suddenly stopped. I managed to get the front rope to Ann on the bank and she tied it to a bollard. The flow of water then completed the job of coming into the landing and I tied the back on. The rope had of course got wrapped round the prop shaft. The first time for us in many years of boating. We were both well shaken by these events.
Removing the rope with knife and hacksaw was a struggle below decks in the cold numbing water and I gave up as the light faded. Thankfully we were able to run the engine to fully charge the batteries. There was a comment on our previous blog offering help. How wonderful is that. Next day Roger & Pip arrived for coffee and a chat. They then kindly offered to take Ann to Tesco. While they were away I tackled the rope again and got some of it off. On their return and a drink Roger offered to have a go and eventually got it all off and the prop was free to turn. Unfortunately the prop went backwards but not forwards! Pulling the lever up by hand engaged forward but it was not happy. I called the local marina but believe it or not they do not send engineers out! They expect you to go to them! Roger recommended using River Canal Rescue so I joined up on line and called them out.
Stop Press: News is that EA will be allowing boats to move on Tuesday, thanks to Brian's comment on previous Blog.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Going down

A tree is about to come down
But it won't get under here!
Warnsford lock
Bridge too low or high water!
The angry waters of the Nene
The landing stage is under water. We have been lucky here. At least we were able to get off. Some boaters were given scaffold poles to prevent grounding.
The river inspector was right when he told us we would be here at least a week. The water started going down on day 6. On day 7 the water gauge is now reading 2 whole meters and we can see under the bridge even if we cannot get under it! Our view of the world today has changed now that the water has gone down 0.6 meters which does not sound much but it means a lot to us. Another 0.1 of a meter will bring the level down to the minimum head room specified for navigation on this river by the Environment Agency. We are forced to quote metric because that is how it is measured. That clearance is only just enough as we have to remove many items off the roof to proceed.
The landing stage is now just above the surface and we spent a ‘happy hour’ with Molly, bucket and broom washing all the mud off it. For safety you understand.
The River Inspector came to see us again and was kind enough to take our rubbish away.
The Strong Stream Advice will continue till at least Tuesday. The worst area is at Islip footbridge near Thrapston where the water is still higher than normal ahead of us.
Oh dear it has started to rain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nene flood (Strong Stream)

It is so important to keep stocked up with the consumables while on the waterways as you may not be able to continue your journey. It is now 5 days since we were forced to stop moving. The River Inspector has called each day to keep us informed about the flooding situation. Many locks are still ‘reversed’ letting water rush down to the sea from Northampton and beyond. The river water has turned a dirty brown just like many canals! So long as there is no more rain we could continue by the weekend. The air draught remains at 1.5 meters. We need 2.2 meters to get under the bridges. So the water has to go down 0.7 meters or about 2 feet 6 inches. We have been told that some boaters continued to move against Environment Agency advice! There are many low bridges which are impassable now.
We are unable to get off the boat without having to climb out on to a metal guard rail.
The landing stage is now about 20 inches under water and we look forward to seeing the bollards again!
Each day Molly the dog is packed into the haversack and carried off on Ann’s back. They have been off to the Post Office / Shop in Wansford for food. Many gardens are now under water there.
A couple in a red car stopped and asked if we need any help. Ann asked for some vegetables. Later in the day they returned with several shopping bags of food from their garden. Thank you very much for the Marrow, runner beans, tomatoes’ and potatoes. We were overcome with emotion seeing such generosity and care from strangers. “Anyone know how to make Marrow Soup?”.
Thankfully we are cheered up by a warm sunny day.

Monday, September 08, 2008

On the River Nene

At Peterborough we picked up water and used the facilities before moving on to stay at Ferry Meadows Country Park.

Two empty pontoons welcomed us to provide moorings for one night. Spent the afternoon tucked up inside watching a DVD with the radiators keeping us warm. When the rain stopped we walked round the lakes.

We spent time just watching the wild life on the water.
Set off next day heading for Elton but the water flow seemed to be increasing as we approached Wansford railway bridge. There a boat moored under the bridge restricted the available width. We managed to miss both the boat and bridge as we passed in the fast flowing water. “Why are some people so inconsiderate?” Passed the boat club and arrived at Wansford lock with the bypass weir water rushing across the bow.

“Oh look the landing stage is under water, hang on we can’t get under that lock bridge”. Some landing stages are pontoons floating on the water but this was not. Ann had to get her wellies on before jumping off into two inches of water. Thankfully most of the river water is flowing over the weir so not much is falling over the lock gates and passing us. We did not see red flags flying at the boat yard and no other warnings were offered about the conditions and several boaters had passed us going down stream in the morning.
Next day the Environment Agency River Inspector arrived to offer some safety advice and told us that most of the locks were ‘reversed’ yesterday afternoon. That is no boats move as water is allowed to pass through the lock with all gates open. We could be a week here as there is a lot more water to come down. If the water rises more than 2 feet above the landing stage the boat may land on top of it! Then we would not get off as the water went down! We have hung our metal ladder down below the water line to prevent that happening. When we arrived the air draft was only 1.9 meters and we need 2.2, it is now only 1.7 and getting smaller as the water continues to rise.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Middle Levels

We have to go through a lock at Denver and travel about a mile on tidal waters that come from the Wash at Kings Lynn. The last time we did this the tide was going out and we slammed sideways going into Salters Lode Lock having to turn sharp left across the flow.

When we arrived the tide was almost at its highest, a spring tide which was actually crossing the weir into the River Ouse. Far too high to get through the lock. An hour later the level had started going down and several other boats had joined the queue. Three boats went through before us so by the time it was our turn the tidal flow had slowed a bit.
After all the concern we turned across the flow and went into the lock without touching the sides! We gave ourselves 10 out of 10 but the lock keeper was not even looking! The trick was to slow with reverse thrust then let the tide push the stern round.
One of many low bridges

The sun came out and we managed to get to Upwell before it rained. Then it developed into a thunderstorm that evening.

Next day we got some meat from the local butcher, where else! The town has shops and houses spread along the roads either side of the waterway. Traffic consisted mainly of lorries and tractors moving quite fast along the narrow roads. Vegetables are good value in these parts as were the winter pansies. We then set off to March under several very low bridges and through one lock. It was quite windy as we passed the wind farm with all 18 generators rotating at 20 RPM. It was an impressive sight creating the power with no pollution. The park at March is worth a walk round while the sun is out. The council have just built a band stand. Now they need a band to play music.
March is in the middle and we have a five hour trip to Stanground Lock. Nothing much to see or do, just moving in the channel part river part drain. It rained part of the time and we took turns driving the boat. By 4 o’clock we were up and out on to the river Nene near Peterborough.

The lock keeper allowed us to stay the night at the lock landing.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Meeting friends again

We plan to return to the canal system during September. But first we meet Sue n Vic on No Problem. Molly, our dog, has been down in the dumps since going our separate ways these last 15 days so it was not just us who missed their company. Molly, Meg and Lucy were chasing each other and going off for walks once again. Then we all enjoyed a ‘Sunday Lunch’ on board NP and Ann made an apple crumble for pudding. Next day we were off on the first step of our journey, the long stretch of the Ouse to Denver. Thankfully it did not rain but it was windy pushing us along down river. We have reluctantly lowered our ‘biminy’ because there are many low bridges to get under while on the Middle levels and the river Nene. The back cover provided excellent protection from the sun, wind and rain while on the move.