Longhorns, And Whales

We were on parade pretty early this morning, ‘time and tide wait for no man’! By 9:00 am we were ready for our ascent through Salter’s Lode Lock (can you believe that), climbing up onto the Gt Ouse, which is of course at sea level.

The Lock Keeper came to speak to John, and the other boater who was moored in front of us, for a quick pep talk. Although we’d taken off the flower pots from the roof as a precaution, the Lock Keeper was a little concerned at the height of our cratch frame, and suggested the other boater went through first allowing the tide to lower the water level in the river. He invited John to observe the Lock operation and to pick up a few tips on negotiating the river.

Waiting for a boat to come down the lock. Surprisingly we’d previously met the boaters as we shared a couple of locks together on the Nene. It appeared they had a great time visiting Ely and Huntington.

By the time our turn came to go through the lock, already the water was about a foot down, therefore we didn’t have a ‘height’ problem anymore.

Lock Keeper suggested Cyan pushes against the front gate to steady her. Opening the paddle, it really let the water in with a whoosh!

Soon the gate was opened for us to leave. You can just about see the ‘tide mark’ where the water was higher for the first boat.

So this is the Great Ouse. Cyan being put into a hard right turn, and we were out onto the tidal flow.

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Lock Keeper watched us turn into the flow of the Ouse from his garden. A big thumbs up as we passed him. He (joked) awards ‘marks’ for helmsman ship to those entering, and leaving Salter’s Lode Lock.

The Lock Keeper was also on the lookout for a whale! The whale was spotted entering the Ouse at Kings Lynn at 8:00 yesterday morning, and is believed to be a pilot or minke whale.

Must remember the Lock Keeper’s advice when we return. He told us to turn into the lock as soon as we reach the ‘X on the pole’. Otherwise the current will make us ‘over shoot’ the lock entrance.

As soon as we hit the deep water, Cyan ‘picked up her skirt’ to ‘battle’ the current that was against her.

It’s a short distance to travel on the tidal stretch before we go through Denver Lock. The boat in the distance coming towards us had just left Denver Lock, and was making for Salter’s Lode.

Approaching Denver Lock, the Lock Keeper waiting for us with the gate up.

In Denver lock we dropped down to join the non-tidal Great Ouse.

Looking back to where we left Denver Lock. There’s another boat preparing to go in.

Jenyns Arms at the bottom of Denver Lock.

We didn’t travel far from Denver Lock, a mooring space was vacant at the furthest end of the first mooring we came across. A perfect place for us!

It’s been a hot day, and we’re looking forward to a BBQ when the weather turns cooler this evening.

As soon as we moored we were met by a Swan family. Already Mum and Dad are teaching their young to scrounge food. If swans can’t find enough food from this huge, and clean river then something is wrong.

No sign of the whale, but we watched this English Longhorn swim towards us, before settling for a rest on a bank of river mud. The water on this hot day must have been tempting.

Just as I started to worry that ‘someone’ should be alerted, thinking the  cow/bull couldn’t get out of the river, the beast climbed nonchalantly up the steep bank.

Baby Grebe having a ride on mum’s back.

The bank where we’re moored is rather low, making the under gunnel area of Cyan quite exposed. It’s a perfect opportunity to paint the starboard side of the hull with blacking paint down to the waterline. On Sunday if there’s space for us to go to the mooring on the opposite side of the river, we’ll do the same on Cyan’s port-side. We’d rather not be moving much over the weekend, leaving the river free for weekend boaters. But then again, plans may change.

Today we’ve only travelled half a mile, and through 2 tidal locks.

Mooring, Playing Safe

Yesterday was another day we didn’t cruise, instead we stayed on our mooring by Upwell Church. We left our mooring about 9:30 this morning.

Today we hoped to get near to Salter’s Lode/Lock for our venture onto the Gt Ouse planned for around 9:30/9;45 tomorrow morning.  Being a huge football addict fan, John’s desperate to get a good WiFi, or digital TV signal where we moor today.

England expects….

It was a super day for boating, the weather was glorious with just a hint of a cheeky breeze

We had two moorings to choose from, one was relatively nearby, and was on a 40 deg bend. This mooring was really too soon for us to stop, we’d like to get nearer to the lock.

Well Creek or Mullicourt Aqueduct between the bridges

Looking to the right while on the Aqueduct, we could see the Main Drain (this is the end of the Drain’s navigation).

A beautiful English Garden, delphiniums, roses, lupins growing with a background of different trees and bushes.

At the 2nd of our choice of moorings, we decided we’d give the mooring a miss. We weren’t sure if the wooden planks would take our weight, and the last thing we needed being miles from anywhere, was an accident. We decided to take our chance at Salter’s Lode.

The pic below is of Newton’s Bridge (no 29), we believe this to be the lowest bridge on the Creek. The picture was taken seconds before the pot of flowers near the bow was (sadly) knocked off! Luckily the other plant pots just skimmed under. On our way back, we think we’ll remove the tubs to the cratch for safe keeping, if only for the sake of our nerves. In the ‘Middle Level Navigation Notes 2018’ given to us by the Lock Keeper at Stanground Lock, there’s a list of low bridges; this bridge isn’t on the list.

It wasn’t long before we were at Salter’s Lode. We just managed to squeeze, with the help of the boat in front, onto the mooring.

There’s no Digital TV signal here, but WiFi is relatively good, though it did hiccup a few times during the football match. John remains pretty up beat about England’s World Cup chances despite losing by one goal to Belgium. He says Southgate played his 2nd best players for the game as England had already passed to the next stage, saving his best players for the next round. Some battles/games you lose, so long as the ‘war’ / ‘World Cup’ is won!

We travelled just under 6 miles today.

Through Marmont Priory Lock

As we’d booked to go up Marmont Priory Lock at 1:00 pm, we weren’t too sure how long it would take us. Plus there were sanny duties to attend, and a quick trip to the shops for fruit and salad before we left March.

The plan was to start as soon as we could, with perhaps stopping along the way for breakfast. At 8:00 am we pushed off from our mooring after Rusty had been walked, and we’d showered. The sanny station was around the corner, probably a couple hundred yards away. Elsan chores, rubbish dumped, and the water tank topped up – we were very glad of the full water tank…. more later.

From the sanny station, Cyan ‘hopped’ sideways to a mooring on the other side of the river by the library. I dried my hair, and tidied up for a visit to the shops. While passing a postbox I posted Direct Debit authorisation to the ‘Great Ouse Boating Association’ [GOBA]. We’ve been advised to join (£23 per annum, plus £2 registration fee) GOBA to access their moorings along the Ouse.

Shopping was soon done, and by 10:30 am, as planned, we pushed off from our mooring; leaving March behind.

There’s not much to see on the Fens, although we marvel at the engineering

We even got ‘excited’ by the wind turbines. John had a good question, why are there no maker’s signage on the turbines?

It was 12 noon when we arrived at Marmont Lock, the lock was empty, and we could see an elderly man on the lock beckoning us to enter the lock. I thought he must be a boater that is waiting to come down. After disembarking at the lock landing to help, and climbing up the bank to the lock, I was a bit confused. Surely our slot was 1 pm, were we allowed to jump a queue? Stupidly, (thinking the man didn’t know the ‘rules’) I asked if he’d come this way before. The man laughed…. and said “I’ve been living here for 60 years, and I’m the lock keeper’s husband!” Thank goodness he saw the funny side; he’s a sweetheart with a great sense of humour. I was so scared of doing something wrong! 🙂 Got a feeling John wont let me hear the last of this.

Leaving Marmont Priory Lock

Something we didn’t realise; the Fens are lower than sea level. Though we’re on our way to join a tidal part of the River Ouse, we had to climb up Marmont Priory Lock; it appears weird!

The area from the lock, to our now mooring was very pretty, the villages appeared unspoilt and timeless.

“Wine Down”

We were told last evening by a member of a boating association in March that the bridge by the Five Bells Pub, and the Church is low, and as we sail through the bridge, it gets lower towards the other side. After a ‘comment’ exchange with Mike on NB Alchemy who passed this way a day or so before us, he reassured us that if we passed under “White Fen Bridge”, we’d get under this bridge. Cyan cautiously sailed under the bridge, and she just about managed to limbo under, though the flowers on top of Cyan brushed along the roof of the bridge, but no damage was done. At the time of writing this, I’ve just realised; I don’t think we passed under “White Fen Bridge”! 🙁

We were pleased we’d topped up Cyan’s water tank before we started our journey today, resulting in her sitting lower in the water. Otherwise we might have had to remove the plant pots from Cyan’s roof so we could get under.

The low bridge.

Our mooring’s are lovely!

We’ll be phoning Salter’s Lode Lock tomorrow for our transit onto the Ouse. Think they will want 24 hours notice, therefore we’ll be staying here tomorrow. A good look-around the village is planned.

Travelled 8 miles, and through 1 lock today.

Through The Deep, and Straight Dykes

Once again we had a day off yesterday as we’re not really in a rush.

We’ve now changed our destination, and will be turning around at Isleham Lock on the River Lark. We’ve managed to book into a marina at Isleham Lock for £20 a night, electricity included! Marinas appear to be expensive in this area, we even met a boater the other day who paid £35 a night at one marina. We have also arranged to go by train from Ely to Cambridge to avoid the £75.00 return taxi fair. Being a tourist is an expensive business!

After a bit of a shuffle around because a boat had breasted against us, we headed towards Ashline Lock. As I worked the lock I found it rather awkward, the windlass is worked using the same motion as ‘stirring a cake’. If the windlass was dropped it would be lost, and so would we!

Some of the bridges are quite low. The one in the pic below was quite deceiving; I saw the bridge approach, yet because the sun was in my eyes, I didn’t realise there was a metal girder beneath. It was John that suddenly realised I hadn’t seen the girder at the last minute, and yelled for me to duck. Seriously think this girder should have red and white stripes on it.

Whittlesley Dyke was quite boring, couldn’t see many landscape features being down below the dyke.

Leaving Whittlesey Dyke, and onto ‘Old Nene’

Twenty Foot River Junction. Not many turn in that direction with a 1.6m headroom!

“Fer lob a dob”

We had thought we’d find a ‘wild mooring spot’, but that proved impossible. Nothing for it but to continue to March.

John was getting a bit agitated as 1.00 pm was approaching fast – the England vs Panama game. He did manage to hear the first two goals on the radio, before we eventually found a 48 hour mooring on the edge of March. We frantically moored. The air turned a deep shade of blue for a while as the digital TV reception, and the wifi connection wasn’t too stable. Still, all was well in the end, thanks to the endless replays!

Edited to add today’s diary (25/06/2018)

Once again we’re having a ‘day off’ from travelling. The sun is glorious, and John’s busy polishing Cyan. At least one side of her is looking pretty smart.

Tomorrow we’ll be moving through March, and through Marmont Priory Lock, we’ve booked a 1:00 pm passage with the lock keeper.

Yesterday we travelled 10.5 miles, and through 1 lock. We’ve 34 miles, and 3 locks until our present journey’s end.

Hello Middle Levels

We left our mooring on the Embankment at Peterborough, moving a short way to use the sanny service, top up the water tank, and to dump our rubbish. We’d planned our journey to leave for Stanground Lock at 9:30 am, to arrive at our 10:30 am slot. We shouldn’t have rushed as we arrived at the lock half an hour early.

We shared a mooring in Peterborough with a boat that was moored next to us at Overton Lake. After a chat with the boater he shared a website link he’d been given (by the owner of the website) which is brilliant. The website shows where mooring, and potential moorings are, services, locks, and lots of other information. The web address is boatsatnav.co.uk/. Access to the guides/maps can be via an app on mobiles phone (sorry not a windows phone), and tablets. On a laptop or desktop you don’t need anything other than a web browser.

What does it show?
  • Lock positions
  • Junctions
  • Services – fuel, water, pump out…
  • Moorings
  • Winding holes
  • Winter & emergency stoppages
  • Shops, post offices, cash points
  • Pubs, restaurants, take aways
  • Bus and rail connections
  • Surgeries, chemists, pharmacies

And we’re adding new information all the time. Eateries for instance will soon have food hygiene ratings shown, and, because all of the data is online, it’s quick and easy to keep it up to date

It’s free, and it’s a continuous project. I understand the owner uses information given to her by other boaters. It’s a brilliant website, which is basically boaters sharing information with boaters.

When we return back this way, we’ve a plan to continue on the Nene (instead of turning right for Stanground Lock) to visit Wisbech.

UK’s own Little Venice

At Stanground Lock we had to tread water as there was a boat on the landing waiting to go through before us, which meant there was no room for us to temporary moor. We didn’t have to wait long, before Cyan was tied to the lock landing. John went to meet ‘Tina’, the very pleasant and helpful Lock Keeper, and to purchase the services key, and windlass we’ll be needing. Tina also gave John two free pamphlets (one for him and one for me) about the Middle Levels.

It wasn’t long before we were through the lock

We were impressed on our first view of the Middle Levels

The water is ever so clean

At the end of King’s Dike, we cruised through quite a narrow channel

With the sun in our eyes, Cyan turned right at a very sharp 45 deg turn, and onto Briggate River (Drain)

That was close, we just managed to squeeze round

It wasn’t long before we moored for the day at the mooring just before Ashline Lock.

Today we’ve travelled 5 miles, and through one lock.