Monday 27 September 2021

River Witham. Fossdyke Navigation. River Trent (Tidal Section) Boston to West Stockwith.

   Five nights in Boston really wasn’t enough. We didn’t waste a minute but we could easily have stayed for a fortnight. To begin with we drove to Navenby where our old Morris side were having one of their first dance outs since the restrictions lifted. It was fabulous to catch up with them and considering how little practice they’d managed to get in they were really good and they were really enthusiastic which is what counts. We followed them around the village visiting Mrs Smith’s cottage and a couple of pubs followed by a workshop session where we joined in with a Much Wenlock dance and realised just how much we’ve forgotten.

   For the first time in three years we went to the beach. Before we bought Legend we did a campervan tour of France, Spain and Portugal (it starts Here) and spent most of it walking along beaches. We’ve missed having sand between our toes so we headed for the coast between Skegness and Mablethorpe and parked at Chapel Six Marshes.

From there we walked south along the big wide beach to the North Sea Observatory...

...then back up to Anderby Creek for coffee, before following the coastal path through the dunes to the car park.

 There were a few other folk about, but for the most part it was gorgeously deserted.

   The next morning Dave was up and out with our spare gas bottle for exchange at Buildbase as soon as they opened at 7am. They are handily sited right next to the lock, and as cheap as anywhere else for Calor Gas. After a quick breakfast we threw our overnight bag and a bunch of tools into the car and headed off for a busy couple of days away. First stop was Southam for dental check-ups, then down to Lechlade where Steve and Annemarie where moored on Andelanté. It was supposed to be just a social visit and a barbecue, but the day before Steve had rung to say they’d had a fire in the engine room, all the wiring and two batteries were fried, nothing was working and maybe we shouldn’t come. We’re made of sterner stuff than that.  We went armed with spare wire and hydraulic crimpers and by the time we got there Steve had got hold of some new battery cable and lugs and had got two replacement batteries on order. It must have been quite scary when it all went bang, nearly all the negative cable was completely gone, plus the tops of the two worst batteries.

Andelanté's engine room in bits.

Dave soon found the source of the trouble, which was a combination of things; primarily there was a corroded lug on the last negative connection, causing high resistance and heating up. Added to that a normal 110ah starter battery had been wired in parallel with five 125ah AGMs, making it work way beyond its remit, and finally, they’d just got a new washing machine and had inadvertently switched both that and their electric oven on at the same time. The six AGMs could have coped with the massive draw, but the cables were completely over-loaded and the high resistance joint must have lit up like a Christmas tree, which is what melted the cables and set fire to the 110. Once that was going a couple of 4L oil bottles had burst, spraying oil onto everything so Steve was really luck to manage to put it out. As it was he used all the fire extinguishers they had on Andelanté.

   It was a bit of a mess. They’d spent the morning cleaning up pulling the old wiring out, but there was still dry powder everywhere, everything was covered in black soot and there was about an inch of manky watery oil in the bilge.

   Dave got stuck in, and with him measuring and tracing cables, and Steve on the crimpers making up new links and lugs, they soon had the engine wired up and working again. There were still five of the AGMs in working order, so they were also able to get the domestic circuits operational without too much trouble. The 300a house battery isolator had predictably burnt out, so Dave bypassed it as a temporary fix with strict instructions to replace it as soon as possible. The battery monitor shunt had been kebabed as well, so Steve went on the net to find a replacement. Apart from that everything else was ok and we had them back with lights, pumps and inverter by about 3pm. Dave and Steve were both filthy after squirming round in the engine ‘ole, and Andeanté had no hot water, but it was a glorious day and the Thames looked very inviting, so after a bit of a soapy scrub and a dive into the river they both emerged all clean and shiny.

   A little while later on Dave realised that he’d dived into the river with the car keys in his pocket, which could have ended really badly, but thankfully we don’t have remote locking, and equally thankfully they were still there when he climbed out. Phew!

   On the way home we stopped off to see Mandy and Chas in Peterborough. They’d just got back from holiday that morning but kind enough to abandon their unpacking to have us for lunch. We had a lovely couple of hours sitting in their garden catching up on all their news.

   Back home, Dave went for a walk along the riverside to the tidal barrier, which is a bit like the one on the Thames and serves the same purpose. The tidal section of the Witham, from the Grand Sluice to the sea, is known as The Haven and is the home of Boston’s cockle fishing fleet, the last couple of which were just coming back into port as Dave walked past. The Macmillan Way long distance footpath starts in Boston and for the first few miles follows the bank of The Haven before branching off diagonally across the country to end at Abbotsbury in Dorset.

Boston Tidal Barrier.

The lock to Black Sluice, which will eventually form part of the proposed Fens Waterways Link beween Boston, Peterborough and Ely.

The next morning we untied from the finger moorings in Boston and set off back to Torksey and the Trent.

   Langrick Bridge was full and Dogdyke was on the wrong side of the river for car moving, so we ended up at Tattershall Bridge for the night. On the car move we drove to Coningsby to see the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor's Centre. The Lancaster wasn’t at home that day and the spitfire wasn’t due back until later so we didn’t look round the hanger, but the rest of the display was very interesting.

On one of our walks we got caught out in a thunderstorm. We knew that rain was forecast, but it came along an hour earlier than we expected and we were literally soaked to the skin.

The Viking Way through Southrey Wood, on of the few untouched medieval woodlands in the country.

A bit moist after the third downpoor

 Never mind, a hot shower and a bowl of soup had us feeling human again in no time.

On the leg from Kirkstead Bridge we were joined by Tim, a 2cv club friend who lives near Boston. He’d never been on a narrowboat before and had a really good time, steering most of the way to Bardney.

 The moorings at the town where we’d left the car were full so we carried on another half mile or so to Bardney Lock and walked back.

On the drive back to Kirkstead, we stopped for a wander round Woodhall Spa and a short spell in a coffee shop with Tim, before dropping him off at his car. He was very taken with the boat, Ann-Marie added him to our ‘moving email’ list and we’re sure we’ll see him again on our travels.

Dawn at Bardney lock.

A misty riverbank at Bardney 

We paused for a night at Washingborough before returning to Stamp End for a couple of days in Lincoln.

Back at Stamp End Lock. 

Evidence of a pair of lock gates further in the chamber, but the lock itself doesn't appear to have been lengthened.

The lock anchors and recesses (now filled in) are idendtical to the remaining pair, suggesting that at one time the lock had two sets of bottom gates. But why? Maybe to save water as a concession to mill owners further upstream?

   We visited the Usher Gallery...

A chandelier made from beach-combed plastic rubbish.

Lincoln's Glory Hole.

...and The Collection; a really interesting local natural history museum that tells the story of Lincoln and Lincolnshire from the ice age to the present day.

We also walked out from the city over South Common...

The Cathedral from South Common.

A Red Admiral on South Commom. the top of the hill to see the International Bomber Command Centre.

The spire at the IBCC. its height is the same as a Lancaster wingspan.

It's a beautiful, peaceful and respectful place, but like the RAF memorial at Runnymede, we found the plaques with endless lists of names of lives lost overwhelmingly saddening.

On the way back down to the boat we walked along the Riverside Path, which follows the Witham on its way into the city...

...ending at Brayford Pool. Then we said goodbye to beautiful Lincoln and went back through the Glory Hole...

...across Brayford Pool and back onto the Fossdyke navigation, heading for the Trent. We stoped briefly at Saxilby for water, then tied up on the visitor moorings before Torksey Lock.

Later on we walked up to the lock where we found Paul and Kay on Nb Maggie May who were stuck there for 8 weeks waiting for a new engine. They’d been involved in a rescue on the river of another boat who’s gearbox had overheated and lost power. They’d managed to get alongside and were towing them back to Torksey when their engine threw a big end. Somehow between the two of them they’d managed to get back, but it all sounded very scary. Torksey isn’t a bad place to be stranded without and engine; there’s toilets, showers and parking, Gainsborough isn’t far and there’s a really nice pub. Even though their situation wasn’t ideal, they were still in good spirits and it was really good to see them again.
Nb Maggie May. Stuck at Torksey for 8 weeks with a broken engine.

At 5 o’clock the next afternoon, after getting the boat river ready, we went through the lock and moored up on the tidal side with a bunch of other boats, ready for our trip to West Stockwith the following day.

   Coincidentally Graham and Dawn on Nb Countess Rose II arrived at about 7pm on their way up the river to Cromwell...

 so we had a very jolly evening with them; fish and chips in the pub, then back on board Legend for coffee.

First thing in the morning Countess Rose II and the other boats heading for Cromwell were off up the river on the incoming tide, or flood tide.

   We had to wait till 2 o’clock for the last couple of hours of the outgoing tide, or ebb, to take us down to West Stockwith in time to meet the flood just as we got there, so we could turn into the lock on slack water. Well, that was the plan anyway. As it turned out there were four boats going that way and despite leaving at 2pm as instructed...

Our little convoy leaving Torksey.

...when we phoned the West Stockwith lockie from Gainsborough he told us we were a bit early and we ought to tie up at the visitor pontoon there for a little while then leave in pairs 20 minutes apart so there would be time to turn the lock for the second boats. It took a good ten minutes to get all four boats turned in the river and tied up, which according to our calculations would have put us back on schedule, but we were moored on the inside and despite suggesting that we really ought to be leaving, we couldn’t go anywhere until the others went.

Preparing to turn at Gainsborough.

An unexpected stop at Gainsborough visitor pontoon.

 There seemed to be a spot of misunderstanding of the term “Little While” and the lead boats didn’t leave the mooring for another half an hour. By that time we’d all missed our window, the flood tide had been and gone at West Stockwith and was heading for us. The stretch from Gainsborough should have taken 20 minutes of gentle downstream cruising with the tide, instead we had an hour and a half going flat-out into the flood, eventually crawling up to the lock a full 2 hours later than planned.

The final few hundred yards into West Stockwith lock. Look at the flow on the left hand bank!

When we got there we were faced with a really hairy turn into the lock which is on the outside of a bend, so in the fastest flowing and most turbulent water and, from that direction, at a horribly acute angle.  It was like Salter’s Lode all over again, except this time Dave got it right. Stay about a boat length out from, and parallel to the wall, gradually dropping the power until you’re almost stationary, then when the bow is level with the far wall turn in sharply and put a spurt of power on. The bow fender will kiss the wall, as soon as it does, power on again and you’ll slip into the dead water in the lock entrance.

 It was a massive relief to be safely in the lock, we’d spent a good portion of the time coming down from Gainsborough wondering what plan B was, and our nerves were jangling. We were also rather annoyed because, left to our own devices, we would have been there just when we were supposed to have been. We’d split the trip into four legs and worked out how long each bit should take, so we knew we were going too quickly to start with and, after waiting for too long at Gainsborough, that we were then going to be too late. However, we’d never done the trip before and we were with another crew who had, so we’d bowed to their supposedly greater knowledge.  Still, we got there in one piece, the lock keeper was lovely and sympathetic, and as we got backed onto one of the finger pontoons in the basin the crews of the other three boats were all there to welcome us.

Turning in West Stockwith basin.

Moored up on the pontoon.

 It had been a long day, a hard day and most definitely a school day. But looking back we had to admit that we’d really enjoyed it and the sense of achievement alone had made it all worthwhile. Legend had performed flawlessly and once more delivered us to our destination, our brave little engine no doubt benefiting from the Italian tune-up on the way.

As dusk began to fall we gratefully snuggled in for our first night on the Chesterfield Canal.


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