Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony
Moored at Huntingdon

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

30th March '11

What a change in the weather... it's been wet and windy today and we had to do the scariest bit of the journey so far. We travelled down to Denver Sluice as planned and got there in plenty of time for the 3.00pm deadline and found that the tide was well out and still going....a bit disconcerting. I got online and checked the tide times at Hunstanton which is at the mouth of the river we were on, and found that the lock-keeper was out with his timing. We thought that we would be stuck there until the morning.

We went out for a walk at about 4.30pm and the river had just started to turn the tide - lots of sandbanks were in evidence and the entrance for the lock looked minute plus there was a huge sandbank to one side of it. It was obvious that we would have to go downstream a bit and then turn. I was SO nervous at the very thought of it but it had to be done to get back to the canals!

SO we got back to the boat and John contacted the lock-keeper and he said that he'd try to get us through tonight - he came down to the boat about 10 minutes later and said that he'd get us through in 5 minutes!!!!!

Mad rush to get ready - it was raining again and the wind had got up again so conditions were excellent for a difficult bit of steering....

We got through Denver Sluice easily and came out avoiding the sandbanks - my wonderful husband deserves a medal for his steering and calm head. He turned the boat around with consumate ease and took it into the lock with only the smallest bump. We got into the lock at an angle - the longest boat able to get through and we did it!!! came out the other side and are now moored on the other side - on the levels and another step nearer the canals! We have been warned that the levels are full of very low bridges, some tricky corners, some difficult locks and not that many moorings! Sounds lovely....

Taken from inside our boat - this is the huge sluice that controls the flow of water out of the river and stops the tide from coming up past this point - HUGE construction.

The lock at Denver Sluice - lucky it's operated by a lock-keeper and John was able to steer us into it!
This is the view from the top of the lock - you can see the narrow channel that the boat has to follow - this is only an hour before we navigated it but the tide comes in at such a pace that the large sandbank was almost covered by the time we went through!

This is looking back at the sluice - the lock is just in on the left of the picture.

This is the opening to Salters Lode - it's not the clearest picture in the world but the wall going from centre to right is the opening and the lump in front of that is the sandbank that has to be avoided - the river is running from left to right and when we did it the tide was coming right to left and the wind was in the opposite direction - we turned just past the extreme right of the picture to approach it at the right angle - I said it was scary!

A closer view of the lock entrance - John is even more my hero now than he was before. We are now going to break out the malt and relax with a couple of VERY large glasses!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

29th March '11

Left Ely after lunch heading towards Denver Sluice to get through tomorrow. We have passed through the most boring countryside in the world! One stretch was over 3 miles of completely straight river!

This was a stretch of it that was interesting because of the bridge - very few landmarks to tell where we were!

Shows how boring it was - I found this amusing - kept a look out for the Billy Goats Gruff but they were nowhere to be seen!

This was the view this evening from one of the windows - thought it looked lovely. We are at Brandon Creek and there is a picnic site here next to the road. Quite a nice spot and not far to go for tomorrows adventure. May even get the life-jackets out that we have to have (by law) on the river and haven't used so far!

No locks today but neither was there any water or rubbish disposal sites! Oh for the canals....

For those who want to plot our travels, once we get through tomorrows ordeal we head through the Middle Levels which are basically big drainage ditches until we get to Peterborough. From there we head up the Nene until we get to Northampton where we finally hit the canals. Middle levels are a bit over 40 miles and then it's about 50 miles on the river - at 3mph plus about 1,000,000 locks on the Nene it's not going to be a quick journey.

After Northampton we shall decide which way we are going to head for Willington but it's likely to be the southerly route! (no rivers!)

Mon 28th March '11

We eventually left Cambridge late on Monday morning and gave Robert, Michelle and Whiz a short ride up the river, filled up with water and then moved onto Ely - this meant that we returned up the Cam and passed the turn to the Old West River that we had come on and returned to the Great Ouse. John has rung the people at Denver Sluice and Salters Lode that we have to go through later in the week. They are part of the system that regulates the flow of the water and stops the tidal water coming up the river. Apparently we are long enough to mean that we can only go through Salters Lode at the point that the tide is at the same level as the lode because the lock won't take us!! This will be 3.00pm on Wednesday!!! Exciting but a bit scary...

Ely is very pretty and there is plenty of mooring here - makes a change - and is very welcoming to the river and the people who use it.

There is a view of Ely Cathedral from the river as we approached it and then a picture of the park that we are moored next to with the Cathedral in the distance.
A longish trip today but with the river flow going our way and next to no traffic on the river is was quite quick. We actually came through the two locks with another boat - always makes it easier so hardly noticed them in this direction!

Cambridge - March '11

I've been a bit lazy with the blog mainly because there have other things on my mind such as THE WEDDING! Now that it is all over I can catch up on things.
We arrived in Cambridge after a fairly uneventful journey on Tues. 22nd and found - joy of joys! a water point, somewhere to empty the toilet cassette and a skip for the rubbish so all became well with our world again. We moored at Jesus Lock - which looked lovely but was quite a distance from Robert and Michelles house which is where we wanted to be.

We had a friendly visit from the river baliff who said that unofficially we could move down to Midsummer Common as this time of year things were fairly fluid as far as moorings went - he also warned us that we were close to two hostels who kicked out the residents during the day so we could expect daytime drinkers sitting alongside the boat!!!
On the bright side we have found Frank - who is going to repair the bikes and says they are not in that bad a condition PLUS we had a visit from some nice people from the Census who gave us forms to complete so we are going to be included in the census on Sunday and will not be non-people as we were worried about!

On Wed. we moved down to Midsummer Common - this is where we had hoped to be in the first place but the signs saying Permit Holders Only had put us off!

We were right opposite all the boat houses for the Cambridge rowing clubs and constantly had boats being rowed past - the eights go at a tremendous pace and rocked our boat considerably - for some reason I didn't take any pictures! I was sure I had but there you go!

Bikes were mended and we enjoyed cycling around getting groceries etc and looking like we really belonged in Cambridge!

Saturday was the wedding which was beautiful and emotional and everything that a good wedding should be but more so....

Monday, 21 March 2011

21st March '11

We have had a beautifully uneventful trip onto the River Cam and are now moored at Waterbeach, just north of Cambridge.
We stopped again at a small marina hoping to empty our small toilet cassette and dump some rubbish and again were told no. What is it with rivers? We thought that it was just us in a narrowboat who were unwelcome but have met a couple who own a cruiser and they say the rivers are unfriendly - they used to have a narrowboat and are thinking of going back to one. They say the difference between river users and facilities and canal ones is extreme. I can't help wondering why? As it is a nice man in a pub (who wasn't even open so we couldn't buy a pint there) let us put our rubbish in his skip but we still have the problem of the cassette! Lucky that we have the pump out as well! for those who don't know what I'm talking about there are 2 types of toilet you can have and we have one of each - one puts everything in a big tank and then you get a big hose sort of thing in a marina that pumps it all out and the other is like we have in the motor home that only takes a small amount but you have to take the cassette out and empty it by hand into an elsan point - not as bad as it sounds once you've done it a couple of times!)
We actually stopped in a pub just through the bridge from this mooring and had a pint - first for days!! and very nice it was too. Then we walked up to the village and went past the station - John went all nostalgic because when he was a mere lad, in the RAF he used to go through the station on his way to his base as Marham! We are talking the 60's here - he has a wonderful memory!!!!!
Today we have seen TWO more barn owls in broad daylight and we saw one yesterday as well so that makes 4 in 3 days - photo below to confirm it! Onto Cambridge tomorrow for the rest of the week.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Hello there shipmates, 'tis Long John here. The Computer Dept. has allowed me to run my rope calloused fingers over her fine keyboard to hail those I've left behind in port. Hello Templecombe, hope you're all well, likewise my golfing buddies. Not been a lot of golf up to now but I'm ever hopeful.
As you have no doubt discovered reading this blog, it hasn't been the tranquil start we'd hoped for We have been out in the fenlands however, where quite a lot of people are related, fortunately none to us. Not the friendliest of welcomes everywhere, even refused us the emptying of our cassette. Yes, I know, hard to believe!
Here's a little treat for all you out there who can't resist a sailor, bet you can now!

Well - that's Johns contribution for now!!! I would like to say that if any of our friends or followers come from the fens then the statements above are not necessarily the views of the management!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

19th March '11

nice relaxed day today - no locks and sunny skies! Last night we walked past a field with about 50 swans in settling down for the night and tonight we have seen a further 40 odd! We have also seen a barn owl which John was very excited about as he hasn't seen one for years apparently.
The fens are really a different world - you can see for miles and the smallest hillock looks enormous in the landscape. Sound also carries a long way and you can hear people talking long before you see them. The sky seems huge and last night the moon looked close enough to touch.
Very hard frost last night but we are snug in the boat and have the stove going as well as the central heating at the moment - just because we can!
We are within minutes of joining the Cam - we walked up to the corner where the Great Ouse (the Old West River is the bit we are on) joins the Cam and it looks like an easy junction.
In the opposite direction of Cambridge is Ely - we are about 4-5 miles away but across the fields it looks a short walk away.
We have decided to stay here tomorrow and have a nice quiet Sunday - doing a few chores and generally relaxing - which is what we really expected to be doing on the boat. I have made a loose cover (by hand) for the settee today, which I'm proud of and it makes the place tidier as well as keeping Paddys paws off the beautiful dark green leather! Luckily I had asked for some extra material from the upholstery to make some cushion backs and we had loads so I was able to use that.
Now the photos that I know some of you want (and don't read the brilliant text that I spend ages writing!)

Boat in the sunset last night - beautiful evening!

I said that it was a big moon! you can see the seas quite clearly - I was quite proud of this photo!

The willow trees looked a real picture along this stretch today.

Hanging out the washing - canal boat style! There is a tumble drier on board but you need the engine running to use it so the sun was out and I did the obvious thing!

Friday, 18 March 2011

18th March '11

I shall start by putting the pictures on of the mooring last night in St. Ives - a bit of a climb down onto the boat but we coped! the chapel on the bridge is apparently only one of three in the country and the incumbent lived in the cellars - nice....

We have come further today than previously - mainly because moorings on the river that we can get on are few and far between - in fact I have written a useful document for anyone wanting to cruise a 62' narrow boat on the Great Ouse - DON'T DO IT! the end.

We found somewhere to fill up with diesel - not that we have used that much but we found somewhere much cheaper, accessible and also there is nowhere else to buy any for the next couple of weeks so it seemed like a good idea - we also filled up with water and so we are lying quite low in the water. Hopefully this won't be a problem with the mooring because it seems a bit silty! Oh well if we are stuck in the morning we have been taught some tricks to get us off - mainly me on the outside gunwale, jumping up and down to help loose the tension on the mud!

We had three locks today but the last one was operated by a lock-keeper so was dead easy - the others ....well let us just say that the bikes (what remains of them) are now on the roof!

No more locks for a while and only a couple between us and Cambridge. We have contacted a chap, Frank, who mends bikes from a canal boat in Cambridge and he reckons that we can moor there for longer than the stated 48 hours so we are planning on getting there on Monday or Tuesday so that we can dump the bikes on him to see if they are repairable. To be honest at present I never want to see them again but I am sure that they will be useful at some point!

Paddy hasn't jumped in again luckily and is finding the whole experience quite tiring I think - judging by the way that he is flat out now in any case. For the dog-lovers amongst you here is a photo of him waiting for John to return from doing a lock.

We are moored tonight in a totally illegal mooring since we have not paid the £18 to be a member of GOBA and these belong to them. However we are in the middle of nowhere and can't imagine that anyone is going to worry about us - couldn't be more different from the previous moorings we have been on. If we hear anyone tonight then they are REALLY lost. We have only had 2 boats ( well plastic pigs) go past us and none coming in our direction since leaving Huntingdon yesterday morning so it's not exactly busy here.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

17th March '11

I cannot believe what happened today - Paddy - who won't step in a puddle if there is any way of going around it - Threw himself into the river after a crowd of swans and ducks!!!! I had only just taken his life-jacket off as we moored in St. Ives and he just charged back up the boat - up the steps that he makes so much fuss about and often gets lifted - and leapt in amidst the birds! Luckily John was there and was able to grap him as he swam up to the boat. It's as well the current isn't too strong here or we would have lost him. I am totally bewildered as to why he did it!

On the way downstream - finally heading towards the Cam (although we won't be on it for a little while) we went through 2 more locks - nothing as bad as yesterday but the second one was a bit hairy - but the countryside has been lovely and the sun came out. Just some views today!

This is a church and the rather impressive house next to it that we passed just a bit outside St. Ives - just before todays nasty lock!

I will take some photos tomorrow of our mooring here - lovely setting and very pretty place.

16th March (my birthday!)

We finally got underway today with a new gearbox! John wanted to explore up-stream so we headed up to Godmanchester, which has to be one of the prettiest places ever - lots of timbered buildings and some lovely water frontages - very Toad Hall!

Well we got to the first lock and luckily we had walked over to see it yesterday because it was a guillotine lock and we hadn't done one of them before - scary or what!

This is not a poor photo - it really was quite gloomy at that point! the usual lock gates are on the downstream bit that's in the foreground and the up and down bit is at the back. Luckily the gate is raised by electricity on these locks at least so that made it a bit easier for John to do the work.

here is Paddy being a proper boat dog! waiting at the lock for me to do the ropes and John to do the gates!

I have just steered the boat into the lock and the gate is now down - as I said this is the first lock of this type we have done and I wasn't prepared for the ferocity of the force of water as it comes in as the gate is raised - minutes after this was taken I was diagonally across the lock - terrified of damaging the paintwork - what I actually did was to mess up the bikes on the back of the boat even more than John had done with his mooring - not sure that we can ride them now! At least we now know why people don't have bikes on the back of boats very often!

This idyllic scene put an end to us going any further upstream - the water coming in the centre is what we had just had to come down, around bends that you wouldn't believe in a 62' boat - they are definitely designed for little plastic pigs and NOT for narrowboats! the water to the left of the picture is no entry as it leads to a weir (hate rivers) and the water on the righte blo is the entry to the lock, which is the direction the boat is facing. SO we have had to swing the boat around a right angle and then needed to swing out again and sharp right. To add to that, the lock gates did not have the usual size bit for the windlass to fit onto so John was having a horrible time trying to open the gates. We eventally decided that enough was enough so we put the lock back and it was and then spent the next 20 minutes or so trying to turn the boat to go back up the nasty narrow, bendy channel - bending the bikes again in the process!

Did I mention that the bow-thruster stopped working? Well it did! and that caused a lot of the problems.

Anyway we got back to Huntingdon and moored up at the hotel that John had booked for the evening and did some more sorting out on the boat. When we have finally got everything in place I will take some interior pictures and add them to the blog but there's still a few bits to do.

Although it sounds like one disaster after another we are still glad that we have done it and are looking forward to our calm stressfree life - I think it may not happen until we get off these wretched rivers and return to our beloved canals!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Monday 14th March

Last night John lit our stove and we enjoyed a calm evening with almost everything in it's place and a large glass in our hands THEN - we discovered a water leak from the kitchen sink - not sure of the extent of it but John was very down.... I sort of thought that now we have had a disaster on 3 days running so all should go smoothly from now on!

We have rung Jim and he's coming over (from Manchester remember) in a bit to sort out the leak and the engineer is building a new gear-box and will fit it tomorrow! Wednesday being my birthday I'm hoping for some plain sailing (literally) on the day.

Paddy is happy by the way! Loads of space to run up and down in and plenty of walks in the park we are moored next to!

Sunday 13th March '11

Chaos reigns! We have been unpacking and putting away and throwing out and still are not straight! The engineer is going to come out asap to do the gearbox and in the meantime we are familiarising ourselves with Huntingdon.

Here we are anyway, moored luckily in a rather nice spot and no-one has come along to say that we can't moor here any longer!

launch! 11th March '11

The photos say it all! Very nervewracking watching your whole life on the end of a couple of straps being dangled over water!

So once we were on the water and our final bags and bundles had been thrown on board - Jim and Paul did some buildy type things and then we set off for a mooring for the night! Paul ensured us that we had enough water and diesel for the immediate future so we headed 3 miles up river to Huntingdon centre where there was a free 48 hour mooring.

As we arrived the wind which had been bad all day managed to catch the side of the boat and John had real problems bringing her around - as he was almost moored he felt that the boat wasn't responding quite right and once moored we found that we had run out of diesel! Great start - however Jim and Paul say that they will bring some containers of diesel the next day. They left after some more buildy bits (adding fixtures that couldn't be done until we were launched - and then we ran out of water! Had a takeaway!

Thank you Louise and Steve for the champagne which we not only christened the boat with but also used to clean our teeth since we had nothing else!

Next day we went to local Sainsburys for bottled water and Jim and Paul came back to do more final adjustments plus give us some fuel and we made our way downriver again to get some diesel (impressive buying 100 litres at a time!) and fill up the water tank - also to get some lunch. Whilst manoeuvering the boat John once again had problems and being alone on the boat yelled out "How do you get reverse?" Paul jumped on board and found that the gearbox had died! Jim and I haul the boat around and we sail back to Huntingon