A Fine Weekend at Newark

We approached Newark apprehensively because we had heard that there was a festival that weekend and all the moorings were taken. However, much to our great delight, we found the 14 day wall mooring alongside Riverside Park was completely free, and what’s more it was opposite the castle. I don’t think we have ever had such a pretty town mooring before. But a good job the townsfolk werent defending their castle because they also had a good view of Firecrest from their windows.

A quick Google search revealed a program of Morris dancing, folk singing and story telling going on throughout the town and in the castle. Assuming there would food as well, we set off looking for lunch and a bit of entertainment. We struck gold. Up the ladder, onto the park, over the bridge and into the castle grounds all in 5 minutes. The castle turned out to just be the remaining wall and tower, but was a perfect communal gathering place with a bandstand. The Morris dancers were jingling their bells and shaking their sticks, we got fish and chips and best of all, the Notts spinners guild was demonstrating. These were the people we had met the previous weekend at Greens windmill so recognising each other, Knowing my wheel is portable I scurried back down to firecrest to fetch it, as I was invited to join them for the afternoon. Most of the spinners had to leave at the end of the session, but Sue and Rob sat talking and as we watched the evening light creating the most gorgeous of reflections, our traditional folk evening appropriately ended up in the 15th century coaching inn, the Prince Rupert Pub.Try as we might Sue and I failed to identify the true Prince Rupert.

Being Seen and Heard

Having gone to the effort of doing our short range radio operator’s training back in May, now was the time to put our skills into use. Unfortunately that meant that Eric had to spend several frustrating hours cobbling together the wiring and an aerial. Although we had asked for it to be fitted during the build, we were told that narrowboaters wouldn’t need such extravengances. It was one of the items we mistakenly compromised on knowing we could add it later. Braidbar boats were not designed to have items retro fitted. Luckily wiring is something that Eric understands and his temporary fixes still tick all the safety boxes and some. And oh boy, were we glad we made the effort. Not only were we able to contact the lock keepers easily to ascertain if we were able “pen down”. But we were also able to hear what other boats were doing and plan accordingly. And ok, all this isn’t essential for the Trent and we could have made our contact by mobile phone, but for us, having that  reliability and extra source of information has made river cruising less stressful and more interesting. There’s a bit of a misconception that VHF radios are just for calling for help in an emergency, they’re not. They are an easy way to communicate, and once we’d got over our initial nervousness at following the protocols we quickly relaxed when we realised everyone spoke the same language, not everyone followed the prescribed protocols and most of all, no one minded.

River cruising is different to canal cruising. There are sandbanks and shallows lurking beneath the surface which mean the cruising channel can meander from bank to bank. The outer curve is usually deeper than the inner curve because of the natural erosion. The Boating Association publishes the Trent Cruising guides, an absolute must, for safe navigation. The cruising line is overlaid in red and useful information is highlighted.  River locks are operated by lock keepers and known as pens. So we ask to “pen” up or down. These locks are huge, hold a whole marinas worth of boats. This was Stoke Lock and besides us on the left, there were 2 wide beams 2 cruisers and another 2 narrowboats.

Having sorted our radio out. Eric also had to connect an appropriate navigation light. Boats travelling on tidal waters, including tidal sections of rivers, boats need to be seen in all conditions to avoid collision. The COLREG rules state that for a boat our length means having a mast headlight visable for 3 nautical miles, red port and green starboard side lights and white stern light visable for 2 nautical miles. (Disclaimer, there are more regulations and criteria than I have listed here) The logic being that although we might not choose to travel at night, tide times might make it necessary to be on the water at dawn, dusk or in poor conditions. A lot of narrowboaters simply choose not to venture into this territory, we’ve decided to explore as much of the system as practical so we’ve done our best to rig up a temporary mast. One day it will be sturdier and taller, but as we know we’re only going to be doing the very first section of tidal water between Cromwell and Torksey in very calm conditions it will surfice for now. Added to which, the river has so many bends chances are we can’t be seen in full daylight beyond half a mile so we’re happy.

Nudging up to Newark

Oops apologies for being AWOL for a few weeks. But don’t worry I didn’t sneakily take Firecrest joyriding down the rapids and we haven’t sunk like John thought; just busy enjoying ourselves. So I’m going to skip through the past few weeks with just a few photos until I’ve caught up with myself. We’ve been travelling downstream from Nottingham to Newark.This rather non descript side arm besides the Nottingham EA building is actually the lock entrance onto the Grantham canal.  At this point it doesn’t go beyond the the length of the lock, but work is on going to restore the whole navigation. And if and when it does open we’ll certainly be back to explore. One of the drawbacks of big river cruising is the lack of pedestrian bridges, this is Radcliffe rail bridge, with 4 cruisers hurtling towards us. We’ve come to the conclusion that cruisers generally hunt in packs and their challenge is to get from one lock to the next as quickly as possible. Pootling, obviously isn’t in their vocabulary. Having said that, it isn’t a criticism, because if we had lived beside the Trent we might have had a cruiser,  a narrowboat is not the obvious or most appropriate form of river transport, just as we don’t think cruisers are the ideal for canal cruising. We’re finding the scenery along the river quite different to the canals, beach life is the thing.And in some sections, desert life seems the current norm. River levels are low but at least cruising hasn’t been restricted because of lack of rain, like some sections of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Actually despite us hitting 30 degrees some days, we’ve had the benefit of a few heavy downpours and quite a few cloudy days. On the whole though, the weather has been fantastic cruising weather.