Keadby lock manouvers

We’d heard a few scare stories about getting into Keadby Lock. But we listened to the advice from the lock keepers and set forth. Our first problem was locating the lock entrance as we were looking directly into the evening sun and it was really hard to see the green light.

Spot the lock

Once we had it in our sights we slowed right down, But as expected we kept moving with the flow,

We then began a 180′ pivot, to realign ourselves facing upstream. At least we weren’t in any danger of grounding as we turned.

We had been warned about a shifting sandbank on the north side of the lock entrance but the tide was still high enough to be in our favour.

Once we were facing upstream Eric held the boat stationary, treading water until he matched the speed of Firecrest to the flow of water.

Quite an achievement considering the flow of water was considerable we travelled down around 4mph and the current was also 4mph therefore our speed was roughly 8mph.

It gave Eric time to gain is composure/nerves before putting on hard throttle to turn sharp right into the lock.

However he hadn’t taken into consideration the speed of flow being slower in the leigh of the bank than the centre channel of the river, meaning he was expecting to be pulled downstream faster than he actually was.

My nerves and composure failed as we both held our breath wondering if we’d make it before being bashed against all that solid metal piling and swept away to sea. At this point I decided holding on to the boat was more important than photos Most boats bear battle scars from the lock wall, and I’m not going to reveal how close Eric got to making it in unscaithed, needless to say he wants to do it again, with a bit less throttle.

Once inside the lock the keeper took my bow rope up to secure us. There are several ways to tie off in a lock, most of the deep river locks have an inset poleor chain that ropes can be looped around which just slide up or down as the water levels change. West Stockwith threw a secure rope down for us us to hold on to, keadby passed down a rope with a carabiner clip on the end and it took me a moment to realise we had to attach our own ropes which he raised up to wrap round the bollards. The torrent of water coming in through the top gates made it feel like I was at the base of Niagara Falls. Glad I had a secured rope to hold onto.

Once we were raised to canal level and gates were opened, we realised we couldn’t go any further because there was a swing bridge in front of us. Luckily the lock keeper operated that one automatically for us.

swing bridge at Keadby lock

It was nearly 8pm by the time we were through the swing bridge, all the other mooring had been taken, (not that there was a lot) so we took the anguished decision to overnight on the waterpoint, something we’d usually be vehemently against, but there was a second water point available. And we’d move straight after breakfast. All we could do now was enjoy the sunset.

Sunset on the Keadby and Stainforth canal

I’m not surprised most narrowboaters are anxious about Keadby and West Stockwith Locks. We did both in near perfect conditions and the photos don’t do justice to the power involved, both of nature and narrowboat. Part of the problem is, is that there’s no easy way to practice these locks and the next time you get to do

Back on the water.

After a glorious week in the Lake District we were itching to get cruising again. Our plan, is to spend some time in Sheffield. This meant leaving the tiny narrow Chesterfield canal with its one way traffic

Drakeholes tunnel

And the May bush and overhanging greenery that lined our way.

We had an overnight stay in Stockwith Basin and had been advised by several people as far away as Retford that we ought to visit the microbrewery, The White Hart, as both the beer and food were excellent. Frustratingly they don’t serve food on a Sunday evening but the land lady was lovely and really concerned that we’d not eaten. So much so that she offered to order in a takeaway for us to eat in the pub. Now that’s what I call service. We’d got food on the boat so after Eric had confirmed that the beer was well worth the visit. We returned to Firecrest to make her river ready.

West Stockwith Basin

The lock keeper advised us to leave on the turn of the tide at 4pm so we’d be travelling with the flow. The weather was balmy and with the sun on our backs we set off on our 2 1/2 hour journey. It was another advent calender moments when the lock gates opened and revealed the River beyond.

Leaving West Stockwith Lock

We only saw 2 other boats travelling upstream on this aquatic super highway. So as always we couldn’t resist a chuckle as we cruised underneath another motorway, this time the M180, which to my embarrassment I didn’t even realise existed, carrying traffic to and from Grimsby.

And then we came to Keadby Bridge (also known as King George V bridge. I was fascinated by the structure and a bit of research revealed that it was one of the first Scherzer Rolling Lift bridges, and had been the largest in Europe when it was completed in 1916.

Keadby Bridge

We expected something this huge needed a lot of muscle to move it so it was a nice surprise to find it was an ‘all electric bridge just like Firecrest.

Keadby Bridge looking upstream

For the final mile or two there was a lot of industry along the River, we wondered if this crane was really a rocket launcher in disguise.

We’d been warned that the lock was hard to spot but to watch for the round lookout tower and the light. They weren’t wrong

Looking for Keadby lock

Cruising along to the Chesterfield

Our goal was to get onto the Chesterfield Canal by mid April so we could meet with family and friends. But we don’t do anything quickly and although we could have done Cromwell to West Stockwell in one go, we opted for an overnight stop outside Torksey Lock. We’re usually quite proud of Firecrest and used to gongoozelers asking how long she is -60 foot, but there are times when we get a real inferiority complex. Yes that’s us moored behind that “ocean liner”

Entrance into Torksey Lock

It seems that that the Trent is the place to build your power station, I guess there was a glut of coal and water. I know their days are numbered but I find the cooling towers a wonderful sight.

Cottam Power station

I wonder if they will survive like the old buildings like Torksey Castle

Torksey Castle

And this folly known as “The Chateau” a wealthy Georgian lawyer’s picnic palace

The Chateau

Of course not all the sights we saw along the Trent are to be envied

But we were paying close attention to our Boating Association Trent Maps which highlight the cruising channel so we avoid the shallows, although we could see the deep and shallow areas by looking at the chopiness of the water. And with the wind that was blowing, it was quite choppy at times.

Choppy and shallow water

We’d made good progress from Torksey but had been advised to moor in Gainsborough for a few hours until the tide was in our favour to enter the lock West Stockwith

Arriving at Gainsborough

Scarily high wall, but the Trent has a tidal bore called the Aegir that reaches Gainsborough and can be 1.5m on a high spring tide. I was quite happy to wait in the town as there’s a wool shop called the Wool Loft in the red brick building at the top of the pontoon and they invited me to join their knit and natter group

Visitor mooring at Gainsboroug

We were expecting it to take half an hour down to West Stockwith but once we hit the incoming tide it really slowed us down, we’d been travelling at nearly 6 mph and we felt the water flow change direction it slowed us to just over 3 mph without any movement on the throttle. Another word of thanks to the extremely helpful lock keepers. We’d let Stockwith know we’d left Gainsborough so he was waiting on the lock landing for us and ready to give Eric directions to manoeuvre the boat across the water into the narrow gap. It takes nerves of steel cause the advise is to do it at full throttle and it’s near impossible to see the actual gap . Even so most boats bash the wall, including us.

Entrance to West Stockwith Lock

Once through the lock we were able to moor up in the basin. It’s a lovely small marina basin, we spent 2 nights there, dismantling the anchor and radio and all the river paraphernalia.

Our Journey from Foxton Locks has been 115 miles and 65 locks, we have taken 24 days, at a leisurely pace with time off the boat for family and friends and we still have a few more days in reserve before our next commitment.

Floating Downstream

Our plan is to meet up with family on the Chesterfield Canal so now that we were all shipshape we set off, Under Trent Bridge, with it’s beautiful blue and gold metalwork

and onto Holme Lock, where we had to wait for the floating gin palace to come through. Lots of happy people looking down on us.

Our first overnight stop at Stoke Lock. Ironically on the canals we would rarely stop at a lock, for a start the landings need to be kept clear for boats on the move and there’s always a risk that the pond will drain if gates are leaky. However that’s not the case on big rivers, there are usually tall walls or floating pontoons near the locks but little else other than a great community spirit.

The turbulence as the lock fills or empties can be quite ‘exciting’ so boats are held fore and aft by our ropes around inset poles to stop us bashing into the walls or other boats.

Inside Stoke Lock

It feels quite intimidating being at the bottom of a big lock but it’s like opening an advent calendar when the gates open to reveal a whole new landscape.


The weirs on the Trent are colossal, not to be messed with. The froth continues for quite a way.

Looking back towards the weir

We made it to Farndon, just outside Newark on day 2. Farndon marina is home to an old Norwegian fishing vessel that has been transformed into a bar/restaurant, and it’s well worth the 5 minute walk for a £6.50 plate of fish and chips.

Fish and chips at the Knot

Next stop Newark, past the beautiful castle and onto the visitor moorings by the CRT offices. We only stopped long enough for Eric to fill the water tank and for me to fill the fridge, Aldi is less than 10 minutes walk from here so a convenient place to do the chhores.

Newark Castle from Town Lock

And the final joy of this leg of the journey was to watch the sun setting from our overnight mooring at Cromwell lock.

Sunset at Cromwell

Turning onto the Trent

The Soar had soothed our concerns about travelling on a river again, but this morning before we set off, we prepped the anchor and donned our life jackets ready for the big water on our journey north. The Trent is the third longest river in Britain, 185 miles long. It starts its journey on Bidolph Moor in Staffordshire where it historically marks the divide between the North of England and what lies below. Its large drainage catchment area from the moors and the midlands makes it vulnerable to heavy and occassionally catastrophic flooding, hence the need for boats such as ours to treat it with respect. We shall be travelling 85 miles downstream as far as Keadby, which in theory is 24 hours travelling, however, we need to eat, sleep, explore and spend time with family so you’ll have to bear with us for another 2 months. After Keadby the river carries on for another 9 miles until it reaches the Humber Estuary and the sound of seagulls and proper shipping lanes.

Our first view of the Trent. And although we want to turn right, the arrows guide us to the left to avoid the weir.

Leaving the Soar

Things are starting to look familiar from last year’s cruising. The boat club house on the island,

Looking towards the Trent from the Soar

And the entrance to the Erewash canal

Looking towards the Erewash from the Soar

But looking back a solitary swan says goodbye and thankyou for calling.

Mouth of the Soar

After all that excitement, seeing the open water, we’re immediately guided back onto a managed canal

Cranfleet canal section

And towards Cranfleet lock

Cranfleet Lock

And finally onto our destination for the next few days, Beeston

Beeston Lock

Touring Britain, but not by boat

The forecast was dodgy so we decided to push on to Nottingham whilst it wasn’t raining, and I’m so glad we did. We we welcomed onto Victoria Embankment with flags, balloons and banners promoting the Tour of Britain. Thankfully not our own slow meander around the country but the high speed cycle tour, which was due to start from West Bridgford the next morning. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but there was a buzz of excitement as I pushed forward through the crowds. I’m not sure of the terminology but being a TV fan of the F1 Grand Prix, it felt like we were doing the grid walk.The car park had been turned into the paddock and the teams were preparing themselves for the race. Coaches and support vehicles all emblazoned with their team sponsors, cyclists, reporters and fans, all milling together, eagerly awaiting the start on the High street. I’d got a route map and knew that they were going over Trent Bridge twice, to do a circuit of central Nottingham and back again, so once the teams left the paddock I walked back towards the river and managed to get a prime position on the corner. Of course not being a true cycling fan I hadn’t anticipated just how quickly the peloton whizzed past.I’m fairly sure these are 2 of our British hero’s, Geraint Continue reading Touring Britain, but not by boat

Safely through Newark, but only just.

After some mindless hooligans spoilt our last visit to Newark we were a little apprehensive.  We delayed our entry into the town to avoid the weekend by using the Muskham Ferry patrons mooring. We anticipated they’d be quite tricky to get onto due to the river flow and the short angled pontoons. The easy solution would have been to go in bow first but you cant use the pub if you cant get off your boat easily, so that would defeat ths object.  Eric’s helmsmanship was well and truly tested, they don’t do reversing around a corner whilst going upstream in boat school. Thank goodness we’d chosen to arrive in the morning before the gongoozelers were watching, it took 2 attempts but we made it.  I made sure he was well rewarded and we fulfilled our “patrons duty” with several pints and a good sunday lunch.And before the anticipated weather change, I got to finish the shawl I was knitting and took advantage of the sunshine to wash and dry it flat on the roof.

Well replenished we set off to for the last few miles into Newark.

We steamed ahead towards the castle and in our excitement forgot to read the map, I mean what could be so hard to navigate, under the bridge and moor up on the right….Oops, when you have an 8 foot radio mast, it pays to to go through the middle arch with enough headroom. Luckily I don’t think the damage to the bridge was severe enough to stop the traffic. And it really was only the tip of the ariel that scuffed the already flakey brickwork.  Much relieved we moored up at Farndon and I went for a walk. One of the last remaining working  willow holts a is just off the mooring. Both a fascinating site for the number of varieties of willow trees, a haven for wildlife. This Comma Butterfly obliged me by posing for a photo.

Upstream, from Lincoln to Cromwell

When we travelled down the Trent, we were advised to book our return passage several days in advance so we could plan our journey to optimise the incoming tide, which we did. So as suggested We arrived at Torksey in the afternoon and locked through to the top side mooring pontoon.Someone’s got a sense of humour because the lock gates here are adorned with teapots. By evening a little flotilla had assembled, we all prepped our boats, checked the anchors and cleared the props, in readiness for the tide arriving at 9:45 the next morning. We were travelling with a small cruiser who would nip ahead quickly, a narrowboat with a “proper” engine, who didn’t believe we would have enough umph to make it, and a lovely single handed narrowboater, who had engine cooling issues, so was happy to have some company. In theory we should have been carried upstream by the tide which is stronger than the flow downstream, although we saw the water level drop turn and start to rise on the pontoon, we can’t say we actually felt like we were surfing. What we didn’t want to happen was for our journey to take longer than the tide because that would have meant we would be pushing against both the downstream flow and the retreating tide.It’s quite exhilarating going up the big wide river. We wouldn’t want to do it every day, but it makes a fun change.And I got to sit on the roof doing my knitting, safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be decapitated by any low bridges. We were overtaken by 2 big cruisers who left Torksey after us, but as Cromwell lock can only open when the tide is right we all had to wait and go through at the same time. I think there were 7 boats in the lock this time. Firecrest had done us proud and we’re confident we will cope with stronger tidal flow in the future.And the cheery lockie waved us all through,

One of the things we have enjoyed over the past few months is the number of shore power electric points there have been along the river. Newark, Cromwell, Lincoln, Bardney and Boston. It’s meant that we’ve hardly had to run the generator at all, a real treat. Whilst the generator itself is reasonably quiet, the woodwork around it vibrates noisily and it’s hot, an advantage in the winter but not in the summer

Eric’s taken the opportunity to do some tinkering with the batteries, rebalancing them to enhance efficiency and longevity. We were very pleased when we cruised all the way from Lincoln to Cromwell which is about 30 miles and upstream on the tidal Trent. We took 3 days to complete this journey. It might not sound all that wonderful compared to some electric vehicles but we were pretty impressed that Firecrest coped so well on the power hungry river and we’re fairly sure we could have done the additional 5 miles onto Newark if we’d wanted to push on. But Cromwell is a lovely lock with more of those prized electric hook ups. The sun had come out and there were plenty of Blackberry bushes that needed my attention so we broke the journey to make jam.

From Newark to Torksey, via Cromwell

It’s only a few hours from Newark to Cromwell lock. but we had dutifully booked our slot to go beyond for 10:30 the next morning. This gave us time to make friends and chat to the other boaters about their experiences on tidal rivers. David and his wife from the cruiser Orchid and and Karen and Colin on NB Listers Lore. We were moored together overnight. Our passage was booked so we would go out at slack water-the period when the tide is neither coming or going. This meant that we would be arriving at Torksey just about the same time as the incoming tide. However we wouldn’t be able to pass through until the water levels had risen enough to cover the cill. The tidal river lock keepers are professionals as they have some big locks to oversee. They are extremely knowledgeable and very helpful so had advised us to take advantage of this for our first outing onto tidal water. Of course what it meant was that our first venture onto tidal water, was not. The tide didn’t help hinder or affect us at all.Our journey was calm and uneventful Until we came to the water skiers.
We had, by default, followed Karen and Colin since leaving Cromwell lock. They turned off the river onto the Fossdyke Navigation just before us. But this was where we said goodbye as they weren’t going through the lock, but mooring here overnight. Seeing the line they took and speed they went at, greatly helped our confidence and confirmed we had planned and acted appropriately. Hopefully one day we will be in the position to help guide and encourage other novices. We moored up after Torksey lock. And breathed a sigh of relief as we had ticked off a major journey on our narrowboat adventure. We won’t ever take the big rivers for granted. The conditions we experienced couldn’t have been more favourable. Let’s hope they continue when we make our return journey later this month.

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.