Monday, 16 August 2010

Day Twenty-Five: Wind and Weed

Washlands mooring- Islip Nine-arch bridge

27 miles, 17 locks

Today we covered a great deal of distance- nearly half of the Nene- without really noticing! We were breasted up overnight with the boat that we had followed down the Northampton arm, and we decided to leave when they did to share the first few locks. Consequently, we were underway by 9am and soon through the first lock.

On the upper section of the Nene, the locks come thick and fast, altghough the average fall is very little. The river is also narrow and twisting, and weed of a horrible clinging type tends to collect in the entrances and chambers of the locks. It was also a very windy day- the wind swept down the river valley, at times a strong headwind, at other times a very strong crosswind, that wanted to take the boat sideways.

Nonetheless we made it to Billing aquadrome with no problems- truly, because our companion boat was nb No Problems, albeit in mandarin chinese which I'm not going to attempt to transcribe!- where they peeled off to have their fridge serviced. Luckily, though, at the very next lock we met up with nb Heaven Scent, and soon got into a nice efficient routine.

We reached Wellingborough at lunchtime, and Amy headed off to Tesco to get more provisions, whilst I went down the weedhatch. Seeing a fisherman next to the boat catch a large pike, however, was very worrying! None of my fingers were mistaken for minnows, nevertheless, and I removed some tough weed stems from the prop.

Then we set off again, on our own until Higham lock, which we shared with an intrepid hireboat from Fox's in March. A welcome reminder that we're approaching the Fens and home ground! The sun shone and the wind continued to blow, which caused them a few hairy moments on the bends. They stopped at Rushden and Diamonds, however, so we carried on by ourselves. At upper Ringstead lock, a group of teenagers asked me to leave the guillotine gate unlocked so they could lower the gate and swim in the lock. I politely but firmly explained why that wasn't a good idea, and they headed off to a better section of the river. I can see how some boaters might have felt threatened by such a group of teenagers- having faced groups of 30 at a time at work has proven useful!

A bit of drama occurred at Woodford lock; with two cruisers moored for the night on the landing stage, I dropped Amy off from the bow of the boat to set the lock, only to get one of the securing lugs on the stem post stuck on one of the lock-gates. However we looked at the angle, pulled the boat around with ropes, and released it.

Finally, we made Islip at half-past six, and we're now moored in a pleasant backwater in the shadow of the medieval nine-arched bridge. A pleasant evening of reading outside in the evening sunlight- with sausage sandwiches!- is now on the cards.

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