Sunday, 30 December 2012

Out of Reach

Bottisham - Upware - Cambridge

13 miles

We got back to the boat a couple of days ago, having left it at a secure mooring whilst we had our Christmas trip to see our families. Once we were back, we quickly refilled the water system (having drained it down whilst we were away to prevent frost damage) and arranged to have Lyra returned to us from the cattery.

After spending an afternoon with John aboard Pippin, when we went to get diesel from a very-nearly-flooded Jones boatyard in St Ives by car, provisions, and the obligatory visit to Emmaus, we set off this morning to try and traverse the navigable lodes.

If the water rises two more inches, the carpark and chandlery will flood.

There are three dead-straight man-made lodes which form drainage channels, all of them accessed from a double guillotine gate lock at Upware, which can take boats up to 14' by 62'. They branch off one from the other to the nature reserve at Wicken Fen (where we went camping), and the villages of Burwell, and Reach.

It was quite windy, and there was a fair stream on the river, so we made good time to the lock at Upware.

However, our cruise plans were scuppered by the EA's pumping station. The great, 2' diameter outlets were pouring out water pumped up from the lodes, which were at a lower level than the river, and the red light was illuminated at the lock, forbidding us from entering. That's the perils of boating on what's primarily a system for land drainage!

Illuminated red light and official notice on the pump house.

A bit disappointed, we winded with less than the usual amount of elegance in the 50' lock channel- the very strongest flow was against the stern of the boat and I had to force it around with the engine, rather than using the flow to the advantage, so as not to clout the moored plastic cruiser we were heading towards- we set off back to town and our home mooring.

Progress upstream back to Cambridge was very slow. There was a good 4-5kph stream running from all the rain we'd had, a bit faster in the narrower places, and we managed to make a speed barely above walking pace, with the engine at 2,400rpm - our fastest economical cruising speed, which normally gives a speed of 9-10kph. Frustrating, but at least we were moving. The hire-boat sized skin tank put on by Fox Boats those years ago proved its worth, with us able to keep up this high load on the engine with no movement on the temperature gauge and no sign of overheating.

On the way back, we passed an eight from our rival boat club, X-Press BC. They were rowing to Ely- but I'm not sure if they were brave (or stupid) enough to row to Ely and back in a day as I have with my club! Certainly we've not seen their boat return into town yet.

Flooded fields behind the towpath.

Finally we made it back and moored up happily in our usual space.

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