Saturday, 20 September 2008

Day Fifty - Back Where we Belong!

On the Cambridge visitor moorings, in front of the (infamous) Georgina.

Ely - Cambridge

River Great Ouze, River Cam

17 miles, 2 locks

Finally, we've made it- after cooling failures, propshaft failures, tiller failures, bridgestrike, crashes, bashes, low bridges, floods, running out of electricity, improperly charging batteries, lack of electrolyte, lack of fuel, and running out of teabags... we're at journey's end.

It feels strange- I'm extremely happy to have arrived, and to have reached the end of what has been, at times, an incredibly difficult journey. I've learned a huge amount about narrowboating, far more than I would have otherwise, in an extremely short space of time.

And yet, the happiness is tinged with regret. For the past fifty days, we've not had to worry about getting up for work, paying National Insurance, commuting, deadlines or pressures of the "real" world. Instead, we've been "on the cut", meeting incredible people and having a generally fantastic time. Of course there were bleak moments, but there's also been moments of joy and the ever-present realisation that this is what we want to do- that boating is for us. Even in the pouring rain and howling wind, it's nice to be able to look forwards to mooring up and lighting the stove; even when the propshaft situation was at its worst, we knew that this was one of the downsides to an otherwise amazing way of life.

We'd never argued with each other in the year so far that we were together- and then we got the boat... a situation that other couples I'm sure will find familiar.

Well, enough navel gazing. On with the account of the fantastic final day's cruising.

We had a look around Ely in the sunshine, before leaving at 10:30 or 11, or thereabouts. The weather was fantastic- bright, warm sunshine, extremely nice for September. There were a couple of intake problems, however, which slightly marred the day; although there were none yesterday, there were a few recurrent issues today. We had to stop a couple of times to flush it- however, we've come up with some improvements to the system, which are documented below.

Pope's Corner, where the Cam and Ouze (Old West River) converge

We passed Upware marina at midday exactly, and saw our space through the trees. Round the corner, we breasted up to a widebeam on the EA moorings for five minutes so we could flush the intake, and found out that the gentleman owner was another moorer at Upware, and that he had some surplus steel he was happy to give us to make a skin tank- and that several of the other moorers were welders! That's the long-term solution- but, for now, it's extremely gratifying to realise that our neighbours are so nice and supportive; hopefully we can be equally community-minded once we're there.

We were also hailed, as we passed, by the crew of NB Jambo- "we read your blog!"- and we promised them a mention. Well, it surprises us both greatly when we see our readers- surprises us, in fact, that we actually HAVE readers!- one day, we'll be able to stop properly and chat to people we see.

A fleet of Optimist small dinghys, that we overtook at the River Cam Sailing Club, below Clayhithe

Once we'd arrived in Clayhithe, a few miles away from Cambridge, we decided to stop on the visitor moorings and put our Plan into action, for dealing with the intake.

(Big) James had mentioned how another Cambridge boater, who has a similar intake and similar problems, put a pair of tights over the end of it to keep leaves and muck out. The water at Clayhithe was clear and nice, and the weather extremely nice; Amy was resolved that we try it at least whilst we could, so she squeezed into her wetsuit and hopped over the side, a pair of tights in hand.

These she stretched over the baffle plate and tied in place with a twisted wire- I'm not sure how well they will work, but we can at least try them and see if they keep muck out. The next step is a wire grille, made from a sieve we think, and some cable ties to cover over the gaps.

The second part of the plan involved reinforcing a hose. The Duck's water intake has a two-foot length of inch diameter plastic hose between the inlet and the strainer. We'd noticed that, when the intake got blocked, this flexible hose would suck itself together and really compound the problem. My idea was to place a length of garden hosepipe, cut from the hose we use to flush the intake, inside the larger hose to stop it kinking and squeezing itself shut- and, when we set off again, the indications were good, with the bypass opening up- showing that we had more than enough water going through the system- at normal cruising revs, and the temperature staying low. A temporary fix, but it should be enough to keep the engine healthy for the short-term.

Then, we pressed on towards Cambridge- and, soon, Baitsbite Lock was in sight, and then we were through onto the stretch of river I'd rowed upon countless times. It felt fantastic and surreal all at the same time- good to be there, but strange to be there on our own boat, to see the familiar scenery and sights from our own counter.

The bridges of Cambridge

Clare boathouse

This photo's unfortunately missing a green 62' trad and a hyperactive barking collie...

As we headed into town, we saw a few boaters we recognised- with an ecstatic welcome back from Luther on his fishing boat, ZZ10 - before we finally made it into the centre of town and moored up in a nice, duck-sized gap.

It feels good to be home.


  1. My thoughts are definitely turning towards a Cambridge Christmas...

  2. Well done, James and Amy. May you be successful in getting jobs ... and carry on blogging!

  3. Congratulations - what a wonderful, if eventful, journey - see you both soon

  4. Have you managed to get a mooring in central Cambridge?

  5. Well done the DUCKS! As you say, you have learnt so much about boating and I suspect, so much more about each other. Best wishes on the work front.

  6. I hope the pair of you can hear the huge round of applause! Not to mention the sigh of relief either.

  7. Very well done the ducks!! it was a real honour to be part of your adventure and to have helped such brave and resourceful people. Have a few days to draw breath - you deserve it :)Hope to see you both fully restored to financial health at Christmas. Moomin said he will call by when you have had a chance to settle.

  8. The address for the signwriting surplies is W.Wabberley Meadows Ltd, 5 Saxon Way, Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham,B37 5AY.


  9. Woops - that should be HABBERLEY sorry

  10. Glad you have arrived safely. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your exploits although at times it has made me wonder why I am having a boat built when you have managed to achieve such a catalogue of disasters in such a short time. Anyway on behalf of my Father please wave at Clare College for him. Thanks. Kath

  11. Geoff and Mags, NB Seyella22 September 2008 at 20:00

    Well done you two. You've certainly had a serious induction to the world of narrowboating, and come out with flying colours. I hope you'll keep blogging, I've enjoyed your humour and good spirits. If we're across in the Fens we'll make a point of looking you up. Good luck on the work front, as well.
    Best wishes

  12. Well done on getting to your new home. I hope you keep the blog going as you work your way through the list of jobs to be sorted out on your boat. As the days have gone by I did at times wonder if you would actualy make it.

  13. Thanks everyone (esp JIM)! We'll keep blogging, I'm sure. It keeps us sane!

  14. Well done guys!

    We were in Cambridge when you arrived, waving goodbye to "Downright Kenya" ( We'd have waved you home, had we known.

    Enjoy Cambridge!

    Robin, Vicky and Guinness
    NB Uisce

  15. Hello James and Amy

    I've just been catching up on your exploits, which I didn't have time (or battery power, or signal!) to read while we were away. You've clearly had an amazing journey in more ways than one. Hope you find some work, and keep on blogging.