Friday, 19 September 2008

Day Forty-Nine - A Key Purchase

Inquisitive geese, ducks and muscovy ducks in Ely

Salter's Lode - Ely

River Great Ouse 17 miles, 2 locks

A good day today; we had to wait for the tide, and so couldn't leave Salter's Lode until about midday. We spent the morning cleaning, tidying, and sitting on the folding chairs on the landing stage reading.

The next bit of the journey was tidal, and we'd heard tales of sandbanks, strong streams, and boats being swept inexorably towards King's Lynn and the sea... we prepared the anchor and had it on the welldeck ready, in case the engine failed. We had to make a sharp turn to the right immediately after exiting the lock and batter our way into a very strong tidal stream.

I kept reminding myself, "they let hireboats do this, it can't be too bad!" but I was still nervous.

And then, the hour was upon us, and after checking the engine (water intake, grub screws, and oil level- all crucial...) and donning our life-jackets, we moved into the lock.

The massive iron paddles (they'd be known as "penstocks" on the Middle Level, and "Slackers" on the Ouze and Cam...) creaked open, and we slowly rose- and then, the big gate itself. I'd talked the route over with the lockkeeper earlier- the lock is at an angle away from the direction we need to go in, with a fence alongside the approach, and a strong tidal stream. The trick is to accelerate fast so as not to get caught by the flow.

The engine performed admirably- I revved it to 2,200 rpm (700 above our normal cruising speed) and made the tight turn out of the lock, and moved to the far side of the river out of the strongest stream; then I reduced the revs to 1,800 and we moved up well towards Denver, finally slipping into the lock with the minimum of fuss. No problems, really- the boat was fine. However, going from Denver into Salter's Lode is a LOT harder! I'm relishing this future challenge.

After going through, we moored up on the landing stage and went back to sort out the paperwork. We needed a license for the boat, and so bought a month's one for £147.94. We'll get one for alonger term later, once we can afford it!

Then, fully legal, we put the cratch up again, put the chimneys on (we'd taken both off because of the low headroom on the Middle Level and through Salter's Lode) and headed off down the Ouze. But we'd forgotten one thing. The waterpoints and locks on the Ouze and Cam are locked, and need an EA key. The only place they can be obtained from is Denver- and we'd forgotten to buy one. Oops. We didn't remember until we were about two hours away- too late, really, to turn around and go back. We resolved to press on towards Ely, hoping to either get one there from another boater, buy one from Bridge boatyard (presumably they issue the keys to their hire boats, so they might have some) or even to get the train to Cambridge tomorrow and borrow one from another boater.

Well, the Great Ouze is rather boring, I'm afraid to say. Long, straight stretches, with high flood banks on either side so you can't see what's going on- at least the weather was fantastically warm and sunny. Only the odd passing combine harvester relieved the monotony- that, and the radio on the hatch slide.

Eventually, we approached Ely, and the welcome sight of the cathedral visible for many miles accross the Fens.

Canalplan says the journey should take 5 and a half hours; we did it in less than five, having pressed on.

And so, we arrived in Ely; there was a small space on the visitor moorings, and so I reversed the boat in; the chap on the boat behind us said, "you've done that before, haven't you?" which made me feel happy. Whilst mooring the bows, I talked to the gentleman on NB Noel's Ark, moored ahead of us, and he sold us a spare EA key. It really was very much appreciated.

Ely trip boat

Cambridge University Boat Club's boathouse (the blue one) and that of King's School, Ely

We must be near Cambridge- Battleship Bob's infamous widebeam is here!

Finally, we had a short walk into Ely itself, and enjoyed a bowl of cheesy chips at the Cutter Inn on the waterfront.

Tomorrow, we'll make Cambridge- and our 50-day epic journey will be at an end. I'm sad, happy, and relieved simualtaneously, and a little bit apprehensive about the future; now we just need to find jobs!

1 comment:

  1. The bottom end of the Great Ouse is rather wide and dull but one day you must explore the tributaries up there - Wissey, Little Ouse, Lark - which definitely aren't