Sunday, 27 January 2013

Quid Pro Tow

Well, not actually. We didn't really charge any money for towing, but I thought up that title a few weeks ago and have been dying to use it.

Right, let's start at the beginning.

Two friends, Other Amy and Kirsty, are in the process of buying Pyewacket, the ex-Merchant Navy lifeboat owned by another friend of ours, that we towed to Waterbeach in 2012. Unfortunately, the hull needs some work, and so we arranged to tow them to Ely to have the work done; their engine, a lovely Petter PH2, requires some cossetting and is on my list of fun projects to get involved in. Amy Duck just gave me a look that clearly meant, "we've got lots of projects already", though, so that's probably on hold for now...

Yesterday morning we took Pyewacket across from her normal mooring outside Jesus Green swimming pool to the visitor moorings, where the interior could be stripped out and taken by van to some lock-up storage, to be reinstated once the work has finished. We breasted up for the short trip, and despite the fairly strong stream, managed to turn and reverse into a handy space.

Sunday was to be the long trip to Ely, but it didn't get off to a good start. Strong winds and torrential rain resulted in the river level rising and the flow increasing, the Environment Agency calling and texting flood alerts at 3am, and a boat coming loose meant we had very little sleep between us.

The planned 7:30am start was delayed by an hour whilst we remoored a rogue narrowboat, but soon we were underway. I put our pair of long cross straps on a Karabiner clip attached to a HUGE shackle on Pyewacket's stempost, where I think the davits and lifting blocks would have attached when it was a lifeboat on a ship.

We made very good progress out of town on the strong stream, only scaring a couple of rowing boats, and were soon at Baits Bite lock. The wind and the stream had picked up, and it proved impossible to get a line off the back of Pyewacket onto the lock landing stage, so it blew around 180 degrees and ended up alongside the Duck, facing the wrong way. Not a major problem, though- attaching a few ropes together let us pull it back around from the bank before we went into the lock.

Baits Bite lock

The wind intensified as we got out of town, and by the time we got to Bottisham Lock, it was strong enough to rock the Duck around a lot and blow the unballasted, empty shell of Pyewacket about, making steering difficult. We made it to the lock landing stage, though, and Pyewacket again gracefully pirouetted around alongside. Not to worry though; Amy Duck set the lock, and Big John, who nicely took on the role of volunteer lock keeper for us, supplied some useful grunt to turn her around again so we could get into the lock.

Once through Bottisham lock, the Fen landscape opens out, and the wind, checked by fewer trees, was fierce and meant we had to crab along at times to keep the skittering Pyewacket away from the bank. But we made reasonable time in the stream, and arrived in Ely on schedule at just gone 12:45, so a trip of 4 and a quarter hours- the stream making up for the fact that we were towing.

We moored Pyewacket at the boatyard where the works will take place, and retired to the Cutter Inn to celebrate.

Safe arrival. Other Amy and Kirsty celebrate.

Unfortunately the increasing stream, and the lack of sleep last night, made us both extremely tired and unwilling to face the slow, upstream slog back to Cambridge, so we're going to stay in Ely for the next few days and commute to work by train, coming in one evening once the floods abate.

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  1. Hi glad you liked the recipe and definately do give them a go, they're brill!

  2. It was very exciting coxing this morning. Shame we missed you, so to speak.

  3. Well done, both! The river, she rises still..... will check Bottisham lock for reversal/closure tomorrow morning and let you know what's afoot. John.

  4. Your friends with the Petter PH2 will find Jim Perkins can offer a lot of help as well as many spares (at pretty decent prices) here
    He's an ex-Petter service engineer and has given us much assistance with our PH2W on Star