Congratulations to the sharp-eyed readers who picked up on the afterthought (the Llareggub boat name*) in the last post: first in was Cliff from his South Wales hilltop with “fancy encountering a Dylan boat fan on your voyage”. Just 14 minutes later Godmanchester Friend emailed “Happy to see you have ‘Buggerall’ for company!!!”
It was farewell to Newark-on-Trent on Monday morning. Gone was the rain but tail end Hurricane Bertha’s winds were still about. Onward upstream past the castle and old warehouses, past toweringly tall cruisers, out to the open river and the long hardly protected Averham Weir and Staythorpe Power Station. The wind blustered and blew, on the water it was hard not to feel small and exposed…
There were smart boats at Farndon Marina. Moored just about opposite was (were?) The Three Wise Monkeys. In such conditions would they have advised mooring up and dozing through the remainder of the day…? In places you could see more water being added to the river.
Temporary relief from the wind battering came at Hazelford Lock. Here in the relative shelter of the upper lock cut was the most smartly painted water tap ever – with just about the slowest water delivery. Water tank filled Tentatrice pushed off, headed for Gunthorpe and hopefully some moorings. Water dribbled into Cleddau’s water tank until “Time to go” announced the Captain at ten to two, “full or not”.
Off Cleddau set for the final five miles or so of the day. Sun sparkled on the water while the wind crazed ever-changing patterns on the river’s surface. Along a straight wind lanes became pronounced and white flecks appeared on the choppy surface. “Check the bow,” called the Captain. “Check there’s no water breaking in.” It was splashing up – but not splashing in. So all was well.
Never far away was a small cruiser, battling against the water’s flow and the winds’ force.
The river bank near Gunthorpe Lock is broad; dogs swam, children and adults waved. It’s a popular gongoozling spot with plenty of refreshment opportunities at the lock and in the village. Out of Gunthorpe Lock Cleddau and the little cruiser sailed. A few hundred metres further on Tentatrice was moored; helping hands from cruisers and Tentatrice secured the boats while the winds blew on…
Aim for a mooring at the Water Sports Centre outside Nottingham was the decision on Tuesday morning. First though there was the need to get Cleddau and Tentatrice safely away from the pontoon. “Walk the boat backwards,” said the Captain, “chuck the rope on the bow and…”
And he was away fighting the strong flow, reversing, disappearing downstream, pirouetting – and returning neatly to pick up the crew! Under Gunthorpe Road Bridge and out again into the very rural landscape. No hint here of M1 madness or Trent Valley power stations or Nottinghamshire coalfields, just pleasing vistas, the river running past gentle hills and tree-lined banks.
Urban views begin to intrude at Radcliffe-on-Trent. Then came Holme Lock and a long wait for access. In. In and secure the ropes. Is it imagination or is it memory that things are easier now? Vertical pipes allow boaters to hold bow and stern boat ropes firmly so that a boat doesn’t get thrown about in turbulence as the water level changes. Previously (the 1997 trip this way) there’d be a challenge to throw a rope towards the lock keeper’s boat hook… Water surged into the lock and the boats rose twelve feet to moor right beside the National Water Sports Centre.
Shouts came from over the bank; there below was the canoe slalom, water surging, bubbling, billowing. This is the White Water Course where all afternoon canoeists and coaches have put in hours of training
presumably reflecting water and the sports activities possible here.
Back at the boat the wind is still head on, whipping up waves which have splashed onto the bow deck and even onto the cabin steps. Time to zip up the cratch and dig out a jumper!
Tomorrow: through Nottingham and onto the Nottingham Canal and the Beeston Cut…
* Llareggub was the fictional village created by Dylan Thomas in Under Milk Wood