Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Back down the Stort (cruise retrospective)

Monday 11th April, and our inverterlessness problem is compounded by my phone reaching its data allowance, and my inability to top up manually when the automatic top-up failed - because I'd run out of data! And my laptop battery is flat. Catch 22. We went out looking for public wifi opportunities. There was apparently only one in Stortford, and it was too feeble to be of any use.

But it was a beautiful morning. The previous night had been windy and cloudy, but we set off under a blue sky and a warm sun. And under frequent aircraft coming in to land at Stanstead Airport every few minutes. Where we'd been moored, their sound translated into something sounding rather more like thunder as it rumbled between the buildings lining the river.

But as we left the town, and got back out into the countryside, that noise was replaced by bird song, great choruses of it filling the shrubs and trees either side of us. At one lock, a pair of yellow wagtails had nested in the downstream side of a bottom gate, on top of a crossbeam and behind a metal rubbing plate that ran from top to bottom of the gate. The pair were taking a regular supply of insects in while we were negotiating the lock. Opening and closing the gates didn't faze them at all.

Tednambury Lock presented Grace with a strong cross-wind that became more and more of a problem. She was unable to moor at the bollards above the lock because they'd been taken by another boat, whose owner had just started to prepare the lock for his descent. It was very slow to fill, and once it was full, he took a long time getting his boat into the chamber.

Meanwhile, Grace was finding it near impossible to keep Kantara from being blown across the river into the reeds and the shallows on the berm bank. The bow-thruster couldn't do much against such a wind. One attempt to reverse away from the far side resulted in the stern being too close to the bank on the towing-path side, and the rudder stuck firmly in the mud.

Eventually, after the other guy had left the lock, and I'd refilled and opened it, Grace gratefully slid the errant Kantara in, and took a deep breath. It had been probably her worst experience ever of problems with the wind. It would not be her last!

In Sawbridgeworth, we stopped for lunch, and to decide how much further we'd travel today. This was where we'd overnighted two days ago. Looking ahead towards Harlow, we weren't sure how good a mooring there was likely to be there. We'd forgotten, and we don't always remember to mark our maps where good moorings are to be found, either. But we carried on regardless, slowed down at the Sawbridgeworth Lock by a large chunk of tree wedging itself between the bottom gates as I closed them, and me not noticing them until a couple of minutes after I'd opened the top paddles.

Sigh. Close paddles. Open bottom paddles. Open gates. Cheer as the tree moves away. Start again.

Two more locks. Despite their quirks, which I've already mentioned, these locks are remarkably gentle to boats, both ascending and descending. There was no need for us to secure a rope to a bollard in the lock, as is often the case. The boat can just float free. With due regard for the cill if you're descending, of course.

We didn't notice the rain until Grace drove Kantara into Latton Lock - the first all day to be ready and waiting for us. And then it started to come down heavily. Looking back, out of the lock, we saw a good stretch of Armco along the bank, just beyond the white bollards (which are reserved for boats waiting to go into the lock). Time to moor for the night. Grace reversed out of the lock and over to the Armco, for us to moor. And then it poured down. Good timing!
In those conditions, this is the only photo I took at the mooring!


  1. I've just been catching up with your posts here, Roger. It all looks so lovely. How amazing that you saw the other Kantara and that it's for sale too! I am constantly reminded of what a different world the canals are... That parallel dimension is even more evident in England. These towns you are going through are real commuter belt places, aren't they? And yet, I have no sense of that looking at your photos. Gorgeous!

    1. I'm glad you're liking the photos, Val. Yes, you're right about the nature of the towns. I think many places look best from the canal or river. And I'll usually be looking out for the most flattering angles for photos!

  2. PS I'm half way through your book now! I'm enjoying it more with every page :)

    1. Wow, thank you! That's the highest accolade a writer can wish for!

    2. Wow, thank you! That's the highest accolade a writer can wish for!