Friday, June 03, 2016

And back to Yelvertoft (final cruise retrospective)

It goes without saying that it was cold when we woke up this morning, and it was cold when we set off on the final leg of our fabulous cruise, and cold when we arrived back at the marina. It had at least been dry, and sunny in the main. But it was incredibly windy. Yesterday evening, we had torrential rain and an impressive thunderstorm. As Jenny of NB Jenny Wren observed, we have had every possible kind of British weather in one 24-hour period. I pointed out that we'd had no hot weather!

It's not a long journey from Buckby Top Lock to Yelvertoft. Kantara came up that last lock alongside another boat, this one on its way to Braunston. There were four of us at the locks, the crews of boats rising or boats waiting. The bottom gates are mighty - and mighty heavy - so the extra push was welcome.

On now to Norton Junction, turning right onto the Leicester Line. Despite the inhospitable wind, there were a lot more craft around than when we'd started this cruise nearly seven weeks ago. One poor chap was finding it nigh on impossible to turn his boat into Weltonfield Marina. A strong wind gusting across the canal kept turning him off his course, and driving him against the far bank. We waited as he attempted this. There was no passing him. Eventually he caught a short lull in the wind, got the approach angle he wanted, and made speed into the marina. He deserved a medal. Or a strong drink. Or both.

At Watford Locks, we got the vollie go-ahead to ascend the flight without delay. Each lock was waiting for us, emptied by the last boat to go down, so we did the lot in very good time.
Crick Tunnel is always dripping/pouring water from the roof, but usually uneventful. This time, however, we crunched very noisily against a protuberance from the wall as we edged our way past an oncoming boat. We both feared the worst - gouges along our new cabin paintwork. We think it was the same hazard that took out our starboard navigation light a couple of years ago. We continued in shocked silence.

Emerging from the tunnel, I stepped onto the gunnel to inspect the damage. The paint was unharmed. The stony collision had been with the mounting bracket of our 3G antenna, and, despite the awful noise, it suffered only minor scratching. Strangely, the brick it had met up with hadn't got off so lightly, and dust and bits and pieces of said brick were scattered liberally on the roof.

As we approached the marina, it was clear that getting into our berth was not going to be a doddle. The crosswind, which often blows from end to end of the marina, was at its worst. Grace's attempt to reverse in was thwarted totally as the wind took Kantara at high speed, broadside towards the service platform. She'd never before travelled sideways that fast! Fortunately, the edge of this concrete slab is edged with a thick cushion of rubber, so, though the thud was enough to open drawers and doors inside the boat, it did no harm outside.

And there we were, stuck. We had lunch there, hoping that no-one would come for diesel or pumpout while we were waiting for the wind to abate.
Photos from our windows

After lunch, we tried again to reverse over to our berth. Boats have been known to be pinned on this platform for up to two days! Grace nearly succeeded, but the wind grabbed Kantara again just as her stern had started to enter the space next to NB Cream Cracker, and the failure could only be saved from being a disaster by driving her back to the platform as fast as she could go. We got the help of Gary the Groundsman for the next attempt. He stood at the end of our pontoon, ready for me to throw him the rope from the bow, to help manoeuvre the boat into her narrow space.

This time, Grace did a bowspring from the platform, turning the boat around so that she could go in forwards. I held the bow of the boat against the platform with the rope around a bollard while Grace reversed Kantara. The effect was to swing her stern out away from the edge, pivoting the boat on her bow. When she was almost at 90° to the platform, I jumped onto the bow with the rope. Grace continued to reverse up the marina until she was far enough away to approach the berth forwards at a good speed. Standing on the bow like a galleon figurehead, I threw the rope to Gary, and the rest was simple. Full marks to the skipper.

And then it rained!

An excellent cruise finished. 303 miles, 270 locks, 44 days.

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