Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Denver to March Tuesday 11 June 2013

I woke up at 5.00am to bright sunshine and took a stroll to the sluice. What a massive piece of engineering it is. The lock is an integral part of it and our slot for going through at high tide was scheduled for 10.30am. Busied ourselves until 10.00am, in time for our passage through the lock system. It’s not essential to book at this time of year but it helps the lock keepers plan their work. During the summer it must be essential.

We let Paul in NB Moon go through first and we waited for the second slot. A delay occurred when the upstream guillotine didn’t work so the Lock Keeper rang Paul, the Denver Supervisor who arrived very quickly to throw the resent button. The Lock Keeper, who I also think was called Paul, admitted to being on his second week, and should have known this I thought – of course it was not his fault for not knowing unless it was covered in his induction training and he had forgot!

As we waited to leave the lock into the higher incoming tide, the Lock Keeper rang ahead to Salter’s Lode Lock keeper, another Paul, to coordinate our passage with a boat coming in the opposite direction. After a few minutes, we went through into the tidal Ouse for about 600 metres.

Salter’s Lode Lock appeared quickly on our left and I had been advised to turn early in order to make the acute left-hander. The entrance was tight and it was difficult to see exactly where to place the bow; a projecting wooden structure confusing the issue! Seen from the landward side, you can se how tight it was!

Skylark glided into the narrow opening like she’d been doing it for years. As I slowly edged into the lock, avoiding any scrapes with the various wooden and metal bits that seem to be jutting out, Paul said I should move  forward to the upstream V gates so he could shut the downstream guillotine.
When he came back he said I would have got full marks for my entry if I’d not ‘dithered’ a couple of times. Ha! Not wanting to enter into a full-blown steward’s enquiry, I said they were not ‘dithers’ but minor readjustments to my speed and direction to facilitate a faultless entry to his lock chamber.’ Of course he accepted my explanation without further ado and only dropped me one point from full marks!
As the lock filled he said he often saw shiny-boat owners creep in and cause more damage to their pride and joys due to their tentativeness. ‘Boldness and a steady hand is what’s called for!’ I liked all the Pauls for their helpfulness, friendliness and down-to-earthness.

We emerged into the quite narrow and very shallow middle fens and the going got slow with Skylark hauling herself through the  water. We reached Upwell by lunchtime and pulled over for a bite to eat.

Upwell is generally in a sorry state with many rundown houses and a few shops. It looks like half of it is awaiting a heritage reclamation scheme and the other half is awaiting immediate demolition! While there, I rang ahead to the Marmont Priory Lock keeper, a Mrs Norton. Marmont Priory Lock is an attractive place with surrounding trees and a traditional lock keeper's cottage.

Despite her failing hips, Mrs Norton operated the lock for us and we sailed through into a much deeper and wider part of the River Nene. This meant we could put on a bit more power while maintaining the 4mph speed limit.
We reached March by about 6.00pm and found an unsatisfactory mooring too near the central road bridge. We could see by the litter that things were often thrown over the bridge – we didn’t want to be the ones under it! I also noticed a few rat baiting boxes which gave me clue as to one of their on-going problems. I then noticed a vacant mooring on the other side of the bridge so we went there only to find it was under a couple of large trees used by roosting pigeons. As I didn’t want to spend hours washing Skylark in the morning, we decided to move on and find somewhere else. We went 3 miles out of March, past Fox’s Marina, and moored up alongside the Nene in the middle of nowhere and spent a very peaceful night with only the noise of the increasing wind and sloshing of the river as a soundtrack.

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