Saturday 30 June 2018

Groundhog day

West Stockwith to Torksey
June 2018

Another day and another blast out on the Tidal Trent. 

Gates open and ready to go

Our enforced stay in West Stockwith proved to be very pleasant. After lunch at The Waterfront Inn, we spent a slobby afternoon dozing on the boat and bringing the blog up to date. Come 6.00pm we decided to visit The White Heart, home of the Idle Brewery where good food was available. 

Bye West Stockwith

In spite of a satisfactory first day on the Tideway, fears and concerns returned in the dark hours of the night. I find this habit massively frustrating and I had another less than great nights sleep, waking at 5.00am. Logic says all will be well, but still all the disaster options fill my mind. I guess the problem is that I know enough about the river to recognise the dangers, but not enough experience to put them in perspective!

Departure from West Stockwith is, as you would expect, determined by the tide. This isnt so much a matter of timing as observation. A single narrowboat entered the lock first and waited till the depth reached 3ft over the cill. Then the gates opened and he was off in a blast of blue diesel smoke. Then it was refilled for us and by the time we made a level with the river the water had risen to 5ft over the cill, and we left at about 8.30am.

Gainsborough Visitor Moorings

Paul Balmer had warned me about this exit, where the lock is angled downstream. The tip given to him was to exit like a rocket, but faster. I guess that because we have a shorter boat the advice was not as applicable, but we still gave it a good blast from the back of the lock and burst forth when given the thumbs up by the lock keeper. With a four mph current sweeping up the river, the bows swung round before the stern was fully out and the boat heeled over a bit, and then we were off up the river again at a steady 1500 rpm.

A salutary reminder that things can go wrong

For the most part the trip was uneventful, with us sticking to the middle of the channel and being swept south at an overall speed of about 6 mph. There is less grot in the water this far up and I suspect it is now entirely fresh. 

Gainsborough Bridge

The first notable landmark was Gainsborough where the visitor moorings sat uninvitingly empty - still somewhere I would use only if desperate. Then it was Gainsborough Road Bridge where swirls and eddies south of the cut waters caused the boats to buck and kick till smoother water was reached on the other side. 

Fast moving cruisers

It was between Gainsborough and Stoney Bight that we had our moments of greatest excitement. A number of tree trunks occupied the centre of the river and as we manouvered around them three large plastics came blatting along, punching the flood tide for all they were worth. With no ability to turn to meet the huge washes bows on, we had to take then at 30 degrees and oh my did we kick and buck. Of  course the pitch and roll of the motor became out of sync with the shorter butty. The bows of the motor were up as the butty went down and the connecting ropes were alternately taught and slack. All in all it was a thoroughly uncomfortable five minutes and the words "bloody plastics" were heard to come from my lips (with all respect to my friends on Naughty-Cal).

Turbulance at Stoney Bight

No sooner were we through the wake than we were into Stoney Bight where the river turns 180 degrees in an impossibly tight bend. This squeeze on the channel throws the current into a frenzy and provides another five minutes of excitement.

Then things settled down and we ticked off the landmarks as we passed them. A power station here, a pumping station there and of course, we started to count down the kilometer marker posts which started at 88 just south of Gainsbourough.

The flood tide continues to push us along, boosting our speed from 3 mph to over 5. At one point the Lancaster of the RAF Memorial Flight flew over us which gave Helen something to point the camera at. Up till then she has been focusing on sheep!


From our previous trips down river I knew that any slow canal boats making for Keadby would spend an hour or so punching the tide and it was likely we would meet them somewhere around Marton Rack. Sure enough, just as we approached Marton Corner and large broadbeam emerged, making slow progress.

Marton Corner

From there the skyline was dominated by the Cottam Power Station, which sits opposite Torksey. My main fear was that we would run out of flood tide, which was visibly slowing. It was with relief that we went under Torksey Railway Bridge and finally the entrance to Torksey cut came into view. In the event after three hours of travel we had maybe 20 or 30 minutes before the top of the tide - but you don't know that till you have done it.

Helen could see my stress increase as the flood tide came to an end and provided a non stop rendition of every river song she could think of. She also asked if, having completed most of the tideway, would I consider doing it with the butty again. Right now the jury is out. Lets get the last leg to Cromwell under our belt and I will give a balanced reply. I guess that this diversion has pushed us beyond our comfort zone for the paired boats, but has also provided an enhanced appreciation of what is possible. I certainly am happy to go to Gloucester at some point.

Torksey Cut

So here we sit beneath Torksey Lock, waiting for tomorrows flood tide, which starts at 10.00 am should help us to reach Cromwell three hours later. Maybe I will get a better nights sleep tonight.

Torksey Visitor mooring

No comments: