Tuesday 29th July
30 miles - this may change when an exact calculation is made, 1 lock
05:30 0 up
07:15 – Monty and I had been on a good long walk, the tide was in and the weather was good.
All we needed was Daryl Hill, the pilot. A phone call to Patrick to say he was stuck in traffic and would go to West Lynn and get the ferry.
We were entertained watching this large tanker manoeuvring.
A man arrived – was this Daryl. If so he did not fit my expectations – he was wearing a short sleeved white shirt with epaulettes marking some sort of rank, dark trousers and a life jacket. The latter I expected, but not the official shirt. Rest easy – he was there to check all things were in working order on the pontoon including the SOS alarm.
Another man arrived and fitted the bill perfectly – a navy ‘sailors cap’, beard, dark top, jeans and with a life jacket swinging from his hand. Yes this was Daryl. Tea with one very good sugar ('I am nearly down to one, but not quite!' he announced) was supplied by Boatwif. Which boat do you want to travel on? ‘I need to sit down as I am suffering from sciatica’ was the reply. That will be Tentatrice then as we have a semi trad stern. He was settled aboard complete with cushion and off we went just before 09:00.
We were in the lead followed by Cleddau with Chouette bringing up the rear
Out past the first buoy (we saw a lot of these)
The sky was blue with light clouds
All was very well with our world. Lots of tea and a biscuit (or two) were consumed as we made our way further and further out to sea.
We passed a couple of shrimping trawlers busy at work
We were never out of sight of land, but it certainly felt like it at times.
Having come across the March Navy on the Great Ouse, today we had the Boston Armada bearing down on us!
It was not long before they sped past on their way to Felixstowe according to Daryl.
Lunch was offered, but the decision was made to wait until we beached on Roger Sands which we did around 14:00. Before we could land the resident seal had to move.
‘Drive it hard straight onto the sand’ was the instruction offered. In no time at all we were stationary.
Lunch was created – we had heard on the grapevine that Daryl is partial to a bacon butty, but not just any old bacon butty – one with butter on the bap, brown or barbecue sauce, tomato and lettuce! Very good they were too! Well I hope it met up to expectation
Then it was time to disembark - Cleddau has a great ladder
ours was not so good! Chris just made it down our rope ladder.
Getting back on was even more difficult
Whereas Cleddau’s could be use with a degree of decorum!
I waited to use theirs - a new ladder is definitely on the shopping list!
Once we were on the beach we could appreciate the sight of three narrow boats side by side waiting for the tide to turn.
Then we could enjoy the freedom to walk, run after a ball (Monty), ease springs (Monty again), paddle and enjoy the one seal who stayed around to amuse us all. Was she waving in greeting or trying to hurry us away from her sandbank, so she could get back to basking in the sun?
Monty and the seal were oblivious of each other
Deep discussions took place
Feet were ‘washed’ – yes it was a good ‘washing day’ Mike GTX!
Then it was time to get back on board (The Captain had to go last as we all needed to use his ladder).
After some 2.5 hours it was time to re-float – it took a lot of power, but we all made it safely
The excitement was all too much for Monty who had a nap with his head leaning on Daryl’s feet – this is a dog who does not cuddle – we reckon he was keeping in with the man in charge!
As we neared land the wind got up
But we were soon at Tabs Head which marks the start of the River Witham
We proceeded along the Witham with a good degree of splashing around the bows – more than there had been all across the Wash.
This is what we were aiming for – St Botolph’s Church, aka The Stump
On the approach
Past the swing railway bridge which is still in use
Past the fishing fleet
And a bit of a boat graveyard
Under a bridge - 'keep to the centre of the channel' we were advised
And then suddenly familiar territory – we parked here when we visited in March
Next we were rewarded with a sight of the lock. Daryl’s timing was perfect – we were there about 10 minutes before the tide and the river were level. The lock is only about 40 feet long and we were all longer than that, so needed level water to allow us to go through with the gates open at either end.
Just enough time to let this sailing boat through before us
In we all went
The very big gates closed behind us
And then we were off
By just after 19:00 we were all moored up – Chouette on a pontoon
and Cleddau and Tentatrice along the bank as the rest of the pontoons were full - there were 8 narrow boats waiting to go across the Wash to Wisbech the next day.
Next came a champagne celebration on board Cleddau with Boatwif sharing the good news with the Cheshire One.
Yet another fabulous sunset
Which really lit up the Stump behind us
Can I summarise the day? Well yes, it was a fantastic experience. Daryl kept his eye on the ball in a very understated way all day and his timings were on the dot. To anyone out there thinking about crossing the Wash – I would say ‘Do it’! This is a very big tick on our ‘to do’ list.