By SHE (Who Must Be Obeyed)
I SAID I would never do it again, but I found myself going down the Trent from Nottingham to Keadby with the promise from HE of going through Standedge Tunnel under our own power. Could it be third time lucky at Keadby?
The first time the boat had been splattered on a gravel barge and then the second time catapulted into the front lock gates. The plan was to set off from Cromwell at 9.30am, spending the night at Torksey, and leaving again at 9.30am. Then to moor at Gainsborough, and leave again at 2.30pm. What agony! Waiting for hours on the tidal Trent. Hope it is worth it.
Just bought the boat
It all began way back at Cranfleet Lock when we joined up by chance with Ray and his 60ft narrowboat Dianne. Ray had just bought his boat the previous week, yet single handed he was taking it to Lincoln, with no previous experience of boating! And such was his navigation skill that he went up the Soar thinking it was the Trent! A braver man than I!
Needless to say when Ray found out we were going in his direction, and even better, had been before, he stuck to us like glue. Daft sod! So there we were, eventually leaving Newark to head for Cromwell Lock. Ray was well scared, but I know the first part of the tidal Trent is okay, and even pleasant at times.
The lock keeper at Cromwell was a happy chappie (trying to boost the troops' moral―but he couldn't fool me) who cheerfully told us that there was a note on his desk to tell us that there was a change of plan, and we were leaving Torksey at 6am and getting to Keadby at 10.30am on a flood tide, whatever that was, and not as previous told.
'Great', I thought, it will all be over by 11. We left Cromwell with Ray sticking on our tail 'cos he thinks we know what we are doing. The tide is going out, and taking it steady with less revs as I am saving fuel (you know the price of it these days!) But HE keeps cutting corners on the river as he has done all the way down. I tell him to keep to the middle, but HE knows best! Get the picture? All is fine until we reach what the lockies call Lollipop Corner, just before Dunham Bridge.
Cuts the corner
Guess what? HE cuts the corner as usual but the tide is going out. Then there is that heart sinking noise of metal on gravel, and we grind to a halt―we are grounded! Ray, who was 10 yards behind comes hurtling past shouting “What Shall I do?” We sign for him to turn round, but can he do it? Meanwhile it's out with the pole, and yes, we are well and truly stuck―it won't budge! By this time Ray has managed to turn round and is doing a second fly-past. HE throws a rope at Ray who can't help but catch it as it hits him. We are frantically shouting 'tie it on the T bar', but he doesn't know where or what a T bar is. Finally Ray grasps what we mean and frantically has to put his boat in reverse to avoid being pulled off the boat backwards as he clings to the rope, and ties it on.
For a while nothing happens, and I get a flash-back of when HE last grounded us on the Thames, when the rope snapped as someone else tried to pull us off. I've bought new ones since then, which
HE moans about constantly because 'they are too thick'. Thank God! For the rope holds, then with Ray's boat in full throttle and water splashing everywhere, slowly the boat comes off the sand-bar. A big sigh of relief, and we get the rope back. Ray has just had a big learning curve on how to pull another boat. Now HE is not allowed the tiller, and we get to the sanctity of Torksey safely.
Here we say goodbye to Ray and thank him for rescuing us, who in turn thanks us for 'teaching him'(?) and getting him to Torksey. Next job is to check with the lockie, and make sure the time is right for tomorrow. He tells us it is correct, and that he is waiting for two boats that are stuck on the sand bar at Lollipop Corner, apparently grounded, with one going to help the one stuck but getting stuck too. Now they are both waiting for the tide to turn and get them off.
HE feels better, but HE is not off the hook. No. HE is not having the tiller!
As we set off just before six next morning it soon becomes obvious that the tide is going out, and has been for quite a while, but it is not flowing fast, and the whole river is quite serene. Past the moorings at Gainsborough which do not look inviting at all. Glad we didn't have to stay there.
We did not realise that when the lock keeper at Cromwell mentioned 10.30, it wasn't an estimated time, but the actual time to arrive to take advantage of the tide turning. Even though I kept the revs low we made good time, and it is 9.50 when I ring the lock keeper at Keadby from the M180 bridge. “Oh dear.” he says. “You are much to early, the tide isn't due to turn yet.” 'What!', thought I. 'Not again!' So there we were coasting down the river with the boat skewing 'cos we are going so slow trying to waste time. No matter how slow we went, we still get to the lock too early at 10.15.
HE is then allowed to take the tiller, as I am shaking like a jelly and we have to hover. Amazingly there is no tide, it's just still. The lock is letting water out, there's a gravel barge offering sanctuary, but no need, HE is holding the boat perfectly still outside the lock entrance! Can't believe it after the traumatic times we have had before. Wow! A boat comes out of the lock, and it is agony waiting for the light to change. Finally it goes green, and we are able to seek the haven of the lock. (Keadby photographs by Simon Patton.)
Just as we go in I see the next boat coming down the river in the distance. Roped-up and with a smile on my face we wait for it to make its entrance. I see its nose flash past the gates and then it comes for a second go, only to see the whole boat flash past sideways. There's a big bang as the boat hits the gravel barge. Finally it comes nosing into the lock and moors alongside with a sigh of relief from the crew. I just cannot believe the river changes from still to flowing so quick―we only just made it. Then the third boat comes nosing into the lock, and a lot of happy boaters see the lock gates close on the tidal Trent.
So I know the answer to Keadby now! Only go on a tide where it changes at Keadby. (I think it is called a neap tide.) Find out what time that is from the lockie and try to be there on the change. That's the only way I will do it from now on, to save the butterflies and sleepless night before―fingers crossed!
Jan Green. (She Who Must Be Obeyed)