Tanking Down

Our mooring at Gunthorpe was only a short distance above the lock.  We needed to set off early enough to be sure we would get to somewhere to empty the waste tank.  Once we were ready to go I suggested Clare should phone the lock-keeper.  I hoped we’d get told to come immediately and expect the lock to be ready, or even just told how long to wait before casting off.  There was no reply though, so we set off unannounced.

We weren’t surprised to see the lights at amber when we arrived – which means you have to work the lock yourself.  Clare clambered up a ladder armed with the facilities key.  The lock was set our way, so it wasn’t long before she opened the gates and I drove in.  While I was getting the back of the boat tied up, Clare closed the gates.  She was a little confused by the layout of the control panel – it was different from any she’d seen before.  Once the gates were closed, the paddles needed to be shut.  There were separate buttons for Near and Far.  It took a little experiment to establish that this meant the near and far sluices at this end of the lock, not the other end.

Control panel. A white metal box inside which is a row of three pairs of buttons.  Each pair has a green open and red close button.  Labels indicate near sluices, gates and and far sluices.  There is a label with more instructions below the controls.  A key has been inserted in to the panel at the side.
Control Panel for One End of a Lock

Once everything was closed, she took the key to the other control panel to open those (near and far) paddles, and then the gates.  It all went very smoothly, and I was easily able to wait next to a pontoon below the lock to pick her up.

Gunthorpe lock.  A narrowboat is at the bottom of a river lock.  The boat is dwarfed by the structure which is several times longer, wider and deeper than the boat.  A white box on the lock side holds the control panel.
Shane and Bartimaeus at the Bottom of Gunthorpe Lock

The wind was quite strong and standing on the boat in the middle of the river was giving me no shelter.  I was soon wearing my waterproof coat and a woolly hat.  The river was wide and felt slow, but we were moving fairly quickly nevertheless.  I tried to stay near the middle of the river, and I was usually careful to keep to the outside of any bends.  I was just thinking I should move further out when I heard a grating noise. I went instinctively to neutral immediately, and then used the bow thruster to throw the bow further away from the bank.  Fortunately things went quiet and we carried on down river.

Clare phoned ahead to Hazelford Lock and was told we’d probably be just in time as there was a cruiser coming up.  We met the cruiser just before we came in to sight of the lock to see red lights showing.  I hovered in the lock entrance for a short while and then saw a lock-keeper running towards us.  He hollered that there was another boat coming and we’d have a ten minute wait – no problem, but that phone call was a waste of time.  I tied the stern to a ladder as the bollards were above head height.  Clare was concerned about the bow being unattached.  I was pretty sure it wouldn’t go far with the wind and current pushing from behind.

A narrowboat appeared out of the lock and came by very close and fast.  It looked like they were trying to moor, but they carried on and turned sharply at the end of the lock channel.  Clare was slightly confused about the layout and feared they had turned towards the weir.  I don’t know where they did go, but I knew the weir was on the other side of the river.

As we came out of the lock I realised that I was going to be very hungry before we reached the next lock and wished I’d noticed the time before.  When I spotted a visitor mooring at Farndon with enough room, I spun us round in the river and we moored up for lunch.  We’d only gone a few boat lengths after lunch when I remembered why the name was familiar – it was the name of one of the marinas near here with facilities we needed.  We tied up on the service jetty and after various minor confusions managed to get the waste tank emptied and the diesel tank refilled.

With the main missions for the day accomplished, we decided to return to the pontoon where we’d had lunch and stop for the day.  The nearby pub provided an excellent evening meal (another pub was also available).

We’d let the morning drift a little yesterday when I remembered that I had a video chat with erstwhile colleagues in the afternoon, so we needed to get going.  It was less windy than the previous day, but still a bit chilly on the river.

Leaving Farndon.  A man is standing on the stern of a narrowboat.  A small boat is following behind.  A metal pedestrian bridge spans the entrance to the marina on one side of the river.
Shane Driving Bartimaeus near Farndon Marina

It was only about an hour to Newark Town Lock.  This time the phone call worked well.  As we approached the red lights changed to red and green (lock being prepared for you) and then green, so we could drive straight in.  There were some moorings immediately beyond the lock, but all against very high walls.  I quite liked the idea of mooring directly opposite the castle, but in any case decided to get water first.

Newark Castle.  The ruined castle in Newark has an imposing facade dropping straight down to the river.  Unusually for such a fortification there are large windows overlooking the river.
Newark Castle from the River Trent

We soon found a pontoon with a water point.  Turning round in the river here was trickier as it was a fast flow and wasn’t much wider than the boat.  With the bow thruster to help out I turned very neatly – if I say so myself.  While we were filling the tank Clare popped to the nearby high-class supermarket (other supermarkets are available).  Once the tank was full I allowed the boat to drift back down the pontoon to make better use of the space.  Another boater commented on what a quiet mooring this was despite being right in the town.

Quiet mooring.  A family of swans swim on a river which flows underneath us.  Just visible at a bend in the river is a pontoon with narrowboats moored to it.  The river banks are wooded on both sides, but the buildings of a town lie behind.
Bartimaeus on Newark Town Moorings

It was warm enough in the sunshine to have my video chat in the front cockpit.  There were only occasional interruptions from other boats mooring up and filling the remaining space on the pontoon during the afternoon.

This morning some boats behind us had left, so I drove us even further back on the pontoon so that our panels were not overshadowed by trees.