St Pancras CC go to Cambridge

At last, the weekend of the St Pancras Cruising Club trip from Ely to Cambridge and back. The Fenland flotilla consisted of two narrowboats: SPRIG O’ WILLOW, skippered by Polly, and SCHOLAR GYPSY.

Pride of place must go to to Richard Taylor for this timelapse video he kindly took of the Saturday trip. As you can see Polly and her crew are helpfully demonstrating a variety of techniques to use if you get stuck.


Here are links to some more photographs, taken by our visitors:


Returning to a chronological record, I arrived in Ely on Friday morning. A variety of tidying up tasks, including fitting the new front curtains and polishing the engine bilges. I also bought some rather fine doormat material from Cutlacks (£40 for a 1 metre square) which I then cut up to fit various spaces around the boat, and protect the carpet. Then to Evensong at the Cathedral before a rather large shop at Sainsburys. Christine, our first visitor, arrived about 2000 in her camper van (air draught 9’6″), having wisely decided not to use the railway bridge near Ely Station..



On Saturday at 0700 I moved round to the Cutter Ferry Inn, to await our visitors, arriving by train from Downham Market and London. Finished laying the breakfast table in preparation for the expected onslaught. It wouldn’t be a SPCC cruise without a passage plan – here is ours, which worked out pretty well as advertised…

dscf9048 dscf9049 dscf9050 dscf9047

And we’re off – Tony (SPCC Commodore) and Elaine. Somewhere on the Cam, I think.


The Commodore’s pennant. If you look closely you should be able to see the three balls.dscf9054

Andrew and Colindscf9055

Kathleen and Elaine, keeping warmdscf9059

Frances steering us out of Bottisham Lock – we are now on Cam Conservancy waters.dscf9062

Baits Bite lock – just reopened after a stoppage, and with a slightly temperamental guillotine gate at the moment.


We had to wait a bit for the Cambridge Winter Head rowing regatta to complete the third division of races. We had our own marshal to shepherd us up the course, and keep out of the way of crews coming down for the next set of races. I had been in touch with the organisers beforehand, so this was all as expected. The course was a full 2,500 metres, with 236 crews taking part, and times ranging from 8:29 to 16:35 (results here)dscf9063

Arriving at Jesus Lockdscf9070

Here’s my recent  birthday present – a new megaphone – which I used for the safety briefing. Some claimed to be disappointed that there was no powerpoint. It all went well until I explained that the towpath was in the middle of the channel, under about three feet of water.


Group photo taken by a passing resident.


Locking up through Jesus lock. Fortunately we didn’t need to bother with the swinging footbridge across the lock.dscf9073

A competition for the silliest headgear. Di is a strong contender.


Magdalene Bridgedscf9076

Clare Bridge


Clare College, and Kings College Chapel next doordscf9078

Queens College. We have turned, and are waiting below Silver St bridge for Polly to turn around. This was a slightly longer wait than we had expected.dscf9079

Clare Bridge again – quite  a lot of punt trafficdscf9080 dscf9081

We tied up again below Jesus Lock, for Madeira cake (and Madeira), courtesy of Andrew and Frances. The visiting crew then made their way home, and I had a snooze.


On Sunday, son Hugh came for breakfast (and got a bit of mud on the carpet – well someone has to be first). SG had a completely new crew, including Andy and Gill, members of the excellent GOBA. Despite owning a plastic cruiser, they had been on a narrowboat holiday before, so we were very pleased to welcome them on board….dscf9082

The slackers at Jesus Lock. They are so slow to wind up that by the time you get them right up, the lock has filled and it is time to wind them down again. Christine and Polly doing the business.

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Andy, Andy, Roger and Bevdscf9085


The lowest bridge on the route:  St Johns Kitchen bridge (photo credit: R Squires). Not much room for error, especially given there was a bit of a crosswind. No paint was scratched, and no bridge was hit.


Trinity Bridgedscf9090

Clare bridgedscf9093

Turning just upstream of Silver Street bridge. In theory one can go quite a bit further, but I didn’t fancy getting stuck.dscf9094

Andy and Andy, just above Jesus Lock. For some reason I stopped taking photos at this point

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Having just dropped Roger off at Waterbeach (photo credit: R. Squires), and had a brief discussion with the fishermen occupying the visitor moorings. We got to Ely at 1740, ten minutes behind schedule. By this time it was properly dark, although there was quite a bit of light reflected from the low cloud cover.



Finally, for anyone who wonders why the Backs are only open to powered boats in the winter, here’s another video (thanks to James from NB Willow for pointing this out to me)


4 thoughts on “St Pancras CC go to Cambridge

  1. Pingback: SPCC to the Backs – take two | Scholar Gypsy

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