Batteries and the Lark

A three day trip to do various jobs on the boat, and then a trip to Jude’s Ferry at the end of the Lark. First the jobs …

Fitted two new domestic batteries – the previous pair lasted since 2013 so I suppose I should be reasonably pleased. The little box on top is a Sterling desulphator: not sure it does a lot. The new ones had a second set of auxiliary terminals – I’ve no current need for them.

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Tightened the stern gland, polished the engine room floor,
and adjusted the weed hatch.dscf9244

Installed the plaque from the 2016 trip to the Medway – rather honoured to get one of these as SG did not take part in the trip…


Inspected the  new bubble tester – the BSS check showed a small leak and so it seemed sensible to get one of these installed at the same time.dscf9271

And now the boating ..

Heading up the Lark, between Prickwillow and Isleham

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The Washes just before Isleham lock. Lots of geesedscf9250 dscf9253

A brief exploration of Lee Brook. Deep but a bit narrow.
I did not fancy reversing in the wind,  so I did not go very far!dscf9254 dscf9256 dscf9257

Approaching Jude’s Ferry – pub just visible in the gloom.dscf9258

Setting off the next morning. All four fenders were in use to protect the paint against the rather rickety (and slippery) jetty. Intermittent snow: quite cold but not unpleasant.dscf9264

The Pepperpot house near Islehamdscf9267

Quite a few Cambridge rowers out on the Ouse – using their new boathouse (will take a photo next time – officially opened in December). Rather gloomy so I put my new navigation lights ondscf9268

St Pancras Lock Open Day

I spent a few hours visiting St Pancras, in the middle of the stoppage there (new bottom gates, refurbished top gates), and helping a bit to host visitors to the Waterpoint, which St Pancras Cruising Club had opened for the day.

The view from the waterpoint …


Gasholder apartments (not all sold yet – see here)dscf9217

St Pancras basin, Javelin train in the backgrounddscf9220

The construction site for the new footbridge, which will end up just right of centre on the far bankdscf9222

St Pancras Station, and the Crick institute for biomedical research


And now inside and around the lock …dscf9223

Bottom stop planks. A bit of modern concrete, and unusually (sorry no photo) a bottom cill made from steel.dscf9224

New gatesdscf9227

Invert, looked in good conditiondscf9228

Looking up the lockdscf9230

Top gatesdscf9231

Top paddle culvertdscf9233 dscf9234

Looking down the lockdscf9236

Assorted workboatsdscf9237

Winter maintenance

Last weekend Jeremy had a day with his friends – see rather fine photos here

Then I spent him a day training him to

  • open up the engine compartment
  • change the oil
  • change the oil filter
  • change the three fuel filters
  • change the fan belt
  • check the ATF in the gearbox.

Here we are in our overalls, and with some of the rubbish we generated.

Then yesterday I upgraded my stern and steaming lights, as the ones we currently have are only in theory valid  for boats up to 12 metres. The new ones were much more powerful and – as LED bulbs – will consume less power. The stern light hangs over the rear doors, and the mast takes the place normally occupied by the Red Ensign.

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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…

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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)

Floorboards and carpets

Near-final preparations for the trip up the Backs next weekend. I, and another St Pancras Cruising Club member who moors in Ely, are taking a number of SPCC visitors to Cambridge and back. Arrived in the fog at 1915 on Saturday night, just missing the fireworks.

The task for Sunday was to replace another rotten section of floorboard, remove the carpet tiles (about 15 years old, I think?), hoover the floor, and fit new carpet tiles (annoyingly I needed 41, so just breaking into the third box). I also painted and cleaned the stove (I did this first). A brief trip in the late afternoon sun to the Cutter Ferry, for no particular reason.

This will leave a number of tasks for next week:

  • fit the curtains on the front window (all the bits have now arrived from RCR).
  • fill the water tank
  • empty the loo
  • clean it – as it got rather dusty from the work on the bilges recently
  • work out where to put the hand scythe that I bought on a recent holiday to Herefordshire
  • apply mastic to a window and see if that stops the leak
  • work out where to store my new megaphone (birthday present)


I ended up lifting most of the floorboards in the original (1978) section of the boat – ie dinette and galley). To be honest, I think all the bilges here need a bit of work.

Looking back from the galley


Under the dinettedscf9037

Looking forward towards the galleydscf9038

New carpet in the saloon, and newly painted stove. Old megaphone still in situ.dscf9039 dscf9040

Looking back down the boatdscf9041

Old carpet tiles and floorboards awaiting disposal


Blacking, and no more singing

To the Lazy Otter boatyard on the Old West River, to pick up the boat after it had been out of the water for a week. Ken (and his welder) did the following:

  • jetwash and black the hull (not the base plate which was very clean – one of the advantages of a slipway over a dry dock is that I could get right under the boat)
  • remove the rubbing strake around the bows, plug a hole, repair some of the steelwork, and stick the strake back on
  • fit a new set of anodes
  • treat the inside of the hull under the side doors – a bit of rain damage discovered when replacing the rotten floorboards.

I also spent an hour filing down the propellor, in theory to deal with the prop song we have had for the last twenty years, at certain engine revs

So rather a lot of black photos, I am afraid.


Starboard bow, with the plugged hole under the refitted rubbing strake (the lower of the two)


The hole under the rubbing strake – photo by Ken.


Gas locker drain hole, port sidedscf9009

I had a good look along the side of the boat, to see if I could work out why we got stuck in a lock on the Chesterfield last year. No obvious reason.dscf9010 dscf9011

Good clearance under the hull – two substantial trolleys used to winch the boat out of the waterdscf9015

Rudder, rudder post, prop and weed hatchdscf9017

I filed down the propellor blades between the two tape marks, on the rear edge, to an angle of about 30 degrees, following the instructions here. I reduced the thickness at the edge by about 50%.


Rudder, prop and skeg.dscf9022 dscf9023

Ready to go back in the water. I moved the car to Ely while Ken put the boat back in.  He plugged the exhaust with a bicycle inner tube (inflated).dscf9025 dscf9026 dscf9028

A breezy day. NO PROP SONG!dscf9029 dscf9030

I turned around and stopped at the Fish and Duck for diesel and gas.dscf9031

Approaching Ely.dscf9033

Floorboards and old silicon

A crisp day in Ely, replacing the floorboard near the side hatch, which had gradually rotted away. Went for a short cruise to Diamond 44 (on the way to Littleport): lots of CUWBC  scullers and fours. Some quite heavy rain, and actually saw the water coming in at the top of one of the windows. Discovered that all the silicone sealant tubes I had – even the unopened ones – had cured and so were useless. So slapped a bit of gaffer tape on instead.

The view from the mooring


A rather large hole has appeared in the last few months


Old floorboard removed – well most of it.
I decided to leave the section on the right behind as removing it would mean dismantling rather a lot of other things.
The fore-aft steel beam is part of the work done when the boat was extended in 1994.dscf8936

New piece of marine ply, cut to fitdscf8938

New section in place – I  had to take it up again to put the ballast blocks back where they belong.dscf8941

Lots of rowers, north of Ely. I forgot to take a photo of the new CUWBC boathouse, which looks nearly finished and is already in use.dscf8946

Curtains and floorboards

A slow drive up from London on Friday night. Cruised to Little Thetford, arriving in the dark.


Spent most of the morning replacing the curtains. Also took out the grotty plastic curtain tracks and replaced them with chunky brass rods. Here’s the before …dscf8814

… and the after … dscf8823 dscf8824 dscf8829 dscf8831

Curtains made by In-Fabrics of Haverfordwest.


I then cruised on to the Lazy Otter on the Old West, where we are booked in for blacking and some welding work in November. Had a brief chat with Kenny, and also James and Amy on NB Willow who had spent the week in the dry dock.

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One for the trainspotters. Containers en route to Felixtowe, near Ely Dock Junction.dscf8844

On returning to Ely, I decided to lift the carpet to look at the slightly squidgy floorboard near the side hatch. I rather wished I hadn’t: another job for the winter..dscf8846

Finally, I should note that when Hilary and Tony took SG up the Little Ouse in September, the engine reached its 5,000th hour. I really should sort out the tachometer, which has been  stuck for  rather a long time.


Sharpness recce

On the way back from South Wales, after passing over the (old) Severn Bridge, we did a slight detour to reconnoitre Sharpness Dock – one end of the Bristol Channel tideway trip. I wonder whether we will ever do it? Road access (B4066 coming in from the south/right on the photo) was a bit tricky, as most of the roads were private.


Looking upstream (from the CRT picnic area) to the ship lock gates – the inner water level was right at the top. This section also has a third set of lock gates – out of shot to the left – but not in use today.


This narrowboat looked very incongrous


The view downstream – low tide so rather a lot of mud. The Severn Bridges were out there somewhere. Piling on either side of the dock entrance.

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Looking upstream from the upper swing bridge


… and downstream. We also drove over the shared rail/road swing bridge in the foreground – a very strange experience, but I don’t think any trains have been over here for quite a while, to judge from the vegetationDSCF8812


Here’s a nice drone video by Jay Clements showing the parts we didn’t quite get to, and also some of the Purton Hulks on the River Severn.


While I am about it, some photos (sorry on the phone’s camera) from a 2012 recce in Liverpool.