Breach Part 2, It’s Very Low. 21st December


There was plenty of standing water on the roads as we headed out of York on the A19, we passed close to Drax Power Station and then the salt and pepper pots of Goole came into view. Our route hadn’t taken us near the breach site, but all the low lying land looked quite soggy, so with several million gallons of water from the canal added into the equation there could be quite a problem!

When we last saw Oleanna 5th November

On Mondays the marina is normally shut, we had our fob ready to open gates, but this wasn’t required as the place was a hive of activity. It took a while to find a parking space, plenty of owners about. Groups stood and chatted, others moved the old work boats back and forth, getting them off the mud. Just about all the boats looked reasonably level, just a lot lower than normal.

The level today

Geoff came over to chat, he’d loosened our ropes, as I think had the chap on Nomad along with Al from across the way. Oleanna sat at least two foot lower than when we’d left her at the beginning of November. The normal level stern was now going to be interesting to get down to.

Close to the cabin side

Al had moved fenders up on the pontoon, but there was still a risk that the end might just catch a window or the paintwork of Oleanna.

We managed to get down by sitting on the edge of the pontoon and carefully lowering our selves down onto the gunnel, the slightly mangie off cut of purple carry mat we’ve been carrying around for years instead of going in a bin came in handy so as not to get a wet bum and to cushion knees when getting back up onto the pontoon.

That’s a long way down

As we stepped on board she rocked, phew we weren’t on the bottom … yet! The Dutch Barge a couple of boats up from us was very much sitting on the bottom, their draught being about 4ft, so Oleanna may have a foot and a bit under her still, but who knows what lurks beneath the surface.

Mick ramped the electric heating up and Oleanna was soon warming up quite nicely. Nothing seemed to have come to harm inside, hard to tell when we’d left every cupboard open, mattress up and the sofa on it’s back to keep everything aired. But the crockery was still in the cupboards and bottles of wine all upright. She’d been looked after well.

Talking to Geoff he suggested that the level may still drop some more. The caisson stop gates by the railway bridgehad been closed yesterday but they were leaking. At the other end the docks are closed, no movements of ships in and out of the docks. On previous visits to Goole when moored on the visitor moorings, we’ve noticed the level change by a few inches as the ships come and go, but the level was soon topped up from water coming down the system from the Aire at Knottingley. Victoria Lock, the older lock at the docks also leaks, so if the tide is out on the Ouse the water would gradually empty out at both ends.

News reports suggested that at the breach site culverts and drains had been blocked stopping the water from heading towards housing, the fields being flooded instead. Hundreds of tonne bags of sand had been brought to site and large bags of stones also sat waiting to be used to block the breach, they just needed a helicopter to lift everything into place. We all waited to hear a chinook but with the site just over four miles away we might not hear it. *It turns out it was too foggy for the helicopter.

Exol Pride with a full load

The water level going down is one thing. Tight ropes, getting caught on something on the way down might have your boat list. Al had said the day before was a bit like juggling plates, loosening ropes here and there, then there and here again. If vents to the engine bay get under water this can let water in, helping a boat to sink. Oleanna and the vast majority of boats at Viking were all sitting level, just lower than normal. An older boat in the corner was listing, maybe sat on something under the water, people were on hand checking her over to see what they might be able to do.

Maybe if people have lots of showers the level will start to come back up

Then there is what happens as water levels are restored. Vents close to the water line are one thing, but the biggest worry for most is gunnels getting caught on the underside of the pontoon, holding one side of the boat down as the levels rise. A few of the pontoons in the marina have planks attached to keep your boat from straying underneath, but others like ours have quite a big overhang. Without some fat fenders our cabin side would have been making good friends with the pontoon.

Will this be enough?

Mick spent his time seeing what we had to be able to keep Oleanna from drifting under the pontoon. Our boat pole was long enough and tied to a big T stud on the pontoon would do one end. But our other boat hooks and poles simply wouldn’t be long enough to do anything. He put our big red buoy fender out towards the middle of the cabin. Hopefully this would do the job, it might rub the paint work, but that is cheaper to sort than a sunken boat.

Bloomin bl**dy screws!

I’d come equipped to rehang curtains. Nicely washed and relined they were a little bit tighter than they’d been when I took them down, but the curtain rods seemed to still fit and the length was okay even if a touch tight. One thing however was a right pain, the f*ing screws! I’d forgotten that they were nearly all Frank screws (just about no head left)! I struggled on for a while, but having had eye drops at the hospital, slightly blurred vision and a headache I have to admit to giving up very quickly. Mick later did better but he gave up too and we will source slightly shorter new screws which will make the job a lot easier.

One set up

Oleanna had her engine run, charging the starter battery was important as this doesn’t get topped up by solar or from the hook up. I checked the damp traps in cupboards, emptied them and topped up the crystals. Need to buy more! The heating on Oleanna is set to come on when the temperature drops to 8 degrees, the advantage of having a boiler that works on both gas and electric.

Next it was time to find the things we needed. We’d left various things on board as we’d planned to have a week or two out before Christmas, but that simply hasn’t happened. I needed lots of things for my work on next years panto. My old sketch books for Aladdin and Puss in Boots have handy information in them. So a full big bag of drawings was removed from a cupboard. We prefer the bread knife on the boat, a gravy boat for Christmas dinner and the most important things our Christmas Stockings.

Stockings! I won’t have to make new ones now

We had our premade butties and cups of black coffee and tea, no milk!

Just as we’d locked up and climbed back onto dry land, Laird the marina owner came past checking we were alright. Mick asked if there was anything we could use towards the bow of Oleanna to keep her from drifting under the pontoon. Soon Geoff returned with a new long plank, 10 to 12 ft long. This was slotted down between Oleanna and the pontoon and then pushed into the mud at the bottom. We found a short length of rope and then tied the top of the plank round a beam on the pontoon, hopefully enough to stop it from moving. People around said they’d keep an eye open.

That’s better

Before leaving we drove up Albert Street to the end, near to the caisson stop gates. The water was higher on the dock side, we could only tell this by the water bubbling up from under the gates on the breach side.

During the afternoon we’d received an email from C&RT

Various bits of information came through during the evening Humberside Fire and Rescue, a good bit of footage on ITV news.

Hopefully see you soon Oleanna

Lisa is heading down tomorrow, Al is staying over on their boat again and hopefully we’ll sneak back across the tier border when we have a car next. With the plank and pole stuck in the mud down the side of Oleanna we felt happier. Just have to hope the levels don’t carry on dropping too much and us end up on a list.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2ft plus (or should that be minus?) drop, 1 breach, 1 pole, 1 plank, 1 new friend met, 1 still to meet, 0 milk, 1 warm boat, 2 sketch books, 1 gravy boat, 1 bread knife, 3 stockings, 2 relieved boaters, 1 boat blog list again!