No Stopping The Prime Van Or Us. 26th February

Blue Water Marina to Bramwith Junction, Stainforth and Keadby / New Junction Canals

During the week house reclaiming jobs have been completed, for this winter. All the hallway wallpaper has been patched up, some places better than others. Daily covid test have been taken as half of the Dark Horse Company tested positive the weekend after the show, thankfully everyone seems to have only had mild symptoms and thankfully I seem to have managed to avoid it.

Tree looking not so happy

We’ve made the sensible but hard decision to retire our boat Christmas tree. It has served us well for the last 7 Christmases. Coming into the house has confused it the last two years, sprouting and then getting chilly again even with us trying to move it gradually back to outside. It was also getting a touch too big for the boat and was pot bound. A space in the back garden was made ready with a touch of our own compost, which we hope will give it a much needed boost. If it survives I’ll buy it some solar powered lights so that it can be a Christmas tree all year round.

During the winter C&RT do maintenance on the canal system, taking advantage of the quieter time on the canals. For boaters wanting to cruise it means a touch more planning to avoid getting stuck. Our route south is currently blocked at Newark Town Lock which will be closed until 18th March. Then Thorne Lock was due to close between 1st and 31st March for lock gate replacement, the dates of this stoppage are under review as the gate manufacturing has been delayed. All the same should we stay put at Blue Water Marina for a few more weeks we could possibly end up only being able to cruise out towards Keadby, the furthest south we’d get being Torksey until Newark Town Lock reopens.

Add into the mix the fact that we are surrounded by rivers. The River Trent to our east, River Don the south, River Aire to the north and west and the River Ouse. The recent storms have had all the rivers go into flood. Flood gates and locks have been closed helping to protect properties. So understandably during the last week we’ve been watching the weather forecasts and river levels closely.

Putting everything away

On Wednesday a C&RT notice came through saying that the Don Doors had reopened. The Doors are two guillotine gates that close at either side of the Don Aqueduct on the New Junction Canal, this is to stop flood water from the Don backing up along the New Junction Canal. Whilst they had been closed we’d tried contacting Staniland Marina to see if they could put us up for a little while, they are just above Thorne Lock. But there had been no space for us, so we’d been relieved to hear the New Junction Canal was open again.

I’m sure I’ll fit too

With the weather looking promising for the weekend, our plan started to slot together. A phone call to Sarah at Blue Water Marina meant we had a new gas bottle delivered to Oleanna and our spare keys were returned too as nobody would be in the office when we arrived.

A hire car was picked up on Friday evening and we started to pack. The aim of this trip was to move as much back onto Oleanna as possible, leaving the minimum amount for our last trip when we’d be moving Tilly.

By 9am Saturday morning the car was very full. Tilly’s magic food bowl was set to spring open at evening Ding Ding time and we left a sulking feline basking in the sunshine.

Go on then, go without me!

They just don’t care about me anymore! She says it’s all about me, to make my life easier and less stressful. Well being left in a chilly house with Boggy Face Alan, Stumpy Betty and Boss Eyed Shoes glaring in at me is very stressful! Think I’d prefer a car journey.

It was sunny at the marina, the grass no longer squelching under foot, I just hoped Oleanna would be drier inside than last week. Thankfully she was. First job light the stove. Mick failed first time, kindling and matches just a little bit too damp still. The heating went on and the fire was re-laid and was soon blazing away.

Water tank was emptied, not much left, then refilled. We’d wanted to sterilize the tank but with the water pressure in the marina being a touch dodgy we decided that could wait. Fresh water in our tank would most probably be fine to drink, but after months I’d rather any possible bugs were killed, we’d brought a couple of bottles of drinking water with us anyway.

The back steps came out, the dinette opened up and all the things we’d brought down last were stowed giving us room to empty the car again. Then all that stuff had to be stowed away too. Lunch by the hatch, the weather was suitable for it to be open today.

The trip computer always gets sat up like this to stop Tilly from sitting on it

Mick moved the hire car out of the marina, just in case he got back to collect it after the gates had been closed. The covers were rolled and folded out of the way. The trip computer set to record our journey. We were ready!

Time to say goodbye to Blue Water Marina

Thankfully the wind was kind to us and allowed Mick to reverse us out of our mooring, gradually we turned and headed for the entrance. Two chaps came over to talk to Mick, saying they’d just had difficulty, two of them trying to open it, they’d given up and returned to the marina. We assumed they meant Princess Royal Swing Footbridge which can be awkward. Oh well, we’d see how we did with it.

What a beautiful day

Blue sky, a chilly breeze. Perfect winter cruising weather, we’d chosen our departure day well.

On arrival I opened the control panel where a new sheet of instructions has been added. I made sure I read it fully, turned the key and headed over to close the far barriers. One barrier clicked, the other despite a wiggle or three didn’t, Hmmm! Back over the other side I closed those, click, click and tried to set the bridge in motion. It wasn’t having it. I started to squeeze my way through to wiggle the far gate, but Mick came and did it for me. Still nothing! I’d nudged a near side gate which needed a wiggle now. Hooray the bridge swung!

Thorne Lock ahead

Water bubbled below Thorne Lock, did the gates need replacing that much? It turned out that paddles were open at both ends of the lock letting water flow through to reduce the level above the lock after the recent flooding. Putting the key of power into the control panel immediately closed all the paddles and I had control.

Control panel

Just above the lock is a swing bridge with manual barriers, which is tied into the lock mechanism. The barriers and bridge will only move once the top gates of the lock are open. Up came Oleanna in her first lock of the year, she smiled from horn to horn.

First lock of the year!

With the gates open I headed up to close the barriers to the road. With one closed I was coming back to close the second one when an Amazon Prime van sped up past me and onto the bridge. I shouted about the barrier, he stopped but stayed put on the bridge. It was me who would have to give way to him, no stopping Amazon Prime!

Clear of the stoppage when ever it happens

With him out of the way and barriers closed I lifted the handle on the bridge and pushed it open to let Oleanna out of the lock. All easy. We were now clear of the possible stoppage on Monday.

Staniland Marina with a sunk boat in front of the dry dock!

As we pootled away we wondered what the two chaps at the marina had had difficulty with. Two of them not able to open it? Maybe they had been referring to the bridge at the lock, perhaps they hadn’t lifted the handle, or maybe they hadn’t read the instructions and hadn’t opened the top gates before they tried the bridge. Oh well, we’d got through and that’s all that mattered, no stopping us!

We pootled along, under the M18 and past the scrubby bits where motorbikes must race each other. A breasted up pair came towards us, the canals up here so wide and deep there’d be no problem getting past each other. A batch of new houses have met up with the canal at Stainforth.

Bramwith Lock

Time was getting on and the sun was getting low in the sky. We considered stopping short of Bramwith Swing Bridge but decided we’d prefer to have the view at Bramwith Junction. Through the swing bridge and on to the lock.

Coming up

Bramwith lock feels so diddy, the extended lock (chained open and not often used) makes it seem so small. Time for a windlass and to manually lock Oleanna up.

Of course as soon as we reached the junction, where we wanted to moor the wind picked up, blowing Oleanna out from the bank, so it took us a while to moor her up as the sun set opposite us. The effort was worth it for the view.


More unpacking, the bed made up and a touch of encouragement to defrost the frozen bolognaise sauce we’d brought with us, we then settled down for the evening back on board Oleanna.

2 locks, 5.85 miles, 1 hire car, 1 left behind cat, 2 car loads to stow, 3 swing bridges, 4 held up, 1 big gulp, 1 chilly blue skied day, 1 boat gradually warming up, 2 happy boaters, 1 smiling Oleanna.