Dashing Up The Trent. 4th April

Keadby Visitor Moorings to Muskham Ferry, River Trent

Neither of us slept well last night. An early start on tidal waters, the trains going over Vazon Sliding Bridge through the night, not knowing what we would find when we reached David, plus the thought that the conditions on the river could be unsafe due to high winds so we’d not reach Cromwell today.

Almost ready to go down

The alarm went off at 6am, enough time for a cuppa, do final checks and put Tilly’s escape pod together. A phone call from Kirsty saying we had ten minutes before she’d open the road bridge in front of the lock. Covers were sorted quickly, ash can back on board then we followed NB No Rush towards the lock, the light having turned green a couple of minutes earlier.

Water pouring over from the canal

Kirsty said the flood was still a way off so she would let us down the lock slowly and wait for the level outside the lock to be right before opening the gates. We sat in the lock gradually going down chatting away to Will on NB No Rush. Both boats had the same plan, Cromwell, but if conditions were bad then a stop at either Torksey or Dunham. We exchanged phone numbers and with both boats having VHF we knew we could be in touch even if we were out of sight of each other.

Thank you Kirtsy

It took 40 minutes for things to be right before the gates opened in front of us. Will suggested we went first as we had more reason to get somewhere today and he’d been told he travels a touch slower than most. Out onto the river, the push from the tide not yet really going for it.

We’d not been down to the lock to check if there were any ships moored on the river as we do normally, so it was a relief that there wasn’t one there to surprise us.

A ship across the way

Dressed appropriately, thermals, padded waterproof trousers, jumpers, fleece, waterproof coat, we hoped we’d be able to withstand what ever the weather threw at us. The large expanse of river was ahead, we gradually crossed over to go under the eastern span of Keadby Bridge. NB No Rush appeared from the lock behind, at first seeming to keep up with us, but as the two boats settled into their cruising speed with the tide we slowly pulled away from them.

Breakfast on the move

Time for breakfast, sausage sarnies and an insulated mug of something hot. Meanwhile below Tilly was not impressed with the speed we were moving the outside, I’m not a speed monster!

Follow the red line

With our Trent chart in a plastic bag for protection from a little rain early on, we followed the red line marking the channel, around us the level gradually rising with the tide.

NB No Rush behind

This was our fourth trip southwards on the Tidal Trent. First trip was on NB Lillyanne in 2015, then on Oleanna’s maiden voyage when we managed to catch an early morning spring tide which carried us all the way to Cromwell. Then last year when we’d come round Trent Falls escaping from Goole. Today the westerly wind would be over the tide giving us waves when we turned into it. Thankfully they weren’t too big.

Familiar landmarks were passed, Owston Ferry (Which pub did Mick’s grandfather stay at?), The entrance to the River Idle, West Stockwith Lock.

Gainsborough where we’d considered stopping last year, but with spring tides and a possible Aegir the following morning we ended up continuing on to Torksey. We were rushing with the tide by now as the river narrows and twists through the city. Areas where the water gets confused as to which way to flow, bubbling around Oleanna.

Gainsborough pontoon

Then the power stations still with their full compliment of cooling towers could be seen, at one stage both in line with each other.

Gainsborough Bridge

Torksey Viaduct. A quick check of Windy and the forecast strong winds had moved on a few hours. We agreed to carry on, so far conditions hadn’t been too bad. We passed the turn off to the lock and the pontoons below it, not a boat in sight.

No Rush still in view

Along the straight to Dunham Toll Bridge we could see NB No Rush was still with us. Last chance to stop on the pontoon here, but we kept on going. A phone call to Cromwell had been made to make sure we’d be able to get in with them today, all was fine.

Torksey Viaduct, now a footpath

Things were getting choppier, more twists bringing us in to the wind. Gradually our speed dropped as the push from the tide dropped away and the push the other way from 2ft of fresh water coming down from Cromwell took over, a few more revs needed from Oleanna’s engine.

Cooling towers

Overhead power lines were being worked on, pinging in the wind as they whipped around as we followed the channel directly underneath them, a rescue boat was moored at the corner just in case.

Round the meanders where posts sit far out in the water marking where sandbags extend to. Under Fledborough Viaduct where someone needs to refresh the England graffiti so you get the right span for the channel.

Then at the bends where you line up with an old mill on the bank we came across two narrowboats heading downstream, luckily there was enough water for us all to pass without anyone going aground, handy it was a spring tide with fresh coming down.

Nearly there!

We’d been told to call the Lock Keeper at the 48km marker, Mick left a message. The final bend and Cromwell Weir came into view followed by the lock. The light was red, but shortly turned to green as the gates opened to welcome us off the tidal Trent. Being able to be right back in the lock made for a gentle ascent.

Cromwell Lock

We needed a pit stop so pulled on to the inside of the pontoon mooring alongside a chap who’d just come from Torksey this morning. Lunch and an empty of our wee tank. NB No Rush soon followed us up, they’d stopped to give the dog a comfort break at Dunham. Blimey that wind and now rain had got up, Will very nearly lost his boat whilst trying to moor up, Mick ran to lend a hand and between everyone they got their boat secured.

Would there be space for us

Time to move on. David was moored at North Muskham outside the Muskham Ferry. Here there are finger pontoons, short finger pontoons, would we be able to moor up safely? It took three attempts to get Oleanna’s bow close enough to the pontoon for me to jump off and quickly secure the bow rope before the wind and current dragged the stern away down stream pivoting the bow into the side of a cruiser. Thankfully things held and we could finish securing Oleanna next door to David.

Just like Mr Ben a chap turned up on the pontoon, saying he was from the local parish council and asked if we were David’s friends? We’re not sure how it came about, but David has been supported by the Parish Council of North Muskham for about a week. Piles of fire wood sat on the pontoon and a pub meal was being paid for by them each day.

So pretty and in better light than last time we passed.

We are by no means mental health experts, we can listen, hold a hand, give hugs and try and help with practical things. David was in a state as we’d expected. The man we’d met last year we knew we’d not be seeing today. With his problems he’s let the boat and himself go.

Where to start? What to do?

Cormorant and Swan convention

David had been in touch with so many organisations, he’d managed to register with a GP in Newark, the Crisis team had been out to him. But it all felt like he was going round and round in circles, nothing helping, nothing working, just constantly being pushed to the next organisation or a different part of the NHS.

We made a call to his GP. The receptionist tried to help but couldn’t, if David was feeling suicidal than he had to go to A&E something he really really didn’t want to do. Eventually we were given the number of the Crisis team. Mick called them leaving a message voicing our concerns. He had a call back, data protection meant that David had to give consent for us to be part of the conversation, so the phone had to come off speaker and be handed to him. Once that was sorted we were told that David had an appointment for the morning in Newark.

Torksey Lock

We did a bit of shopping for him, an idyllic walk along the side of the A1 to get to the service station! Sitting outside chatting with David we were joined by a lady who’d been wild swimming, she knew the right things to say, to ask questions, showed care for a complete stranger. What a wonderful person she was.

David joined us inside Oleanna to warm up, have some food, maybe a shower. Instead we ended up chatting with Heather Bleasdale on the phone about all sorts of things, quite a bit about the cruiser she bought a few months ago and what jobs were needing to be done. The pub delivered some chips for David, but they weren’t what he needed, sleep was more important to him even if he’d not eaten properly for a few days.


Later on Mick got another phone call from the crisis team, where were we and what time would we like a cab to get us to the meeting in the morning. We’d assumed that the meeting had already been planned, but it turns out our concerned phone calls had triggered it. The lady was very helpful, told us who we’d be meeting. We hoped that this would be the way out of the circle David felt he was in.

I cooked a meal, we watched TV, went to bed early hoping we’d get a better nights sleep.

2 locks, 1 swing bridge, 1 windy day, 2 possible stop offs, 0 used, 2 sausage sarnies, 1 pit stop, 3 attempts to moor, 1 narrowboat clinging on for dear life, 1 broken man, 1 wonderful woman, 2 phone calls of concern, £19.75 for 30grams of tobacco! 1 meeting for tomorrow.


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