Strength And Courage. 5th April

Muskham Ferry to Newark

Waking up in the morning can take some courage. Having the strength to get out of bed to attend a meeting about your mental health is extremely hard, opting to stay hidden under the duvet a much easier option. Add into the mix not having slept properly for weeks along with not eating much for days. We all knew though that the meeting had the potential to be a step forward.

Morning view

The taxi arrived bang on time and on our journey in to Newark I recounted our journey from Keadby to Cromwell. David has been around boats for much of his life and yesterday he’d been imagining where we’d been on the river, which bend, what landmark we’d passed. All this to help keep his mind busy.

A dated building close to Aldi was where we were to meet two chaps who’d come from the Crisis team. David wanted us there with him, to be an extra voice in the room. If things seemed to be going round in circles then hopefully we’d be able to help. Unfortunately the room could only hold three people, fine for the two chaps and David, but that wasn’t going to happen. We split into two, Mick staying with one of the chaps to have a conversation about our concerns, then David, myself and the other fella headed to a more private room.

Kirkgate, Newark

We talked through David’s problems, what support he could access. The chaps had read through his notes thoroughly before coming this morning, he was already known to them. Hopefully he was reassured that he could access their help at anytime. There are certain things that David needs to do for himself, then other support channels will be open to him.

The room was too hot and stuffy, thank goodness the Covid guidelines had dictated only three of us could be in there at any time. But the heat was too much, fresh air was needed. Outside we now could chat to the other chap, his area of support different. The general thought was that if David could get back to Newark on his boat then he’d have so much more access to things that could help, they’d all be within walking distance of his boat, but the move had to come from David.

Now David was exhausted there was no point in continuing with the meeting. Before we left I made sure that they understood that living on a boat can be very isolating, please could someone call him regularly, just for a chat as well as to check on him.

Shame we missed the market

In the taxi on the way back we talked things over that had been said, related them to other people we knew. For me it had been good to hear what the chaps had to say, and now be able to help David remember as I used to when my Dad had hospital appointments.

After a rest David joined us for a sandwich, at last we’d seen him eat something. Could we help him to get his boat started? He was afraid that over the last few weeks his batteries had dropped so much charge that they may never recover. He’d been surviving on what solar power he was getting. Certain things on the boat having stopped working.

With us around he summoned up the strength to pull out his generator. This was started to kick start his engine, but would it work? The generator worked and after a while David tried to start his engines, his boat has two. With lots of dials in the cockpit he could see what charge was going into the batteries, Mick and he consulted over such things. After about fifteen minutes both engines were running, his boat still had life. This alone was a huge achievement and one that brought a smile to everyone’s faces.

Looking ahead

David now asked if he could move the boat with us up into Newark, he had purpose and drive. After a discussion it was decided that we’d move one boat at a time and that we should strike whilst the iron was hot. We would move David first, all three of us onboard, I would work Nether Lock leaving Mick and David in the cockpit.

Sorting the mooring ropes

A bit of rope adjustment was needed before we could set off as both boats were tied together as the mooring cleats on the pontoon were none existent for the centre lines. With this done and the Key of Power in my pocket, all three of us onboard the engines pushed us round into the current to head towards Newark.

East Coast Main Line

Mick and I have never really been on a cruiser before, so being inside in the cockpit felt a bit strange, no wind burn for us today standing outside, but what a treat. All the gauges were checked by David, even the depth sounder was turned on! This was handy when we reached a section of the river where the depth below the keel reduced from 2.5m to 0.5m, no wonder our progress had slowed, the engines were adjusted accordingly.

Mick was given a go at the wheel. The difference between a tiller and wheel instantly showed itself as we started heading towards a bank! Just a different mind set, steer as you would in a car not a narrowboat.

Waiting below Nether Lock

Being able to climb outside and have a wider gunnel to stand on before going ashore was nice. They then took the boat back to hover whilst I emptied Nether Lock.

The newish lock controls here were really frustrating. They gradually allow you to lift the sluices, pressing the Open button when it is constant, but when it flashes nothing will happen. So you press it, wait for it to go constant, press it again. The sluices fully up the water drained out. Below the lock the water stopped being busy, obviously the water was now level, but the light kept flashing and flashing and flashing and fla….. you get the idea!

Blooin thing!

It was decided to close the whole thing down and try again. I still had to wait an absolute age for the sensor to realise that the lock was now empty and that I’d be able to open the gates. In came the boat, Mick using a rope to hold them in to the side and I gradually lifted the sluices when all was calm below. The top gates behaved as you’d expect, thankfully.

Breath in

Back on board we now had to squeeze through a gap between the bank and a skip boat which had been left that bit too close to the bend. David just managed to get through, we wondered if Oleanna would have difficulty being longer.

In Newark we pulled in onto the pontoon. Mooring cruisers is slightly different than for a narrowboat so we followed the skippers lead. Time for David to have a rest.

Pretty colours

We popped into town to pick up a repeat prescription and check in a couple of shops for a new sketch book for Panto. Sadly Hills didn’t have the one I like with a hard cover and suitable paper should I want to use paint, but not so expensive that you wouldn’t want to scrawl notes in it.

A taxi from Castle Station and we were soon on our way back to North Muskham to move Oleanna.

Short short pontoons at the pub

Untying took a bit of thinking about. The centre line wasn’t really doing too much, maybe taking a bit of strain away from the bow line. But as soon as the bow line was undone the stern would be pushed round by the current meaning I’d need to be onboard, Mick would need to whisk Oleanna out from the moorings as quickly as possible before the bow had chance to make contact with the cruiser on the other side of us.

Thank you!

It all went to plan and we waved goodbye to North Muskham. Thank you for helping our friend.

Haven’t we been here before?

Deja vu cruising, just slightly chillier than being on the cruiser. We’d made sure we wrapped up well, winter cruising clothes and wind burnt faces. 3 egrets took off in front of us, don’t think we’ve ever seen three together before.

It all looks familiar

Mick pulled in below Nether Lock to drop me off at a ladder, no just stepping off as I’d done earlier. The large overhang causing concern for our cabin sides, but we managed to keep Oleanna away from harm.

Prepared for the wait at the bottom gates I’d taken gloves with me this time, nothing to do but kick one’s heels for ten minutes before the light turned solid and I could open the gates.


Up above Mick managed to squeeze Oleanna past the skip boat and pulled in to wait for me to climb back down a ladder. Caution should be taken with some of these ladders on Nether Lock as there is quite often not much room behind the runs for your toes!

David joined us for some food, a plate of chicken pasta, possibly the most he’s eaten in days. Conversations about boating, toilets of course! We got to see a bit of the David we’d met last year today. He’d been strong and brave and achieved much, he was rightly proud of himself. The day however had been exhausting for him.

1 lock twice, 2 boats, 3.4 miles, twice, 3 taxis, 2 chaps, 3 in a room, 1 sandwich, 1 plate of pasta, 1st repeat prescription pick up, 0 sketch books, 2 engines working, 1 day of achievements, 1 email from my cousin in Ukraine, 1 Harry, 1 lobster.

Here are a few links to places where you can find help with mental health

6 thoughts on “Strength And Courage. 5th April

  1. joamungoanddog

    I’ve had a bit of a cacky morning today, but reading this has plastered a smile over my face. Loved hearing how the ‘old’ David had peaked through the dark curtains that day .. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for him on a day to day basis, but it was so nice reading about how the meeting and travel day went. Thank goodness his engines started – smiles all round I’d guess.
    You are both clearly very good friends to have and I’m sure David is very grateful to you both .. we all need friends and support and I’m so glad David has both.

  2. Dave Ralphs

    Well done on helping out. It must have been a huge help to David when you got the engines running as i’m sure that must have been weighing heavily on him as well as everything else.
    At least it seems now he should get some support.

    1. pipandmick Post author

      It was a relief getting the engines going as we weren’t sure we’d be able to tow his boat.

  3. Anonymous

    True Samaritans two of the best folk for sure.
    I didn’t see that coming as you journeyed up the Trent.
    Inspirational kindness.
    I’m sure David is so thankful.
    There was a breakfast I missed a comment on somewhere along the line.

    1. pipandmick Post author

      Ah ha, you are still out there Ade. I knew a breakfast would flush you out.

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