It No Work! 8th September

Oundle Cruising Club to Clive’s Retreat FOTRN mooring

With Waterway Routes suggesting it would take us around 4hrs to reach Islip Lock and Evri suggesting it would be best to drop off my parcel before midday the alarm was set or 6am, a time we only normally do when temperatures outside are due to get high and we can’t just sit still for the day. We were breakfasted and untied by 07:09, winded in the entrance to the marina, waving to NB Cleddau and heading towards Upper Barwell Lock the first of our day.

Birds chirped, Kingfishers darted back and forth, but our sleepy eyes and heads were not capable of counting them let alone see them. Damp under foot, we’d be getting soggy feet this morning. The world gradually waking up around us.

Upper Barwell, Lilford and Wadenhoe locks were all set in our favour. One cruiser moored on the pub moorings and one narrowboat at Peartree Farm. Titchmarsh Lock had been the only lock I’d not operated on our way downstream three months ago, it’s padlock a mensa challenge to relock with only two hands, I got there in the end.

I busied myself with answering panto emails as we went along, what type of backpack, just how big should the mixing bowls be and how would I like the boiled egg ice cream to look?

Collision course!

The river narrows, trees overhang the navigation as you get closer to Islip Lock. Heading upstream the current against us was that bit stronger. Then round a bend we saw our first moving boat, they were going at quite a lick. We saw them before they did us and we slammed on the brakes. Both boats hitting reverse and avoiding a collision. Phew.

At 10:22 we arrived at the Islip Mill Lakeside Moorings, no boats awaiting a broken lock, in fact no boats what-so-ever. We pulled in and I headed off straight away to drop the parcel of panto model bits off at the One Stop shop, then walked over to the Co-op for some eggs.


Today we were allowed elevenses and whilst I tucked into my toast and peanut butter boats and their movements were texted back to Sue on Cleddau, they were on their way a few hours behind us, hopefully someone would have reset the locks for them.

It was in their favour

I started to walk up to Islip Lock, the first of the locks that has been broken recently. But I soon realised that there was actually no way of reaching the lock without being on a boat, luckily Mick hadn’t set off yet. I was dropped off on the lock landing and walked up to close the top gates. I also had to close both gate paddles as a previous boater had left them up, this had been the cause of this reach draining the day after the lock broke. I went to the panel, no lights. I jigged the gates about, no lights, I wound up and down the paddles, no lights. By now there was a boat heading towards the lock from above. I opened the top gates and waved them in, not that they’d be going anywhere!

Islip Lock last mended on the 6-9-22

As I thought, I knew of this boat. NB Barbarella a Finesse boat with Noni and Peter on board, we follow each other on Instagram so knew we’d pass each other today. They thanked me for holding the lock for them, then I explained, had they jinxed Islip after all they’d been the boat at Whiston when it broke last week. Peter tried everything. Still no lights.

No lights

Noni called the EA emergency number, Mick called the river inspector. After a while we got a call back saying that there was a power outage in the area as work was being carried out on power lines. Ahh it was the chaps opposite the mooring we’d just had elevenses at! The power might be off for half an hour but should certainly be back on by 16:00!

Finesse crews

We were invited onto Barbarella’s ‘super social stern’ for a cuppa and talked all things boats and Finesse. Oleanna was built in Finesse’s early days before they’d got into building electric and hybrid boats, maybe if we’d been two or three years later and had enough money we’d have gone down that route. Maybe if I got a show that goes into the west end the royalties could pay for a retro fit. Noni and Peter certainly seem to be enjoying themselves.

We headed to Oleanna for some lunch. Every now and again one of us would go and check to see if the lights were working on the panel. Behind us Sue and Ken had arrived at the mooring their destination for today. Every now and again we’d get reports on how the chaps up the poles were doing. At around 15:15 a message came through that they thought the chaps were packing up, we all stood round the panel chatting waiting for the lights to come back on.

Twenty minutes later Noni spotted that there was life on the panel. A quick, it’s been really nice to meet you and see you somewhere sometime and she was back on board and I was lifting the gate to drain the water.

Peter and Mick

The two Finesse boats were soon passing each other, waves all round. Oleanna’s turn in the lock, as I closed the bottom gate shouts and waves came from the footbridge below a final final farewell from Sue.


All afternoon the water level in the pound above had been over the top of the gates by a good four inches. But as Oleanna rose the level had dropped, maybe having the power back on had lifted some sluices somewhere, sending excess water downstream.

Good sky

Our aim for today was to reach Woodford, through Denford and Woodford locks. We were however following a day boat so every lock was full and both paddles had been left up on the top gates.

St Mary the Virgin

When we arrived at Woodford FOTRN mooring there were already a couple of boats moored there. It looked like there might be space for us but the depth really wasn’t in our favour so after jumping off I had to jump back on again. Thankfully we knew of a new FOTRN mooring up the next lock.

No room for Oleanna

We waved to the moorings where NB Lillyanne came from and then rounded the bend to Lower Ringstead Lock, the hire boat was still in the lock. I walked up to reset it for us.

The water level was coming over the top gates, only a few inches to go. After a minute or two there was still a few inches to go. They started to try to push the gates open, then there was a suggestion to try to help with the boat pushing the gates! It soon became obvious that something wasn’t right.

Not even a thank you!

‘Is the bottom gate closed fully?’ I asked. ‘Yes!’. By this time I was walking back to the panel to open it up and Mick had arrived from below saying there was water flowing from the lock below. No power to the panel, the paddles needed closing for me to be able to use the panel and close the guillotine properly. Just an inch made all the difference. How had they managed to end up in this situation? Even with someone pushing the button on the panel as soon as the paddle on the top gate was lifted the circuit was broken stopping the gate an inch before it was fully closed. I wonder how long they’d been there for with water just running straight through the lock, they’d certainly run out of beers by the number of empty bottles on the roof.

Thankfully there was plenty of water!

We worked our way up and then kept our fingers crossed for a space on the new Clives’s Retreat mooring close to the entrance to Blackthorn Marina. Thankfully it was empty, but much to Tilly’s dismay it was far too late for any shore leave.

Settling in at Clive’s

I put together a Roast chicken leek and feta pie with pastry that had been in the freezer. A glass of wine accompanied our meal and we wondered whether the appointment we were heading for will still go ahead.

8 locks, 13.39 miles, 2 Finesse’s, 3 cuppas, 1 group, 4 hours without power, 1 parcel on it’s way, 1 troublesome day boat, 1 inch, 1 new mooring, 2 flags, 1 long day boating, 70 years, 1 king.