A Day Adrift. 6th February

Torksey Pontoon to Keadby Visitor Mooring

Another morning with the alarm clock going off, at least this morning there wasn’t much of a view to miss out on. One side of the cutting looked to be above freezing, our side was all frosted over. Brrrr, an extra layer required today. As I got up and started to move around my back felt remarkably improved from yesterday, thank goodness. I still refrained from leaning down or lifting anything heavy so as not to aggravate the improving situation.


Four years ago yesterday we did exactly the same journey. Then it had also been an early start and a very cold one too. We’d had to wait for the Stainforth and Keadby Canal to thaw and for the entrance to the lock to be dredged. I was ready to pull the balaclavas out today but thankfully even though the day had started off with a good layer of frost on Oleanna we didn’t need to keep our cheeks cosy.

Torksey Viaduct

We needed to push off a while after the tide had started to come in. Yes we were heading down stream, so we’d need to punch the tide for some time, but this was needed for us to reach Keadby when there would still be enough water to get into the lock. At 9am Mick reversed us out onto the main river, an EA rib had just come past us from Torksey Lock but it headed upstream.

The hazy Norf

We winded to face down stream and the tide. Engine revs increased and we were on our way.


Another wonderful day to be out on the river. Blue blue skies. Trails high above us in the sky, plenty of people jetting of on their holidays. Looking behind us the sun low glinted on the water and our wake. Gorgeous.

Taking off

I checked the charts, our course kept in the channel. This next stretch had been reported as being shallow last year.

Hawks just finishing their loop

A glimpse over Mick’s shoulder, a loop of vapour trail. The Red Arrows must have been out training. The V formation of planes scooped round and out of view. They were at such a distance to us to be silent, you had to scour the sky to hunt them out. One wave of vapour, then another loop the loop. Around this area and along the Fossdyke and Witham you quite often see them practicing. Your own private airshow. Time to concentrate on the charts again.

Busy with something

A man sat in a bright red rib coming towards us. His boat looked to be filled with equipment, maybe he was charting the river bed?

The Chateau at Gate Burton came into view. You can stay here with the Landmark Trust. It makes for a pretty view, I bet the view back towards the river today was a much warmer one. We waved in case anyone was watching as we passed.

Power ahead

West Burton Power Station came in and out of view. The large cooling towers dormant but the gas fired end churning steam out by the bucketful.

The tide had turned by the time we reached Gainsborough. The same revs were now giving us 2 to 3 more miles an hour heading down stream. The sharp bends speed the flow up through Gainsborough, not the fastest we’ve been under the bridge there though.

Earlier this year when we’d planned on doing this journey, we had to cancel our lock bookings due to being stuck in Shardlow as the river was in flood. When Mick called Keadby Lock to cancel our booking, the lock keeper said that we weren’t in the book! Yesterday afternoon Mick had tried calling the lock to check they knew we would be arriving today, he’d got no answer. He then tried calling a couple of times this morning. Thankfully he got through and Tracey was expecting us. Mick checked that the river level would be enough for us to get into the lock. It would be and she was expecting us from around 12:30.

The charts now dispense with the red line for stretches. My back wanted a sit down in the warm so I retired inside for a while, making sure I was watching as we passed West Stockwith Lock. Mick slowed us down and waved to a chap then picked up our pace again.

With a map suggesting we still had 2 hours to go before reaching Keadby we decided to up the revs a touch, it was now getting on towards midday and Tracey was expecting us pretty soon. We really didn’t want to run out of water. As we were now off C&RT waters there are few markers. Instead you rely on landmarks. Will the new build with big windows (still to be fitted) appear on new charts. Owston Ferry with it’s two pubs. Mooring Dolphins where owls are positioned to deter pigeons! Another mill.

The river now wide, sprawling out in front and to our sides. The M180 bridge. Time to call Tracey with our location, she’d expect us in twenty minutes, we were still good to get into the lock.

The span on the right used to open up

Keadby Bridge, under the bascule span. Up ahead Keadby Lock tower with it’s look out. The light was red. Would it be ready for us?

Keadby surrounded by wind turbines

Mick brought us over to the west side of the river as our red line suggested. Then as we were just about level with the lock he started to turn. Not into the lock, that would be foolish with the tide still heading out towards the Humber. He turned Oleanna round to face upstream, this enables you to have more control to enter the lock.

In we go!

On the downstream side of the lock we could see the start of the silt build up above the water. Mick faced Oleanna’s bow towards the upstream side of the lock forcing her against the tide. As we got closer, we both wondered if we’d have enough power to turn the stern away from the silt and enter the lock. An extra bit of umph at the right moment and into the lock Oleanna slid. Phew!! She’d made it. Always a relief.

Leaving the lock

I walked up to the bow to pass a rope around a chain as Tracey closed the lock gates behind us, then the outer lock gates got closed too. The amount of water coming over the top gates started to slowly rise us. Then a touch of a paddle was added, gently does it. Then a bit more which caught the bow a touch before I managed to pull her back in.

Stainforth and Keadby Canal ahead

Once at canal level the top gates opened and we waited for Tracey to open the swing bridge. We pulled in just past a couple of boats on the visitor moorings at the far end. Ahead of us is Vazon Sliding Bridge. This is operated by Network Rail and following the high temperatures last summer it is now only opened to boat traffic twice a day, we’d already missed the second opening. Time for lunch and a well deserved warm up.

1 lock, 27.8 miles, 2 winds, 1 reverse, 2 why nots, 1 cheeky pigeon, 2 ribs, 1 beautiful day on the river, 1 air show, 1 day adrift from 4 years ago, does this mean we’ll have another February heatwave?