Thursday 17th October
We spent Wednesday in Newark spending some time studying the Tidal Trent Charts (available to buy from Chandlerys, tidal lock keepers and the CRT office in Newark) to make sure we were familiar with signings and the like it being our first trip out on this section of waterway. We studied harder after reading some more horror stories on the internet! We planned to boat from Newark, dropping down onto the tidal section at Cromwell lock and on to Torksey in the one day, then heading for Keadby the following day. We discovered that it was a Spring Tide we were running with. After Victoria understood this to be a big tide and not a tide that only occurs in Spring, we spent time debating whether this was a good or bad thing. You get the picture of how inexperienced we are on tidal waters. We still do not know if it's entirely good or bad.
Thursday was a life jacket day for sure. VHF radio tuned into channel 74 (advise boaters to have and monitor this at all times). Up early to get ready. We were advised by lock keepers that leaving Newark at 9.30 would fit with leaving Cromwell at 10.30 where you enter onto the Tidal section of the river Trent at high tide to boat out with the flow. Of course, with Dave, we were early leaving Newark with a view to chatting to the lock keeper about the tidal section & river conditions before we set off at 10.30.
We were blessed with beautiful sunshine and a crisp clear almost still day - perfect conditions. We were too early for the lock keeper to be at Newark Nether Lock so Victoria had to work out the controls for herself and negotiate a very large ladder to get back aboard. Just as we pulled away from the downstream lock mooring we saw the lockie arrive at work – good timing. We also think this would have been the helpful person who gave us advice about river levels on the Canalworld forum – thank you! We passed under the East Coast main line railway and the A1, wondering how many times we had passed over both of these bridges unaware that at some point we would be boating along the river underneath.
En route to Cromwell Lock, where you enter the tidal section, we decided to radio the lock keeper on VHF to let him know we would moor prior to going out on the tideway. He replied and said it was OK to go straight through and on to the tideway even though a little early and that he would have the lock ready for us. David was very pleased about this, however, it did mean we did not have lots of time to discuss timings for which we seemed to have received mixed messages from the lock keepers. We had tried to work out the timings but there is so much to consider (how high the tide is to enable you to get over the cill of locks off and on to the river, what is the best tide to go onto on a narrowboat, type of tide (big or small) etc etc). We worked it out to some extent but it made our brains hurt and we were not over sure of our workings!!
The lock keeper confirmed that 8am the following day would be a good time to leave Torksey so we set off happy. The lockie telling a panicking Victoria we would be fine –thank you for the reassurance.
David’s face in the photo below shows the slight nervousness we were experiencing at this point. We did not know what the future held!
We passed a CRT dredger doing some work on the river. The lock keeper had told them about our exit from the lock via VHF and this caused no problem at all. Following the charts with military precision, David mostly driving and Victoria navigating, we managed to keep to the 1/3 - 2/3 rule. Keep 1/3 of water on the outside and 2/3 water on the inside of bends and missed the various obstacles that present themselves on this stretch of river.
For example this shallow section on the inside of a bend:
Or the occasional long lost island
The river passes a number of power stations. A clue as to the importance of coal transport by water in times gone by. Victoria taking the helm in the photo below (must have been an easy section). Notice the anchor uncovered and ready for action should the need arise. Fingers crossed not.
Our only challenge was to see the entrance to Torksey cut. We looked out for the EA Pumping station as advised by seasoned Tidal Trent boater – Cliff from NB Tihso – thanks to him for all his advice. The entrance was very obvious with a huge BW signpost for Lincoln once we got close. Binoculars very handy. The current did strange things as we pulled into the cut. We expected the tide to push us right over but there was a back current that pushed Pas Mèche’s nose the opposite way and we were nearly in the trees. Easily resolved though.
We turned round and moored on the floating moorings outside the lock.
We were soon joined by NB Truant 2. We had heard over the radio that there was another narrowboat on their way and we were pleased that we would have a partner for the trip from Torksey to Keadby the following day. We had a brief walk down the Fossdyke navigation (that you can enter from Torksey lock but we moored downstream), the countryside is similar to Cambridgeshire, and around the village. Torksey is a quiet village but there are a couple of pubs. David went to bed really early in preparation for the following day but Victoria kept checking the water level gauge with a torch in amazement of how much we were going up and down with the tide!
Friday 18th October
We were up early at 6.30 in time to get everything ready for the off at 8.00. Although Victoria had been outside with a torch at 5.10 to check the water level (!). We knew today was going to be more serious so all breakable things TV etc were wrapped up in the bedding in case we had any sort of collision.
Cliff from NB Truant 2 came to say hello and we agreed a strategy for the trip. Truant 2 would go first, we would stay roughly together and keep in radio contact.
8.02 and we set off. The tide was still on its way in so we were pushing against it for the first part of the trip. It was a grey morning but dry and good visibility.
This is a photo of just leaving the cut at Torksey:
The first part of the trip was uneventful. It was easier to follow NB Truant 2’s course so the charts did not have to be followed with the same military precision as yesterday, although still important to make sure you know where you are on the river. We passed more power stations and the trip was going well.
At around Littleborough the tide turned and we started to speed up. We caught up with NB Truant 2 and started to fly down towards the North Sea. This took some more concentration as the boat was less controllable around the corners with a huge Spring tide pushing you along. The channel was mainly stick to the middle of the river so the 1/3 – 2-3 rule to be followed precisely.
The flow of the river can be seen in this photo of going though Gainsborough Bridge:
This photo was taken at the start of a tight bend near West Stockwith Lock. Victoria driving and the tide pushed Pas Mèche right over into the corner at the left hand side of the photo. Victoria just panicked and shouted for Dave, but you just had to let her run her course (both the boat and Victoria). The 1/3 rule giving her enough room to edge round the corner.
Giddiness was setting in with nerves about Keadby lock as the M180 Bridge came into sight. NB Truant 2 had phoned the lock keeper and we radioed to ensure he was expecting us. All was well.
David’s face says it all as we pass under the railway bridge in Keadby and watch NB Truant 2 make what seems like an impossible move for a narrowboat.
We eased off a little to give Truant 2 time to get into the lock but we were drifting on with the tide. Truant 2 disappeared safely and expertly into the lock and it was our turn. You just have to go for it or you will end up in Hull and in a much worse situation. David slammed Pas Mèche into gear hard and threw the tiller over to the right. We were side on drifting down the river away from the lock. She turned. The wall of the side of the lock came dangerously close but Dave managed to correct this. Pas Mèche drifted backwards with the tide. Dave put power on but we didn’t move.... he put more power on and we still didn’t move. Even more power on and we crept forward against the tide. Neither of us looked at what revs she was at but we could smell diesel smoke everywhere. We thought we had cracked it – just had to inch up the wharf wall and turn into the lock once the bows reached the entrance. Simple. Apart from the back end would not turn because the tide was keeping it straight. The nose of Pas Mèche went slamming into the upstream side of the lock. Apparently this is standard practice for most boaters entering Keadby! We lurched forward then gently bumped again. The two bumps had edged us round into the lock (good job breakables wrapped up in bed). David slammed her into reverse and we slowed and moored alongside our River Trent partners. We are grateful to the crew of NB Truant 2 for boating up with us, for their advice from their Trent experience, and for their radio contact. Much safer with two boats together. We breathed a massive sigh of relief and moored as soon as possible at the moorings directly above the lock and through the road swing bridge.
We had been watched from ashore by Ian and Helen, David’s parents – we will upload their photos soon. They have NB Leo. We don’t think we scared them off too much. I don’t think I have ever been as pleased to see them.
Although some evidence of industry still remains, Keadby unfortunately is not the busy waterways junction for freight it once was. We did not meet any freight traffic on the river but saw a tug and barge just after we had moored above the lock. We are resting aboard this evening as there is not much going on. To add excitement, every cupboard we open something falls out on top of us. Must have really hit that wall! We will continue up the Stainforth and Keadby canal and turn up the Aire and Calder, expecting to be back in Leeds in the next few days.
If you are thinking of doing the Tidal Trent and would like to know more about it please message us. An eventful day, but definitely worth it.