Tag Archives: river lark

And What of Bella…?

5 Sep

What indeed.

No doubt there will be those of you who couldn’t give a monkeys  are gagging to hear news of Bella, having waded through three previous posts that detailed her progress only to be left midstream, so to speak, wondering what happened next and where she is now.

So now, if you are sitting comfortably, Boatbird will reveal all.

Dah-dah-dah….da-da-da-dah. No not like that stupid!

If I remember rightly, we left her waiting it out in the new marina at Northampton until the Nene strong stream advice was withdrawn. It had to be so frustrating, having made such good progress to date, to be stuck like this – not to mention damned expensive. So we took a drive over there to visit Bella and her keeper, Dave. We thought it would be good for a laugh the supportive thing to do and anyway, John could retrieve his canoe – the one he fished out of a skip on the Lea.

Did I tell you about that? No?

Well, never let it be said that John will pass up a chance to hoover up someone else’s junk; hence the about turn we did that day on the river in order to grab this bright yellow beauty. Just what he’d always wanted.

It was an interesting manoeuvre that wasted a bit of time, saw us in shallow water and me panicking slightly. The mission was eventually accomplished successfully and canoe hoisted onto Bella’s roof. It wasn’t like we stole it – it was in a skip – but felt a bit naughty all the same.

Just one more obstacle for me to bitch about.

I have to say that the Nene didn’t look that angry when we pitched up at Northampton but further downstream, where the river narrows, it could be a different story. We had a very pleasant visit, met some more of Dave’s friends (also nice people) and John left by way of said canoe – de-de-de-de-der-der – just as far as the car park that is, where he loaded it onto the van roof and tied it down.

You keeping up with the tunes?

We’d arranged to visit one or two spots on the Nene on our way home to check on the raging river and report back. Which we did and, whilst the odd bridge height looked slightly iffy, it didn’t seem to be flowing that fast and we thought it was worth a go. With Caution.

I think they got as far as Thrapston before high water defeated them – a bridge too low. Bella was there for a few days before the water dropped enough so they could proceed. What can you do but wait?

John joined them further on for the tidal crossing to Denver. There was weed in the lock at Salter’s Lode, which naturally ended up on Bella’s prop, stopping her dead as they left the lock. Great. Tidal water with no power and no steerage. The weed hatch was quickly lifted, weed pulled off and all was well once more. But a bit exciting for a moment there…

They managed to negotiate the sandbanks and, once through Denver, Bella and co were nearly home. The Lark isn’t far away. In fact they made it – against all the odds – in time for the weekend so could settle in and have a much-needed rest (some very long days boating – like 16 hours) before work on Monday. Excellent.

We left it what we thought was a respectable time before we popped along to Isleham Marina to re-visit Bella. Let them get established. It’s a very pleasant place with all the usual amenities, interesting boats and lovely people. We’d been there before, a while ago, and liked it. We thought the place had a good feel then and am pleased to  report that it still does now.

Bella isn’t in the marina basin but out on the river in its own little spot, which is very private yet still connected to the populated part for socialising when desired. Trees and bushes had been hacked down in order to create a shore side access and patch of ground for the BBQ/sun lounger/garden/shed/place for the dogs/piles of junk/whatever.

As we arrived, Dave was getting the shore power hooked up – courtesy of a few helpful souls – cable connected to supply, buried and connected to the boat. He was able to switch on the fridge for the first time since arriving. A special moment!

We thought it was perfect – back of the net in fact – truly the best of both worlds.The Lark is a peaceful little river with just the one lock and no significant water movement. A super little haven. And a pub within cruising distance – what more could you want?

Seems Parrot and Annie (the dogs) had settled in well too..And Dave has been getting up to some serious cleaning…When he wasn’t poling about…Or fishing off the roof…Or off the sharp end…He and Bella seemed to have adapted well to the new life and location.

It’s hard but someone has to do it.

Moving Bella – Day 1

4 Jul

Into July already and the Hobo hasn’t moved an inch, not even the sniff of a cruise. Static R us. Whilst this was always the plan for this year, knuckle down, earn some money and tart the old girl up, I was definitely getting withdrawal symptoms and missing being on the move. So you can imagine that when asked to help move another boat we jumped at the chance.

Our good friend Reg has sold Bella, his 50 footer, to a very nice young man called Dave who has secured a mooring at Isleworth on the River Lark in Suffolk. He was going to cruise the boat there – a good two weeks from the River Stort (with ten-hour days, lots of luck and a following wind) but with limited boating experience, and none at all of locks, he was in the market for some assistance in the early days, until other friends could join him.

A mission in itself to get to his destination within his deadline but we also had to be clear of the ‘Olympic Zone’ before it was closed off at 8am on Tuesday. Originally we’d planned to get going on Sunday but decided this was cutting it a little too fine and brought it forward.

Reg suggested to him that John and I could share The Knowledge and provide some tuition/advice as well as being another couple of pairs of hands to speed Bella on her way. We were more than happy to do this and we all got cracking on Saturday.

It was warm and sunny as we tied up at the first lock, which Reg and Dave went to fill as we waited for John (who had gone to lose the car) to join us. He pitched up right on cue so I set about supervising as our new boater took Bella into the lock.


It’s a very open spot and the strong gusty wind did its worst… Suffice it to say that it took three of us and much reversing to keep Bella off the bank for long enough to motor her into the chamber.

Bella is a lovely boat, of which John and I are very fond  and have driven before. She responds beautifully but is a different animal to Hobo; being a cruiser stern for starters, meaning the driving position and technique is strange at first to that of Hobo’s trad, and the engine/gearing is all different. Well, that’s our excuse anyway..

Still, all good fun and an invaluable first lesson in narrowboat versus wind, which I would like to say was deliberate but, you know me – boat (honest) bird – I have to tell the truth. It wasn’t.

Next up is a very low rail bridge (mind your head), successfully navigated, followed by a stretch of moorings where Hobo lives. I am impressed by Dave slowing down on approach to these moorings with no prompting from me – something I still have to remind John about. Even now. We say hello to Hobo as we pass and trundle on.

As we chug along, we discuss boatie things, living aboard and, inevitably, embark on the great toilet debate: pump out v cassette. It is not humanly possible for any gathering of boaters not to get on to this subject sooner or later; new ones no exception.

Dave seemed to be a natural; his boat handling skills developing rapidly as we let him do the majority of the tiller work while we answered his questions and imparted our knowledge. It was great to be out on the river again and we were enjoying the ride and the company. It’s different somehow when it’s not your boat (I think that’s a responsibility thing) and also being four of us made the workload lighter and progress faster.

Our journey started at 3 o’clock (ish) and some seven miles, nine locks and four and a half hours later we tie up for the night at Hunsdon Mill. This is a lovely spot in the middle of nowhere, just the odd cottage or two, with the sound of rushing water from a mini weir to drown out the road noise from the A414, which runs parallel at this point.

We had a lovely time on the river and Dave is, I think, a happy bunny after his first (short) day of cruising as we leave him to his first night on board his new home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The lovely Bella.