Monday, 1 September 2014

Heading back via divers, sandstorms and dead cows

We are now back snug in our security blanket of the canal system, moored up in Selby Basin. In five easy paced days we have come from Ripon with stopovers in Boroughbridge, York and Naburn before tackling the tidal Ouse today to reach Ripon.
It's been very much a repeat showing of the outbound trip – there isn't much opportunity for moring variation on the Ouse. Boroughbridge was an overnighter that confirmed what an affable little place it is. Then we motored down to York, via Linton Lock where divers had been at work inspecting the decaying lock chamber. "Is it alright to come through?" I asked and having been told it was we drove in, only to be told off for coming in! Hmm not sure I'd want to be a diver with that sort of safety control operating.
York's Museum Gardens were as busy as ever with boats out enjoying the last weekend of the school hols. We nipped in on the coffee boat's reserved spot as they had left for the day and nipped off sharpish the next morning when we saw them arriving into a (fortunately for us) freshly vacated slot.
York was still the same feverishly crowded city but not so nice for us this time with gusting winds whipping up clouds of fine sand off the riverside pavements. It found its way everywhere - on the cooker, in the sink, all over the computer, the engine: we are still clearing it up now.
Last time we were in York mid-week but this time it was the start of the weekend. Boy what a difference! On Saturday, intermingling with the families and tourists were knots of lads on stag parties and girls on hen nights. The hens, I have to say, were the more entertaining: bright, short, one-size-too-small dresses and heels like shiny six inch nails. The lads were dowdy by comparison.
But by the late afternoon the weak livered and the over-enthusiastic were already feeling the pace, veering and wobbling. The girls were still the stars; enthusiastically dancing to the various buskers, much to the entertainment of the foreign tourists who possibly thought they were just part of the act.
By the early evening the bars and clubs were raucous and nervous pensioners like us had scattered from the streets like frightened locals when the western shoot-out is about to begin. But I do wonder how many of the stilettos made it through the evening?
We had allowed a couple in a small Colvic sea-boat that we'd met back at Naburn on the way to moor alongside as the moorings were now full. He advised a chain to deter midnight drunks from any attempts at unmooring us 'just for a laugh'. I thought him a bit over-cautious but having returned from the front line I changed my mind.
John is a laid-back sort of character and was entertaing us – if that's the right word – with tales of their trip to Whitby and back in the Colvic when the waves were crashing right over the front as the little boat pitched through heavy seas. He was unworried by it all, or at least gave a good impression of being. I think it was then that I decided to stop worrying about tidal locks. No waves, no force 6 winds, just a simple turn in a river.
Today I put my no-worries mindset into practice. Even Seadog Brian falling overboard just before the off didn't phase me (he was trying to jump to the bank while wrestling with his lead and succeeded in tangling himself up and sploshing into the water).
Brian showered clean and dried off, we left Naburn Lock to the usual timetable; pushing the incoming tide, which isn't very fierce here at its upriver extremities, for five miles to the Cawood Swingbridge from which point we felt the increasing thrust of the now-ebbing tide and the glorious sensation of gliding down the river at speed, needing just touches of the a superlight tiller to ease one smoothly through the turns.
About five miles from the end we saw a dead calf in the water, which was a sad sight, but worse was to come as we neared Selby – the body of a large adult cow was drifting in the tidestream and had been going up and down with the tides for some days apparently.
A safety boat flagged us down here to warn us of work on the railway swingbridge which was undergoing test swings after its £12m renovation. He radioed ahead and confirmed we were ok to press on.
So, round the last tight left-hander, under the road and rail bridges and the lock should have come into sight. But it didn't. I saw the adjoining block of flats but where was the lock mouth? My plan was to turn before the lock and hope that, knowing our propensity to be hurled broadside downstream, we would get round and in without too much fighting back against the flow.
I finally saw the lock, heaved the tiller over, gave it Warp Factor Five and round we started to come. Three-quarters turned, I saw we were facing the lock mouth so I thought 'why not?', gave it Warp Nine and powered at the lock. We went straight in, throttled back and while Mrs B pulled us in to the front securing stay with the hook I looped the stern line round the guide at the rear. Job done.
It was a ten out of ten entry. I must admit I was pretty chuffed. Just don't ask me to do it again!
PS Sorry about the lack of pictures of girls in stilettos or wet dogs.

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