Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Day 1, Bill Fen to Stanground Sluice
Well, here we are at Stanground after an extremely pleasant, although not uneventful, day. We got to Bill Fen in the car at 10.30 this morning, topped up with diesel (£130.64), and left at one o'clock. It was a perfect day for boating, lovely hot sun, and I was trailing my feet in the water (one of the many advantages of a tug foredeck) and toying with the idea of getting right into the lovely clear water. It's like an subaquaqueous forest, of fantastic plants, populated by fascinating darting fishes.
So we watched the water temperature guage rise and rise, as we always do, and just at the point (around four o'clock) I went to tell Jim that it was over 100 and the oil pressure was 15 (it should be 18-20) there was a sound like Vesuvious erupting and the expansion tank boiling like a kettle, so we considered it politic to stop and drift around for a bit.
Jim has long held the view that the overheating is exacerbated by weed on the skintank (not going too fast, oh no) and we wondered if there might be a way of getting at it. Baz suggested that he could get into the water and have a look - or, at least a feel. We didn't have a scraper, but equipped him with the coal shovel, and he bravely lowered himself into the water. Well, the conclusion was that there isn't significant weed growth much below the waterline, but he looked like he was having such fun that I wanted a go. This might be the only opportunity - too much current on the Nene, too much filth in the canals. The only drawback being that I am a notoriously bad swimmer and the water was a good ten feet deep.
However, to compensate, I have mastered the art of floating, so I too grabbed a rope and eased myself in. Keeping hold of the rope, I had an absolutely wonderful time floating and splashing about. Although I have a deeply embedded image of myself as a non-swimmer, inculcated from my utter hopelessness in the school pool, which had very bitter green water and was lined with slimy polythene, I now realise that I can propel myself at least eighteen yards (how do I knowe that, I wonder) It's getting out again that's the thing. It's easy when you know how, and have two strong assistants though. The trick is to turn your back on the boat and be hauled up by the arms. It doesn't even hurt. Baz could haul himself out; playing the double bass is very good for upper body strength. I have never swum in fresh water before; it was absolutely lovely.
So after things had cooled down a bit, and we'd topped it all up again, we set off at about half past five, and got to Stanground just before nine. We're booked to go through at about 9.15 tomorrow, so will get full value from out three day Nene licence (must remember to affix it!)
WE also went through one lock (Ashline Sluice; I wonder if Helyn's boathook is still at the bottom of it), and we saw an owl.