When we were last in St Ives we didn’t top up with water, well it was only a couple of days to St Neots. By the time we went to bed the water tank level was not happy so the decision was made, no more showers until the tank is full.
We left at 10-30 and it was trying to snow, the wind had moderated since last night and was behind us. St Neots her we come. All the locks were against us and had to be turned. In most cases this meant dropping the guillotine with a press of a button, drawing the paddles on the lower gates and then open the gates manually before entering the lock. To fill the lock is a sort of reversed procedure but you only need to close the gates manually and then lift the guillotine on the press of a button, however that press of a button only lifts the guillotine by 4” there is then a time delay to allow the lock to fill under the guillotine before you can fully open it, this is normally about two minutes.
The odd one out is St Neots, the guillotine is at the bottom so to turn the lock you have to lift it to let the lock empty. It is also a very long lock so holds a lot of water so the timer is set to 5 minutes and even though there is not a boat in the lock to get bashed about with high water flows the timer still operates, or should.
When we tried to open the guillotine at St Neots it moved not 4 inches but about a quarter, the motor didn’t cut out, it was still trying to drag the gate up, you could feel the concrete vibrating. Pressing the closed button allowed it to drop a quarter on an inch and go back to sleep. We tried cycling it like this a few times and then left it struggling for a few minutes, still the timer had not started to count down. One last ditch attempt, close and open the guillotine and it came up its 4” and the timer started, another 5 minutes and we would be able to open it fully. I might add that this was a complete new guillotine unit last year.
We worked through the lock and headed for the town centre where there is a water tap, you have probably realized by now there are not many of these about. Pulling onto the floating pontoon outside the Priory Centre there on the wall was our precious water tap, the only problem was there was no water in it. It must have been drained for the winter but no one has turned the supply on again.
There is only one thing we can do and that is turn round and head back down stream. The first obstacle other than the hail/snow which was now blowing straight into my eyes as we are going the other way, was St Neots Lock, there it sat just as we left it and it was going to play the same game. 4attemps to get it to lift before it would move that first 4”, then the 5 minute timer, even this is not long enough as the level still had 7-8” to go when it timed out and allowed Diana to lift the guillotine gate fully, this resulted in the water surging out, and because of the length of the lock it actually goes lower than the river so surges back in again, but we were free to go.
We headed off down stream, the water levels looked a bit low if anything but the flow was helping us along, all the rest of the locks were in our favour so we could steam straight in and as all the rest have their guillotines at the top end and were open already, we didn’t have to wait for any timers. We met a couple of boats on the way down, the first an EA inspection launch right on a bend in a narrow part, he was definitely going a bit slower after that and a private cruiser.
Our EA guide indicated that there was a water point at Huntington, this is just below Godmanchester so I took a few photos of the flood defence work going on, you can see the three foot high walls right in front of some of the properties with waterproof gates in them. On the river bank at the junction they have cast the wall but are covering it in top soil.
We were unable to locate the supposed water point at Huntingdon so we had no option to carry on down stream to St Ives where there is a water point in “The Waits” behind Holt’s Island This involved a 350° turn by the rowing club but with a wide rive and no traffic was not a problem. We filled with water and decided to spend the night here as its quite sheltered from the wind,did I tell you it has been gusting 38MPH today straight into my face? We have been advised not to overnight here due to drunks using the benches, but we have stopped before with no problem and the way the weather is I can’t see may people with cans of larger sitting out tonight, in addition to that there are a couple of live aboard boats moored ahead and they wouldn’t be hanging about if there were problems.
So a couple of hours turned into almost eight and we are 4 locks further downstream than we intended.
Sorry if its smelly, I am just off for a shower!