CROSSING THE WASH
The Thames trip gave us the taste for tidal travel and it wasn’t long before we were planning an even bigger voyage. We used to keep our boat on the Middle Level and faced annual journeys to and from the canal system via the River Nene.
Much as we loved the Nene, the notion of taking a short cut across The Wash had always been tempting so, the year after doing the Tideway, we decided to try it.
This is a much bigger trip. You leave on an ebbing tide, get out into The Wash and come in on the other side on the next incoming tide – with a stop on a sandbank midway to while away a bit of time while the tides change.
The Wash is a dodgy place, too, with ever shifting sandbanks, strange currents, tricky channels and exposed to wind and weather that can turn it from millpond to maelstrom. That’s why, unless you are a highly experienced sea boater or plain daft, you’ll hire a pilot. Our man, and a popular choice among narrowboaters, was Daryl Hill.
We were heading from Wisbech on the River Nene to Boston, gateway to the River Witham. It’s possible to leave from the Great Ouse at Denver but that’s a trickier run out into The Wash so Daryl prefers the arrow-straight Nene. You can come from Boston to either destination.
Good weather is essential. Wind from the north or east makes passage too rough and the weather is fickle out there so a booked trip can be cancelled at short notice.
Daryl likes to take two boats or even a small convoy, for safety reasons, so we had a companion narrowboater: Anthony on nb FishEagle who, it turned out, had done the Bristol to Sharpness crossing and previously owned a sea boat.
We had actually done the first leg of the tidal Nene the day before, from Peterborough where it begins at Dog in a Doublet lock to Wisbech Yacht Harbour where Daryl was to join us next morning.
To Wisbech was a relatively easy run along the Nene’s straight course through the flat Fens, but there are some trickier sweeping bends through the Georgian riverside of Wisbech. Unfortunately, we