A slow boat to... Boston
They’d reached Lincoln the year before, so decided to be even braver and set their sights on Boston, and there was plenty to see and enjoy en route
We decided we would like to have an adventure holiday and spend a week going to Boston; no, not Massachusetts, but the Boston in Lincolnshire where the original Pilgrim Fathers sailed from to escape religious persecution in the 17th Century.
After a very enjoyable trip to Lincoln in August 2014, we thought it would be a great idea to be even braver on another trip and continue for a few more days to reach Boston.
Our boat is an ageing Viking 26, centre cockpit river/canal cruiser called Grace Darling. As our earlier boats were seagoing types, Martin was very convinced that this present boat, so aptly named and moored so far away from the coast, should have her hull wet by sea water.
Starting from our home base at Shardlow Marina in August last year, we sailed on the River Trent through the twin locks at Sawley to Trent Lock Junction and continued to Beeston Canal, which operates through the centre of Nottingham.
Travelling through busy city centres is fascinating – many worlds exist side by side. Our leisurely four miles an hour ride gave us plenty of time to gaze at traffic rushing along busy motorways and people sitting around at the canalside cafés gazing at us.
Warehouses, old factories, bridges, moored boats and some back gardens add to the variety of things to see as you gently make your way through, towards the suburbs with lots more interesting back gardens and people walking along towpaths.
The canal locks back into the river at Trent Bridge and an excellent view of Nottingham Forest football ground can be seen. Back on the river we made our way along past Holme Pierrepont to the quiet and secluded Stoke Lock where we moored for the night. The locks after Nottingham are built for seagoing ships, and we would call up the next lock-keeper on the short wave radio to inform him or her that we were coming and give our ETA, and they would tell us when the lock would be opened for us.
The next day we set off and took four and a half hours to get to Newark. This was the place to shop for provisions and fuel, as well as having a look round the ancient castle where King John died, after having lost the Crown Jewels – in The Wash!
From Newark, we continued along the river to the largest river lock on the Trent, Cromwell Lock. After this point, the river becomes tidal, meaning that navigation charts are necessary to guide a vessel through sandbanks and other hazards a boat can come across at low tide. More seagoing and larger craft now predominate and there is evidence of past
gravel digging industry on the river banks.
We aimed for Torksey, a village at the junction of the River Trent and Fossdyke & Witham Navigation. Having travelled down the Trent, and tied up on an available pontoon until the rising tidal water was deep enough to allow us to pass over the cill into Torksey Lock and on to the Fossdyke Canal, we then stopped for the night before proceeding down this Roman waterway towards Lincoln the next day.
At Lincoln, we took on more provisions and our son, Julian, joined us for a few days for the rest of the journey to Boston. Since we would be returning the same way, we decided to explore Lincoln on our return journey.
After a night’s stay at the delightful town marina at Brayford Pool, we proceeded through the Murder Hole (a low bridge with a medieval house above) and on to the foreboding Stamp End Lock – which was our first experience of an electric guillotine lock. Having completed the Fossdyke Canal, this next section is the River Witham, which eventually leads to the sea at The Wash.
An unexpected hazard presented itself at Bardney, where we came across some very dense weed in the canal, which hampered our way and caused a real problem for the engine, threatening to block the cooling water intake.
We met a few other boat owners who told us that this was a seasonal problem for boats, sometimes you had to turn back. This worried us as Julian had to catch a train at Boston. However, we saw a narrow clearing in the weeds and decided to proceed with caution. Fortunately, the weed eventually started to become clearer as we continued.
The scenery became more rural, flat and fen-like as we passed Tattershall Bridge where we had another peaceful overnight stay.
The next day we had Boston in our sights and, after a very relaxing cruise, we reached our destination. On our approach, the famous ‘stump’ of St Botolph’s Church, which is a navigational aid and very distinctive lantern tower of the famous parish church, could be seen for miles around.
The marina at Boston was centrally placed with its pontoons giving us easy access to the town and all its amenities.
Sunday morning was spent with us attending the famous parish church with the ‘stump’ for sung Eucharist. It is reputed to be the largest parish church in England, and entering it you are overwhelmed by its size and openness. It is larger than some cathedrals in England.
While exploring the town, we saw the Grand Sluice, a lock that lets the river navigation through to the river estuary and into The Wash and on to the sea. The lock is only opened at two hours before high water and two hours after
high water when the estuary level and the river level are the same so that the water in the river navigation is not lost.
Julian had to leave us for the train back to Thame so we decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing before starting the return journey next day.
We retraced our steps and, on arriving at Bardney, we noticed that a weed removal van was parked on the riverside, and the river itself seemed much clearer of its weed. Another day`s journey took us back to Lincoln, where we met our second passenger/crew, our niece, Ann. We were able to spend a full day exploring and concentrated on visiting the newly refurbished castle. As it was the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 2015, we made the most of the opportunity, seeing the exhibition of Lincoln’s own copy as well as other important historic documents housed in the old prison within the castle grounds. We explored the historic area by the riverside, the Glory Hole or Murder Hole – so called because of the gruesome incidents which happened at this spot in the Middle Ages. The next day we continued on our return journey via Torksey Lock, on to the River Trent and to Cromwell Lock and eventually to the familiar Trent Lock at Long Eaton and home to Shardlow.
In all we travelled for 50 hours and covered 225 lock miles. We all enjoyed the mainly good weather, interesting, relaxing and varying experiences, and felt a sense of achievement at having completed what we set off to do.
At Tattershall on the River Witham
The historic Murder Hole in Lincoln
Waiting patiently at Cromwell Lock
Facing the challenge of Stamp End Lock