Immediately we slip the mooring ropes, the wind catches North Star and we flit across the Cut, towards a brand new boat; her owners rush around to keep the two boats apart with feet and lots more fenders. Meanwhile, the steerer of a boat waiting for the lock to fill waves us ahead. Very courteous, but I have already planned to come in behind him. In this wind, a late change of plan plays havoc with my steering and once again, North Star is where she shouldn't be with no elegant solution in sight.
The other boat decides to go into the lock first and I manage to get in alongside. I just know that I am not going to be able to keep North Star on the starboard wall after the lock, and indeed as we exit, T can't get down quick enough and we drift across the canal. Their shorter boat hangs on in the lock, while T runs around to catch up. We set out onto the mighty Trent once again, and conscious of the wind - we learn later that it is a 25mph wind gusting to 37mph - I open the throttle as we turn through the vicious eddy and head west for Sawley. Within a matter of seconds I am conscious of a very serious burning smell. My mind starts racing, trying to plan a way out. Should I do a quick 360 degree turn and head into the comparatively calm and shallow Cranfleet Cut? Should I head for the bank, which is now extremely close thanks to the damned wind? Should I get T to the back of the boat with me in case a serious fire starts? We are just 500 metres upstream of the dreaded Thrumpton Weir. I decide to throttle back and within a ten seconds, the smell dissipates. My heart is thumping madly but I decide to press on. Logic suggests that if it was a fire, it would not disappear like that, so we are relatively safe for now. It is only a short trip up the river before we swing under the railway bridge into the Sawley Lock basin. However, this is not one of the easiest basins to use as there are no low-level moorings at all - merely ladders onto a jetty on the right and a slightly lower wall on the left. T hops off on this lower wall and I back off while he prepares the lock. Even ten minutes later, I feel quite sick inside. It's one thing to screw it up on your own, but quite another to take risks with your child's life - even if he is 16.
Behind us, three boats appear, and one peels off to join us in the southerly lock, while the other two head for the other. They are travelling together - a good move on this river. It's all electric here, so no back-straining pushing and shoving, just silent motion. The time in the lock gives pause for reflection and I decide to get properly kitted out for a river emergency. We have two anchors - a Danforth and a mud-weight - but we need to get a lot more.
I notice the plaque marking the level of the November 2000 floods on the wall of the lock-keeper's cottage: it's at waist height. It must have been awful.
Once out of the lock we motor gently along the Sawley Cut, with Sawley Marina on the south side. This is Britain's largest inland marina, with 700 berths. Our lock companion had planned to nip in and get an overnight pontoon mooring for free, but he is also struggling with the wind and moors up on the towpath side. I am relieved to tie up in front of him and put my feet up for a while. There is a bright red sky out west; hopefully the wind will disappear tomorrow.
1.4 miles, 2 locks
Stunning Thames steamer Alaska -
3 days ago