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The Odyssey 2019: Day 10 – Part 3

Posted by alexgrehyauthor on 16 September, 2019

Sandbank by RAF No. 4 to the Nene

Convoy at anchor…

I really enjoyed our time on the beach, but all too quickly the tide turned and we had to head back to sea. This proved to be a little more awkward than we expected as we reversed off the sand but then got swung around in the turn and managed to ground ourselves. With the tide coming in, we would have got off eventually, but we had an uncomfortable few minutes jiggling ourselves off the sand. Although there was too much water to allow us to stay on the rapidly disappearing beach, there wasn’t enough for us to set off towards the Nene so we spent an hour at anchor not far from RAF No 4. It was a good opportunity to get some hot food on the go and watch the westering sun, but bobbing around in a flat-bottomed boat on the incoming tide will never be a particularly pleasant experience. It was a good test of the convoys’ anchors (especially ours, which was new and had been the subject of much research!). Sailors will laugh, but anchoring is a novel experience for us and at first we were worried that the anchor wouldn’t hold, then we were afraid that it wouldn’t come back up, then, when it came up easily, we were a bit amazed that we’d been held so steady! A few boats had tricky anchors, so getting the convoy away took a little while, but we were soon off.

The convoy headed off using local buoys and landmarks all as directed by Pilot Daryl. Now he just looks round, uses no posh electronics, I guess he checks which duck is where, gets the seals to tell if the channel has shifted, holds up a finger, sniffs the air and says go that way! Best of all he gets on the radio and says point to the right (or left) as you will get pulled across by the wind or tide. It is a remarkable process as we had to skirt round various sand banks whilst tide and wind took us in all sorts of random directions, for example at one point, Daryl told us to point our boats at a grain silo in Kings Lynn yet we actually drove down a heading 30 odd degrees away from where we were pointing towards a doughnut shaped artificial island.

This is the course we followed:

As we turned towards the narrow channel approaching the Nene, we were joined by the local pilot boat. The sun was setting fast as we headed up the Nene through Sutton Bridge and it was full dark by the time we arrived in Wisbech. However, because the convoy had been well-briefed, we all knew where and when to turn, and in what order – this enabled us all to reverse onto the mooring pontoon in Wisbech Yacht Harbour in good order. Andrew Phasey had equipped the convoy with bottles of fizz and we had an impromptu party on the pontoon (the convoy was strictly tee-total during the crossing!) to celebrate a truly epic day’s cruising.

From Richard: A few hints if only so I remember, forgot this on our second trip so a record here:

  • Coming into Wisbech the tide is barrelling along but you hardly feel it in the boat.
  • Hit reverse before you turn, it makes the turn so much easier plus you will probably be in a convoy and find you are running out of room which makes everything awkward, that bit of reverse makes life much easier.
  • Once you have turned don’t try to steer in reverse, the flow is so fast that a small tweak works, anything more significant does not!
  • Steer by ferry gliding, a bit of forward gear is remarkable but you have to remember to do it!


The westering sun – by now we were watching the tide and the time…

A closer view of the “doughnut” island – it was a handy navigation feature

The pilot boat approaching – it did slow down when it got close ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t think we’ll end up on as a pilot’s cautionary tale – the convoy was well-led and very well-behaved!

Magical ๐Ÿ™‚

The entrance to the Nene estuary is very narrow

The narrow waters meant that we got a great view of the seals – I have never seen so many in my life and I was thrilled ๐Ÿ™‚

On the River Nene – it’s pretty straight and although it’s narrow by comparison to where we’ve been, there was plenty of room for our boats to shuffle into our mooring configuration.

The steaming lights have to be set high in order to comply with navigation rules – I loved how our intrepid narrowboats looked like tall ships in the dim dusk light ๐Ÿ™‚

6 Responses to “The Odyssey 2019: Day 10 – Part 3”

  1. Your tips are excellent. The only thing I would add is that it feels odd to be going backwards over the ground while the engine is going slow ahead. But – as you say – that’s the best way to back onto the moorings. Just be ready for an odd feeling!

  2. wilfywoo said

    Where is me greyhound news? I wants more greyhound news. From Wilfred Woo

  3. Oh wilfywoo, after all those zoomies on the sandbank (and naughty Alex chasing a seal) they slept for the whole week – that IS the news ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Ah, got that wrong WilfyWoo – lots of greyhound news to come soon – I promise!

  5. Ken Freeman said

    Weโ€™ve been flooded at PYC but your boat is safe and sound.
    Ken & Tina

  6. indigodream said

    Wonderful! Thank you for letting us know.

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