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The 1999 "Earnest" Maiden Voyage Cruise

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2. Tidal River Trent, Cromwell Lock to Keadby including all of Chesterfield Canal open. 

Tuesday 6th July saw us speed out of Cromwell Lock at 10.40am, this followed earlier discussions with the lock keeper. We approached the lock keeper not long after he appeared to let a B.W. pusher tug "Robin Hood" with an empty hopper out of the lock going upstream. He said the most interesting way to arrive at West Stockwith at the right state of the tide was to go down to Torksey leaving at 10.30am, stay there outside the lock on the pontoon moorings till 2.00pm, which should give us enough time to go to the pub in Torksey. The lock keeper also said that our planned departure would be just after he had penned the returning "Robin Hood", with a loaded hopper of stone. This plan was carried out, we arrived at Torksey at 1.15pm and went to the "White Swan" where we spent an enjoyable evening in 1997. Unfortunately the pub had just been taken over by a "Pubmaster" type company and was not very inspiring. We arrived at West Stockwith at 4.30pm just after high water, so had an un dramatic entrance into the lock which the pre-warned lock keeper had prepared for us. We filled up with water for the first time since Braunston and shoved off at 5.15pm, with the aim of getting to Drakeholes in time to eat at the pub. It was a lovely hot evening and we made good progress, there not being much weed, or "Earnest's" slipper stern making light work of it. Being a hot day we all took turns in having a shower while navigating the long pound after Gringley Top Lock. We arrived at Drakeholes and got the last mooring on the sharp bend directly after tunnel and shot off to the pub at 8.20pm. The pub was expected to be the up market "Griff Inn" but it had obviously recently been taken over and re named "The White Swan". We sat outside and had an excellent pint and meal in the still hot evening. Near the end of our visit we got in conversation with another boater couple and went back to their boat afterwards. They were moored a couple of boats away so we took our folding chairs and had an al fresco coffee and night cap with them. This went on quite late till gone 1.00am. During the conversation they warned us that the weed was still very bad in the Ranby Pound and that the weed cutter had not yet finished cutting a path through. They thought that hardly any boats had got through to Worksop this year. They had turned round in the winding point just above the A1 in Ranby as here they met another boater who had given up with a sheared drive coupling. We thanked them for a nice evening saying that we would be getting through to Rhodesia.



The next morning we left fairly early at 8.15am, considering the heavy session the night before. Weed started to get a problem just before Clayworth, but this was due to this section being shallow. It was found that due to "Earnest's" slipper stern virtually no weed was sucked from the sides, just the cut up weed and twigs from underneath. We stopped for 45 minutes in Retford for a spot of shopping and then were held up for another 10 minutes as we had to remove a recently deposited supermarket trolley from Retford Lock. Steady rattley progress was made until the top Forrest Lock was reached, soon after this we passed the B.W. weed cutter boat and progress became painfully slow. "The Chequers" pub was passed at 4.05pm, and "The point of no return" winding point after the A1 bridge at 4.20pm. Progress was no worse until Kilton Lock after which the blanket weed disappeared, replaced by the odd item of urban junk. The was quite a lot of kids about, especially swimming in and around Kilton Lock, but they all seemed good natured. Worksop as a place to stop had not impressed Neil in 1995 when he first visited the Chesterfield in 1995, so it was our intention to get to the ultimate end for moment. This was the still to be removed bridge at Rhodesia. When we level with what used to be the final winding point, just below Morse Lock we saw a large swimming party still in full fling at the newly restored Morse Lock kids water activity centre. It was getting fairly late (7.20pm) so we decided to pull back to the other side of the winding point and spend the night there. After a meal onboard Neil and Ian decide to walk up to Rhodesia and beyond to check out the state of the restoration. It was just past 9.00pm when we passed Morse Lock, with swimming still in progress (It was only a couple of weeks after our visit that yet another kid drowned in Morse Lock, one had just drowned in the restored but not yet open Middle Shireoaks Lock, which now had temporary barriers around it.) When Neil and Ian got to the remaining dropped bridge at Rhodesia we formulated our plans for the next days assault to  the present head of navigation. It was decided we would go up Morse Lock to the next full length winding point which is just below Stret Lock, wind then go astern in the newly dredged and weed free channel up through Stret and Deep Locks to the dropped bridge. We also had to get passed the other narrow boat moored under the bridge below Stret Lock. This was the only boat on the canal beyond the Chequers at Ranby, where there was one boat which was the first we had seen since Forrest Locks! We thought that these  intrepid navigators were not expecting any one else up here. 


It was our intention to get back to the excellent pub at Drakeholes this night (Thursday 8th July), so an early assault up to Rhodesia and back was started at 5.55am. All went very smoothly, the newly restored canal was weed free and the deepest so far encountered on the Chesterfield! We crept astern passed the boat moored below Stret Lock and were soon whizzing along back wards. The method we perfected was to have Neil steering and controlling the throttle and Ian placing the bow in centre channel using the bow thruster. Deep lock was found to be the narrowest narrow lock yet encountered, the thin stick fenders getting wedged. When we arrived below the new Woodhouse bridge we saw the point where you could wind a 40ft (Neil thinks "Beatty" - 50ft would just wind if you got the bow up the bank). Here was another warning sign saying "No entry beyond this point". This was like "a red rag to a bull" to Neil, so we crept back through the bridge wondering if it had not been dredged beyond here. Half way through we ground to a halt on a strategically placed Tesco trolley. This was soon removed, but as we were in a hurry and there was nowhere to hide it we had to leave it on the towpath. At 6.55am we were in our customary pose of being actually against the end. A bit of video was taken of the present end and of Shireoaks Bottom Lock, which was missed the night before as it was too dark. We were soon on our way back, the people in the boat below Stret Lock were just waking and were amazed to see us pass them, we had not wakened them when we went up. They now had renewed interest in getting to the real end. Two disasters then occurred the first just below Bracebridge Lock, here we slid over a new underwater obstruction slightly bending the skeg and removing the rudder from its bottom bearing. Next as we were coming out of Kilton lock we did nor see the small gas bottle stuck behind one of the bottom gates. We were jammed fast in this narrow lock. The engine would not free it, we would have to go backwards to free it. Ian used two mooring ropes on the stern bollards, then wound them up with a large mooring pin, even this did not work! There was only one thing for it, the bike, inflatable boat and outboard would have to come out of the engine compartment to get to the porto  power hydraulic ram kit. This would also be handy for straightening the skeg. The bottom gates of Kilton Lock are composite steel and wood, so they would need a severe push apart at the top to bend the enough to free us. The ram and extension pipes were set up across the top cratch board  and we were soon free and eventually on our way at 9.40am. Neil decided to rattle along until Forest Top Lock where there is a water point and the water was cleaner for a swim in the canal to enable skeg straightening. Good progress was made, we passed "The Chequers", Ranby at 11.30am and we arrived on the water point at Forrest Top Lock at 12.35pm where we spent 45 minutes swimming, skeg straightening and filling up with water. The rudder shaft now went back easily and Neil even had time for a spa bath in the fish bubble net by the top lock paddles. This bubble net was to keep the grass carp in the Ranby pound that B.W. had introduced to eat there way through the blanket weed. We arrived at Drakeholes reasonably early , considering the disasters, at 7.05pm. It had been another hot and sticky day so we soon retired to the "White Swan" bar terrace for another excellent meal. 


When we came off the tidal Trent we provisionally booked our passage from West Stockwith to Keadby. We left Drakeholes at 8.15am and had an uneventful journey to West Stockwith arriving there at 11.40am, mooring on the visitor moorings just before the bridge. We found the lock keeper and said that wanted diesel. He said that the lock keeper at Keadby wanted to knock of early so would we mind altering our plans and leaving early. This would mean punching the ferocious flood tide of the River Trent, but as it was not a Springs (7.9m), it would not be to bad. He told us to come up to the lock for diesel at 3.15pm and he would pen us out after this. We spent the long lunchtime expectantly lounging around, the kind of feeling you only get while waiting for the tide. We had a al fresco pint and dinner in the OK "Waterfront Inn". After diesel and water we were penned out at 4.45pm for the expected 2 hour journey down to Keadby. We shot out into the flood and quickly turned to bite into it. We had just settled down when we looked round to see another narrowboat entering the lock having just come down the River Trent. We made steady progress, but had to turn the throttle up a bit as we were beginning to lag. At 5.50pm, East Ferry it became slack a bit early, so we shot off at nearly full power as we did not want to be entering Keadby when the ebb was in full flow. We had phoned  the Keadby lock keeper just as we left. He told us to give him another ring when we passed the M180 bridge and he would prepare the lock and open the gates. This we did at6.30pm. We passed Keadby near the East bank to give us the whole river to turn in and dig in to the ebb which was seriously underway. The pillock lock keeper had only opened one gate meaning we had an interesting and slightly bumpy full throttle entrance into the lock, having to pull up in its length. We had the normal boater audience and the lock keeper shouted down that he would only give us 5 out of 10 for that arrival. Neil shouted back that he would like to see any one do any better with a full length boat (for that canal), with the river in full ebb and with only one gate open! At least one of the other Narrowboaters watching congratulated us saying that you had to have a steady nerve to come in here any time. The lock keeper, a miserable old git, who's name escapes us, is the one who always seems to be on duty when we have been through here. He was basically in to much of a hurry to knock off to open both of the still manually operated gates. We shot up in the lock and were through the road swing bridge in 10 minutes! We had intended to stop overnight in Keadby and go to the only acceptable pub that did food, "The Friendly Fox". Linda, Neil, Alan and the kids went here in 1995, although basic it did acceptable Mansfield real ale and presented us with hudge portions of edible food. Unfortunately "The Friendly Fox" had obviously proved otherwise to the locals and was all boarded up. We decided to go on as it was another nice evening and shot off in the direction of Thorne. We gave a long air horn blast as we approached Vazon Railway slide bridge, which is unique in Europe and a listed structure. Through the binoculars we saw the signal man in his cabin get up and look over to us, but we still had to wait 20 minutes for a succession of trains on this busy line. The mechanism which slides an angled section of the track out of the way soon swung into action. This was much faster than in 1995, when it was sick and needed 6 blokes fiddling with it, to coax it into action. We passed Crowle as we did not fancy the look of the pub, it did not even look open! Crook o' the Moor Swing Bridge was opened for us by the evening kid swimmers. Eventually we stopped on the non towpath side just below Moor's Swing bridge in deep water tied onto some heavy duty pilling. We had an impromptu spagbol and retired as Neil had the crazy idea of getting up at 4.00am so we could clear the Tinsley Flight on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire and get into Sheffield tomorrow night! 


Graveler passes West Stockwith Lock just as we are safely going up. 

Our mooring at Drakeholes, tunnel to left.

Restored Morse Lock, no swimmers, 5.55am!

Morse Lock, showing how tight all these locks are above Worksop.

Stret Lock, sign warning no boats over 40ft beyond here!

Reversing back into Stret Lock, note obstruction to left!

Entering Stret Lock backwards!

Resting against the present end in Rhodesia. You can just make out Tesco trolley on towpath under bridge.

Worksop Town Lock. 

Straddle Warehouse, looking back to Worksop Town Lock.

Kilton Lock, gates jacked apart enabling us to edge back and remove obstruction. 

Neil and Kerry relocating rudder shaft in bottom after straightening skeg.

Forest Top Lock Neil cleaning up after rudder repair.

Neil in Forest Top Lock spa bath.

This item will scare back the grass carp!

Retford and Worksop Boat Club at Clayworth.

Clayworth Bridge.

Leaving West Stockwith bound for Keadby, narrowboat entering has just come down the River Trent.

Approaching Keadby Road / Rail Bridge, ebb beginning to take hold.

Leaving Keadby on Stainforth and Keadby Canal, building to right is closed "Friendly Fox" P.H. (2002 - now reopened as "The Barge")

The tour continues...


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