Navigating the tidal section of the River Trent

If you like rural waterways, you’ll like the tidal Trent. Apart from the town of Gainsborough, power stations and the occasional converted windmill, there’s hardly any buildings beside the river. There’s nowhere to stop either, you have to keep pushing on to beat the tide.

Power station on the Trent

The Trent is a long river and you have to do the tidal section in two stages. The first day we went through the lock at Cromwell Lock, drove for a few hours then stayed at the floating moorings outside Torksey Lock. Narrowboat Midnight Lady accompanied us, being delivered to her new owner.

Next morning at 6.15am, just before dawn, we left Torksey and headed north. I love driving in the dark, whether it’s in the early morning or late at night, and the lights of the power station opposite looked quite dramatic in the dark. Had to reverse Audrey Too out of the layby into the river, which would have been quite a challenge except that this narrowboat, unlike most, is good at reversing in a straight line.

Initially it was slow going as the tide was still coming in, but after an hour we were going faster. Sometimes, going round a bend, we’d slow down again, only to speed up on the straight stretches. We kept an eye out for the shallow edges, marked either side with green and red poles.

Narrowboat Midnight Lady at Gainsborough

Richard, driving Midnight Lady, phoned me to say he’d spotted a seal swimming in the water. Above the engine noise I misheard what he said and thought he was warning us to avoid some steel floating in the water, so unfortunately I didn’t see it for myself.

Bridge over the River Trent

Arriving at Keadby Lock the tide was behind us and pushing us forwards. The driver of narrowboat Midnight Lady was in front of us and didn’t spot the lock until he’d gone past it. The entrance is underwhelming and the sign saying “Keadby Lock” isn’t that prominent. Still, he managed to turn around and enter the lock quite elegantly compared to my own attempt.

I misjudged the speed of the tide and the angle at which the boat needed to enter the lock, then had to rev up, slamming the bow into the side of the lock. That must be the biggest knock I ever gave a boat, and surprisingly, although a few things fell down, nothing inside was broken. Other boaters have since told me they did the same thing on the first attempt so I won’t feel too bad about it. At the time, it was hair raising, and not a maneuvre I wish to repeat any time soon.

Narrowboat approaching Keadby Lock

Once out of Keadby Lock, we found ourselves on the straightest, least bendy canal so far, a relief after the drama of exiting the Trent.

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