Sykehouse Lock to Doncaster in windy weather

We’d moored for the night after Sykehouse lock on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire New Junction Canal. It’s an unusual one, with a swing bridge in the middle of it. You have to open the swing bridge first, then the sluices and gates to let the boat in. You can’t close the swing bridge until the boat’s out the other side of the lock. Bet that really annoys drivers wanting to cross the bridge.

Sykehouse Lock

No wifi signal. Not even any mobile phone reception. This particular middle of nowhere had pleasant countryside, but how would I get any work done tomorrow without Internet? Time to move on.

On the other side of the lock was another narrowboat and I guessed correctly that they’d be on the move first thing in the morning. I tagged along with them because there were lift bridges ahead and I can’t work those on my own; not without holding up the traffic unnecessarily. At this time of the morning drivers are on their way to work, and making them wait longer than necessary while boats use the bridge would be justfiable cause for road rage.

Grief, it was windy! It’s difficult to drive a narrowboat when the wind’s strong. If you’re moored, it takes several attempts to push the front of the boat out: before you can run to the aft of the boat, the front’s back against the bank again. Sometimes it’s possible to reverse fast into the centre of the canal, then straighten out and go forward. Sometimes you have to find someone to help give the boat a shove while you accelerate fast.

If the wind’s against you, you can try driving at an angle into the wind instead of trying to plough straight forward. The wind will sometimes hit the bow, sometimes the stern of the boat, and she pivots one way or the other. You make constant adjustments, moving the tiller one way and the other to stay on path, speeding up to get more control over the steering.

While trying to moor, the wind shoved the other narrowboat into the side with a great big bump. They gave up half way to Doncaster.

I kept going, and was joined by a chap on one of those big blue British Waterways boats. That was handy because he’d got a colleague to open the swing bridge and lock ahead. If I’d had to do that by myself it would have been a slower journey. The wind was troubling his boat too, so I kept well out of the way as it overtook.

Doncaster's secure moorings

Doncaster’s got good, securely locked moorings, with water, electricity and rubbish collection facilities. You can only stay 72 hours. Many of the better moorings we’ve seen in Yorkshire allow only 2 or 3 days. Had a bumpy night, with little waves forming on the water and splashing constantly on the hull.

Makes a change from being woken up by ducks tapping their beaks on the hull to eat the weed that grows along the boat’s side.

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