Irthlingborough (ex Rushden & Diamonds)

We left White Mills this morning in glorious weather and it continued all day. The first two locks were both being operated by boats going upstream so it wasn't until we reached Woolaston Lock that we got out a windlass. (because the downstream gates are electrically operated). Luckily we then met another boat (NB Critical Point) and shared locks with them through Wellingborough. 

Doddington Lock 
(with water flowing over the top gates)

A misguided (?) swan feeder at Wellingborough

Negotiating the Irchester Railway Viaducts

We paused for lunch at a Friends Of  The River Nene (FOTRN) mooring by Ditchford Bridge.

Broken FORTN Sign

There were numerous horses roaming around the site so they may have been responsible for the damage. There were a few mares with young foals who looked adorable. After a late lunch we went through the radial-gated Ditchford Lock. 

After the tortuous turns around Ditchford the long straight alongside the A45 was quite a change. I am always wary of Higham Ferrers bridge because it is tight and has a skewed approach. It was just as well that we were prepared because a boat going upstream suddenly approached obliquely without a lookout. Despite sounding my horn and having priority going downstream I just had to stop and go astern. Luckily the current was light and we managed to reverse upstream and negotiate the central navigation arch on our second approach. 

Higham Ferrers Bridge

We moored up at the "Rushden & Diamonds" moorings that overlook Stanwick Lakes. Last time were moored here there wasn't much bird life evident but today there was plenty. I think the star turn was a cuckoo that flew in, rested on a hawthorn and then continued on its journey. I got a really good look at it through binoculars. The evening was warm enough for us to eat our dinner on the bank. A glorious day's boating.

Unexpected Inflation!

Have you ever wondered what a lifejacket looks like when it's inflated - then now you know!

Inflated 150N lifejacket

Yesterday our daughter Lucy visited from Teddington so we took out Albert onto the River Nene with her three girls, aged three to nine, and our grandson Hugh aged six. We decided a lock-free cruise would do so we pootled up to Whiston Lock, turned around and then moored up just outside White Mills Marina where the kids explored the meadow and watched a boat go through the lock. Whilst on rivers we wear lifejackets and insist on children wearing them. Our youngest Nancy decided that she needed attention from her mummy so a tug on the red handle hanging down from mummy's lifejacket looked very suitable. It certainly got Lucy's attention - after the initial shock she was in hysterics!   

The handy instructions on the label inside helped me to deflate it. Now we just need a new CO2 cylinder to re-arm it.

Moored up and using the plank

A Windy Trip

We arranged some time ago to go boating last Saturday with the Kinnings, our friends from Wolverhampton. They are more used to boating on the Shropshire Union so a trip on the River Nene was a bit of a novelty for them. Unlike over Easter, the weather was not at record breaking temperatures - it was in fact 15 degrees C cooler. Not only that, the wind, officially classed as moderate, was from the North which made navigation somewhat "interesting".

At White Mills Lock

Our plan was to go downstream two locks and moor at the Friends of the River Nene moorings at Hardwater Mill and then return to the marina. I must admit that around 11:00 AM I wondered if it was a good plan with the wind blowing across our mooring making even leaving our berth a bit of a struggle. However, the judicious use of plenty of power got us away from the mooring and some difficult  maneuvering at the marina entrance got us safely into White Mills Lock where we trained up the day's crew on how to use River Nene electric locks.

Passing under the guillotine gate at White Mills

The wind remained strong for most of the morning. A couple of rain showers came over, one complete with hail hitting me in the face, it actually hurt! Winding at Hardwater Mill was not too bad, since it was wind assisted, and we managed to moor up (on pins) for a late lunch on the FTRN moorings. Despite it being a Bank Holiday weekend, the visitor moorings were unoccupied for most of the time, although another boat arrived just before we left for our return trip. A bit different from over Easter when we found six boats moored up there.

Moored up at Hardwater Mill  with swans overhead and a chop on the water

The wind on the return journey became lighter, although rain was never far away. Getting into White Mills marina was a lot easier than leaving and by the time we were negotiating getting onto the mooring the wind had dropped considerably.

Earls Barton Lock

Last rain shower over White Mills Lock* 

Moving onto our berth

All in all, it was a great day out with good company. All the photos in this post, except the one marked*, are courtesy of Mike Kinnings.

Cruising to White Mills

On Easter Saturday we cruised on the Nene from Northampton to Earls Barton in glorious sunshine on the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures in the mid 20s deg C. There appear to be numerous cats living on boats in Northampton Marina including Morgan who has lost most of his tail!

Morgan, one of the marina cats at Northampton
One of the new bridges across the Nene

Wide open spaces

The changing skyline of Northampton

Travelling along the wide expanse of the river near Brackmills on a warm sunny morning was a delight, particularly after struggling through the reedy arm down to Northampton. It was quite on the river through the first two river locks and we only met our first boat on the move as we left Abington Lock (3).

Eight hazards at locks

One of the features of the EA rivers are the signs with hazard symbols. Eight hazards is a fairly modest number; electrically operated locks have more! Dangerous pastime boating on the inland waterways.

Northampton Washlands

Crossing the Washlands was less stressful than last time since there was plenty of water. The banks we thronged with walkers, cyclists and runners. Against the strong sun they looked like Lowry figures.

Weston Favell lock with guillotine gate

Weston Favell lock was busy. Two boats were coming upstream and a boat with an unpowered butty was breasted-up was waiting ahead of us. It was time to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

We eventually went through the lock with a similar-sized boat called Imagine (decorated with lots of quotes from John Lennon's song). At the next lock (Clifford Hill) there was a longer delay as a wide-beam boat made its way upstream with four boats waiting to go downstream. The breasted-up pair kindly let us past since they were very much slower than Imagine and Albert.

The crew of Imagine were moving to Billing Marina so we left Billing Lock first to help them negotiate their difficulty turn into the marina. As we left the lock, it was clear from the loud banging emanating from the rudder, and vibrations on the tiller, that something serious was caught around the propeller. Putting Albert into forward caused the banging - in neutral and reverse there was no problem. I was therefore reassured. A similar problem happened on the Trent & Mersey some years ago and it was caused by a pipe fender caught around the prop.

We unsuccessfully tried to moor up Albert just after Billing Bridge but it was too shallow but we eventually found a spot further on where we could access the bank, albeit with difficulty. It was then a matter of getting down the weed hatch. It is never a pleasant activity clearing the prop but at least the water was relatively warm and clear and it wasn't raining.

Temporary stop for clearing the propeller near Cogenhoe

The problem was, like before, a pipe fender caught around the prop. This time with its hard plastic mount attached - hence the alarming noise. The fouling was also compounded by some fabric. It took some time and exertions with a sharp knife to remove the debris. I did manage to recover the pipe fender intact and with little real damage - it will come in handy as a spare.

Weed hatch debris!

Getting back on board required judicious use of a plank. Around Cogenhoe Lock there were a few cruisers out for the day and also a few families with inflatable canoes. It was, after all, a great day for "messing about on the river". We got to White Mills marina late in the afternoon and used a visitor mooring overnight. The Skinner family who run the Marina gave us a warm welcome. They were having a busy weekend.


On Friday last week the weather was glorious and warm. It was change over day at the Alverchurch Boat base (ABC Leisure) and a group of boats arrived ready for their next clients. It was also a busy period for their crane. A new boat arrived at the marina for launching and two other boats were craned in.

Boats being craned at Gayton Marina

The journey down the 13 locks took around a couple of hours. Most of the locks at the top were set in our favour and as we approached the bottom of the flight we began to find boats coming up. It appeared from their stories that overnight some of the pounds had been left dry and a group of boats moored up by the M1. A CRT employee was working on one on the gates and repairing a step. Whilst chatting he mentioned the likelihood of restrictions being placed on the flight due to water shortage - probably closing the locks after 3:00 PM. With the little rain we have had recently that sounds sensible.

On the Northampton Flight

One of the lift bridges on the flight (always left open)

Passing under the M1

On the flight there is now some art including mosaics, but under the motorway there is mural that caught my eye. It it includes reference to all the major events that have happened in Northampton - the last being the 1998 floods. I have vivid recollections of  the floods since our village was effected and Towcester was inundated the day before the waters reached Northampton.

Depiction of the Northampton Floods

We paused for a cuppa at the bottom of the flight and then made our way gingerly though the reedy section towards Hunsbury and Northampton. A fair few boats were on the move enjoying the unseasonably warm holiday weather.


Carlsberg Brewery

We got to Northampton in the early afternoon and moored up for the night at the well equipped Northampton Marina. We once again visited Les Olives Tapas Restaurant in the town where we had a great meal, complete with musical accompaniment - the Spanish guitarist was brilliant.

Les Olives

Blisworth Arm

Last week moved Albert onto the River Nene. The first stage was to pack up the boat and head for the Northampton Arm. We left Kingfisher last Thursday with misty skies but the sun soon burnt through.

Leaving our mooring
We had a good run up to Stoke Locks and found a very obliging crew waiting in the bottom lock. We had an efficient run up the flight with other boats coming down and even had the help of two CRT Volunteers. It all made for a good start for our trip down to Earls Barton.

Pumping from the River Tove

Stoke Bruerne Top Lock

With the Easter School holidays, Stoke Bruerne had a good number of visitors and trip boat Charlie was busy. The boat we shared locks with had not been this direction before and we a little uncomfortable about Blisworth Tunnel. We tried reassurance and they followed us through although at some distance behind. We met five boats coming the other way through the tunnel so our passage was slow. We also hung around after leaving the tunnel to make sure the following boat was OK.

We stopped for the night opposite Gayton Marina. The road noise from the A43 was a bit intrusive but mooring there did mean we could have a good start on the Northampton Flight on Friday morning.

White Mills Marina, Earls Barton

During our autumn cruise along the River Nene in 2016 we moored up for the night at White Mills Marina which had only opened a few months earlier. This led to an extended stay at Earls Barton when river levels in the Northampton Washlands dropped and we had difficulties getting back onto the Grand Union.

Because we are looking to cruise the River Nene again in early this summer, we went to visit the marina yesterday with a view to mooring Albert at White Mills for about a month. We received a very warm welcome and have made our arrangements. The major change in the last couple of years is The Boathouse which appears to be a popular local destination for lunch.

White Mills Marina with The Boathouse on left

Floating Moorings

We shall look forward to our stay.

Diesel Drip Pot

The Ruston & Hornsby 2YWM in Albert has a Mico (Bosch India) direct injection system that utilises a pair of jerk pumps driven from the crankshaft. The two pumps are controlled by a rack attached to the governor. As part of the system minute amounts of fuel can seep past the rack mechanism. This leakage is normal and is emitted from a port at the base of the injector. When Phil Lizuis was working on the engine a short time ago he pointed out that some similar engines have a drip pot fitted to collect this fuel. The drips are few and far between but they are occasionally noticed. After I recently carried out an oil change I decided that although the amount was very small, allowing this fuel to collect in the drip tray below the engine was not really acceptable so I set about designing a collection system to fit onto our engine.

Fuel drip line from direct injection pump

The two ports on the injector pumps are 5/16 UNF - or so I found out after some investigation. It isn't easy establishing internal thread sizes on a engine with mixed Imperial and Metric thread sizes and the R & H parts manual I have wasn't very specific. I decided to connect the injectors to a drip pot using standard 1/8 inch flexible fuel pipe that is commonly used on a variety of diesel engines. This should have been quite simple via standard brass adapters but the fuel filters on our 2YWM were too close to one of the pumps and so I had to resort to making up a pair of special short adapters. The drip pot I sourced by adapting a glass-bowled fuel pre-filter. I removed its internals, adapted its porting to take two fuel inlet pipes and then drilled an air-vent into the top. The drip pot is bolted low down on the side of the engine casing. I will have to wait and see just how much fuel makes it into the pot.

New fuel drip pot showing air vent

The original photos (below) from Waterways World, promoting the 2YWM MkV engine show a drip pot to the right and below the two fuel filters.

Ruston & Hornsby 2YWM MkV as delivered to customers by Keith Jones

IWA Rally Milton Keynes 1985

I rarely discover collectible waterways books on eBay, probably because the ones that I wish to own are now more rare. That is probably why leaflets and brochures related to boating sometimes catch my eye. The other day I saw a souvenir brochure from the 1985 IWA National Rally for sale. The rally was held during the August Bank Holiday on the Grand Union close to the centre of Milton Keynes.

IWA National Rally Brochure 1985 Milton Keynes
Location of the photograph is Waterside, Peartree Bridge, Milton Keynes

Living close to Milton Keynes, and remembering that we visited the rally, I couldn't resist purchasing it. In those days we weren't boat owners but we were interested in canals; living close to the Grand Union we had visited Stoke Bruerne a few times. I must admit I cannot remember much about our visit to the Rally, but I did remember the approximate location of the site and viewing the boats moored up. We were certainly not intending to buy either a holiday or a boat, they were both well out of our league, but we did have a good day out.

The National Rally at Milton Keynes was held at a time when the New City was expanding rapidly and Blisworth Tunnnel had just been reopened after it rebuilding. There are many references in the brochure to the relining of the tunnel. It was therefore a time of modest optimism. The brochure includes an interesting section reflecting on the famous/infamous first IWA Rally at Market Harborough in 1950 where divisions in the newly-formed IWA came to the fore.

Lord Lucan and John Knill judging the best decorated working boat at Market Harborough in 1950

Commercial input into the 1985 rally was significant. The trade show directory featured eighteen boat builders including well known names such as Peter Nicholls, Calcutt, Colecraft and Springer. Of particular interest to me is the advert from K E Jones Steam Cruising. Keith displayed his steam boat Firefly and around nine years later he was responsible for the installation of the Ruston engine in Albert.

South Midland Water Transport, were based locally, obviously brought their wooden working boat Hesperus to the rally. It was formerly owned by Lord Lucan (father of the infamous holder of the title), who took her to the 1950 rally (above). For many years we saw her around our local waters - slowly deteriorating.

The site of the 1985 rally is also interesting. It is just north of Bridge 82 and near Campbell Park. This is close to the designated connection to the proposed Bedford to Milton Keynes Link and just north of the new marina that is being constructed close to the city centre. The maps below are from the rally brochure and from Google where I outline in red the location. Today the rally site is mostly occupied by the Gulliver's Land attraction.

Rally Site Location as shown in the brochure (1985) and Google Streetview (2019)

The "Events Bowl" shown on the right of the brochure site plan is still a noticeable feature - you can see it well on Google Street View. The circular area near Willen Lake hosted a Barron Knights concert on the Saturday evening. We didn't attend, so I can't report on how well attended it was, but it was a modest venue. This is unlike the National Bowl in Milton Keynes where earlier in the year U2 performed in front of 50,000 and they were supported by REM, Billy Bragg and The Ramones (what a line-up!).

Whilst discussing numbers, the attendance at the rally was nearly 30,000 people with 514 boats present.

I leave you with this thought; next year it will be 70 years since the first rally at Market Harborough and the 35 years since the Milton Keynes Rally. I think the changes in such boat gatherings in the last thirty-five years have probably been greater that in the first.