March to Outwell drive goes smoothly but Tam gets a case of cabin fever. In the middle of town, down a deep ravine we have to pull over and do a dodgy bike-and-baby-off-the-boat manouvre.
I cycle off down the road with Tam on the back. The road eventually turns away from the river and my only choice for keeping the river in sight is to cycle on an extremely bumpy track which gets tougher the further along I go. There are deep puddles, brambles and mud. I persevere, determined to keep the river in sight. After a while I notice it has gone very quiet behind me. I look over my shoulder and see Tam lolling around on his seat fast asleep.
The poor boy is being bounced all over the place and his head keeps banging the bike seat. I take out a scarf from my bag and try and wrap it around his shoulders to create a cushion and pedal on.
The path finally smoothes out and turns into dream cycle track…for about 200m… before turning back into bumpy path.
After a while I glance back and notice the scarf has fallen off. Reluctantly I turn back down the track of doom to retrieve it!
Eventually my path stops and turns into a super fast road with heavy lorries speeding by. The road follows the river: I have no choice but to join it. Finally the road goes over a bridge and I see a path I can join running alongside the river. Happy to be off the road I follow this until I notice the river getting thinner and shallower. Also the bridges are too low for a boat to fit under…
It suddenly dawns on me I have been following the wrong river! Tam wakes up and starts crying and I start to feel a bit hot and desperate. I am lost.Trying not to panic I head toward where I think the correct river might be ask a billion passers by and eventually by some miracle find the River Nene and our arranged meeting place at Stanground lock.
The boat arrives soon after. Stanground lives up to its name as we are trapped behind the lock, as we failed to give the lock keeper 24hours notice. Surrounded by goats, horses and cats, we bedded down lockside.
Day 5: We wake up at Stanground and a lovely lock keeper comes and lets us through. This puts us on the New River Nene. We head in to Peterborough to do some shopping (and empty the toilet again, lush).
We’d been having problems starting the boat since our first day and by Peterborough we felt we should do something about it so whilst I got out and went to Tesco Ellie and Lewis turned the boat around and went to a boatyard.
At the boatyard the mechanic looked at our starter motor but said it’d take more than a day to fix it. He showed us a shortcut to starting the motor using a wrench to connect 2 electric terminals, it seemed to work like magic, so we decided to make do with that. He also pointed out that the source of our super smokey engine was a cracked exhaust pipe that had been sloppily mended with tape. He did a quick fix on that and The French Connection was back on it’s way.
Ellie and Lewis arrived back in Peterborough completely covered in black soot and engine grease, looking like a couple of chimney sweeps. We headed out of town and onto the beautiful meandering river. This part of the journey was marked largely by the great number of locks to go through. The river is pretty powerful and inside the lock we found the boat was being violently knocked around which was a little bit scary! But Tam especially enjoyed winding the windlass to open the locks, so sometimes it was hard to control the flow of water!
By the end of the day we needed to find a safe place to moor and we realised how few public moorings there were on the river. As dusk arrived we were soon under pressure to get to the next mooring place. Finally, as the sun was setting we went through Elton Lock and found a place to moor, as the stress dissipated we were treated to a most spectacular sunset.