Flotilla to Ely - Day 4

Monday 30th May 2016
Flotilla to Ely - Day 4

Sunday morning was by far one of the worst mornings we have had on Bandit. It was horrifically windy, overcast and cold. Even more so than the day before. It was really nerve-racking for me as we had to get back to our home marina in Saint Ives today; a 5-hour trip. It was going to very difficult for us with our single engine and I really hate being out in the wind. Even with our twin engine Mirage with the Vetus bow thruster, it was always horrible being out in the wind.

Anyway, we tried to put that to the side for the moment and went round to Josie to have one last crack at trying to get their engine running. We tried for about an hour and came to the conclusion that it was something more than just a loose wire. They were happy to do the journey home with a single engine which put us both in the same situation. We both knew that it would not be easy to navigate the Old West River in this wind. The river in question is extremely shallow and narrow. It also runs straight through the Fens which is a huge area of very flat land. Not the place you want to be with 40mph winds. We got things ready as Josie filled their water tank at the water point just behind where we had both moored for the evening.

Then we were ready to head off. Right from the word go, it was apparent that this would not be easy. Undoing the mooring ropes proved to be quite difficult as the boat was very quickly pushed sideways off the mooring. We managed to hop on and motored off though Ely in the wind.

We eventually got to Popes Corner (where the River Great Ouse at Ely meets the Old West River) and this is where things would get a bit difficult. Now, even with no wind, Bandit will wander around on the water because we were only using the starboard engine. We both cruised along doing 4mph to avoid hitting anything underwater and badly damaging our propellers. The boats were being blown around a lot so we were having to compensate with a lot of steering. An hour passed and we were both doing okay. I kept a close eye on Josie to ensure they were still behind us and hadn't come into any problems without us knowing.

After a bit, I looked back and realised that they had come to a stop and lots of propeller wash was spraying out from behind the boat. I phoned them up to see what was happening and they had got stuck on a shallow bend. Their outdrive was stuck in the mud and the whole boat was pivoting around it, unable to break free. We decided to turn around and then got stuck ourselves. I decided to give her a boot full of throttle and simply broke free from the mud. The plan now was to reverse up to Josie and pull her free. Luckily, they managed to break free by cutting the engine and raising the outdrives. We turned around again and both continued up the river being very cautious of shallow areas. From there on, everything went absolutely fine.

We both stopped off at a lovely restaurant called 'The Lazy Otter' for lunch. Me and Dad were treated to lunch for trying to help Josie with their engine problem at Ely, which was extremely kind of them. It'll be on us next time for sure (if you're reading, Bob & Gill!).

We ploughed on and eventually got to Hermitage Lock. We were back on familiar water! We both cruised along to the Brownshill Lock and said our goodbyes to Josie as they moor at another marina to us.
Bandit and Josie moored up at Brownshill Lock
Mon 30th May 2016

We made our way back to Saint Ives and moored up in the horrendous wind. Thankfully, reversing her into the tight mooring actually went quite well. I was really expecting it to go very badly wrong and for us to end up mooring elsewhere for the time being until the wind calmed down.

Overall, a very interesting but exciting trip away. We have learnt so much about Bandit and her engines. We had no idea how to access the impeller or heat exchanger and we both know how to do that now. We also know that when we go down there next, we need to keep mid-stream to avoid hitting shallow areas and getting stuck. Fitted to Bandit is a Garmin 172C chart plotter which, along the way I added waypoints where shallow areas were so we know for next time. Not exactly what you're meant to use it for but it'll work very well for us as we don't actually use the chart plotter for plotting tracks like you would at sea.

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