Sunday, January 16, 2011

We get to grips with that pontoon!

We were warned!

Maffi says "look what they have done"
There has been some controversy about the placing and design of this new pontoon below Isis Lock. Boaters we know have been consulted, complained and pointed out potential dangers and the apparent lack of thought and knowledge of boating that went into the design.

It was time for us to put it to the test as we had to turn around to go north on the South Oxford Canal, back the way we had come.

We had a good recce and John had a good think - he is always very good at thinking around the potential problems and finding a answer! After over 37 years of narrowboating and many childhood holidays on the Broads and Thames he has quite a lot of experience.

The Mill Stream had calmed down a bit but the flow from Sheepwash Channel was still considerable; however, we decided to "go for it".

Going down in Isis Lock
The plan was to allow the stream to take the stern around with the front end tied to a cleat on the pontoon. We reckoned the third one from the lock would give us enough room to clear the lock jaws and leave us plenty of room for the back to come around. This was fine, but ....

There is no ramp from the lock to the pontoon (see Maffi's photo!) so John had to bring the bow near enough for me to get off onto the pontoon - I was not going to risk the "unauthorised" route! (see Maffi's photo). Once off, I was able to loop the bow rope easily, with a little slack so that as Epiphany turned I was able to pull the slack in and get back on.

Around she goes
Our manoeuvre was successful - we had judged the length correctly - and as the bow was in slack water near the pontoon Epiphany behaved beautifully! However, a longer narrowboat would need to tie up further down the pontoon and the stern would be further out in the flow of the water. If the Mill Stream was really running fast more control would be needed by the helmsman we suspect.

Entering Isis Lock, going up
We still wonder how easy (or difficult of course!) it would be if a narrowboat was coming off the river and turning into Isis Lock - maybe we will be trying it this year - if so, we will let you know how we get on!


  1. Of course if you are single handed, turning on a cleat is not an option.

  2. Turned there on Tuesday singlehanded - strong stream boards out, but it wasn't an issue. Came out of the lock and reversed a bit into the mill stream before turning the stem into the pontoon; she held there with full right rudder in idle and the stream to turn, then back out a tad and power back into the lock - this is a 58' boat with BMC 1500 so nothing flash.


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