And so we thought: rather than all the faff of trailering there, why not "just" row to Ely and back, which is about the same distance (actually 51.5 km, starting from Queens's boathouse, over Boston's 50). And so we did:
That is our route, annotated, from the GPS trace. You'll see we stopped a bit: Baits Bite (5k) and Bottisham (10k) locks were necessary, as was the pint at the Cutter Inn at Ely. Upware (5 miles from anywhere pub; 15 k) was a lovely sprawled-in-the-grass-with-drinks stop on the way back, and I think we happened to stop to adjust footplates there on the way up. And then the formerly-Fish-n-Duck at the junction of the Old West river was another landmark, 20 k. Note that at some points where we had long stops (Ely, Upware on the way back) I stopped the watch, so you don't see the full gap.
Our proof that we really did get to Ely :-). and if that isn't proof enough, here is more:
There is no picture of Will's hands - apparently, as a result of some odd formative experiences at Eton, he doesn't get blisters ;-).
John-from-Pippin was kind enough to let us through Bottisham lock both ways (side note: if you had no friend but you had the key, you could probably do it by letting the cox out at the landing stage, though the Cambridge side is awkward. It almost looked possible to get out on the bank before the stage, which (if possible) would be much quicker than waiting for the lock gates to move). And on the way back, he even more kindly lifted over a few cans of Old Speckled Hen in a net, and then mugs of tea for James and Will (not in a net).
Here we are in the lock, on the way up. James H has a somewhat worried expression, because I've insisted that James T stand up to take the picture, and (as you can see) we don't really have our blades out very far. I've cropped the picture to spare you the worst of my pallid chest - I rowed up Topless, though actually it wasn't warm despite the blazing sunshine, so I rowed back Topped.
The very last adventure of the day was discovering, half way down the reach, that we'd lost our rudder. Watching James's face was quite funny, as it slowly dawned on him that pulling the strings was doing nothing. But he then did an excellent job of coxing us back just with extra pulls from either side as required.
At the end, we could still smile (L to R: Paul Holland; William Connolley; James Howard; Will Wykeham. Front: James Tidy). Because we knew we were headed for the Fort. But how was it, overall? Fun, yes. An interesting excursion and definitely something different and something to remember. Hard work - we didn't just pootle along, or even back (the GPS says avg ~13 km/h on the way out, which is 2:18. And a bit lower on the way back - perhaps 12.5, which is 2:24. Tiredness, or difference in rover flow? Those GPS splits are about 5 pips worse than the impeller splits we were getting at the time). Would it have made a decent time if we'd been doing Boston? Hard to know - we wouldn't have got all the rests, so the split would probably have sagged somewhat from what we have here. We'll find out next time!
[Update: oh, and I forgot to mention: we got off to an appallingly bad start: as we passed under the Fort footbridge, having taken about 20 strokes, James H said "are we nearly there yet?" in a perfectly deadpan voice; I could hardly row for laughing for a minute.]
* GPS track