Monday 2 April 2012

To Ely and back

We were going to enter Boston - indeed, we did enter. But come the draw and we still hadn't found a trailer, and the reason became clear: there were no other crews going from Cambridge (other than Katherine and Anna-Rosa, who won their class; but they were in a double, and didn't need a trailer). It rather looks like the organisers hadn't publicised the change-of-date widely, and only had 1/3 the normal number of entries.

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:

My hands - taped to match my nail varnish. When oh when oh when will I learn to tape up my hands properly before getting blisters?Paul's hands - worse than it looks from a distance. And he was taped up like an extra from The Mummy.James Howard's mighty Blister of Doom. I added the arrow in case you missed it.

There is no picture of Will's hands - apparently, as a result of some odd formative experiences at Eton, he doesn't get blisters ;-).

DSCN2453-beer-from-pippin DSCN2455-tea-and-biccies 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


  1. Well done. I've paddled that in a canoe in a much slower time. Leaving at 10 and in the Cutter for a pint at 1. The lock at Bottisham is very "human powered" boat unfriendly. The first time I had to lift the boat using ropes to the side. Very hard on my arms and knees (cheese grater!). Second time I borrowed a lock key.

  2. James standing up in the boat when the blades were half in was the most worrying part of the trip ;-)however the photo is nice. It was a very good day out and definitly worth doing. It's a shame the next bit of the river to Littleport is so dull otherwise I might have suggested going a bit further. Denver and back must be 100km (plus?), now thats a real challange....

  3. You should also draw attantion to the slight increase in speed just as we entered Ely where we wound the rate up to 2 Andrews (32) for the last few hundred meters...

  4. Very well done indeed lads!

    It was a pleasure to help you through the lock and beer/tea type hospitality on the way back is a Pippin perquisite.

    If anyone reading your blog wants to attempt a similar challenge or simply would like to take a manually propelled craft through Bottisham lock, I will be happy to help. My email address can be found on the wb Pippin blog. This can be found easily by following the link from James Tidy and amy Tillson's "Lucky Duck" blog.


    John (Pippin)

  5. Might be worth turning this into a proper annual club event. . . possibly with the VIII? Chris W|James H. What are the prospects for something like this? Seems to me as simple as training, picking a day and finding nine silly people! I'm sure we could find at least four more :D

  6. There used to be a charity row to Ely organised by one of the other clubs I think it was later in the year but I dont know if its still happening. As you say its easy to arrange a row to Ely, it just needs someone to take charge. Its certainly something to suggest to whoever in mens Capt next year. (It would also help if we could guarentee sunshine ;-)