A Slow Meander to York – Part 3 – Tackling Our Tidal Fear


Here’s Part 3 of our ‘Slow Meander to York’.  

Selby Lock to Naburn Lock

If you’ve read parts 1 & 2 of our cruise to York, I would firstly like to thank you for persevering, reading my ramblings and secondly, you may have realised we were not looking forward to The River Ouse part, because we’re wimps?  Yes maybe, but also because we’d heard many boaters speak of their own experiences which ranged from being enjoyable to having to be rescued by the coastguard, (more of that story in a later post).  Other boats were doing this run everyday, (well probably not in extreme weather conditions unless they were totally nuts) so we kept saying, “If we want to take the boat to York, we have to cruise the Ouse – Let’s do this!”

If you’d like to catch up with our big cruise so far then here’s

Part 1 – A Bumpy Start   And

Part 2 – A Challenge on the Selby Canal.

We’d been up early and were waiting for the lock keeper to open the gates to the Selby lock and wave us in, he did so around 8am.

The cats were in the spare room snuggled in their beds, totally unaware of what we were doing.  Rosie and Millie were down in the boat, which they couldn’t understand because they were always up in the wheelhouse with us while cruising.  Rosie absolutely loves standing at the door watching the water and nature as it passes us by, usually slowly, but this time, as we didn’t know what to expect, we shut them down in the boat until we felt it was safe for them to come up and join the fun.  We had their life jackets at the ready.  We also had our own new life jackets on as we were waved into the lock a little nervous because we were about to go down to the water level of the tidal and quite unpredictable River Ouse, cruise out of the lock, turn left and join the fast current heading toward our next destination, Naburn Lock.  IMG_5418This would be around a three hour, no doubt, faster trip than we’d ever done before in our beloved canal boat – our home!  We were nervous and a little, let’s say, ‘tetchy‘ with each other.

Jon took the tiller and we listened to the instructions of the lock keeper intently, who operated the lock.  I have to also mention another factor which made us, (me in particular) even more nervous at this point, which was the very small, two man, plastic boat, which came in the lock with us and we hoped would stay well clear, because one knock from our 28 tonne, 55′ X 10’ steel boat would, undoubtedly make a mess and that wouldn’t be a great start to this experience!

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You can just see the little plastic boat behind us

The water level in the lock went down, surprisingly quickly and as we reached the same level as the river on the other side of the large wooden gates, we were holding our breath as they opened very slowly.  At last they opened fully, and ahead of us we could see the fast current whizzing past in the same direction to where we were heading.  The little boat had been told to wait for us to leave the lock first, they hung back as we slowly made our way out.  Jon at the helm, couldn’t hear the instructions of the lock keeper who was high up on the lock wall, this meant I had hang out of the window and relay his instructions.

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The large lock doors open slowly allowing us to move out onto the river

“Slowly does it” shouted the lock keeper.  He was looking out for other boats coming past from the right on the river, along with any large pieces of debris.  “You’re clear to go.  Head straight out toward the middle and turn when I say.” We knew that if we turned too soon, we’d be pushed very quickly into the side.  Jon took the boat very slowly out of the lock and headed straight until it seemed the bow of the boat was meeting the faster flow of the river, “Turn now, off the throttle a little, slowly, let the water take you!” he shouted.  Jon didn’t have to do much at all, as the flow of the water naturally turned the boat in the right direction, but what he had to do was to keep the boat steady.  As we looked back at the lock keeper, he was waving and smiling, “have a good trip” he shouted as we waved back.

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Our happy, helpful lock keeper

We both felt we could now breathe a little, we were on our way – fast!

The river was, basically telling us what speed we were doing and showing us the direction we were taking, we didn’t feel we had any  choice.  Normally if we want to stop when cruising on the canals we just look for a good bit of banking and moor up, get the chairs out and have lunch or a glass of something nice, but there was no stopping on the Ouse, the water wouldn’t allow it, it was pushing us along in the direction it wanted to go and it determined the speed.  We had to just go with the flow for the next 3 hours or so, our next stop, Naburn Lock.

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Jon with his concentration face on.  He was a little ‘tetchy’ with me, not sure why, except maybe I’d mentioned that he may want to stay away from the little plastic boat, a couple of hundred times?!!


Jon asked if I wanted to take the tiller, I do cruise the boat quite often, but cruising a tidal river would be an experience – of course I wanted to take the tiller!  Navigating the OuseIt actually wasn’t as rough as we had originally thought it might be, it was fast though, so as long as we kept the boat steady and held concentration, it should be an enjoyable journey.

The tiller was difficult to hold, it was wobbling such a lot, keeping up with the rivers’ current, and at times I had to hold onto it with two hands.  It was very different to normal canal steering.  We knew there were sandbanks at either side of the river and because we were flowing with the tide coming in, this meant the river was still low at this stage so we had to be aware of these sandbanks, because we didn’t fancy getting stuck!  When approaching bridges, usually we’d be able to slow down and take them steady, but the river didn’t allow for that, we were going at its speed. take it or…bail.

(Please note that the wheelhouse is nowhere near finished, it’s dry and a useable wheelhouse for navigating the boat, but it is work-in-progress, which is why, looking at the photo’s above the room looks a little shabby.  Hopefully next summer we’ll be sat in a beautifully finished wheelhouse with windows all around, pretty fairy lights and little mobiles hanging in various places, oh and possibly with a G & T).   

The river Ouse runs from Goole, (at the tip of the Humber), flowing past York and on to Ripon where it stops being navigable.

The blue lines are rivers, the red are canals

We were joining the river from the Selby Canal, we’d pass where the river Wharfe joins, and bear right toward York, but we wouldn’t reach York that evening as we’d planned to moor up at Naburn Lock where the river stops being tidal and although it is still the river Ouse, the water would be a little calmer and we’d hopefully be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

I’ve highlighted our route from Selby Lock to Naburn Lock

As we turned left out of the lock we fairly quickly came up to two bridges.  The first being a railway swing bridge and the second being a road swing bridge.  Thankfully we were low enough to cruise under without any problems, so no lifting of bridges for us.

Railway and road swing bridge








As the river was quite wide at this point we were happy to just go with the fast pace of the water keeping it steady.  We had plenty of space to manoeuvre around the bridges and contours of the river, but the difficulty was the debris we had to avoid.  It was mainly large logs and tree waste which concerned us, because if any tangled it’s way around the prop shaft it could cause catastrophic damage and drastically reduced steerage, and being on this river without control…well we couldn’t let that happen. We had to concentrate.  Whoever wasn’t navigating the boat had to be watching out for the debris constantly and pushing it away if necessary with the large boat hook.

After two and a half hours of sweeping along the bends, some being surprisingly tight when going at speed, we couldn’t help but notice how richly green the scenery was with large trees and farmland and with such a lot of nature surrounding us.  If only we had time to take it all in, but we were still fully concentrating as we were now approaching Cawood with the only river crossing along this section, the Cawood swing bridge.

Again, we went under with ease, but with the flood banks clearly on the left we were well aware that we had to sweep to the right quickly and back to the middle of the river as soon as we’d cruised under this quite lovely bridge.  Jon took over at this point, and thank goodness there weren’t any other boats to think about ahead of us on the river, because now it was beginning to narrow quite noticeably, which in turn made us feel we were going even faster.  As we passed under the bridge we noticed a narrow boat behind us.

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Another mile and we’d be passing the mouth of the river Wharfe which joins the Ouse.  We’d heard from other boaters to be careful at this point.  They weren’t kidding!

The Wharfe flows down from Tadcaster and as we cruised past we noticed even more debris flowing from the Wharfe’s mouth and along with the banks narrowing it really was now proving very difficult to fend away the wood from the boat.  I remember thinking how difficult it must have been for the little plastic boat which sped ahead earlier.

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The River Wharfe’s Mouth




It wasn’t easy, but at least we also noticed after passing the Wharfe, the water had started to become a little calmer and slower, so it was beginning to become a little easier in relation to the speed to navigate around the obstacles ahead.

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Navigating around the debris





It was at this point I had to rush to the bow of the boat and begin fending off the wood with the boat hook.  As Jon was at the tiller, he couldn’t see what was directly in front of the boat so I was directing him around the obstacles with hand signals.  Not the easiest of jobs, but after around two and half miles we got through this quite narrow part of the river as it started to open out again.

The river slowly began to clear of debris and became a beautiful wide and calmer river as we made our approach to Naburn Lock.  I was still standing at the bow and began taking videos and photographs, it was stunning.  At the bow of the boat, it is a lovely place to enjoy cruising, as you feel like you’re gliding along and because you’re away from the engine, it’s much quieter.  It became a much more relaxing journey all of a sudden.  The weather was beautiful, the water was calm, the sun was shining down on us making the water sparkle and the birds were singing.  I couldn’t help feeling so happy!

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As we glided around another corner, I saw Naburn Lock in the distance and the little plastic boat who had been our companion in the Selby Lock, he seemed to be looking for something, going backwards and forwards.

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As we came closer I asked if he was okay, he shouted over to us happily, “there’s either a large otter or a seal in the water“.  From then on I was looking for this creature beneath us, hoping I’d get a glimpse, but I didn’t.  We were approaching the lock fairly quickly now, so Jon slowed right down, it was already open and waiting for us, we noticed the other narrow boat was still behind us but had caught up, so we’d have to moor in the lock to one side in order for the other boat to come in alongside us.

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I was initially a little confused which entrance to tell Jon to head for, until I spotted the lock keeper on the left.  I waved Jon in the right direction and we cruised in slowly, tucking into the left so the other barge could nestle on our right.  It didn’t look like the little plastic boat wanted to come in, still busy looking for the otter or seal I guess.

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We were in with no hiccups and we had a neighbour 🙂

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The large gates closed behind us and we up fairly quickly and as the gates ahead of us opened it was lovely to see our mooring ahead.  We’d let the narrow boat go ahead of us and we’d follow.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 19.05.00He was a nice guy with such a cute dog and as we chatted in the lock he was saying how he hadn’t enjoyed the Ouse at all.  It had been so wobbly for his narrow boat and tough navigating around all the debris while being alone on his boat.  He was glad to arrive at Naburn.Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 19.05.50

It felt good to moor up, we tied the ropes to the mooring pins, turned off the engine, gave the boat a well deserved pat, let the dogs out and stood on the bank.

We did it, we faced our tidal river fear.  We were beaming…and so very tired!!

We walked around the marina to stretch our legs and let Rosie and Millie have a run around.  I asked the lock keeper if he’d seen anything in the water, he said there was a seal which had come up the river a few weeks earlier from Goole, it seemed to be okay here, but I did wonder how much fish he must be eating and would that become a problem.  As we wandered contentedly back to our home we both agreed that yes, we’d definitely stay the night here and move on to York in the morning.  Time for something to eat, a well deserved drink and a longer walk later.

Naburn Lock
We made it! Happy to be moored at Naburn Lock

Part 4 will be following soon as we have a calmer cruise from Naburn towards the beautiful city of York.

A side note:  We have taken quite a lot of Go-Pro video footage of the cruise, which I have struggled to include as part of the blog, (which is mainly why it’s taken me so long to write this one) so I have decided to set up a ‘Loving the Fifty Something’ YouTube account and show the footage on that platform.  I am quite excited about this, although please bear with me as it is something else I have to learn.  We have such a lot of our adventures stored as Go-Pro videos, not only the boating ones, but also snowboarding and mountain biking in various great places.  I’ll be shouting out when it goes live 🙂