Wednesday 31st August 1983

Cruising to Cambridge and a fine visit and then back down the Cam to Upware as Beirut erupts

A much milder night with minimum temperatures of 51degF but without wind. Today it rose to the low 70degF’s. The barometer fell sharply to 1012 and the lockkeepers assure us that Thursday will see a change in the weather and rain. We rise early and after breakfast set off for Baits Bite lock and are first to arrive finding the Irish keeper still in his house and the gates locked. He does not remember seeing ‘The Lady’ before, though he quickly recognises it as a ‘Banham.’ The lock fee to Cambridge is £3.35 for the day.

Onward past Cambridge rowing clubs with each college having its own pavilion, under several bridges and eventually to the swimming pool moorings on Midsummer Common. I was first pleased to find that my hose adaptors allowed us to replenish our water tanks below Jesus Green Lock. Off we walk across Christ’s Pieces and look round Corpus Cristi, Emanuel and Pembroke Colleges at length. The buildings, grounds and gardens are beautiful but it would take several days to view all of the colleges.

Lunch at the Pub beside the Granta punts and then we hire a punt for £2.80 plus £15 deposit and I pole the family along the Backs to see John’s, Trinity and Clare colleges, managing to return in 1 hour, just in time for Ice Creams and a leisurely stroll to the cinemas. Diana took Debbie to the Arts Cinema and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – I, Daniel to the Victoria and Superman III.

After we rendezvous back at The Lady and go swimming in Jesus Swimming Baths – quite the coldest water we have experienced – but good enough for a cleansing bath and refreshment of what had become a very clammy day. A quick tea of pie salad and then smartly to the helm to set off downstream on The Cam. Back past Banham’s old boatyard where The Lady was built, through Baits Bites Lock, past the Bridge at Clayhithe where the boat ahead moored. I was disappointed at this as I had got quite attached to watching a girl crew in her brief bikini.

Then on past the Cambridge Motor Boat Club and the Sailing Club. Their grounds are so pretty with chalets and moored boats in good condition. We just catch Bottisham Lock before dusk and its closing at 8.00pm and lock through and on in failing light till we moor at the ‘new’ pub moorings at Upware. A pleasant Inn for a pint and good comfort to read our newspapers.

News locally is of the failure of a computer firm from the Cambridge Science Park, Grundy with its Newbrain computer, going bust; also of mounting dispute over Cambridgeshire farmers burning stubble. Now that the straw is no longer needed for declining livestock they are burning large quantities and the night air is full of smuts and the sky light up in three directions with flaming straw.

Nationally, news is of Beirut and the Lebanese strife which has become ever more acute. French troops have been killed and a British convoy attacked fortunately without casualties. Begin’s decision not to seek resignation as Israel’s P.M. is leaving a power vacuum and I hope from all of this will come more reconciliation.


Tuesday 30th August 1983

Cruise up the Cam after kids play first thing and to Clayhithe for a fine evening dinner out as US marines are killed in the Lebanon

A very cold morning, but no wind and so, after 9.00am with the sun out, it soon warmed up. The overnight minimum of about 40degF rose to 77degF in the open saloon of The Lady in mid-afternoon. The barometer fell to 1020 and forecasts are of a fine Wednesday but rain on Thursday – but we shall see! A breakfast of Water Melon and toast again, and then the children were sent out to play. Although reluctant at first, they soon made friends with two girls and boys of their age. Rona, a nine year old, was the first girl I have seen Daniel prepared to play with. The Twenty Pence Inn has swings of tyre seats and a long slide set into the bank which keeps the kids nicely occupied.

In late morning we set off after scrubbing the roofs with a good brush and water. We cruise along in fine still weather and moor alongside the Streatham Engine for lunch of stewed hamburgers and carrots. We all look round the Old Engine which was built in 1831 and are again pleased by its accessibility. The trustees are in the hands of all visitors to avoid theft and make their purchases and entrance donations and then trust is repaid with honesty.

After lunch we cruise on to Pope’s Corner and up the River Cam to Bottisham Lock. On the way I let Diana take the helm whilst I apply good polish to all of the exterior woodwork. Through Bottisham Lock, which pleases Daniel for there is no longer a full-time lockkeeper and Daniel enjoys working the gates which are electrically driven at each end. We moor in mid-afternoon at the Bridge Hotel, Clayhithe and walk into the nearby village of Waterbeach and have fun shopping at a good variety of shops around the village green. Both the Bakers on the way from the river and the Fruit and Vegetable barn were most helpful. Eventually with all purchased we return to The Lady, serve strawberry jam sandwiches to the kids and dress for dinner at The Bridge. A good Hotel and Restaurant serving Prawn Cocktail and Fillet Steak for me; Soup and Plaice for Diana, all washed down with a bottle of Rose d’Anjou, together with coffee after cheese for me and sweet for Diana, the bill was a little pricy at £20.

News today of US marines being killed on peacekeeping duties in Lebanon and gloomier CBI forecasts of non-economic growth. England win the fourth test and Steve Cram wins a major athletic meeting metric mile but fails to break the record. Bed tonight well satisfied on our full dinner.

Monday 29th August 1983 (Bank Holiday)

Fantastic St Ives Bank Holiday Market, chandlery purchases and cruise to The Twenty Pence Inn

The wind had calmed down by this morning. The overnight temperature low of 56degF rose to a maximum of over 70degF today. The barometer down to 1026 tonight. A breakfast of water melon and marmalade on toast before a walk together to St Ives and the Monday Bank Holiday market. A most exceptional market with not only Market Hill but Cromwell Walk and other streets full with all manner of stalls and the whole thronged with many shoppers.

On the Waits Quay, the Chapel had live organ music outside on the path with collections for the Mental Handicap Charity, which made me feel happy that simple people care but sad at the music of a bygone age. Lunch of the takeaway on the Waits Green and back to The Lady. We set off and stop at L H Jones for water. I buy a new Ships Wheel for £67 which is very smart and also efficient. Through St Ives lock, past Holywell, The Pike and Eel, Brownshill Staunch and Hermitage Lock. The chandlery at Hermitage Boatyard is very sparse and so, after a cursory look we wend our way along the Old West River, making Twenty Pence Bridge before dusk.

After watching a film about a family settling in the wilderness on TV we have a drink at the Inn and then to bed.

News today of the retirement of Menachen Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister of which I am glad. His Middle Eastern adventures in Lebanon and annexing of conquered territory have been disturbing.

Sunday 28th August 1983

Cruising from Hemingford Grey to St Ives on a cooler and drizzly day as Thatcher’s economic and Irish plans come under fire and I examine chandlery options and design my Arms

A dull day starting with a very fine drizzle and a sharp northerly wind. A overnight minimum of 57degF and a maximum today of under 70degF. The barometer up to 1029. Later the sun did come out but the wind did keep the day cool, even cold in late afternoon. We were always snug, however, in our sliding cockpit Lady.

First from our mooring in Hemingford Grey, a walk to the newsagent and general store, then a leisurely coffee and read of The Sunday Times. News therein of allegations of Birmingham Police torturing criminal suspects by placing and tightening plastic bags over their heads. Also of an IATA agreement between transatlantic airlines to ease discount fares. The papers are in critical mood over statements by Arthur Scargill and Ken Livingstone criticising Thatcher’s economic and Ireland policies.

In late morning we cruise downstream and through Hemingford lock to St Ives. Both the Waits and Town Quays are full and so we moor at the GOBA moorings on the meadow by the golf course. Lunch of pie salad and fruit and, after a rest, off to St Ivo pool for a swim. After a cruise in our dinghy with outboard,  the long way to L H Jones boatyard for petrol and to look at the chandlery. They are not stocking boat heating systems and there are still not switch taps that I feel are suitable. I do start thinking, however, of a new 60cm dia ships wheel and start measuring on our return to see I could fit one. It has turned quite chilly and we rest up and read books and magazines.

I have today designed a Heraldic Achievement of Shield, Helmet, Mantle, Wreath Crest and Motto that I will seek to get granted as my coat of arms. Tonight the televised Dutch Grand Prix where a new English driver gets his placing points (Nigel Mansell) and then the fourth test match where New Zealand, with five wickets down, are steadily losing to England. Tomorrow St Ives Market.


Saturday 27th August 1983

Godmanchester walk for supplies on a fine and sunny first day aboard and then to stop at Huntingdon to visit the Cromwell Museum and then on to Hemingford Grey as critics look for economic stimulus

An unsettled night, as often the first aboard tends to be. This morning, a fine sunny start to a hot and glorious day. Overnight low of 51degF rises to a maximum 85degF in the open by shaded saloon of The Lady this afternoon. Barometer very slightly down at 1024. I awake early at the Godmanchester moorings and persuade Diana to make the early morning tea. Our mooring has been close to the island weirs that cascade down into the pools below. I am reminded that in the Doomsday book, there were three watermills listed at Godmanchester.

After breakfast of toast and marmalade for me and cereal for the kids, I let them out to run along and play on the swings. We then walk across the Chinese Bridge, past the old school and council chamber and along the causeway to buy goods in the paper shop, post office, and small minimarket. A fretful Debbie upset our calm but we return to The Lady, lock through Godmanchester and moor up on Huntingdon Town Quay.

Saturday is Huntingdon’s market day and we look at antique shops, the flea-market and then the market itself, which is unfortunately a poor one. I also look afterwards in the Cromwell Museum, the old Huntingdon School that 300 years ago (and more) tutored Cromwell and Samuel Pepys. The keeper engages me in conversation and is most taken with the idea of boating on the Great Ouse. The museum is full of paintings of Cromwell, Monck and many others; copies of documents and declarations of the period, Cromwell’s artefacts such as his triple seal, walking stick and hat; and a 1660 map of Huntingdonshire.

Back to The Lady and on through Houghton lock to Hemingford Grey where we moor for a tinned salmon salad tea, as I watch the England v New Zealand test match on our colour portable T.V. After tea, Debbie to bed and a walk with Diana to Hemingford Abbey across the well-used causeway footpath and a drink at the Pub. A wedding reception is loud at the hall opposite and the guests outside, escaping from the loud disco music, are merry. They jest as we walk back with my Shepherds Crook which I find by far the best stick for walking. An early and warm night at the Hemingford Grey quay. I note that on the site of the Old Boatyard, the owner is gradually building and extending an old cottage while he lives in a houseboat/barge.

News full of David Steele’s “private” letter to the Liberal MP’s, Trade Union Congress news on unemployment, and more deviant acts. The Financial Times is yet another paper looking for a stimulus from government to trigger growth in the economy.