Friday 6th May 2011
Lots of nervous chatter in Limehouse Basin today, heads down engine rooms, arms down weed hatches and last minute water tank top-ups before the evening’s briefing.

Last night we popped into the Cruising Association’s bar for a quick two and received friendly but quizzical looks from the yachties.

“There’s a few live-aboards by the wall outside, is that you?”
Yes, we answered and kept our heads down while they tidied up after their meeting.
The flip chart by the wall listed boat names like Dawn Mist, Free Spirit and Lady Anne and destinations such as Azores, Canaries and Florida. I prepared myself for the questions and was ready with Foxton, Buckby and Blisworth but they never asked.

But tonight the sewer tube owners were in the majority and the clubroom buzzed with excitement as St Pancras Cruising Club’s Andrew Phasey took the chair and guided us swiftly through the weekend’s water sports – Limehouse to the Thames Barrier on Saturday and Limehouse to Teddington on Sunday.

Do this, don’t do that and have a good time rang through my head as we dispersed for food when all I wanted to know was will there be a no-overtaking rule?

Cousin Roger and Babs (nb.Megan) have joined us for the cruise so we’ll be four-up for both days on the Thames.

Saturday 7th
Sunrise was 4.23am and we were booked into the lock at 5.40am so there were a few red eyes around the breakfast table.

Locking down three at a time it was going to take a while to put twenty four boats on the river.

As it happened we set off in groups of nine and let the tide take us downstream. All went well-ish, if you don’t count Roger getting his feet wet as the gates opened, and our flotilla quietly and serenely cut a channel to the far side with hardly a ripple all the way down to Barking.

Last night’s rain clouds dragged their feet and the gloom of dawn was slow to lift so our cameras struggled to pick out the detail from the shore.
with the tide

While V snapped narrowboats and landmarks I snapped ships and barges that lined the river bank.
I wonder if the lightships are spoken for, we’d accept an offer in part exchange for ours (wouldn’t we V?).

The Barrier cruise (sounds like an ointment doesn’t it) was a first for Roger and Babs and I think they enjoyed it too.

And here she is, the Thames Barrier in all her glory. Outward bound through ‘Charlie span’ and inward bound through ‘Echo span’ as London VTS repeats throughout the day on channel 14.
[NOTE – ensure your browser allows the requested Mediaplayer add-on to make this movie work]

We had the water to ourselves until Woolwich but the ferry was up and awake ready for us and proceeded to chop our convoy in two on the way down and again on the way back from our holding point down river at Barking.

It was good to see a working boat (nb.Fulbourne) making the journey down the Thames. Did they do that with a load in the hold back in the old days?

If you want to read and see more then I recommend Carol’s blog for nb.Rock n Roll and Sue’s photo website accessed through the blog for No Problem.
Arriving back at Limehouse on an incoming tide with tummies screaming “Feed me”, we flopped on the marina wall again and compared notes with other boaters.

I didn’t hear a single negative word, we’d all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, the weather was mostly dry and the water was well behaved.

If anyone was to ask me about taking a narrowboat down river to the Barrier I’d say go for it. But don’t let the peace and stillness fool you, the tide will silently sweep you into the piers and mooring buoys if it can, as indeed it did with one or two boats behind us (oops).

Sunday 8th
High tide is a lot more civilised than low tide, time-wise. A far longer journey than yesterday is done in half the time but when the wind is against the tide then all sorts of interesting things can happen.
We went into the lock at 1.30pm and came out to a completely different River Thames to yesterday. Choppy with waves on top would best describe it and it seemed that all the world and his mates were out there whizzing up and down.

Missing the bridges and piers that stuck out from the bank was fun enough but dodging the ferries definitely kept the mind active. It’s at times like this that one could use another 50 HP.

Roger was most useful pointing out the sights while V described the bridges as they appeared and gave instructions on which arch to take. While I completely missed Big Ben I did catch sight of the Golden Hind and that magnificent beast HMS Belfast.

It was strange seeing things from the river, all the buildings seem to be built for river viewing but how many times do we stand next to them trying to squeeze them into the camera lens.
london eye

I do hope whoever finishes up with Battersea power station preserves the two remaining cranes on the wharf. Their cables are stiff with rust, no longer capable of lifting coal for the fires but they are part of the Thames heritage, evidence of our industrial past.
battersea cranes

Our cruise upstream was over far too soon, the ferries faded away and the water returned to calm. No more waves travelling down the gunwales, no more thrashing of the prop as the stern rose out of the water, we settled down to a gentle tick-over in order to arrive at Richmond Half Tide Lock after the barriers were raised.

As the river narrowed so we heard the birds singing again, watched herons on their nests and responded to the shouts and waves from the riverside pubs.

The weather was brilliant and the convoy a pleasure to watch as she weaved her way upstream to Tedders.

Well done lads, we survived with no losses. Do it again? You bet, like falling off a log (no reference to Roger intended).

Monday 9th
We say goodbye to R&B as they train-it back home to nb.Megan on the Basingstoke and we relax on the banks of Steven’s Eyots.
Goose poo and Astroturf abound but it’s an island unfrequented by towpath walkers and a must-do whenever we are on the Thames. There can’t be too many visitors here because a coot has made a nest of twigs under a wooden bench. There are two eggs and her favourite is underneath her, in the warm.

Can’t believe it’s another sunny day, warm enough for a BBQ so we lit one (and no, we didn’t have egg).
A perfect end to a perfect weekend.

Special thanks go to Andrew Phasey for his part in making a most enjoyable cruise and a big thank you goes to the lock keepers, especially Jeremy for the BW briefing and his fatherly care during our locking experiences.