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 evenings briefing.
Last night we popped into the Cruising Associations bar for a quick two and received friendly but quizzical looks from the yachties.
Theres 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 Clubs Andrew Phasey took the chair and guided us swiftly through the weekends water sports Limehouse to the Thames Barrier on Saturday and Limehouse to Teddington on Sunday.
Do this, dont 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 well be four-up for both days on the Thames.
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.
As it happened we set off in groups of nine and let the tide take us downstream. All went well-ish, if you dont 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.
While V snapped narrowboats and landmarks I snapped ships and barges that lined the river bank.
I wonder if the lightships are spoken for, wed accept an offer in part exchange for ours (wouldnt we V?).
[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.
If you want to read and see more then I recommend Carols blog for nb.Rock n Roll and Sues 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 didnt hear a single negative word, wed 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 Id say go for it. But dont 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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 Stevens Eyots.
Goose poo and Astroturf abound but its an island unfrequented by towpath walkers and a must-do whenever we are on the Thames. There cant 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.
Cant believe its another sunny day, warm enough for a BBQ so we lit one (and no, we didnt 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.