Monday, July 15, 2013

Doin' the Tidal Thames

Elaine here ...

Well - what an adventure we had yesterday (Sun 14th July)!  We got up our normal early hour, took dogs foralk, found Tescos etc - then hid away from the sun while we prepared our boat for taking it on our trip down the tidal Thames later in the day.  We had to clear out the cratch as everything had suddenly landed in there over the past few days!  We ended up putting the pushbikes on top of the bed (on top of an old sheet) - plus a lot of other stuff and generally clearing a path for clear access to the bow rope and the anchor!  We then padded out the glass and crockery cupboards and taped them closed and put anything else that was loose on shelves down on the floor, securely tucked away!  Paul did his last engine checks ... whatever they were !  That all done we took the dogs down for a walk to see the first lot of boats being locked out at Limehouse ...

NB Chance is the blue boat, waiting to come out ...
NB Chance on their way out 
 We then met our 'Lock Leader' Eric and had a bit of a briefing with him in the Cruising Association beer garden (er, along with a couple of shandies!).   Eric left us to finish our drinks, then we headed back to the boat at about 3 pm - only to be met by Eric again telling us that we had an earlier lock time and we were leaving NOW!  Bloody hell, talk about the jitters - my system suddenly went into overdrive and trying to refocus on all the last minute things we had to do ...

Paul got Eric's spare walkie talkie from him, so we could be in contact during the trip and I went back to the boat with the dogs.  I dug all our trip stuff out and piled it onto the rear deck ... life jackets, binoculars, maps, camera, phone, phone numbers - oh, and the tiller!  I then went down and quickly dosed the animals up with some homoeopathy to try and prevent them having motion sickness and to help with any anxiety (used Aconite and Cocculus for those who are interested!).  I also gave myself a quick dose of the Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy - just to settle me down a bit!  Then I quickly put the dogs life jackets on them and went to the bow to untie us and then we were off ... talk about rush !

I wasn't nervous of the whole trip per se - just, I think more nervous of unknown territories and procedures ... what to be doing with ropes, if the animals would be OK and what to do in case of emergency and lots and lots of 'what ifs'!  I knew we were all in good hands - boats are second nature to Paul ... he used to do weekend work for a couple of big boat brokers, where he would  teach new skippers how to handle and dock their boats on Sydney Harbour; often when we first started 'going out' he would surprise me with a date on a cruise around the Harbour ... he ,used to skipper a very large, flash cruiser for a Aussie multimillionaire ... the chap also used to let him borrow it for his own use! Wot a charmer eh?!

Anyway, I digress ... we set off into the lock at Limehouse and I managed to tie my bow rope to the steel wire.  Because of the length of our boat, however, ie, it was too long to reach the rear wire Paul had to rope to the ladder, with Paul having to feed it.  As they let the lock down the rope got caught on the ladder - very tight - so Paul had to alert them to stop the lock.  They refilled it a little and then lowered it again with no more surprises !

The lock gates opened, I untied my bow rope and secured the cratch covers, shut up the front doors and went to join Paul on the stern, checking on the animals on the way through.  The boat was rocking about 'like Billio'at this point as we entered the tidal Thames.  Paul had to manoeuvre the boat around to 'stem the tide' while we waited for the last locking to eject its last two narrowboats for the day!  The last two were out, we turned and we were off !!

We took a million and one photos but here are just a few, to tell the story!
Here we are heading towards Tower Bridge.  I think I checked in on the animals at this point and they were as 'happy as Larry' ... Sam was upside down, kipping in his chair, Bombo was resting in his bed and the cats were in their usual comatosed states ... either the homoeopathy worked a treat or they are just too cool for school !!!

We continued our journey - lots of Clipper cats passing us but the skippers were very professional and gave us plenty of room ...

We slowed to let this big boat through - then we were all clear to pass through the centre arch ...

Passing the Golden Hind ...

Millennium bridge ...
Taking a pic of them, taking a pic of us !
Here is a pic they took of us (from the above mentioned blog) ... thanks again, Adam and Adrian!
Makes ya feel kinda insignificant !
Past the big wheel and approaching a big clock ...

The 'money' shot ...

... or is this the 'money' shot - Paul happy at realising one of his dreams ...

Along the way we spotted one of these ... I hope they are in better condition than the 'Liverpool ducks' as two of those have sunk recently!

Passing by the 'James Bond Building', MI5 ...

Pretty Bridge ... can't remember which one it was now!

Nice flats ... not the usual canalside  'des res's'  we take pics of !

Battersea power station ... 

Paul's arty shot of it ... he is getting good at this !

When things settled down a bit we got the dogs out the back with us ... straight to sleep!

Spotted these picnicers along the way ...

When all was clear and calm I took over the tiller for a while !

We went past Fulham FC football ground - in the back ground ...

We saw lots of revellers at lovely Riverside pubs ...

We met a Charter boat, pushing huge bow wave but surprisingly we didn't rock much passing him. 

Sammie woke up for a bit ... too hot !!!!!

We easily passed these dinghies coming towards us, sailing downwind ...

- but two boats behind were not so lucky ... Paul explained to me that they 'turned on the racing buoy and were tacking up wind' (? all gobbledeegook to me!).  Anyway, they looked to me like they were circling the boats behind us - creating havoc!  One nearly came a cropper - a dinghy that is, not a narrowboat!!

After that our camera battery gave up - due to overuse, no doubt!  So we didn't get any pics coming into Brentford lock ... that was a funny thing, no sooner were we in there than the gates opened and we were out again!  The next gauging lock up was electric ... needing a BW key to operate it.  It is very easy to operate - once you get the hang of it - but I was really thankful for the help of Eric's wife there ... who had done this lock a million times over!   It is just plain wierd pressing buttons to open and close gates and paddles!!!

We continued our journey up into the Grand Union canal, doing two more locks, until we reached our mooring very close to the Fox pub at Hanwell.  It was pretty late by then, about 8.30 pm, so we quickly got ourselves sorted and rushed up to the pub to try and get some dinner ... but alas, they weren't serving food!  Ah well, we found what remained of our 'convoy' mates ... James and Doug from NB Chance, Neil and Pauline from NB Waterlily and Andrew and Frances from NB Doris Katia (the boat of the St Pancras Crusing Club's Commodore and his wife).  We had a really great night, with lots of beer, lots of laughs and lots of crisps for dinner ... 

We all headed back to our boats at about 11.30 pm ... or so, and that was it!  The end to a brilliant day - the sort of day that you can't really believe you have just had ... in a good way!  The weather yesterday was amazing - soooo hot and even last night we were sitting outside til nearly midnight and it was still warm!

Today, all our boating buddies have continued on our journeys but we are having a 'sit still' day!  We have reassembled the boat and are now what doing what all good boaters do ... sitting in the cratch ... hiding from the sun !  Phew ... it is hot !  What country am I in again?

Paul's Bit......

This is the trip I wanted to do more than anything on our boat, yes you can go on someone else's boat or take a trip on a charter boat, but nothing compares to taking your own boat. As for the boat, I was very surprised how well she handled with very little pitch and roll. The lumpiest part was when we were stemming the tide outside the lock, waiting for the last two boats to come out so we could travel together.
Yes I was apprehensive about the trip, but I knew the boat was in sound condition, Elaine is a cool under pressure second officer, plus we had all the safety gear should something go wrong. I have read previous blogs where people worry about the Thames Clippers zooming around, yes they are very fast but they put out very little wake, plus the skippers are professionals who really don't go out of their way to put the fear of Christ up narrowboaters.

Summing up, brilliant magical trip on a perfect weather day through the heart of the greatest city in the world in a slab sided flat bottomed sardine can!

Before we leave this blog post we just wanted to say a HUGE THANKYOU to Andrew Phasey and St Pancras Cruising Club for making us feel so welcome on their cruise up the tidal Thames.


  1. Great to read about your adventures! We would LOVE to take Willow out on the Tidal Thames one day, like you say, Paul, nothing beats doing the Thames on your own boat. Glad it all went well, and what great weather you had for it!


    1. Thanks Amy, couldn't have been better.

  2. Oooerrr, what brave people you are!!! John would love to do it I am not so sure.... If it was calm ok, but I have also seen pictures when its not! Glad you enjoyed it, it looks and sounds like it was everything you expected. Hopefully when you have resumed your Pado mooring we might see you, but we are now going to go and do the Wey before coming to Pado.

    1. It was magic, the choppy bits don't last long. If the weather is dodgy as in high winds making it too rough, they don't go.
      We are thinking of doing it again on the 23rd July, Limehouse to the barrier on the outgoing tide then up to Teddington on the incoming tide all in one hit.

  3. Looked fantastic - I loved all your bridge pictures as they're one of my favourite parts of the Thames.

  4. Hi Paul and Elaine. What an adventure. I remember when my brother-in-law Alan and I used to do trip the other way from Southend-on-Sea to St Katherine Dock and Limehouse. I remember our first time as if it were yesterday so I could imagine how you guys felt as I looked at your fantastic photos. The barrier always a joy each time we went through it. We never passed under Tower Bridge though so look forward to that one day in AmyJo.

  5. Sounds like you had an incredible time - what an amazing cruising season you've had - and it's not even over yet!

    1. Your not doing too bad yourself young lady xx

  6. I think we must be an adventurous lot in Aston Marina. We've all been having an exciting cruising season - I'm looking forward to getting together some time over a few drinkies and swapping stories. xxx