Elaine here ...
|NB Chance is the blue boat, waiting to come out ...|
|NB Chance on their way out|
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 ...
The we heard someone yelling "Caxton" ... we looked up and there was Adam and Adrian, NB Briar Rose ... (if you click on this link you can see their blog and more pics of the convoy of boats that went down the Thames yesterday - 17 in all!)
|Taking a pic of them, taking a pic of us !|
|Makes ya feel kinda insignificant !|
Past the big wheel and approaching a big clock ...
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!
Paul's arty shot of it ... he is getting good at this !
- 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?
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.