Saturday 1st June – getting settled at Gravesend..
On the river buoy (thanks to Simon Judge for the photo) – it was mighty bumpy out there….
In the rush to offload the hounds, the shore crew forgot to take any cameras, money or, most importantly, dog beds, with them! So, Sarah, Andy and I had a slightly disconsolate wander around the town – first finding a handy bit of green for the hounds then mooching around the streets for a bit. However without dog beds or money for a coffee we couldn’t relax; and without a camera I couldn’t take photos of the convoy from the foreshore. I had a wander along the sand, and had intended to take the hounds with me, but the foreshore was littered with fragments of glass, slightly blunted by the tide but way too dangerous for bare paws.
Gravesend is an interesting place – it has a faded grandeur that hints at its rich history, but today the place feels very down at heel. The architecture seemed a bit Georgian but when I had a little rummage into the town’s history I found that it was much older. Gravesend is ancient – it was mentioned in the Domesday book and seems to have been a notorious haunt for seamen and smugglers. Follow this link for a potted history of Gravesend’s – http://www.kentfind.co.uk/about/gravesend/history.php If you fancy more detail, then check out Gravesend’s “timeline” - it starts at 56AD so it could take you a while to catch up with the town’s rich history
We got slightly lost and found the old Fort – now a handy park littered with old guns and munitions – including a river/sea mine – I hope that there aren’t any of them left in the water! The fort, and, indeed, the whole town, was worthy of more exploration, but Ollie was flagging badly – he’s an old boy and we’d exceeded his normal walking limit by at least an hour!
Rafted up on the “shore” side of the pontoon waiting for the ferry to finish for the night – it was a jolly gathering
Luckily, Sarah had managed to remember her phone, so we could communicate with our transport. But there was a kerfuffle when we got back to the pontoon – Richard brought Indigo Dream in, but when he saw the ferry leaving the far shore he aborted the manoeuvre and left us standing. What we didn’t know was that the ferry was going for lunch and moored up at the adjacent pontoon for a break. We called Indigo Dream back in and got the hounds on board before swaying and clunking our way back to tug Major. Luckily both boats are made of tough stuff.
By now, we’d heard that the additional expedition to Dartford and Crayford Creeks had been cancelled – the wind was freshening and, as the tide turned, the traffic on the river moved from quiet to busy, and from big to gargantuan. We’ve had to totally re-write our definition of “large” craft!
I had though that our guest crew would go home now that our afternoon excursion was cancelled; but as Sarah wryly observed, I had underestimated the power of Indigo Dream’s hospitality. We had lunch then cracked open a bottle of Bollinger to celebrate our safe arrival. After that, we lost track of the bottles that were opened. It was very bumpy on the river buoy so we were relieved when the tide came in to give us enough depth to brest up to the rest of the convoy on the shore-side of the pontoon. That’s when the party really started! The adjacent crews got their ukelele’s out and started singing; there was chatter and laughter. I had been disappointed that our cruise to Deptford/Crayford was cancelled, but as the afternoon wore on, I appreciated how lovely it was to just relax on the mooring and celebrate our shared experience.
Happy crew – Kevin and Jan from Peace of Pearce were catching up with the other crews at the bow….
Surprisingly, we were later joined by two visiting narrowboats who were travelling back from a trip to the Medway. Well, that cut our adventure down to size They joined the raft and cruised with the convoy to Limehouse the day after.
Just before 7pm, we said a sad “goodbye” to Doug, James, Neil and Kath – they’d been great company and perfect crew members. Jan, Kevin, Sarah and Andy (also excellent crew members) stayed on to join us at the pub later. I can’t tell you how important it is to have the right crew on a tideway convoy – everyone HAS to be able to get on in the confined space of a narrowboat because there’s no hope of anyone leaving other than by walking the plank
We then moved onto the river side of the pontoon, took the hounds for another break (just as well that Richard and Andy are big strong men!) then we went off for the “official” celebration – dinner at the Three Daws pub at the end of the Town pier. Now, the Three Daws looks very run down from the outside, but that’s hardly surprising – it’s probably the oldest pub on the river, having gained its license in 1565! It’s very proud of its history so do look at the pub’s website. The SPCC had booked an upstairs function room – it had great views of the river and the food was very good – we were given a warm welcome and the service was great. Three cheers must go to convoy member Andy Spring who researched and organised the Saturday night social.
How do you like your eggs……..Herbie? Or was it Henry, hmmm could have been Bertie. It couldn’t have been Ollie, he’s far too well-behaved and Archie’s too handsome to exert himself that much…
However, by the time we’d eaten I was so beyond of tired that my sense of humour was flagging; however I still had to laugh when we got back to the boat and found that one of the hounds (probably Herbie, though his mum defended him stoutly) had managed to get a dozen raw eggs off the counter and had distributed them through the boat. At least 3 had been eaten, many more were cracked and the rest looked as if they’d been thoughtfully rolled round a greyhound’s mouth before being abandoned. Richard and Andy took the dogs out for a final walk while Sarah and I made the boat habitable. It took some time to locate all the eggs!
By the time we were ready for bed, the last of my stoicism vanished as I realised that we would be severely buffeted by passing river traffic all night long. The big ships were moving with the tide, but what created the wash was the tugs and pilot boats. We were the inner boat in a raft of three narrowboats – the pontoon itself was well padded with thick tyres; but although we had fat fenders down, the narrowboats crashed against each other all night long. I was so relieved that Ty wasn’t with us (has was having a little holiday with Sarah’s mum) – it would have been beyond of cruel to put him through it. When we checked our “fat” fenders the next day, we found that both had burst with the pressure exerted by the wash.
I could have cried as I anticipated a sleepless night and had some wild thoughts about finding myself a hotel on shore; but in between the major crash bangs, which happened every 2 hours or so, I slept deeply, and warmly, thanks to Archie hound cuddling up between us!
Big ship going upstream…
Big ship going downstream – they passed each other minutes later with room to spare – I’m glad we were moored up – we’d have been a thin filling in that sandwich
Bit of wash – that’s actually from the pilot boat, not the behemoth that’s passing. See that little sailing boat against the background of the big ship’s hull – and they call us mad
Kevin from nb Peace of Pearce and old friend Christine from nb Ketura..
I can’t call this the most comfortable mooring but it surely is the most interesting – when we use the phrase “we watched the world go by” , we really meant it!
“It’s behind you” – Eric from nb Cherie blissfully unaware of what’s looming in the background…
Ah, don’t light your stove yet Eric, that ship’s got a flammable cargo
Setting off for sunnier climes I guess….
A living industrial landscape – it was fascinating to observe the comings and goings of a busy port…
View from the upstairs function room at the Three Daws pub – a great way to end a fine day’s cruising…