Boat Blog: Yet another epic adventure (part 1)
Posted by indigodream on 9 August, 2013
Wednesday 24th July
We came up for the usual St Pancras Cruising Club briefing on Tuesday evening – Richard represented Indigo Dream so that I could drive up a bit later with Ty and Ollie. Unusually for Indigo Dream, we didn’t have any guests on board – with our busy weekend away and over 1.000 photos to sort out I was woefully behind with the blog and hadn’t put out an invitation! Never mind, it would make a nice change to cruise as a couple
This time, St Pancras Cruising Club were welcoming the Cotswold Canal Cruising Club for an escorted convoy downstream to Margaret Ness then up with the tide to Teddington. There were 9 visiting boats, and we were one of three escort boats along with nb Doris Katia and nb Ketura – all proudly flying our Jubilee Pageant flags.
As always, we had a convivial evening at the Cruising Association, getting to know the two boats that we’d be shepherding, as well as a third that would join us at Limehouse for the trip upstream. I hope that we were able to reassure the worried and give confidence to those that had cruised the tideway before. We also had a good gossip with some local residents – all in all, a good night.
We locked out at around 7.30am – we needed to be prompt as we were leaving on the ebbing tide – we swung left down the tideway and we were away. The river was millpond calm – even around the Isle of Dogs, and the ship buoys on Greenwich Reach weren’t as devilishly attractive as usual. It was a lovely morning and cooler than recent trips.
We seemed to get to Margaret Ness in no time at all and turned to stem the tide – a new experience for me as Richard has always done this trip with other crews. The break there is nice – time for coffee, breakfast and watching the world go by – the ebbing tide was gentle so it wasn’t a great effort to hover and enjoy the morning. When Andrew judged that the tide had turned, we set off upstream for Teddington.
We picked up nb Autumn Years as we passed Limehouse. Now we were 12 boats in convoy with us in our usual position as “tail-end charlie”. The Pool of London was relatively quiet, with few big boats on the move; the water was as calm as it gets in this busy stretch with the currents swirling around the bridge piers.
We did have a near miss when enormous restaurant boat Harmony left her wharf quite abruptly into a small gap in the convoy ahead of us then loitered in front of a bridge arch before finally deciding to go through. Her intentions weren’t clear so I could see why the boats (around 6 ahead of us in the convoy) were hesitant; but then one of the narrowboats decided to go for it just as Harmony moved forward. The narrowboat was aiming for the narrow gap between Harmony and bridge abutment! Our hearts were in our mouths but both got through – maybe the gap just looked small from where we were hovering but I think we’d have waited for Harmony to get out of the way!
The rest of the trip went smoothly, but very very slowly…..
We waved goodbye to two of the convoy members at Brentford then pressed on toward Teddington. We were surprised to be overtaken by some unfamiliar narrowboats that had emerged from Brentford to make the transit to Teddington – none of the crews were wearing lifejackets – a lot of boats simply don’t take this stretch of tideway seriously
We’d heard on the VHF that Richmond Lock was out of action, so we’d have to wait for the half-tide barrier to be opened – this delayed us by a good 30 minutes; the convoy had looped around downstream and turned back up behind us to stem the tide. When the half-tide barrier opened, we waited while they convoy passed us and reformed in front of us – d’oh, big mistake, that delayed us by another 30 minutes. We proceeded at a crawl upriver – we couldn’t understand why were were moving so slowly until we rounded a bend and realised that the tail end of the convoy had been separated from the rest of the convoy by a hire boat. By now, the dogs had been on board for around 8 hours, it was too much, we explained our haste to the convoy members and did some overtaking – the river is wide and deep – especially with the Spring Tide filling the river to the brim and then some…
We got to Teddington and took up a mooring on the pontoon below the lock. Along with nb Doris Katia and nb Ketura, we’d be making the transit back to Limehouse when the tide turned. We offloaded the hounds for a welcome walk – the pontoon is a useless mesh affair (though not toothed metal as at some other Thames locks) so Richard had to carry the hounds to shore. We bimbled around and I kept the dogs on shore until the very last minute – they’d been on board for 9 hours by the time we got to Teddington so they needed the break. We could have done with a longer break ourselves – we’d expected to arrive at Teddington with two or more hours to spare before the tide turned, but we only had around 40 minutes.
We waved goodbye to our guests from the Cotswold Canal Cruising Club – we think they enjoyed their convoy, though one boat said they’d been swamped by the bow wave from a passing gravel barge down at the barrier – nothing that wouldn’t dry out, but it did give the bow crew a fright. We were very surprised – we hadn’t noticed any wash! But then again, every narrowboat swims differently. We do discourage our crews from sitting at the bow; if they do, then we warn them to hang on, keep the front doors shut and expect the odd shower!
I was relaxing on Teddington lock island with the hounds when Richard came to fetch me – it was time to go back – I’ll tell that story in the next post….
As always, I’ve put the bulk of the photos on Facebook….