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Boat Blog: The Oyssey 2016 – Day 39 – River Thames

Posted by indigodream on 21 August, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 17th July

Marlow to Henley

Not something that we see every morning!

Not something that we see every morning!

We were woken up very early by the sound of raised voices and a megaphone; we thought nothing of it at first but then we heard water drumming as if an apocalyptic thunderstorm had broken over the boat. We were intrigued, but even I looked out of the porthole the sky was a clear summer blue with the promise of a day’s sunshine – what was going on?

We had a look out of the cabin doors and saw that the water was boiling – the river was alive with swimmers – hundreds of them, taking part in an open water swimming/triathlon! We were captivated – we were moored just up from the start/finish point and couldn’t have had a better view – too good a view at times as one swimmer, despite our frantic shouting, swam right into the boat! I would have worried for his head, but luckily his outstretched arm touched the bow first. Elsewhere, the safety boats were working hard to keep the swimmers on course, and out of the path of the few motorised boats that were being escorted along the river.

Richard the lock-keeper (blue T-shrt!) - it's a job he'd enjoy!

Richard the lock-keeper (blue T-shirt!) – it’s a job he’d enjoy!

Although we could have arranged our departure with the event organisers, we decided to stay put – the swimming would be over by 10am (they started at 7am) and we didn’t have a taxing cruise ahead of us.

Although we didn’t have any guests on board today, we had quite an eventful day. The river between Marlow and Henley is absolutely beautiful, but the river was busy and there were queues at many of the locks – average transit time was an hour! We had a nice moment at Mapleduram Lock – the lockie was at lunch so Richard went up to operate the lock. He did a great job of organising the waiting boats and packed the lock like a pro, I wondered at why all the boaters were being so co-operative – then I realised that Richard was wearing a blue T-shirt and looked like an EA lockie – the motley crew of boaters hadn’t realised they were being directed by a lowly narrowboater! Richard was a bit slow though when two approached him to buy day licences, he told them he was not the lock keeper and waved away their cash rather than saying ah that’s OK no need for any paper work.

We’d heard that there was a historic boat rally at Henley but we hadn’t reckoned on the sheer scale of the event. Henley was jam packed – both on the river and on the riverbank. Passing traffic was shunted into a special channel mid-river, while historic boats processed in their own channel. We flew our Jubilee pageant flag, and were gratified by the waves of acknowledgement from the many Jubilee boats at the event.

We had planned to moor Indigo Dream at the “pay ‘n display” moorings in Henley, but the town was so crowded we despaired of getting a space. But to our astonishment, there were several spaces opposite the island – we quickly moored up in the first available space and Richard went to get us a parking ticket – £55 for a week – bargain! Sort of.

Old friends, new boat - No Problem XL with bloggers Sue and Vic - not time to stop today but we hope to catch up with them soon :-)

Old friends, new boat – No Problem XL with bloggers Sue and Vic – not time to stop today but we hope to catch up with them soon:-)

It was quite early when we moored up – Richard went off to find a train back to the car in Limehouse and I pottered around with the greyhounds. The park adjacent to the moorings was jam-packed with picnicing families – once again, the hound and the boat became tourist attractions. In the end, I had to close the towpath-side curtains!

It had been a hot day, so later on I settled on the back deck with a good book and dangled my feet in the river – the water was cold, even after a day in the intense sunshine – it must have been freezing for this morning’s swimmers!

Richard had a slow drive back from Limehouse, but at least the boat was packed up and ready to go – we had a fridge end feast for supper then set off home…

We are publishing these blogs on the move and forgetting things. We have some wonderful photos of us going past the houses of P taken by Simon Judge, we will add them later.

Photoblog:

If ever I needed an obscene lottery win - I'd love to ownt his place and run my own events there :-)

If ever I needed to win an obscene amount of money on the lottery – I’d love to own this place and run my own events there:-)

 

Waiting for the off...

Waiting for the off…

 

The starting line...

The starting line…

 

The coruse took them a long way upriver - the duck were astonished!

The course took them a long way upriver – the duck were astonished!

 

It was exhausting work - so it's not surprising hat some swimmers lost their way and had to be herded back to the channel...

It was exhausting work – so it’s not surprising that some swimmers lost their way and had to be herded back to the channel…

 

I can't see the greyhounds taking to kayaking, though this little dogs seemed to be having a lovely time :-)

I can’t see the greyhounds taking to kayaking, though this little dog seemed to be having a lovely time:-)

 

Wonderfu procession of historic boats - some had bands on board and the river was buzzing with sights and sounds...

wonderful procession of historic boats – some had bands on board and the river was buzzing with sights and sounds…

 

Archie inspecting rowbarge Gloriana - I wonder whether it has space for a greyhound - or maybe its just for royal corgis!

Archie inspecting rowbarge Gloriana – I wonder whether it has space for a greyhound – or maybe it’s just for royal corgis!

 

One photo can't do justice to the sheer scale of the historis boat festival in Henley...

One photo can’t do justice to the sheer scale of the historic boat festival in Henley…

 

Henry and Archie enjoying the view..

Henry and Archie enjoying the view..

 

Henley has a wonderful waterfront - quaint and beautiful

Henley has a wonderful waterfront – quaint and beautiful

 

There was so much to see - Henley is a brilliant place for watching the world go by - I love the picnic basket on the back of this car/boat :-)

There was so much to see – Henley is a brilliant place for watching the world go by – I love the picnic basket on the back of this car/boat:-)

Sunset on the water...

Sunset on the water…

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 36 & 37 – Limehouse to Teddington

Posted by indigodream on 20 August, 2016

Rewind to Wednesday 13th July

Getting ready for the off...

Getting ready for the off…

The mooring concession that had allowed us to stay on the Waterbus Pontoon ended on Wednesday, and while we could have stayed until Thursday, when we needed to get to Limehouse, we decided to move on time. Richard and I popped up to the boat in the afternon, minus the hounds as we’d only be a few hours.

We drove up to Three Mills – I moved the boat while Richard took the car down to Limehouse. We knew that the weather forecast was mixed; in practice that meant dry and blustery when we were in the car and soaking wet and gale force when I was on the helm! Turning the boat round was a challenge as a squall pinned me to the wall at Three Mills, then, as I poled the bow off the wall, I realised that if I followed the line given to me by the wind, the boat would squash a moorhen’s nest on the far bank, so on to plan B. I got lined up for the turn slightly further upstream and a big CRT tug and butty combo hove round the bridge – change to plan C! I did eventually turn above Three Mills Bridge and headed off down Limehouse Cut, feeling very sorry for myself indeed!

Out on the tideway - conditions were perfect :-)

Out on the tideway – conditions were perfect:-)

I had a good but wet trip down the cut and met up with Richard near Violet Road Bridge. The rain miraculously stopped but the pontoon on the wall at Limehouse was occupied and the boat moored there was very reluctant to let us breast up. There was room on the wall, though we hoped we’d be able to move to the pontoon for loading the hounds onto the boat on Thursday.  Never mind, it was just one of those days!

We headed for the service pontoon to take on water and do a pump-out. The visitor pump-out is only operational during office hours (apparently it’s been misused by boaters making a lot of noise on the service pontoon late at night), so we had to get this done today as we were unlikely to get to boat in time on Thursday evening. As it had stopped raining, we had taken our waterproofs off, confident that we’d be in the car before it had time to rain again. Silly me! As we finished at the pontoon, it started to rain again, then it became torrential, then it really chucked it down, with hailstones – we were soaked! We moved to the wall, moored up quickly and squelched our way back to the car – we were wet, cold and dismal – meh!

Rewind to Friday 15th July

Archie loves looking - he is a great tideway veteran...

Archie loves looking – he is a great tideway veteran…

Herbie was none too impressed with hiis life-jacket - he had no intention of leaving his sofa - even if the boat sank!

Herbie was none too impressed with hiis life-jacket – he had no intention of leaving his sofa – even if the boat sank!

Iconic view and a big rubbish barge.....

Iconic view and a big rubbish barge…..

Much as we’ve loved the company of our local boating friends, we were looking forward to leaving London and heading upriver. We had an ambition to get to Lechlade so that we would have cruised the navigable (by narrowboat!) Thames from end to end this Summer. We can’t get any further down river then Sheerness but one year we may take a couple of chain saws with us . . . .

We congregated at the boat on Thursday night – the usual canine crew and Steve, our favourite vet, with his new springer spaniel Molly. We joined the crew of Peace of Pearce at the Cruising Association and toasted our convoy cruising – it was a good end to our Southeast adventures. We checked that nb’s Tempest and Enbee were moored up and ready for the tideway transit in the morning. When we got back to the boat, we expected Archie to join Steve on the guest double bed, but to our surprise, Herbie joined him and Steve let him! Molly the springer was a bit disgruntled but she’s a hardy spaniel and doesn’t need the intensive cosseting demanded by the greyhounds!

Some more famous landmarks - it's a wonderful river :-)

Some more famous landmarks – it’s a wonderful river:-)

We were up bright and early – we were booked to lock out of Limehouse at 7.15am. It all went smoothly though they were running late, but the new lock-keepers at Limehouse are much more laissez faire than Jeremy and his team, who were always informative and solicitous. However, we learnt a lot from the previous team and had briefed our companion boats thoroughly. It was still a thrill to see the great lock gates crack open to let the water cascade onto the tideway below. All too soon we were off – the river was calm and quiet – although I’m not a morning person, I think that between dawn and 8am is THE time to be on the river.

We had a smooth passage up the tideway – the tideway demands concentration so Richard and I take turns at the helm to avoid fatigue and keep us fresh and vigilant. Steve is a competent helm, so he took turns with us, making the passage very easy. We kept and eye on our companion boats, but they were hanging back a bit but keeping pace easily and all too soon we were waving them off at Brentford. We carried on up to Teddington – one of my favourite mooring places. We had a brief stop here to walk the dogs, and were hailed by the crew of a Cotswold Cruising Club boat whom we’d escorted up the tideway some years before! They were just off on a dutch barge to Europe …..

Richmond always looks so grand from the river....

Richmond always looks so grand from the river….

Steve’s wife, Helen and son Alfie were due to join us in the evening so we stopped off at Waitrose in Kingston to top up on our supplies. Richard stayed with the boat while Steve and I went shopping. I think that the layout has changed and it took us ages to find the way in to Waitrose – then it took some time to navigate our way out. At one time I thought they might just find our skeletons in a lonely stairwell, having eaten through the supplies in our trolley then perishing as we failed to find the exit!

With the boat well stocked (with hot chickens for the hounds, of course!) we set off upriver. It was a glorious day and we enjoyed, again, the sense of freedom and wonder of cruising a big river full of fascinating sights. The river had enough boats to be interesting but not enough to cause congestion – perfect! We did have a little wait at Molesey lock, where we took the dogs off for a pitstop. Steve let Molly off for a paddle in the river and she, being a water dog, headed off after some geese – she swam fully halfway across the river then headed off downstream under Hampton Court bridge. Cue a panic as the towpath goes  over the bridge and if she went right through to the other side it would be difficult to recover her. Luckily she eventually decided to swim back to Steve – I think she’d decided that she’d shown the geese who was boss so she could return with her head held high:-)

The hermit's boat is still here - it was in pieces last time we passed by...

The hermit’s boat is still here – it was in pieces last time we passed by…

Our target for the day was Staines, which seemed a little ambitious at the start of the day, but by the afternoon it seemed entirely possible We got there by about 4.30pm but we found that the moorings were already congested – we were a bit indecisive and did a few circuits up and down river as we contemplated mooring a little way downstream by the Riverside pub. In the end, nb Mochyn Du called us over to the town moorings and invited us to brest up – they seen us cruising in circles and took pity on us! We explained that we had dogs, but they did too, and were happy for us to traipse across their back deck. We chatted for a long while – well, the lady of the boat was Welsh, so chatting was inevitable!

By 6pm we’d walked and fed the dogs and wandered over to the dog-friendly Anchor pub to join Helen and Alfie for dinner. The food was good pub grub and the service was friendly; there was plenty of room for the dogs and a kind waitress brought them a bowl of water. Molly decided that she wanted to be a greyhound as they scoffed the sausages that we bought for them – such luxury!

It was still light when we piled back on board and got the beds sorted – four adults, one large teenager, three greyhound and a spaniel filled almost every inch of the boat though it felt contented rather than congested – it had been a great day.

Photoblog:

Some thing are eternal - like the wonderfully eccentric houseboats...

Some thing are eternal – like the wonderfully eccentric houseboats…

The new road bridge at Walton - they had just started building this when we last passed by - it's far more attractive from the water than from the road...

The new road bridge at Walton – they had just started building this when we last passed by – it’s far more attractive from the water than from the road…

Molly loving life on the river :-)

Molly loving life on the river:-)

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 38 – River Thames

Posted by indigodream on 19 August, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 16th July

Staines to Marlow

The Beanz at the Magna Carta memorial - does it have a clause enrusing the sausage rights of greyhounds?

The Beanz at the Magna Carta memorial – does it have a clause ensuring the sausage rights of greyhounds?

As always, Steve was first up and was whittling some wood when the rest of us emerged – we’ve decided that teenager Alfie is an honorary greyhound as his commitment to 24-hour a day snoozing is legendary!

The day was set fair, so we set off in good spirits – Helen wanted to stop and have a look at the Magna Carta monument in Runnymeade. It wasn’t far upriver and we got a mooring very close to the footpath to the monument. We were pleasantly surprised by the mooring – we’ve never stopped there before as it’s so close to the road, but the abundant vegetation made the mooring seem pleasant and private.

It was only 9am when we moored up and we hastened to walk to the monument before it got too hot. We took all the dogs with us – once you cross the busy A30, the fields beyond are pleasant and there are quite a few things to be seen. The Magna Carte monument is, well, monumental – donated by the Americans it doesn’t really capture the spirit of such an English event. However, it is surrounded by wonderful mature oak trees which provided welcome shade. After that we walked up to the Kennedy memorial, which is an anticlimax, though the stairway through the woods is marvelous. Other visitors told us to walk over to the “jurors”, an art installation of 12 bronze chairs in the meadow below the Kennedy Memorial. I’m sure it’s all very worthy, and the bronze chairs were beautiful, but I was underwhelmed – there was a leaflet that explained the imagery on the front and back of each chair, but they weren’t intuitive and I lost patience with reading the descriptions, but without them, they were just 12 chairs incongruously planted in the middle of a field!

Herbie digging up an ancient oak tree - maybe he thought there elves to be caught under there...

Herbie digging up an ancient oak tree – maybe he thought there elves to be caught under there…

I know, I’m an art heathen, but the sun was already high and I was already way too warm – time to get back on the water!

It took a while to get upriver, but we were soon moored in Windsor, which was heaving – we’d stopped briefly to pick up a new Indigo Dreamer, greyhound Skye and her mum Karen. We had though to stop for lunch, but in five minutes we were already being treated like a tourist attraction – time to move on!

While the rest of us relaxed and enjoyed the river views, Helen had work to do. She has recently been ordained as a priest and had a sermon to write for Sunday. She sat on the front deck and allowed the river’s ambience to inspire her:-) Steve didn’t miss her – he was busy on the helm and chatting about greyhound health, or lack thereof – poor Skye has a horrible brain infection picked up from poor conditions in Ireland where she was bred and races – she’s only four years old and the infection has left her unsteady on her feet. However she immediately settled on board – first on the deck sheepies, then later on the sofa – bliss! Skye enjoyed her cruise, but there was one priceless moment when she stood up on deck and suddenly realised that there were things to see – wow, who knew?!

Skye - another natural Indigo Dreamer :-)

Skye – another natural Indigo Dreamer:-)

The other priceless moment of the day belonged to spaniel Molly. Right from the start she knew exactly what there was to look at and we’d been very careful to keep hold of her as she strained to jump over to join the ducks. Later in the afternoon she started to show signs of calming down – she settled on the front deck with Steve and Helen – peace reigned until we got the call “dog overboard” – and there was Molly paddling along behind us! We soon recovered her – I think she’d realised quite quickly that jumping off might have been a mistake and very sensibly swam to the boat rather than the shore. Luckily she was very small and easily hoicked out of the water.

We had initially planned to moor in Cookham, but when we arrived, the moorings were full. Except they weren’t – the big tupperware had occupied the space by leaving themselves a lot of personal space but not enough to usefully fit in a narroboat. If everyone had shuffled up, there would have been room for at least 5 narrowboats on the moorings. We know that narrowboats are not popular among the cruisers, but we were taken aback when our polite question “could you move up a little so that we can moor” was answered with a curt “we’re not moving”…

Inspiration for a sermon :-)

Inspiration for a sermon:-)

We couldn’t be bothered with their selfishness, so we moved on to Marlow, which was also jam-packed. By now it was getting late in the day, so we dropped Steve and family off, our guests off and cruised around to look for a mooring. There was nothing – so we asked a friendly narrowboater whether we could brest up – they agreed and, at first, we thought we wouldn’t fit, but a really obliging cruiser made up for the rudeness at Cookham and offered to move the few feet that we needed in order to get our stern aligned with the bankside narrowboat so that the hounds could get on/off.

It had been quite a busy day, and we were too weary to explore Marlow, settling for grazing from the extensive supplies in the fridge and watching one of our on-board box sets – “Tru Calling” which is just engaging enough to keep us awake but not complex enough to tax our tired brains!

Photoblog:

A grand day for grand events on the river...

A grand day for grand events on the river…

Spot the giraffe....

Spot the giraffe….

Historic ship Lindsey - a 1945 RAF refueller which carried huge volumes of fuel to RAF Sunderland and Catalins Flyingboats...

Historic ship Lindsey – a 1945 RAF refueller which carried huge volumes of fuel to RAF Sunderland and Catalins Flyingboats…

Jazz on the Georgian - the boat was almost empty yet he carried on playing...

Jazz on the Georgian – the boat was almost empty yet he carried on playing…

Alain Roux's Waterside Inn - I was treated to lunch there for my 50th - it was the best food and service ever!

Alain Roux’s Waterside Inn – I was treated to lunch there for my 50th – it was the best food and service ever!

Brunel's brick arch - the widest and flattest in the world apparently :-)

Brunel’s brick arch – the widest and flattest in the world apparently:-)

Oh no, run Archie, run, that's a V-E-T you'r cuddling up to!

Oh no, run Archie, run, that’s a V-E-T you’r cuddling up to!

You get all sorts on the river :-)

You get all sorts on the river:-)

Alfie's got a talent for sketching - he was inspired to draw Archie :-)

Alfie’s got a talent for sketching – he was inspired to draw Archie:-)

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Boat Blog: The Oyssey 2016 – Day 35 – QE Olympic Park

Posted by indigodream on 18 August, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 9th July

Henry and Archie listening very attentively to Andrew Phasey's briefing - Herbie zoned out - he's such a cruising veteran :-)

Henry and Archie listening very attentively to Andrew Phasey’s briefing – Herbie zoned out – he’s such a cruising veteran:-)

We’d been fretting over the timing of today’s cruise, and the prospect of taking a group of tideway novices down Bow Creek and up the Thames to Limehouse in winds that were, at best, marginal on forecast. I had a sense of creeping dread, but little did I know its true cause when we joined the boaters amassed for a towpath barbecue on Friday night.

Ollie had been unwell all week, but he seemed to perk up by Friday lunchtime. In the evening, I drove all the hounds up to Three Mills after work, finding a nifty weekend parking space (free of charge!) in a lane by Tesco’s car park. I felt quite fresh and did a lightning fast trip round Tesco to top up with supplies – we were expecting lots of guests on Saturday. But Ollie was struggling – he was tired by the car journey and later in the evening he was alarmingly wobbly. We had a dreadful night with him and, at 6am, we knew that we would have to let him go. By 8am we were at our home vets in Surrey, saying goodbye. We had a brief hour at home to gather our wits before returning to boat for 11am and the arrival of our guests….

Andrew Denny trying to get a bird's eye view of the convoy for Waterways World :-)

Andrew Denny trying to get a bird’s eye view of the convoy for Waterways World:-)

It wasn’t an auspicious start to the day, but we put our best foot forward. We knew that our guests would be an uplifting bunch – first some friends – Tina, with some new Indigo Dreamers – diminutive italian greyhound cross, Macey and whippet Elsie; Marek, a childhood friend of Richard’s (their parents went to each other’s weddings and their fathers met in school), and Ben, a colleague of his from work; then there were new friends – Victoria from London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Janet, who called herself an “interested bystander” – a local lady who had picked up an open invitation from a Waterways magazine. Last, but not least, we also welcomed the legendary Andrew Denny aka Granny Buttons, correspondent from Waterways World, who would be covering the event for the magazine.

I thought it was a wonderful thing that the organisers could rely on boaters to act as hosts to the many non-boating guests who wanted to be part in this great event – dignitaries and interested bystanders – all were made welcome.

We got back to Three Mills just in time to welcome our guests and whisk them to the briefing, which was entertaining and thorough. CRT had a towpath gazebo and goodie bags for all the boats; Andrew Phasey led the briefing, and, as the brisk wind took the gazebo for a ride, we were immensely relieved when he announced that the trip along the tideway was cancelled. We were also relieved when Andrew told us that only 55 of the 85 that had booked a place were there – that would help with the logistics of the turn on City Mill River.

Elsie enjoying a bit of Olympic looking - she was a natural :-)

Elsie enjoying a bit of Olympic looking – she was a natural:-)

When Macey, an italian greyound/whippet mix, about one-tenth of the size of the Beanzy Boys, got on board she quickly took over – she patted everything with her dainty paw and declared “that’s mine” – she even pinned Archie in a corner because he had the gall to walk past her sofa! Elsie accidentally fell into the canal when she arrived, but luckily she was diminutive enough to be easily lifted from the water. She wasn’t bothered by the experience and really took to boating, though arguably with less panache than Macey.

Once the briefing was done, there was just time to get back to the boats and get ready for the convoy – experienced and novice boats had been cleverly interspersed and the detailed plans made it clear when and where we were meant to be. At exactly the right time, we were off, maintaining a minute’s distance between boats. I have to say that it was a grand sight, fifty five boats on the move, stirring water that probably hadn’t seen that many boat movements since the Industrial Revolution!

I left our guests to enjoy the views while I had a quiet time preparing lunch and peering out of the side hatch – the convoy was long enough to enable us to enjoy the sight of the boats returning having made the turn. Soon enough, we were turning ourselves, the whole convoy moving much more smoothly than we’d anticipated. There was some argy bargy at an inconvenient narrow spot – incoming boats wanted to get to the turn quickly; outgoing boats wanted to get out of the way!

Nonetheless, we were soon on our way to City Mill Lock, which had been repaired and was being help open with the water at canal level to allow the convoy free passage. We found out later, that several boats were not able to do this section as the rising tide made it impossible to maintain the open lock and get under the road bridge. But we were fortunate, and enjoyed the reactions of the passers-by in the park, who were agog at the sight of so many boats. We turned right under the shiny bridge – got to get that photo of our reflection, then we were on our way back. There was tight headroom at some of the bridges but all too soon we were back on the waterbus pontoon.

Turning under the reflective bridge at Carpenter's Road lock - has to be done!

Turning under the reflective bridge at Carpenter’s Road lock – has to be done!

As the rest of the convoy made its way back to Three Mills, an impromptu gathering congregated on Indigo Dream’s back deck – well, news of the cream tea with home-made jam had got around, plus we had opened some bubbly to celebrate the event. It was certainly worthy of a celebration – it had gone so smoothly and only events like this can keep these waterways alive for narrowboaters.

By now, I was weary to the bone, but there was one more social event to attend – a gathering at the White Building and Crate Brewery, with beer and pizzas funded by the convoy organisers. The White Building has an upstairs function room which had been booked for our party – just as well, the downstairs bar and canalside seating area were jam-packed – it’s obviously THE place to be on a Saturday night.

The pizzas at the White Building are absolutely delicious, and the company was the best, but grief and fatigue put me past caring, especially as I was driving and could only have soft drinks. By 10pm we were back at the boat and hugging the Beanz – it had been quite a day….

Rewind to Sunday 10th July

We had decided to leave the boat at Three Mills this week rather than trying to bimble around East London – our hearts weren’t in it. However we had an important job to do before going home. St Pancras Cruising Club have been very good to us – although we are not members, they often invite us out for tideway adventures and we’ve learnt a lot from their organisation and leadership. We were delighted to help when they asked whether we would escort some of the visiting boats from the Olympic convoy up the tideway when we went on our way.

We were planning our tideway transit for Friday 15th, when we would be joined by nb’s Tempest and Enbee – both of whom had some tidal experience, but not on the Thames. As they were moored nearby, we invited the crews on board for a tideway briefing – we know what to say, though we are trying to move away from using Andrew Phasey’s jokes! We had a convivial time and they seemed reassured as did we – we’d provided them with laminated river plans and tideway check lists so they left the boat prepared and happy.

Photoblog:

It was so good to see so many baots on the move - and that is a chap in a shark suit on the roof of nb Rosie M!

It was so good to see so many boats on the move – and that is a chap in a shark suit on the roof of nb Rosie M!

The headroom under that bridge got precarious as the tide rose...

The headroom under that bridge got precarious as the tide rose…

Some tandem turning - plenty of room!

Some tandem turning – plenty of room!

A fine convoy...

A fine convoy…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 Day 34 – Bow Back Rivers

Posted by indigodream on 17 August, 2016

Rewind to Wednesday 29th June

 

Following nb Bleasedale - we were taksed with keeping a 1 minute gap between boats - lucky there were plenty of landmarks for us to use as marks :-)

Following nb Bleasdale – we were tasked with keeping a 1 minute gap between boats – lucky there were plenty of landmarks for us to use as marks:-)

Richard stayed on the boat after moving her to Limehouse and enjoyed a social gathering at the Cruising Association. In the meantime, I went to choir then piled the hounds into the car for the drive up to Limehouse. We’d recruited Archie and Henry to charm passersby, while Ollie and Herbie were Indigo Dream’s more dignified ambassadors. I arrived in Limehouse at 11.30pm – thank heavens we didn’t have an early start today.

Today we were joining a recce cruise for a big event – the inaugural cruise round the Bow Back Rivers on 9th July. It would be the third inaugural cruise in fact, as the waterways round the Olympic Park have almost been opened twice before, but have been stymied by various factors, including the ongoing Crossrail works.

In the shadow of the Olympic Stadium which is a shadow of its former self - but it's still a thrill to cruise so close...

In the shadow of the Olympic Stadium which is a shadow of its former self – but it’s still a thrill to cruise so close…

The Crossrail works were the main reason for today’s recce – it had been anticipated that their coffer dam across City Mill River, roughly where it joins the Bow Back rivers, would have been removed by the 9th July. This would give a neat ring cruise around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park followed by a there ‘n back through City Mill lock to see the park from the Waterwork Rivers. But it was not to be – the coffer dam was still in place, and with over 80 boats coming from far and wide, it was far too late to postpone the inaugural cruise.

So four boats set out to “prove the route” – our leader, nb Doris Katia, nb Bleasdale and nb Tarporley; nb Ketura was due to join us, but as we cruised up from Limehouse, nb Ketura suddenly spouted white smoke from her engine bay and pulled up short. Luckily she wasn’t on fire, but some inexplicably melted cable insulation in her engine bay meant that she couldn’t risk moving any further until it had been checked and fixed. Ketura’s skipper, Christine, joined nb Bleasdale for the recce and we kept our fingers crossed that Ketura’s engine would be fixed in time for the main event in just over a weeks’ time.

A bit of countryside in the city :-)

A bit of countryside in the city:-)

It wasn’t the best start, and we mustered the rest of the mini-convoy at Three Mills with a vague sense of disquiet. The over-running Crossrail works meant that we would need to turn the boats just before the coffer dam. We knew from previous cruises that there is plenty of room to turn a boat, but the timing was critical; even if 85 boats took one minute each to turn (unlikely!) then the convoy would take over an hour to turn and the second part of the cruise was tide-dependent – hmmm!

Nonetheless, it was great to be in convoy with some old friends and the Olympic Waterways have always felt like our home turf – not least because we were cruising the Bow Back Rivers before the Olympics were even conceived! It’s still gives us a thrill as we remember visiting the stadium for the closing ceremony; of course Richard was there for the opening ceremony too, but as a Gamesmaker.

Carpenter's Road Lock - it is due to be completed and opened for use as part of the regeneration project - looking forward to that..

Carpenter’s Road Lock – it is due to be completed and opened for use as part of the regeneration project – looking forward to that..

But back to the turning point – nb Doria Katia, being the shortest of the boats, turned on a sixpence; nb Tarporley, being a long vintage boat, took a while to turn – 8 minutes by our rough reckoning. Oh dear, we knew from talking to visiting boaters that some were uncomfortable with turning their boats so it was looking increasingly likely that the main convoy would be severely delayed by the turn..

But our mini-convoy was soon on its was to City Mill lock. The first three boats fitted into the lock nicely, so we moored up to the rubbish barge on the lock moorings to wait for our turn.

We didn’t think it would take so long, but I had time to make bacon sarnies; then I took the dogs for a walk on the rubbish barge (after sweeping all the broken glass off the deck), then Archie and Henry wandered up to the lock with Richard to see what was happening. Uh oh, the lock was refusing to work – CRT were called, lots of people turned up, there was grave head shaking, tutting and button pressing but to no avail – our “proving the route” convoy was scuppered!

We turned Indigo Dream round; the others backed out of the lock and we all headed back to Three Mills. There were mooring restrictions in place for the main convoy, so we were able to moor on the old waterbus pontoon so that we could offload the dogs easily.

We were subdued – our mini-convoy had taken way longer than we expected and we were beset by more than a vague disquiet as it seemed likely that the min convoy of 85 boats was doomed to chaos! However, Andrew Phasey remained unphased and was airily cheerful, even when CRT announced a stoppage on the lock that would last for a week or more – eeek!

Photoblog:

New Indigo Dreamers - Mikey and Mishka, who live on a beautiful widebeam at Limehouse Marina :-)

New Indigo Dreamers – Mikey and Mishka, who live on a beautiful widebeam at Limehouse Marina:-)

We didn't think that this lovely drift planting would last when the games were done but it's thriving...

We didn’t think that this lovely drift planting would last when the games were done but it’s thriving…

Grand sight....

Grand sight….

Archie was less than impressed by our suggestion that he tries the new helter skelter....

Archie was less than impressed by our suggestion that he tries the new helter skelter….

nb Tarporley at the turning point..

nb Tarporley at the turning point..

Two iconic structures..

Two iconic structures..

Great view of the reflective bridge - there are gret boat photos to be had when you turn under it on the other side of the lock...

Great view of the reflective bridge – there are gret boat photos to be had when you turn under it on the other side of the lock…

Archie was inspired to do some Olympic looking at the Olympic Park...

Archie was inspired to do some Olympic looking at the Olympic Park…

Henry Beanz going for the Olympic looking cute medal :-)

Henry Beanz going for the Olympic looking cute medal:-)

Canalside bat roost - how cool is that!

Canalside bat roost – how cool is that!

Ready to go at City Mill Lock..

Ready to go at City Mill Lock..

Archie inspecting his new promenade deck...

Archie inspecting his new promenade deck…

Oh dear....

Oh dear….

Vintage Tarporley creating some atmorpheric smoke...

Vintage Tarporley creating some atmospheric smoke…

Back at Three Mills - it's a fine place to moor :-)

Back at Three Mills – it’s a fine place to moor:-)

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 32 & 33 – Lee Navigation

Posted by indigodream on 11 August, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 19th June

Limehouse Basin to  Waltham Abbey

An evolving landscape....

An evolving landscape….

Our Medway Convoy stayed together overnight, but by the time we emerged at 10am-ish, most had already vanished back to their various London moorings. I think we might have registered a boat moving at silly o’clock but we weren’t tempted to join them!

However, we had to move on eventually – the wall at Limehouse is £25 a night after the first 24 hours so we needed to get away. We haven’t explored the Lee Navigation since 2010, so we thought we’d take a look. We had this ambition to get right up to Bishop’s Stortford and Hertford, but sadly it was not to be.

We set off along Limehouse Cut, which is now populated by a legion of residential boats. This set the tone for the entire trip, which was painfully slow with almost every inch of accessible towpath occupied for the first 3½ hours. Never mind, we had intended to get as far as Cheshunt, so the shortage of moorings nearer to London didn’t affect us ths time.

Busy busy....

Busy busy….

Despite the slow going, I was reminded of how interesting the Lee is – it passes through contrasting landscapes of new development and old buildings, and old buildings being uplifted to shabby chic. Then there’s the unexpected passage through the country park, which extends for many miles and gives this urban waterway a bucolic feel.

Being hound-free and car-free, we’d usually look to cruising until dusk; but by 4pm we found ourselves looking for a handy mooring. I think that one night’s sleep wasn’t enough to compensate for two very busy days’ cruising. Luckily, there was a very convenient space just above Waltham Town Lock, and although it was a bit of a trek to Waltham Abbey station, we were soon on a train home.

I guess that the canal was always going to be a bit of an anti-climax after the big river, which may explain why we weren’t as enamoured as on previous visits. But then again, we had stopped short of the best bits!

There is a whole new cafe culture growing aroudn the canal in Hackney..

There is a whole new cafe culture growing around the canal in Hackney..

Rewind to Tuesday 28th June

We had planned to spend some evenings and a weekend cruising further up the Lee, but we opted for spending some time at home instead. The weather was uninspiring, we were weary, and by this stage, Ollie was looking increasingly frail – it would do us no harm to have a break. The other factor was that we needed to get back to Limehouse for Wednesday 29th June, so we’d have been pushing it to get to the head of the navigation and back in time.

I couldn’t cruise on the Tuesday afternoon because I run a small choir in the evening; so Richard co-opted one of his staff to help him. By all accounts they had a smooth, but slow and rather damp cruise back to Limehouse.

 

Photoblog:

We didn’t take many photos – I can’t remember why now!

We don't remember seeing this slide before - wonder when it was installed?

We don’t remember seeing this slide before – wonder when it was installed?

Colony at Tottenham Hale...

How many brested up at Tottenham Hale?

The surprisingly green approach to Enfield Lock...

The surprisingly green approach to Enfield Lock…

The lock cottage at Enfield looks lived-in now - so much better than the last time we passed through....

The lock cottage at Enfield looks lived-in now – so much better than the last time we passed through….

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 31 – Thames Estuary

Posted by indigodream on 3 August, 2016

Rewind to Saturday 18th June

Queenborough (River Swale) to Limehouse Basin

Lining up the convoy...

Lining up the convoy…

Here’s another cruise that merits its own post, despite the fact that I posted a few photos from my phone along the way…

I mentioned in the last post that we had a cruel early start, and so it was: At 4.30am the alarm clock went off and by 5am the convoy was on the move, showing some precision narrowboating as we ferry glided away from our moorings in a perfect sequence and got ourselves arranged for the convoy up the Thames.

It was only a few days from midsummer, so it was already light when we set out; the water was flat calm and the weather was dry – we kept all digits crossed that we wouldn’t have the torrential rain that beset our journey yesterday. We also hoped that the wind would stay at the bottom end of the forecast – we obviously survived a bit of lumpy bumpy water on the way down, but it is so much more fun on the river when it’s flat calm!

Rounding Nor Swaatch buoy with the masts of the stricken SS Montgomery in the background....

Rounding Nore Swatch buoy with the masts of the stricken SS Montgomery in the background….

During last night’s briefing, our leader, Andy Spring, had warned us all against the dangers of complacency. It was a salutary warning because I think we all felt confident and invincible having  cruised to the Medway successfully.

But he needn’t have worried, there’s nothing like the sight of a 5-mile wide estuary to knock any cockiness from our cruising. We started buoy spotting almost immediately and from then on we had to concentrate – the buoys are so far apart in places (about a mile) that you spot them a long way back, set your course, then by the time you get to them you start doubting whether that was the one you’d spotted from afar anyway! Being part of a convoy was reassuring as we could always look at what the boat in front was doing. However, with a safe distance between each boat, it was important that we could also follow our own course and take account of the tide and wind for ourselves.

What a view...

What a view…

It was a fascinating trip – the weather stayed dry so we had great views of the big traffic on the river. We were well out of the way and in touch with VTS all the way so we weren’t in any danger, but it was awesome to share the river with ships whose holds were big enough to swallow 333 narrowboats. We could see this blob coming up behind us, getting bigger the whole time. Now the Astrid Shulte was not really behind us, we were in the secondary channel whilst they were in the main channel but still when you have a boat 304m long by 40m wide coming up the Estuary behind you at 17 knots you keep a good look out!

The trip back had a bit of added excitement – on the way down, we crossed to the right hand side of the river at Bow and there we stayed until the turn onto the Medway. On the way back, the convoy turned from the Medway into a small boat channel to the left of the river. However, just upstream of the London Gateway near the East Tilbury Marshes we had to cross to the right had side of the river, where the river suddenly narrows to being a mere mile wide. To save having a long line of narrowboats crossing over (which would probably take about an hour!), we all formed a line and turned smartly across the river at the same time. It was a grand sight, in the brief glance I gave it while concentrating on the helm!

Even the big ships are dwarfed by the estuary...

Even the big ships are dwarfed by the estuary…

From then on we listened to the VHS and marveled at the ships, the tide, the shoals – everything! There is so much going on that it’s easy to get fatigued – Richard and I took turns on the helm as, unusually, we didn’t have any cruising guests on board.

Now, Andrew Phasey is always telling us that the buoys are NOT magnetic and are not attracting the steel narrowboats towards them. But I’m not sure whether I believe him:-)

I was on the helm when we were aiming for a green buoy some distance away; it seemed to take ages to get to it, but suddenly there it was; and I had a grandstand view of a powerful optical illusion.

Indigo Dream now has an AIS transmitter which allows other ships to see us on their charts - this is a proximity chart with us in the middle, surrounded by big ships :-)

Indigo Dream now has an AIS transceiver which allows other ships to see us on their chart plotters – this is a proximity chart with us in the middle, surrounded by big ships:-)

As we approached the buoy, the water was apparently rushing past us from left to right, with the buoy being swept along with it at great speed; but of course, it wasn’t. Indigo Dream was actually being swept from right to left, into the buoy! As I put pedal to the metal to pass it on the correct side, we did an advanced diploma in buoy studies as we swept past it by a hair’s breadth.  I was interested in its vivid green colour, I was fascinated by its height, towering over the boat, and it had a bell, who knew! Luckily, you can learn all you need to know about buoys from one close contact, so I didn’t pursue my doctorate on the ones following!

It is an epic cruise, so when we reached Gravesend, it felt as if we were home. But that had seemed like an epic destination in 2013 – I guess it’s all relative.

All sorts of craft use the tideway - sailing vessels of all kinds, big ships and narrowboats - the perspective is dramatic but the ship was nowhere near us!

All sorts of craft use the tideway – sailing vessels of all kinds, big ships and narrowboats – the perspective is dramatic but the ship was nowhere near us!

As we passed Tilbury Docks we heard that there was a big ship in the lock waiting to come onto the tideway – we put a few more revs on – what if they decided to try and fit into a gap between narrowboats?! I was very impressed when the captain correctly identified us as narrowboats and let us know that he would wait until after we’d all gone past before moving out of the lock – VTS had informed him that there were 10 narrowboats and he very carefully counted us past and moved out of the lock shortly afterwards. We are often tail-end charlie on convoys, but this time we were happy to let nb Doris Katia experience the shadow fall as the gargantuan ship made its way onto the river:-)

After Gravesend, the river narrows considerably and, at last, we were able to spot shoreline landmarks. Not for the first time I regretted that there isn’t a walkway across the QE2 bridge – I would have loved to have a photo of the convoy from the bridge. Every time I drive over it I have a little glance down to the river – even the big ships look small from up there; the narrowboats would be mere specks!

A co-ordinated turn across the river....

A co-ordinated turn across the river….

We were soon on very familiar water as the Royal Dock entrance lock then the Woolwich Ferry hove into view. Although there was only one ferry operational, it was pulling out from its moorings as we approached. The beauty of the VHS is being able to speak to the commercial traffic sharing the waterways and check their course. In this case, the ferry confirmed that he would pass our stern so we put pedal to the metal again to get out of the way.

All too soon, we were at Bow Creek Mouth and the convoy passed smoothly, two by two, through Bow Locks. Limehouse Cut seemed tiny after our river adventures, but nonetheless, the convoy made good time back to Limehouse basin. By 2.30pm we were all rafted up – I’m not sure about the other boats, but we thought it was time for a snooze!

Norsky just moving out of Tilbury Lock once the convoy had passed...

Norsky just moving out of Tilbury Lock once the convoy had passed…

Richard got up, refreshed, in time to join the crews for a celebratory pint at the Grapes then a merry “survivor’s supper at the Cruising Association. The CA has been a good friend to our convoys, providing a welcome haven for our briefings and suppers. I stayed in bed, I still had laryngitis and now a sore throat, as it was inevitable that I would have to use what little voice I had to communicate during our mooring manoeuvres.

Judging by the passing voices, no-one stayed up late – it had been a big day’s cruise and a very successful end to a fine adventure.

Photoblog:

Approaching the QE2 Bridge - it's a grand sight :-)

Approaching the QE2 Bridge – it’s a grand sight:-)

A new meaning to "bow thruster" - Scot Stuttgart being nudged into her moorings :-)

A new meaning to “bow thruster” – Scot Stuttgart being nudged into her moorings:-)

Familiar waters - Barking Creek Mouth...

Familiar waters – Barking Creek Mouth…

There's still a thrill to helming these waters - even if we have passed the Thames Barrier many times :-)

There’s still a thrill to helming these waters – even if we have passed the Thames Barrier many times:-)

New signage on Bow Creek - it's because of the new bridge with its restricted headroom at high tide...

New signage on Bow Creek – it’s because of the new bridge with its restricted headroom at high tide…

Ooops! Wonder what caused that knock?

Ooops! Wonder what caused that knock?

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 30 – Medway Estuary

Posted by indigodream on 30 July, 2016

Rewind to Friday 17th June

I know I said I’d catch up with the blog in dollops, but some cruises really do deserve their own post…..

Maidstone to Queenborough (River Swale)

I thought it was quite wet at this point but it was possitively arid compared to the rain that fell later :-p

I thought it was quite wet at this point but it was positively arid compared to the rain that fell later :-p

For a change, the tide times favoured a late morning start from Maidstone, so there was time to do a car shuffle before we set off. This was important as there was absolutely no point in our having a car in Maidstone – we’d be miles away by the time we finished this cruise!

The convoy back consisted of ten boats – we had arranged to muster in Queenborough on Friday night for the convoy up the Thames Estuary on Saturday. But for the Medway section we were split into two groups – five of our party had already travelled down to Rochester (tidal), where there are good visitor moorings. We had hoped to join this part as it would have been fascinating to explore historic Rochester – alas, work got in the way. So we joined the remaining five boats who would muster at Allington to catch the tide.

Throughout our cruise on the Medway, the convoy has been made welcome – whether because the locals saw us as mad, heroic or simply a strange curiosity washed up by the tide. The advance party which moored at the Rochester certainly made an impression at the Cruising Club bar…..

A clutch ? of Tin Slugs called in today at RCC for refreshments on their way back to the canals via The Thames. Moored to the rear of Rochester Pier after a trip right the way up the Medway to Tonbridge town centre and then by dinghy as far a Lucifer Bridge which is about as far as you can get on the river before you need a set of wellingtons to continue. The most adventurous bunch of folks you could ever wish to meet and prepared to push the normal boundaries of their chosen type of boating. Puts some of us to shame really.”

We can forgive them the “tin slugs” after all, we do call them “tupperware boxes”!

The weather forecast for the day was pretty grim – heavy rain – but the winds were predicted to be light so there was no reason to delay the convoy. The sky was sullen as we set off but as we headed downriver the heavens opened. Well, I thought they’d opened – it was a mere drizzle compared to what was to come later! It was a shame, we’d hoped to take a few last photos and enjoy the views before we left the river, but it was not to be😦

Bridges.....

Bridges…..

We stopped off for diesel at Allington Marina – they were not phased by the sudden influx of narrowboats as nb Arthur Dent stopped for fuel just after us. We reached our rendezvous point at Allington Lock with time to spare and topped up our water tank at the service point – as Andrew Phasey often tells us, full tanks are happy tanks on the tideway.

The lock keeper waved us into the lock early – it was easier for us to wait there than clutter the moorings. As we waited for the other four narrowboats to join us, the rain quadrupled in intensity – it became comedy rain – waterproofs weren’t enough, out came the umbrellas!

The rain did dampen the trip a little, but we were soon caught up in the fascination of the waterway. At first, the river is a reassuringly narrow green corridor, but by the time we reached Rochester we were looking out for the navigation buoys as the grey estuary expanded before us.

Further down, the River Swale runs into the Medway and we really had to keep an eye on the navigation buoys in order to get to the right river, let alone the right spot! Indigo Dream bristles with electronics nowadays, one app Richard has on his androids is some charting software called MxMarine. It tells you your position and speed all overlaid on a chart so you know where you are going, possibly, and what the depth of water is. There are loads of these apps available, they are not expensive compared to charts, there are good guides to them here for Android, here for IOS.

These forts are such useful landmarks :-)

These forts are such useful landmarks:-)

The weather stayed miserable, but the river was flat calm and we had a good passage to the “concrete lighter” and buoys at Queensborough that they use for mid-estuary moorings. The four short boats moored to a mid-river buoy while the rest of us brested up on the lighter. The mid-river mooring meant that we had to be hound-free for the cruise – Ollie had gone off to stay with the Beanz for the weekend.

Access to shore is via a free “trot boat” operated by Queenborough Harbour – you just VHF them and they pop out to get you! We had to be mindful of timing – the last trot boat runs at 9.30pm.

There was just enough time for us all to moor up and pop to the shore for a pub supper (pre-ordered) in the Flying Dutcham followed by a briefing for the Thames Estuary in the Queensborough Yacht Club (yes there is a bar). Considerable thanks needed to the organiser of the whole trip, Andy off Arthur Dent and the many that assisted, eg Simon (Scholar Gypsy) with trip planning and Dianne (Dragonfly) with booking the pub for a meal.

There wouldn’t be time for dessert on shore, so we all took the ferry back to the concrete lighter for a party! I was relieved that the rain had cleared away to leave a cool sunset. I’d promised to supply puddings for our party and Andrew Phasey provided us with plastic tiaras, medals and false moustaches (don’t ask!). We had a merry time of it, celebrating nb Panacea’s 30th birthday – she’s a diminutive narrowboat that has done big things, and her owner, Libby, beamed with delight as we sang happy birthday.

Party! I made a special jam featuring Kentish fruit to celebrate our convoy - enough for a jar or three per boat - it was popular!

Party! I made a special jam featuring Kentish fruit to celebrate our convoy – enough for a jar or three per boat – it was popular!

I was less joyful, as I’d come down with laryngitis the week before and was under strict doctor’s orders not to talk – much to the relief of many! It was so frustrating not to be able to fully join in the celebrations, but at least my puddings and jam could speak for me. Being as we were in the garden of England, I had made some commemorative jams for the boaters; “Medway Medley” 1 and 2 – featuring fruits bought from roadside stalls on our way to the boat – not all grown in Kent (it was a bit early) but a fitting tribute anyway.

We had a cruelly start in front of us, so maybe its just as well we had to break up the party for the last ferry to take four crews from the concrete lighter back to their boats on the buoy. We had a lightning fast clear up and went to bed – the alarm was set for 4.30am – time and tide etc….

Photoblog:

Look at that view, and flat calm too :-)

Look at that view, and flat calm too:-)

This boat, with owner Hamish, cruised across the channel to France the day after this photo was taken....

This boat, with owner Hamish, cruised across the channel to France the day after this photo was taken….

Our moorings at Queenborough - there are six narrowboats moored right in the centre of this photo :-)

Our moorings at Queenborough – there are six narrowboats moored right in the centre of this photo:-)

Sunset over the Isle of Grain - who would have thought such a severely industrial area could be so beautiful.

Sunset over the Isle of Grain – who would have thought such a severely industrial area could be so beautiful.

A fine raft of narrowboats...

A fine raft of narrowboats…

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016: Medway Musings

Posted by indigodream on 28 July, 2016

Sunday 29th May to Sunday 12th June

Flotillas of canoes are common...

Flotillas of canoes are common…

River Medway

I’m so behind with the blog I’m going to have to abandon a daily record of cruising in favour of some general musings. This is a shame, as the River Medway deserves fulsome praise – it is a really beautiful waterway with lots of historic interest.

Ah well, now that we’ve proved (again!) that narrowboats can make the journey safely, you’ll just have to visit it for yourselves – Indigo Dream will surely go back there.

We spent a fortnight on the Medway – it’s the closest waterway to our home in Surrey so we were able to just pop down for the odd evening on board. Sadly the weather was against us, but we had some good bimbles nonetheless.

Reflections...

Reflections…

Moorings and services:

After our epic 11 hour trip from Bow to Allington, we weren’t interested in moving the boat any further, so we spent our first night at Allington Lock, of course we did not go anywhere near the pub at any point in the mid afternoon, late afternoon, early evening or even late evening by just one member of the crew. There are two main stretches of mooring – on the lock you can book/buy a mooring from the lock-keeper for a reasonable fee (£12.50 per night). There are also free moorings outside the pub, a short distance upstream from the lock.

Allington Lock has good services – here’s a tip – if you’re stopping for water, use the tap on the upstream end of the service pontoon – it has very good water pressure; the tap in the service building (with an EA hose) has barely a trickle.

Watch out for these signs - there are overnight moorings below a few of the locks...

Watch out for these signs – there are overnight moorings below a few of the locks…

There are free 48-hour moorings at several of the locks, as well as sturdy mid-river mooring posts – neither suited us with the hounds; the mid-river ones are too far from the bank and the lock moorings tend to be below the locks and linked to shore by open mesh steel steps. It seems to be ok to have short stops (say lunchtime) on the moorings above the locks – most of these offered great access to the magnificent fields and woodlands nearby – perfect!

There are also some meadow moorings – many e.g. Teston, East Farleigh are owned by boat clubs and are crowded, however the narrowboat convoy found a very nice meadowside spot below East lock.

We also moored at Yalding, on the delightfully named “teapot island”; Tonbridge Town Centre also has great moorings – above Town Lock. There was a small charge (£5 per night) in Yalding, but the signage was a bit unclear as to where the fees started on the town

Meadow moorings below X lock

Meadow moorings below East Lock

moorings in Tonbridge. The council is busy putting in services at Tonbridge – the pump-out wasn’t working yet, but there was a useful water point and a rubbish disposal facility (currently an empty shed but there will be skips there eventually) – these are accessed using an EA key.

On our way back, we stopped at the ample town centre moorings in Maidstone. They had good access to the train station (Maidstone West) and felt very safe.

Impressions:

We were made welcome on the river, with an especially keen welcome from

Looking towards Tonbridge town moorings from Town Lock...

Looking towards Tonbridge town moorings from Town Lock…

the few resident narrowboaters, many of whom had had their boats lifted onto the water and viewed our trip down the estuary as heroic! There were ample moorings once we worked out what to look for and our convoy glided into river life with barely a ripple.

There were very few motorised boats on the move on the river and we largely had the locks to ourselves. However there were hundreds of kayaks and canoes – luckily these have canoe races to transport them down the locks and they are advised to portage back up. Flows at the locks are fierce!

The river is beautiful – it’s hard to compare it with anything as it has it’s own character – it was so green and fecund you could be in no doubt that you were in the garden of England. It has a frontier feel, and a sense of faded grandeur – all remnants of when Kent was both gateway to international trade and barrier to invasion. The ancient bridges are as fine as any on the upper Thames and the locks have the massive solidity of an infrastructure that has, at times, to deal with a serious amount of water.

View from the Teapot Island moorings in Yalding...

View from the Teapot Island moorings in Yalding…

On the more populated areas of the river, the narrowboats became a tourist attraction in their own right. At Allington and Tonbridge, in particular, we were beset by compliments and questions – it was flattering, as Indigo Dream is due to go for repainting in September and we think she’s looking well-travelled; but the people of Tonbridge thought she was “beautiful” – we’ll take that:-)

We did have an asbo moment in Tonbridge – four young lads throwing things into the river and jumping on a disreputable, derelict cruiser as if trying to sink it; then they set fire to an accelerant, maybe an aerosol, which made a tall plume of flame. When we, and the other narrowboaters, remonstrated with them, they hurled really foul verbal abuse then scarpered to an adjacent car park where they felt brave enough to throw things at us through the railings. We pointed out that they were doing this in front of CCTV cameras and that we had taken their photograph. Eventually, in the presence of a mob of boaters, they cycled off with threats to return – we called the police. They sent out a constable who was both concerned and sympathetic; the town is working hard to attract boaters and they genuinely wanted us to feel safe and welcome. We showed him the photos – unsurprisingly he knew who they were and there will be some “friendly” chats with parents in the offing! We were anxious after that – it was low level crime but just enough to make us feel uncomfortable;

Creeping under the Town Bridge in Tonbridge - plenty of room!

Creeping under the Town Bridge in Tonbridge – plenty of room!

however we didn’t have any other trouble apart from one incident of someone running along the boat roof in the middle of the night – we got up really quickly to check but we couldn’t see anyone running away – weird, but no harm done.

This tainted my view of Tonbridge; though the tough East London boaters felt that anything less than a gang fight with long knives was pretty small fry and thought the town was pretty civilised:-)

Pubs & Supermarkets:

I’m sure that there are many fine pubs to be had along the waterway, but we didn’t really visit them, often opting for eating on board. Tonbridge has a good range of pubs, restaurants and shops – it says a lot for the town that it can sustain a Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and a Lidl – all tastes and pockets catered for! We ate at a fine Chinese buffet in the high street and admired the food at the local Weatherspoons, which has a spacious and airy interior as well as gargantuan portions. We stopped briefly at the Anchor in Yalding, but there was a mix-up in the

But the next bridge defeated us - if we had taken the horn off we might have squeaked through...

But the next bridge defeated us – if we had taken the horn off we might have squeaked through…

kitchen and they stopped serving food around four hours before the time they advertised on their website – we were not impressed.

When we had the car, we went into Yalding Village and had a very good meal and a friendly welcome at the dog-friendly Walnut Tree pub.

However, the good pub award has to go to the breakfast at the Malta Inn at Allington Lock – it is the restaurant for the hotel next door and offers a massive breakfast buffet (cooked and continental) – a meal that would last a whole day for less than £10 – can’t ask for better:-) but be warned you will probably need to have a snooze afterwards.

The end of the navigation

We don’t know when we’ll be back, so we had to make the best of our time on the Medway. This included exploring the end of the navigation in Tonbridge; but the “end” of the navigation has many locations, depending on the water levels!

The first “end” is the stretch above Town Lock – if there is any fresh water coming down the river then there simply isn’t enough headroom to get a narrowboat under the Town Bridge. However, when we got there, river levels had

It is well worth exploring the right-hand branch that flows in the shadow of Tonbridge Castle - it's so beautiful...

It is well worth exploring the right-hand branch that flows in the shadow of Tonbridge Castle – it’s so beautiful…

dropped enough for us to get Indigo Dream (with full water tank and human ballast on the bow) under the bridge to the next “end” – the tranquil stretch in the very shadow of the remains of Tonbridge Castle.

We though this really was the end as the next bridge, a short distance upstream to the left, was too low for us by around half an inch, so we turned back. We did try to get under at different times when the river had gone down and we could load ballast i.e. guests, onto the front deck – to no avail.

We were a bit sad, as the second bridge gives access to a loop which would give an elegant end to the navigation. We considered going round the loop in the other direction i.e. turning right after Town Bridge, but we didn’t think there was anywhere to turn and we didn’t fancy reversing back.

Luckily we were wrong – a local trip boat advised us that we could take the right-hand branch and that there was ample turning space by the railway bridge.

Predictably, we went for it and this end of the navigation is a little gem. The river is winding and vibrantly green; it is barely wide enough for a narrowboat in places, yet the basin under the railway bridge is unexpectedly expansive as the navigation loops back to the left towards the low bridge and the main river carries on upstream to the flood barriers. Although it was only a short section, I’m so glad that we cruised it.

The end of the navigation (for us) - plenty of room to turn at the railway bridge...

The end of the navigation (for us) – plenty of room to turn at the railway bridge…

Cruising Companions

We haven’t had the boat in the Southeast for several years, so it was a golden opportunity to catch up with friends old and new. Of course, there were lots of people, but I’ll just mention the greyhounds – Ollie and Herbie became the only resident hounds to cruise the Medway; Kentish lass Peggy-Sue showed us the sights; Tara greyhound proved to her doting parents that she was a natural boater and that they should buy a narrowboat immediately! Old friends Stiggy and Poppy greyhounds became new Indigo Dreamers and took our tally of greyhound Indigo Dreamers over the 50 mark:-)

Was it worth it?

Yes! This is a river where the destination justifies the journey to get there. Of course, the journey is fab too so we really couldn’t lose.

We can see ourselves going back there; we might even moor there for a winter one year – it was such a joy to be less than an hour’s drive from home and to be able to share our Medway experience with local friends. Of course, we’ll need some company for the next estuary trip, if anyone’s interested and has been certified ……

Photoblog:

Cruising companions: Peggy-Sue is a natural boater :-)

Cruising companions: Peggy-Sue is a natural boater:-)

Resident hound Herie doing some Olympic lookin' - he doesn't normally leave his sofa but he did like to show off to the girl hounds we had on board :-)

Resident hound Herbie doing some Olympic lookin’ – he doesn’t normally leave his sofa but he did like to show off to the girl hounds we had on board:-)

Poppy in the classic "Indigo Dream" pose - she loved boating....

Poppy in the classic “Indigo Dream” pose – she loved boating….

Old man Stiggy living the dream...

Old man Stiggy living the dream…

Tara took to life on the water straight away - now her hu-mum can buy a boat :-D

Tara took to life on the water straight away – now her hu-mum can buy a boat😀

Sometimes the canoeists turned into narrowboaters and operated the heavy locks...

Sometimes the canoeists turned into narrowboaters and operated the heavy locks…

And sometimes narrowboaters (in this case the skipper of nb Gertrude) turn into canoeists and give the race a go...

And sometimes narrowboaters (in this case the skipper of nb Gertrude) turn into canoeists and give the race a go…

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Nice day for a cruise….

Posted by indigodream on 15 July, 2016

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