Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Another day at the Royal Docks

Posted by indigodream on 22 January, 2009

Monday 19th January

We’d been told that the decision on whether we’d be going for the lock would be transmitted at 5am. Having seen the dreadful weather forecast Richard sensibly set the alarm for ten to five. Just as well, the 5am text actually postponed the trip by 24 hours. If it had been a goer then you might have seen the first naked helmswoman! Instead we leapt straight back into bed. It’s only there that I can indulge in my favourite boating activity – lying in a comfy bed under a thick duvet listening to the rain hammering on the roof and thinking ‘glad we’re not out in that!’ The dogs seemed equally happy not to have to get up so we were a truly contented crew.

We eventually emerged at around 10.30am and sat around drinking coffee and eating hot cheese and bacon baguettes (food of the gods!) until nigh on midday. What a life! Made all the better, of course, by a phonecall from a colleague who was spending his Monday morning toiling down the M5 for a meeting – I tried not to sound too smug 🙂

Don't they look like toy boats in this huge dock!

Don't they look like toy boats in this huge dock!

We had no plans for the day other than our usual vague desire to make Indigo Dream more habitable so we set out for a chat with the others in the convoy and went for an explore with the dogs. We were a bit frustrated to find that it was known LAST NIGHT that we wouldn’t go out today as the Royal Navy were not going so no crew at the lock – we wish that little snippet could have been passed on.

But after such a luxuriously relaxed morning we forgave the communication management and happily made the best of the day. By now the weather was dry and breezy and we wondered whether we could have gone out in the morning after all. But as we walked round the dock and eventually got to the river the wind was very brisk and there would have been the added complication of the torrential rain, darkness and poor visibility. We had no regrets!

The view from Barrier Park - Tug Major going upstream

The view from Barrier Park - Tug Major going upstream

We walked around the dock with the dogs scampering around joyfully and Blue finding every gap in every wall that led to a car park or other forbidden area (as per usual). We walked round the dockside and marvelled at how tiny the narrowboats seemed from the other side. We were fascinated by the old dock structures and by the ‘Millennium Mills’ – a vast derelict building. We wondered when it was built – too modern to be ad999 and way to old to be ad1999!

There’s a lot of modern housing on the south side of the dock and it’s completely obliterated any traces of the relationship between the dock and the industries it served. What were the transport links? Was it just horse and cart, train, truck? Where did all these goods go? Once more we needed a pocket historian to tell us these things.

Our walk took us away from the dock and in trying to find a path back to the very end of the dock we found Barrier Park instead. This was a fine and well-fenced park adjacent to the Thames Barrier with a magnificent view of the river. Dogs had a great time here – it was secure enough to let them off the lead and big enough to make it worthwhile. Blue had his usual ‘I’m so independent, I’m not with them’ rummage while Lou went back to her roots and raced round on her own imaginary track, winning all the medals.

Richard thought the barrier looked small (without any boat to give it some scale!)

Richard thought the Thames looked small (without any boats to give it some scale!)

We had one of those serendipitous moments here.  As we were admiring the barrier and commenting that this was the perfect location for taking photos of the narrowboats passing through when we saw some small craft approaching from the East. It was Tug Major, dutch barge Young Adam and another anonymous widebeam who’d locked out early afternoon. We took lots of photos and waved madly – but they looked like matchstick boats to us so we must have been nigh on invisible to them. We made a resolution to look out for the park the next day when we went through the barrier. We were surprised to see them, they must have locked out of the Royal Dock at low tide and were toiling upriver. With a vigorous headwind the wide-beam had to work very hard in order to make any headway. In the meantime, Young Adam surged past them all with power to spare.

A commanding view of London from the 'flying' bridge

A commanding view of London from the 'flying' bridge. Tiny blue blob in the corner is Indigo Dream

We walked back via the flying bridge by Excel. It’s so high you catch a lift up to it and it gives a panoramic view of the docks and City Airport. Dogs don’t like the lift but they did enjoy a high level scamper across the bridge deck. By the time we’d admired the view we’d been out for the best part of two hours but the excitement wasn’t over yet. As we passed by Excel we spotted the helicopter again. It was being prepared for being lifted onto a truck for the return journey (too much local air traffic for it to actually fly home). Oddly enough, it was missing its rotors but still had a torpedo/bomb in its cradle! We had a chat with the Fleet Air Arm transport crew and found one who was intending to take a narrowboat along the Kennet and Avon later in the year. As we know the K & A very well he was given advice and directions until he glazed over. Seriously though, I think he’ll have a wonderful time. He’s starting from Bradford on Avon and is taking out a Royal Navy narrowboat. We thought instantly of the Royal Airforce narrowboat we met last summer – at least it make more sense for the navy to have one!

The as-yet undeveoped Millenium Mill; The floating pavilion belongs to the environment agency

The as-yet undeveloped Millenium Mill; The floating pavilion belongs to Thames Water!

We also had a chat with the crew of the Barnaby, one of our intrepid convoy, who have done some very interesting cruising. They told us a little about their trip across the Wash and how great it was. Richard’s eyes lit up with interest and I groaned – I can feel another adventure coming on, but only if he can work out how to keep two greyhounds happy on a non-stop 12 hour journey!

We got back to the boat with two very tired dogs and settled in for the day’s real activites – cleaning and DIY. We’re weren’t feeling terribly focused and distracted ourselves with a mini-cruise across the docks to the water point at the sailing school. There aren’t many facilities on the docks but the sailing school did let us fill with water and dispose of our rubbish. We gave one of Fulbourne’s more entertaining crewmembers a lift across with their toilet bucket, as the sailing school also let our convoy use their disposal facilities. Shame they didn’t have a pump-out. The water pressure was low and we got the chance to chew the fat with the man from the sailing school, Fulbourne’s crew and the crew of the Fair Fa. It was probably the most genial fill of a water tank that we’ve ever had.

Possibly the only mode of transport that Blue and Lou haven't tried...yet!

Possibly the only mode of transport that Blue and Lou haven't tried...yet!

Back at the mooring I did two of my ‘must-do’ jobs by clearing out the food cupboard and sorting through the linen store. I got rid of a load of out-of-date cupboard stocks, some of which must have been out of date when I bought them. I must get in the habit of checking all sell-by dates not just those of more perishable items. I also re-packed the guest linen into vacuum storage bags. These are brilliant – not only do they reduce the pillows and duvets to about a third of their volume (you suck out all the air with a vacuum cleaner) but they also stay dry and fresh. When I disintered one vacuum bag of sheets they came out as fresh as the day they’d been laundered. Not bad for a bag of linen that’s been stored in an unheated cupboard for the best part of 2 years. I must buy some more, but where do we get these quirky items now that Woolworths has closed?!

In the meantime Richard got into the bilges and vacumed out a load of rather mucky looking water in a smelly engine compartment. He didn’t tell me at the time but he was a bit worried that we’d developed a leak in the hull and were slowly sinking. The stern was certainly low in the water. I’m glad he didn’t tell me, there are some things I just don’t need to know! As it happens there was a different explanation.

An immense view to take you away from the minutiae of the toilet saga!

An immense view to take you away from the minutiae of the toilet saga!

Yes, I’m afraid it’s another toilet saga – it seems to be the season for them! In our case, we hadn’t realised that our toilet tank was full to bursting – the green light was on and we’d made sure we got a pump-out before the big trip. Alas, we hadn’t factored in that we’d done the pump-out before having the toilet serviced and that the engineers must have run a load of water through to check the connections. Anyway, the result was that the pressure had blown a tiny hose connection which happened to be the tank gauge and the toilet tank had happily been discharging into the bilges – nice! The loss of tank gauge hose and the easing of pressure into the bilges explained why the red light warning of a full tank didn’t come on until Richard re-connected it. So, Richard had unknowingly spent his afternoon up to his ankles in sewage and there was more to come before we finally twigged what the problem was.

The prospect of a rapidly filling toilet tank when we were moored in a place with no pumpout facilties spread the first bit of gloom and despondency. The next bit came when we realised that the Webasto was not coming on and that the boat was getting colder and colder. We tried allsorts but by 10pm we had to finally admit that our heating was dead. This made us extremely gloomy – we were ok under our super-thick duvet but I was concerned about the dogs. We draft-proofed the boat (and no, we didn’t block the vents) padded their beds, wrapped them in their coats and pyjamas then covered them with two blankets each. You won’t be surprised to hear that they were absolutely fine!

With the prospect of a 5.15am alarm call on Tueday morning we went to bed feeling cold and less than happy – an extremely rare state on the Indigo Dream…….


The sheer scale of this river is astounding

The sheer scale of this river is astounding

Dutch Barge Young Adam and an unnamed wide-beam braving the barrier

Dutch Barge Young Adam and an unnamed wide-beam braving the barrier

One Response to “Another day at the Royal Docks”

  1. Bill Rodgers said

    “Young Adam” is available for sale at Appolo Duck if you are interested in learning more about her. Sounds like a nice boat. (No, I don’t get a commission on the sale, I was just curious.)

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