Indigo Dreaming

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Boat Blog: Cowley to Paddington

Posted by indigodream on 22 October, 2009

Thursday 15th and Friday 16th October

Boat Blog: Cowley to Paddington Basin

Aha, the odyssey might be over but our cruising isn’t! We’re expecting to be on the move winter really but we’ll be mooching around London (from whatever winter base we eventually go for) rather than travelling with the great sense of purpose that we associate with the odyssey.


As some of you will have noticed, we’re planning a charity cruise on Saturday and we’ve had 7 takers.

So, Indigo Dream was definitely due another deep clean. I’d already washed all of the dog beds but there was the usual accumulation of fluff on the floor so I resolved to have some time alone on the boat without the dogs underfoot.

I had a good journey up on the Thursday night – the roads were deserted and I found the perfect parking space by bridge 189. It wasn’t far to onload the heaps of dogs beds – we were being joined by a third greyhound and their comfort was obviously paramount!

It was so mild in Uxbridge compared to where we live in Surrey – I sat on deck for a while, just enjoying the peace of the mooring. But then the fluff beckoned – I got half the boat clean before giving up for the night, but I felt better for it. Although I was alone I had a peaceful night’s sleep – it’s a great mooring spot.


The plan was for me to set out early in order to get to Paddington by early afternoon. Ah well, you know me and early, it all started so well but Richard had been very thorough with the mooring and it took me half an hour to hammer the pins out of the ground and hack the chain out of the piling. Never mind, it was a mild dry morning and the canal was mine to enjoy, for a while anyway.

It was no effort to do this cruise single-handed – there are no locks and Indigo Dream knows the way, it’s her home turf. I meandered along, enjoying the morning and the familiarity of the waters. I was interested to pass by the aggregate wharf where a working narrowboat had just had her cargo of sand unloaded. She’d passed me earlier, fully laden and impossibly low in the water, now her prow was sticking up in the air! I wondered how she managed to move, and her owner told me that they’d dredged the centre of the canal hereabouts which made a big difference. I can well imagine.

Later on I caught up with a wide beam hire craft; it was being well driven and going at a nice speed so it wasn’t a bother to follow her. She turned onto the Paddington Arm at Bulls Bridge and I wondered whether to stop at Tesco’s and let her have a head start. But the moorings were pretty full so I pressed on; there were two canalside Sainsbury’s on my way so shopping wouldn’t be a problem.

I carried on down, musing about how sensational this canal is – sound, sight, smell and touch – all stimulated by the canalside bustle. At one point there was the clatter of a train going over a bridge, the shushing of car tyres over the nearby road bridge and the squealing roar of a plane coming in to land at Heathrow. In the meantime, the tiller felt silky smooth as Indigo Dream followed her familiar route into town. There are many canalside food factories, bathing the water with the sharp smell of curry and, later on, the unctuous perfume of sugary waffles. There’s plenty to see, the gleaming arch at Wembley, the grey traffic jam that is the North Circular and the soft green of the overgrown vegetation, slashed in places with the shocking scarlet of Virginia Creepers, hanging from derelict factory walls.

As I cruised along, Dylan Thomas’ famous words kept insinuating themselves into my thoughts – “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower”. Yes, that’s this canal, once full of the force that drove these industries, now dormant, dormant not dead – will it ever wake and be a driving force again?

Anyway, as I was drifting along the Paddington Arm I became aware of another more immediate impulse and bought Indigo Dream into a quick 1-pin mooring for a quick pit stop. A boat behind me asked if I was ok – that was kind of him; if I’d needed to get to the prop I’d have needed a longer arm to help me. As it happened I was fine!

Sadly, soon after my impromptu stop I caught up with a narrowboat taking a slow and erratic course along the canal. I caught up with her in neutral, actually, I caught up with her in reverse! But opportunities to overtake were few because of the lengths of online moorings. I was so pleased when they decided to turn around at Black Horse. If they’d gone into Paddington I’d still be cruising!

As always I enjoyed the scenery around Perivale – it’s one of my favourite spots along here.

I stopped off at Sainsbury’s in Alperton. There are plenty of mooring spaces here and I topped up with supplies for our cruise. They were selling off hot chickens cheap – now I knew that the greyhounds would be happy to come on board later. By the time I’d done the shopping I was well behind schedule, but I stayed here for lunch anyway – that hot chicken smelled too good to ignore!

I set off for the last leg of the trip and had the canal to myself. I didn’t write down the location, but I noticed that they’re putting in a new footbridge to serve a new housing development. It looked like a big project – they’ve put in a section of floating towpath to bypass the works. I was surprised by how fast the cyclists passed over the floating pontoons – I slowed down so as not to rock them off!

I found the section through Kensal Green to be a bit bleak – the graffiti vandals have been out in force and there wasn’t a flat surface that wasn’t covered in their scribblings. I found it to be particularly unappealing, especially when three youths decide to spit on the boat off a footbridge coming through Kensal Town. I could see they were planning something – I suppose I should be glad it was just spit, one of them looked like he was getting into position to wee on the boat! And all this was in broad daylight, off a busy footbridge with lots of other passersby. Only one bit of slobber hit the roof, I’m afraid I yelled at them, I was so angry and upset. Ok, it’s not the harm done, it’s the attitude behind it. We’ve never had any trouble here before.

Anyway, I was soon approaching Little Venice and I was looking forward to mooring. I had a heavy heart after the gobbing incident and regular readers will know that I find it very hard to let go of these things.

Fortunately I was forced to let go of it, I was on a mission to find a mooring spot in Paddington Basin and I was arriving at 5.40pm, much later than I’d intended. I managed to drop the garbage off  then started looking for moorings in earnest. I went right down into the basin and was excited to see two potential moorings. I turned Indigo Dream around at the end of the basin and uhm’d and ah’d over which mooring to go for. I plumped for the one that I could drive into, only to get it completely wrong before realising that the space was three feet too short – what an idiot. I redeemed myself by reversing into the other, more tricky mooring spot, earning Richard’s praise when he turned up a little later with the dogs.

We stayed in for the evening, finishing our chores and making sure that the boat was ready for tomorrow’s visitors – we had a busy day ahead…..

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