Sunday 27th December
Teddington to the Fox pub, Grand Union Canal
The Thames is a moody lover – last week the river was seducing me with it’s grand shores but today it was back on red boards along most of its length, including the bit from Kingston to Teddington. Thank heavens we’d resisted the urge to moor further upstream – we’d have been stuck! As it happens we were moored on the Teddington Lock moorings, far enough forward to be protected from the main river’s flow and the pull of the vast weir.
We were booked through Thames Lock (Brentford) at 11am so the plan was to arrive at the boat by 9am, faff around for an hour then go through Teddington Lock at 10am. The roads were deserted and we had a quick trip up to the boat so we actually managed to fulfill our schedule! Unfortunately, the high tide was working to a different clock….
We’d thought that high tide was at 9.55am – just in time for us to catch it on the turn; unfortunately, the tide had actually turned at 9.20am so we had a super-fast trip downriver, swept by the combined force of the ebbing tide and the meltwater flowing downriver.
But ignorance is bliss, so we carried on faffing around on the boat until our scheduled departure time. There were important things to be done….
Santa was very inspired this year and my Christmas stocking contained the best present ever – electric (12v) wrap-around hand warmers – traditionally used on motorbike handlebars but also perfect on the tiller! Richard fixed this wondrous device just before we set out and I had toastie hands all day – wonderful! In fact, I had to wear gloves because the hand-warmer gets too hot (though it has a useful toggle on/off switch so I could adjust the heat accordingly)! We need to work out a more elegant way of connecting the device to the batteries but the cabling that Richard rigged up today worked just fine and made me a very happy woman indeed. I am now thinking of what else I could keep warm by connecting it to the battery – oooh er missus!
Of course, Santa’s posh sister also supplied the boat with very nice Molton Brown toiletries so that we wouldn’t seem too shabby when cruising, so that also had to be installed!
Finally, we were very curious as to how our batteries were faring. Herbie’s been very informative in this post, even so, we were surprised that our batteries had gone down to 44% in our absence (9 days) – is that just the Webasto and the automated bilge pump drawing power, the cold weather or some other unexplained power drain? We’ll see how it goes this week – everything’s switched off (including the automated bilge pump – glug glug, there she goes to the bottom….) and the starting power after today’s cruise is 94%.
Opinions seem to vary as to whether you need to talk to London VTS for the trip to Brentford. We couldn’t get through on our vhf radio from Teddington so Richard rang them, they probably were not too busy so he had a little chat. They definitely do want to know and are very helpful; they seemed pleased that we had a fixed vhf set though I have to say reception was really bad today.
Oh, we noticed in passing that the sunken wreck at Teddington Lock moorings had not been removed – I thought that maybe it had shifted a bit so maybe they tried and failed – who knows! I’m glad that they told us they were thinking of moving the wreck though – that’s what prompted us to moor so far forward which was very useful given the river conditions.
As I mentioned, we got onto the tideway about 40 minutes after high tide but there was still plenty of water in the river and we didn’t have to trouble the lock-keeper at Richmond. The river didn’t seem too bad, Indigo Dream was handling well, though the tiller was a tad heavy (as it often is on the river). It wasn’t until we passed by the bridges and moored boats at Richmond that we realised how fast the water was rushing out of the river – piling up against the upstream edge of the bridge piers. It was quite a sight and a useful guide to the rate of flow.
At Richmond Bridge, only the centre arch is marked as navigable – I had to resist a strong temptation to cruise under the unmarked right-hand arch. Two rowers were toiling upstream in an old wooden bathtub and came dead centre through the navigable arch – I had to hang back out of the way and nip in behind them (right across the river) to get the correct arch (makes sense when you see it). That’s when the force of the river became really tangible – when I was almost broadside to the current with the flow sucking the boat towards the bridge pier…..
Actually, that’s all rather dramatic, Indigo Dream’s got plenty of power, and because we’d got an idea of the speed of the flow earlier it was easy to compensate and get through the bridge cleanly. It did add a little frisson though…..
We enjoyed the tideway as always, more particularly because the sailors weren’t out today and there were very few rowers – how nice to have one’s river to oneself!
We seemed to arrive at Brentford in no time at all. I had been concerned about whether the strength of the flow would make it difficult to turn off the river, but it was fine. I think it’s all about being aware of the how much the boat will be tugged downstream when she turns broadside to the flow and maybe starting the turn a little earlier than usual.
Despite being booked, Brentford Lock wasn’t set for us so we needed to hover just outside while the lock-keeper emptied the lock for us. I was surprised by how nicely Indigo Dream hovered – she just stopped dead in the water and stayed there – that never happens, not even on the lazy canals!
We’d been musing about how far to cruise today – Richard has found a gas-safe engineer to come and sort out BSS issues; he’s based at Moseley but willing to travel to Brentford, so we needed to find an accessible spot not too far up the canal. We plumbed the Thames lock-keeper’s local knowledge – there was no chance of getting a spot at the Brentford visitor moorings – all full. He also gave us a very good reason for not mooring in the shelter of the trans-shipment warehouse – pigeons! Apparently they roost in large numbers in the roof and coat moored boats with paint-stripping guano. He did suggest mooring above Clitheroe’s Lock (there is a boat there already, looking secure and unmolested) but we decided to go up to the Fox moorings (2 locks up) and have lunch in the pub.
This was a good decision. Although we were having the perfect day, Blue was having a perfectly rotten day. He wanted to stay and rummage in the riverside park in Teddington – he didn’t want to be on the boat and complained loudly and incessantly (whining and barking like a girlie pekingese – what a racket) for nigh on the whole cruise. Going up to the Fox meant that he could have some lockside rummages and join us for lunch in the pub. Lou, in the meantime, didn’t seem too keen to cruise either, but she just quietly perished of despair on her sofa…..
We had a cruise up the quiet canal – there wasn’t another boat on the move, but the towpath had plenty of walkers – it’s so good to see the canal being used in this way. The locks were set against us, but with such an easy target for the day it hardly mattered. Indigo Dream handled exceptionally well today (or maybe I’ve finally got the hang of the warm tiller!), the weather was dry, we had a welcome bit of sunshine and how nice it was to be in the fresh air – another magic day. There was also far less garbage in the water today and Richard says that the lock mechanisms have been newly greased so BW’s really been busy since we passed this way a scant fortnight ago.
We were relieved to see plenty of space to moor by the gap in the path which leads to the pub! There are a few long-term moorers on the towpath here but no other visitors. Just as well, we need to leave the boat here for a week or so until the gas engineer can come and the boat’s just nicely accessible here.
Richard had pre-ordered a cab so as soon we moored he went back to collect the car from Teddington; this gave me an hour to pack the boat and wash the floor, which was quite black after our recent moorings in pretty muddy spots; aah maybe I should add a comma – we’ve been moored in pretty, muddy spots 🙂
It was all very efficient, though it did mean that I had to listen to Blue complaining for another hour!
With a good dinner in the offing we left the boat in record time and went off to the pub. The Fox is dog-friendly and has a really welcoming atmosphere – no wonder it’s so busy. We managed to get a table with just enough room to settle the dogs onto their sheepskins. We had the Sunday roast – huge portions and very good.
We were all thoroughly stuffed by the time we left the pub (the dogs had enjoyed some leftovers including mashed potato) and we hastened home to sit and snooze in front of the telly. Simon (our hero of the trip down to Brentford) texted while we were on the M25, offering his crewing service again – curses we’d missed him. We’ve only just started up the Hanwell though so maybe we’ll see him for the next leg…….
We’re all contentedly loafing around at home now – the human crew members are watching rugby on the telly and the dogs are stretched out on their duvets – fast asleep. We’re a bit mystified as to why they’re so tired at the moment. Then again, they may have had an exciting Christmas Day – we left them at home while we went to Richard’s sister. We diligently double locked the front door but accidentally left the back door wide open, so they had unrestricted and unsupervised access to our back garden and field (fortunately they couldn’t get out of the garden). We don’t know whether they stayed indoors all day wondering why it was so draughty or whether they spent the entire day chasing squirrels….
Happy New Year to you all 🙂