Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for July 13th, 2010

Boat Blog: From Barking Creek

Posted by indigodream on 13 July, 2010

Sunday 11th July

Barking Creek to Limehouse Basin

Rafting up ready for the off....

With two barbecues on the go at the boatyard, the sound of music and laughter drifted across the water until past midnight, other than that there was no noise at all. The moorings were very peaceful and we felt secure enough to leave the hatches open all night. Well, any would-be thief would have had to clamber over three barges and a host of young ladies sleeping on inflatable mattresses on the spacious deck of barge Lennard (nearest the shore). We were shockingly tired, just from the heat and an exciting day; we slept straight through until 9am and couldn’t rouse the energy to get out of bed until 10am! The dogs were similarly exhausted, but they cheerfully clambered over the barges for a quick visit to a useful Tesco which is literally five minutes away.

We were amazed and guilty to find that the debris of last night’s barbecue had already been cleared up – thank you!

Tesco is on the bank of the River Roding which flows into Barking Town Basin. Needless to say, the Tuesday Night Club has explored further upriver but we contended ourselves by looking over the river wall, enjoying the briny scent of the distant sea rising from the muddy waters.

Bye bye Bill, thank you for your hospitality..

We got the dogs back to the boat and I was relieved that it was the last time that we’d need to negotiate the greyhound assault course.

We were due to leave Barking at 12 noon. We were pointing the wrong way, so at 11.40am we cast off and turned in the town pool – the locals warned us about the weed – there were mats of  weed floating in the channel and then growing abundantly in the pool itself. It’s probably out of reach of the prop when the tide’s in but it was just at snagging height now.

We turned and moored up to another enormous barge to wait for the tidal barrage to open. Richard checked the prop – we’d snagged quite a bit of weed and were glad to be rid of it. I was bit concerned about picking more up on our way out of the basin but I needn’t have worried. The tide comes into the basin in two stages – a surge when the water overtops the weir, then a second surge when the barrage is opened. The water comes in at quite a pace and as we waited (with our engine off) we saw the mats of weed being swept upstream out of our way.

On our way...

We were relying on the barrage operator to let us out of the basin – there aren’t many boat movements here so apparently the timing can be a little random. In the end we didn’t get out until 1pm. This led to a certain anxiety at the other end of our journey as we needed to power upriver to get to Bow Locks in time. We had a contingency – if we didn’t have enough water to get through Bow Locks then we could go round the Isle of Dogs to Limehouse, which quite appealed!.

Once again the locals were out in force – this time to wave us farewell and call out their hopes that we would be back again next year. We’d love to come again but in our case it will be subject to finding a dog-sitter!

We enjoyed the return trip down the creek, trying to take in details that we’d missed yesterday – I’ll let the photos tell the story. We also concentrated on trying to get photos of the boats in our convoy. Yesterday we were spread out over quite a distance but today we had a bit of a delay going down the creek as one boat cleared their prop so the boats stayed much closer together today which made for easier photography!

The Thames downstream of Barking Creek mouth - will we ever take Indigo Dream a little further.....

I was about to regale you with an entertaining bit of chat off the VHF but then I remembered that the content of all messages is confidential, well, as much as messages on an open channel can be. Anyway, as we got back onto the Thames tideway we spotted four ‘sunseeker’ type cruisers coming down at high speed, obviously enjoying a race. London VTS will be delighted to know that they were on  the correct side of the river, which meant they were almost half a mile away from us – we weren’t troubled by their wash!

As we got further up the tideway we noticed a brisk breeze – the river frolicked with the wind, raising more than a few playful wavelets. One of the boats at the front of the convoy reported looking back and seeing “a swaying snake of narrowboats” – great image! We were bobbing up and down rather more than we would on a canal – luckily we’re not prone to sea-sickness! We got a bit of spray across the bows and a bit of diesel puffed out of the breather but I emphasise that the convoy was not in danger – it was just a bit of a novelty in a narrowboat! Indigo Dream handled beautifully and, once again, we were glad of a big engine and prop.

Creeping past the sleeping dragon of the Woolwich Ferry....

Because the convoy was more bunched today, the Woolwich ferries stayed at their moorings until we were all past (there wasn’t a ferry sized gap to be had). Funnily enough, this made it even more imposing as we cruised below the ferry on its mooring, feeling the vibration from its impatient engines.

Maybe it was the depth of the water, but the wash from the passing Clipper ferries seemed to take an age to cross over the tideway and had largely come to nothing by the time it reached us. Nonetheless we did get to enjoy the sight of the convoy turning as one to cross a small bow wave.

The trip upstream seemed to take no time at all (under 2 hours), and we were soon turning onto Bow Creek. I was very ambivalent – I wanted to stay on the Thames – it’s such a fantastic waterway. On the other hand, Bow Creek was much calmer, with none of the swell that we’d encountered on the main tideway.

I'll never tire of the sight of narrowboats going through the barrier...

As we turned into Bow Creek we noticed that the water was starting to drain away. We added a few more revs – we’ve been here before and have seen how fast the creek drains once the tide turns! We did look at the sights, but we mainly watched the water and the emerging mud……

We were very relieved to reach Bow Lock, but a little dismayed to find that the locking order had changed and that nb Flora Dora was waiting outside the lock and would go in with nb Barbara and nb Castor. This meant that there wouldn’t be room for us – as designated ‘tail end charlie’ we had to resist the temptation to ‘barge’ our way in! Fair play to the lock-keeper – he did signal us forward but in the end he had to concede that three 7ft wide narrowboats just won’t fit across what must be a 19 ft wide lock. We did appreciate his efforts though!

We waited below the lock – we urged the lock to fill and for the three narrowboats to move on. From our perspective they showed a desperate lack of urgency, though I’m sure that they moved off as quickly as they could 🙂

Blue and Lou were even less interested today....

Now we urged the lock to empty, anxiously looking out for the emergence of a sunken washing machine, an informal indicator that there’s not enough water over the cill for a narrowboat to enter. The lock gates opened and we crept in, waiting for the scrape on the cill, but we were fine. I can’t tell you how pleased we were to get into the lock – the thought of having to wait for 12 hours on the mud with two bored dogs really didn’t appeal.

Nb Peace of Pearce had waited lockside to see everyone in, and as we came up to canal level, they moved off towards their moorings along Limehouse Cut. The rest of the boats had already vanished, our convey was abruptly over! We had heard the two boats going through to 3 Mills so we got in touch with VTS and reported that we were all off the tideway after a thoroughly enjoyable cruise. Thank you again Andrew and the St Pancras Cruising Club!

SPCC are doing 4 tideway cruises in August, if you have never been on the tideway then have a look at their events page – click here. These organised convoys are a great way to experience the tideway.

We cruised back along Limehouse Cut in good spirits and Richard easily manouevered back into our mooring. We were welcomed by our new neighbours, who proved to be every bit as friendly as the Barking Creek crowd.

Instead of our usual sunday night dash for home, we enjoyed a relaxed evening on board, getting to know our neighbours and generally soaking up the marina’s ambience. The dogs were delighted to be back in the marina, with its easy access to the shore. Greyhounds have many ways of letting you know that they’re contented – when Lou rolled over to lie on her back with all four feet in the air, long tongue lolling onto her fluffy sheepskin, we knew that they hadn’t been irrevocably traumatised by their visit to the assault course.

We weren't the smallest boats on Bow Creek today...

We stayed the night on the boat – it’s a long story, but my cousin Denise and three of her friends had borrowed our house for a girlie weekend. I’m sure that their targets, Tunbridge Wells and Brighton, will never be the same again. Obviously it was a terrible hardship for us to spend the weekend on the boat 🙂

We had a quiet night, but we were woken up early by the sound of Monday morning planes coming in to land at City Airport. Just as well, Richard needed to get his car away from the parking (which is restricted on weekdays) and into the office. He took the dogs with him and I enjoyed a lie-in and then a morning’s cleaning. Richard’s drive to Croydon took just 1 hour and that included a quick walk round a park and the obligatory stop for a doggie sausage sandwich. The boat is now pristine and ready for the next load of guests, which may be next weekend, or maybe during the week – we’re not too sure, there’s a queue!!!

Waiting for the lock at Bow....

Bye bye Bow - our trip's over but we'll be back for another adventure on the 31st......

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