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Archive for August 2nd, 2010

Boat blog: A feast of boats, hounds and sausages (Part 2)

Posted by indigodream on 2 August, 2010

Saturday 31st July – a ring with a difference…

Our afternoon cruising plan (thanks to Andrew Phasey for giving me permission to publish his map)....

Three Mills was a grand sight today – the cut was festooned with narrowboats, all joining the flotilla being allowed, for the first time, to pass through the brand new City Mills Lock. We brested up to nb Lynx and clambered on shore for an informal briefing by Andrew Phasey, Commodore of the St Pancras Cruising Club. A total of 32 boats with 90 crew were taking part – what a great event. There were so many boats that we had to lock out of Bow in ten separate groups. We were ‘tail end Charlie’ again, along with our previous locking companions, nb Barbara. Being in the last locking gave us plenty of time to explore our surroundings, fill up with paninis, walk the dogs and watch the rising tide of water and narrowboats sweeping up the river Lea. It took so long to lock the convoy through that nb Doris Katia had made it round the ring and finished her cruise before we’d even got into the first lock.

Ah, we could have wished that our transit of the ring had been so fast, but I’ll come back to that later!

In the end, we locked out of Bow by ourselves – the tide was so high by now that we only had to drop by about 1″! We’ve never turned left into the River Lea before. The turn was quite something – the river was wide and running fast with the incoming tide – it was impossible to turn too sharply as Indigo Dream heeled dramatically into the turn. I had to hastily re-organise the ballast (Andy and Richard!) and we were off, following the incoming tide towards Three Mills. I handed the helm to Greygal – if you enjoy helming a narrowboat then you just have to get your hands on a tiller on the tideway – it’s a great feeling.

The Lea looks great when it’s full of water and, from this angle, the Three Mills looked ready to harness the power of the tide, as they have for many centuries. There’s not much left of the working mills now but it was a grand sight. We turned right up the Lea and followed the District/Metropolitan & City Line upriver – we waved at the tube trains – one driver beeped back – result! I think that boats are a rare sight on this stretch.

We caught up with the convoy outside the enormous Three Mills Lock (formerly known as Prescott Lock). The gates were shut and the red light was on. Greygal did a good job of hovering – keeping Indigo Dream steady despite the tide, the wind and the wash from a little speedboat whizzing excitedly along the river. We had a long wait, 20 minutes or more, we had plenty of water but I was watching out for the turning tide – this river drains quickly!

We were eventually waved into the lock – Three Mills Locks is huge – the six waiting narrowboats fitted in easily – I believe there’s room for up to nine if needed – three in line and three abreast. We tied to a handy post and we locked down to the level of the Prescott Channel. The lock opened but we were advised to wait where we were. A queue had built up at the new City Mills lock and it would be easier to wait in the lock than on the barren navigation.

Annie came and explained about the delay getting us into Three Mills Lock – the mission control houston type control panel monitoring the radial gates at the north end keeps thinking that the west gate is open by 1 degree, well it is not quite so simple – it sounds like it mostly thinks the west gate is open but on occasions it decides that the east gate is open. The lock is impressive with big radial gates, sophisticated flood control monitoring but the contractor has left bolts on the ladders un-tightened, there is some cracking in the concrete, the sophistication of the system makes you wonder will it still be working in 200 years?

Looks this is not fair. Humans have the furniture at home so why is a human on our sofa?

The Three Mills Lock has had a fair amount of stick in the past eg see Narrowboatworld. There does seem to be daily traffic going through it but it is not getting the traffic it deserves. It looks like BW have tried very hard to encourage people to use the waterways, there has been very little take up. You can wonder why? It is clearly late – for example they should have opened City Mill and Carpenters Road locks right at the start so they could have been used to move spoil from Carpenters Road to the Press Centre site and that would have given freight an early boost. Even now BW have not had funding to dredge the length of waterway from City Mill Lock past the Olympic Stadium to Old Ford yet with the park being able to process “contaminated” ground it would have been such a cost effective exercise, but that sort of thinking takes team work …..

Freight by water does not seem to be taking off. Lots has been written by knowledgeable people which I won’t repeat other than giving some more local gossip. In the early days aggregate for concrete was coming up from china clay spoil heaps in the west country, great, a re-use of waste so very desirable. It came up by train but for “logistical” reasons it was being off loaded in Central London then making the last bit of the journey by truck, presumably because there are no transshipment facilities left in London. We think it now comes by train the whole way, which is good, but could it not have come by a mix of boats the whole way? These two big sites (Olympic Park and Westfield’s Stratford City development) have needed vast quantities of materials over the last few years so investment in locks and wharfs should have been justified. There does seem to be a lack of coordination and will in government when it comes to waterways e.g. see this British Chamber of Commerce publication, though BW seem to be inventive in securing funds which include, yes Carpenters Road Lock- see this report.

Lucky we’d had the chance to walk the dogs earlier – we ended up waiting in Three Mills Lock for over an hour, but at least we were off the tideway and didn’t need to worry about being left on the mud! Richard had a little wander around the lock – it has an impressive ‘control tower’ – we’re not sure that the level of boat traffic warrants it, but it does look good! In the meantime, lock-keeper Annie came on board and gave each of our hounds a good fuss – Annie loves greyhounds!

Three Mills Lock is pretty interesting, but not that interesting! After a while Greygal and A started the modern-day equivalent of ‘ I spy’ – using an ‘App’ on their I-phone to identify the planes passing overhead! The greyhounds were contented enough – they were circling between the six beds indoors and the 3 sheepskins on deck – it’s a hard life! However we had to delay feeding them until we got to a place where they could get out for post-prandial wees – locks with high walls just aren’t dog-friendly.

Assembling the convoy at Three Mills....

After a long wait, Annie the lockie told us that the queue at City Mills Lock was down to four boats so we could start to creep forward. It was interesting to look back at the Three Mills mooring club – they suffered considerable disruption while Three Mills Lock, and associated weir, were being built. They’re no longer a tidal mooring but apparently they still have a few issues when BW sometimes change the level of the lagoon on short notice.

The Prescott Channel/Three Mills Wall River (between Three Mills lock and City Mills lock) carries signs of its industrial heritage, with high wharves, monumental mooring bollards and thick mooring ‘posts’ in the quay walls. Three Mills lock and its associated ‘furniture’ all suggests a massive transport endeavour, with giant barges taking the load off the roads. But the road bridge carrying Stratford High Street over the navigation has very low headroom, the draft into the lock is not good (3′ 11″ over one cill) and the navigable channel is far from wide. There are inexplicable contrasts here – Three Mills Lock can take the equivalent of 9 narrowboats, the brand new City Mills lock can only take 2 (hence the earlier jam) – so what’s the optimum size of vessel that they expect to accommodate here?.

While we waiting below City Mills Lock, our old friends, the Olympic security rib, came into view – they were shepherding the boats through the lock and making sure that none of us turned right for a quick look at the Olympic sight – spoilsports! They came up to us and asked are we the boat with the greyhounds? Having just seen the comments on the last post I now understand why!!! Thanks nb Peace of Pearce! Actually thinking about it, we were quite lucky as dogs are not allowed inside the Olympic Park construction boundary, the last time Richard drove in with Blue & Lou he looked in his rear view mirror to see a whole load of Ghurkas running after him as he should not have been allowed in with them 🙂

We locked up the 18 inches or so up to the Bow Back River, it seemed to take an age, and reluctantly turned left towards the Lee navigation.  I was surprised there were still working industrial units on the ‘Olympic island’ – I thought that everything on the island was to be flattened and made as new. However a quick look at the plans shows that the Olympic park only covers the island north of the railway tracks – goodness knows what’s planned for the south but it still looks like a bit of industrial dereliction at the moment. I was in the mood to think ‘good for them’ because industry has to go somewhere! The banks to the right were flanked with swanky high rise apartments – these were still under construction the last time we cruised this way.

We finally joined the rest of the convoy at 7.30pm-ish. The front runners had already set up the barbecue and the party was in full swing, with tall glasses and tall tales being swapped amiably between the crews. We joined with our six hounds and their sheepskins – I can reliably report that sausages were scoffed!

There was a fine atmosphere at the party – we’d all been part of something quite historic. It’s the opening of a new lock, in itself a rare event, and, unless there’s another convoy, the Bow Back River, and City Mills Lock, will now be barred to leisure boats until well after the Olympics. My cynical self can’t help but feel that the locks have been built for the green headline – I don’t think that there are actually that many barge movements to/from the Olympic Park and we haven’t seen any firm assurances that the Bow Back river will ever be opened for leisure navigation again. We’re very pleased that we joined this convoy – if you weren’t there and have the opportunity to do it another time then do join in. Would we do it again? No, it took too long a time for too little reward, but if they open the whole length of the Bow Back River then you’ll see us at the head of the queue…..

It was after dark when we finally cruised back into Limehouse and negotiated our way into our mooring. Our twilight cruise down Limehouse Cut was surprisingly pleasant – the towpath denizens were friendly and interested and we had no bother at all. Richard ably manoeuvred us into our berth and the day was over. It was nearly 11pm and we’d been out on the water for over 12 hours – that’s 12 hours, with six greyhounds, in a narrowboat, without any incidents or cross words/woofs. Next time we’ll try it with Greygal’s full pack and see if we can’t fit 8 greyhounds into a narrowboat….

Photoblog:

The first boats onto the tideway - at 3.12pm - watch how the water levels changes as the time goes by...

The next lock - 3.26pm

Waiting above Bow Lock...

The 3.40pm locking - the lockies were very efficient in Bow...

The 3.50pm lock -the lock is speeding up as the tide comes in - the levels were near equal by the time we got through....

nb Eclipse going up at 4.02pm...

Another 4.02pm boat....

A shoal of little boats came through at 4.13pm

nb Moonshadow at 4.13pm

The last of the 4.13pm lock....

Felonious Mongoose looking mighty fine - it's 4.21pm now....

nb Felonious Mongoose's locking partner...

The 8th Locking at 4.27pm...

nb Peace of Pearce - these good folk were very kind to our hounds in Barking so that makes them top people in our book - we'll have to arrange a social some time - they're moored nearby....

nb Doris Katia arriving back at 4.28pm - we haven't locked out of Bow yet!

4.36pm - and we're off - look at all that water....

Leaving Bow Locks on our left and heading up the River Lea...

First of the low bridges - the District/Hammersmith and City tube lines...

Great view of Three Mills at high tide - it looks beautiful and functional from here, less the historic remnant discarded on the main navigation...

We've been warned that we might see dodgy characters lurking in the bushes around here - oops, sorry Andrew, didn't recognise you 🙂

The high walls of the River Lea...

Waiting outside Three Mills Lock - it's only a 15 minute trip up from Bow...

Novel view - 3 humans on deck (the 3 hounds are at our feet) - that's the tube line in the background...

Fine - but our sort of boats aren't allowed anywhere near the park, and probably won't be until well after the games are over - bah humbug!

View back from Three Mills Lock...

State of "new" concrete at Three Mills Lock

Three Mills lock is quite large.....

I think these are the mechanisms for the adjoining flood gate - they look like giant telescopes from here!

'Aerial' view on Prescott Channel from the control tower....

'aerial' view back over the Lea..

Bazalgette's genius - ornate sewage pumping works...

" I spy with my little eye...." - a Singapore Airlines A380 - that's a BIG plane!

The Three Mills mooring club....

View up towards Stratford High Street....

The headroom was around 2.4metres today - plenty for us!

The view up Three Mills Wall/Waterworks River - and the security rib to stop up from trespassing (and on rabies watch)!

nb Barbara in the jaws of the new City Mills Lock....

City Mills Lock....

Wonder why they need two sets of bottom lock gates....

Enticing view up the closed section of the Bow Back River - it's exactly as we remember it, narrow, windy and weedy!

Leaving City Mills Lock...

Wending our way back along the Bow Back......

The celebratory barbecue in full swing...

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Boat Blog: A feast of boats, hounds and sausages (Part 1)

Posted by indigodream on 2 August, 2010

Friday 30th July & Saturday 31st July

Friday….

Lynx's boat bed - got enough duvets?

Today’s adventure was bringing Lynx, our foster dog, to the boat for the first time. He’d had an exciting day – a long walk in the morning, an afternoon in Richard’s office (being fussed by his dog-loving staff and being fed sausages), then an evening on the boat. True to form, he was fine, he didn’t balk at the bounce of the floating pontoons or the sway of the boat. He was a bit perturbed by the lack of space inside but cheered up when we put down a generous layer of yoga mat, duvets and sheepskins – all a dog needs. The bit of hot chicken he had later was entirely surplus to requirements. Blue and Lou were their usual relaxed selves – they’ve let Lynx into the pack without as much a little growl of protest.

We ate on board for a change and plumped for an early night – we had a busy day planned for Saturday…..

Saturday (Part 1 – the East London Ring – backwards!)

Our early night was wasted as some youths decided to gather at the lock up to the Regent’s Canal and fart around until 3am. They were a distance from the moorings and no bother to anyone but they were so LOUD and sound really carries over the water. I was a bit disconsolate when I woke up on Saturday morning – we needed an early start and it was pouring with rain – we’d left the side-hatch open and the curtains were damp – d’oh. However, by 9.30am it was sunny on all fronts – the rain stopped, the clouds broke and we were joined by today’s guests – Greygal, A and three of her ‘famous five’ greyhounds – Arthur, Miffy and Ranger; the last of her pack, Susie and Monty were grounded so they couldn’t come out to play – another day.

We introduced the dogs on neutral territory before welcoming them on board. Indigo Dream was quite a sight – we needed six greyhound beds – two on the sofa, then four on the floor – the boat was lined with duvets, leaving a narrow greyhound-free corridor for us to navigate. This corridor was later blocked by Ranger, who enjoyed a cool floor and prime spot in front of the fan! The sight of our collective pack, all getting on well, made me so happy and proud – they’re a great breed!

Many of the photos have three dogs (Arthur, Blue and Miffy in this case). It's almost impossible to get all six in the lens!

With the boat full of hounds, and the humans full of lattes, we set off towards the Regent’s Canal. We got to a shaky start, we shared the lock with a nameless narrowboat who  generously observed our crew doing all the hard work – they never lifted a finger, or offered to lift a finger. Richard got a bit cross as the performance was repeated at the next lock. Fortunately we lost them at the next, when we caught up with another boat – they were on their way to Cowley – that’s a big day’s cruise. They proved to be great locking companions and I’m sorry that we weren’t going further with them.

But back to the first lock – it was memorable because greyhound Miffy mistook a thick blanket of duckweed for grass. She just plunged right into the canal and was totally submerged – oh my goodness, what a relief when her head bobbed up and Andy was able to grab her collar and hoick her out. I can tell you now that there’s nothing quite as pathetic as a wet greyhound. She got rubbed down and wrapped in a blanket ’til she was dry – poor hound! For the faint hearted, that was the last hound incident of the day!

We seemed to have such a quick trip up the Regent’s canal – Greygal and A are good company and efficient crew. The dogs had a bobble at the locks, including Greygal’s three, who are normally kept on board. The six hounds behaved impeccably, well, near enough, the odd dog did have an odd wander and Ranger forgot his name sometimes! Blue and Lou are well used to our locking routine, but we were surprised by how Lynx adapted to the canal – he seemed to enjoy the cruising and the lockside rummaging. He got a lot of fuss – in character he’s nearer to Lou than to Blue i.e. Lynx is a total tart. Greygal says if we don’t end up keeping him then he can come and live with her! Oh, I should mention that Lou was offered yet another home by a passersby on the towpath. Aren’t we lucky that Blue’s so loyal!

By now, some of the greyhounds had decided that they wanted to be close to the crew on deck. We carpeted the rubber matting with sheepskins and ended up with a layer of greyhounds loafing around in the sun – Arthur, of course, that’s his spot on Indigo Dream, then, alternately Lynx, Miffy and Ranger – on average we had three hounds on deck and three indoors. Passersby were amazed by the three hounds visible on deck – they could hardly believe that there were more inside!

Lynx helping out with the locking...

Greygal’s a great helmswoman but she handed the tiller to me for the turn into Duckett’s Cut – the entrance to the cut does look like a hole in the wall! But it’s plenty wide enough and I turned Indigo Dream without making a complete fool of myself (phew!). The music festival is still droning on at Victoria Park but today’s cruise was not a reprise of last weekend. The lock ahead of us was occupied and there were several boats coming along behind us – we’d joined the great exodus towards the afternoon’s cruise.

We turned right onto the Lee navigation and joined the queue for Old Ford Lock – along the way the crew of moored boats greeted us and asked whether we were joining the convoy. It promised to be a jolly afternoon. We stopped off by the northern outfall and took another walk to Viewtube – Greygal and A enjoyed the Olympic sight but our ‘tour’ was frequently interrupted by people asking questions about the greyhounds – they’re good ambassador for the cause.

We had to cut short one ‘hound’ discussion because we had to dash down to Three Mills for part 2…..

Photoblog:

Lots of hounds photos – if you’re more interested in boat photos then check out the next post – part 2 of our cruising day….

A rare photo of all six hounds....

We think that this display is part of the Hackney Wicked arts festival - http://www.hackneywicked.com/

Ranger and Miffy...

Greyhounds at the Olympics...

Arthur, Lynx and Miffy proving that there's plenty of room for three greyhounds on our cruiser stern....

Arthur, Ranger and Miffy having a little kip....

Five greyhounds - Blue's hiding at the front of the boat - we never did get all six in one shot!

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