Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for September 1st, 2010

Boat Blog: Tidal Adventures (4)

Posted by indigodream on 1 September, 2010

Sunday 22nd August

Limehouse to New Haw (River Wey)

And they’re off….again!

It has been a truly epic day today – we were joined by Adam and Adrian from nb Debdale along with Henry and Bee from nb Concorde. They’re both share boats but nb Debdale’s on the Shroppie and nb Concorde’s not due to come up the tideway until next week. Henry and Bee came along for the experience and a look at the tideway – we thought this was a great idea. Our first foray onto the tideway, back in 2006, was with an instructor and that gave us the confidence to go it alone later.

Henry and Bee stayed with us for the trip up to Teddington but Adam and Adrian were in for the long haul – right up to New Haw on the River Wey.

Lou was ecstatic to see Adam – she has a real thing for him. Mind you, he is very generous when it comes to tummy tickling and general fuss so she is amply rewarded for her devotion! Apart from this first display of energy, we hardly saw Lou or Lynx all day – they stayed on the sofa and showed a complete disinterest in the historic sights of London. Just as well we got photos of Lynx at the Houses of Parliament last weekend – he was absolutely not shifting from his comfy bed on this trip.

We were tail-ending again, and we led our locking companions up the tideway so they could follow us through the correct bridge arches. The St Pancras Cruising Club always arrange their locks carefully so that, wherever possible, each lockful of boats has one experienced crew and at least one VHF radio. It has been a pleasure to be a part of this – we’ve learnt a lot from our role at the tail – not least of which that different engines run at vastly different revs! We had a plaintive phone call from the boat behind – they were doing 2000 revs and falling behind – we were only at 1200. We slowed down and led our mini-convoy along at a more moderate pace. We caught up with the previous lockful and kept in touch with our leader, nb Doris Katia. It’s this communication that makes the convoys so reassuring – it’s always good to have extra brains to pick!

Fine crew….

We’ve been musing since on engine revs and whatnot –  – it’s not just the power of the engine but the boating trinity of engine/prop/gearbox. I’m pleased to say that our otherwise chaotic boatbuilder seems to have got that absolutely right on Indigo Dream and she handles beautifully on the bigger waters.

It can be off-putting coming out from Limehouse, giving your horn a big blast and then finding that you need to do some surfing as commercial traffic goes past. It is really not a concern, you turn into or away from the waves and the boat copes remarkably well, but on occasions you are having to do this before you have settled yourself down and got used to that big expanse of water. Fortunately today it was choppy in places but we had a breather before we encountered any traffic.

Richard lead our mini convoy through the centre arch of Tower Bridge, that is the channel, though the cruising guides suggest that the right arch is better when going upstream – that it may be, but it’s nowhere near as enjoyable! We had the usual lumpiness in the water there and it gets so so busy! Fortunately the other traffic is professional and they do look out for you.

Going up through central London is fantastic, the sights and ornate bridges come thick and fast. It’s important to line yourself up early to make sure that you get the correct arch span – we started thinking about the next bridge before we’d gone under the one before. We have BW’s excellent tidal handbooks printed out, laminated and presented in a folder which we can stand up and turn the pages as we go up.  These guides are fabulous, get them from the Limehouse lock keepers or download by clicking here and select London or (until they re-organise their site):

Upstream Edition:

Downstream Edition:

Estuary Edition:

Tide tables and lock opening times:

If you notice that any links don’t work, please send us a comment and we will update them.

As always, we enjoyed the trip along the Thames – there’s always something new to be noticed – even if it’s just the state of the tide and the variance since we last cruised! The VTS half-hourly river broadcasts tell you the tide level, information about bridge arch closures and other traffic news. Of course, we also enjoyed seeing our guests having a lovely time, especially Adam, who took the helm once we were past Wandsworth Bridge. The river is still wide at this point but there is far less traffic, the river feels empty compared to the Pool of London and the river always feels calmer. The coffee machine comes on again at this point (Reminder for Richard: Our coffee stocks are running low, urgent action is required!)

We waved goodbye to our locking companions at Brentford and carried on up to Teddington. They looked elated and a very cheerful Scholar Gypsy came on the radio to advise that they had all entered the lock. Above Brentford we had an interesting trip – there were a number of narrowboats on the water who were not part of our convoy and one, who shall be nameless, completely lost his head – rushing to overtake us through a fleet of sailing boats on a blind bend. We were amazed – after we came off the tideway this boat went very slowly and carefully. I think they must have panicked and were afraid that they’d miss the lock at Teddington. No chance, the lock-keeper was packing us into the barge lock and was not going to let anyone through until he had a full catch of narrowboats! Of course, the lock-keeper knew we were on our way because we were tail-end of a convoy so we didn’t have to indulge in any shennanigans in order to get there…..

We’ve not been through the giant barge lock before – there were 17 narrowboats in there with room for many more – we think they have had 30 in there on previous trips. It did take time to assemble the boats and then even more time to fill the lock with water. But we weren’t in a hurry – in fact, the wait gave us time to say goodbye to Henry and Bee who would be cycling back to their home – around 22 miles! They had been charming guests and we hope they enjoy their own tideway adventure next week. It also gave us a chance to walk the dogs and give them a welcome wee break – not being able to stop anywhere on the tideway is a distinct disadvantage for dogs, though they weren’t desperate. After all, Lou has been known to go to bed at 10pm and stay there until 2.30pm the following afternoon!

We’ve joined the convoy in the barge lock – it’s been a good trip…

So, our tideway adventures with the  St Pancras Crusing Club were over – it’s been great. We’ve learnt such a lot and hope that we can help out again. Being part of a convoy, especially if it’s your first time, is very reassuring and we hope that the boats that took part will be inspired to come again.

But our day wasn’t over – we arrived in Teddington in good time and carried on upstream along one of my favourite stretches of water. We had two locks to tackle, but with lock-keepers to sort out the disposition of the boats and additional crew on the ropes it was a doddle. The queues at the locks were minimal considering how many narrowboats had passed up the tideway; many had stopped for a break at Teddington – who can blame them, it’s very nice there.

We made good time up the Thames and were just in time to catch the last locking onto the River Wey. It’s easy enough to turn off the Thames but it’s a little harder to identify the turn onto the Wey – the sign is very overgrown! Keep a sharp eye out for it – the Wey is roughly the second turning from the left…..

We invested in a Wey licence at Thames Lock. Our plans changed drastically when we found out that the National Trust does not allow boaters to leave their boat unattended overnight so our initial cruising plan for staying on the Wey for 21 days was scuppered. After our initial week off we’d need to work the weekdays and that wasn’t feasible unless we paid for a visitor mooring at Pyrford Marina. With the cost of Limehouse already dragging on our bank account we decided it wasn’t a feasible option. Having said that, the Wey isn’t a long waterway and we’d easily explore it on a 7-day licence, which cost £59.

Although it’s small compared to the Thames, the Wey deserves respect – weirs can exert quite a pull and there’s a fierce flow from the gate paddles…

By the time we got the paperwork done it was gone 6pm and the weather was still lovely. It seemed a shame to stop so we carried on! I took Lou and Lynx for a walk along the towpath from Thames Lock to Woking Town Lock, feeling a sharp pang of loss for Blue, who roamed this bit of path many times when we first moored on the Wey.  I’ve missed Blue every day – life is very boring without him – Lou and Lynx are immaculately behaved but lack Blue’s joie de vivre, how he took to retirement with such massive enthusiasm. However, our walks are a lot quieter – I’m not shouting “not too far, Blue” or “Blue, where are you?”.

The right-angled turn into Woking Town Lock was as tricky as ever – luckily I was on the towpath rather than the helm! Don’t go under the nice looking bridge – you need to go in through a dodgy looking hole on the right. Drop your crew off as soon as you can after the road bridge, swing out into the channel and then the turn is easy – Adam has got a good photo on his blog. We joined another narrowboat here and shared the locks up to New Haw – they were on their way to Pyrford. The Wey was as lovely as ever – Coxes Lock is particularly attractive, flanked by the impressive mill conversion. What is now a tranquil housing development was, for centuries, an iron mill where metal was pounded by a large hammer called “Hackering Jack”. From the mid-1800’s onwards, the mill was used to produce flour.

Unfortunately the weather turned as we came up to New Haw and started seriously persisting as we moored up. We did have a nice surprise though, we caught up with nb Fulbourne here, whom we’ve met on many occasions. We met up with the crew later at the local Chinese restaurant – the only place in New Haw offering food on a Sunday night. We aspire to eat in the pub here some day – we’ve heard good report but haven’t managed to moor here on any night when it’s been serving food!

We had a convivial evening with the crews of nb Debdale and the current crew of nb Fulbourne (which is also owned by a consortium of owners) – David and Jackie with their 3 children. It was nice to get to know them a little better – we were to bump into them many times over the next few days….


Silver Sturgeon – we had a sumptuous dinner on her several years ago…

And me on the helm this time – we tend not to let guests on the helm until we’re past Wandsworth – there’s a lot less traffic there…

nb Empire Queen and nb Startling following us under Tower Bridge….

Big works at Blackfriars – it’s important to keep an eye out for the open arch – it can change daily, or even more frequently, as the work progresses

Catching up with the convoy – nb Scholar Gypsy – hope she wasn’t as close to those bridge piers as the photo suggests – it’s worth giving them a wide berth as the current can suck you in…

See, cruising the tideway can be fun….

Empty pod – never noticed one of them before…

nb Empire Queen and nb Starling against the most famous backdrop in the city…

I hadn’t noticed this slender footbridge reaching under, ah, which railway bridge was it?

picture of peace – pagoda…

I think that the ball on the top of this building has a purpose – any ideas?

Nice to see young people making the best of the river… We suspect that the sea cadets training is very good if only because one of Richard’s younger colleagues was a sea cadet and handles Indigo Dream perfectly.

Of course, more mature people enjoy the river too, well, I think they’re enjoying it…..

The ex Harrods Furniture Depository – the name is proclaimed in large print on the front of the bulding – grand eh?

Palace Wharf and site of a ‘granite and mosaic’ business – I wonder if they ever transported the stone by water?

This building’s sails were furled today – it was a bit overcast…

Adam tells us that behind the bigger windows with special non reflective glass are film studios with a view onto the bridge

This fine 7-bedroom house just upstream of Hammersmith Bridge is on sale for £14 million; luckily there’s a more modest 7-bedroom riverside property with a mooring for only £3.25 million in Hampton Wick!

Rowers overtaking a narrowboat – they often do, especially when they’re moving with the tide!

Budweiser brewery in Mortlake – there are a couple of riverside breweries along the tideway..

This unassuming pole marks the end of the boat race course….

Waving goodbye to nb Empire Queen at Brentford – hope you had a good trip!

Bye Bye nb Starling – the crew looks elated and so they should – it’s a thrilling ride up the tideway…


What a grand sight – the barge lock at Teddington..

Wildly different qualities of boat moored in Kingston…

You get all sorts of craft sharing the Thames locks – this is in Molesey…

Antique boats – look at their ‘laden’ waterline – so low and so consistent..

I bet not many boats squeezed in the lock with him….

Awkward mooring for a narrowboat – we wondered whether it was an impounded boat.

This is an ancient navigation – most of the locks date from the 1600s

Lynx is getting the hang of rummaging at every lock, though he’d much rather cosy up to Richard…

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