Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for September 8th, 2010

Boat Blog: Another trip on the tideway

Posted by indigodream on 8 September, 2010

Sunday 29th August

Shepperton to Limehouse Basin

Our overnight moorings – they’re very smart…

We had a very unusual day ahead of us – we were moored within a few hours cruise of Teddington Lock but the tide wouldn’t be favourable until late afternoon so we had a leisurely morning followed by a busy evening on the tideway.

Note: we had rung Limehouse Lock on Friday and booked our passage through on Sunday evening – they do appreciate 24 hours notice, well to be exact if you don’t give them 24 hours notice for an out of hours booking then you get  to spend a night on the pontoon outside.

Knowing that we had plenty of time, we had a slow start on Sunday morning, relaxing over a coffee. We eventually set off mid-morning and headed downstream. There was a fair bit of traffic on the water but far less than I expected – there were no queues and the lock-keepers didn’t need their specialist packing skills. Where is everybody?

We meandered downriver, noting in passing the ‘art sale’ on the towpath adjacent to Molesey Lock – it was such a civilised sight – tables and easels displaying paintings and little knick-knacks. I didn’t see anything that I fancied, but the cruiser behind us stopped off at the lock moorings to explore the display.

I love this stretch of river and enjoyed the usual sights – I’ll let the photos illustrate why the river is so fascinating.

We’d noticed that we were down to a quarter tank of diesel – enough to get us to Limehouse but we decided to fill up anyway – balancing the diesel tank at the back and the water tank at the front can improve the boat’s trim. We stopped off at Thames Ditton – we’ve bought diesel here before and the services are conveniently placed right on the river. I think that the diesel is slightly cheaper at Shepperton Marina but it’s not quite so easy to access. While we filled with diesel we admired the deft manoeuvering of the sailing boats downstream – I’ll never know how they didn’t capsize as they heeled over in the wind. Knowing that they were in control of their craft gave us a bit more confidence to move through them as we set off towards Kingston.

Double-takes from passersby are not unusual when you have two big hounds stretched out on the pavement…

We had a debate about where to moor in Kingston – there’s quite a choice, both on the ‘town’ side and the ‘park’ side. Our favourite John Lewis moorings were occupied so we ended up mooring outside ‘Gazebo’ – a riverside bar/restaurant on the ‘town’ side just upstream of Kingston Bridge, which has its own moorings. We were set to lunch there, but they weren’t doing food – however they didn’t mind our mooring there while we explored the town. Lynx and Lou came for a wander with us and attracted a lot of attention – they are both ‘people’ dogs and are the tartiest ambassadors for greyhound welfare/rehoming. We ate Costa paninis in one of the town’s market squares, noting with concern the rising wind. Kingston has a number of little squares and malls which make it quite an interesting town for an aimless wander. We discovered a ‘Paul’s’ bread/cake shop and enjoyed a luscious pastry before heading back to the boat at pace – the sky was looking very threatening. As we got on board a terrible squall broke over us with torrential rain, hail and howling winds. We battened down the hatches – I even had to close the window ‘lights’ – the rain was being blown in – it shouldn’t be possible with the angle of the openings!

The squall only lasted 15 minutes before it passed on, leaving a tossed salad of cloud above and a gusty wind chopping the river’s surface like an angry chef.

As soon as the rain stopped we hastened down to Teddington to talk to the lock-keeper. We needed to check whether conditions on the tideway would be ok – that squall would have affected us badly has we been in the busy pool of London. Our investigations were inconclusive – the forecast was unsettled but improving; the lockies could only tell us that it was in ok in Limehouse at the moment but couldn’t venture a guess at what it might be like in three hours time. According to the BBC, the winds at 7pm would be 10mph (no problem), according to Metcheck they’d be 20mph (big problem). We made a contingency plan to leave a little earlier so that we could divert to Brentford if the forecast worsened.

nb Concorde with skippers Henri and Bee – they had quite a thrill ride up the tideway in the squall that passed by earlier. They were cruising into the setting sun so this is the only photo of them that wasn’t hopelessly overexposed.

We had an hour at the Teddington moorings – the dogs enjoyed a little rummage in the adjacent park and we met a dainty black greyhound girl who looked to be a perfect match for Lynx (we don’t remember her racing name). The black girl greyhound was a grumpy little thing – she and Lou enjoyed an exchange of barks and growls – ‘birds of a feather’ I think!

Teddington Lock wasn’t too busy so we meandered down towards the lock at the appropriate time and hovered while they let out a trip boat. They waved us in and we locked down onto the tideway with a pair of canoes who were applauded into the lock. The young men had paddled all the way down from Lechlade (over a few days) – possibly a charity event. We let London VTS know that we were on the tideway and passed on our cruising plans and ETA at Limehouse. Predictably, our VHF signal is much better now that we have a working aerial!

The tideway was as lovely as even and conditions got better the further downstream we travelled. We missed the extra brains that you have available in a convoy – it would have been quite nice to discuss conditions with Andrew Phasey before setting off! However, it was quite nice to set our own pace – 1700 revs, punching the tide for the first hour, mindful that we’d be arriving at Limehouse just after sunset so we were racing the light. And before you ask, no, we didn’t create a breaking wash and we did slow down for random canoes and sailing boats! I did keep a close eye on the temperature gauge – a steady, and normal 80 degrees at 1600 revs and a warm but steady 85 degrees at 1700 revs – I love our engine 🙂 [Cue applause for Neil Coventry who fitted our engine and Mitch Knight for getting the propellor size right]

We passed a few narrowboats going upstream towards Teddington and suddenly recognised nb Concorde with Henri and Bee, our crew from last week, on the helm. We waved madly and they grinned and waved back – they looked so elated – it was their first ‘proper’ cruise on the tideway and they looked as if they’d had a great time.

We had a decision to make at Brentford – turn off the tideway and go the long way round along the canal (the following weekend!) or go for Limehouse. The wind was dropping and the skies were clearing so we decided to carry on. It was the right decision, though the wind did pick up later to create some choppy conditions.

The Thames guide – laminated and filed for easy reference from the helm….

Of course, as soon as we made the decision to carry on, a gust of wind blew the VHF aerial and life-ring onto the deck and the boat-washing brush straight into the river where it sank immediately. Oh well, there’s another thing for ‘Time Team’ to find in 500 years’ time!

As always, we found the trip downstream utterly fascinating – this time round I noticed the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery on the north bank. Much further downstream I noticed an ancient tall ship moored in a dry dock – she’s probably been there forever but I hadn’t noticed her before, in this month’s three trips along the tideway! We swapped over on the helm at regular intervals and topped up on coffee before Wandsworth – the tideway takes a lot of concentration – breaks for food, drink and mental relaxation are important.

The river was very quiet once we got past Brentford – there was hardly any traffic, commercial or otherwise. Two cruisers did catch up with us but they were bound for St Katherine’s Dock, well, they were then, but they had a change in plan a little way downstream – I’ll come back to that later.

It was pretty dark when we arrived at Limehouse Reach. Two clippers passed us here – one upstream and one downstream – they were barely moving, for which we were grateful. but instead of ‘wash’ their slow deep movement carved deep troughs in the water – I was on the helm and had an interesting time weaving through the waves. Obviously we’re quite experienced now, but I was surprised to find how calm I felt on the helm, the passing waves were just a logistical puzzle that needed to be solved.

After our run-in with the Clippers 2 weeks earlier, we’d had thought about what to do to avoid a repeat. The first thing was that in addition to our navigation lights we turned on all inside lights and some fairy lights on the roof – it all made us much more visible and perhaps explained why the Clippers were a bit more gentle with us. The second thing we did was to let VTS know that we would be crossing the tideway in order to do an upstream approach to Limehouse Lock. It was a good thing to do – Channel 14 is an ‘open’ channel so anyone around would have heard us telling VTS about our plans, but if they missed it then they’d definitely have heard VTS’s ‘traffic announcement’ shortly afterwards warning other craft that we were turning.

Hammersmith Bridge – there was a wonderful quality to the light as dusk progressed

I had decided to have a go at the turn into Limehouse – I haven’t done the upstream approach against an outgoing tide before. In discussion with Richard, I turned Indigo Dream across the river – possibly a little too early – the tide didn’t sweep us downstream as fast as I expected so I had to ferry glide across. This meant that I didn’t have as much room to get lined up into the stream before doing the turn into the lock cut. Nonetheless it went well, though it was a tadge more exhilarating that I expected as the combined forces of the tide and Limehouse’s famous ‘back-eddy’ swung the boat towards the downstream wall. There are few things that can’t be cured using a lot of revs and a tiller hard over! The neatness and control of my subsequent lock entry belied the adrenaline thumping of my heart at the tiller!

We were surprised to find that the two cruisers who’d overtaken us earlier were now behind us and coming into Limehouse Lock, together with a third who’d had engine trouble, prompting the change in plan from St Katherine’s to Limehouse. They thought it better to moor off the river with a busted engine! The lead cruiser, who we’d chatted to on the way down, commented on Indigo Dream’s turn of speed on the tideway – they reckoned we’d achieved 12 knots – blimey, grab the waterskis! Of course, a fair few of those knots were down to the tide itself which runs at a fair pace.

We got back to our moorings around 8.30pm and set off in search of food – the Grapes, our favourite pub, wasn’t doing food, the pub adjacent was doing food but wasn’t dog-friendly. Luckily we bumped into one of our Limehouse neighbours who recommended a stroll along Salmon Lane, which is replete with takeaways. We go a very fine takeaway pizza and pasts from a simple italian cafe called Sapore Italiano (0207 531 7492). It wasn’t cheap but it was delicious so we’ll get takeaway from there again.

Needless to say, we were knackered after our holiday! But at least Indigo Dream was home and we plan to spend next weekend at home for a change…..


There are craft of all shapes and sizes on the river…

Is this canoeist cadging a ‘lift’ in the barge’s wake?

Large covered dry dock – useful facility on the river..

Blue Peter boat????

We’re photographed this house before – very striking!

I love these thick rope ‘edgings’  (not sure of the right word) – they look so elegant but I suspect they wouldn’t last 5 minutes on a narrowboat in a narrow lock…

Lots of ‘private’ signs on this pontoon but it looks too rickety to trespass upon…

I really like the look of Ark Nouveau – she’s very eye-catching…

Sails on the water – they’re enjoying the brisk wind!

Raven’s Ait being restored – for community use as a boating centre – read more here

I may have photographed this boat before – certainly worth a shot – that’s eye-catching artwork

The surprising sight of cattle in Richmond….

The Fullers Griffin Brewery – it’s been there since 1845 (or possibly earlier) but I hadn’t noticed it before. They do tours – that might be of interest

One of the many rubbish sieves along the river – they’re apparently very efficient – this one had certainly captured lots of plastic bottles and the like…

Even less famous riverscapes look good in this light…

Atmospheric shot of the tideway with the glow of the post office tower in the background.

the landscape aglow in the sunset…

Moody riverscape….

Dramatic skies….

The photo doesn’t do justice to the real view, but it’s not bad!

I love this busy riverscape – gives a real flavour of how it must have been in its heyday..

Eerie lighting under this bridge – I wonder whether it changes colour from time to time?

Tall ship – now how could I have missed that on our previous trips along the tideway?

Tower Bridge – looks good all lit up..

The traditional riverscape upstream of Limehouse….

The icons of the future – the view downstream…

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