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Boat blog: And we’re off…..

Posted by indigodream on 9 January, 2011

There's no wrong weather, just the right clothing! Alison taking a turn at the helm - she's a natural!

Thursday 6th January

Today was an important day – the first cruise on Indigo Dream since November – a chance for us to check that the ice had melted, that the engine was still working and to fill up with fuel.

Fortunately for me, Richard took on these important tasks as he had a meeting up in Bow and could use the boat to commute from Limehouse. Unfortunately for him, the weather was truly foul and he got soaked, but he still enjoyed his little jaunt and reported that Indigo Dream was none the worse for wear after the harsh December.

Much later in the day, we moved into the boat for the weekend (or so we thought – Lynx will tell that tale later!) having stocked up with food on the way; I was surprised that it took almost as long to move into the boat as it does to move out – I didn’t get to bed until 1.30am, oh, hang on, all the boat clocks are on BST – things looked much better once I’d reset them all!

Friday 7th January

We’d been watching the weather forecast anxiously for the last two weeks and were relieved that although the day promised to be wet and gloomy, the wind speed had reduced considerably. This meant that we were on for a flying start to our cruising year – a St Pancras Cruising Club convoy to the Royal Docks for the boat show. Although the weather in the morning was appalling (torrential rain), we were expecting four hardy guests – fellow bloggers Adam from nb Debdale and Neil and Kath from nb Herbie and Alison who left a comment on our blog a few weeks ago. Do check their blogs for a more entertaining account, and more fab photos! We were very excited but also a bit amazed that they all turned up – if I’d seen the rain I’d have been tempted to go back to bed!

The safety briefing....

As an aside, when recruiting cruising companions, always ask how they are with the weather before you take them on board 🙂 The Herbie’s were the first to arrive and, as the rain beat down on the boat roof, they commented “It’s always like this when we get on a boat”. Fortunately we decided to use Adam from Debdale as our weather mascot – the last time he cruised with us it poured with rain in the morning but then cleared by the time we got underway and so it proved today.

We set off from Limehouse at around 11am – it was a relaxed start. The original cruising plan had us going out onto Bow Creek via City Mills and Three Mills Locks, but the overnight/morning rain had sent too much water down the Waterworks river so we were rerouted through the now familiar Bow Lock. We were very disappointed not to be going out via the new locks but with a bit of luck we’ll come back that way on Monday; though we do have the option to come back round the Isle of Dogs and Limehouse Lock (we’ve booked the lock) – we’ll decide on Monday morning.

We had plenty of time so we had a mosey up to Old Ford Lock before winding and heading back to Bow Locks for the safety briefing. There were 11 boats in the convoy, all very experienced,with many familiar faces from previous convoys, so there was no need for us to take on ‘tail-end charlie’ responsibilites, though we were still in the last locking onto Bow Creek. This gave us time to have lunch and watch the rest of the convoy locking out – it’s a fascinating sight, not least because the rising tide fills the creek at an impressive rate so every lock out has a slightly smaller fall.

We set off down Bow Creek, enjoying (again) its twist and turns and the contrasts between the industrial dereliction, trendy green walls and the resident flocks of wading birds (probably redshanks) which lined the banks. Sadly we couldn’t loiter – we needed to move on to catch the convoy and the tide down to the Royal Docks.

I hope never to lose the sense of awe that I get when I take Indigo Dream out of Bow Creek mouth – the O2 dominates the far peninsula, Canary Wharf and the distant city towers are an ever-changing backdrop as the Shard emerges from the ground and there, downstream, is the looming majesty of the mighty Thames – priceless.

What better way to see London's skyline??

It was great to be able to share the view with out guests – we’re totally enamoured of the whole tideway experience and can’t wait to convert other boaters!It did help that the river was like a millpond – still and serene, with very little wind or commercial traffic to disturb the peace. It was so still that we felt confident to let Adam take the helm through the Thames Barrier, dance with the Woolwich ferries and manoeuvre into the entrance lock to the Royal Docks. He handled Indigo Dream with aplomb, certainly giving the outward appearance of unflustered competence throughout. His final challenge was to brest up to nb Flora Dora – he did a perfect bresting manoeuvre, handling Indigo Dream as if she was his own – Flora Dora looked mighty relieved – she has immaculate paintwork so she might not have appreciated a bit of rough ‘n tumble!

The lock-keepers decided only to use one-quarter of the vast entrance lock today – our flotilla of 11 narrowboats didn’t even fill half the available space in that quarter-lock!

I always feel a bit sad when we lock into the Royal Docks, as if the trip is all over, but we still had a good half-hour’s cruising to go – past the soaring lift and swing bridges, City Airport and Excel itself. As we cruised down the immense dock, both light and weather gradually deserted us and it was pouring with rain when we moored up. It didn’t deter us and the other hardy narrowboating folk from converging on nb Doris Katia, our lead boat, for a post-cruise warmer! Not only is Andre Phasey, nb Doris Katia’s skipper and Commodore of SPCC, a great organiser but he is also very generous with the post-cruise spirits! After half an hour so (I don’t drink spirits) I rather soberly realised that I was freezing cold and soaking wet so we retreated onto Indigo Dream for some more chat with Adam, Kath and Neil (Alison having left earlier).

Now, what can possibly divert boaters from talking about toilets? Well, the righteous indignation of ‘Archers’ fans at the New Year plot line – Adam and Richard were quite bemused as Kath, Neil and I dissected the characters!

We said a reluctant goodbye to our guests at around 6pm – we’d so enjoyed their company. Blogging has been such a positive experience – how would we have met such wonderful characters otherwise?

But the day wasn’t over – we joined a contingent from the convoy for a meal at the “Fox” pub – good food and good company rounded the day off nicely though the conversation mainly revolved around VHF radios – not the usual narrowboater’s topic! But fine company notwithstanding, by 9pm I was ready for my bed – the hounds had long since retreated to their duvets…..

Photoblog:

We had to pop home (Ty needed a wee, more about that in another post) and just bought one camera back with us. I will post photographs from the other camera in another post.

Me, Kath and Adam enjoying the ride - the weather had much improved by this stage...

Me (again), Alison and Neil

One of my favourite views - there's something timeless about this stretch of water...

nb Lotus 10 giving a nice sense of scale behind us!

The Thames Barrier never fails to impress....

Adam ably piloting Indigo Dream through the Thames Barrier - it's not quite as tricky as a narrow lock!

Thing is, we don't feel so small when we're going through - it's only when you look back.......

Woolwich ferries Ernest Bevin and James Newman dodging the narrowboats - the VHF comes in handy here because they'll often say which line they're going to take - we dashed through while they were both loading/unloading!

The turn into the Royal Docks.....

Our flotilla assembling in the quarter lock - plenty of room for more if you want to join the convoy next year!

Andrew, Commodore of the SPCC, getting the 'raft' organised!

The lock gates closing behind us and a plane coming in to land - they seem low enough to touch when we pass the end of the runway....

The last stage - into the Royal Docks - see that plane - that's the end of the runway - very close to the water's edge!

Plenty of headroom! Just as well, it costs thousands to have that bridge lifted...

They don't like narrowboats getting too close to the runway but there's only so far we can go! They were taking off in the direction as we were travelling so plane and boat momentarily moved as one....

These office workers seemed amazed to see the convoy - although this is a vast expanse of water I don't there's much boating activity - what a waste.... They were a friendly lot and waved back to us (probably thinking who are these mad people ...)

5 Responses to “Boat blog: And we’re off…..”

  1. Graham and Jill said

    Hi guys, happy new year to you all. Please confirm that you now have 3 healthy dogs again and 2 healthy humans? What a year you had, but 2011 has seen you off to a flying start – you are very brave, but it does look amazing. Not that we are jealous or anything – we’ve only been stuck here since 21st November. We can now move about half a mile in each direction (which, thankfully, includes a waterpoint) we are starting to hope for an escape in about a week if the temps stay in the plus, but it may well be wishful thinking. Love Jill

  2. indigodream said

    Dear Graham and Jill

    Don’t be silly – we’ve already had two vet visits in 2011 – Lou with a pulled muscle and Ty for his nerves (mine aren’t that good either after their various misadventures!).

    I know it’s a bit smug but we did enjoy our cruise – we’ve really missed being out and about. If you’re iced in for much longer then come down for a boating fix on Indigo Dream – all welcome – we could leave Daisy chasing mice in my shed/office while the greyhounds were a safe distance away on the boat!

    Hope you get free soon – I can’t get comments through to your blog but you’re always in our thoughts…

  3. Graham and Jill said

    Won’t Ty let you have any of his anti-stress pills? If we don’t get out soon, we’ll take you up on that lovely offer. Thank you. I think everyone’s nerves would be better if we left Daisy on our boat in front of the fire though – unless, of course, you have a rodent problem and need her professional services.

  4. John Gwalter said

    You captioned a picture:
    Andrew, Commodore of the SPCC, getting the ‘raft’ organised!

    I think it should have been:
    Andrew, Commodore of the SPCC, getting the raft “organised!”

  5. indigodream said

    Ah John, how true – especially on the way back when Andrew was shouting at everyone to watch their lines while Doria Katia genty drifted away from her neightbour on a loose rope!

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