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The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for January 10th, 2011

Boat Blog: A weekend at the Royal Docks….

Posted by indigodream on 10 January, 2011

Saturday 8th January

Looking down from the Woolwich Ferry - can you imagine seeing a narrowboat down there???

Coo, it isn’t half windy in the Royal Docks – it’s such a huge expanse of water and although it’s lined by multi-storey developments the wind seems to blow unimpeded. It was a stormy night – the wind alternately rocked us gently then slapped us against the quay wall. We had fat fenders down, but it was a noisy night – the howl of the wind, the relentless tattoo of the rain on the roof, the insistent tapping of a pencil fender (Richard joined the fenders up brigade at 1am), the alarming gurgle of the deep water moving under the counter and the occasional patter of Lou’s claws when she came down the boat to ask us for an extra blanket….

Just as well we didn’t need an early start!

We woke early but curled up in our mega-comfy bed with a good book – we’ve pretty much read our way through the sci-fi/fantasy genre and are now starting to explore crime fiction. Our Christmas stockings were full of Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsen – dark materials indeed! The hounds were a bit restless but once the central heating was going and we’d rewrapped them in their blankets they were happy to settle for a lie-in as well.

Our plan was to visit the boat show today but we had a bit of a dog crisis (I know, it’s amazing). Ty seems to feel quite safe on the boat but the Royal Docks are a bit overwhelming for him – he’s still tense when presented with new places/situations/people. Now, a nervous hound is not a problem, but hound who’s too afraid to wee is! He’d gone for 24 hours without and despite a long walk in the morning, he still wouldn’t relax enough to let go. We rang the vet to find out if this was a problem – we were worried about back pressure on his kidneys and whatnot. They advised us to take him for a 1 – 2 hour walk and if he hadn’t wee’d by then we’d need to take action…

We set off around the docks – it’s very barren around here, in fact, it’s quite soulless, but we walked on until we got to Lyle Park. The Tate ‘n Lyle refinery dominates the landscape – as a physical presence and in the surrounding road names! Lyle Park was a nice little green overlooking the river with a good mix of lawns and shrubbery and two huge gates left over from the Harland and Wolff shipbuilders that used to operate hereabouts and built so many of the woolwich narrowboats which still survive to this day eg Fulbourne. Lou and Lynx tried their very best to be weeing role models for Ty, but he wasn’t having any of it – we plodded on and on but to no avail.

One of the locals - there's a very large flock of swans here....

So, instead of visiting the boat show, we had to collect the car from Limehouse and drive home to Surrey so that Ty could have a wee (!) – which he duly did, for over 2 continuous minutes, in the comfort of his own garden! We took him to the vet for a check-up – he’s physically fine but the vet recommended got some Zylkene capsules – they’re a complementary therapy for treating anxiety and can be used  short-term to help dogs to cope with specific episodes which are likely to cause them stress.We had to take action – we’re going to Wales next weekend and won’t be able to pop home quite so easily if he refuses to use the facilities there!

So, we stayed at home on Saturday so that Ty’s new treatment can start working and, in case it doesn’t, he can have a big wee here before we go back to the boat on Sunday. We have to go back to the boat – we want to visit the boatshow for a few bits ‘n pieces, but, more importantly, we need to be in place ready for a prompt getaway at noon on Monday.

Sunday 9th January

Yesterday we crossed the river on the Woolwich Ferry – just for the hell of it! There was a long wait for the ferry but how fascinating to get their view of the river – the narrowboats yesterday must have looked like flotsam on the water!

We came back to the boat via the Blackwall Tunnel today – much quicker! We got back late morning, having given Ty ample time to empty first – just as well, I can’t describe the depths of his angst at being back in the Royal Docks – fortunately he see the boat as his ‘place of safety’ so that’s positive. But we’re back to no weeing and, if the engine’s running, no eating either, though his appetite soon comes back when the engine’s off!

The dock area seemed to be deserted on Friday and Saturday, but today it was alive with walkers and joggers, many walking conspicuously close to the quay wall for a look at the narrowboats. It was good to see some life here – it seemed almost derelict  yesterday.

This photo is a bit dark but of all the ones we took this captures the atmosphere the best...

We had a little mooch around the boat show today – it seemed much smaller than in previous years and was so quiet – there were hardly any people there, it was jam packed on our first trip here in 2007. However the stall-holders said that it was busier than 2010 – I’m not sure how businesses can justify being at the show – it must cost a fortune. One exhibitor thought that numbers were low because ticket prices had risen beyond the reach of the general tourist market.

As always, there was little on offer for narrowboaters, though we did get a lifejacket for Ty and some toilet chemicals as well as plenty of useful technical advice. We also ordered a new VHF aerial with a magnetic fixing – that should come next week but we should be able to limp back with our existing one (which came a cropper when one of the hounds tripped over the wire and pulled the connection out).

There weren’t any narrowboats or dutch barges on display this year – it was a bit disappointing as we’d have liked a walk through a dutch barge. Richard’s been musing on where we go next with boats – I suggested that we did the same as greygal – instead of trading up to bigger boats we just get our own fleet of narrowboats! We had to content ourselves with having a nosey at some yachts and a substantial gin palace worth £450,000 – we didn’t order one as we thought the dogs would find the deck stairs too steep!

It’s been the most beautiful day – crystal blue skies and no wind at all – perfect weather for cruising! But there’s no changing the arrangements – I understand that Andrew Phasey, Commodore of SPCC, had been negotiating the terms of this trip with the Royal Docks management for a whole year. We really appreciate the SPCC’s efforts to get these things together – they welcome non-members, they put loads of effort into expertly organising these trips and they don’t charge other than the costs incurred in locking/mooring fees (this time a modest £30 per boat – bargain).

Great new sculpture outside Excel - installed in 2009....

We left the boatshow at dusk and took the dogs for a walk. The scenery was awesome – a smoky peach sunset along the western horizon, a velvet blue sky above pinned with a crescent moon brooch and the cliched diamond pins of the first stars, then, against this spectacular backdrop, the dark silhouettes of the dock cranes and the glowing faux moon of the O2 arena. It was quite magical and we tried to capture it on camera but we’d recommend that you come and see it for yourself!

Ty did not appreciate being taken for a walk – we had to manhandle him off the boat and he spent his time walking nicely but looking worried – he wasn’t interested in joining Lou and Lynx for a bit of mischief (barking, running, sniffing and weeing). It’s the weirdest thing but him not weeing is the most difficult anxiety symptom to deal with – we’d cope better if we was soiling inside the boat, but no, he seems determined to hold everything in until he gets home.

But we had a secret weapon – a small supply of doggie diazepam (aka valium) authorised by the vet for emergency use. We gave him a dose, went out for dinner, and when we got back he was relaxed enough to get off the boat by himself and he had a wee – hurrah! Sorry, this is far more information than you need, but one day, hopefully in the near future, we’ll look back at this blog and be amazed that Ty was ever that scared…..

It was a beautifully calm night on the water so we settled in for a good night’s sleep……


View round the dock (1)

Views round the dock (2)

Views round the dock (3)

Views round the dock (4)

Night view - just magnificent....

Another night view - see the crescent moon just above Canary Wharf tower?

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