Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for March 1st, 2011

Boat Blog: Paddington Basin to Limehouse Basin

Posted by indigodream on 1 March, 2011

Saturday 27th February

We had a great night’s sleep in Paddington Basin – it’s remarkably quiet there despite being surrounded by stations and main roads. The buildings that create the Paddington wind tunnel also insulate it from the sounds of the city – it’s a unique spot. The only real noise was the torrential rain, which arrived in the middle of the night and persisted well into the morning.

The slightly damp crew - that's Brennan on the right - the hounds are very alike...

But the weather was irrelevant. Sometimes we have cruising days of such perfection that I can only describe them as diamond days – ones that will sparkle in the memory for years to come. Today was such a day – we started with a fine crew of friends, then serendipitous meetings of the waters added more good company as we went along.

Sadly we didn’t take many photos, though we know that Ellie took a load on her super-duper camera, so we may add some more later…

The day started with the arrival of friends Sue, Tony, daughter Ellie and greyhound Brennan, who first came cruising with us last October. Lynx was delighted to see another greyhound – he’s really moped without his pack. At the same time, old friend Neil arrived and we set off down the basin. At first it was hard to persuade the crew to leave the warmth of the cabin and see the sights from the sodden deck! As always we enjoyed the lavish vista of the pool at Little Venice – such a contrast to Paddington Basin in its deep cutting of high-rise buildings. The Maida Vale tunnel provided some shelter from the rain and there we were in Regent’s Park – pretending that we were wealthy enough to live there! The african animals were sensibly ensconced in their dens today, though we did see an enormous warthog yesterday. I’m not sure whether they’re new, but the Snowden Aviary had a flock of pelicans – we’ve never seen them before – they’re much larger than I realised and very smart in their pale pink plumage.

Camden was much busier today with just the right number of appreciative gongoozlers – I was on the helm and responsible for making the immaculate lock entries that our audience expected! It was all fine – after all, I’ve had a bit of practice! I handed over to Richard for the Islington Tunnel though – I still find tunnels quite disorientating when I’m on the helm and the subsequent clanging and banging is just too embarrassing!

Earlier in the day we’d realised that fellow blogger Carrie from nb Blackbird was in the vicinity so we texted her other half, Simon from nb Tortoise, to see if they could come out to play. Simon said he’d cycle to meet us somewhere on the canal. As we approached City Road lock we had one of those magic meetings – Simon was waiting for us as the lock together with Christine from nb Ketura, a veteran of many St Pancras Cruising Club convoys. We moored up above the lock and the entire crew went off in search of a dog-friendly pub. The Narrowboat is not dog-friendly and the menu is rather pricey so we wandered towards Islington to the Duke of Cambridge. What a great pub – it’s dog friendly and has a range of interesting organic brews, including the diet cola! The dogs were immaculately behaved in the pub – it was Brennan’s first time and he took his cue from Lynx – they both relaxed onto their sheepskins and graciously put up with all the attention that they got from the natives! The locals were very kind – they stepped around the hounds without complaint and most stopped to admire or fuss them. The pub does food and we even managed to get a table, but again the menu was a bit pricey so we decamped to the boat for soup, paninis and rugby on the telly!

The willows are greening and the blackthorn are already in flower through London - Spring is definitely on its way...

What a jolly time – the boat was warm with laughter and chatter – we could have sat there all afternoon. I always fret a little when we bring together disparate groups of people, but we found common interests in boating and/or dogs so the conversation flowed freely…

We got moving with great reluctance and sadly said goodbye to Christine, who was going back to nb Ketura moored nearby. The rest of us set off down the next few locks, desperately trying to shake off our post-lunch snooziness. Here the weather helped, with a nippy breeze to sting us awake, though by now the rain had largely stopped.

We worked our way past the crowd of boats at Victoria Park then had a big debate on which way to go next. While the crew dithered, I headed straight down the canal towards Mile End, but suddenly it was all change – we were going for a cruise down Ducketts Cut to have a quick look at the Olympic Stadium before returning to Limehouse in the dark. I had to do a frantic bit of reversing back to the junction but managed a neat turn into the Cut. Sadly the reversing sucked a pile of plastic bags onto the prop so we were soon stopping to inspect the weed hatch. Just as well, in addition to a clogged propeller, the engine bilge contained a substantial amount of water. Our trim had been a bit off all weekend – we put it down to uneven crew distribution but it was probably water sloshing in the bilges.

Considering how full the moorings at Victoria Park are, it’s surprising that was only 1 boat moored on Duckett’s cut – after all, it flanks the same park! This meant that there was plenty of room to stop and clear our prop. Sue B and I left the men with the stricken boat and set off with the hounds to set the next lock. We met the first boat of the day here – a widebeam with a charming be-dreadlocked skipper who reported that the pound between the top and middle lock was very low – he’d had to flush a lock-full of water down just to get between them – a previous boater had left gates/paddles open.

It took ages for Indigo Dream to catch up – it took some time to empty the engine bilge but she finally hove into view. I was getting ready for the lock by closing one gate and was about to cross over to sort the far paddle when we had the drama of the day. An enormous rat climbed out of the lock right under Lynx’s nose with predictable results. Yep, Lynx caught the rat then the rat bit Lynx on the cheek and then clung onto Lynx’s chin while he yowled – luckily he shook the beast off and Brennan the greyhound rather efficiently finished the rat off! I’m sure that Lynx will have something to say about that in his next diary!

Duckett's Cut - deserted!

The onboard crew were quite absorbed by this drama but couldn’t quite see what was going on so it’s no wonder that Richard almost crashed the boat into the lock! We met the second boat of the day at the next lock and by the time we got to the bottom lock, the water in the pound was within half an inch of the towpath – so that’s where all the water had gone!

While the crew locked down, I was busy bathing Lynx’s wounds – he was dripping blood all over the boat and looking quite pitiful, though I think he was more distressed by my attention than by the bites themselves. Fortunately he’s on antibiotics already for his bladder so that should protect him from infection. Interestingly, dogs are immunised against rat-borne Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease in humans) so we didn’t have to worry about that.

We got a magnificent view of the Olympic stadium as we turned out of Duckett’s Cut – many of the workmen’s cabins that had previously obscured the view are gone. The white framework glowed in the vivid light from the sunset’s orange blaze. The Aquatics Centre has suddenly sprouted two wings for spectators which look impressive but does obscure the manta ray roof. It was just light enough for us to get a feel for the site, witness the pace of change on the park ande marvel at the view before we descended into the relative gloom below Old Ford Lock. We headed down Limehouse Cut in full dark. We’ve cruised down Limehouse Cut after dark many times and I’ve always wondered whether we’d encounter trouble down there, but the early evening towpaths were quiet and civilised.

We had the last of our serendipitous meetings at Limehouse when we met up with Carrie from nb Blackbird at the Grapes pub. The dogs were made very welcome and suddenly everyone in the back room was talking greyhounds and boats. Lynx and Brennan were stars – Brennan has now become a pub dog and I think that his family are looking forward to many more visits to dog-friendly hostelries! We all settled down in front of the pub’s roaring fire to wait for Tony and Richard, who’d gone off to do the car shuffle. Sadly our plans were scuppered – the dogs were very welcome in the pub but teenager Ellie was not. The barman fretted until she left – I went back to the boat with Sue B, Ellie and the hounds. Lynx was a complete tart – lying prone on the sofa while Sue and Ellie stroked his ears. Now, Lynx has particularly soft ears and stroking them is peculiarly addictive, but I was in serious danger of losing my third hound – Sue and Ellie were completely besotted and threatening to steal him away. I don’t think Brennan would have minded – he’s quite brave when he’s with Lynx!

The start of the sunset....

Tony and Richard finally came back with the cars – they’d had a slow slog across London and we said a particularly sad goodbye to Sue, Tony, Ellie and Brennan – we could find eateries that were either dog-friendly or teenage-friendly but not both, so they decided to head for home. We joined Neil, Carrie and Simon in the Grapes for some food and dodgy but delicious cloudy cider. Neil headed for home at 10pm-ish and the rest of us headed back to Indigo Dream for some more wine and chat. Of course, Lynx promptly cuddled up to Carrie to have his ears rubbed some more! Simon and Carrie are simply delightful – we could have talked all night but we were worried that with weekend works on London transport they might not get home, so they left at 11pm. They could have stayed the night, but I doubted whether gentle Carrie would have had the heart to chuck Lynx off the sofa so that she and Simon could have a bed!

Sunday 27th February

We had such a good day yesterday and went to bed full of cheer and contentment – but the fresh air wiped us out and we had another great night’s sleep – even Lynx slept through ’til 9am!

We were all set for a snoozy morning when we realised that we were due to join Richard’s mum for her birthday celebration. I’d thought it was the evening but we found out it was lunchtime so we had to scurry! I took Lynx for a walk while Richard packed the boat up. Poor Lynx, he’s had a few too many adventures this weekend, a nasty little staffie went for him in the park. Luckily Lynx danced out of the way and came away with slobber on his neck rather than a bite. The staffie’s owner seemed a bit simple – he didn’t put his dog on a lead, so it was me and Lynx who had to cut short our walk and leave the dog park. I think that we’ve met the staffie before but luckily on different sides of the fence – Lou and the staffie hated each other on sight and it was a noisy encounter (saved from mayhem by the fence).

The sky was ablaze as we turned onto the Lea Navigation...

We picked Lou and Ty up on our way home – the pack reunion was boisterous though Lou gave Lynx a thorough inspection before he was accepted back into the pack. We dashed home and changed into our gladrags – ohhh noooo, we were back in civilisation…..

Navigation Note:

Sadly there is a long stoppage on the Lee Navigation between Bow Locks and Old Ford Lock from 7th March to 26th June. Duckett’s cut and the Lee Navigation above Old Ford are open, as are Limehouse Cut and Bow Locks for transit to/from Bow Creek.

So we may try to get a last cruise up to Viewtube and the Olympics next weekend, but that’ll be it until we come back in October/November – shame! I’m hoping that it just a temporary stoppage and that there won’t be any more moves to block the waterway up to and during the games themselves.

The stadium's coming along nicely!

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