Indigo Dreaming

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Archive for April 4th, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 1

Posted by indigodream on 4 April, 2011

Sunday 3rd April: Limehouse Basin to Paddington Basin

Ooh at last, we’re starting our odyssey – I felt such a thrill at the freedom of it all – as if we were being released from some captivity – admittedly a very luxurious captivity in a well-serviced mooring with the most obliging management and genial neighbours. Still, it’s good to be on the move, even if this first day was a very mundane cruise on well-travelled waters.

We were expecting Richard’s family on board for a cruise today so we arrived early to finish off the cleaning and get the hounds settled on board. Scaredy boy Ty had to join us today because Richard’s mum was coming cruising too. Knowing how scared he gets, I’d had a long conversation with his vet earlier in the week and we decided that a short course of diazepam (aka valium) would help him to get through the weekend. I started by giving him the minimum dose of 10mg before leaving home, but he wasn’t happy – he curled up on his favourite boat duvet, partially buried under the sofa and shivered. In the meantime, Lou developed diarrhoea – soon after Danusia and Martin arrived Lou jumped ship and walked determinedly up to the marina gate – there was no stopping her! We sighed – it felt as if it was already turning into one of those days.

Shortly afterwards we got a phonecall from Richard’s elder sister Alina to say they’d arrived – we were amazed – they were on time! Yes, on time but in the wrong place – they were in Paddington Basin. We sighed some more – it would take them at least half an hour to get to us. In the meantime I got Danusia’s opinion on Ty’s mental state (so useful to have a vet on board :-)) and we decided to give him another 10mg of diazepam. This calmed him down to the extent that he lay down for most of the day but he panted and shivered almost constantly and was utterly miserable – oh dear.

We made a start on the trip and were joined by the rest of the party (Alina, husband Rysiek, daughter Emilia and Richard’s mum Renia) as we got to the top of the first lock. We set off through the undeniably interesting Regent’s canal but somehow things didn’t go as smoothly as we’re used to. Though we were lucky that the top paddle on the first lock jammed after we’d gone through! It was a big of a saga getting hold of the right people in BW but we reported the fault and having tried and failed to clear the paddle, moved on…

I wouldn’t want to put you off cruising with Captain Bligh and wife, but we’ve become used to having guests who are boaters or who are friends who can take instructions! The family was much more unruly, with a tendency to squabble good naturedly over instructions like “sit down I can’t see over your head” (that from me on the helm) or “Out of the way, I need to get to the front of the boat” (that from Richard trying to get to the hose reel on the roof before it was swept away by a low bridge). They’ve been my in-laws for a long time so I’m well used to it and it makes me laugh (except when my view is blocked by tall bodies when approaching a lock gate!). They also lack all sense of urgency on the subject of getting off the boat before it enters tunnels and whatnot – definitely one of those days! Having said that, Martin, who owns a yacht, is a competent helm and did a lot of the tiller work today – leaving me in the kitchen – thanks! 🙂

We also found that the locks were an unhandy distance – not close enough together to be a flight and too far apart to allow for proper entertaining/coffee making in-between. WHAT? They’re in exactly the same place as they were in previous perfectly lovely cruises – we so need to get away from London – we urgently NEED a change of scenery.

The towpaths were relatively empty today – I wonder why there were such crowds here last Sunday? We didn’t meet any other greyhounds today and the hounds spent most of the day on board – they were very out of sorts – jelly boy Ty was scared, Lou was not well and Lynx was very quiet, though he spent most of the day on deck with Danusia’s adorable dog Polo – a cruising veteran and a nice size to stand out of the way behind me on the helm. Polo’s a bit to short to see over the dog-proof sides of the back deck so it’s been decided the we either need to retro-fit ‘Polo portholes’ or plan them in for ‘Indigo Dream 2’!

We stopped for lunch at the far end of Victoria Park – it was a lovely day and we sat on deck in the sunshine and enjoyed a nice bit of peace and quiet.

The plan had been for Richard and Rysiek to cycle back to Limehouse from Camden Top Lock to get the cars and meet us in Paddington. They’d enjoyed a manly project locating and repairing a puncture on one of the folding bike’s tyres. But the plans got changed somewhere along the way and Rysiek and Emilia jumped ship just before the Islington Tunnel to get the tube back to the car, leaving Alinka and Renia to enjoy some more cruising. Alas, we were halfway through the tunnel when there was a wail from the back deck – Alina had the only set of car keys in her pocket! Of course, we had no phone signal in the tunnel so there was no way of getting hold of Rysiek before he, in turn, took to the tube tunnels – aaargh!

So we did an emergency stop at the far end of the tunnel and plotted how they were to get back to Limehouse with the car keys. It was a long walk back to Angel station, so they stayed on until Kings Cross where we said an abrupt ‘goodbye’ to Alina and Renia – they were shooting off to Limehouse with the car keys. It was a scrappy end to their cruise and I’m sorry that they didn’t get to see the ‘best bits’ – Camden’s street life and the luxury of Regent’s Park and Little Venice.

Sturts Lock has developed surprisingly stiff bottom gates. Richard grunted a bit doing his side, Danusia just recruited a passing tourist to help her on the towpath side. We heard later from another boater that he had reported the lock to BW. Poor BW probably had a busy Sunday as they also had to sort out a jammed lock paddle at Limehouse.

Luckily Martin and Danusia were on for the whole cruise – they’ve done a lot of cruising with us so we soon settled into a locking routine. We did have a strange encounter at St Pancras Lock – a notorious continuous moorer had just locked down – as they exited the lock and we prepared to enter, they told us that it wasn’t our turn – the boat moored above the lock had been waiting for a long time and it was their turn to use the lock!!!!!  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry……  The boat waiting above the lock was a very competent single hander heading for the Palm Tree Pub in Mile End, we have never been there but he made it sound worth visiting.

At Camden top lock we said goodbye to Richard, who headed off the Limehouse on his bike. Being the niggly day it was, he found it quite difficult to navigate round the various walkers, attractive joggers and proud parents with assorted prams on the previously empty towpath and we’d completely forgotten about the advanced orienteering needed to find an overground route from one end of the Islington Tunnel to the other! Actually it was great to see the good people of London out enjoying the canal and cycling to Limehouse was a lot quicker then the drive back to Paddington!

In the meantime, we cruised up to Paddington – we saw an african hunting dog and some warthogs – I was amazed they weren’t snuggled up in their dens – it was very chilly by now and an unhandy wind had come up from nowhere. This made for an interesting turn at the end of Paddington Basin. I rejoiced as I started the turn, the wind swept the back around nicely, but as I was smugly thinking I’d show off my boat-turning skills, the wind caught the boat broadside and briskly pushed her sideways towards the bottom of the basin. Some frantic work on the tiller got her round eventually – I hope the boaters moored nearby (including fellow blogger nb Balmaha) weren’t watching!

There were around five free moorings in the basin, including my favourite under the ‘glass’ footbridge – this has good access to Paddington Station and to North Wharf Road. Martin did a great job of helping me moor against the wind, and with Indigo Dream securely tied I said goodbye to them both and started packing the boat. Of course, we haven’t got the luxury of shore power any more so the fridge had to be emptied, though I was surprised how quickly I got back into our touring routine. With our guests gone and the engine off, Ty started to relax though Lynx sulked mightily because I made him come indoors – he just wanted to be on shore where he could grab fusses off passersby!

Richard joined me for the last of the packing and we headed for the car. Unfortunately we had a little wait while he moved his bike onto the roof rack – I was holding onto the dogs on the pavement when a bus came past. Ty got spooked and headed off between two parked cars straight into the path of the bus – he was on a long lead and I yanked him back just in time. Hmmm, time for me to take his valium I think…..

After this last of the day’s dramas we hastily bundled the hounds into the car and gratefully made our way home.

Our 2011 odyssey wasn’t off to its usual joyous start but I do feel a tremendous sense of relief at being on our way. I’m due to solo to Uxbridge at the end of the week but I’m very worried about reports of the excessive amount of trash in the water between Vale Royal and Bulls Bridge. The one thing I’ve not done solo is clearing the weed hatch – I’m not even sure if I can reach down there (Richard’s arms are long enough that he can lie on deck and reach down to the prop without getting into the engine compartment). Hmmm, maybe time to review the cruising plan…..

Regent’s Canal Trivia

We won’t be back on the Regent’s Canal for at least six months so here’s little trivia for those moving on to the canal over the summer…..

Back in 2002, British Waterways submitted a bid to the lottery fund – their bidding document is an interesting guide to the canal’s history –  it’s well worth a read especially as one of the hopes for the bid was to enable people to feel that their personal safety was not at risk while using the towpaths. I’m not sure what the canal’s like at night, but the thousands of current daytime users certainly don’t seem to be in fear of their lives!

Lase weekend I mentioned the beautifully engineered Cumberland bridge cast by Masefield and Co – unsurprisingly it has a Grade II listing so I tried to find our more about them because I was fascinated by the idea that fashionable Chelsea once hosted an iron foundry.

Robert Masefield himself sounds like an interesting character – he seems to have started his professional life as a draughtsman for a firm of engineers before becoming managing partner of the Manor Ironworks in Chelsea. Although he was listed in the 1871 census as a ‘civil and mechanical engineer’, the Manor foundry was famous for casting many sculptures that grace cities across the UK – there a list here.

I didn’t find any remnants of the Chelsea ironwork’s history though there is an interesting walking guide of Chelsea here which explores it’s less trendy past. As with Bow Wharf and the remnants of the glue factory, the current descriptions of  Manor Street in Chelsea focus on its retail attractions!

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