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Boat Blog: A detailed briefing….

Posted by indigodream on 17 September, 2011

Thursday 8th September

Well, it was finally here, the reason why we’ve had to dash back to London and cut short the odyssey by about 8 (working) weeks…..

On June 3rd 2012, there will be an amazing event on the River Thames to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (QDJ) – a 1000 boat flotilla made up of a motley assortment of craft ranging from skinny skiffs to fat barges and, of course, narrowboats! There are spaces for around 200 narrowboats – if you’re interested in taking part then the deadline for applications is 31st October – you can find more information here.

Of course, if you know someone who’s likely to be taking part you may want to offer you services as crew 😉  At least three people per boat are recommended – helm, radio operator and look-out – there may also be vacancies for galley slaves, bunting erectors, dancing girls and other similarly skilled positions….

We were due to have a two-part rehearsal this weekend:

  • Friday 9th: A narrowboat only rehearsal featuring 20 narrowboats and a wide-beam – the purpose was to check whether we could all maintain the required speed and formation and identify any issues that would need to be sorted before the real thing.
  • Saturday 10th: A 140 boat flotilla made up of many different types of boat – the purpose was, once again, to check whether we could all maintain the required speed and formation and maintain the required safety gap between the groups of different types of craft. This grand parade would be part of the Mayor’s Thames Festival – we were encouraged to decorate our boats and I resolved to wear a greyhound costume and wave at the crowds standing on the banks and bridges!

We volunteered for the rehearsals a couple of months ago and during that time we’ve received a number of updates and written briefings – as we’ve come to expect from anything organised by the St Pancras Cruising Club. However an essential condition of our participation was attendance at a narrowboat briefing meeting on Thursday. There was a real frisson of excitement in the room as the skippers and crews gathered at the Cruising Association – there were many familiar faces – the most reassuring being those standing at the front of the room – Andrew Phasey of the St Pancras Cruising Club and Jeremy the senior Lock-keeper at Limehouse. There was also a new face – Darren from the Port of London Authority (PLA), who has a big chunk of responsibility for organisation of next year’s jubilee event.

Darren, Andrew and Jeremy spent the next 2-hours giving us a detailed briefing on the 2 days, plus information for those overnighting at West India Dock on the Saturday night. They also answered everyone’s questions. Their presentations were backed up by written instructions, plans and photographs of relevant landmarks. Although it seemed that all the possible scenarios had been covered, a few things had been left ‘loose’ – deliberately so – because they wanted to see to what extent the main event will need to be micro-managed. We also collected our “Mayor’s Thames Festival’ burgees – an essential requirement for participation – anyone not displaying their burgee would be asked to leave the parade immediately (as one little Duck tour boat found out when they tried to tag along with us on the Saturday!).

The whole crowd then ate at the Cruising Association, with people’s reactions varying from bewilderment to excitement. We were excited – we were certain that we’d understood the briefing and comfortably accepted that those things that didn’t quite make sense to us would become clear on the river the following day.

It is likely that the 2012 jubilee event will be oversubscribed, though you may want to read the next two posts and look at the photos before you decide whether to apply! We thoroughly enjoyed the rehearsals and felt very  supported by the organising team – it may be a once in a boating lifetime event, so if you can get your boat to London by next June then why not apply?

After the briefing, Richard joined the Limehouse Berthholders Association barbecue (I went to bed to shake off the tail end of a mid-week migraine). The marina’s denizens are a sociable lot and within a short while it was as if we’d never been away – Limehouse marina really feels like Indigo Dream’s proper home…

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