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Boat Blog: Back to Limehouse

Posted by indigodream on 24 December, 2011

Sunday 18th December

Dawn at Teddington....

We’d had such a bad night with Lou that the alarm going off at 6.15am seemed superfluous – I’d stayed half-awake because I was waiting for it to go off!

We got ready quickly – the lockies had advised us to get to the lock between 7 and 7.30am so we needed to get moving. Richard took the dogs for a walk – needless to say, they were very reluctant to move – they’d had an active night and were ready for a lie-in. There had also been a hard frost overnight so the prospect of leaving their warm beds didn’t appeal – hmm, I could sympathise with that!

I’d had a small technical hitch yesterday because I’d left my glasses at home – I need them for driving/distance. I had contemplated going back home to get them but then I figured that the only things that I needed to look out for on the Thames were bridges and ferries and my eyesight’s not that bad….

In the end, a little rummage yielded one of my spare pairs in the boat wardrobe – sadly the prescription sunglasses weren’t much use in the darkness of 6.30am but another rummage yielded a spare set of ordinary glasses so it was ok!

It was quite magical as we set off from the mooring – the sky was watered ink tinged with the peachy blush of the sunrise along the horizon. It was so quiet and Indigo Dream’s engine at tickover barely rippled the silent air. We slipped gently down to the lock where we found the gates closed and the landings deserted. The boat decks were treacherously icy but I managed to slither off the boat onto the lock’s ‘nose’ and set off to find the lockie. He was astonished to see me – yesterday’s crew hadn’t left him a note to say we were coming so he wasn’t ready for us. It was a shame because it took a bit of time to set the lock – we were only 15 minutes late entering the tideway but we only had 3 hours to get down to Limehouse before they ran out of water over their cill. Now we’ve done the trip in 2.5 hours before but it is reassuring to have time in hand because the water drains away at an alarming rate once the tide has turned.

Cold and frosty morning - waiting for the lock...

Now regular readers will know that dawn is a stranger to the Indigo Dreamers so we cruised downriver all agog – the brilliant flashes of sunshine as we glimpsed the rising star through the tall building, the flashes of light from the shiny underbellies of the planes bound for Heathrow, the dazzling reflections from the numerous glass buildings and the mounting glow of the sunrise turning all to gold – magic!

As always we were entranced by the river – the water was glassy smooth and it was far too early for the commercial traffic to have started carving the water. There were plenty of early morning rowers out – the ones out in darkness had the good sense to carry a strong flashing headlight.

We did have one strange incident today – I was approaching Hammersmith Bridge to go through the right hand side of the large centre arch when I spotted some rowers and a small outboard powered ‘coaching boat’ i.e. tin bath with an outboard, heading upriver. No problem – the rowers have a well-marked channel to the right of the river (looking downstream) so there was no problem there. The ‘coaching’ boat was heading upstream through the correct side of the centre arch i.e. on my left and looked as if he would pass me on my left as was proper. Now the coaching boat was some distance across river from the rowers but I had thought that s/he would pass behind me to get close to them – but no. As I maintained a steady forward course, the coaching boat suddenly turned towards me on a collision course and cut right in front of my bows, disappearing from view as s/he did so.

I had already slowed down because of their antics but with them right in front of me I slammed Indigo Dream into reverse and hoped for the best. To my relief they emerged unharmed onto Indigo Dream’s right hand side – the helm seemed to be totally engrossed with the rowers and when s/he finally spotted me s/he looked totally astonished – as if this 17-ton narrowboat had abruptly popped up from the deeps rather than being visible for about half a mile upriver!.

I was a bit shaken – the advice given to narrowboats when dealing with unpowered craft is to slow down but to maintain a steady course – that’s what I did! In hindsight I should have used the Thames sound signal where five short blasts of the horn means, in the vernacular, “what the “££$%^ “£$$% are you doing?” Even if the full message didn’t get through they would at least have heard a loud noise and looked up!

Dawn glow (1)

We got to Limehouse in very good time – we radioed ahead from Tower Bridge and the lockies had the lock ready for us when we arrived. As is our new custom, we informed Thames VTS that we were about to cross the tideway – both to inform others that we were there and to get information about any Clippers that we might encounter. There were none and Richard did a smooth turn across the tideway and an equally smooth entrance into the lock.

Note from Richard: We follow the guidance in the Waterscape Tidal Thames Guidance so go past the lock and the work back against the tide. With no one about we did not need to slow down, turned at 1800 revs which got us across the tideway very quickly, stayed perhaps 70′ of the wall drifting closer as we approached the lock. If you start from a bit further out it is easy to keep the boat central in the entrance.

Limehouse lock had much less trash on the way back – maybe because the tide had carried it away briefly. Nonetheless there were a number of balloons floating in the water – they got trapped between the boat and lock wall – I was amazed at their resilience – despite being squashed against the lock wall they didn’t burst – just as well, exploding balloons always make me jump! We had caught a plastic bag as we came into the lock so we asked Jeremy for a few minutes extra in the lock to clear our prop.

As we manouevered into our berth we managed to snag a fishing line – not round the prop but, we suspect, round the tiller. Richard wound the line in for ages before the float and then half a dead fish, the bait, emerged from the water – the fishermen were obviously after pike. As we were about to walk round and give the fishermen their tackle back, one of them came onto the pontoon – we apologised for snagging his line and expected a mouthful of abuse but he was exceptionally pleasant. I expressed surprise that there were large pike in the marina – he proved me wrong later when they landed a whopper – it must have been a metre long.

We took our time leaving the boat – the hounds needed a walk in the park and we had some engine checks and cleaning to do. I went through the cupboards and chucked the out-of-date stuff then I gave the floor a quick once-over. I also emptied the fridge of perishable so we’ve left the boat in good order compared to recent standards.

Now here’s a mystery for you – I was dismayed to find that a can of lemonade – part of the stash of soft-drink cans under sofa – had emptied (with no visible split) and drenched the floor in sticky lemonade.  A thorough investigation yielded a couple more empty cans and a few half-empty ones! Now, in all the years we’ve had Indigo Dream, in every extreme of temperature, we’ve never had this happen before. But since the beginning of October we’ve had around half a dozen cans emptied – presumably via a microscopic hole/split somewhere. What is going on?

So, this magnificent cruise is probably the last of our 2011 cruising – unless we fit in a post-prandial refresher between Christmas and New Year. So we’ll wish you all a merry Christmas and a spectacular year’s cruising in 2012 – we were fortunate to win a special Herbie award for hospitality in 2011 – so do invite yourselves on board in the New Year 🙂


Kew railway bridge....

In Teddington lock...

Detail on Kew railway bridge - just for enjoyment of passing boaters...

Barnes "on sea" - one of these days I'll go there just for the pleasure of promenading along the riverfront...

Dawn glow (2)...

The moon? I should be in my bed!!!

Waterscape - the north bank at Fulham (near the site of the disused Townmead Road power station)...

And the south bank at Fulham - the glass and steel revolution marches upriver....

The north bank downstream at Fulham - the gentrification continues...

This Sainsbury's is apparently where Jamie Oliver does the TV adverts. Of more interest is the huge derelict wharf in front - this is where they unloaded coal for the Townmead Road power station....

View downriver - the water was glassy smooth....

The development at Chelsea Creek - fancy a 1-bed apartment for £550k -

The tower at Chelsea Marina is the "Belvedere" - the brass ball on the spire rises and falls with the tide....

Disused power station - north bank...

The sun was bright but lacked the warmth to thaw the frost on the boat roof (or thaw our fingers and toes!)...

Go on, tell me you're bored of that view 🙂 As Samuel Johnson said "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life"

The floating restaurant is already on the mud - better hurry, the tide is going out fast....

Dawn glow (3)

Big works at Blackfriars - it's worth checking the river broadcast as the closed arches change regularly during the day as the works progress..

The battleship and the bridge....

Look at the delicate spire of St Dunstan in the East - almost lost in the surrounding solid monuments to wealth. The spire was built around 1700 and was designed by Christopher Wren. The church apparently has a tranquil garden which is open to visitors.

No mistaking the Tower of London....

St Katherine's Dock - a popular resting place on the river...

The Thames police wharf in Wapping - apparently they've been based here since 1798

They eventually caught a whopper - that's just its tail in the photo...

2 Responses to “Boat Blog: Back to Limehouse”

  1. Graham and Jill said

    Looking at the photo of the guys with the pike, I shouLd say that it weighs in at around 15 to 20 pounds, nice fish.
    Have a brilliant Christmas and we wish you all a very prosperous, healthy New Year, and that includes all you dogs!

  2. neil said

    Looks like a lovely trip. I wanted to join you but Neil refused to get up early enough to reach you in time ………..
    Have a great Christmas and a very Happy (and hopefully Peaceful) New Year

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