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Archive for January, 2012

Boat Blog: Log entry

Posted by indigodream on 29 January, 2012

Sunday 22nd January

Richard popped up to the boat today to tick a few chores off his extensive to-do list:

  • he fitted the isolation transformer
  • he set a small oil radiator to keep the boat aired and frost-free (if we get any serious frost in London this year). The heater is a cheapie 1.5Kw from Screwfix and set to come on the 3 hours a day -we reckon it will be much cheaper than using the Webasto while we’re hooked up to shore power in the marina.

Meter reading was 14.3

The bit of kit we eventually bought was an Airlink WP3231 Transformer though we did also look at the more expensive ones from the usual suspects eg Victron and heaven knows how many galvanic isolators. There is a load of information on the web, eg search on canalworld forum but the best guide we found was on Gibbo’s site – click here.

The Airlink comes with no instructions, you take the cover off to get to two glands and inside there is a label from which you can work out which terminal is which. The box itself does not have any predrilled holes for the cable glands so you need holesaws for them (yes holesawS as the glands are different sizes!) but installation is easy, just a question of stripping some wires, putting them into screw terminals one end and waterproof plugs at the other end. We got the plugs from Screwfix – link here and some 2.4mm² artic cable from B&Q’s bargain bucket but I see that Airlink can now supply a unit pre-wired.

We took Ty with us to see if being on the boat without the engine running would be a little less scary – it wasn’t! He curled up in a little ball on his bed and trembled, but at least he wasn’t in a total panic so we are getting somewhere, slowly.

We hadn’t meant to take Lou because she’d been very stiff over the weekend, but she insisted. This was a big mistake as somewhere during the day’s activities she managed pulled her pectoral muscles (probably from using her front legs to heave herself upright/up the boat steps – she has arthritis in one of her knees and in her back – this means that she sometimes lacks a ‘spring’ and relies too much on her front end to do the work – long story!). So my subsequent week has been taken up with visits to the vet and doggie physio – I am quite proud of myself because yet again I have resisted taking Lou’s valium despite intense provocation 🙂

While Richard was at the boat, I was attending my interview to be an Olympic volunteer. This was held at Excel and I really enjoyed being back at the Royal Docks – though Victoria Dock looks much better with a fleet of moored narrowboats! Richard has already been accepted as a volunteer and starts his training in a fortnight’s time. My Olympic experience was a bit of a farce, so it’s worthy of its own entry later….

Jenni from the boat opposite usefully told us that there was a berth holders meeting on Thursday – we had not been notified…..

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Odds Blog: Rewind to our New Year onshore….

Posted by indigodream on 27 January, 2012

31st December 2011

It seems like an eternity ago but I wanted to make note of the two very fine dog-friendly pubs we found at the end of last year….

We celebrated New Year with Gil and Nick – they are not boaters or houndie people, but they will put up with any number of our eccentricities in order to spend time with us – old friends are so precious 🙂

Lynx joining in with our New Year festivities...

Despite their lack of boating enthusiasm, Gil unwisely suggested that we have lunch at Marlow before going on to the evening’s destination. Marlow – one of our favourite places on the Thames – as we raved about it, Gil rolled her eyes – the phrase “giving the monkeys the keys to the banana plantation” springing to mind…..

We had lunch at the Royal Oak – a little way outside of Marlow – I thought that the food was superb (if a little pricey) and it is dog-friendly – result! I’d go there again, but Richard would order something different from the menu – being a ‘cheffy’ place, eggs come with runny yolks and liver is served rare (this was not on the same plate I hasten to say) so if you like your food well-cooked then let them know. The chef was prepared to cook some sausages for the hounds but as they were posh sausages he’d have to charge £2 each so we declined.

We then went into Marlow town and had a walk along one of our favourite waterfronts – Ty was a jellyboy but Lou enjoyed weeing where she’d wee’d before (I’ve lost track of how often we’ve moored here with her) and Lynx just enjoyed weeing where she’d wee’d – hounds are easy to please!

We had booked to celebrate the New Year in the Fox Country Inn, just outside High Wycombe – it was a cosy pub with just a few hotel rooms; it was superbly dog-friendly – we had anticipated leaving the hounds in our room while we had dinner, but the staff prepared us a special table with enough room for the hounds to relax with us – how thoughtful. There was also a huge field at the back of the pub (with access from the pub so I’m not sure whether they own the land) where the hounds could have a good off-lead rummage (not Ty, of course, too many places for him to scarper).

The food at the Fox was quite amazing – possibly the best I’ve ever eaten – all with a little twist of originality – a traditional scallop and black pudding dish served with a ball of tangy apple sorbet; the most tender fillet of beef and the unique “deconstructed” banana and coffee pavlova – a plateful of delightful mini-bites which bore as much resemblance to a traditional pavlova as the royal corps de ballet to a beginners line-dancing class.

The Fox Inn is apparently owned by Russians, and is mainly staffed by Russians – they were having their staff party that night (I think we were the only paying guests) – suffice to say that vodka was drunk (but not by me – I was on the fizzy wine – big mistake!) [Ed. It would have been rude not to have a shot of vodka or possibly a touch more].

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Dog Blog: Thank You….

Posted by indigodream on 22 January, 2012

20th January 2012

Lynx dictated his diary to me on the night before he died - I haven't the heart to publish (yet) but he had a lot to say about why he needed such a big bath when he'd only rolled in such a little poo!

This is a heartfelt “thank you” to all those people who’ve been in touch since we published the news of Lynx’s tragic demise – we’ve been overwhelmed by the sympathy and support that we’ve been offered – it means the world to us. We had an astonishing 1000+ hits on the blog in just a few days – we’ve had nigh on 200 messages of condolence via the various social media that Lynx was involved with (he was very talented!). We’ve even heard from his fans in Australia!

Greygal wryly commented that the rainbow bridge has broadband, and that the hits were from Lynx, checking what people were saying about him! He would certainly have been flattered (insofar as dogs understand these concepts – better expressed in sausages rather than words really).

Your words of comfort have consoled us enormously, even as they have astounded us with the scale of our loss – I don’t know how we’re all going to manage without Lynx’s diary.

Many of the messages have made us smile – we particularly like the thought that Lynx, like many superstars, lived fast, died young and left his fans wanting more – it’s one way for us to make sense of what’s happened.

The last week has been excruciating – although we can console ourselves that Lynx had the best possible life (and death, arguably), the painful reality of his absence is acute and dreadful. Lou and Ty are coping well – on Monday they spent the day upstairs in bed but on Tuesday they took it in turns to sit downstairs with me. Looking after me is obviously exhausting work because they arranged a ‘shift change’ every hour or so, with the off-duty dog running upstairs immediately to catch up on their snoozing. Tuesday must have been so tiring, in fact, that they’ve given up on it and gone back to their more or less permanent snoozing mode 🙂

Moving on……

Now, we’ve always said that we have a solemn obligation to rehome a rescue dog if it’s within our capability – there are just too many needy hounds out there for us not to…..

Being wrapped in a blanket by a warm radiator with a slice of pizza was some compensation for the whole b-a-t-h debacle....

So, taking nothing away from our love and grief for Lynx, should we consider going back up to a pack of three?

First of all we want to see how Ty, in particular, adapts to the new situation – will he stay the same, will he come out of his shell, will he relax more without a top boy to spur him on (obviously Lou is still THE top girl) – we really don’t know. Then what do we do – go out and seek a dog or wait for fate to take a hand – goodness knows there are enough sad hound stories to snare us. Will we find another hound that will take to boating and cope with our summer cruising lifestyle – or is that not a worry – after all, Greygal has found eight!?

I’m afraid that I feel a bit fatalistic after Lynx’s untimely death (coming so soon after Blue’s) – it will be a while before I stop prodding the sleeping Lou and Ty to check that they’re still breathing (much to their annoyance). And this is the rub – how can we even contemplate taking on another hound, to whom we will eventually have to say goodbye, when the pain of losing Lynx has nigh on broken me (As Bruce in Sanity so aptly quoted)?

It may take a while to find the right hound (not a replacement – you can never replace them – they’re all unique) – when people go to rescue kennels they might ask for a particular breed of dog, colour, size, age, temperament – but we’ll be asking whether they can write and whether they’ve shown any trace of literary talent……

If Lynx’s life has inspired you to take on a greyhound then we are looking here and here – they have already suggested that we look at Ben and Alex plus they have a great collection of girls (Richard being a sucker for blues liked Lola) but would Lou let a girl in? Do also look on the Retired Greyhound Trust site both for links to RGT Branches closer to you and also for dogs available for re-homing.

Note about the rainbow bridge:

Many comments we’ve had mention the “rainbow bridge” – it’s a comforting thought. For those not in the know here’s the ‘poem’ at the heart of it – the author is unknown so I hope they won’t mind my reproducing it here:

Rainbow Bridge

There is a bridge connecting heaven and earth
It is called Rainbow Bridge because of its many colours

Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,
hills, valleys with lush green grass

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this special place
There is always food and water and warm spring weather

The old and frail are young again
Those who are maimed are made whole again

They play all day with each other
There is only one thing missing

They are not with their special person who loved them on Earth
So each day they run and play until the day comes
when one suddenly stops playing and looks up !

The nose twitches !
The ears are up !
The eyes are staring !
And this one suddenly runs from the group !

You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet,
you take him or her into your arms and embrace
your face is kissed again and again,
and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated

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Dog Blog: Leaway Lynx 1 September 2004 – 15 January 2012

Posted by indigodream on 15 January, 2012

Sunday 15th January

Lynx doing ‘olympic looking’ – with sheep!

Today the unthinkable happened……

The dogs had gone with Richard to visit his mother (aka nanny Renia) just for an hour or so. Now Renia’s garden is doggie heaven, generations of family dogs have always felt at home there and thoroughly enjoyed running round the acre grounds checking behind the various hedges, investigating the woods for traces of the many cats and foxes that regularly traverse the garden – basically a feast for the senses and so much fun .

Lynx settled in straight away – within a fortnight of moving in he was loving the boat and the views….

The visit started with the usual mad charge up the drive then grass flying as they kicked off up the first slope with Jelly Boy Ty in the lead, closely followed by Lou and Lynx. They had a wonderful charge round then came in, smiling, happy, briefly said hello, demanded water and flopped down in the living room. They had a second charge round whilst Richard was re-programming the TV and then, when it was time to leave, all 3 went out at great pace to have a last explore. Richard stood at the top of the drive, whistling and had difficulties getting any dog to come – they were far too busy! Lou ran down but went off to explore to one side, Ty ran round the house to the front door and pushed past Renia very anxious to get back into the house. Whilst Renia went upstairs to get Ty, Richard managed to get Lou to jump into the car and was whistling for Lynx with no response but then had to rush into the house as he had heard Ty bark, possibly distressed and not wanting to leave the bedroom where he was hiding. Ty was duly led to the car then Richard looked round for Lynx, still no response and no sounds of rummaging which led to an initial worry had he gone out through the open gate and been run over by the one car that had gone past in that time but a search of the road and verges proved to be negative.

Richard then went through the wood expecting to find Lynx with his nose glued to a hole in the fence – he used to go into a trance-like state if he thought there was a fox to be watched. But by now Richard was feeling anxious. There was no sign of Lynx in the wood, so Richard was about to explore behind the back hedges when he saw Lynx lying on his side on the grass, peaceful, looking like he was doing a Lou and having a quick rest before catching up with pack – but there was no chest movement, no heart beat, no breath, no response in the eyes and no response when Richard opened Lynx’s mouth to check inside. Lynx was dead……

He was such an endearingly handsome hound – a real advertisement for black greyhounds (which are often overlooked in rescue centres)…

I was at home while all this was happening – Richard rang with the terrible news and brought all three dogs home. I had already spoken to Lynx’s vet (aka Blondie the bloodsucker) about doing a basic autopsy, so once Ty and Lou had been fed we took Lynx’s body to the vet. An examination and x-ray confirmed that Lynx had broken his neck – death would have been instantaneous with no time for pain, which is a mercy. After a while, when we had a chance to say our last goodbyes, we went back to Richard’s mum’s garden just to see if there were any clues to what had happened – our best guess is that he slipped and took a head-over-heels tumble which broke his neck.

We have some small consolations – Lynx died doing what he loved most, rummaging at pace round an exciting garden, having a wonderful time. He always seemed to relish his life with us – from the moment he moved in to the moment he died. He loved cruising – both being close to us on deck and all the excitement of olympic looking at ducks and suchlike. The pain of his loss is indescribable – while Lou and Ty like to spend their day asleep on the most comfortable beds upstairs, Lynx would always lie in the same room as me and would follow me wherever I went, much as Blue used to do. The thought of tomorrow without Lynx is currently unbearable but bear it we must – what choice do we have?

The story of Lynx….

Leaway Lynx aka Lynx was a gorgeous black greyhound born on 1 September 2004 in Ireland and initially raced in Cork then in 2007 moved to this country and raced in Romford, Monmore, Oxford and Coventry. He stopped racing early, his last recorded race was on 27 July 2007 in Romford yet he was the fastest dog we have ever had.

Lynx doing what he loved best – charging round our garden with his pals….

He was initially rehomed by a lady in Ipswich, we are not sure when, but probably in November 2007. She looked after him well and trained him well but sadly in July 2010 her personal circumstances meant that she had to ask for help and we took him on as a foster dog on 25th July 2010 which seems like such a very short time ago. Lynx was a perfect dog, well yes, he did have an air of mischief about him and was very busy (for a greyhound) but he was simply fabulous. His character was such that he began to write a diary which quickly proved to be at least three times more popular than most other blog posts!

Many of you would have followed Lynx’s diary so know what a fantastic dog he was. We were privileged to have had him share our lives. We are gutted that our time with him was so short but delighted that he had lived life to the full and that every day had been an adventure for him.

I have two wry thoughts:

  • I hope that Lynx finds Blue at the rainbow bridge and that they are running free together having boys own adventures full of mild mischief
  • I have to avoid calling Lou the “black widow” – against all the odds she has outlived two of her boyfriends – I hope that she lives a long life and doesn’t dispatch Ty for a good many years yet….

We are devastated and can only say “Run free Lynx”…..

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Boat Blog: Back to Limehouse….

Posted by indigodream on 11 January, 2012

Monday 9th January

A view of the north 'pier' of the Thames cable car - ooh that's high - can't wait to cruise under it!

After a weekend at home our various viruses had abated a little so we were quite cheerful this morning as we headed from home at 7am to catch the train back to the boat. We left Lou and Lynx at home for a change – they’d enjoy a day in bed and it saved us from having to face the logistics of the car on the first working Monday of the year!

I’m absolutely sure that this is not the case, but it’s hard to shake off the feeling that the tide is always imposing pre-dawn starts on us. But not today – we were due to leave the Royal Docks at 10am for a leisurely bobble up to the lock before entering the Thames at 11am-ish. We were due to go up Bow Creek with the rising tide (for a change) so there were no worries about water levels; weather conditions were perfect – the recipe for a fine morning’s cruising.

We got to the boat before 8.30am after an unnaturally smooth journey on public transport – plenty of time for coffee (lots), ham ‘n cheese toasties (numerous), engine checks (yes, it is still there), watching the news on TV, chatting with our neighbours, taking photos – I don’t recall ever having had such a relaxed start to a tideway cruise! Then we had a surprise visitor – on Friday our guest, Simon, from nb Scholar Gypsy, expressed his determination to go work today, but I’m glad to say that he saw sense and decided to join us for the return trip instead. We welcomed him on board – we’re always glad of an extra pair of hands/eyes on the tideway, especially when Sarah and Andy have abandoned us (I guess someone has to work)!

A view of the works - we think that the building under construction on the right is the 'terminal' for the cable car - it's huge - they must be expecting some 'traffic'...

At 10am on the dot, the convoy of 7 narrowboats gracefully peeled away from the dock wall and cruised gently along the gargantuan dock – as always we mused on what fun it would be to have a little illicit exploration of the docks’ various nooks and crannies – they’re so vast it would be good day’s cruise for a narrowboat! Over the weekend Richard found this fascinating Pathé newsreel showing the docks in their heyday – oops, that’s a link to the Thames VTS as it was – this is the link to the docks in action. We were musing on what the future holds for these waters – developers seem to be very good at developing the waterside but it seems that the main function of the water itself is confined to providing a pleasant (possibly therapeutic) view. Our imaginations greedily populated the docks with green landscaping, mooring pontoons, sympathetic service points and open cruising channels for enterprising boaters – maybe with associated information about the history of that part of the docks – ah “if I were a rich man..” as the song goes…..

It’s arguable that the docks are ‘past their best’, surrounded by a mixture of bland developments and dereliction, but there’s still plenty to see – as the photoblog below shows…..

Our convoy of seven narrowboats barely troubled the quarter lock that they used to lower us onto the tideway – there was no warship at the boat show this year so no chance of sharing the full lock with a frigate as in previous years….

A little breeze had arisen while we were approaching the lock but the Thames was calm – it’s about wind direction as well as strength – conditions were in our favour with very little swell. As we entered the tideway we spotted a huge container barge coming upriver behind us – but even that wasn’t an inconvenience – it turned away downriver before they got to the lock and we had the river to ourselves. The photographs don’t do the river justice – it was very overcast so the photos look a bit bleak but it is a fantastic trip on a river which in parts is wide enough to accommodate 250 narrowboats brested up.

The convoy tucked neatly into its little mooring space...

Our leader, nb Doris Katia, had a little waltz with Woolwich Ferry, Ernest Bevin, but by the time we got there, both ferries were moored up for loading/unloading and we passed upstream without any drama. Interestingly the ferries don’t generate any wash – they don’t have to move far or fast and I believe that they are shallow-drafted so although we crossed Ernest Bevin’s wake there was no turbulence at all.

Our first few trips on the tideway were before the rules changed and were without a VHF radio – but having a radio has been so useful as the general chatter gives you a good idea of what is going on. Thames VTS always take good care of us on the tideway, but they seemed particularly solicitous today – but because of heavy (literally) traffic on Bow Creek! A crane barge was being pushed/pulled down Bow Creek by two tugs – they would be followed by another later. To our relief the first barge predicated that they’d be clear by the time we got to Bow Creek mouth and we thought we’d be clear of Bow Creek by the time the second started its journey from Three Mills Lock.

From this you’ll have gathered that we were due to lock off Bow Creek via Bow Locks – sadly there was just too much construction work going on at Three Mills to allow us passage today.

We passed through the barrier with hardly a ripple then, as we progressed towards Bow Creek mouth, we caught sight of the crane barge – it was ENORMOUS – the two tugs ‘fussing’ around it were big enough! By the time we got there the tugs were doing the last manoeuvres to deposit the barge at Greenwich North so we were able to enjoy the show without worrying about having to dodge round it on the torturous curves of Bow Creek.

Crane barge on the move....

I’d been on the helm all morning so I generously handed the tiller over to Richard at Bow Creek mouth; he, in turn, handed it over to Simon, just in time for all of the tricky twisty shallow bits!

It’s a short trip to Bow Locks and we relaxed while the convoy locked off the river – two by two. On previous visits we’ve been concerned about being grounded by the falling tide, but this time we were on a rising tide with water to spare – if you click on this link you’ll see an aerial photo of the area at low tide – zoom in on Bow Locks and you’ll see that the entrance is quite literally just mud!

We locked in with old friends (if I can be so bold) nb Peace of Pearce and our tideway adventure was over. We cruised down Limehouse Cut – in daylight this time – marvelling at what had, and hadn’t changed, since we last cruised this way. The cut is still a mix of tidy new developments, nothing too ostentatious, and total dereliction – I was surprised to see derelict buildings – I can’t help but think that the owners have missed a golden opportunity to make money during this Olympic year!

We got back to Limehouse by 12.30pm and bid Simon farewell – we can definitely recommended him as a crew member! We stopped off at the service pontoon, did a quick pump-out then nestled back in our berth. Because we’d originally expected to spend the weekend on board, we’d filled the fridge with food, so it seemed wise to eat lunch before we went home.

We were a bit concerned about the hounds being home alone for so long, but they were fine – Lou and Lynx had indeed been asleep all morning. We had a rapturous welcome and after 5 minutes of rummaging round the garden they were back in their beds! We were ready for a little nap ourselves but we forced ourselves to pick Ty up from Richard’s mum (he had been so happy there he didn’t want to come home), we also sorted out the hundreds of photos that we’ve taken and caught up with the blog – a good afternoon’s work!

So what next? We need to do a bit of boat maintenance then we need to plan this year’s odyssey, though I don’t doubt there will be a few cruises before then. We were very disappointed to find that Indigo Dream has not been selected to take part in the jubilee pageant – looking on the bright side though, it really opens up our cruising possibilities. We are planning to stay south this year –  Richard has been selected to be an Olympic volunteer and I have a volunteer’s interview at the end of January so we will be busy in July/August, making a northern odyssey impractical, especially if we succeed in renting Indigo Dream out as Olympic accommodation!


A view over the eternally stilled cranes that were so busy in the pathe newsreel film...

This gives an idea of the scale of the docking operations - these cranes tower above the landscape - waiting for big ships that won't return...

Wonder what Freud would make of this 🙂

Interesting - as it happens there weren't any birds around for anyone to feed - I believe the local swans have been evicted, as this reader pointed out last year

This soaring footbridge always reminds me of an old 'transporter' bridge - I always expect the lower plinths to move in some way...

Peeling away from the dock wall....

The convoy underway...

View down the vast dock with planes taking off towards us....

Gasworks Dock Partnership - an initiative to bring the water and its history to the residents of Newham -

The grand ship on its floating mooring is a grand restoration project - (thanks to Ditchcrawler from CWF for the link)

We can't believe that this building hasn't been developed yet - it's surely a prime site...

The docks ahead look vast and featureless....

But behind us there's all the busy-ness of the big city....

This a prototype 'leaf' for the "Shoal" a kinetic sculpture which will be erected along the Great Eastern Road past Stratford Station -

This squat brick tower apparently marks the route of a railway tunnel - I'm not sure if it's still in use though....

These canalside developments are colourful - and an interesting shape - better than your average bland box....

Ready for take-off.....

And we're off - don't cut the corner - see that mudbank on the far right....

Waiting for ferry Ernest Bevin to cross the tideway....

Nice to go past when the giant ferries are moored up - no time to dawdle though - they unload/load pretty quickly....

Cruising past the sugar refinery - now owned by an American sugar company who bought the plant and the Tate 'n Lyle brand...

See the Ernest Bevin on the move behind us - the ferries don't hang about!

The Thames barrage is quite beautiful for such a massively functional piece of infrastructure..

The crane barge at its North Greenwich mooring - glad we didn't meet that on the twisty Bow Creek - it must have taken up the entire width of the channel!

Hovering on Bow Creek while waiting for the lock - our adventure is almost over...

Sunken cruiser on Limehouse cut - last year there was a sunken car nearby - always something new to see on the canals 🙂

We don't know which is more amazing - that this place hasn't been developed or that it hasn't collapsed into the canal yet....

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Boat Blog: To the Royal Docks…

Posted by indigodream on 10 January, 2012

Thursday 5th January

The hounds waiting for Olympic security to 'vet' them 🙂

We had great plans for getting to the boat early and doing a few pre-cruise chores before our tideway adventures tomorrow.  But we’ve had a rough week with work and a flu-ey bug so we lacked a certain drive this afternoon. Never mind, it was really too windy to move to (and back) from the pump-out pontoon and we decided that half a tank of fuel would be plenty for our weekend adventures. I did fill the water tank and filled the fridge with provisions for hounds and people.

I was concerned that I may have over-catered for the hounds as Richard’s mum, who has been under the weather for a few months, suddenly declared that she was well enough to look after Ty over the weekend. She enjoys his company and he would definitely prefer to be in her house rather than on the boat so we left him there. I needn’t have worried though – Sarah was bringing a random selection of her pack on Friday and her hounds tell me that they never get fed, or have treats and rely solely on visits to Indigo Dream for their sustenance! Of course Lou and Lynx, in response to the competition, did their bit to clear the boat of excess offal risotto, liver cake and hot chicken! As it turned out, I may even have under-catered as Herbie hound (who had a sad history of being starved before his rescue by Greyhound homer) helped himself to as much human food off the counter as he could manage before I wised up to his ways!

At 7pm we went to the Cruising Association (CA) for the usual St Pancras Cruising Club briefing – it was good to see so many familiar faces and a new crew from nb Charlotte, who were joining the convoy for the first time but they do have deep sea yachting experience so they’re far from novices.

Along the Bow Back Rivers - no sign of the Olympic works from this side....

The briefing was brief, excellent as always but had a new feature – a short DVD from the RNLI about “Cold water shock” – like many instructional videos it seemed to raise more questions than it answered but the main messages were:

a) don’t fall overboard

b) wear a lifejacket (ok, arguable on canals but important at sea/tidal rivers)

c – z) don’t fall overboard…..

After the briefing we had a convivial meal at the CA, but by 9pm our bugs have overtaken us so we left the group to their beers and retired to our beds. We had possibly the worst night’s sleep ever – partly because of our coughing and sneezing and partly because I kept waking up every half an hour to see whether it was time for the alarm to go off – which made setting the alarm pretty pointless in the first place!

Friday 6th January

When the alarm finally did go off at 5.30am I was almost relieved!

We quickly got ourselves, the hounds and the boat ready – we were relieved to find that the week’s winds had died to nothing, leaving a clear cold night morning. Our first guest, Simon, from nb Scholar Gypsy arrived just before 6.30am, followed soon after by Sarah, Andy and greyhounds Henry, Archie, Big Sid and newbie Herbie, who hasn’t cruised on Indigo Dream yet. We set off from our mooring at 6.30am and headed up Limehouse Cut in the pitch dark. We had to be careful to avoid the sunken cruiser and associated debris. We’re not sure what the story is, but the crew of nb Peace of Pearce reported that a sunken cruiser had appeared at the end of their mooring, blocking them in. BW had said they were coming to clear it out of the way but last night the crew of Peace of Pearce had doubted whether they would be able to get out of their mooring to join the convoy. Luckily the obstruction had ‘shifted’ overnight and they were able to get out through the flotsam.

The view back from City Mills lock....

Now for some reason I ended up in the galley for most of the trip and didn’t take the helm once – I’m not sure how this happened, but it does mean that my description of the trip will be confined to what I saw out of the window and maybe a graphic description of frying bacon and baking pastries! Except I can’t give a graphic description – my cold has robbed me (temporarily I hope) of my sense of smell and taste – I couldn’t smell the panful of pancetta frying right under my nose or the pungent tang of carmelising sugar as a batch of danish pastries were burnt to black in the oven!

When we came down the Thames a few weeks ago, we were entranced by the dawn glow along the river. But the East End doesn’t glow, it glowers, facing the dawn with all the reluctance of a morning teenager…….

We had to admire and thank the St Pancras Cruising Club for organising this adventure – it’s no mean feat. Our convoy of 7 boats got to the boom across the entrance to the Bow Back River at 7.15am, where a crew from Olympic security were to meet us (they were late!). The Olympic security boat took all our details before removing the boom that blocks access. Next we had to weave our way through various bits of construction/dredging works before locking through City Mills lock (two boats at a time) onto the Waterworks River then locking through the enormous 3-Mills lock (which took the entire convoy with room to spare!) onto Bow Creek.

I’d forgotten that it was Sarah and Andy’s first trip down Bow Creek – they’re always up for a new experience, but this seemed to be particularly enjoyable because they’ve passed over Bow Creek by car many times! Simon proved to be the perfect crewman – always ready and willing to look for jobs to do – maybe that explains why I was free to man the galley 🙂

View up the Waterworks River - see the red loop of the Arcelormittal orbital in the distance...

I was in the cabin when we entered the Thames tideway – I didn’t need to look out of the window to know where we were – the great river feels unique and although conditions were as calm as could be, there was just enough swell to remind us to treat the tideway with respect. I stayed in the galley – enjoying the eye-level view of the water – it was quite a busy morning on the river and, just before the turn into the dock, we had to wait while a giant tug and barge-full of containers passed downriver – great stuff. Richard reported that he felt almost blasé when we passed through the barrier – it’s become a familiar route, though some of his nonchalance may have come from the fact that we managed to pass the Woolwich Ferries while they were moored up and loading rather than doing the usual do-si-do around them!

We turned into the giant lock at the entrance to the Royal Docks where we joined a few very expensive cruisers. After a brief wait we locked into the dock and, to our delight, the lock-keepers let our convoy out first. They needed to swing the bridge for the cruisers – Sarah marvelled – she’s driven over that swingbridge on many occasions and never been stopped to allow the passage of boats. Then, as we crossed the end of City Airport’s runway Sarah went “Phoar” as a jet plane came into land almost within touching distance of the boat!

The Royal Docks were as awesome as ever – the race down to our moorings with planes taking off right beside us, the vast swing and lift-bridges and, at the very end, the huge works to install the Thames cable car. The completed pier was not as imposing from this angle as I expected, given that you can see it for miles away on the drive in from South/East London. However, the terminal building, being built at the end of Victoria Dock, was impressive. The works had cut down the mooring space available but there was just enough room for our convoy outside the local Caribbean restaurant. We managed to get into a mooring on the lowest part of the wall so that we could offload the dogs (poor Lou is not meant to jump not that she listens to the Vet & Physio) and there we were. Everyone gathered for the traditional warming drinks (warmin-ing as opposed to warm – he is an ex-military man after all :-)) at Andrew Phasey’s boat, Doris Katia, and then we bid a reluctant farewell to our guests.

Moving onto the Thames....

As we congregated on the dock wall to swap tall tales, the nearby Caribbean restaurant (Caribbean Scene Royale) sent out two waiters with a large tray of their special jerked chicken – a gift from the manager. It was a kindness and a clever bit of marketing rolled into one – those that tried it said it was incredibly delicious – the best jerk chicken they’d ever tasted. The crews were very impressed with the food but regrettably for the  restaurant’s manager, word got around that a meal there might be beyond the average (is there such a thing?) narrowboater’s  budget. So I feel I owe the restaurant a plug – if you’re in the area then Caribbean Scene Royale has twice been voted “best Caribbean restaurant in the UK” so it might be worth diverting a little of the narrowboat’s beer budget to a meal there one day 🙂

Andrew Phasey is a member of the Royal Yachting Association so he was able to get us discounted tickets for the boat show. We went to explore the show – we were excited because Richard had heard that the inland waterways were better represented this year. It was preview day, so the show was nicely quiet, however the ‘inland waterways’ bit was very disappointing – one “Sea Otter” boat surrounded by posters for Ting Dean marinas and two Wilson’s chairs (bit of a pattern there). The “Sea Otter” representatives couldn’t have been less keen – reaching a state of weary disinterest that I’d associate with the last day of a busy show rather than the first. We had some questions about the marina – they didn’t know anything about it but couldn’t venture an opinion whether a marina representative would be there – they suggested we ring the marina for information – well, yes, we can, any time we like, but that’s not the point of being at a boat show!

We viewed a £2 million Sunseeker – not to our taste (so we won’t be ordering!) but it would have to be a greyhound’s dream – so many sofas and beds – the ones on the upper deck would have been a perfect platform for olympic looking! The view from the Captain’s chair inside is awful, no wonder they never see narrowboats on the river.

We had a wander round the miscellany of ‘gadget’ stalls – Richard surprised me by having a serious chat about air-conditioning with the guys on one stall – it’s something we’ve talked about when the summers have been hot, but obviously not in 2011! Apart from the cost, we’ve always thought they had prohibitive power consumption, but a ‘back of an envelope’ calculation with these guys suggested that their heat pump style arrangement was do-able – though the cost of the system and installation is still eye-watering!

I had to cut short my exploration of the boat show at this point – I was feeling foul so I left Richard to it and went back to the boat. I had a quick walk with the hounds, gave then their dinner and by 6pm I was freezing in bed with a hot water bottle!

Richard came in shortly afterwards and even he was in bed by 9pm (not half as exciting as it sounds – runny noses are a definite passion-killer!)….

Saturday 7th January

We had planned to make a weekend of it in London, but we’ve been feeling so unwell we decided to head for home and come back to the boat for the return trip on Monday morning. Our decision was reinforced when the red light on the loo tank came on this morning – now this means that there are 50 flushes left but who wants to spend the weekend counting!


Nothing to do with boating but it really tickled me to see a horse stopped at traffic lights near our home

Along the Bow Back river - carefully supervised by the Olympic security team....

Waiting below City Mills Lock - several workboats had to clear Three Mills lock before we could proceed.....

Our back really does need an extension - there's not quite enough room for six greyhounds in bulky lifejackets to lie down comfortably (and leave room for a helmsman!)....

There goes one workboat....

Dredging at the Three Mills residential moorings...

These platforms had some fearsome defenses - just look at that razor wire...

Assembling the convoy at Three Mills lock - nb Ketura joined us here direct from her mooring nearby...

In Three Mills lock - plenty of room for us all....

Looking back onto Three Mills lock cut from Bow Creek...

Cruising down Bow Creek on a fine January morning....

Turning towards Bow Locks under the London Underground - the Hammersmith & City and District lines....

Fine view back to the actual Three Mills.....

Archie, Big Sid and Lou having a look at Bow Creek..

Knot sculpture - I wonder if it's accessible from the towpath side?

Round the bend - Bow Creek meanders extravagantly downstream of Bow locks...

The birds (1)....

The birds (2)....


Tilting train on the DLR...

Nicely in line down Bow Creek...

Our first view of the graceful pier that will carry the Thames cable car...

Blazing sun....


The cityscape upriver is so modern, but I think that this view harps back to the river's working past.....

Approaching the Thames Barrier - the 'open' channel is always well-marked and VTS direct you when you ask permission to pass - all very straightforward!

The giant Tate and Lyle sugar refinery - Tate 'n Lyle's website says that this opened in 1878 and became the largest sugar refinery in the world in 1939.....

The convoy bunched up for the run past the Woolwich Ferries....

Being overtaken by a container barge....

Waiting our turn....

And we're off - plenty of room for the convoy and the container barge to pass as the ferries move into their respective docks...

We'll always get a thrill from approaching the Royal Docks with City Airport right in front of us at eye level - fantastic...

Another container barge - we waited for him to pass before crossing the river to the Royal Docks - it was busy on the river today...

nb Doria Katia leading the turn across the tideway....

The convoy brested up in the quarter lock with a fine view of the tideway behind...

The lock gates opening to let us into the rest of the lock and the channel to the docks...

Did we have a good trip? Yes we did!

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Dog Blog: Lynx’s Diary

Posted by indigodream on 8 January, 2012

Friday 6th January

How can Auntie Sarah fink me diary is not me diary???

Auntie Sarah came to crooze wif us on the boat today – she came so early it wozn’t even the mornin’ – it woz the middle of the night! Well’ me an’ Lou woz still asleep so we sed a qwik ‘hello’ to our pals Henry an’ Archie an’ Big Sid an’ Herbie then we wents back to sleep. First I did snoozin’ on the sofa then on Ty’s bed then on me sheepskin on deck – I is mummy’s Sue’s boy – she duzn’t do mornin’s so I duzn’t eifer – Kew Eee Dee yeah?

But then Auntie Sarah sed “Lynx is the prefect hound…”

Qwite right, I fort

“…..he’s so perfect that his diary can’t be real…..” sed Auntie Sarah

Wot? I fort

“Lynx’s diary is full of mischief and I can’t believe that Lynx rolls in poo or screams at the vet – it’s just not him…..” Auntie Sarah sez

Oh no, I fort, ‘ere cumes anuuver bleedin’ efical dilemma – me life is full of ’em – wot is very complicated for a hound coz now I’s got to choose:

a) I lets Auntie Sarah keeps finking that I is perfect (wot is good for a hextra fuss) but then she finks me diary is a pack of lies (wot it izn’t reelly)….

b) I lets Auntie Sarah know that me diary is totally the truf (wot it is) and that I is only a bit naughty wen she is not lookin’, wot is most of the time coz she duzn’t spend all of her time wif us, even if it duz feel like it sumtimes.

I has to make it so that Auntie Sarah will still luv me and bring me pals over to play and to do lookin’ and to do the retired houd ‘lympics, so wots do you fink I shoulds do???

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Boat Blog: Getting 2012 off to a good start….

Posted by indigodream on 2 January, 2012

Monday 2nd January

Go on, you know you want to try this....

Next weekend we will be joining the St Pancras Cruising Club for their annual pilgrimage to the Royal Docks. It’s a great trip with the added excitement, this year, of seeing the first pier which will carry the Thames cable car – there’s a plan here.

If all goes well, we will be locking out onto Bow Creek via City Mills and Three Mill Locks – it is a great opportunity to use these essentially brand-new but under-utilised locks.

Once again, experienced boaters are welcome to join us, though the timings for the trip out are a bit brutal!

Friday 6th January: We need to leave Limehouse at 6.50am in order to get to City Mills Lock by 7.15am-ish to start locking out, two boats at a time from 7.30am. We’ll then congregate in Three Mills Lock, which is enormous and may take the whole convoy, and lock onto Bow Creek at 9.45am – we’ll get to the Royal Docks by about 11.15am. Unfortunately we can’t offer overnight accommodation on board (not that you’d want to with three guffing greyhounds on board!) but if you can get to us on time then you’re welcome to join us.

Monday 9th January: These timings are much more civilised! We leave our Royal Docks moorings at 10am and lock out onto the river at 11am to arrive at Three Mills Lock at midday; then there’ll be the short hop back to Limehouse which should take around half an hour.

The timings are provisional and the cruise is weather dependent so do leave yourself a little slack if you come along.

I reckon we can take up to four people on each trip – I know it’s short notice but if you fancy the cruise then let us know by Thursday morning – we need to confirm our numbers to the organisers by Thursday evening as it is an Olympic Park security requirement.

Weather permitting our 2012 cruising will be off to a flying start so I’ll wish you all happy cruising too….

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