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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!

Photoblog:

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)....

Convoy......

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....

Cityscape....

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!

5 Responses to “Boat Blog: To the Royal Docks…”

  1. Lesley said

    As ever Sue, a brilliant post!
    X Lesley

  2. ellie said

    Brilliant read. Thank you. Enjoyed the experience – and with dogs!

  3. Greygal said

    It’s quite sad that most girls go ‘Phwoar’ at the site of Tom Cruise/Johnny Depp/Daniel Craig etc but I do it at an Airbus 318!

    Great trip, very excited to do Bow Creek at last, and the perfect opener to 2012 cruising!

  4. indigodream said

    Thank you Lesley and Ellie – glad you enjoyed the post

    In all fairness Greygal, Tom Cruise/Johnny Depp/Daniel Craig and similar were not available for us to go “phwoar” at – sometimes a girl just has to make do…..with a plane….

    Of course, they may have been hiding out on one of the sunseekers – we’ll search of them next time 🙂

  5. Lesley said

    Greygal
    I worry about you sometimes!!!
    Lesley

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