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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 Pathรฉ 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 –ย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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....

7 Responses to “Boat Blog: Back to Limehouse….”

  1. Kath said

    Oh Sue, what bad news, we are gutted for you – and for us, we were hoping you would pick us as crew! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Looks like a nice cruise this time though, wish we had been able to join you.
    Kath (nb Herbie)

  2. indigodream said

    Hi Kath

    We were gutted too – we’d looked forward to inviting you to crew (even with the strict ‘no alcohol for 8 hours before the cruise’ rules!)

    It does save us the dilemma of working out who to invite for the last two crew places though ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Adam said

    If you haven’t been selected, I wonder what on earth the criteria were! There surely can’t be hundreds of boats with more tideway experience.

  4. indigodream said

    Apologies to yesterday’s readers – the link to the Pathe newsreel of the docks in action (sometime in the 1940s) is here –

    The link in the blog is to a view of the Thames VTS as it was…

  5. indigodream said

    A man in the know has told us that what we thought might be the terminal building for the cable is, in fact, “The Crystal” – a “new landmark and visitor experience” to do with sustainable cities:

  6. Kate and Cyril Walkington said

    Having enjoyed your blog and great pics of the Rehearsals last year, just thought we’d send commiserations on your non-selection for the real thing in June. Neither were we selected and our disappointment matches yours. On reading the names of the boats that have been selected [see] it would seem that the Pageant organisers have tried to spread the choice across a wide range of organisations like the Sea Cadets, Scouts, St. John’s Ambulance, BW, IWA, etc etc. Guess this is understandable but just hope they all have skippers and crew with the tideway experience that you have. With so many boats involved, experience could be a very useful criteria. The consolation is the thought that with the offer of viewing tickets, we may see more of the whole Event than we would from taking part. Still it’s not the same!! We’re heading for the Fens this summer, so we’ll look out for Indigo Dream on the cut.
    Kate and Cyril – Tamesis II, K&A

  7. indigodream said

    Hi Kate and Cyril

    Thanks – it is a disappointment isn’t it – I had really hoped that everyone that took part in the rehearsal would get into the pageant – alas it was not to be.

    Lots of our boating/blogging friends are off to the fens for the summer – at the rate of current rainfall it may be the only place with enough water! I’m not sure where we’re going to go with Indigo Dream yet – but with so many friends on the fens we may just have to jump in the car and meet up in a pub somewhere.

    Happy cruising!

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