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Boat Blog: Getting into position….

Posted by indigodream on 2 June, 2012

Thursday 31st May

After a few days of running around like the proverbial blue-bottomed fly, I confess that by Thursday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself – our original weekend dog-care provision gently fell apart earlier in the week and it’s been a bit frantic making alternative arrangements. These involve (for complicated reasons), leaving Ty in Essex with Pat from Greyhoundhomer while Lou, Poppy and Ollie will go to stay in Suffolk with Sally from Greyhound Homer. Because of this, we rescheduled Lou’s chemo so that I could attend the narrowboaters final briefing on Thursday and the obligatory pageant briefing on Friday but in-between I’d have to be dog-sitting.

This meant I had to miss Friday’s cruise from Limehouse to our pageant mustering point at West India Dock, taking in the delights of the Olympic locks at Three Mills and City Mills – Oh poo!

It also meant that we had to call in yet more favours from our loyal crew – Sarah stepped into the breach once more, she came straight from a work meeting in London to attend the briefing and stay overnight on the boat for another early start on Friday. In the meantime, Steve, from nb North Star, who will be crewing during the jubilee, joined the boat at Three Mills on Friday morning.

So, back to Thursday – we had an extensive briefing from Andrew Phasey and his team, covering the next four days – the trip to West India (and subsequent mooring arrangements), the pageant itself, the return to West India on Sunday evening and our dispersal on Monday. The throng of narrowboaters (is there a proper collective noun??) present were respectful and quietly confident. This will be pertinent when I come to talk about Friday’s ‘official’ pageant briefing. Despite the large amount of information on offer, the briefing was commendably brief! By 9pm everyone was eating, drinking and chatting, while I drove home to the hounds!

Friday 1st June

I’ll have to let the photos tell the story of the cruise, but from the texts I was receiving, a good time was had by all, though there was a lot of hanging around on the river while waiting for tall ship Tenacious to clear the lock into West India. We’d better get used to hanging around – on the day itself there may be several hours wait to get back into West India in the evening.

Ah, but what do we have here? A special eyewitness account from crew and regular guest blogger, Greygal. She writes:

Waiting for Olympic Security to open the boom to allow us into the Bow Back Rivers

“Having been shanghai-ed for Friday’s pre-pageant positioning cruise (compensation came in the form of a smashing dinner courtesy of the Cruising Association where seconds and thirds were offered and eagerly accepted by yours truly), I think it was the middle of the night when we got up and set off towards the big boomy thing that stops undesirables getting into the Olympic exclusion zone. The skipper tells me it was six o clock but it felt like 3am – thankfully the pace of the whole cruise never exceeded ‘dawdle’ so I didn’t need to be at my sharpest. Plus crew resourcing was enhanced by the arrival of  Steve – one of Sunday’s crew – whose bright and bushy demeanour was all the more remarkable considering he’s had a 5am start. Despite a scheduled locking time of 11am into West India, it was no real surprise when that slipped to around midday…the West India phase of the previous night’s briefing had been marked by its ‘suck it and see’ flavour, in stark contrast to all the other bits that were delivered with military-like certainty. No-one really knew what quite to expect…whether that explained the hugely drawn out crocodile of boats, I don’t know, but certainly when we got the call to go into the lock, it did take a while for everyone to get in. Highlights of the locking up – apart from the obvious ‘so how many can we squeeze in here’ game – was poor old Tarporley, gamely tying off people onto its T-stud left, right and centre, when suddenly, pop, the T stud lifted clean off. Cue some wonderment, cue lots of people proffering an opinion on why it had happened, but not many stepping up to the plate with any advice on a solution. Thankfully the Tarporley crew were remarkably sanguine about it and as I write this, I can confirm that there was some satisfying sounds of hammering and tapping coming from their boat earlier. The other highlight was the fact that there was lots of expensive Tupperware loaded at the front of the lock and to see the likes of Fulbourne coming in behind them and getting pretty close to some megabucks plastic was quite fun. I can report there were no casualties or insurance claims.

Minor technical hitch

Interestingly, the bit that was the real unknown quantity – the mooring up in the dock – was the smoothest part of the whole trip. Admittedly, the exit from the lock did resemble the Wacky Races but once out in the dock proper, everyone got into position very quickly and swung onto their moorings almost in a single movement. The good ship Indigo Dream – now renamed the Turbo Terrific skippered by Richard ‘Peter Perfect’ Nosek – executed a suitably perfect turn and tied stern on alongside Scholar Gypsy to port and Shropshire Lass to starboard. Me, the beautiful Penelope Pitstop, then jumped ship and left them all to it!

Indigo Dream had to set off from Limehouse at 6am – she moored up in West India at Xpm

The boats then underwent their “scrutineering” process to ensure that they’re river-worthy and that the skippers have read and understood the “generic passage plan” and know what they’re doing. I’m delighted to report that Indigo Dream has passed, so we’re good to go. We and the crew will go through the individual “accreditation” process tomorrow, where our official boarding passes and ID will be checked and exchanged for sealed fabric armbands which we have to keep on until the pageant is over. Many crews at the evening briefing were already wearing their bands!

In the meantime, I took Lou to chemo – overall she’s doing well, but today’s dose knocked her back so I spent several hours observing her, while multi-tasking with the blog and getting my chalet office ready for cousin Denise’s visit – she and son Rhodri have got tickets for Battersea Park and hubby Wyn is crewing for us.

I then took Ty to Essex – this was a palaver in itself – Ty didn’t want to leave home, I had to drag him out of the house and into the car (accompanied by Ollie, who loves a trip in the car); I then got stuck in a queue for the Dartford Tunnel for around one and a half hours – all of the car’s occupants were a bit frazzled when we arrived. Sadly I’ve had to leave Ty in a bit of a state – he was cringing in the corner of Pat’s front room when I left – he didn’t want to be there, but because I was public enemy number 1 for forcing him from his home, he didn’t seem to want to leave with me either. Pat and hubby Dick, are greyhound experts, so I’m sure that they’ll know a few tricks for getting Ty settled.

The Dartford crossing on the way back only had half an hour of queue so my day was looking up! Nonetheless it was a quick visit home to drop Ollie off, feed the girls and hop on a train to get to the pageant briefing in the Hilton, Canary Wharf. Needless to say, in my slightly frazzled state, I turned right when I should have turned left – it felt as if I’d done a whole circuit of the Isle of Dogs (ok, slight exaggeration!) and got a bit lost. I eventually met Richard at the briefing, which was run by the Port of London for all boat moored up in West India (over 200 boats in all). There were over 300 people in the room but it soon became evident that many hadn’t read the comprehensive briefing notes that have been arriving weekly for the last few months. Some seemed to think that the PLA’s directions were open to interpretation, others were trying to change cruising schedules that had been set in stone some weeks ago; some heckled; some sneered; some yawned conspicuously or talked amongst themselves during the PLA presentations; and some just wandered out of the room at random intervals. Overall I was appalled, but I did feel a little because the narrowboaters, already well briefed and rehearsed, behaved impeccably – smug but never complacent you understand 🙂

With the briefing over, and me feeling slightly cross about there not being enough hours in a day, I decided to get home to the hounds, leaving Richard on the boat. As I got home, he texted that he was having a quiet beer on the back deck – it sounded nice! So, after collecting Denise and family from the station, it seemed appropriate to sit in the conservatory and enjoy a quiet drink too… 🙂

Photoblog:

City Mill Lock in free flow! Thank you Lenny for fiddling levels for us

I spy an open lock

Duck !

Three Mills Lock being used

They kept us in the lock till this little thing went past

You lot, get out of my lock

Waiting for West India Lock to come free

Still waiting ….

Arghhh he is bigger then me!

Exiting Bow Creek

Entrance to West India: No need to raise the bridge for us

Effortlessly gliding through gentle waves on the tidal Thames

Assembling in the lock

Don’t worry folks ….

Assembling boats …

Clearing the lock ready for the next lot

Not a common site

Gorgeous

More pageant boats

Stunning

Detail

The New CART intends to provide this wonderfully efficient service wherever you moor !

Commodore Phase practising his French

More interviews

Leo’s skipper getting in essential supplies for breakfast

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