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Boat Blog: Back to Limehouse….

Posted by indigodream on 22 June, 2012

Monday 4th June

Setting out along West India Dock – mooring this close to Canary Wharf was one of the great thrills of our Jubilee weekend…

The blog is going chronologically challenged for a little while as I catch up with pre- and post- jubilee events!

So, let’s rewind to Monday 4th – the day after the Jubilee – when we finished our cruising weekend with a great little trip from West India Dock to our home berth in Limehouse Marina via Bow Creek and Bow Locks.

We had a relaxed start to the day – it made a nice change to have a high tide at midday-ish so we didn’t have to get up at an unearthly hour. Sarah and Andy had stayed overnight, but left before we started the day’s cruise – they were suffering from acute greyhound withdrawal syndrome! This left us with a few hours of peace and quiet to pack up and clean the boat and generally sit around drinking coffee. It was a sociable time – the other narrowboaters were out and about, though the morning was marred somewhat when the lady of nb Hazell Nut had a nasty fall and had to be dashed off to hospital – get well soon!

Although it was a fine morning, I hastened to turn the heating on in the morning – I needed to dry the greyhound costume – its thick fur was still sodden – in fact, it was still quite wet some four hours later, despite the volcanic heat from the radiators!

It was great not to have to rush off, but we weren’t entirely free of deadlines – we needed to get onto the river just before high tide in order to have enough water to lock 15 boats off the river at Bow Locks. So at 11.30am we got the call to move and we left our moorings in sequence – formation narrowboating could become addictive! We headed for the lock, enjoying the sight of the remaining pageant boats. It was a fine morning – so unlike the rest of the weekend! It took a while to pack the lock – the lock-keepers were trying to get as many boats onto the river as they could.

I love this view – there’s so much to see….

Having had a 15 foot drop from the dock to the river yesterday, I was surprised to see the lock gates opening in front of us after we’d barely dropped 3 feet today! But if you’d missed the sight of the lock gates opening, you’d have known it by the movement of the boats. Our extended raft of around 50 boats had been perfectly still, but when the lock gates opened the restless river soon had us bobbing up and down in a most disconcerting fashion! The high tide was very high indeed and the river beyond the lock looked quite lively – I was very pleased that Richard had elected to go round to Bow Creek rather than taking the direct route to Limehouse via the Isle of Dogs – it can be very choppy around there even when the rest of the river is millpond calm.

The tide was so high that they had to lift the bridge in order for us to leave the lock. There were many spectators on the bridge, all enjoying the sight of the boats – they were enjoying it so much that a CRT lock/bridge keeper had to chase them off the bridge – they simply ignored the warning klaxons! This took some time, with us bobbing up and down (not for delicate constitutions), and wondering whether we’d catch the tide in time.

We’d assembled in no particular order in the lock – so we were at the front of the narrowboat raft with Arthur Dent and Barrogill – they elected for us to take the lead so we did! We’d had special dispensation to cruise down to Bow Creek on the wrong wide of the river – we were glad of this – the river is so wide here that it would have taken 10 – 15 minutes to cross the river to the correct (right hand downstream) side then we’d be crossing back into Bow Creek mouth almost immediately! I set off out of the lock and was struck by the tide – the river was high and restless – the tide was still rushing in so the tiller was heavy – as I’ve observed before, punching a strong tide is like steering through porridge. It was surprisingly difficult to get tight into the left bank (out of the way of traffic coming upriver) -the flow was immense round the bend that swaddles the O2 arena. Nonetheless, Indigo Dream has plenty of power, so we did make progress downstream – passing to starboard of a huge moored barge which proved to be the floating belfry – already looking sadly derelict after yesterday’s big event – I wonder what will happen to it now?

Steamer Portwey getting a helping nudge from one of her dimunitive neighbours! We’ve met Portwey before – she’s a fine looking boat…

The bright red lightship moored at Bow Creek Mouth is a great landmark so there was no chance of missing the turn! What a difference – now the tide was pushing us up Bow Creek – the tiller loosened and we were flying! Andrew Phasey later reported that the speed on this GPS had suddenly increase from 4 knots to something like 6 knots when he turned into the creek (with no change in throttle speed!).

We had a thoroughly enjoyable cruise up Bow Creek – it is such an interesting waterway and its meanders are a nice helming challenge, though we weren’t so worried about grounding on the mudbanks with today’s high tide!

Lock-keeper Lenny greeted us at Bow Locks, we settled in with nb Doris Katia – the river was so high we had to lock down to the canal – that hasn’t happened to us before! We cruised down Limehouse cut, enjoying its comfortable familiarity – there were still many pageant boats moored on the wall in Limehouse (some had locked out earlier for the Isle of Dogs transit). There was still a lingering sense of camaraderie as we waved and greeted each other – who knows when we’ll see some of the more far-flung boats again 😦

As we turned into our berth, nb Doris Katia turned towards Commercial Road lock – we bid them a sad farewell, though I’m sure we’ll be seeing the St Pancras crowd again soon! Much as we love boating, we didn’t envy them the slog back up to St Pancras – we were only too glad to moor up! The boat was nigh on ready for disembarkation, but it took us a while to get moving – we’d have gladly fallen into bed for the afternoon! But I had to go off to Ipswich to collect Lou, Poppy and Ollie while Richard had to swing by Rainham in Essex to collect Ty! It must have been gone 4pm by the time we went our separate ways. We finally congregated at home at 9pm, where we drank some celebratory bubbly with Denise, Wyn and Rhodri while we tried to capture in words our momentous weekend experiences…..


Flying the flag for retired greyhounds – I hope we succeeded in raising the profile of these wonderful hounds….

Approaching the lock – there was a very mixed bunch of boats in there – we were arranged to suit the tide rather than the Queen today!

Seeing this line of narrowboats really gives you an idea of the vast size of West India Dock…

Rafted up and waiting the the lock – it’s hard to comprehend the size of this lock – it takes around 1.5 hours to turnaround….

Old boats and new buildings – most of the local residents loved seeing the dock full of boating colour – until we all made a racket blowing our horns – but it was only one miserable devil that complained 🙂

I love the juxtaposition of the cables in this photo – the cable car is such a dramatic addition to the riverscape…

RUN!!! The onlookers were very very reluctant to leave the bridge – a CRT man had to chase the stragglers off!

There she goes…

Almost there….

And we’re off….

We were a much reduced convoy today but it was still a great sight…

I love the sight of the lifted bridge behind us – it’s so black against the surrounding landscape it reminds me of the monolith from 2001: a space odyssey

Narrowboat rebellion!
Our convoy creeping down the wrong side of the river – with permission, of course!

Tall ship on its way home…

The floating belfry – it looked rather forlorn after yesterday’s fanfare….

Local colour at Bow Creek Mouth…..

Sentinels of a different sort….

Why I love Bow Creek – where else will you see so much reclamation – of derelict materials in the scrapyard and of derelict land in the nature reserve…

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

  1. nbsg said

    It was a high tide – so much so that the last two boats (Morpheus, and us on Scholar Gypsy) only just got through in time at Bow. Another few minutes and the tidal water would have been above the top of the inner gates (of those used when locking down into Limehouse cut), so making it impossible to fill the lock and open the outer gates. We would then have had to wait for high tide to pass and the level to come down again….

  2. indigodream said

    That’s amazing! Every other time we’ve up Bow Creek we’ve been watching the water drain away as if someone had taken the plug out and have been worried about getting stuck on the
    mud outside Bow Locks at low tide!

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