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Boat Blog: Return Journey from the Royal Docks

Posted by indigodream on 15 January, 2013

Monday 14th January 2013

Ahaaaaa!!!! The power could go to my head – today Sue looked after the hounds and had to run a NHS stop-smoking clinic in the afternoon so she couldn’t come cruising – again!

SNOW!!!!!!

SNOW!!!!!!

Right, Sunday 13th January was a beautiful day; Tuesday 15th January had loads of blue stuff in the sky, so what happened on Sunday 14th January for our return journey ? Oh yes – snow, rain, wind!

Worse still, the batteries had been strangely down the previous day, so I did not run the central heating overnight so woke to +5 degC temperatures in the boat. Ooh it was so hard to climb out from under the eiderdown but it had to be done as crew Bob, Emma, Karolina, Simon and Sinéad were coming – cooking up an amazing quantity of bacon, sausages and eggs plus copious coffee was going to take time.

As I emerged into the snow, yes, SNOW, to top up with fresh bread and milk from the handy Tesco Express, a Royal Docks boat turned up to tidy up the dockside – they obligingly agreed to take my rather full bin bag. They were interesting to chat to – they knew we were going out at 12:15 and explained that they were always amazed how calm and casual the narrowboaters are in the lock – but then for us a lock is hardly something unusual, but for the large gin palaces it is probably an unusual sight.

Nb Salar was in trouble this morning – their engine would not start. The starter clicked over as if the batteries were low yet they showed 12.8V on a multimeter. After various attempts to get her going, Frank on Lotus No. 10 brested up to her and towed her to Bow Locks. We left a bit later as eggs were still being fried but our role was tail-end charlie and we soon caught up! Going past Excel, it was sad to see so few exhibitors’ boats – the show gets smaller and smaller every year, yet people were getting some good deals eg Icom had some very nice gear on sale and as a show offer were giving out free 5-year extended warranties.

We formed up in the quarter lock, which took 7 narrowboats and still looked empty! Frank bought Lotus No. 10 and Salar in alongside in an exemplary display of handling – he ended up 1″ away from us and exactly parallel, well we think he may have been 1/4″ out at one end. Try and do better next time, Frank 🙂

Very few exhibitors' boats outside this year

Very few exhibitors’ boats outside this year

Normally we get let out of the lock at high tide; today we were let out 4 hours before high tide, ooh what a drop! My plans were based on our being at least 1 hour late out of the lock, but we came out on time so ended up in Limehouse an hour earlier then planned which was a shame – there was a stunning sunset at 4:15pm!

Chugging back through the barrier was uneventful, albeit cold and wet. Nb Ketura was hanging well back by the Keltbray wharfs so we overtook them, saw that Lotus No. 10 and Salar had safely made it into Bow Creek and, by popular crew vote, headed round the Isle of Dogs. We expected a bit of a lumpy journey but it proved to be like a mill pond; the odd barge and clipper gave us a slight rocking but our main problem was the biting cold wind.  Worryingly we heard on the radio that visibility in the Pool of London was very poor.

As we got to Limehouse the snow eased off and the wind somehow lost its bite, so the unanimous vote was to continue up to the Pool of London. Simon took us up to Tower Bridge; Bob took us through the bridge centre arch but for some strange reason they did not lift the bridge for us!

The visibility improved so we flew with the tide all the way up to the Houses of Parliament. It seemed prudent to do a turn there and head back down, but the tide was still running quite fast so our journey back slowed quite dramatically. The commercial boats were very relaxed and gave us plenty of room, though it was off-putting seeing a clipper waiting for us to get past a pier and then effortlessly reversing back to the pier faster then Indigo Dream could manage in forward gear against the tide.

London is so interesting from the water. Every time we go down we see a new feature, well except that these features that we think of as new have been there for ever. You are so busy on the water that you never get to see everything. Coffee and chocolate rations were consumed at a pace as Karolina took us back through Tower Bridge and then into the usual choppy waters downstream of Tower Bridge. We never went submarine but Bob, standing at the front, almost got wet a few times! We crossed the river upstream of the lock and came in from the upstream side as the tide was still running against us. The tide was so high that the lock keepers had to swing the bridge for us, but that was all done with effortless efficiency and, in another first for us, we actually dropped down into Limehouse.

A glass of lemonade followed in the Narrows, we went across to the Grapes at 5:30pm but they did not serve food till 6:30pm so we returned to the Narrows for a nice but expensive fish and chips with possibly an exceedingly small glass of beer. Everybody slept well that night after 5 hours cruising, 4 of which were on the tideway!

Leaving Excel

Leaving Excel

Plane spotting ....

Plane spotting ….

Its a long way down, long ropes would be good

Its a long way down, long ropes would be good

Gates being opened 5 minutes early!

Gates being opened 5 minutes early!

Barrier in site, take Foxtrot span please

Barrier in sight, take Foxtrot span please

Lotus No.10 taking Salar home

Lotus No.10 taking Salar home

Well gloomy and very very cold at this point

Well gloomy and very very cold at this point

The barrier is always a magnificent sight

The barrier is always a magnificent sight

Emma looking warm thanks to wearing 26 layers

Emma looking warm thanks to wearing 26 layers

Ah this photo was to remind me that the cleaners on the moored boat on the right simply chucked rubbish out through the window.

Ah this photo was to remind me that the cleaners on the moored boat on the right of the raft simply chucked rubbish out through the window.

We think that is London emerging out of the fog

We think that is London emerging out of the fog

It's behind you ...

It’s behind you …

Cool Karolina taking us through Tower Bridge

Cool Karolina taking us through Tower Bridge

Never realised that these were the Rotherhithe Tunnel ventilation shafts, thanks Bob

Never realised that these were the Rotherhithe Tunnel ventilation shafts, thanks Bob

Swing bridge being swung for us, sorry traffic

Swing bridge being swung for us, sorry waiting traffic! Note from Sue – I don’t recall seeing the tide that high at Limehouse before – and it wasn’t quite high tide at this point! Ah, it was a 7.4m high tide – that’s a whopper!

Safely in the lock, thank you Limehouse Lock Keepers

Safely in the lock, thank you Limehouse Lock Keepers

2 Responses to “Boat Blog: Return Journey from the Royal Docks”

  1. nbsg said

    Richard – a great blog as always.

    I would be interested to know whether Limehouse waited for you to enter the lock cut, and pause alongside the outer pontoon, before opening the bridge; or whether they made the traffic wait a bit longer.

  2. indigodream said

    I think their aim was to open the bridge as we came round the corner but we messed up their timing by telling him to take their time as we passed the Prospect of Whitby then hitting the gas to cross the tideway before a rubbish barge came down! Jeremy suggested that we slow down but we don’t do slow down and preferred to wait a few seconds on the outer pontoon. It is actually quite impressive – it has got be unusual to have boats coming down the tideway against the tide yet the lock keepers looked at our speed and would have had it spot on if we had not changed our speed.

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