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Boat Blog: Rewind: Gravesend Adventure – safely back to Limehouse :-)

Posted by indigodream on 1 July, 2013

Sunday 2nd June

There's always one scary photo!  But Narrowboats are made to float and Flora Dora made it safely back to Limehouse :-)

There’s always one scary photo! But narrowboats are made to float and Flora Dora made it safely back to Limehouse πŸ™‚

So, we’d proved that narrowboats can safely navigate down to Gravesend; but would we get home to tell the tale? πŸ™‚

By the time we eventually got up around 8.30am-ish, I was a bit fed up with being bumped around on the mooring. I heartily wished that the tide would turn early so that we could leave straight away. But we weren’t due to leave Gravesend until 2.30pm so I just had to adjust my attitude – Sarah helped this process by making me coffee until I cheered up πŸ™‚ The rest of the crew were in very good spirits, especially Richard, who was up and about and walking the dogs while everyone else was still in their pyjamas. Luckily the ferry doesn’t run on Sundays so we didn’t need to do any elaborate manoeuvres today, though it was still a 2-man job to lift the hounds safely to/from the pontoon.

By the time he came back, the deckchairs were out and we were settled in for a morning of “watching the world go by” – there were still plenty of big ships on the move and, by now, Andy had linked to a “ship-spotter” app so we knew a bit more about the passing traffic. But Richard was full of beans, and he’d forgotten to bring the novel that he’s currently reading, so he went off on the group walk run by the Thames and Medway Canal Association. He took Archie hound with him, and, when one of the other boats volunteered to be a dog handler, Herbie hound joined them as well. The walk was estimated to be around 4 miles – too far for Bertie, who has an old racing injury, and for Ollie, who is just too old; Henry Beanz could have gone but he treated the invitation with the contempt he felt it deserved and snoozed on the sofa instead.

It was a glorious morning to be on the water and the hours passed quickly. There are some services on the pontoon – a handy waterpoint and a rubbish skip, less handily locked away by the ferry. However, the skip was close to the fence and some devious manoeuvres with a broom handle meant that I managed to dispose of the many empty wine bottles that had mysteriously landed in our deck bin yesterday πŸ˜€

Richard and the hounds were out for much longer than I expected – we found out later that he’d let Herbie have an off-lead run on the empty marshes and Herbie had taken full advantage of it and ran for miles! He did come back eventually, but the unaccustomed exercise finished Herbie off – he came on board, ran straight to his favourite bed and stayed there for the rest of the day!

What a view! One day we'll cruise down there :-)

What a view! One day we’ll cruise down there πŸ™‚

We’d done a food inventory and were surprised to find that we’d run low of a few items, so Richard went and foraged for some Danish pastries and the like, while I prepared lunch. We’d just finished munching our sausage sandwiches when the first of today’s guest arrived – the “Lucky Ducks” Amy and James – they now own, and are restoring, a fine historic “severner” called Willow but I think they’ve resigned themselves to forever being known as “the lucky ducks” πŸ™‚ We were joined soon after by the last of our crew, Dave and Wendy from nb Brenda, who came with us on last year’s Barking Creek adventure.

We were moored close to Tug Major so we overheard their conversation with the PLA – the discussion was whether the convoy could cross the river at Gravesend without getting in the way of any big ships – the river is wide and they reckoned it would take the convoy around half an hour to cross over! The other option was for the convoy to proceed upstream on the wrong side of the river i.e. the left, then cross after we’d passed the docks at Tilbury. We got the answer during the pre-cruise briefing at 2pm – there would be time for us to cross the tideway but not in line – we’d all cross together then form a line once we were all across. At 2.30pm we cast off and were on our way home.

Sarah took the helm while I made tea – apart from acting as lookouts, the crew’s other important function is to act as moving ballast to adjust the boat’s trim. As we crossed the tideway, the kettle started sliding along the hob – I yelled at the crew to MOVE – they didn’t and the boat heeled over a little further – luckily Richard came in from the bow at that point and I sent him to yell at the crew. They hastened to the other side of the boat and we levelled off nicely!

With hot drinks in hand, we could settle to enjoy the cruise back – trying to notice more than we had on the way down! But we still didn’t see the seal, despite nb Puffin yelling at us that it was just off our starboard side – maybe next time….

This time we were able to appreciate the great scale of Tilbury Docks – the locks gates might be the widest we’ve seen yet; the ships inside the docks were so large they seemed like part of the infrastructure. A friend, who’s an expert in shipping, told us that one gargantuan car transporter could carry 6,500 cars! The docks look great on Google…..

The weather was glorious and the water was calm – we did encounter some large ships, but Indigo Dream coped with any wash sent her way, especially while in the capable hands of James, who helmed with aplomb. Although our trim could have coped, the crew neatly divided themselves between the front and back decks; there’s a great view from the front but it is a bit draughty and there’s always the risk of a drenching if it gets choppy. Nonetheless, the hardy bow crew seemed to enjoy the experience!

We were cruising upstream on the rising tide so it didn’t seem to take very long to get back, even though we had to negotiate the extra loop around the Isle of Dogs to get back to Limehouse Lock. Having warned everyone that it would be bumpy around the Isle of Dogs, it turned out to be the calmest passage we’ve ever had! This meant that we could enjoy the sight of cruise ship Columbus 2, moored on the famous buoys at Greenwich; she’d passed us yesterday when we were moored at Gravesend.

There was some highly entertaining chatter on the VHF today (which I can’t pass on because it’s meant to be confidential), but if you’ve been wondering whether to get a VHF radio for tideway cruises then do – you’re allowed to listen even if you don’t have an operator’s licence – you get useful river information and sometimes it’s fun!

We stemmed the tide outside Limehouse but we didn’t have a long wait – we were soon locking in and our epic trip was over. It had been an overwhelmingly positive experience and certainly one we’d be happy to repeat – especially if there’s the prospect of going a little further – say to Southend Pier or the Medway πŸ™‚

We got back to our berth, said goodbye to James, Amy, Dave and Wendy then packed the boat while Sarah and Andy kindly took Ollie for a walk with the rest of the pack. Unfortunately Sarah reported that Ollie was quite poorly – he does have a chronic back but he wasn’t walking well, in fact, he was reluctant to walk at all. Luckily I had plenty of Ollie’s anti-inflammatories and painkillers on board so I dosed him up and left him on board to rest while I joined Richard and the remaining convoy veterans for a quick drink at the Cruising Association. We stayed long enough to be recruited for some more tideway adventures in June and July then we made haste for home….

This historic cruise terminal is a grade II listed building - have a look at their website - it's amazing! http://londoncruiseterminal.com/ This is who you contact if you want a river mooring for your super-yacht - http://www.pla.co.uk/display_fixedpage.cfm/id/2732/site/port%20of%20london

This historic cruise terminal is subject of today’s trivia – it’s far more interesting than I first thought!

Today’s Trivia

There’s so much to say about the historic cruise terminal that it really deserves its own little section. The terminal is a Grade II listed building, designed by Edwin Cooper in 1924. The site used to include a landing stage and railway stationΒ  – both are apparently derelict, but there are big plans for their regeneration here. The “Big Ocean Project” is being promoted as “Britain’s Ellis Island” – welcoming big ships from around the world – I must admit, looking at their Facebook page, I lack their grand vision but isn’t it wonderful that someone DOES have that ambition. The cruise terminal doesn’t look like a luxury destination, but the interior, according to their website, looks quite palatial. And finally, the Port of London Authority has details of how to arrange mooring for your cruise ship or super-yacht – you might find the contact details useful!

Dog Update:

Ollie is fine, though an x-ray revealed some distortion of his lower lumbar vertebrae (probably old injury) and he has managed to pull several muscles – probably in an illicit chase after Bertie, who is huge and young – Ollie needs to remember that he is tiny and old! Ollie is now having a pile of medicines to relax his muscles and ease the pain, as well as an intensive course of houndie physiotherapy. The physiotherapy makes a huge difference to Ollie’s mobility but it costs so much it makes me cry πŸ™‚ In other news, Ty enjoyed his holiday being cuddled by Sarah’s mum – the Gravesend trip would have done his head in – I’m so glad that we left him behind.

Photoblog:

We took over a 100 photos on the way back – mainly of other boats in the convoy – the blog’s not the best place to display them all so they’re in a facebook album – click here (let me know if you can’t access the file – I’m a bit inept with Facebook!).

Note: Another boating blogger, Simon Judge, was day crew on nb Puffin for the Gravesend trip and took some great photos – click here for his blog and photo album.

Car transporter "Morning Cornet" - it can carry 6,500 cars!

Car transporter “Morning Cornet” – it can carry 6,500 cars!

I love the contract between the narrowboats and the big ships that normally ply their trade here - it's much nicer to pass them when they're moored up though!

I love the contract between the narrowboats and the big ships that normally ply their trade here – it’s much nicer to pass them when they’re moored up though!

I'm not sure is this jetty is used any more  but it's a grand sight...

I’m not sure is this jetty is used any more but it’s a grand sight…

The lock into Tilbury Docks - we've been through a few big locks but that looks pretty large  - from here :-) The docks look great on Google - https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&q=tilbury&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x47d8b618004a319b:0x3acd4e307ba387d4,Tilbury,+Thurrock&gl=uk&ei=XZjQUemzKsiw4QSn_IGoCA&ved=0CI8BELYD

The lock into Tilbury Docks – we’ve been through a few big locks but that looks pretty large to us!

The cranes loading/unloading the containers were zipping along surprisingly quickly, as if the containers weighed no more than a lego brick!

The cranes loading/unloading the containers were zipping along surprisingly quickly, as if the containers weighed no more than a lego brick!

I've worked out that this is a grain wharf - there are at least three flour mills on this site...

I’ve worked out that this is a grain wharf – there are at least three flour mills on this site…

Thurrock Yacht Club is an incongruous sight amongst the giant wharves that surround it..

Thurrock Yacht Club is an incongruous sight amongst the giant wharves that surround it..

What I though was a petrochemical refinery is, in fact, a large manufacturing/distribution centre for Procter and Gamble – not too sure what they manufacture here though

This substantial wharf (with crane, road access and conveyor belt) serves a chemical manufacturing site run by Industrial Chemicals Ltd - http://www.icgl.co.uk/environmental-policy.html

This substantial wharf (with crane, road access and conveyor belt) serves a chemical manufacturing site run by Industrial Chemicals Ltd – http://www.icgl.co.uk/environmental-policy.html

Round the buoy - there's quite a shoal here...

Round the buoy – there’s quite a shoal here…

These wharves just downstream of the bridge serve the oil storage depot...

These wharves just downstream of the bridge serve the oil storage depot…

That's such a great view..

That’s such a great view..

What a great trip!

What a great trip!

The crew of nb Lotus No 10 - love the big smiles - it is such a special trip :-)

The crew of nb Lotus No 10 – love the big smiles – it is such a special trip πŸ™‚

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