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Boat Blog: To Barking without the barkers…

Posted by indigodream on 3 July, 2013

Saturday 22nd June

Limehouse Cut - there's been a lot of regeneration here - but there are still a few derelict buildings yet to be developed..

Limehouse Cut – there’s been a lot of regeneration here – but there are still a few derelict buildings yet to be developed..

Oh dear, that’s a terrible title – we didn’t quite make it as far as Barking by boat and the hounds rarely bark!

Every year, the St Pancras Cruising Club go on a pilgrimage to the moorings on the Barking Creek/River Roding. It’s always a great event and visiting boats are given an amazingly warm welcome. The moorings have changed management since our last visit, and we had a request for a “dog free” cruise. This wasn’t a problem as we hadn’t intended to take the greyhounds anyway – it’s such an assault course getting them from boat to shore over the huge barges moored there.

So on Friday I dropped the dogs off with Sarah in Suffolk – it was time for Miffy to go home after a happy 3 week holiday – I will miss her little face and funny ways! I got spectacularly lost on the way back, and missed the cruise briefing. However, Richard was there to represent Indigo Dream and I did arrive in time for the post-briefing food and festivities at the Cruising Association.

Much as we love the hounds, it was a novelty to have a night without them – not that we slept any better – it was a windy night and our centre rope creaked and groaned until Richard got up in the wee small hours and swapped it for a less stretchy version which wasn’t quite so noisy. We got a bit of sleep, but at 5am we were woken by torrential rain beating the roof – this did not bode well for Saturday’s cruise!

Luckily, the tides were kind to us on and we didn’t have an early start (especially with no hounds to walk). By the time we got up, the rain had stopped but the clouds were racing across the sky at an alarming rate! We welcomed Simon Judge from nb Scholar Gypsy at 9.30am and had a gentle bimble along Limehouse Cut to Bow Locks. The conditions for our cruise were marginal – we had our VHS tuned to Channel 14, so we eavesdropped on nb Doris Katia getting regular updates on the wind speed at the Thames Barrier. By the time we’d assembled at Bow Locks, conditions were marginal, with winds gusting up to 18 mph. We decided, as a convoy, to cruise down to Bow Creek Mouth then make a final decision when we’d seen what the big river looked like.

We were punching the tide down Bow Creek – the tide comes in quietly but quickly – we were in the last locking; the first boats had to drop several feet onto the river – by the time we locked out, the drop was a matter of inches. We headed downstream at a pace – we needed to catch up with the rest of the convoy! We had a good passage downstream – I took the helm for a change; it was a refreshing morning to be out on deck enjoying the  intermittent sunshine.

Bow Locks - not the shoal to the right of the picture - it would be easy to go aground there near low tide...

Bow Locks – note the shoal to the right of the picture – it would be easy to go aground there near low tide…

We had almost caught up with the convoy when we heard to latest wind forecast – 26mph with gusts up to 32mph – the convoy was a no-go. We caught up with the other boats at Bow Creek mouth, had a quick look at the moody Thames, then turned back towards Bow Locks. The tide was still coming in at this point so we flew back upriver. It made a nice change not to worry about whether there would be enough water for us to get back through the lock – we’ve often cruised up Bow Creek on an ebbing tide and the water drains quickly, as if some vast plug had been pulled!

We were soon back in Limehouse – the plan was now for us all to go to Barking by public transport, well, by car in our case! We got to the Barking Creek moorings by 4pm and enjoyed a tremendous barbecue which the generous residents had laid on for us. As well as building relationships between the two boating groups, I got the impression that the barbecue is good opportunity for the residents to get to know each other as well. There are a lot of residents – it feels as if the moorings have been extended since my last visit (which was in 2010, though Richard came here last year). There was vast regret that we hadn’t been able to bring our boats but it did give us an opportunity to have a nose around a MAGNIFICENT barge, whose owner had kindly let us use their facilities. The boats here are on a different scale – there is one split into four flats; the one we visited had more floor area than our house!

Although it stayed dry, it was a bit chilly, and by 7pm we were ready to get back to our boats for a warm-up. We all trooped back to Limehouse, and after a brief siesta, congregated in the Grapes for the next part of the festivities. We sat on the very chilly outside deck, watching the river traffic – the tide was just starting to come in, restricting the width of the navigation for the many trip/party boats plying their trade. We witnessed some very bad manners and inconsiderate driving, all in the comfortable knowledge that our little boats were tied up safely in the marina!

By the time we got back to the boat we were almost numb with weariness and had a very good night’s sleep – undisturbed by creaky ropes or dogs!

nb Doris Katia showing the correct angle for exiting Bow Locks near low tide...

nb Doris Katia showing the correct angle for exiting Bow Locks near low tide…  and yes you can just make out the impressive tidal monitor just off the waters edge under the tree looking a bit like, well, a washing machine carcase

It was disappointing not to get down to Barking, but I’m glad that the convoy didn’t risk the winds. After all, if we had made it to Barking safely, we’d have now been worrying about how to get back and whether we’d be stuck there until the weather improved.

We have tideway adventures planned for almost every weekend in July, as we’re going to help out with some of SPCC’s convoys – if you’re in the area for the IWA National and fancy a trip on the big river then do get in touch – either via a comment on the blog or go direct to the SPCC website. The convoys are a great opportunity to get to know the river and, as the aborted Barking Creek cruise proved, it’s always “safety first”.

Today’s Trivia:

I was very curious about a “lightbulb” sculpture on Trinity Buoy Wharf. As often happens, I didn’t find out much about the sculpture, but I did find out more about Trinity Buoy Wharf. For us, the lightships have always been an important “landmark” (or river equivalent) – the red ship is a distinctive marker for Bow Creek Mouth. Being such a strategic point, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the wharf has a long history – the “Corporation of Trinity House” was granted a royal charter in 1514, but the oldest surviving structure is the river wall, built in 1852. The wharf became famous for supplying and maintaining navigation buoys and lightships. Sadly, this industry closed in 1988. However, the site has been reincarnated as a centre for the arts and creative industries. There is a comprehensive website here. We’re a bit lax when it comes to visiting shore-based attractions, and we’re definitely not into the arts, but I reckon that Trinity buoy Wharf might be worth a visit….

Dog Update:

Ollie is still very sore with his back and various pulled muscles and Ty has had to have one of his toes amputated. He broke the toe in January and the vet had hoped it would heal, but it kept getting infected and causing him pain so the best long-term solution was to amputate. This means that I won’t be cruising for a few weeks until he’s fully healed and out of bandages – having said that, he is doing very well and isn’t being half the drama queen that I expected 🙂

However, Indigo Dream will be out on an epic convoy to the Thames Barrier then up to Teddington on Saturday July 6th – it’s a dawn cruise so should be quite magical. After seeing the convoy safely to Teddington, Richard, with crew Sarah, Andy and their boating hounds, will turn round and make the return trip to Limehouse! With a 5am start on Saturday morning, I’m not sure how the logistics of taking on extra crew would work, but if there are any experienced boaters out there who fancy the trip then get in touch 🙂

Photoblog:

Always happy to cruise - Andrew and Frances' calm and positive attitude is what makes these convoys such fun!

Always happy to cruise – Andrew and Frances’ calm and positive attitude is what makes these convoys such fun!

Changing our minds - turning around at Bow Creek mouth - I'm sure we'll be back!

Changing our minds – turning around at Bow Creek mouth – I’m sure we’ll be back!

nb Chance passing by Trinity Buoy Wharf - I've been trying to find out more about that "lightbulb" sculpture in the background...

nb Chance passing by Trinity Buoy Wharf – I’ve been trying to find out more about that “lightbulb” sculpture in the background…

nb Chance - at least they got as far as the O2 - I hope that they will get to the Barrier this month - it's one of their ambitions for their stay in London.

nb Chance – at least they got as far as the O2 – I hope that they will get to the Barrier this month – it’s one of their ambitions for their stay in London.

With the tide and wind running out way, we flew back up Bow Creek

With the tide and wind running out way, we flew back up Bow Creek

New wharf on Bow Creek - all for Crossrail!

New wharf on Bow Creek – all for Crossrail!

Tunnel sections for Crossrail - ready to be transported to site by barge - good to see the river being used in this way...

Tunnel segments for Crossrail –  transported to the site by barge from Chatham – good to see the river being used in this way…

This bridge pier looks more decrepit every time we pass by - they are obviously working hard to keep the bridge standing.

This bridge pier looks more decrepit every time we pass by – they are obviously working hard to keep the bridge standing.

Wonderful detail on this old bridge pier (the bridge itself is long gone) - finding out more about this bridge will be the "today's trivia" the next time I cruise this way.

Wonderful detail on this old bridge pier (the bridge itself is long gone) – finding out more about this bridge will be the “today’s trivia” the next time I cruise this way.

Anthony Gormley's tideway sculpture looking at the evening's unusually big moon - http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23013393

Anthony Gormley’s tideway sculpture looking at the evening’s unusually big moon – http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23013393

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