Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for July 18th, 2013

A 60 or more mile day ….

Posted by indigodream on 18 July, 2013

Note: I’m sorry but I just haven’t got time to sort out the 415 photos that they took during the convoy so they’re all here on Facebook –

Friday 5th July

Yes, you guessed it! The 60 mile day was our little jaunt on the tideway on Saturday, but first Sue had a speaking part….

We had agreed to be tail-end Charlie on a cruise for the St Pancras Cruising Club. They had been asked to take a party from the Russell Newbury Club out for a little cruise and SPCC Commodore, Andrew Phasey was happy, as always, to oblige.

We were really glad to play a small part in this, as these cruises are really important. Not so long ago, there were discussions as to whether narrowboats should be allowed on the tideway. A recent narrowboat sinking (Darwin in action) and a recent narrowboat stuck on a buoy (more Darwin in action) could easily have lead to drastic action by the PLA; but the professional nature of the SPCC Cruises have done much for the reputation of narrowboaters – they have set a fantastically good example and won considerable praise from the PLA.

There is a typical pattern to an SPCC Cruise –  they start with a 7pm briefing the evening before followed by supper all in the Cruising Association. Andrew Phasey gives a full and detailed briefing, sometimes there is a new joke to keep us awake and then Limehouse Lock Keeper Jeremy gives a short presentation on how to use the lock. Sadly Jeremy was not available on the Friday – he was talking elsewhere – so Sue agreed to be Jeremy for the evening!

Saturday 6th July

Sue had to be home to look after the greyhounds – this was going to be a massive day, far too long for them, and in any case, they need a bit of recuperation at the moment, how unusual! This meant that crew had to be drafted in – ace tideway talent Sarah & Andy appeared in the small wee hours;  it was cruel when the alarm went off at 4:40am and we got underway just after 5am!!

We were to be the last locking, escorting two boats down to the barrier. The lock entry was smooth and efficient, even though boats were all different lengths. There is always an “ooh ah” moment as the gates at Limehouse simply open; there are no paddles, so you see several foot of drop down to the tideway and you just need to hope that the duty Lockkeeper does not get distracted and open the gates too quickly!

Don’t worry folks, the Lockies at Limehouse look after all boaters very well.

We gave London VTS a quick call to  to tell them that we were underway. As we approached the end of the lock cut, we gave a big blast of the horn (for the one in a million possibility that a fast mover outside would hear us) and we inched out onto the tideway. We had an “all clear” from the front crew and took a sharp left turn (towards Belgium!), staying on the wrong side of the river until we could see enough round the bend to cross the navigation safely. The two RN boats seemed to struggle a bit with the crossing, but they got safely across and formed up into a very neat line behind us.

We were having a very gentle cruise at 1100 rpm; I lasted at least 5 minutes before ringing the boat behind to ask how he felt about a bit more speed! Sadly he was doing about as much as he dared, so Sarah took over helming so that I would not fret at the slow pace. But there was nothing to fret about, we were probably doing 5 or 6 mph anyway, thanks to the tide. It was amazingly calm; seeing Canary Wharf light up as the sun rose was great. There was no cruise ship at Greenwich but the upstream buoy seems to have been fitted with stronger magnets to attract narrowboats; none of our team hit it but the last boat did get a bit close ….

Commercial boats have to seek permission to cross through the barrier at Blackwall point, just as they pass the dome. But there was no point in our doing that – the convoy was moving so sedately that would have been a couple of shift changes before we reached the barrier. So we called VTS for permission when we had the barrier in sight. We obediently took Charlie span, had a little dance with the Woolwich ferries, went past the entrance to the Royal Docks, past Barking Creek then spent 5 minutes crossing the river (yes it is bleeding wide at this point). We stemmed the last of the tide at Margaret Ness with just enough time for breakfast – a nice simple dish of everything I could find in the fridge, fired and baked and stuffed between two slabs of bread.

Andrew Phasey has some little floats that he dangles from his boat; if a passing shark does not eat them, they serve as his high-tech “state of the tide” indicator. As the tide turned he started moving for a slow bobble back upstream all the way to Teddington. We passed back through the barrier at 8:30am and back past Limehouse at 9:30am, at which point Andrew asked whether anyone had had enough, but of course, the best bit was still to come…..

We passed an early sunbather on the foreshore, went through the correct span of Tower Bridge and through a millpond-like Pool of London – the trip boats had not really started to churn up the water at this stage. There are too many sights to list, but we did have a first on this trip – a transit through Richmond Lock. The Richmond half-tide barriers don’t open until near to high tide; on previous excursions we’ve stemmed the tide and watched the barriers come up. Richmond lock was an interesting experience – plenty big enough to hold the whole convoy, though we weren’t allowed to move until the Lockkeeper collected the £5 locking fee from each boat, using a little fishing net to pick up the fee.

Richmond lock does take some time, so all-in-all this was probably our slowest transit ever(!) – we got to Teddington around 1:30pm, but what a fantastic way to go through Central London.

We said “goodbye” to the convoy at Teddington Lock and tied up below the lock. There was an hour’s wait for the tide to turn, then we had a leisurely passage back to London at 1500rpm. nb Doris Katia also made the transit back to Limehouse as well, but they had an even more leisurely trip down. We were back in the Pool of London just after 4pm, threading our way between trip boats on our left, trip boats on our right, behind us, in front of us, overtaking us or us overtaking them. It was getting seriously bumpy!

There is always a patch or two of lumpy water downstream of Tower Bridge, we think they occur where the river is shallower over tunnels. Of course, it was in one of those lumpy bits where we got overtaken by 5 or 6 speed merchants. The usual wisdom when being overtaken is to turn away from the wash so that it hits you almost end on; that worked really well for the first one, still plenty of room for the second one, ohh by the third I needed to start thinking about the river wall coming up at 8 mph…. even I though that bit was rough!

We had to wait an age for a big enough gap in the traffic so that we could cross the river in order to enter Limehouse lock. In the end we made a nice smooth turn at speed, as we were being a bit cheeky ahead of a trip boat; we then absolutely nailed the entry into Limehouse just after 5pm. Where is the audience when you want one?

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