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Archive for July, 2016

Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016 – Day 30 – Medway Estuary

Posted by indigodream on 30 July, 2016

Rewind to Friday 17th June

I know I said I’d catch up with the blog in dollops, but some cruises really do deserve their own post…..

Maidstone to Queenborough (River Swale)

I thought it was quite wet at this point but it was possitively arid compared to the rain that fell later :-p

I thought it was quite wet at this point but it was positively arid compared to the rain that fell later :-p

For a change, the tide times favoured a late morning start from Maidstone, so there was time to do a car shuffle before we set off. This was important as there was absolutely no point in our having a car in Maidstone – we’d be miles away by the time we finished this cruise!

The convoy back consisted of ten boats – we had arranged to muster in Queenborough on Friday night for the convoy up the Thames Estuary on Saturday. But for the Medway section we were split into two groups – five of our party had already travelled down to Rochester (tidal), where there are good visitor moorings. We had hoped to join this part as it would have been fascinating to explore historic Rochester – alas, work got in the way. So we joined the remaining five boats who would muster at Allington to catch the tide.

Throughout our cruise on the Medway, the convoy has been made welcome – whether because the locals saw us as mad, heroic or simply a strange curiosity washed up by the tide. The advance party which moored at the Rochester certainly made an impression at the Cruising Club bar…..

A clutch ? of Tin Slugs called in today at RCC for refreshments on their way back to the canals via The Thames. Moored to the rear of Rochester Pier after a trip right the way up the Medway to Tonbridge town centre and then by dinghy as far a Lucifer Bridge which is about as far as you can get on the river before you need a set of wellingtons to continue. The most adventurous bunch of folks you could ever wish to meet and prepared to push the normal boundaries of their chosen type of boating. Puts some of us to shame really.”

We can forgive them the “tin slugs” after all, we do call them “tupperware boxes”!

The weather forecast for the day was pretty grim – heavy rain – but the winds were predicted to be light so there was no reason to delay the convoy. The sky was sullen as we set off but as we headed downriver the heavens opened. Well, I thought they’d opened – it was a mere drizzle compared to what was to come later! It was a shame, we’d hoped to take a few last photos and enjoy the views before we left the river, but it was not to be 😦

Bridges.....

Bridges…..

We stopped off for diesel at Allington Marina – they were not phased by the sudden influx of narrowboats as nb Arthur Dent stopped for fuel just after us. We reached our rendezvous point at Allington Lock with time to spare and topped up our water tank at the service point – as Andrew Phasey often tells us, full tanks are happy tanks on the tideway.

The lock keeper waved us into the lock early – it was easier for us to wait there than clutter the moorings. As we waited for the other four narrowboats to join us, the rain quadrupled in intensity – it became comedy rain – waterproofs weren’t enough, out came the umbrellas!

The rain did dampen the trip a little, but we were soon caught up in the fascination of the waterway. At first, the river is a reassuringly narrow green corridor, but by the time we reached Rochester we were looking out for the navigation buoys as the grey estuary expanded before us.

Further down, the River Swale runs into the Medway and we really had to keep an eye on the navigation buoys in order to get to the right river, let alone the right spot! Indigo Dream bristles with electronics nowadays, one app Richard has on his androids is some charting software called MxMarine. It tells you your position and speed all overlaid on a chart so you know where you are going, possibly, and what the depth of water is. There are loads of these apps available, they are not expensive compared to charts, there are good guides to them here for Android, here for IOS.

These forts are such useful landmarks :-)

These forts are such useful landmarks πŸ™‚

The weather stayed miserable, but the river was flat calm and we had a good passage to the “concrete lighter” and buoys at Queensborough that they use for mid-estuary moorings. The four short boats moored to a mid-river buoy while the rest of us brested up on the lighter. The mid-river mooring meant that we had to be hound-free for the cruise – Ollie had gone off to stay with the Beanz for the weekend.

Access to shore is via a free “trot boat” operated by Queenborough Harbour – you just VHF them and they pop out to get you! We had to be mindful of timing – the last trot boat runs at 9.30pm.

There was just enough time for us all to moor up and pop to the shore for a pub supper (pre-ordered) in the Flying Dutcham followed by a briefing for the Thames Estuary in the Queensborough Yacht Club (yes there is a bar). Considerable thanks needed to the organiser of the whole trip, Andy off Arthur Dent and the many that assisted, eg Simon (Scholar Gypsy) with trip planning and Dianne (Dragonfly) with booking the pub for a meal.

There wouldn’t be time for dessert on shore, so we all took the ferry back to the concrete lighter for a party! I was relieved that the rain had cleared away to leave a cool sunset. I’d promised to supply puddings for our party and Andrew Phasey provided us with plastic tiaras, medals and false moustaches (don’t ask!). We had a merry time of it, celebrating nb Panacea’s 30th birthday – she’s a diminutive narrowboat that has done big things, and her owner, Libby, beamed with delight as we sang happy birthday.

Party! I made a special jam featuring Kentish fruit to celebrate our convoy - enough for a jar or three per boat - it was popular!

Party! I made a special jam featuring Kentish fruit to celebrate our convoy – enough for a jar or three per boat – it was popular!

I was less joyful, as I’d come down with laryngitis the week before and was under strict doctor’s orders not to talk – much to the relief of many! It was so frustrating not to be able to fully join in the celebrations, but at least my puddings and jam could speak for me. Being as we were in the garden of England, I had made some commemorative jams for the boaters; “Medway Medley” 1 and 2 – featuring fruits bought from roadside stalls on our way to the boat – not all grown in Kent (it was a bit early) but a fitting tribute anyway.

We had a cruelly start in front of us, so maybe its just as well we had to break up the party for the last ferry to take four crews from the concrete lighter back to their boats on the buoy. We had a lightning fast clear up and went to bed – the alarm was set for 4.30am – time and tide etc….

Photoblog:

Look at that view, and flat calm too :-)

Look at that view, and flat calm too πŸ™‚

This boat, with owner Hamish, cruised across the channel to France the day after this photo was taken....

This boat, with owner Hamish, cruised across the channel to France the day after this photo was taken….

Our moorings at Queenborough - there are six narrowboats moored right in the centre of this photo :-)

Our moorings at Queenborough – there are six narrowboats moored right in the centre of this photo πŸ™‚

Sunset over the Isle of Grain - who would have thought such a severely industrial area could be so beautiful.

Sunset over the Isle of Grain – who would have thought such a severely industrial area could be so beautiful.

A fine raft of narrowboats...

A fine raft of narrowboats…

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2016: Medway Musings

Posted by indigodream on 28 July, 2016

Sunday 29th May to Sunday 12th June

Flotillas of canoes are common...

Flotillas of canoes are common…

River Medway

I’m so behind with the blog I’m going to have to abandon a daily record of cruising in favour of some general musings. This is a shame, as the River Medway deserves fulsome praise – it is a really beautiful waterway with lots of historic interest.

Ah well, now that we’ve proved (again!) that narrowboats can make the journey safely, you’ll just have to visit it for yourselves – Indigo Dream will surely go back there.

We spent a fortnight on the Medway – it’s the closest waterway to our home in Surrey so we were able to just pop down for the odd evening on board. Sadly the weather was against us, but we had some good bimbles nonetheless.

Reflections...

Reflections…

Moorings and services:

After our epic 11 hour trip from Bow to Allington, we weren’t interested in moving the boat any further, so we spent our first night at Allington Lock, of course we did not go anywhere near the pub at any point in the mid afternoon, late afternoon, early evening or even late evening by just one member of the crew. There are two main stretches of mooring – on the lock you can book/buy a mooring from the lock-keeper for a reasonable fee (Β£12.50 per night). There are also free moorings outside the pub, a short distance upstream from the lock.

Allington Lock has good services – here’s a tip – if you’re stopping for water, use the tap on the upstream end of the service pontoon – it has very good water pressure; the tap in the service building (with an EA hose) has barely a trickle.

Watch out for these signs - there are overnight moorings below a few of the locks...

Watch out for these signs – there are overnight moorings below a few of the locks…

There are free 48-hour moorings at several of the locks, as well as sturdy mid-river mooring posts – neither suited us with the hounds; the mid-river ones are too far from the bank and the lock moorings tend to be below the locks and linked to shore by open mesh steel steps. It seems to be ok to have short stops (say lunchtime) on the moorings above the locks – most of these offered great access to the magnificent fields and woodlands nearby – perfect!

There are also some meadow moorings – many e.g. Teston, East Farleigh are owned by boat clubs and are crowded, however the narrowboat convoy found a very nice meadowside spot below East lock.

We also moored at Yalding, on the delightfully named “teapot island”; Tonbridge Town Centre also has great moorings – above Town Lock. There was a small charge (Β£5 per night) in Yalding, but the signage was a bit unclear as to where the fees started on the town

Meadow moorings below X lock

Meadow moorings below East Lock

moorings in Tonbridge. The council is busy putting in services at Tonbridge – the pump-out wasn’t working yet, but there was a useful water point and a rubbish disposal facility (currently an empty shed but there will be skips there eventually) – these are accessed using an EA key.

On our way back, we stopped at the ample town centre moorings in Maidstone. They had good access to the train station (Maidstone West) and felt very safe.

Impressions:

We were made welcome on the river, with an especially keen welcome from

Looking towards Tonbridge town moorings from Town Lock...

Looking towards Tonbridge town moorings from Town Lock…

the few resident narrowboaters, many of whom had had their boats lifted onto the water and viewed our trip down the estuary as heroic! There were ample moorings once we worked out what to look for and our convoy glided into river life with barely a ripple.

There were very few motorised boats on the move on the river and we largely had the locks to ourselves. However there were hundreds of kayaks and canoes – luckily these have canoe races to transport them down the locks and they are advised to portage back up. Flows at the locks are fierce!

The river is beautiful – it’s hard to compare it with anything as it has it’s own character – it was so green and fecund you could be in no doubt that you were in the garden of England. It has a frontier feel, and a sense of faded grandeur – all remnants of when Kent was both gateway to international trade and barrier to invasion. The ancient bridges are as fine as any on the upper Thames and the locks have the massive solidity of an infrastructure that has, at times, to deal with a serious amount of water.

View from the Teapot Island moorings in Yalding...

View from the Teapot Island moorings in Yalding…

On the more populated areas of the river, the narrowboats became a tourist attraction in their own right. At Allington and Tonbridge, in particular, we were beset by compliments and questions – it was flattering, as Indigo Dream is due to go for repainting in September and we think she’s looking well-travelled; but the people of Tonbridge thought she was “beautiful” – we’ll take that πŸ™‚

We did have an asbo moment in Tonbridge – four young lads throwing things into the river and jumping on a disreputable, derelict cruiser as if trying to sink it; then they set fire to an accelerant, maybe an aerosol, which made a tall plume of flame. When we, and the other narrowboaters, remonstrated with them, they hurled really foul verbal abuse then scarpered to an adjacent car park where they felt brave enough to throw things at us through the railings. We pointed out that they were doing this in front of CCTV cameras and that we had taken their photograph. Eventually, in the presence of a mob of boaters, they cycled off with threats to return – we called the police. They sent out a constable who was both concerned and sympathetic; the town is working hard to attract boaters and they genuinely wanted us to feel safe and welcome. We showed him the photos – unsurprisingly he knew who they were and there will be some “friendly” chats with parents in the offing! We were anxious after that – it was low level crime but just enough to make us feel uncomfortable;

Creeping under the Town Bridge in Tonbridge - plenty of room!

Creeping under the Town Bridge in Tonbridge – plenty of room!

however we didn’t have any other trouble apart from one incident of someone running along the boat roof in the middle of the night – we got up really quickly to check but we couldn’t see anyone running away – weird, but no harm done.

This tainted my view of Tonbridge; though the tough East London boaters felt that anything less than a gang fight with long knives was pretty small fry and thought the town was pretty civilised πŸ™‚

Pubs & Supermarkets:

I’m sure that there are many fine pubs to be had along the waterway, but we didn’t really visit them, often opting for eating on board. Tonbridge has a good range of pubs, restaurants and shops – it says a lot for the town that it can sustain a Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and a Lidl – all tastes and pockets catered for! We ate at a fine Chinese buffet in the high street and admired the food at the local Weatherspoons, which has a spacious and airy interior as well as gargantuan portions. We stopped briefly at the Anchor in Yalding, but there was a mix-up in the

But the next bridge defeated us - if we had taken the horn off we might have squeaked through...

But the next bridge defeated us – if we had taken the horn off we might have squeaked through…

kitchen and they stopped serving food around four hours before the time they advertised on their website – we were not impressed.

When we had the car, we went into Yalding Village and had a very good meal and a friendly welcome at the dog-friendly Walnut Tree pub.

However, the good pub award has to go to the breakfast at the Malta Inn at Allington Lock – it is the restaurant for the hotel next door and offers a massive breakfast buffet (cooked and continental) – a meal that would last a whole day for less than Β£10 – can’t ask for better πŸ™‚ but be warned you will probably need to have a snooze afterwards.

The end of the navigation

We don’t know when we’ll be back, so we had to make the best of our time on the Medway. This included exploring the end of the navigation in Tonbridge; but the “end” of the navigation has many locations, depending on the water levels!

The first “end” is the stretch above Town Lock – if there is any fresh water coming down the river then there simply isn’t enough headroom to get a narrowboat under the Town Bridge. However, when we got there, river levels had

It is well worth exploring the right-hand branch that flows in the shadow of Tonbridge Castle - it's so beautiful...

It is well worth exploring the right-hand branch that flows in the shadow of Tonbridge Castle – it’s so beautiful…

dropped enough for us to get Indigo Dream (with full water tank and human ballast on the bow) under the bridge to the next “end” – the tranquil stretch in the very shadow of the remains of Tonbridge Castle.

We though this really was the end as the next bridge, a short distance upstream to the left, was too low for us by around half an inch, so we turned back. We did try to get under at different times when the river had gone down and we could load ballast i.e. guests, onto the front deck – to no avail.

We were a bit sad, as the second bridge gives access to a loop which would give an elegant end to the navigation. We considered going round the loop in the other direction i.e. turning right after Town Bridge, but we didn’t think there was anywhere to turn and we didn’t fancy reversing back.

Luckily we were wrong – a local trip boat advised us that we could take the right-hand branch and that there was ample turning space by the railway bridge.

Predictably, we went for it and this end of the navigation is a little gem. The river is winding and vibrantly green; it is barely wide enough for a narrowboat in places, yet the basin under the railway bridge is unexpectedly expansive as the navigation loops back to the left towards the low bridge and the main river carries on upstream to the flood barriers. Although it was only a short section, I’m so glad that we cruised it.

The end of the navigation (for us) - plenty of room to turn at the railway bridge...

The end of the navigation (for us) – plenty of room to turn at the railway bridge…

Cruising Companions

We haven’t had the boat in the Southeast for several years, so it was a golden opportunity to catch up with friends old and new. Of course, there were lots of people, but I’ll just mention the greyhounds – Ollie and Herbie became the only resident hounds to cruise the Medway; Kentish lass Peggy-Sue showed us the sights; Tara greyhound proved to her doting parents that she was a natural boater and that they should buy a narrowboat immediately! Old friends Stiggy and Poppy greyhounds became new Indigo Dreamers and took our tally of greyhound Indigo Dreamers over the 50 mark πŸ™‚

Was it worth it?

Yes! This is a river where the destination justifies the journey to get there. Of course, the journey is fab too so we really couldn’t lose.

We can see ourselves going back there; we might even moor there for a winter one year – it was such a joy to be less than an hour’s drive from home and to be able to share our Medway experience with local friends. Of course, we’ll need some company for the next estuary trip, if anyone’s interested and has been certified ……

Photoblog:

Cruising companions: Peggy-Sue is a natural boater :-)

Cruising companions: Peggy-Sue is a natural boater πŸ™‚

Resident hound Herie doing some Olympic lookin' - he doesn't normally leave his sofa but he did like to show off to the girl hounds we had on board :-)

Resident hound Herbie doing some Olympic lookin’ – he doesn’t normally leave his sofa but he did like to show off to the girl hounds we had on board πŸ™‚

Poppy in the classic "Indigo Dream" pose - she loved boating....

Poppy in the classic “Indigo Dream” pose – she loved boating….

Old man Stiggy living the dream...

Old man Stiggy living the dream…

Tara took to life on the water straight away - now her hu-mum can buy a boat :-D

Tara took to life on the water straight away – now her hu-mum can buy a boat πŸ˜€

Sometimes the canoeists turned into narrowboaters and operated the heavy locks...

Sometimes the canoeists turned into narrowboaters and operated the heavy locks…

And sometimes narrowboaters (in this case the skipper of nb Gertrude) turn into canoeists and give the race a go...

And sometimes narrowboaters (in this case the skipper of nb Gertrude) turn into canoeists and give the race a go…

 

 

 

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Nice day for a cruise….

Posted by indigodream on 15 July, 2016

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Dog Blog: Ollie (aka Out the Game) 1/4/2003 – 9/7/2016

Posted by indigodream on 9 July, 2016

Saturday 9th July 2016

This post, for me, will be the very definition of “bittersweet”….

March: Poppy and Ollie arrive - as fosters of course!

March 2012: Ollie and Poppy arrive – as fosters of course!

Bitter because this morning we had to say goodbye to a stoic soul who overcame the adversity of years of neglect and starvation to enjoy four years of love and peace with us. Ollie had become increasingly unwell over the last year or so had we’ve been preparing ourselves to say goodbye for some time. Yet he bimbled on, every time we thought “this is it”, Ollie would say “not quite yet” – we were astonished when he reached his 13th birthday in April, and every day since has been a precious gift.

For some time now we have been finding that the various treatments (drugs, accupuncture, laser, physio, more drugs) were working less effectively. We had detailed conversations with our Vet so knew what to look for and how far to take it. This last week, twice we thought “this is it”, as his back legs became very weak but then he had a good day. Yesterday was a bad day and after a restless and painful night, we decided that this morning really was it. This time, Ollie agreed and slipped away peacefully just after 8am this morning to run at the rainbow bridge with his old companions Lou, Ty and Poppy, his cherished partner in adversity.

Staying with the bitter for the moment, we don’t know much about Ollie’s early life apart from the names of his houndie parents. We think his racing name was “out the game”, which says it all really – he was a diminutive for a boy (smaller than some girls in fact) and hardly raced at all before being retired. The next bit of his life is not our story to tell – Ollie was rescued, along with his partner Poppy, in January 2012 when it was found that their owners had starved and neglected them almost to death. Ollie and Poppy were both dehydrated, unkempt and had severe dental problems. They were both rescued by the good folk at Dillymore kennels and spent the next 6 weeks in recovery – they needed intensive feeding, flea treatment and general care – Ollie had around half of his teeth removed.

We took Poppy and Ollie in as fosters shortly afterwards – Poppy sadly died after a joyous three months with us; we adopted Ollie soon afterwards….

Marsworth 2013

Now for the sweet, and such a sweetness – firstly, Ollie has been a miracle boy, we expected him to fade away after losing Poppy, they were a bonded pair. But he recovered from the neglect and became a happy and reasonably healthy senior hound. Ollie was a hound that bonded deeply – he looked so haunted at first, missing the people who’d so abused him and who never deserved his devotion. The moment, a few months down the line, when he bonded to us was priceless. He was such a dear soul. It took a year or so for him to get his running muscles back and then frequently at 70 years old in human terms he would show a good turn of pace running with the youngsters and then wonder why he was stiff the next day.

He quickly became an Indigo Dreamer and, when I look back, he might be the most well-travelled of all our hounds, having been the only one to traverse the canal network from the northern limits of our cruising (Yorkshire) to the southernΒ  (Kent) and all points in-between! He was also the first resident Indigo Dreamer to cruise on the Medway.

Ollie was a quiet soul – never that demonstrative with other people, we would be blessed with Ollie cuddles, all the more precious because they were so heartfelt. He was never a blogger, he never seemed to want to communicate in that way, confining himself to his own language of squeaks, which he forgave us for never grasping fluently!

From left to right: Ty, Henry, Lou at the back, Archie, Eddie, Herbie and little Ollie on the far right

He was by far the most well-behaved hound we’ve ever had, which made his moments of mischief all the more shocking. He was never a food thief (like some I could mention!) yet he might just help himself to an unattended hobnob and a slurp of tea in passing. He would occasionally have “Plan O” moment – the name comes from his erstwhile girlfriend Miss Miffy, who had plan M moments – sometimes towpath Plan M and Plan O would operate in tandem – luckily they were both geriatric hounds and easy to catch! Ollie had a few girlfriends after Poppy, he did like the laydeez!

But my most memorable “Plan O” was when we were moored in Staines, taking Ollie, Henry and Archie for an early morning week break – me in pyjamas because it was just a quick out and back. Ollie had other ideas – Henry and Archie were on lead and took an age over their ablutions; Ollie, off lead, decided to head off down the towpath at speed. I was tethered to the others, who weren’t to be rushed. Cue me trying to run down the towpath after Ollie, now out of sight, in my pyjamas towing two reluctant hounds behind me….and having to stop to ask some early morning workmen whether they’d seen Ollie go past. About a quarter of a mile later I caught up with him, unrepentant, then had to walk back the (urban) towpath, well out of sight at the boat, so with no obvious explanation for the well-dressed commuter types why I might be out in pyjamas!

I won’t deny that rehabilitating Ollie after severe neglect was hard work; keeping him fed and mobile as a senior was an effort; but I strongly feel that he was owed and I hope that we have atoned for the evil that was done to him in his previous life.Β  He was a great lad and we are only sorry that this time with us was short and the one last opportunity for some Olympic looking was not to be his.

 

Run Free Sweet Ollie, run free

 

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