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)
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 😦
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.
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.
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….