Rewind to Saturday 9th July
Henry and Archie listening very attentively to Andrew Phasey’s briefing – Herbie zoned out – he’s such a cruising veteran 🙂
We’d been fretting over the timing of today’s cruise, and the prospect of taking a group of tideway novices down Bow Creek and up the Thames to Limehouse in winds that were, at best, marginal on forecast. I had a sense of creeping dread, but little did I know its true cause when we joined the boaters amassed for a towpath barbecue on Friday night.
Ollie had been unwell all week, but he seemed to perk up by Friday lunchtime. In the evening, I drove all the hounds up to Three Mills after work, finding a nifty weekend parking space (free of charge!) in a lane by Tesco’s car park. I felt quite fresh and did a lightning fast trip round Tesco to top up with supplies – we were expecting lots of guests on Saturday. But Ollie was struggling – he was tired by the car journey and later in the evening he was alarmingly wobbly. We had a dreadful night with him and, at 6am, we knew that we would have to let him go. By 8am we were at our home vets in Surrey, saying goodbye. We had a brief hour at home to gather our wits before returning to boat for 11am and the arrival of our guests….
Andrew Denny trying to get a bird’s eye view of the convoy for Waterways World 🙂
It wasn’t an auspicious start to the day, but we put our best foot forward. We knew that our guests would be an uplifting bunch – first some friends – Tina, with some new Indigo Dreamers – diminutive italian greyhound cross, Macey and whippet Elsie; Marek, a childhood friend of Richard’s (their parents went to each other’s weddings and their fathers met in school), and Ben, a colleague of his from work; then there were new friends – Victoria from London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Janet, who called herself an “interested bystander” – a local lady who had picked up an open invitation from a Waterways magazine. Last, but not least, we also welcomed the legendary Andrew Denny aka Granny Buttons, correspondent from Waterways World, who would be covering the event for the magazine.
I thought it was a wonderful thing that the organisers could rely on boaters to act as hosts to the many non-boating guests who wanted to be part in this great event – dignitaries and interested bystanders – all were made welcome.
We got back to Three Mills just in time to welcome our guests and whisk them to the briefing, which was entertaining and thorough. CRT had a towpath gazebo and goodie bags for all the boats; Andrew Phasey led the briefing, and, as the brisk wind took the gazebo for a ride, we were immensely relieved when he announced that the trip along the tideway was cancelled. We were also relieved when Andrew told us that only 55 of the 85 that had booked a place were there – that would help with the logistics of the turn on City Mill River.
Elsie enjoying a bit of Olympic looking – she was a natural 🙂
When Macey, an italian greyound/whippet mix, about one-tenth of the size of the Beanzy Boys, got on board she quickly took over – she patted everything with her dainty paw and declared “that’s mine” – she even pinned Archie in a corner because he had the gall to walk past her sofa! Elsie accidentally fell into the canal when she arrived, but luckily she was diminutive enough to be easily lifted from the water. She wasn’t bothered by the experience and really took to boating, though arguably with less panache than Macey.
Once the briefing was done, there was just time to get back to the boats and get ready for the convoy – experienced and novice boats had been cleverly interspersed and the detailed plans made it clear when and where we were meant to be. At exactly the right time, we were off, maintaining a minute’s distance between boats. I have to say that it was a grand sight, fifty five boats on the move, stirring water that probably hadn’t seen that many boat movements since the Industrial Revolution!
I left our guests to enjoy the views while I had a quiet time preparing lunch and peering out of the side hatch – the convoy was long enough to enable us to enjoy the sight of the boats returning having made the turn. Soon enough, we were turning ourselves, the whole convoy moving much more smoothly than we’d anticipated. There was some argy bargy at an inconvenient narrow spot – incoming boats wanted to get to the turn quickly; outgoing boats wanted to get out of the way!
Nonetheless, we were soon on our way to City Mill Lock, which had been repaired and was being help open with the water at canal level to allow the convoy free passage. We found out later, that several boats were not able to do this section as the rising tide made it impossible to maintain the open lock and get under the road bridge. But we were fortunate, and enjoyed the reactions of the passers-by in the park, who were agog at the sight of so many boats. We turned right under the shiny bridge – got to get that photo of our reflection, then we were on our way back. There was tight headroom at some of the bridges but all too soon we were back on the waterbus pontoon.
Turning under the reflective bridge at Carpenter’s Road lock – has to be done!
As the rest of the convoy made its way back to Three Mills, an impromptu gathering congregated on Indigo Dream’s back deck – well, news of the cream tea with home-made jam had got around, plus we had opened some bubbly to celebrate the event. It was certainly worthy of a celebration – it had gone so smoothly and only events like this can keep these waterways alive for narrowboaters.
By now, I was weary to the bone, but there was one more social event to attend – a gathering at the White Building and Crate Brewery, with beer and pizzas funded by the convoy organisers. The White Building has an upstairs function room which had been booked for our party – just as well, the downstairs bar and canalside seating area were jam-packed – it’s obviously THE place to be on a Saturday night.
The pizzas at the White Building are absolutely delicious, and the company was the best, but grief and fatigue put me past caring, especially as I was driving and could only have soft drinks. By 10pm we were back at the boat and hugging the Beanz – it had been quite a day….
Rewind to Sunday 10th July
We had decided to leave the boat at Three Mills this week rather than trying to bimble around East London – our hearts weren’t in it. However we had an important job to do before going home. St Pancras Cruising Club have been very good to us – although we are not members, they often invite us out for tideway adventures and we’ve learnt a lot from their organisation and leadership. We were delighted to help when they asked whether we would escort some of the visiting boats from the Olympic convoy up the tideway when we went on our way.
We were planning our tideway transit for Friday 15th, when we would be joined by nb’s Tempest and Enbee – both of whom had some tidal experience, but not on the Thames. As they were moored nearby, we invited the crews on board for a tideway briefing – we know what to say, though we are trying to move away from using Andrew Phasey’s jokes! We had a convivial time and they seemed reassured as did we – we’d provided them with laminated river plans and tideway check lists so they left the boat prepared and happy.
It was so good to see so many boats on the move – and that is a chap in a shark suit on the roof of nb Rosie M!
The headroom under that bridge got precarious as the tide rose…
Some tandem turning – plenty of room!
A fine convoy…