Saturday, 24 May 2014

Extreme Narrow Boating!

Yesterday our friends Mags and Pete joined us on ‘Chance’ at Teddington lock for, what turned out to be a mammoth day’s cruise.  We were let out of the lock at 10:30 to start our lone trip back down the Thames to Limehouse Basin.


The poor weather forecast proved not to be so poor and we had a good deal of sunshine for most of the trip.  As we approached Richmond at the start of the journey the magnificent Star and Garter Home dominated the scene as it always does.


The wind was fairly strong all day and in places, with the wind acting against the tidal flow, the water was quite choppy even before we reached the busy section of the river from Vauxhall Bridge onwards.


Thanks to Pete’s exceptional knowledge of London we were treated to many facts about the riverside features.  This is the power station which was built solely for the production of electricity for the London Underground. Now as sad looking as it’s bigger sister at Battersea.


Even with the threatening skies the sun still shone through as we approach the Albert Bridge.


After a cup of coffee and delicious sponge cake (thanks to Doug) while we were still on the upper stretch of the tideway we soon uncorked a bottle of wine before we got too far into the rough water (where we might spill it!).


The bridges come up fast and furious in places. As we approach Battersea Power Station we pass beneath Chelsea Bridge and then Victoria Railway Bridge.


No, they haven’t removed the chimneys from Battersea Power Station – it’s just poor photography!  Is that your 2nd or 3rd glass folks? Drink up, it’s going to get rougher soon!


Approaching Vauxhall, the now finished tower (scene of the unfortunate helicopter accident) literally towers above everything else.


As we approach Lambeth Bridge, Doug keeps in touch with London VTS so that they can keep track of our position on the river.  From the start of the journey we felt very much alone on the river – there was virtually no other craft around until we’d passed Westminster.


Along with Tower Bridge the Palace of Westminster has to be most exciting and iconic sight on the river. (“I see no ships” –still!)


At last – a ship!  - and behind it is the back of the Savoy Hotel and, next to it, the Shell Mex building which has the biggest diameter clock face in London.


Now it’s getting a bit busier!  The London skyline has changed dramatically in the last few years.  The dome of St Pauls’ Cathedral can be seen left of centre.


The much awaited highlight – and a chance for us to use the centre span as there’s a boat manoeuvring on the other side of the right hand span.  We’ve no pics (which is hardly surprising) of the very rough water encountered in the Pool of London. Waves came over the front bow several times and deposited quite a lot of wet stuff into the gas locker.


Time for a group hug before sharing the bridge with a floating restaurant.


Entry into Limehouse Lock was surprisingly easy this time as the water was fairly calm.  We went down stream a short distance to approach the lock against the flow which made entry into the lock mouth less hazardous.  Once in the lock we set about holding firm against the tremendous surge of water as the lock filled.  Mags took this action shot of James holding the rope tight on the dolly!


The lock has no paddles to allow water in and out.  Instead the radial gates are opened allowing the water to pour in.  For the last couple of feet of water the gates are just opened fully and you just have to pray!


Once into the safety of Limehouse we stopped for lunch (thanks to Doug again)………


……… before tackling the Regents Canal. Doug and Mags are the happy lock operators.


We found ourselves “top and tail” with a day boat full of a lively, and somewhat intoxicated, 21st birthday party.  It’s too complicated to explain how it happed but it was a brief moment of chaos which passed happily.


After a very short shower of rain the sun shone even brighter than ever and almost dazzling us as we entered the Islington tunnel.


We have to give Mags a very big ‘thank you’ for her sterling service with all the locks. Our progress was magnificent and we arrived in Paddington at 7:45 in the evening where we, again, had a choice of moorings.  We of course picked the one next to friends Del and Al on nb ‘Derwent6’. 

We said a sad farewell to Pete and Mags,  – we all had such great fun and we were delighted they joined us for the trip.  Lovely to see you both again and thanks for your great company.

As the night was young (and Al was away) we took pity on Del and whisked him off to Soho for a quiet evening (!) We had a long and glorious day which we shall remember for a long time – and so lucky with the weather.


LAST WORD – on the Regents’ Canal there’s this chalk board for people to express themselves – it’s worth stopping and giving it a glance!

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