Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Day We’ve Been Cruising For!

Almost two weeks ago now that “day” was almost upon us but first we had to leave Paddington basin (where, at 10 am, our friend Jonathan, who’d travelled from the Isle of Wight to be with us, came aboard) ……..


…… and we set off for a cruise down the Regent’s Canal. Through London Zoo where we passed the iconic Snowdon Aviary ……….


……. through King’s Cross, where once stood a forest of cranes, there is now the most amazing development. You can now live in a gasometer apartment!


With Doug and Jonathan’s hard work on the lock operation we soon had the majority of the Regent’s Canal behind us and the startling view of Canary Wharf in front.


Jonathan’s partner, Graham, joined us at Bow and before we knew it we had arrived at Limehouse Dock and moored up on the wall behind our friends Andrew and Frances on nb “Doris Katia”. It was a well deserved G and T in the Limehouse sunshine – Graham, Jonathan and James.


After a great meal and catch-up with friends in the Yacht Club on Friday evening, where Andrew and Frances gave us a very comprehensive safety briefing and itinerary of the following day’s events – the BIG DAY had arrived! Being just one of twenty six narrow boats to leave Limehouse Dock on Saturday morning, we were ‘locked out’ at 06:45hrs and onto the big wide River Thames for the annual St. Pancras Cruising Club’s tideway cruise.


Turning left out of Limehouse we headed downstream on the rapidly flowing outward tide – past the Cutty Sark ………


…….. past the fabulous architectural symmetry of The Royal Naval College at Greenwich………


…….. and on towards, and past, the O2 Arena.


Coming up next was the huge Thames Flood Barrier.


Here we are, with the tide almost complete (and a nervous Graham taking the tiller while James went for a pee!) drifting on the current and approaching Margaretness ……..


…….. where we turned across the river, stemming the tide with the other boats that had got there before us and waited for the arrival of the other six boats which were somewhere on the river behind us.


As the tide turned our flotilla of 26 boats started to make way back up stream. The calm, leisurely pace so far allowed us to relax with a warming cup of coffee. Here’s Graham, Jonathan (with the massive Barking Creek Flood Defence structure sticking out of his head!) and Doug.


A lovely line of narrow boats making their way up towards the city of London.


As we got closer to the city we started to encounter the early morning commercial traffic (here in the guise of the very fast Clipper catamaran!) The wake left by some of these craft needs to be tackled with respect ………


The calm before the ‘not so calm’!


………. as the water gets decidedly choppy the nearer you get to the action! It got a lot choppier than this but it’s difficult to hold the camera still under those conditions!


“Our “26” is the most St. Pancras has ever had on the river in one go and we fetched a rather beguiling sight as we approached Tower Bridge with the Shard on the left.P1030657

On the opposite side to Tower Bridge is the rather odd shaped “Walkie Talkie” building ………


…….. seen again here with the equally odd shaped “Cheese Grater” and “Gurkin” buildings.


It really must be one of, if not THE, most exiting and amazing things to do with a narrow boat – to pass under Tower Bridge!!!!


We feel very small sometimes!


Two rather chuffed “sea-dogs” after enjoying an exciting moment.


Past Cleopatra’s Needle.


Approaching the seat of government on the right and the London Eye on the left.


After Tower Bridge the second most celebrated icon we passed has to be the Houses of Parliament.


A selfie outside the Palace of Westminster.


Keep well clear of the security cordon, marked by buoys in the water, our flotilla is almost in the centre of the river at this point.


The next noticeable building to appear is the tower at Vauxhall. It had a helicopter crash into it during its construction some years ago.


Further on and we passed the new American embassy under construction.


and even more construction – the multi million pound renovation and rebuild of  Battersea Power Station.


After Chelsea and Kew we near the point at which we took our leave of the Thames at Brentford.


Getting through the Thames and Gauging locks at Brentford and onto the Grand Union Canal we have a (celebratory this time) G and T.


This is the second time in just over a week that we’ve been up the Hanwell flight of locks/ This time quite rapidly thanks to the help of Jonathan and Graham who decided to stay aboard to help us.


We got to the Slough Arm of the GU at Uxbridge where we’d planned to moor for the night when Jonathan and Graham did a u-turn in their plans and decided to stay on board overnight. It might have been something to do with the fact that it was the Eurovision Song Contest on the tele that night!  So it was out with the wine and nibbles and Doug’s disco light to make a proper evening of it.


On Sunday morning J and G took their leave and we have to thank them for both their company and help for the day before. It was truly a wonderful tideway cruise with them on board.


We decided to moor just short of Lady Capel’s Bridge on Sunday night. You can always tell that the local landowner got a bit ‘uppity’ about the canal being built through his land – a fancy bridge was demanded instead of the usual modest one.


The approach to the (Port of) Berkhamstead is very pretty and you feel that the urban sprawl of London is starting to be left behind.


The large number of locks on the Grand Union makes for quite a heavy amount of locking work. It doesn’t help when there’s more water flowing out through the bottom gates than is coming in at the top ones!


We anticipated that we’d catch up with friend and fellow boater Ray on nb “Stronghold” but he certainly had no idea until Doug surprised him by appearing at the lock and calling out “Hello Ray!”


We managed to share two or three locks with Ray before his planned mooring for the day. It was a very short catch-up but sweet nonetheless.


Almost at Milton Keynes the lock at Fenny Stratford is very unusual in that it has a swing bridge passing right through the middle of it!


After a peaceful night’s stop over at Milton Keynes we journeyed on in the pouring rain (which lasted all day!) and, we’d have missed our friend Jaq on nb “Valerie” had she not seen us and yelled at us from her window! James was supposed to keep a look out as we knew she was somewhere near but he was cold and wet and couldn’t concentrate on everything! Well, that’s his excuse! Anyway, all’s well that ends well, and Jaq came aboard for coffee and home made coffee cake and a wonderful chat. Thanks for yelling out Jaq!


A very rare sight these days – a wilderness boat in very good condition as well.


On Thursday mid afternoon we moored up at Weedon Bec. Here’s “Chance” looking splendid after a wash and polish and general clean up after the rigours of the tideway cruise and the Grand Union.


And quite out of sequence, here’s one of our favourite pics of “Chance” at Runnymede on the River Thames taken by Carol & George from their widebeam boat “Still Rockin’ ”.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A Short London Break (Again!)

Well, our journey along the (controlled) part of the River Thames was almost over and we were about to enter the tidal stretch for a short while. First, though, cruising past the fabulous and unique Hampton Court can’t be done without a photo. Sadly, we didn’t have to time to moor up outside and soak up the ambience and onwards we went ……..
……. towards our mooring for the night in Kingston-on-Thames. It’s a marvellous view upstream from the Kingston Bridge. We’re moored somewhere on the far right by the trees!
A walk around the town wouldn’t be complete without a photo of the famous telephone boxes.
The main point of our stop in Kingston was to catch up with friends Anita and Alan who we dined with every evening on our recent Caribbean cruise. We had another wonderful dining experience with them, this time in Cote Brasserie.
The evening view of Kingston Bridge from the embankment is stunning.
Anita and Alan came back with us (walking across the fabulous blue bridge) to “Chance” for coffee - but the cheese and biscuits soon came out as well and the fabulous evening was rounded off nicely. It was lovely to catch up with them both again!
The next morning we had to be at Teddington Lock at 09:30 to be locked out and onto the tidal section of the river for our journey into Brentford. Here we are entering Teddington lock.
One of the most charming sights on the 1 hour trip to Brentford is the river frontage at Richmond.
We were soon off the tidal Thames and onto the Grand Union Canal at Brentford. Passing quickly through the Thames and Gauging locks we were  onto the Hanwell flight of six locks (known as the “Thick of Hanwell” by the old working boatmen). The building dominating the locks here is the old Victorian mental asylum.
The long day’s cruising from Teddington ended when we reached our goal of Paddington Basin – our ‘home from home’ in London it seems! We have been immensely lucky that, on the many occasions we’ve visited, we always managed to get a mooring.
We weren’t moored very long before we had an impromptu visit by ‘boatie’ friends Heather and Roger (nb Celtic Kiwi, on their annual boating holiday from their home in Australia.
We’ve watched the redevelopment of Paddington Basin over the years – it’s now complete and one attraction is a spectacular second bridge which is raised periodically as an art form.
It looks lovely but it’s a bit of a hindrance (haha) when you want to use it and have to walk all the way round!
We had another lovely visit by local Sussex friends Alan and Kim and their daughter Sophie. They were ‘in town’ for the day and we’d arranged to have lunch with them.
After lunch there was time to have a coffee on the rear deck of “Chance” before they all headed off again. It was a real treat enjoying your company guys.
We had time during the week to see a couple of shows in the West End. At the Leicester Square Theatre we enjoyed “Pam Ann” in her bawdy, “say it as you mean it” show based on her ‘experiences’ as an air stewardess on her own airline! At the end of the show she allowed us to take this pic.
We had another ‘knock’ on the boat during our stay in Paddington, this time from friend Nick (nb Marpessa 2) who was moored in Little Venice for a few days and noticed us as he walked through the basin. We had a great catch-up chat for an hour over a coffee so thanks for popping in Nick. Give our love to Emma please - it was such a pity she wasn’t with you!
We hoped, in vain sadly, to visit the Diana, Princess of Wales costume exhibition in Kensington Palace but could not get tickets on the day so ……..
…… we made do with a visit to the White Garden which the Palace gardeners have created this year to commemorate the twenty years since Diana’s death.
The second West End show we saw was the much acclaimed “Kinky Boots” at the Adelphi Theatre.
As always, there was a ban on all forms of recording during the performance so this one is of the basic stage set. It really was, as so many have said, totally amazing. Simple but clever scenery and first class performances by all the cast – it’s well worth a visit.