Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Fantastic day

Several years ago I sailed my Jeanneau 42 from Union Island to Bequia in the Grenadines.  It was one of those glorious trips that you never forget.  Yesterday was even better for totally different reasons except its was a another boat trip.
We arrived in Limehouse marina in London after a hot and not too pleasant trip from Little Venice.  The canal was filthy, the locks decrepit and some git ahead of us was leaving the gates open with the paddles up.  We never caught up with him unfortunately.  Anyway with all the dire warnings on how busy and choppy the lower Thames can be we prepared the boat: took all the veg off the roof and secured everything inside.  I bought 50 metres of line for the anchor in case the motor packed in and at 1200 which is three and a half hours before high water the lock was opened and we set off into the unknown.
The weather was absolutely perfect.  Yes there were some commercial boats about and yes they made a wake but apart from a little movement the boat was fine. I didn't even bother trying to turn into any wakes as it would have meant zig zagging all over the river and confusing everyone about what on earth we were doing.  With four knots of tide up the chuff we approached Tower Bridge at over seven knots over the ground - the fastest I've ever seen this boat go.  The stretch between Tower Bridge and Vauxhall is busy, lots of RIBs, trip boats, ferries and tugs - a bit like Plymouth sound on a sunny Saturday but we zoomed through the lot.  As I used to work in London for five years I'm fairly familiar with most landmarks but it was odd to see them from the perspective of a narrow boat.  The engine never missed a beat and I have to say that at one point I did wonder what the hell I would do if it did.  The advice is to anchor immediately but with such a tide running, the chances of doing so and still not hitting something seemed pretty slim.  Hitting the VHF button and calling for help from the myriad of boats around seems a much better idea.  And anyway it was just so much fun, sliding under all those famous bridges and giving certain government buildings an Anglo Saxon finger salute of appreciation as well as the strange looks from the people on the embankment and bridges.  We must have looked quite out of place.  Soon things calmed down a bit and we went past Chelsea, Battersea and the like.  The boat race course was traversed much slower than the rowers do it and it seemed a very long way.  Finally just past Brentford where the GU also enters the Thames for all those who wimp out on the long way round we came to Richmond Bridge.  This bridge has gates that are opened 2 hours either side of high water and it was good to see my tidal calculations were right as they were clear by the time we arrived.  You have to read the various books carefully to find out that High Water at Richmond is an hour later than that at London Bridge so you actually have four and half hours to do the trip.  Then finally to Teddington lock - or locks as none of the books tell you there are two of the things, which confused us for a moment when we saw two sets of traffic lights.
But what a journey, a little challenging,  very exciting, wonderful views and fantastic weather.  Some photos below.

The emergency stop system - would it have worked??

A clear roof for the first time along with everything secured below
Limehouse lock - the entrance to the adventure and a very nice helpful lockkeeper - so we didn't have to push any gates ourselves for a change.
It looks crowded and choppy - because it was!!
HMS Belfast - I actually spent a week on her when she was still in commission in Portsmouth as an accommodation ship for cadets doing sailing training.
The old and the new
Lots and lots of bridges and they come up pretty fast. With four knots of helping tide you have to be careful not to get swept onto a support - if the motor was to stop you wouldn't have too much time to react.
Spactacliar views

Not sure where this is but it looked pretty

Then is starts to quieten down
Four hours after leaving - Teddington locks (all two of them) and an end to then tidal Thames.  We now have one hundred miles to Oxford and all the locks are manned.

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