Sunday, 30 May 2010

"Ducklings on the Water"

Apparently this is how skippers of larger craft describe 'little-uns' like us over their VHF radios on the tidal Thames.
Whilst on this part of the system I really wanted to do this trip but three weeks ago it was looking unlikely as there just seemed to be a long catalogue of negatives.  Then we were told about the members of the St Pancras Cruising Club and that they were doing a Tidal Thames Transit on the Saturday of the Bank Holiday Weekend.
We contacted them and, as a result, found ourselves breasted up against the visitor's wall with 17 other narrowboats in Limehouse Basin on the Friday night.

We all met in the Cruising Association Clubhouse for a de-briefing and then a meal.  Members of the Cruising Club were really welcoming.  We found the whole event to be extremely well organised and everything about the trip very positive.  Our friends, Anne and John, were joining us for the weekend and they arrived , having travelled by tube and taxi, late in the evening.

The following morning boats were locked out in groups of three.  Nine boats were going to Brentford and nine further on to Teddington.  We were in the first grouped of three to go to Brentford and were 'sandwiched' between members of the cruising  club on 'Galatea' and 'Victoria'.  The water in the lock goes out VERY quickly and when the gates open the vastness of the river is quite awesome.  With a long blast of our horn we exited the lock and turned upstream.  From here until past Westminster there were LOTS of other craft on the river.  The taxis and trip boats go VERY fast and create lot of wash.  Anne and John, standing in the bow ..................... got wet!!!  They only, however, felt the need to bail out once!

On occasions, especially in the vicinity of Tower Bridge, there were four or five boats manoeuvring around us and then the wash was substantial!  These moments were indeed, in the words of Lynn Hancock n/b 'Piston Broke' ........ "buttock clenching"!! The weather was not great and at times the rain was quite heavy and cold but it was SO exciting passing famous London landmarks on the water.  We had taken everything off the roof (which in itself took quite a little while!) and safeguarded vulnerable things inside the boat.  Nothing came to any harm.  In total it was 16 miles to Brentford and it took exactly two and a half hours.

 Although we were naturally apprehensive about going, in practice we were surprised about how confident we felt once out on the water.  I feel certain that this was largely due to being in the comfort zone of experienced Thames boaters.
We are very grateful to them and would thoroughly recommend anyone joining one of their cruises.

Now I shall look forward to being able to do something like this again.