- Mac & Jacquie Court
- 70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
We got going relatively early as I wanted to get to Stoke Bruerne and it’s famous canal museum. There was only seven locks and as many miles, but as Andrew had been on a canal holiday with Alison on the Llangollen Canal and had lost none of his expertise, it was a doddle.
Within minutes of leaving our mooring, we passed over the Great Ouze Aqueduct and although not as spectacular as the duo of aqueducts on the Llangollen, it is still quite an experience. We paused briefly at the interesting village of Cosgrove for water and supplies. The village was cut in two by the arrival of the canal and it was rejoined by a tiny tunnel and an extremely elegant road bridge.
We moored for lunch after the flight of five locks and then Andrew and I walked up to visit the musuem leaving Jacquie watching Wimbledon. I feel I have now seen as many canal museums as I need to, but it was enjoyable nevertheless, a drink in the Boat Inn and a brisk walk back to SKYY before the ice-creams melted completed the afternoon.
As the temperature cooled and the number of gongoozlers (onlookers) decreased we took SKKY up the remaining two locks. I decided there was enough room to turn her immediately above the lock, directly in front of the museum, fortunately there was, otherwise we would have looked very foolish in front of the remaining gongoozlers. We went straight back down these two locks and returned to almost our previous mooring, ready for returning Andrew to his car tomorrow. Another of Jacquie’s excellent meals taken in the sunshine rounded off the day.
Rain was promised, but we intending to be at a safe place for Andrew to meet us this evening. I have known Andrew since he was just a teenager, 35 years ago, when we shared a common interest in radio controlled model airplanes. Andrew went on to become a computer and electronics whizz and he set up our great SKYY web and email addresses. Unfortunately his lovely wife Alison has to work summer weekends and wouldn’t be able to join us.
Old Wolverton and the Galleon Inn and public car park looked good on paper, but we had six miles and five locks to Fenny Stratford and then another eleven lock free miles all around Milton Keynes before we would arrive at our selected destination.
We beat the rain to Fenny Stratford, where the lock is in a really quaint canal setting, with cottages lined up down one side and a road with a swing bridge crossing right across the centre of the lock. Don’t forget your BW key as this is needed to unlock the mechanism before the bridge can be swung out of the way, only after this is done can you enter the lock.
After that excitement the weather performed as promised and the rain tipped down. There was no wind and the temperature was warm so it wasn’t a problem, just very wet. By the time we had the last couple of miles to go the sun struggled through the cloud and dried us up. The mooring was as required, but the pub was closed for refurbishment, however the M25 delayed Andrews arrival until just before nine o’clock so Jacquie served dinner straight away and bed soon followed.
More friends joining us this evening for a pub meal and the destination was the Globe Inn, just to the North of Leighton Buzzard by bridge 111. First we stopped for supplies at Tescos, another one right on the canal, just as it approaches the urbanization of Linslade and Leighton Buzzard.
Unusually for us we moored right outside this lovely olde worlde pub. Normally I don’t like to risk being disturbed during the night by silly people, but as the pub is quite remote and the folk sitting outside enjoying the sunshine didn’t look too scary I took a chance.
Graham and his brother Malcolm and his wife Pauline, long time friends of Jacquie from her Luton days, arrived spot on time and we no doubt made the prospect much scarier for anyone else contemplating mooring alongside us, as we sat canal side enjoying our pre-dinner drinks. The food was good, especially the desert, ‘Trio of Puds’ for two to share, the service friendly and the ambiance and setting great and a very enjoyable evening was had by all.
Another early start, but with such beautiful weather, it would be a sin not to get out onto the deck and appreciate it. The remainder of the Aylesbury Arm and the eleven locks that we had to travel, looked just as good going back as it did on the way down, the views were super.
As soon as we turned back onto the Grand Union at Marsworth we stopped for water and it was here that until the 1970’s BW made concrete piles, in fact at one of the locks in the Hemel Hempstead area, an elderly lady leaning over the gate of a lock keepers house, told me that she had worked the canals all of her life, and although almost all commercial traffic finished after the 1963 freeze up, she carried on transporting these concrete sections all over the canal network until BW stopped producing them.
The roof boxes are now looking their best and all the time passers by were complementing them, one American lady commented “Awesome”, so I have included a couple of pictures for your appreciation. After a total of 15 locks we had been going for six hours so we called it a day half way between locks 34 and 35 in a beautiful spot on a bend in the canal and raised the TV aerial.
Monday, 29 June 2009
We set of on foot to discover Aylesbury and was surprised to find absolutely no mention anywhere about the famous Aylesbury duck. Except on the Canal Society’s logo. Apparently the ducks were too heavy to fly, which is what made them so good to eat and it is thought that now, someone in Norfolk may still breed them.
Aylesbury had at first a Banbury feel about it with architecture from a mix of periods and a small open market trading in the main square, but on following the sign to the Old Town, suddenly you were truly transported back a couple of centuries, apart from one 1960’s church stuck in the middle of an otherwise charming scene. Whilst sitting on a wall admiring this scene, Ron Adams, introduced himself, a retired local retailer with a wealth of local knowledge he is also a keen photographer and an entertainer of songs and monologues and he was able to round out our knowledge of Aylesbury.
We decided to move on after shopping in the town centre’s Sainsuburys. We do prefer a rural setting for overnight mooring, but I must emphasize that it was certainly worth the effort of coming to Aylesbury and the warm welcome we received, although The Aylesbury Canal Society and its permanent moorers will soon be relocated a mile or so back up the canal and the basin will be redeveloped, hopefully not just to provide a pretty backdrop to the new, canal-side developments, but for visiting boaters as well.
We said our goodbyes and headed back out of Aylesbury until we found another lovely location, just above lock twelve, with views over the rolling Dunstable Downs and thank god, good TV reception for the second day at Wimbledon!!!!!
We thought that the Wendover Arm was narrow, but the Aylesbury Arm was in one stretch so narrowed with reeds that it didn’t look passable, but we squeezed through as if on the ‘African Queen’. It is a lovely canal and the sixteen locks were no hardship. The first two are in a staircase formation, where the middle gate becomes the top gate of the next lock, they are all narrow with double gates at the bottom, however, many have to be left empty because of leaking lock walls so this does mean that these locks have always have to be filled first.
The final entrance into Aylesbury is preceded by a Tesco supermarket and although the basin seemed full of permanently moored boats I was given a warm welcome from Nigel and his wife, from the Aylesbury Canal Society’s Welcome Boat and directed to a mooring, Nigel gave me a local map and recent newsletters, which brought me up to speed on their history and current situation.
TV reception was a no go because of the offices and the building of the new and impressive Waterside Theatre, but our internet reception was exceptional and Jacquie was able to watch the first days tennis at Wimbledon, live on the computer. However we were offered a cable link into the Associations hard wired aerial circuit should we have needed it.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Caroline and Steve, who had joined us way back at the beginning of this trip, had been threatening to do so again, but this time they were going to bring the whole family. Daughter Carli and boyfriend Cedric, plus sons Chris and Cameron. We agreed to meet them at Marsworth, and unusually for us we left our lovely mooring (with satellite reception) at 8.30 in the morning and headed back up the Wendover Arm, onto the Grand Union and instantly down the flight of six Marsworth locks. We were fortunate in finding a mooring by the reservoir, this is a lovely open situation and very popular with walkers, twitchers and dogs.
The White Lion pub, did the eight of us proud and the little Tea Shop provided ice creams for desert. The young people were not satisfied with just sitting about on SKYY, they wanted to get going and Jacquie knowing that tomorrow we would be heading down the sixteen locks of the Aylesbury Arm, thought it might be a good wheeze to use their enthusiasm to start us on our way. Five locks later we found an idyllic spot to moor and we walked back with them to the car park and yet again there was another fond farewell after a lovely afternoon.
Next stop, Tring, via the Wendover Arm. We are still on the summit level, so no locks, but before we got to the junction we passed the old, picturesque BW workshops at Bulbourne. Until as recently as 2004 BW craftsmen used to make the wooden lock gates here, now it is a private workshop, producing ornamental metal work.
We turned into the Wendover Arm, and passed the Heygates Flour Mill, up until the middle of the last century the huge windmill still stood, but no more. The canal gradually got narrower and narrower, until it seemed we were in our own beautiful little stream, but the water under us was clear and clean and just deep enough. The stop lock only had one gate and it was open, from there onwards the canal sides was concreted edged and dated 2002/3.We continued under a new, traditional brick bridge, however under the brick is a concrete reinforced structure, but it does look the part and around the bend to the large turning point and the end of the navigation. Between here and the bridge are the most delightfully rural moorings, which we enjoyed for two nights.
The Wendover Arm Trust, has worked really hard with it’s volunteer workforce to re-open this short length, and work is nearly complete for hopefully opening the next section in 2010, with the plan to reopen all the way to Wendover in the not to distant future, but they then will have some major road bridges to raise, but I am sure they will get there eventually.
Whilst we were moored we did walk the one and a half miles into Tring town centre, which is small, pleasant but not exceptional, except, that we did nod to the unmistakable boxer, Frank Bruno, who must live hereabout as he was acknowledged by several people.
Time to move on and eight locks had us rising up the Chiltern hills until we reached the summit level at Cowroast, where we turned in through the extremely narrow entrance to the marina. Self-service pumpout and diesel, very trusting. A good chandlery provided my long overdue oil, fuel and air filters, and the necessary oil.
On the way up I saw this little boat and to my amazement I realized that it was a fully working smithy. I had a long chat with Nick, the blacksmith and admired his specialty, exploded calor gas canisters, plus his other more ‘arty’ work, a great guy, I’m glad I stopped to talk.
Only a little further and we moored for the night. The situation looked suitable for deploying my sat dish, with no obstructions to the south/east and sure enough I got over 50% signal quality and a perfect picture, allowing us to watch Jennifer Aniston in Picture Perfect.
Martin was right, Berkhamstead was lovely. Plenty of moorings, all 14 days, with rubbish and water point on the other side, just above lock 53 (not shown on our Nicholson’s guide). There are lots of elegant cast metal information/educational boards dotted along the canal. A Waitrose store is right on the canal and the town has many fine restaurants, coffee houses, pubs, shops and a wealth of architecture and to top it all, a launderette and the little River Bulbourne trickles along beside the canal.
We discovered all of this in the morning before we sadly waved Jacky off at the railway station after lunch.
We decided to hang about for a few days with Jacquie taking advantage of the train service to London, whilst I attended to the washing, ironing, cleaning and cooking. We also went to have a look at the ruined castle, I wasn’t too excited, but this traditional Motte and Bailey castle was most impressive. Firstly I had always assumed the motte was old English for moat, in fact the motte is the huge mound, with a wooden ‘Keep’ built upon the top. The Bailey is a much larger area, in this case protected by a stone ‘curtain’ wall which protected the main buildings. The whole lot surrounded by massive double ramparts and ditches. The buildings long gone, replaced by grass, providing a safe and peaceful place for families to relax and play. Only parts of the wall still stand, but it is easy to envisage the scale and importance of this thousand year old castle.
Martin was making his way to Cowroast Marina for LUCILLE to be blacked and hopefully to have the cause of a wet bilge sorted. We traveled agreeably alongside through five locks with both Jacquie and Jacky jumping ship to LUCILLE between locks. I stopped for water on the way at a very awkward water point on the non towpath side, before lock 55. Trees and scratchy bushes overhung this 30 feet long mooring, making the whole process very difficult, however the consolation is that a petrol station is right alongside and after squeezing through the bushes I was able to buy some chocolate.
We both moored in Berkhamstead, under the shade from the park’s trees, below lock 53., the railway station was on the opposite side of the canal, which would be most convenient for Jacky to catch a train back home tomorrow.
It wasn’t an early start, but we eventually got going and Jacky was keen to help with the locks, so we made swift progress towards Hemel Hempstead, remarking that the remaining paper mills were in the final stage of demolition and the Kodak Tower had disappeared, but there now is a very smart BW marina at Apsley
We were trying to meet up with Jacquie’s Uncle and Aunt, who lived nearby in St. Albans and we finally met the just beyond bridge 150 where a playing field adjoins the canal. Fred & Josie had been involved with the Sea Cadets for most of their active life and were intrigued to see how living aboard could be done these days without loss of creature comforts. After a late lunch they said goodbye and we headed on to find a more open aspect to moor.
The bottom gates of Lock 63 were leaking very badly and as the top end had only ground paddles, there was more water leaking out the bottom than coming in, making it impossible to open the top gates, but along came Martin from NB LUCILLE and with his extra weight we were able to force the gate open. As Martin was also making his way up, we said we would wait and help him through and then continue together through the next few locks. This was a very pleasant arrangement as he and his wife Helen were good company. The electrically operated swing bridge at Winkwell, makes one feel very powerful as you operate the controls, the red lights flash and barriers comedown, holding up the traffic as the bridge slowly swings to one side. Both LUCILLE and SKYY carried on for a couple more locks before stopping for the night.
Martin asked if it would be OK to lock through together, tomorrow, as his wife Helen was traveling back home, first thing in the morning. We said that we had intended to spend some time in Hemel, but he assured that we would be disappointed and that we would do much better continuing to Berkhamstead. We took his word and agreed to get going at 10am in the morning.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
My Birthday!!! And not only Jacquie to spoil me but also, Cindy, Jackie, Pauline and Nikki, who arrived at 10.30am bearing cards, chocolate and wine, a good start to the day.
Jackie had been with us before, but to give the others a little taster, we cruised on three locks before turning round and stopping for lunch. The forecast had promised showers, but it was sunshine all the time except for a little shower whilst we lunched
I was the envy of all the other skippers that we passed, and greatly admired in the Waterside Inn for my harem of lovelies. Sadly the restaurant didn’t come up to our exacting demands, but we didn’t let that spoil the day.
Jackie was staying with us for a few days and we said goodbye to the others and bade them a save journey back to Surrey around the M25.
A whole bunch of Jacquie’s girlfriend had threatened us with a visit and tomorrow was to be the day. We knew that Hunton Bridge was easily accessible from the M25 and there were several pubs to choose from. On route from Croxley, we passed through the lovely Cassiobury Park and under the ornamental stone balustraded bridge 164. The Earl of Essex insisted that this be built instead of the usual hump back brick bridge, before granting permission for the canal company to dig its canal though his park. Good man!!
No shortage of moorings at Hunton Bridge, we moored opposite the new development of apartments and houses, and checked out the pubs. The former Kings Head, now the, Italian flavoured, Waterside Inn looked favourite with plenty of parking.
Harefield Marina, delightfully situated on the lake, provided us with a pumpout service before we moved on through eight well spaced locks to arrive at Croxley, passing on the way Batchworth lock. There are two locks here, the one to the left allows entry to the River Chess, a chalk river from the Chilterns.
This is also the base for the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust, who organizes the annual Rickmansworth Festival, runs a trip boat and educational visits. There is also a mini working model of a loop of canal with a lock. They have, over the years, been instrumental in turning the Batchworth Lock area into a very attractive location from near dereliction.
The purpose for stopping at Croxley was that the Metropolitan Tube station was only five minutes footpath walk from lock 170 and as we both needed to pop into London over the next couple of days, it was most convenient.
We sadly said goodbye to K & J, but we know that they will be back!!!! The weather was drying up but Jacquie and I decided to stay put and I spent most of the day watching Men & Motors via satellite, whilst Jacqui cleaned the boat. Anyway that’s how Jacquie remembers the day, but she was already missing K & J.
In the morning John and I reversed SKYY back through the bridge to the boatyard on the corner of the Slough arm junction. There we filled up with diesel, just over 90 liters, which worked out at nearly six and a half liters a day, over he last 14 days, or £6 a day, not bad for so much enjoyment, considering we are hauling our whole world around with us.
The weather was slowly deteriorating, so fare weather friends that they are, after two weeks of nearly perfect weather, Kim & John decided it was time to jump ship and made arrangements for daughter Jodi to collect them tomorrow. We steamed on through urban Uxbridge and only stopped when we reached bridge 180. Here the canal has lakes on either side and at this point the lake and canal become one and although It was raining the setting was splendid. We settled down to enjoy our last evening meal on board with Kim & John, but not before John sorted out my new Aldi Satellite dish and receiver and we managed to uploaded over 300 free channels, success!!!!
We dropped down the last three locks into Brentford, the last is a DIY electrically operated double lock, easy peasy as long as you fully read he instructions engraved into the console on the island between the locks.
The whole area is now quite smart, but there is still plenty of character with enough old boats and buildings. The impact of the new offices is softened with landscaped gardens and there is a super sized, Charlie Dimmock type, water feature, sending a cascade of water into the canal, this is actually collaboration between British Waterways and one of the Offices to provide water to be used to cool the building, smart move.
John assured us that Brentford town itself is not worth exploring, so we turned around just before the Thames Tidal Lock and headed back the way we had come, climbing up the eleven locks to stop at Bulls Bridge Junction to take on supplies at the canal side Tesco’s. If only there were more such conveniently placed supermarkets around the canal network it would make shopping so much easier.
As I said earlier the water is so clear, with a lot of green hair like weed growing, but we couldn’t believe the size of the fish that we could see swimming passed our hull, carp that must have been at least two feet long, I have only having fished once in my life before, so I have no need to exaggerate, but they were truly huge.
We had planned to meet this evening with friends, Clive and Cecilia and we thought that the Cowley Peachey Junction, with the almost defunct Slough Arm, would be a good place, we were right. We tucked in immediately behind bridge 190, the other side of which, was the Water’s Edge Pub. Clive, who is a proper sailor, and Cecilia, who the day before had arrived back from Sweden made good time around the North Circular and we spent a very pleasant evening, munching on the pubs yummy Tower Burgers and catching up on news, before C & C had to head for home.
Monday, 15 June 2009
Another fine day as we headed through the mainly residential areas of Northolt and Southall, but occasionally our nostrils were assailed by the, not too unpleasant smell of curry being cooked on an industrial scale.
We continued on to Balls Bridge Junction, where the Paddington Arm joins the Grand Union Canal and as we were in no hurry we turned left towards Brentford. Since leaving Camden there had been no locks, but very soon we approached the first of the Hanwell flight of eight locks, which dropped us down nearly seventy feet. The water was still incredible clear, with even more rubbish swirling about in our wake, mostly plastic carrier bags, and eventually we had to stop and remove the weed hatch to clear the prop. Just below the last lock, there was easy access to the Fox pub, which reminded me of the Queen Vic in Albert Square, Which I should explain is the fictional pub in the TV soap ‘East Enders’ and here we stayed the night, but not in the pub!!!
I was under instructions that I had to buy a new suit as we have several weddings to attend this autumn and as M&S at Marble Arch was but a short tube journey away, Jacquie and I abandoned K & J in the hope that they didn’t run off with our home, their assurances that they wouldn’t didn’t totally set my mind at rest.
Suit bought in a record time of thirty minutes we returned to SKYY, which was fortunately where we had left it and immediately headed off. First stop was the watering point at Little Venice and second stop, after crossing over the busy North Circular Road on an aqueduct, was the handy Sainsbury’s store, right along side the canal at Kensal Bridge.
The canal here is very industrial, so we kept on going, passed another canal side Sainsbury’s at Alperton and stopped for the night on a pleasant rural stretch along side Perivale Wood.
I started to hear the footbridge reverberating at six o’clock as the first of the office workers arrived and it was great to take a cup of coffee and relax on the deck and watch them stream into work. A little later after I had washed the hull a space became available on the other side of the cut, in the sun and away from the noise of the footbridge and we awaited the arrival of one of Jacquie’s long time friends, Chris, who was travelling down by train from St.Neots.
When Chris arrived, about mid morning and after the usual welcoming drink, we took a gentle cruise back through Little Venice and Regents Park before winding at the Cumberland basin and returning to the same spot in Paddington Basin. Chris, who had been very uncertain about being on a boat, relaxed and enjoyed herself.
We watched the hot and tired workers file out of their offices, whilst we relaxed under the parasol.
The first thing I saw this morning through our porthole was the large green yacht, that had previously been moored directly in front of us and I couldn’t resist taking this picture. It had moved over to the service pontoon for water etc, before setting of down the Thames to the Medway. John and I waved them on their way through the Thames lock.
A little later we also moved across to take on water and pumpout and then sadly said farewell to this safe haven as we entered the Grand Union Canal (Paddington Arm). Immediately we are back to having to work the locks ourselves, but we couldn’t believe how clear the water is here, although there is lots of rubbish is in the canal, you can see the bottom very clearly, unlike the canals we are used to, where the water is the colour of coffee.
We steadily rose up through the locks. All of them with a constant rise of eight feet. Under Commercial Road, through Bow Common, Mile End and Globe Town, until we passed the junction with the Hertford Union Canal, which sometime in the future will connect us with the Lee Navigation. Families started to appear, appreciating the tranquility of the water compared to the hurly burly of East London. We carried on under the 960 yard Islington Tunnel, before we turned into the Battlebridge Basin to visit the London Canal Musuem, which is based in the old ice warehouse, built in th e 1860s for a famous Italian ice-cream maker. The basin was full of permanently moored boats, but we were able to come alongside the old converted working boat, used by the Mikron Theatre group, who were putting on a production that evening in the museum.
We had proposed stopping for the night at Camden, but we hadn’t taken account of the crowds enjoying the sun. As we rose up through the locks, there were people everywhere, legs dangling into the locks, sitting on the lock beams and the bollards and not one of them spoke English, or so it seemed, they had to be politely swept out of the way, before we could enter each of the three locks at Camden. It was fascinating sight for both us and the visitors, but not a place we wanted to stop the night at.
We had now risen through thirteen locks and 27 miles of lock free cruising lay ahead, so we decided to chug on a little further to find a mooring for the night and the wonderful Regents Parks came into view almost immediately. The Snowdon Aviary was the most obvious enclosure we passed, before Blow Up Bridge came into view. A barge loaded with gunpowder and barrels of petroleum spirit, chose this place to explode, totally destroying the bridge, killing three men and the towing horse, fortunately the ornately columned bridge was rebuilt exactly as the original and new legislation was passed controlling the transportation of dangerous cargoes.
Beautiful houses lined the canal for the remainder of the Regents Park, until we ducked under some bridges and the permanent moorings of Lissom Grove hoved into view. Through the short Maida Hill Tunnel and the elegant houses and rather tatty boats of Little Venice accompanied us to the junction of the newly refurbished Paddington Basin. It was late now and all of the mooring were taken and it felt gloomy with all the new high rise offices crowding in, but we tucked ourselves in under a footbridge and settled down for the night.
Sadly, when I checked the picture files for appropriate images, it seemed that none of us had taken any pictures, I think we must have photoed ourselves out on Friday
Another lovely day with endless blue skies, only broken by the towers of Canary Wharf. Ryan, who lives under the shadow of the HSBC tower, returned in the morning bearing newspapers and croissants, the later we ate, whilst sitting in the sunshine
The basin is surrounded by an attractive mix of apartment blocks, backed up by the oldest railway viaduct in England, now used by the Docklands Light Railway and moored boats of all descriptions fill the water, from large Dutch barges, ocean going sailing boats, big river cruisers and diminutive narrow boats, like ours.
The lock keeper said it was fine to stay over another night and after the excitement of Friday we had a pleasant day loafing about, soaking up the sun and chatting to other people who had either just come off the Thames or who were contemplating their tidal trip. In the afternoon we took a stroll down to the amazing Canary Wharf development, returning back through all of the old warehouses, now converted into desirable dwellings.
Monday, 8 June 2009
I awoke at four o’clock and could not get back to sleep, my thoughts were full as to how we would accomplish the turn into the Limehouse Cut. By the time we would reach Limehouse, approximately three and a half hours after leaving Teddington, the out-going tide would be running at about three and a half MPH, now my usual cruising speed is a modest three miles an hour, so that when we turned round to come back up stream for the usual ‘safe’ approach to the cut, if I maintained my normal speed we would be going backwards so I hoped that I had enough reserve power to stem the flow and make a safe entry. Oh well too late to turn back now.
The morning at six o’clock, was superb, clear blue sky and not a ripple on the water, just a little haze. Ashley and Justine arrived back on SKYY determined not to miss this adventure, they had blagged an overnight stay with a local friend. We entered the lock with another narrow boat, who was only going as far as Brentford and a big smokey river cruiser, who, like us was going all the way to Limehouse. At about 6.45am we all emerged onto the serene Tidal Thames.
Fortunately the smokey cruiser soon left us far behind as did we, to the boat going to Brentford. Soon the first of the 29 bridges that we would be passing under came into view. Richmond Bridge, followed by the railway bridge, instantly followed by Twickenham Road Bridge and then the Richmond Lock and Weir Bridge. The comprehensive British Waterways booklet that I downloaded from the internet, gave directions as to which arch to pass under, this was invaluable and took the guesswork out of where to position ourselves for the next bridge.
After Brentford the bridges were well spaced out as we swept along the sweeping turns where the annual boat race is held, but from Wandsworth the bridges came thick and fast. The current was really flowing now and our SatNav showed our speed at nearly seven MPH although my engine revs were not much more than usual.
The wonderful Albert Bridge in front of us, Battersea Power Station to our right, the first sight of Big Ben and the London Eye. Under Vauxhall Bridge and keep out of the exclusion zone in front of the MI6 building and then Houses of Parliament fully to our port side, again ensuring that we stay clear of the security zone. Under Westminster Bridge and there was the London Eye on our starboard side. The water was starting to get quite choppy and a police launch alongside us, was bouncing up and down in the wake of the first of the tourist boats, but we ploughed through the waves. Under Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges and there was the Tate Modern and the Wibbly Wobbly Bridge, followed by the Globe Theatre. We could now see HMS Belfast and the Tower Bridge. The Tower of London on our right and then the last bridge; amazingly we were passing right under Tower Bridge.
Almost there, John called Limehouse Marina on our VHF radio notifying them that our ETA would be in 15 minutes and they ensured him that the lock would be open and ready for our arrival. We sighted the entrance and carried on for a few moments, before turning across the river and heading back up towards the acutely angled entrance. The lever was now almost at full throttle as we clawed our way back up stream and began our turn into the cut. We had been advised that a survey vessel was moored just inside the cut reducing our room to maneuver and as we turned out of the current our forward speed sent us headlong towards the opposite wall, the throttle was rapidly set to full astern and we touched the wall, but no more.
We gently entered the huge deep lock and the gates closed behind us. The gates in front started to open letting in massive gouts of water, the BW booklet had warned us that this would happen and we were glad to be securely attached to the risers. We entered into the spacious basin and was given a warm welcome by Jeremy, the Lock Keeper who lead us to a very comfortable mooring, where we wasted no time in congratulating ourselves and cracking open a bottle of bubbly and it was still only eleven in the morning.
It took us all a while to calm down from this epic journey before we set off on a walk through Docklands, back to Tower Bridge, stopping of at St Katharine Dock for celebratory ice creams. Tower Bridge was now crowded with visitors, there being only a handful when we passed under, several hours previously. Eventually Dockland Light Railway deposited us back at Limehouse Basin.
In the evening Colin and Barbara, who just happened to be in London for a long weekend, came to Limehouse, along with Ryan, Jacquie’s nephew and the nine of us went out for a great meal at La Figa. What a day!!!