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!!!