Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Up the Thames with the help of an old man

No not Doug, he's not THAT old. I mean 'Old Father Thames'

And boy was he in a hurry at times!

An empty tube carriage and a confused taxi driver got us to Limehouse Basin in good time where James and Doug were making last minute preparations, the vitally important things that need to be done before entering the tideway in a boat not designed for purpose - Doug was finishing off dinner and chilling the wine whilst James was buffing the outside of NB Chance to a gleaming luster.

Empty carriage

The previous day checking the sea state from the Tate

Ready for the off
Last minute instructions from the skipper - I knew I shouldn't have asked 'what happens if?'
The lockie invited Chance to proceed before ten yachts were due to arrive and things got a tad busy dockside. Hot on our wake were Dave and Maureen aboard NB Tranquility (seasoned river cruisers) who we had the pleasure of meeting a while ago in Paddington Marina.

Tranquility ready to go

James eased us into the cavernous lock after loitering at the entrance waiting for the lockie to press the right button. Instructed to turn off engines, I took a further grip of the rear starboard rope which was hung around the lock sides steel braided cable. I was a little nervous, as helm I usually use the boats engine to hold steady forwards and aft in a lock, using ropes to keep close to the lock walls. The water lowered slowly, then dropped about four feet in a heart beat.

Hard to see but the outside level is still well below the lock level¬

Too late to turn back

'Is it too late to turn back' - says Maureen

Life jackets on, VHF batteries charged and to hand and two-way radio to NB Tranquility at the ready the lower gates started to open 'Oh were down already James noted' as the gates opened jaws dropped as we all saw at the same time that, even though the gates were three quarters open, the Thames was rushing by  at about six feet below our level, we were being flushed from the lock! The ropes held steady but James was on the ignition in the blink of an eye ready for a big handle of reverse throttle if needed. We hoped Doug was alright on the bow deck, he couldn't have been more than a few feet away from the cascade.

We were out.

There was a stiff breeze and a fast flow but the river was a fairly flat, even chop of less than a foot. That was until we were in the tideway channel and playing in the wake of the trip boats, tugs and police boats. The journey really was one of two halves, towards the latter stages we were in calm tranquility, well actually we were in Chance Tranquility was following, Maureen and Dave were in Tranquility and we were all on tranq... flat water.

This is what you get for overstaying in Paddington Basin

Some are big...

...others are bigger

James was the picture of calmness and control at the helm and made safe progress through bridge after bridge and turning Chance into the heaviest of the trip boat wakes the most exciting of which saw the bow bury its nose deeper than we would have thought possible and the rear dodger save us from a soaking deflecting most of the water from the rear deck.

At canal speeds Tower Bridge is still two days away

Look, it's OK to be nervous, it can happen to anyone.

They think I am trying to capture a breaking bow wave, but really I'm checking the polishing

Good grief, it's even shinier that side! 

Adam from NB Briar Rose had changed his workday timetable to be waiting in the drizzle on Westminster Bridge for us to fly by. He took some great pictures which are all on Chance's, and Briar Rose's  blogs (all links below). We've chatted and waved to Adam as we've passed each other slowly on the canals, but today the waving was over in the blink of an eye even at 1500 revs we were flying through London.  Elly and Mick from NB Parisienne Star had also made the trip over (not from Australia, they are moored closer!) to wave us all through. They had to make a mad dash and ran from Tower Bridge over to Embankment to shout and wave their greetings. It just goes to show what a special bunch of people narrow boaters are, really going out of their way for fellow enthusiasts.

Elly and Mick outside the Tower

Adam on Westminster Bridge

'Big wheels keep on turnin'

Where the best of British dribble into their beards until it's time for Matron to come and take them home again

A nearly pretty row of large houseboats

All together a better class of trip boat on the non-tidal

Nice pair of slippers hee, hee

The wind dropped and the wash from boats big enough to swallow ten narrowboats started to abate by the time we were approaching Battersea and soon after we were able to contemplate the finer things in life; good food, good wine and more importantly good company.

It was a fantastic journey, one not to be missed that gave us a completely different perspective of London from a few inches above, and at times a few inches bellow, Old Father Thames

Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew

Wanted to know what the River knew

For they were young and the Thames was old,

And this is the tale that the river told –

From Kippling's 'The River's Tale 1911

Thanks Elly and Mick, Adam, Dave and Margaret and of course Doug and James for making our first tideway trip so memorable. Please take a look at their blog pics.


  1. So, are you going to do it on your own boat now?

    1. You know Adam, I think we just might :-)

  2. Wouldn't have been the same without you guys!! Thanks again and see you soon. Great Pics and thanks for letting us use yours. Great blog x

  3. It's such a great experience, you've got to do it again.