London and the Tideway 2

Polly Anna’s next waterway…

Monday 1st September. Today was to be the highlight of the trip. With the tides dictating a 15:30 start to the trip to Brentford, we took the DLR into Central London and took a ride on the London Eye, returned to Canary Wharf for lunch at Cafe Rouge and then prepared the boat for the voyage. The weather was OK, with patchy cloud and not too much in the way of wind. We visited the lock keeper for instructions and then brought the boat round to the lock with 30 minutes to spare. All ropes out, throwing line and lifejackets deployed, we were the only boat to enter, and then looked foolish as the nose drifted across the lock before I had a chance to get the front line round the bar. Fiona said something about a bowthruster, but the lock keeper shouted back that he didn’t allow them! Onto the tideway at 15:32.

It was hard not to be impressed with the scale of things. For once, the camera clock was set correctly so the times of the voyage can be easily followed from the filenames. I make no excuse for including many of the pictures below.

Fiona steered, taking the wash of the larger boats as much at right angles as possible. We were soon in sight of Tower Bridge, but realised that a very large trip boat was bearing down on us, so we took the safer option of the right hand channel, not risking being overtaken under the central span.

The further upstream we got, the smaller the waves, so by 16:00 we were really enjoying ourselves, pointing out the sights and even interpreting the sound signals of the trip boats correctly. We encountered the first of the trains of rubbish barges, warned that something big was coming by the flashing bridge lights, and then I got to take the tiller. Engine temperature had crept up a bit, so a blast of reverse was used to clear the prop.

Within an hour, we had reached Battersea bridge. I knew this part of the river well, at least from the bank, and enjoyed the sights from a different angle.

Once past Wandsworth Bridge the presure was off – no more rubish barges, and all we really needed to do was keep a lookout behind, as a lot of cruisers were returning, making much more speed than us, and an eye on the temperature gauge.

This is the safer way to do the trip, but the end of the voyage is a bit of an anti-climax – I even made some coffee. At 18:15 we turned into the River Brent, and were locked onto the GU by a friendly keeper.

The tide was still too high for us to pass under Brentford High Street bridge, so we tied up above the lock and decided what to do. I went on a recce into Brentford, visited the supermarket for some food for supper and checked out the pubs, none of which seemed that suitable to take a child into. By the time I returned the water levels were ok, and another boat had appeared. Although we had almost decided to stay where we were, the other boater was single handed and clearly knew what he was doing, so we decided to share locks to the bottom of the Hanwell flight. All a bit of a rush, it was pitch black by the time we got there, but the moorings were quiet. We ate on board, as The Fox did not serve food on Mondays, but it was getting too late for Elizabeth anyway. 2 hours 50 mins to complete the 16.5 miles and 2 locks of the tideway passage, another 90 mins for the remaining 3 locks and 3 miles.

The log of this trip continues in Part 3