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Chertsey to Limehouse in "Amberel" - by Andy Lawrie
Middle of September, not a lot of good boating weather left. But the forecast for the weekend wasn't at all bad, so I decided to go to Cliveden (just north of Maidenhead). As I left the marina at 09:30 on Saturday morning I suddenly realised that I hadn't been to London at all this year. A quick check of the tide tables revealed it was feasible, so instead of turning upstream I headed the other way.
Traffic was very heavy, and it transpired there was a boat rally at Kingston. It slowed things down a bit because the locks were all full, but I didn't actually miss any so it wasn't too bad. After Kingston it remained busy, but there were several cruisers towing large numbers of rowing boats, some empty, most filled with people. It was sufficiently busy that at Teddington they were using the big barge lock as well as the launch lock! Then, once in the lock, I saw a notice about a "Great River Race". It appears this was starting at Ham, near Richmond, and they were going to close the river to normal traffic in about an hour!
I saw "Jubilant" yet again. "Jubilant" is a modern reproduction of a ceremonial barge. I saw her near Staines a week or two back, and I saw her picture in the local paper. This very days Daily Telegraph had a large photo showing her taking part in the Trafalgar celebrations as Nelson's coffin bearer the day before, and now I saw her again at Ham.
I got through Richmond just in time before the closure, but the rest of the way I was less than an hour ahead of the competitors. They were to follow me right through London and finish at Greenwich.
To start with, I was punching against the tide. I had to do this, or risk not getting to a London mooring in time. I had hoped to get to St. Katherine Docks, but they are only open for 1.5 hours after high water and I simply couldn't make it by then. So it was to be Limehouse Basin, where I've been several times before.
The tide had turned by Fulham, where a football match was taking place. The stadium backs onto the river, and great waves of sound were echoing to and fro - roars, chants, shouts, collective sigh's and groans.
Normally it doesn't
start to get choppy until after Vauxhall Bridge, but the fresh breeze
against the tide kicked up the water a bit before then. On a strong
tide there can be standing waves under some of the bridges, but this
wasn't so bad today. But the main cause of turbulence are the ferries
and trip boats. These are large, fast boats and some create a substantial
wash, and today it was more noticeable than usual. I wondered how the
rowing boats would get on. For much of the way they would be able to
keep to the south ofthe river, where the many obstructions moored in
the middle of the river would segregate them from the worst of the trip
boat's wash, but between London Bridge and Tower Bridge I think they
would have had to join the main
Lots of bands and ethnic dancing going on by City Hall, probably in conjunction with the race.
I arrived at Limehouse at 17:00, when the tide was pretty much in full ebb. The entrance needs a bit of care because the tide is going at about 3.5 knots while the water in the lock entrance is not moving at all - I go past so I can approach against the tide, gradually close on the entrance while holding more or less stationary against the tide and then quickly turn to starboard and in.
While I was untying the bow warp I noticed some damage on the bows. Whenever I go through London I make the anchor ready by placing it on the foredeck, and stop it falling off by wrapping the chain round the cleat. Unfortunately, the turbulence had made the anchor move about a lot, and it had taken a chunk out of the gel coat. Another job for the winter.
Before it got dark I also had to make an adjustment to my "Ruddersafe replica". You may recall I made up a device similar to a Ruddersafe but using a friction hinge instead of a spring loaded one. The disadvantage of this arrangement became clear on this trip. There was a huge amount of flotsam more or less all the way down the tideway, and it included some substantial pieces of wood. If these struck the rudder it partially hinged up, as it was designed to do, but of course, it doesn't automatically go back. I have to do that manually with a boathook, but it was happening so often as to become a nuisance. So before the return journey I nipped up the friction adjustment to make it a bit stiffer.
Out into the tideway past the sunken boat I mentioned before, straight into the wake of a fast moving ferry. Every single bit of kit that wasn't nailed down immediately flew in all directions. I really must remember to stow things properly before I leave next time.
Uneventful until I got to Kew. Just after the bridge I spotted a large yellow object in the water, and it proved to be the overturned hull of a skiff. I got out my PDA and googled for the Richmond Lock keeper's phone number. He said they had been looking for the boat - the race organisers had towed many of the race boats back upriver at 3 o-clock in the morning, and one of them had struck a bridge and been lost. He asked me to get a line on it if I could, as it was a hazard to navigation, but when I got close to it I saw that was going to be easier said than done because there was only half an inch of the hull above water. Fortunately at that point a couple of guys came down from Kew Marine in a boat that was a lot closer to the water than mine; they were able to get it turned over and started to bail it out, then took it back to their yard.
Back through Teddington
Lock, then Kingston. Just as the boats in the rally started to leave!
So the river was packed solid with boats all the way home. This time
I did have to wait for the locks, even though the keeper was using both
locks at Sunbury. Going up the river at the rear of a convoy of about
15 boats, it looked a bit like the fleet steaming along the Solent.
Due to the delays it was dark before I got back, very tired, but having
enjoyed the trip.
thanks to Andy for his kind permssion to include his © photos and
text on this site)