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Monday, 3 August 2009

The Thames Ring, The Queen and onward

Tuesday 14th July

Rain at first then showery sun as we cruised 4 miles and 4 locks to Battlebridge where we moored outside the London Canal Museum and re-provisioned for our guests and greeted them as they arrived off the train at 18.00. Carol fed us all royally and we took them for a walk to see the flower covered pub and Kings Place, the building we discovered just before we left as our previous 5 week stay ended. We followed this up with games of Rumikub.

Wednesday 15th

Heavy overnight rain then showery at first but a reasonable forecast, with wind. I had woken at 2 and realised that though I had booked to go out of Limehouse, I hadn’t booked to come in at Brentford. I tried to console myself with the thought that I hadn’t been told I needed to as I booked out at Limehouse and that they would have done it……….but I didn’t get back to sleep! At 8 I rang Brentford, and I should have booked, but he would ring back within 90 minutes to let me know if we could do our trip………..he rang back and we were off.

We had a steady windy cruise to Limehouse with some squalls, but I was concerned how windy & how choppy it might be on the Thames. I looked at the lock keeper’s CCTV image and he said it looked OK to him, and it was usually said if you got through Tower Bridge, then you’d be OK, but of course it was up to me!! I looked and decided OK so at 4.20 we locked out onto the tide flowing fast upstream.

It was choppy in places and there were many fast moving boats around. We also had one bridge where the light above the navigation arch was flashing white, meaning we had to slow until it stopped flashing. In the Tideway Guide there is a useful guide on horn signals so when I heard a sequence I looked it up and found that the “ship” was going to execute a complete turn to port. The ship was a very powerful tug with a load of rubbish containers behind and it’s manoeuvre was carried out without incident.

We all enjoyed the sights as we passed through, sadly the weather was not so bright, but at least it stayed dry for most of the trip until we approached Brentford when it threw it down in two or three dollops. We arrived at Thames Lock at 6.30, just when we were expected though we had not pushed it. We tied up above the first lock in the new visitor moorings in bright sun. Great moorings, but take earplugs as it’s near Heathrow.

Thursday 16th

Dawned bright but with a poor forecast, but I found a disaster as I lifted the engine cover and found loads of oil under the engine. The engine oil level was right, so it had to be hydraulic oil, Lily has a hydraulic drive system. The oil level gauge has always been indistinct, and was this day, so I unscrewed the oil filler lid. There is an integral filter below the cap and I could see oil at the bottom, but was there a small reservoir in the filter holding this? I sat down in the engine bay (plenty of room to do this) and pondered what we should do, when I noticed a line of oil running down from the top of the swim, under the silencer. Some time before I had changed the engine oil but had not managed to find anywhere to dispose of it and one of the “cans” had been resting on the silencer and with the prolonged high speed running the day before it had melted and released about 2 litres of oil. Relief, but what a mess!!!

Problem over (apart from the mess) we used the fabulous facilities at Brentford before setting off for Paddington Basin at 9.50. Slight showers but no coats and weather improved steadily all day. Followed boat up Hanbury flight who left top gates open as well as the odd paddle, we nearly caught them but were out Norwood Lock at 12.30. Mike and Annette wanted to walk through Kensall Green cemetery as we cruised past, but had to rush back as it seemed there was no gate open at the eastern end. As we reached the Sainsburys in Kensall ice creams were in demand, but as we went in reverse to slow we picked up something that totally stopped propulsion and we ended up crashing into the towpath side. When I got down through the weed hatch there really wasn’t much left to remove, and we then carried on into Paddington Arm arriving at 6 and got a great mooring.

Friday 17th

Annette and Mike left at 10.30 and Victoria and her not so new baby joined us for coffee causing us to set off at 2. As we reached the end of Islington Tunnel it was all stop for half an hour whilst a fallen tree was moved sufficiently for us to pass. The boat waiting with us saw it fall just before they arrived and had a wait of some 3 hours. The weather, reasonable at the start, steadily worsened as we approached Limehouse where we arrived at 8.15 for a quick meal and bed, early start tomorrow.

Saturday 18th

We entered the tideway at 7 on a bright but breezy and none too warm day and cruised up with Time Machine, a wide “narrow” boat. No traffic to speak of. We did the Boat Race in 38 minutes about, dodging rowers as we went, and arrived too early for Richmond weir. It was just starting to rise to let the retained water out, but 15 minutes later at 10.05 we were through and an hour later we were £141 poorer with a 15 day licence. We may stay longer but given last year’s experience of buying 15 days and only getting to use 3 before the floods stopped play, we are playing it cautiously. We finished the day at Walton on Thames. Good, free mooring, dry but a cool wind, we explored the town and provisioned as needed. 29 miles and 3 locks

Sunday 19th

Sun, cloud, showers and windy I noted. Didn’t set off till 12 and cruised till 6 on an interesting cruise up to Windsor, mooring for £4 (to Eton College) opposite Windsor Castle. The alternator ruined another drive belt but I soon fitted a spare, but found the weed hatch was leaking a bit. I cleared out most of the oily grot under the engine.

Monday 20th

The Queen came to see us!! Well to be precise she went swan upping for the first time in her reign, starting from the lock just above Windsor (Boveney Lock). We had shared several locks the day before with a pleasant couple in a lovely 1960’s wooden cruiser who act as a tow boat when the oarsmen are tired and they told us all about what happens. We walked up to the lock on a really lovely day and got good views of HM arriving and boarding the lovely steamer Alaska, and as she came out of the lock we were barely 5 feet from her. We followed them on foot upstream and watched the upping taking place before we returned, wandered around Eton briefly before Carol collapsed having walked far too far, but when would she ever be likely to see this again? I walked on into Windsor to see things before we settled down for another £4 night.

Swan Upping

This pageant is undertaken every year from the middle of July and it involves marking the new cygnets. Swans on the Thames are owned either by The Queen, The Worshipful Company of Dyers or The Worshipful Company of Vintners. Teams from each organisation proceed up the Thames before cygnets can fly and therefore whilst they are still in family groups. The uppers gather together the family group and tie together the birds’ feet which makes them docile. The uppers then check from the markings on the parent birds who owns them, and the new cygnets are marked accordingly, and where the parents are of two different owners, the cygnets are shared out accordingly. During the process the birds are given a health check before they are returned to the river.

The uppers row up river in skiffs with expert crews who are apparently able to outpace their motorised company. It seems that other members of the Companies come along on trip “steamers” to enjoy the show. The teams doing the work seem to have an enjoyable time together in the evenings too,

Tuesday 21st

Wet at first and poor forecast and rain before the first lock. We had coats and sweaters on and off all day before we arrived at Marlow after 4 hours cruising and were allowed to moor at the lock, tying up just before it poured down. It cleared later and we ambled round the pretty town. 12 miles and 4 locks.

Wednesday 22nd

Weather slightly better to start but generally showery and windy and we were off before 9 as we wanted to get to Reading for a medical visit. Last shower was about 12 and we saw the swan uppers at it again. We arrived at our preferred Reading mooring outside the prison at about 3. It being Wednesday we went to a 2 for 1 film seeing Public Enemy at a performance that saw us walking the streets at 12!!! Reeve from Debdale had moored in front of us.

Thursday 23rd

Reading hospital was great when I had my accident and was great again, getting things moving and enabling us to get our GP to get things moving. We then moved on to Cavenham Boats base on Fry’s Island where we had arranged to leave Lily over the weekend whilst we returned to Leicester for a friend’s birthday party.

Friday 24th – Sunday 26th

Into Leicester by train. Projected strikes on St Pancras line saw us use the Birmingham route, changing once and getting off at Narborough where Carol’s car awaited. Good party and stayed at my cousin’s house, going out on Friday night for a curry at our favourite Vishal Restaurant.

Monday 27th

We were off early to Sally’s to collect Sam & Hannah to bring them back to Lily. Train journey was fine & we were back on board by 1.30 and topped up with fuel at 60/40 and set off back to our other Reading mooring by the prison. Walked around town and ate at Wetherspoons before Rumikub.

Tuesday 28th

Kids refused to wake up, Sam eventually did so at 9.30, Hannah a few minutes earlier. We cruised to Henley on a so-so day, but no rain, mooring near finish post for Regatta. Thought we hadn’t been charged the £6 mooring fee but found it stuck to the offside window, he obviously comes by boat. Walked around the town to see the sights.

Wednesday 29th

After heavy overnight rain it was windy and sprinkling as we set off back for Reading at 10.45. We stopped for lunch on Hallsmead Ait in a lovely little spot and though it didn’t rain it was a cool day, with us arriving back in Reading at 4.

Thursday 30th

We went by train to Hampton Court, we couldn’t fit our cruising in to get there by boat & back to Oxford in the week before Sally & John join us. We watched the rain hit the train and also whilst in Hampton Court were sheltered from the showers, and all these had finished before we went out in lovely sun to do the Maze & gardens. The Palace was well worth a long visit, and it is a must to watch the acted out scenes and also to grab the audio tour guides. This year they are majoring on Henry 8th’s quincentenary and the actors & actresses were excellent and had us all in fits of laughter……..not just us as their ad-libbing also saw them corpsing. We have lots more to see on a future visit and it could be worthwhile taking out a membership of the Royal Palaces to see the several ones that can be visited.

After a really superb day the train took us quickly back to Reading and a sample of Wetherspoon’s curry night, yummy!

Friday 31st

A bright and sunny start and we need to get cruising, off by 9.30 round the corner to moor outside Tesco to re-provision before moving onto Caversham Boats to tip the old engine oil I meant to tip last weekend. We had a lovely day, super weather, got a pleasant mooring (if precarious) for lunch above Mapledurham Lock. Lovely ice creams at Goring Lock and carried on sheltering from the sun before we found a good, free, mooring at Shillingham Bridge. Arriving at 6 we had covered 20 miles and 7 locks in the day. We’ve had days of giggles and laughs with the kids and they have done most of the steering.
Kids are great when you want a photo

Saturday 1st

We may have cruised fast for us, but this skiff passed us!!

Dry at first but raining by the time we set off and with a poor forecast. Slight technical hitch with no 12v charge, wiggled wires didn't seem to do much good, and motor wouldn't stop on key and bow thruster was U/S. I stopped the motor by finding solenoid & when I restarted everything was OK & has been fine since!?! Off at 10 and few showers through day. Shared locks again with Empire, an ex-Challenger boat. Moored below Abingdon for lunch and then used facilities at lock. Dry during most of afternoon but dull and overcast as we cruised on to Oxford. Arrived below Osney Lock at 5.15 to find it on Self Service and a boat trying to come down. Whilst they did I popped up to see if there was room to moor above the lock and as there wasn't we tied up a bit below the lock in a good mooring. 18 miles & 6 locks.

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