Saturday 22 June 2013

Brentford to Kingston-on-Thames

Brentford to Kingston-on-Thames : 8 miles, 3 locks
To date : 419 miles, 254 locks

Big day today!  I think last night we all had dreams of river disasters.  I dreamt we'd come adrift from our mooring during the night.  Mick's been a bit homesick so added to the concern about how we'd go on the river today he was a tad tetchy this morning.  He came good over breakfast and was in good spirits by the time we left our mooring.  We topped up our water tanks first and then made our way through the gauging lock at Brentford.  How easy it is to just stand there pressing buttons instead of winding paddles and pushing heavy lock gates.  The weather forecast predicted some rain and it was a grey day from the start.

There are some large houseboats of various states of repair on the stretch between the two locks.  We passed some really big boats today!  Made us feel rather insignificant. When we reached the lock moorings at the Thames lock there was three boats already there.  We'd seen them go past us this morning.  There was only one vacant mooring at the end so we breasted up beside nb Winton's Folly to wait the hour until it would be time to go through.  Mick went up to peer over the other side of the lock and returned to report that the tide was out so far that there was mud on the other side with boats sitting on the bottom.

It was quite companionable waiting.  We put the kettle on and had a chat with other boaters.  Another boat came in and breasted up to us and a final small boat went right to front to wait on the short mooring space left there.

We had a theft from the boat!  I was inside and heard Mick yell and then some crazy giggling.  There was Carol climbing out of our cratch with her parrot stuffed up her shirt.  She'd seen where he was sitting in our living room and climbed in while we were busy to steal him back. I poked my head around to see her shove him into the cupboard just inside their bow door.  As soon as she walked back through their boat to gloat to Barry I reached around and took him back. 

Before we knew it the lock gates opened and the four boats went into the two locks.  We told the boat breasted up to us to go ahead of us.  It isn't a very big drop down to the river level so soon after they were opening again for us.  The only other boat left now was the short boat waiting up front.  He went into the other lock on his own and came out before us.  We were glad to have someone to follow.... and hoped he knew what he was doing.

The lock gates opened below and off we went... full of anticipation.  We could see the flow of the river as it passed the end of the entrance into the canal.  Round the corner we went in the wake of the boat ahead.  We could see Winton's Folly coming along behind us.  I don't know what we were worrying about!  It was exhilarating.  The boat in front was going fairly slowly and although at first we could see the the last of the boats from the previous lock, they soon disappeared from sight.  At the first little island it was apparent that the boat ahead didn't know which way to go around it. I'd bought a book at the Crick Boat Show called "The River Thames Handbook".  It showed the route to take so I was glad when the fellows ahead went that way.

We were soon approaching the first of the arched bridges.  We'd read up about the lights used to indicate which arches you could pass through and which not to use.  One arch had the two yellow lights indicating you could use this arch, the one to its left had the three red ones showing not to use that arch.  The boat in front slowed down so much that we were right behind then and suddenly the turned around and headed back towards us!  They passed close by and yelled out asking if we knew what the lights meant!  Obviously well prepared?!  We told them which to use and to our astonishment they turned right into the path of Winton's Folly to follow behind us.  That would have sent Barry into a spin.

With the shorty boat tootling along at his own pace, Barry overtook him and we headed on our way.  What amazing buildings and houses there are along the banks of the Thames.  It was an amazing feeling to be in the middle of such a huge river.  We were helped along our way with the flow of the tide.  The water was relatively calm but there was an increasing wind.  I think we only passed one boat coming the other way on the tidal section.  The tide pushed us along and we were travelling faster than we've ever been on the canals.

Luckily the last boat in the previous batch was also going fairly slowly so we could see ahead when we reached Teddington Locks that he was pulling into the side.  It wasn't as difficult as we'd anticipated to get the boat towards the bank but the wind was certainly making its presence felt.  We weren't too sure how many boats could fit in the lock and the other two boats on the lock landing were equally as confused about whether we should go around the corner into the lock or wait.  There was a green light but we didn't know how prompt they would be turning if off when they saw the lock would be full or if we'd reach the gate and and be forced to somehow get back to the decking.  That caused a little stress, both for us and the other waiting boats as we just couldn't see what was happening.  We all moved forward... the lock was enormous and we all fitted in...  as well as a huge cruiser that was directly in front of us.  Mick was flapping a bit about getting into the lock and staying across to the side so the other boats could come in beside us.  The lock keeper was walking up and down the side of the lock assisting as needed so nobody wanted to make a mess of entering the lock.  As we organised our mooring ropes around bollards I looked up to see Doug from nb Chance.  They had gone into the bigger lock over the other side as they were on their way out from Teddington.  We knew they'd be there but I'd thought we'd see them waiting for the lock and could have a chat but it wasn't to be.  All he got was Mick flapping and me hoping I was doing ok with the rope in hand and people talking in all directions.  There was only time for a very quick hello and Doug dashed back across to Chance.

The fellow on the cruiser in front made a bit of a git of himself.  He started yelling out asking if this was a river or a canal we were going on.  All the other boats in the lock were narrowboats and he obviously had an attitude about it.  He was waffling on about how he can't take his boat on a canal yet all these narrowboats come and clog up the system on the Thames.  He piped down a bit when someone called out that we paid our way just like he did.  What an idiot.

Once out of the lock we moored up as instructed, had our lunch (that wasn't part of the instruction!), and went back to buy our Thames license.  We had a bit of a boaters meeting about where to aim for and then we were on our way.  Jaq from nb Valerie had left a comment saying she and Les had moored on the other side of the Kingston Bridge on free 24 hour moorings.   It began to rain a little while we had our lunch but it didn't last.

We loved the little boat houses we saw all the way along the river.  There were grand waterside properties with manicured gardens. I took dozens and dozens of photos.  This blog will have a heap of them so we can remember it all.

What luck at Kingston-on-Thames.... there was just enough space left for the two boats to moor up there.  I did a couple of hours work while the others went for a wander and a pint.   We really feel it when a boat passes with the wake rocking us about.  When it's a big boat going fast it's really noticeable.  It isn't just a knock against the edge, it's actually rolling around.  We can hear the water in our water tank sloshing about.  I'm sure we'll be woken by it until we get used to it all.

So....  we made it.  It's a huge change from the slow pace of the canals and the steerer has to be on the ball.  Boats come out from all directions, tooting their intentions.  It's sometimes difficult to know who has tooted their horn indicating they're turning until you see them start to do so.

This evening the sun came out at last.  We have a view from our windows across the river and there's Friday night revelers enjoying the sunshine.  We've kept the "towptath" side of the boat closed up as we're moored against quite a narrow concrete path that's edged with overgrown greenery.  There must be a million insects buzzing about.  They are starting to appear all over the ceiling of the boat.

Photo from nb Chance


Diane and Ray said...

Great blog, great photos and even greater memories made. Keep enjoying yourselves D& R

Peter Berry said...

Hi Elly. I note you mention that the owner of a gin palace took umbrage at sharing the lock with all the narrowboats. It is only in the last 20 years or so, I suppose, that narrowboats started to visit the Thames again after the 'trading' years ended, and it had become the sole domain of these plastic palaces. There is often animosity between their owners and narrowboaters, particularly at mooring sites, due to the amount of room a narrowboat takes up. It isn't something that is going to go away sometime soon, so you might encounter it again while on the Thames. As you quite rightly say, "we all pay our way".

Narrowboat Stanley said...

Wow what an exciting day. Enjoy the rest of your Summer. Lynn (Nb Stanley)

Paul and El said...

Are you going down the K&A?. Cant wait to go down the Thames, just got to sort out the VHF requirements for the tidal part.
Paul x

Elly and Mick said...

Hi Lynn, it sure was an exciting day!

Diane & Ray, great memories of this trip that's for sure.

Peter, I can understand folk begrudging longer boats taking moorings. I can't understand them perched up there on a plastic palace (I like that description!) making a git of themselves. I was embarassed for him.


Elly and Mick said...

Paul, we're not doing the K&A. With limited time we don't want to miss Birmingham so we'll make for there after Oxford. Can't do everything in a year!
Elly :)