Sunday, 30 August 2015

When I'm 64.....

Friday 28th August 2015
Limehouse to Brentford and a bit beyond
18.75 miles, 5 locks

Having completed the tidal Severn on our 42nd Wedding Anniversary I found myself doing the tidal Thames on my 64th Birthday!  It was a Capital Experience, albeit a rather scary one!  This was a very special day and this is a very long blog!  It is a tale of 25 bridges, the need for eyes in the back of our heads (I hate to disillusion our children that we don't actually have them already!), a visual feast almost to the extent of being overloaded.  I am sure there are many things I missed - there was just too much to see to take it all in, especially whilst on constant look out for other boats - in front, behind, on the port and the starboard.

We had all done as much preparation as we could before we left home - a print out each of all the bridges in order, with specific instructions for some of them.  There is a profile picture of each bridge which was a great help.  The lock keepers questions were:

Do you have:
Life jackets? - YES including the dog
VHF radios and licences - YES
Navigation lights - YES (not a requirement for the time we were travelling, but we deployed them just because we could!)
Anchors - YES
and are they fixed to the boat?! - YES.  Apparently this vital step is sometimes forgotten.

The day dawned bright and clear.  Monty was taken for two walks just to make sure he was happy and empty!

His life jacket was put on, much to his disgust, but needs must and he was tied on ready for the off (we did have the means to release him fast if needs be - thankfully it was not needed)

At 10:30 we were off and heading towards the lock

We were asked to breast up as there was large cruiser (you can just see it behind us below) who thought about joining us, but in the end they decided to wait.

At 10:42 those large gates parted and we were ejected on to the tidal Thames and oh my goodness what a shock it was!

The first thing Boatwif and I had to do was zip up and secure the cratch covers in the bow before we could join the helmsmen on the stern.  It seemed like ages as we wallowed around, but I took this photo 3 minutes after the one above, so I am quicker than I thought could be!  The sensation down below was horrible and I felt very vulnerable, so I was not going to hang around.

Within 5 minutes this came along from behind us - you really do need those eyes in the back of your head, or a rear view mirror.

nb Cleddau had come out of the lock after us, but managed to overtake us before we reached

the first of the 25 bridges - and yes they are all here!  This is a record for us for the future - there is no requirement to read on!

A good view of the Shard with our little Worcestershire flag waving in the wind.

These are the ribs we were told to be aware of.  This one came fairly close, but he had no passengers to scare and he was going fairly slowly.  We did wonder if that was because we were close to River Police Launch depot?

As we approached Tower Bridge this trip boat went right across in front of us.  Also if you look to the far right of this picture you will see St Paul's Cathedral.  I completely forgot to look right when we got to the Millennium Footbridge and thought I had missed it all together.

Cleddau is heading straight for it.  If you look closely you can see a black boat coming towards us as well as the white trip boat - the wash from both of these boats gave Cleddau a few very scary moments going under the bridge.

We fared better and had a clear passage and even had time to wave to the spectators, whilst holding on tight with the other hand!  Sadly they did not raise the bridge for us!

The trip boats do come fairly close, but the wash is not quite as bad as we had feared it might be

I think the Shard is leaning over as our boat lurched as I hit the button!

Past the Tower of London and the Gherkin.  When Chris looked at this photo his words were 'Oh the Tower of London - I missed that'!  Such was the concentration needed to stay safe.

With HMS Belfast on the other side of the river

And what a shot of the Walkie Talkie with such a clear blue sky and just a little bit of fluffy cloud behind it. I was aware that this building is considered to be one of the ugliest in London and that it's shape has caused many problems producing wind that blows people off their feet.  What I did not know, until Cathy and Ron came to visit on Wednesday, is that you can visit the Sky Garden on the top three floors. It is not as high as The Shard, but the views are, apparently, still amazing, but best of all it is free!  To visit the Shard costs £25 per person!  You have to book the Sky Garden in advance and will need a passport or some other form of ID to get in.  Definitely on our 'to do' list next time we are in London.  If you want more information look HERE

Once again there is a boat cutting across in front of us

Is there a name for 'bridge watchers' I wonder??  Not that many out this morning.

Another trip boat up ahead of us

The Shell building - just 45 minutes into our journey

This, of course, dominates the sky line - it is amazing to think that it was going to be scrapped at one point.  I have ridden on it several times (with different people and at different times of day). The first time was a surprise for Chris on his 50th Birthday - even more of a surprise for him was when the children turned up!

Our first sight of the Palace of Westminster and Elizabeth Tower housing Big Ben

The RAF Memorial on the Embankment - once again on a slant - blame the bumpy boat not me!

We are now approaching Westminster Bridge - the instructions are quite clear - keep well away from the bank as there is a 70 metre exclusion zone all the way along the Palace of Westminster. Well that is easier said than done when a great big trip boat blocks the way!

We got a lot closer than we should have, but moved across as soon as we could and no one came after us.

Is that a yellow duck I see in the distance?

 and amazingly it is the one I travelled on with my daughter in law, Jo and granddaughter, Molly 2.5 years ago!  It was before the incident when one caught fire and then the Liverpool one sank!  I might think twice now.

This is looking back at Westminster Bridge which is coloured green - to signify the Commons

Whilst Lambeth Bridge at the other end of the Palace of Westminster is red for the Lords

Another building to steer clear of - MI6.  Just to the left of the building is the slipway that the Duck Tours use.

Does anyone know what the tower is?

I posted a picture of the rubbish containers moving along the Thames yesterday and said I hoped we would not meet one - we did!  Each of those yellow containers is the size of a container you see on the back of a HGV - the whole thing is massive.

and even bigger when towing an enormous barge!

Putney Bridge where the Boat Race starts

So quite appropriate that just after the bridge we met our first rowers - just over 1.5 hours into the trip.

There are still some fairly big craft around

On past the Harrods Furniture Depository (such a wonderful word!)

In 2004 Chris and I thought it might be a good idea to walk the Thames Path in small chunks.  We started at the Barrier and went to the Millennium Footbridge on 5th June and then from the Footbridge to Hammersmith Bridge on the 19th June.  The next step was to go from Hammersmith to Kingston.  We drove to Kingston intending to park the car and get the train to Hammersmith. We could not find a car park anywhere near the station that did not charge a fortune, so we gave up and went home.  That, I am afraid, was that!

We had at least got to Hammersmith, so had been able to marvel at it's bridge towers.

This is where the Boat Race ends

It was good to see this go by - we were just glad we had not required their services

You need to keep to the left of this bridge to keep Oliver's Ait (island) on the right

Just before the last bridge we passed this boat - rather appropriate given our RAF backgrounds.

So here we are at the last bridge which is on a skew and you need to swing to the right to line up and see through the centre arch.

A very welcome sight - the entrance to the Grand Union Canal at Brentford - almost exactly 2.5 hours after we set off this morning.

Into Thames lock with once again the question 'Do you have a licence?'

They did apologise for the rubbish - but this was mild compared to what is to come further along.

An appropriate boat name - we had needed plenty of it today.

We had hoped to moor in Brentford, but there was no room, so after stopping for water we were forced to continue.  Our first obstacle was the class of paddle boarders - slowly does it and we crept past.

The storms round here must have been bad - there was mud everywhere - overshoes with a difference - Morrisons shopping bags!

The first signs of the flood water from the River Brent

I did not notice this when we passed this way last week - just a shame someone felt the need to deface it.

We had to move on a couple more miles and two more locks and I think we were all glad to moor just before the Hanwell flight of locks.  It was about 16:15 when we finally stopped - the end of a long day.  So was it worth the stress?  Yes I think it was.  I think we were all quite shocked at how bumpy it was when we started out, but it did get better.  Would we do it again?  Yes possibly, but I think we would choose an earlier start time and try to get past the busiest stretch before the trip boats start.  Chris and Ken have expressed an interest in going down to the Thames Barrier - Sue and I would love to, but on the top deck of a trip boat!

And how did Monty get on?  Well he was very quiet and to our shame it took us about 45 minutes to notice he was sitting holding his right front paw up in the air.  We were just too busy trying to keep safe to look at him - we knew he was safe.  His paw was obviously sore - we think he damaged it getting onto the boat just before we set off.  No walks for him when we did moor and we would re-assess in the morning.

Just a few photos that Sue took just to prove we were there! The first one is us emerging from the lock onto the bumpy Thames

So how did the day end?  The cards went up.  If we had stopped in Brentford we were going to go out to eat, but in the event freezers were raided and we went aboard nb Cleddau for dinner.

A bottle of bubbly to toast the end of phase 5.  A lovely meal in great company

and to round the day off a wonderful sunset.

And finally as we had some of these for dinner I feel the need to share a joke sent from our 7 year old grandson - he thought it would make us smile - it did!  Thank you George.


  1. When we did the tidal Thames in September last year, we had to do it on a Sunday afternoon, and it was much rougher than the other times we'd done it -- it seems to be dependent mostly on the number of trip boats around. I concluded that in future I'd try to go during the week, and not at peak trip boat time!

    The tower you ask about is St George Wharf Tower, the tallest residential building in the UK. When it was being built, a helicopter crashed into a crane on top in fog -- which you might remember.

  2. Thank you for the information on the tower, Adam. We certainly remember the helicopter crash, but had not joined the dots! We have decided that if we do this route again we will do an early morning trip.