Bumping races – Jeremy and friends

A gentle  Saturday  morning cruise, past a number of town rowing clubs, to Jesus Green. Emptied the loo and tidied up ready for the arrival of the second load of guests… Jeremy’s report is here.

Cambridge Sailing Club, Waterbeach

Between Waterbeach and Baits Bite

Fathers’ day present from Hannah, but it had not really
survived the journey from Leamington

Lunch at Jesus Lock

The Long Reach

Swimming at Waterbeach.
An alternative perspective and some more photos can be found here

Cambridge bumps – trip with Hugh and friends

Set off at 0400 on Friday (because I was awake!) and arrived Waterbeach at 0615 – passing quite a number of all-night fishermen. The new gland packing on the stern tube was working well.

My son Hugh arrived by train, with a number of his friends, and then we took a trip, in very hot weather, up to Jesus lock and back. We cheered on lots of Emmanuel College rowers, and also (less noisily – I was in a minority) Clare (see fun bit of video here). On Saturday I did a similar run with Jeremy (see separate post).

Hugh’s crew weren’t quite fast enough in the getting-on race – but here are a couple of photos of them in that race (he is at No 3, with his cap on back to front).

Somewhere near Upware

Approaching Bottisham lock

The GOBA moorings at Waterbeach.
I got out the bunting (St David’s flag, also Clare College colours).

Emma rowers – their race (bottom division) was stopped for reasons we couldn’t quite discern

Emma crew going down to the start

All the crews have now spun and are ready for the start of M3 division (more on the bumps and how they work here – and a short video here).
We got to the end of the course with a good five minutes to spare, after regular communications with the marshals.

Clare 3rd Men’s boat, sandwich boat at the foot of the M3 division, ready to start.
Read their report – they had an eventful week – here.

A peaceful evening at Waterbeach, and  rested before the next invasion (see here).

Repacking the stern gland

A slightly fiddly job – requires some contortion – to repack the gland on the stern tube. I last did this in 2011, so 6 years is not at all bad. The stern gland has been dripping a little more than usual recently, despite regularly tightening the nuts .. The following two days were spent following the Bumps in Cambridge – see separate postings for Friday and Saturday

First, assemble the necessary tools. The most useful one is the telescopic dentists’ mirror, which enables me to see if any packing is still in the gland.

First, remove the nuts on each of the bolts and withdraw the “pusher”

Clean the prop shaft, and using the mirror to look along the prop shaft and see what is going on, to supplement what you can feel.

Cut three rings of (8 mm) packing, to go in at 120 degrees offset.

The gland after reassembling – note the locking nuts are now much further out than at the start.

The old packing – outer ring on the left, inner ring (what was left of it) on the right.

Briefing evening cruise to the Little Thetford moorings

Ely evening trip

A quick evening train ride to Ely, an hour’s cruise north to Diamond 44 moorings, and then an early morning start (0500) in order to catch the 0715 train into work. All in good order after Griff’s trip, though I think the stern gland does need to be repacked fairly soon …


One for the trainspotters – a collection of ten class 442 ex-Gatwick Express trains in the sidings at Queen Adeleide. For further information see here

PLA open day – Pretending to be a Harbourmaster, take 2

A sunny day in Gravesend, visiting the PLA’s open day. This followed an earlier trip in March, on a Harbour Service Launch, and was a further benefit of the Thames Tideway Navigators Club. Some PLA photos here

The new Gravesend to Tilbury ferry – a rather nippy trimaran. Last time I was here the pontoon was occupied by narrowboats.

Lightship 21, now moored permanently against the sea wall, and in use as an art gallery and educational space.

I started by visiting TITAN, the PLA’s relatively new workboat, with every imaginable gadget on board. Lots of technical details here

Various winch and crane controls – managed to resist the temptation

You can see the three joysticks controlling the rudders.

A five tonne sinker, used for attaching buoys etc.

One of the three propulsion engines. Keel cooled. The engineer looked a bit miffed when I asked if had any water in his fuel. The engine room was very clean and tidy, with a lot of sophisticated electronics. Next door the store room was full of cables, shackles, blocks etc.

Starboard prop shaft and stern tube.

And now the MAPLIN – the PLA’s new hydrographic survey ship, packed with loads of sonar and other gizmos, and able to measure its position in three directions very accurately. They had just spent a week or two surveying with a very loud 15 Hz sonar, which is able to see through quite a bit of mud. Thus far they had identified 800 possible unexploded munitions, although quite a few of them were likely to be blank shells from the various forts in the lower Thames! There’s a large hatch in the open stern deck, though which all sorts of devices can be lowered.

One of of the pilot cutters, busy all morning.

London VTS – Ch 69 in the distance, Ch 68 a bit nearer, and then the overall boss in the foreground. In the back row (out of sight) is the team that plans incoming and outgoing ship movements and rosters pilots to meet them. We had a good look at the radar and AIS systems.

PLA’s Gravesend pier, with the RNLI on the extreme right. I got some good advice about lifejacket servicing from their stand at the open day.

On the way home I attempted a recce of the Crayford Creek. Not very successful as a) the train was moving and b) there was no water  anyway, as it was near to low tide.

Here’s a clearer photo from Google Earth, showing both arms of the Draftford Creek and the barrier near the Thames.


Recce: Port of Leith

A weekend in Edinburgh to support Jeremy and four of his friends, who were running in the 2017 Marathon. We stayed in Leith, so I had time to explore the Port.

The Port O Leith Motor Boat Clubaccessible at most states of the tide. No narrowboats moored here on this occasion – we were over 22 miles east of the eastern terminus of the Union Canal, at Falkirk!

A rather murky evening, but we walked along the western breakwater to get a view of this ship. Not quite sure if it is for laying cables or for oil pipelines? Within the Port of Leith.

ROYAL YACHT BRITTANIA, hidden behind an enormous and rather ugly shopping mall.

The last time I had seen HMY BRITTANIA was on a sailing holiday in the Outer Hebrides in 1985. We dipped our Ensign, of course….

Anthony Gormley statue on the left, and the ship lock on the right, and more shots of the cable/pipeline ship. The dock was converted to non-tidal operation in the 1960s. I was pleased to see nobody tied up to the yellow bollards on the approaches to the lock …

Now for the running. The four groups of supporters identified themselves to the runners by flying the Welsh Dragon – very distinctive. We got quite a few shouts from genuine Welsh runners. Here we are at Portobello at about mile 6, with the course stretching well over a mile into the distance.

The course map is here – and the summary supporter plan is here. We had four groups of people at mile 6,  mile 11/24; mile 13/22; and mile 16/19; with everyone assembling afterwards at the finish.

A previous outing for the Welsh Dragon – passing HMS OCEAN at Greenwich in 2012.

Some runners passing us at Portobello

Jeremy about 100 yards from the finish In Musselburgh. NB the Welsh flag again in the background…

The following day, I took the long way home, via the Settle-Carlisle railway (from Carlisle to Leeds). 

The Ribblehead Viaduct, the most famous feature of the line. The scenery further north was actually more spectacular. I also saw a lot of sheep.

Not the most romantic type of train, but we had great views.

L&L at Gargrave

Bingley – useful canal clothing manufacturer, and the three rise staircase locks

And then – a day later on a separate trip – Thrupp on the South Oxford.

Burwell and Wicken Lodes

A relaxing weekend on the Cambridgeshire Lodes. Arrived 2200 on Saturday evening, after a day on the tideway (see previous post). On Sunday set off 0550, arriving Burwell 0900 – I’ve not been here since 2011. Went to Burwell church –  a friendly congregation, and an amazing building with fabulous wood carvings on the roof. Built in C15th by one of the master masons who worked on Kings College Chapel – the local view (see here) is that he practiced there first…

Then to explore Burwell Castle, a bit hard to follow as it was abandoned when half built in 1144 – see here!

After lunch pootled down to Wicken Fen, walked further along the lode to the village, sampled the good pub, and back to the boat. The moorings were busy – three boats moored. Woken early by a rather loud cuckoo, did various gentle jobs on the boat (including perfecting a device to separate clean water from oily bilge water). Pleased to see that the engine and cabin bilges remain dry, so earlier work on that has worked. Filled up with diesel at the marina in Ely.

Well marked works for the new bypass to the south of Ely.

A bit of weed on leaving Upware lock:
the rest of the lode was clear

Burwell to the left, Reach to the right

Farm bridge, still used. Normally left in this position

Ponies on the low land between the two lodes

One of the many pylons feeding into the switching station at Burwell

St Mary’s church

Burwell castle, I think this is the moat

The section of the lode that is not formally navigable. Quite a few boats moored here.

EA moorings, taken from the limit of navigation

Burwell Lode

Wicken windmill  

Sunset on Wicken Fen


Returning to Ely the next day

SPCC – Tideway trip 2017

I joined NB Grace – hosts Priscilla and Peter, who  kindly gave me space on board – for the St Pancras Cruising Club annual tideway trip. 26 boats in total, leaving Limehouse on the ebb, down to Margaretness and then up to Teddington (with some boats heading for Brentford).

The first boats locked out at 0530, we went at a more civilized 0730 in the seventh out of eight lockings. Arrived Margaretness 0830, set off again 1015. Barrier 1110, Tower 1240, Waterloo 1300, Hammersmith 1415, Brentford 1500, Richmond Weir 1540 (after a brief wait, it opened a bit later than expected), Teddington 1615, an hour before High Water.

A selection of photos are shown below. In addition:

  • the rest  of mine are available online here (for a few months);
  • Tim Lewis (on FULBOURNE)  here
  • Andy Clarke (on CORACLE) here;
  • his crew member Philip Barrass here;
  • and from Mimi here;
  • Nick and Carole on CALMORE-C here;
  • John and Sara on SUNSHINE hereand
  • Jim and Helen on MORIALTA here

I lost my hat near Woolwich barrier. This thread suggests it may stay there for quite a while, but in fact it was found in Greenwich a couple of days later, and kindly returned by a local, Tony. Weather largely overcast with a bit of rain, so not brilliant for taking photographs. Central London was as expected very congested, but we were only once referred to as monkey barges …

Captions are above the photos to which they relate.

CALMORE-C,   leaving Limehouse

The ship tier at Greenwich – none of our group hit them, at least ..

Charlie span

Woolwich Ferry

The lead boats had already been here for two hours.
The PLA launch on the right was checking they were still awake.



We start to move upstream, getting into single file  Woolwich Arsenal


A near miss at Hookness


Some bridges – Tower, London, Blackfriars and Westminster

Blast – Big Ben hidden by the plastic! Peter and Priscalla enjoying the trip.

A grandstand view of RECOVERY and three barges executing a turn to port to stop at Cringle’s Dock (Battersea power station). The right hand towing line to the third barge was slackened off, so it could make the turn in articulated mode: very neat.

Some schoolboy sculling races (an unusual octuple scull) at Putney. Dulwich packed up, so Westminster won by default.

A number of boats locked in at Brentford

Richmond Half Tide lock.


The restored PLA / EA boundary post just before Teddington

We all packed into the barge lock at Teddington – bags of space.


St Ives at Easter

A very relaxing trip over the Easter break to Hartford Marina (on the outskirts of Huntingdon) and back.

We set off after lunch from Ely, stopping for the first night at Aldreth on the Old West River. On day 2 we had a long stop at the Dolphin moorings in St Ives, while I polished the port side paintwork and Hugh cycled up and down the guided busway a few times. After lunch we did one more lock to moor up on the island at Houghton.

On day 3 we went up to Hartford to empty the Elsan and buy a couple of extra mooring pins. Then back down to Noble’s Field in St Ives – first time I had moored there – sharing a lock with the friendly EA patrol boat (Andy H on board). A short trip after  lunch (and about three hours engine time all day!) to moor at Holywell, where I polished the starboard side of the boat. Hugh did some more cycling and got rather lost, so only reappeared at 2115, by which time Jane and I had had supper in the pub.

On Easter Day Jane and I went to a rather magical open air service at the church at 0630, and then a good cruise back to Aldreth for roast lamb and all the trimmings. On the way we rescued a broken down boat at Brownshill staunch.

We stopped for our last night at Little Thetford, which I finally got around to exploring. Brief run back to Ely on Monday morning, and then packed up and drove home.

Shoals near Twenty Pence bridge on the Old West – well marked

Lots of traffic at Hermitage lock – the short “tidal” section of the river

St Ives Lock

Polishing the paint – Dolphin moorings, St Ives.
I am keeping to my resolution to do this once a year.

Looking back at the two churches in St Ives

Hemingford lock – my favourite on the Ouse

Approaching Hartford Marina – a brief Elsan stop

St Ives Church

Quite a lot of water coming over the weir at St Ives

Moored at Holywell – more polishing to be done and some more work on the flowers. Then to the pub for dinner.

Easter morning

Polishing the engine room bilges

Swavesey church, I think

Rescuing a broken down boat.
Walkie-talkies deployed, somewhat unnecessarily

Earith Sluice, feeding the Old Bedford. At the other end something rather exciting happened recently – details here. And also on the Horseway, the other side of Welches Dam Lock.

Heron or Crane?

Roast Lamb

Dovecote, Little Thetford

Back on our moorings in Ely: paint still looking good.