Return from the Medway – June 2016 – Queenborough to Bow

The return trip by St Pancras Cruising Club, from  Queenborough to Bow. After several nervous days watching the weather forecast, which was quite changeable, we decided it was safe to go. Forecast wind speeds 10 mph from the NW in Sea Reach (Southend-on-Sea), gusting to 15. This was pretty much spot on.

Low water at Southend was at 0600, which meant we need to set off soon after 5. Click here to see:

  • the outline passage plan, with projected and actual timings. Following a rather complicated discussion with CRT, en route we adjusted our arrival time at Bow to 1345, to lock in on a falling tide.
  • the charts to show the waypoints in the plan, and the log  recording where we actually went (for the less familiar part of the trip only).
  • the detailed data from the log.

Other planning resources are available here. Terry’s tracker here

Other photographs:

Most boats were stirring at 0430 – a very quiet night, with almost no wind. Four boats were swinging at a mooring, which was surprisingly pleasant.


Crew from BLEASDALE and PANACEA, just about awake and ready to goDSCF7843

Convoy leader Andy Spring, envying the stern navigation light on DORIS KATIA


And we’re off, at 0505. The ebb tide was very weak, so that we hoped that if we pottled along slowly then the other nine boats would be able to break away and join up in formation pretty swiftly. We had a contingency plan if this didn’t work (as exercised at Gravesend on the way down)DSCF7850

Boats forming up nicely – it’s almost as if there was a plan!


Sheerness Docks on the left. Quite a large construction over the water, on large pillars with plenty of room for narrow boats to slot into if it was raining too hard.DSCF7860

Garrison Point – Medway VTS, several tugs, and
RNLI Sheerness (just out of sight)DSCF7862

We were joined by some cruisers, who seemed quite surprised to see usDSCF7863

The buoy at NORE SWATCH had been replaced or repainted since our last visit. You can see quite a sizeable dent on the side – not caused by any of us! We turn 90 degrees to port here and head up river, bang on low water.


Looking back to Sheerness, a line of narrowboatsDSCF7871

The other nine boats rounding NORE SWATCH buoy. From the left, I think:DRAGONFLY, [buoy], FLORA DORA, ZAVALA, GERTRUDE, BLEASDALE, KETURA [in background], PANACEA, INDIGO DREAM, DORIS KATIADSCF7878

We were joined in Sea Reach by a yacht, tacking upstream (in a NW wind, so long starboard tacks and short port ones). [Corrected: i got this wrong way round, I need some new cufflinks].DSCF7880

I’m afraid the weather was pretty murky, so there was not a lot to take photographs of. Here is MID SWATCH buoy, where we change from Medway VTS to London VTS (Ch 68). Southend in the background.DSCF7882

Something approximating to a straight line, as we round EAST BLYTH buoy. It’s 3.4nm to the next landmark  …DSCF7888

… which is MID BLYTH. London Gateway in the background, which now has more cranes since our last trip – weighing in at 2,000 tonnes each.

To see a description of how the cranes are offloaded from the ship that brought them all the way from China, see the video clips here and (warning, excessive superlatives!) here, and a Twitter feed  here.DSCF7889

Some outgoing shipping – quite smallDSCF7892

Some slightly choppier water – we think due to other shipsDSCF7897

… and a very large container ship (282m, according to Indigo Dream) on their way to London Gateway.
Outgoing vessels were told to navigate to the south of the main buoy line, to give it room to turn. This made me a little twitchy, but VTS reassured me.


You can see the ship that delivered the cranes.
One was being offloaded at each high tide.


A bit of pitching for PANACEA and BLEASDALE, but their scuppers performed well.

DSCF7905 DSCF7906

You can just see the incoming ship being turned around by tugs, before being pulled backwards onto the jetty.


And here at MUCKING NO 5 we did a synchronised turn to starboard to get across to the north side of the river as quickly as possible. The detailed plan is set out here – it worked!


Tilbury buoy – the tidal set was so strong in this section that on occasion I had to steer 30 degrees to starboard to hold the right line.
Remnants of a very successful breakfast still visible.DSCF7917

Tilbury passenger terminal – I hadn’t realised that the whole structure floats!DSCF7921

NORSKY (11,500 tonnes, 180 x 26m) getting ready to leave the lock at Tilbury. The skipper had been asked by VTS to wait for ten narrowboats, and fortunately he could count. We did think about nipping down the gap, and then turning at the other end, so we could tick this lock off our lists. But we decided that might not be appreciated.DSCF7925

Container ships (and crew) close up at TilburyDSCF7928 DSCF7929 DSCF7930

The NORSKY powering out of the lock, just missing DORIS KATIA. I sent these photos to the Master, who said the narrow boats were an amazing view!DSCF7934

Dartford Crossing. Just before this we had got mildly chastised by London VTS for cutting the corner a bit at Broadness. Detail here. DSCF7937

Passing the MV Balmoral – I plan to go on her to Lundy later in the year (see here)


And at last some more familiar exploits – Woolwich Ferry picks a decent gap to cut the convoy in halfDSCF7947

Thames Barrier – FOXTROT span, with faster boats (including a couple of Dunkirk little ships) taking ECHO span to the leftDSCF7950 DSCF7951

Locking down at Bow Locks – the tideway was still a few inches above the level of Limehouse Cut, by the time we arrived.DSCF7953

Safely moored at Limehouse.


I packed up my various gadgets (an annotated version of this  photograph is here!). Then after a snooze it was time for a pint in the Grapes and then a survivors’ supper in the very friendly Cruising AssociationDSCF7963



The very helpful Aimee (@Thameswatch on Twitter) again turned out to take some smashing photos of us going through the barrier. The full set are here, but in the meantime here is a selection …

ARTHUR DENT – with Andy and yours truly fighting over the tiller?






FLORA DORAflordaora2


INDIGO DREAMindgodream



.and bringing up the rear, DORIS KATIADk


5 thoughts on “Return from the Medway – June 2016 – Queenborough to Bow

  1. Pingback: MV Balmoral: to Ilfracombe and Lundy | Scholar Gypsy

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