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.

Pretending to be a Harbourmaster

The Port of London Authority run a club for all recreational boaters – the Thames Tideway Navigators Club. It’s free to join. One of the many benefits is that you have the chance to take a ride on one of the PLA’s regular Harbour Service Launch patrols. Today I had the pleasure of joining Darren Knight (who organised the PLA’s part of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Pageant) and his colleagues on a trip from Barrier Garden Pier in Woolwich up to Putney.

There were no great emergencies, and the flashing blue lights were not used. But I got to see a lot more of the river bed than is usually the case – we punched the last of the ebb all the way. The PLA aim to do regular patrols around low water if they can, to spot obstacles on the river bed, and over-enthusiastic mudlarkers. Darren drew our attention to a number of features and hazards, and gave us some tips for safe navigation.

Captions are above the photos to which they relate. Weather: overcast. Number of narrowboats spotted: nil.

The HSL heading downstream
I walked from North Greenwich tube station down to the  Barrier

Here and there the path diverts inland.
The bottom part of these gates work like lock gates – raising the flood
wall to the required height.

Woolwich barrier

Alpha span – never used for navigation

The PLA’s Barrier Garden pier

Bow Creek at low water – not much water!

Limehouse marina – the outer cill was visible, you can just see the water leaking underneath the gate

Coin street – the Corporation of London’s rubbish depot.
I was surprised how many of the rubbish barges (and indeed other boats) sit on the bottom at low water. Also, a good example of campshedding, and why you should keep away from it.

The tricky non-alignment of Southwark, Cannon St, and London Bridges

Some of the many boats working on the Tideway Tunnel project

Westminster Bridge.
A good illustration of why you should in general aim to go
through the middle of bridge arches
St Mary’s Church, Battersea.
I have it on good authority that there will be a new visitor’s mooring here soon 

Lifeboat on a shout at Wandsworth Bridge

The River Wandle. The Council are dismantling the semi-tidal weir here, so maybe narrowboats will be able to get up here again.

Darren explaining something.

Approaching Putney pier

The lifeboat returning to Chiswick

The view from the foreshore – not a lot of water at low tide

DRIFTWOOD arrives with the stakeboats for the University Boat race this weekend

All ready to rehearse the start.

Lazy Otter, Old West

A quiet weekend trip to the GOBA mooring at the Lazy Otter, on the Old West. After a bit of tidying up and hoovering in Ely, we set off after lunch. Paused at Fish and Duck for diesel and to hear of their plans for the marina. Moored up in a strong cross-wind which was fun. Early to bed as the clocks were going forward in the morning. Set off 0545 GMT (0645 BST) and back in the boatyard for breakfast and tidying up. Off by 1000.

Departing Ely – glorious warm spring day

Heading South on the Ely Ouse

Old West River

Stretham Pumping Station

Moored at the Lazy Otter  – GOBA moorings

Early morning at Stretham

Nearly back at base

Thames Tideway Navigators Club

A number of us went to a rather jolly meeting of the TTNC. Details available here.  I am reminded of the quote by Groucho Marx: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

Andrew Phasey spoke about the cruises that St Pancras Cruising Club has organised over the years, and Andy Spring and I spoke in more detail about the trip to the Medway last year. Various PLA speakers, ending with a lively Q&A session. A nice photo of Andrew here.

The meeting was held on the rather fine vessel DIXIE QUEEN, moored  near Tower Bridge.

Brandon Creek

Balmy weather. An easy trip to Brandon Creek, lunch in the Ship. Polished the engine room bilges in the afternoon, and dealt with one of the advisories from the recent BSS safety check.

Then back to Ely in the dark – an alarming encounter with a boat with no navigation lights. Waved at Polly and Mike who were just starting their epic voyage from Ely to St Pancras.

New CUBC boathouse

Approaching Brandon Creek

Polly and Mike on SPRIG O WILLOW

SPCC to the Backs – Take 2

ringThe second trip for St Pancras Cruising Club members (and a couple of extras) along the backs in Cambridge. The record of the first trip (including an entertaining video) is here.

The long weekend started on Thursday, when I attended a local IWA meeting (first time since I was a Cambridge branch member over 30 years ago!) to give a talk about my experiences crossing the Wash. Then to the boat arriving 2230.

On Friday various maintenance tasks, in particular using bolts (with three nuts and washers each) to fix the box in the gas locker (to which the bubble tester is secured), filling water, emptying loo etc. Then a jumbo shop, and Evensong in the cathedral (Lady Chapel – very fine music). In the evening Christine, Libby, Heather and her friend Linda, and Polly arrived in stages.

Early start on Saturday – 0630. Polly was not able to bring her boat SPRIG O WILLOW due to mechanical issues, so she and Mike joined us for the day. I think this means we still qualify as a flotilla?

We added an extension trip to Wicken Fen, through Upware Lock. Heather tried to get us in on her NT membership card but this attempt at fraud was rebuffed. The lack of butter knife and marmalade spoon was commented on at breakfast, but otherwise the crew were well behaved. After 90 minutes at Wicken, we continued to Waterbeach, where Polly and Mike left to catch a train and Mark joined (plus bike). We cruised a bit beyond Silver St, turning in the pool just below the punt rollers, rather further upstream than usual. Wandered around Cambridge in the evening, before the crew went out for dinner at the Fort St George.

On Sunday I replaced the weed hatch tape. This had first been recommended some eight years ago, and it was now leaking a bit. An easy job. Also mended the water temp gauge – a very simple job as a wire was loose.

We were joined by Liz and Mick, and Andy and Jenny, for the Sunday trip – rather fewer tourists today. Then a brief excursion to the Long Reach, to watch some rowing, mooring up at 1500. Then Jane and I went to watch son Hugh play hockey for the University second team – beat Oxford 5-2 so all were very pleased. (see here).

Finally, an easy run back to Ely on Monday morning, pausing in Bottisham Lock for breakfast. I was half way home before I realised I had left both my laptops on the boat…

I was a bit erratic about taking photos – there are more on the postings about previous trips on the Backs (November 2016, March 2016, October 2015, March 2015, October 2014, twice).

Captions are above the photos to which they refer.

New bolts to hold the gas locker box in place, and new bubble tester


Wicken Fen – Heather steering

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Polly on the landing stage at Upware lock


Bottisham lock – EA/Camcon boundary just upstreamdscf9290

Above Silver St – punt rollers on the right. Mark looking out for mudbanks.

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Darwin Collegedscf9299 dscf9302

Clare and Kingsdscf9304 dscf9305

Jesus Lock – Heather and Christine winding awaydscf9306 dscf9307

Weed hatch, before replacing the tape ..dscf9308

… and after. An easy job.dscf9310

St John’s Kitchen Bridgedscf9311

Mick and Lizdscf9313


Andy and Jennydscf9318

Early morning run down to Ely – navigation lights in use as there were a lot of rowers around.dscf9355 dscf9357 dscf9362

Batteries and the Lark

A three day trip to do various jobs on the boat, and then a trip to Jude’s Ferry at the end of the Lark. First the jobs …

Fitted two new domestic batteries – the previous pair lasted since 2013 so I suppose I should be reasonably pleased. The little box on top is a Sterling desulphator: not sure it does a lot. The new ones had a second set of auxiliary terminals – I’ve no current need for them.

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Tightened the stern gland, polished the engine room floor,
and adjusted the weed hatch.dscf9244

Installed the plaque from the 2016 trip to the Medway – rather honoured to get one of these as SG did not take part in the trip…


Inspected the  new bubble tester – the BSS check showed a small leak and so it seemed sensible to get one of these installed at the same time.dscf9271

And now the boating ..

Heading up the Lark, between Prickwillow and Isleham

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The Washes just before Isleham lock. Lots of geesedscf9250 dscf9253

A brief exploration of Lee Brook. Deep but a bit narrow.
I did not fancy reversing in the wind,  so I did not go very far!dscf9254 dscf9256 dscf9257

Approaching Jude’s Ferry – pub just visible in the gloom.dscf9258

Setting off the next morning. All four fenders were in use to protect the paint against the rather rickety (and slippery) jetty. Intermittent snow: quite cold but not unpleasant.dscf9264

The Pepperpot house near Islehamdscf9267

Quite a few Cambridge rowers out on the Ouse – using their new boathouse (will take a photo next time – officially opened in December). Rather gloomy so I put my new navigation lights ondscf9268