Grumpy Bear Too

This is our story of Grumpy Bear Too, our Viking 26 Widebeam cruiser and our participation in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant.  Based at Buckden Marina on the River Great Ouse Grumpy Bear Too is powered by a Honda 35Hp outboard engine.

In June 2011 we applied to take part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant, a 1000 boat flotilla through London on the Tidal Thames taking place on 3rd June 2012.  Early this year, we were delighted to find out that we had been successful and the planning for our adventure could begin.

Grumpy Bear Too at the Bedford River Festival 2006

Firstly, there was work to be done on the boat.  Until now, we have used standard portable outboard engine fuel tanks giving us a total capacity of 50 litres with a range, at river cruising speed, of about 100 miles.   This would be insufficient for the Tidal Thames as we would have to make 4 complete trips through London without refuelling.   We had previously  thought about having a larger internal fuel tank fitted (when planning a trip to the Norfolk Broads) – and now was the time to get it done along with the usual routine servicing.   So over the Easter Bank Holiday we moved Grumpy Bear Too from Buckden to Priory Marina in Bedford where the work would be done.  She would sit “on the hard” immediately outside Mike’s office at Walton Training, where work in progress could be monitored .  The engine would also get a good service, and the hull cleaned and polished.  A clean of her bottom and a new coat of antifoul paint would finish off the operation.

There was also the small matter of getting the prepared boat to the Thames.  However, we have done this before so it was an easy choice to contact David at Riverside Marine and Leisure based at the Pike and Eel Marina, Needingworth, Cambs who had served us so well previously.   We booked our transport for Friday 25th May which would give us 6 days pleasant cruising down the Thames to West India Dock (on the Tidal Thames near “The Dome”) where all participating boats have to be inspected by the Port of London Authority and the Met Police.

We will put Grumpy Bear in at Benson Waterfront – again a marina we have used before who understand the meaning of “Customer Service”.   A phone call to them in January was met with the expected first class response and confirmation that we could not only slip in and out at Benson, but also leave our car there in secure parking.   Let’s hope the plan comes together 🙂

the full story of our participation click on “Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant” is detailed in our regular blogs below.  As the tale unravels you will see that the plan did indeed come together.   In particular, the service provided by both Riverside Marine and Leisure, and Benson Waterfront, at both ends of the holiday, was faultless in every way.

Rehearsal on the Thames

Everybody taking part in the pageant has to attend a rehearsal to get an overview of the route and the hazards including bridges along the way.  As we could not get Grumpy Bear Too to London for the weekend we were allocated places on another participants boat – and what a nice boat it was too, a Broom 44.   Fiona and I decided to make a weekend of it staying in London overnight on the Saturday so that we could hit the shops and do the sights.   Then, we were up early on Sunday morning to be at Imperial Wharf Pier for an 0830 briefing and to embark on our host’s boat.   We would follow the pageant route from Richmond to just beyond Tower Bridge, completing various manoeuvres on route including an emergency stop.   We also got to see the temporary mooring buoys being put in by the Port of London Authority where we will moor overnight on Saturday 2nd June immediately before the pageant.

kWork Starts Laying the Temporary Mooring Buoys for Overnight Muster

Work Starts Laying the Temporary Mooring Buoys for Overnight Muster

 The rehearsal went very well; it was great fun going through London 4 abreast through the bridges led by the Port of London Authority Harbour Master on the lead boat.  The emergency stop procedure was very entertaining – lets hope we don’t have to carry it out on the day.

Proceeding Down River
Proceeding Down River

To see a BBC report on the rehearsal including a video clip click here

Work Continues

Grumpy Bear Too on the hard

Grumpy Bear Too on the hard

Work is progressing well.  The engine has been serviced and just requires “in-water” testing.  The hull has been cleaned using a gelcoat paste and “elbow grease”, and then polished with gelcoat polish with the aid of the “Halfords” electric car polisher. 

Work continues – albeit slowly – on fitting the inboard fuel tank.  There is just enough space to fit a 93 litre tank and its associated fittings, but the working area is very confined.  The installation must fully comply with the requirements of the “Boat Safety Scheme” – the boating equivalent of an MOT, and of course we don’t want petrol leaking in the boat!!   There will also be a fuel gauge on the instrument panel so wiring has to be run through the boat to the dashboard.   The tank fitting is more easily finished with the boat back in the water.

The antifoul paint – to prevent barnacles etc sticking to the bottom – which must be suitable for the salty tidal Thames as well as fresh river water, will be applied immediately before the boat goes back in the water.

Craning in

  • Craning in Grumpy Bear Too

    Craning In Grumpy Bear Too

So the big day has come and Grumpy Bear Too has been successfully craned in with nice new antifoul paint on her bottom.   I always take a deep breath when I see her being swung around high in the air.   Lots of work now needed to finish the fuel tank installation ready for us to proceed down river back to Buckden on Saturday morning.  Fingers crossed.

The plan is for Grumpy Bear Too to be transported from Buckden to the Thames by road on Friday 25th.  She will go in at Benson Waterfront giving us 6 days to get to West India Dock.   That will be a nice gentle cruise.  Very excited now!

 

Safely at Buckden

Well, after a bit of a delay on Saturday morning because the workshops had not finished proving the fuel tank, we had a very pleasant trip down river staying overnight at a favourite mooring at Lamas meadow in St Neots.   Talk about taking it to the wire.  Was a bit Grumpy I have to say 🙂 However, events were to prove later, that we could not have done the trip without the new fuel tank.

Met up with an old friend who was out coaching the rowers.  An earlyish start on Sunday morning saw us back at Buckden by midday.   Now we have a few days to get her clean and shipshape ready for the Thames on Friday.   Never realised there was so much to clean 🙂  We also need to get the very important Jubilee regalia on board so that we look the part in the pageant.

A selection (but not all) of our Jubilee kit

A selection (but not all) of our Jubilee kit

We have arrived on the Thames

Yesterday saw Grumpy Bear Too slipped out onto the trailer by “Riverside Marine and Leisure” ready for an early morning trip to Benson Waterfront.  The trip went smoothly without a hitch, so that when we arrived at Benson mid-morning Grumpy was safely in the water.  Once again we were met by the very friendly and efficient staff from “Benson Waterfront” who helped us out with car parking for two weeks, and the details of the return pick up.

Grumpy Bear Too ready to leave Buckden

Grumpy Bear Too ready to leave Buckden

 

Grumpy Bear Too safely at Benson Waterfront

Grumpy Bear Too safely at Benson Waterfront

Having unstowed all the breakables aboard that we had had to secure for road transport and then unpacked our bags, food etc by 1.00 pm we were ready to leave for the short journey to Benson lock where we had to get our Thames River Licence.  Fortunately, the lock keepers are very helpful and the paperwork was rapidly sorted.   As we have an Environment Agency licence for  the Great Ouse system we get 15 days free per year on the Thames so nothing to pay 🙂

The Lock Keeper's cottage at Benson Lock

The Lock Keeper's cottage at Benson Lock

We then proceeded down river to Wallingford where we stopped for lunch and a wander around the pretty Oxfordshire market town.   Lots of bunting about – is something happening soon?    After a very pleasant stop, we carried on down river through the next two locks and are moored for the night at Goring – I think summer has arrived:)

Windsor and Eton to Shepperton

I have to say  that our stay at Windsor was rather noisy.  The disco boats ferrying partygoers to and from the races went on late into the night and the grebes were keen to wake us at first light.  We decided to go into Windsor to get milk and a paper – and found the very quick way to Waitrose – doh!  Whilst walking back we spotted the “must have”.  A Diamond Jubilee Teddy Bear.  We told the lady in the shop that Teddy would be introduced to the Queen on Sunday and she gave us a discount.  How kind was that?

Jubilee Teddy (on the left) makes some friends

Jubilee Teddy (on the left) makes some friends

Windsor Castle from the Thames

Windsor Castle from the Thames

We decided to crack on through the locks to our overnight destination without a lunch stop.  It was after all only 12 miles or so, about a 3 hour trip.   So that is what we did taking the opportunity at the locks to fill those tanks that needed filling ie water and empty those tanks that needed emptying – we’ll leave that to your imagination.  But this part of the river passes through some delightful areas with some lovely houses – including one once owned by Richard Dimbleby, the blue plaque proudly on display to the riverside.

After a very pleasant cruise we are moored on “Lady Lindsay’s Lawn” at Old Shepperton.   It is a large meadow and wood now set available for public use given to the town by Lady Lyndsay.

It was here that Paul managed to find us, having driven from Wendover to Shefford then around the M25 & A30. He had very kindly offered to collect our pageant boarding passes which arrived in the post after we left home. We were very grateful for this as he also brought Mike’s cufflinks to wear with his smart outfit on Sunday. We enjoyed a quick meal together – sausage and mash, followed by strawberries and cream – on board before his trip back home. Thanks again Paul!

3rd June 2012 – A Quiet day on the river – not :)

So the big day has come.   We had a good night’s sleep tied to our 2 mooring buoys fore and aft alongside/rafted to a fellow participant using the same buoys.  We did have plenty of time until our start at 2.30pm.  So we enjoyed a full english cooked breakfast on board with a nice cup of tea.  But first, at 7.00am, Mel was interviewed by Radio Derby over the phone to tell of her adventure. She had previously been interviewed by the local press and her story and picture was in the local Derby News. After breakfast we put the final touches to the decorations with red, white and blue throws across the cockpit seats and several Diamond Jubilee cushions.   We were determined to keep the back open and the canopy off – which we did, but it was to get very wet.

Our mooring, in the middle of the river, was immediately adjacent to the building from which BBC Breakfast and BBC News was being broadcast.   So we watched the presenters who were filming from a balcony overlooking the river, and the interviews taking place with our boats as a backdrop to the morning coverage which we were watching on TV.   Sadly, we didn’t get a mention and by  the start – at 2.30 – the BBC had long gone from this location.  It transpired that the BBC coverage was rather controversial with no mention at all during the day of the Recreational Motorboat Squadron (RMS).

The BBC News breakfast team overlook our moorings

The BBC News breakfast team overlook our mooring

Perhaps they didn’t spot any of the celebs or VIPs aboard the recreational boats.  As well as some well known TV faces, there were 5 Lord Lieutenants as well as the Kenyan High Commissioner taking part on various boats in the RMS.

Escaping the Garden for a day on the river

Escaping the Garden for a day on the river

Maybe just escaping from the East End 🙂

Maybe just escaping

Maybe just escaping

However, the most important event of the morning was “Final Scrutineering”.   All boats had to get a final inspection from the Port of London Authority.  This included checking the skipper and navigator were not under the influence of drink or drugs, no unauthorised crew had been sneaked on board, the emergency tow lines were in place and the anchor was ready to drop.   Once this was complete we were given our rather splendid Pageant Flag.  Ours to keep for posterity.   Any boat seen moving on the river without a Pageant Flag would have an interesting encounter with one of the very many Met Police high speed ribs.   This is exactly what happened to 2 speed boat type launches that tried to join in from  the bank at the start.  They lasted less than 5 minutes 🙂

Our Pageant Flag

Our Pageant Flag

Timing for the start was critical.  Imagine lots of different groups of boats, starting at different places on the river forming up in a convoy in the right order so that by Albert Bridge the “flotilla” was formed and moving at 4 knots.   Mostly, it worked although there were times when it was like the M25 – mad dash at speed then all come to a complete stop.    The order to slip moorings was given over the VHF radio and I have to say that from our position on the river it all seemed to go like clockwork.

The man-powered fleet rows past our moorings to take the lead position

The man-powered fleet rows past our moorings to take the lead position

We slip our mooring and  we are off!

We slip our mooring and we are off!

Once we got under way, the enormity of the event became apparent.  Even at the start there were crowds lining the bank, and as we got closer to the centre of London the noise of cheering just got louder and louder.  We could see a multitude of large screens on the banks and in the parks showing the TV feeds of the pageant and the many parties going on.

The Crowds Line the Bank

The Crowds Line the Bank

There were lots of photographers about who have uploaded their shots on Flickr.  Thanks to Paul Seymour for this great picture of Grumpy Bear Too approaching Chelsea Bridge

Mel tweets as we approach Chelsea Bridge - photo © Paul Seymour

Mel tweets as we approach Chelsea Bridge – photo © Paul Seymour

The highlight had to be going past the royal barge just before Tower Bridge where HM The Queen was taking the salute with many of her family, including of course the Duke of Edinburgh, with her.

Grumpy Bear Too looks up to HM The Queen

Grumpy Bear Too looks up to HM The Queen

Through Tower Bridge and that was it 🙂  Well of course it wasn’t.  1000 boats can’t just stop on the other side of the bridge.   Our mooring for the night was back in West India Dock along with several hundred other boats.  To get into the dock you have to go through a lock, which has a turn round time of around 40 minutes.  We were booked into the second lock-in.  However, events over took us.   Some may have noticed that it  was raining for some of the time.  Well, let’s be fair; it chucked it down for much of the day.   By the time we got to Tower Bridge we were pretty cold and wet. But for those in open boats it was getting problematic with the rain getting heavier and the temperature dropping as the evening approached.   Several boats had to call for the RNLI lifeboats to attend to passengers with hypothermia so the sensible decision was taken to get “open” boats into the locks first.   This meant that we were relegated to the third lock-in.   By now as boats continued to arrive, boats were bunching at the entrance to West India lock (opposite the O2 arena) so  the PLA again made a sensible decision taking  the flotilla on a magical mystery tour.   So with the harbour master in the lead we went down to the Thames Barrier (very nice) turned around and went back up river to Greenwich, turned around and did it again.   Several times.   But eventually it was our turn to lock in.  Now to give an idea of  the size of  the lock at West India, we got 50 recreational motorboats (including several 40-50 foot boats) and 40 narrowboats all in the lock together.  Yes it’s a big lock!    So it was not until 9.30 pm that Grumpy Bear Too was safely moored up, we could relax and break open much needed gin and rum and cider.

Recreational Motor Boats pack the lock first

Recreational Motor Boats pack the lock first

The Narrowboats lock in behind us

The Narrowboats lock in behind us

The London Ambulance Service did a fantastic job too; as all boats coming into the lock were asked if they had any crew with medical problems including hypothermia to make themselves known immediately for treatment.   There were 8 ambulances present and 49 people were treated for Hypothermia.

But it was an absolutely brilliant day and we would not have missed it for the world.