Teddington to West India Dock

We survived our passage through London yesterday on the Tidal Thames and are safely moored in West India Dock.

Millwall dock West India Quay recreational motorboat squadron

Millwall dock West India Quay recreational motorboat squadron

It was an exciting passage passing the Houses of Parliament;

Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

…….and the London Eye in our little boat!

London Eye

London Eye

as well as going under Tower Bridge before entering West India Dock opposite the O2 Arena (the Millenium Dome).  We made very good time down river so had to “hover” in the tidal river for half an hour until we could “lock in”.   Mostly the passage was very pleasant but we did get rocked a few times by the wake from very large boats.  Poor Grumpy wondered what was happening and the teddies went flying on one occasion.

Grumpy Bears have difficulty with their sea legs!

Grumpy Bears have difficulty with their sea legs!

As we passed Brentford we managed to do a quick photo shoot with Scholar Gypsy, a narrow boat owned by a fellow GOBA member and also in the pageant.   Hope the  photo boat got some good shots of us both on the tideway.

There is so much going on that this is a quick update post – we will get photos on tomorrow when we are moored overnight on our mustering moorings.   We have successfully passed the inspections by the MCA so have our pageant ID numbers and are “good to go”.

West India Dock to Hammersmith

New crew member now onboard Grumpy Bear. After a long day at work I jumped on a train from Derby and arrived at South Quays Docklands Light Railway Station at nearly midnight in the rain. Although my cabin bunk was very cosy I was not there for long as we had a 5.30am alarm call so that I could get my River Pageant Accreditation wristband before we set off for the lock at 7am.

West India Quay Lock in the mist and fog

West India Quay Lock in the mist and fog

Once through the lock with 57 other recreational motorboats we began our journey upstream with the tide through central London towards Hammersmith. Despite the early hour there were already spectators out on balconies either waving flags or taking pictures of the flotilla. We passed many moored boats that will be taking part tomorrow especially the tall ships.

A tall ship!

A tall ship!

The tall ships are all moored downstream of Tower Bridge…………

The view of Tower Bridge from Grumpy Bear

The view of Tower Bridge from Grumpy Bear

We saw some interesting banners and decorations on buildings along the way…..

Silver Jubilee Banner on Sea Containers House

Silver Jubilee Banner on Sea Containers House

So, we arrived at Hammersmith at around 10am. Grumpy Bear is now rafted on a mooring buoy in Barn Elms Reach near Hammersmith Bridge. These mooring buoys have been specially laid for the pageant by the Port of London Authority and will be removed afterwards. We will remain here until 2pm tomorrow when we launch back downstream for the parade.

We have spent the afternoon lazing about on the river and decorating the boat with Diamond Jubilee bunting.

Essential decorations!

Essential decorations!

 

 

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.

Journey home to Benson begins

On Monday we had to move the boat from Millwall cut into the main West India dock at 9am then we were able to relax for the day before beginning our journey back up the Thames to Teddington on Tuesday. We took this opportunity to dry out both our wet weather gear & the cockpit of the boat. Plus we were able to explore parts of Canary Wharf and enjoy lunch out with Melanie before she caught the train back to Derby.

Packed in tight locking out of West India Dock

Packed in tight locking out of West India Dock

Tuesday morning we all lined up to exit the lock out of West India dock into the Thames at 11am at low tide.   They packed in as many boats as possible, some of whom turned downstream and out through the Barrier whilst we headed upstream with the flood tide through central London for the 4th and last time towards Teddington – the sea lock into the non-tidal Thames.    Our final trip through London passed without incident getting us to Teddington in time to join the long queue of boats also making the same passage and now waiting to lock in to the non-tidal river.    I have to say that throughout our time on the Tidal Thames I was impressed, and pleased, at how our Viking 26 Widebeam cruiser coped with the tidal conditions.   Even in quite rough conditions with the wake of passing large vessels she was comfortable with nothing being disturbed in the cabin.    The Honda 35HP Engine gave more than sufficient power to drive the boat at a comfortable speed and cope with the cross currents that we occasionally encountered.   I would certainly make the trip again given the opportunity.

Once at Teddington,  we had to sort out our Thames River Licence before starting our return journey to Benson where Grumpy Bear Too would be put on the trailer back to Buckden.   We had just 5 days to get back to Benson so the return trip upstream against the flow of the river would not be the gentle 7 day potter downstream that we had at the start of our adventure.

So, although it was raining again we headed on and moored up above the recreation ground at Runnymeade and the clouds passed over for a sunny evening.

Today we left in sunshine and light cloud but most of the day it has persistently rained on us again.

Richard Dimbleby lived here - riverside cottage Maidenhead

Richard Dimbleby lived here – riverside cottage Maidenhead

 

We stopped briefly at Windsor marina for petrol and water, and again at Bray marina for a replacement gas bottle (Windsor was out of gas but phoned ahead to Bray for us so a bottle was ready and waiting) and eventually when we moored between Hurley and Henley at Westfield Farm moorings the rain abated and we had a brief glimpse of sunshine.

Definitely not the weather to stop me and buy one!

Floating icecream stall

Floating icecream stall

 

Another wet & windy day…..

Mummy duck and her brood calling in for supper

Mummy duck and her brood calling in for supper

We moored up on a grassy bank last night – just a farmer’s field; he (the farmer) came along to collect our mooring fee £5 about 9pm. Earlier a mother duck and her 4 ducklings had also called to see us especially when we offered her some bread.

So as we set off this morning we hoped that the weather would be a bit better; certainly there has been less rain but the wind has been very strong and gusty and by the time we got to Mapledurham lock this afternoon the lock keepers told us that they were having to work the lock manually as a tree had come down over a power line and the whole village was suffering a power cut as a result.

Finally before we moored up for the night we spotted a field not of sheep but llamas or alpaca – not sure that I know the difference.

Flock of llamas/alpacas?

Flock of llamas/alpacas?

 

End of our trip of a lifetime & holiday

Saturday 9th June – still windy but some sunshine at last so we headed off to Wallingford and managed to moor downstream of the bridge. It was quite shallow along the bank which meant we were the only boat on the mooring; the narrowboats couldn’t moor without going aground.  One tried, and got stuck in the mud for a good half hour before getting towed off by another narrowboat – which promptly got stuck after going through the bridge and trying to moor on the right hand side.   It was there for a long time half blocking the bridge arch.

Wallingford Bridge

Wallingford Bridge

After lunch we explored Wallingford and discovered some geocaches. This involved a fair bit of walking around parts of the town and surrounding countryside that we would not have known existed and at times had some fantastic views of several red kites soaring above the tree tops. I could watch these birds for hours.

We finished our afternoon’s walk in hot sunshine with a refreshing drink at ‘The Boat House’ – fantastic end to a fantastic holiday experience.

A welcome end of holiday drink at the pub

A welcome end of holiday drink at the pub

Sunday back through Benson Lock and on to a pontoon at Benson Waterfront. Here we were able to offload our belongings and prepare the boat for road transport back to Cambridgeshire.  I have to say that we got great service from the Guys at Benson.  They are incredibly helpful and its a great location to start any trip on the Thames.

Bye bye Grumpy see you back at Buckden soon……

Grumpy Bear Too was safely delivered back to Buckden Marina on Tuesday by Riverside Marine and Leisure.   Great service from David once again.

 

Grumpy Bear Too waiting to go home to Buckden

Grumpy Bear Too waiting to go home to Buckden