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 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
Maybe just escaping from the East End 🙂
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.