Mon 27th April
Walton to Hampton Court
A sparkling morning on Desborough Island
A fairly lazy morning as we only had a short journey. We set off downstream in lovely sunshine to go to Shepperton Marina for fuel, and we planned to visit Louis afterwards. As we approached the entrance to Shepperton Marina, we spotted Madam pulling out of the moorings by the Anglers, and heading our way. We turned round to face the stream and waited for Louis to draw alongside. He was heading for Lechlade eventually, spending the summer on the Thames. As a single boater he finds the locks in London difficult.
Louis on Madam
We went into the marina and took on diesel. There were a few changes here as well. They have built a new toilet and elsan facility, and the diesel hose has been changed.
Refuelling at Shepperton
Iver and Falconbrook (1956)
Leaving there, we continued downstream past Sunbury to Sunbury Lock, where we bought a Transit Licence for £10, to take us from the Wey to Teddington.
Our transit licence plate
We had the river to ourselves as we went past Molesey and Hampton and the floating homes at Taggs Island.
A concrete boat
Just beyond is Molesey Lock, where we used the Elsan point and disposed of rubbish. We didn’t take on water, as we wanted our bows to be more buoyant for the tideway tomorrow.
As we left Molesey Lock, by Hampton Court Bridge, there were four cruisers waiting. We asked where they had come from, and they had been down to London for the London Marathon.
Hampton Court Bridge
Tudor chimneys at Hampton Court Palace
We moored by Hampton Court, where it seems they have renewed the moorings and installed new rings. There was work taking place on the golden wrought iron gates to the palace gardens.
There was a large Dutch barge style boat behind us, and, an hour after we arrived, they decided to leave the moorings. They were having difficulty clearing our stern with their bows, and their stern was getting into the bushes behind them. They had a number of tries, forward and back, forward and back, and James said they could do with a bow thruster. “Oh we have one of those, but my husband doesn’t like to use it unless he has to!” After several more attempts they finally made it out.
When they had left, we moved back into their space, as it was better for Hugo to get off.
We met a lady we can’t name on a boat with a name from the Bible, moored a few boat lengths upstream. She lives in a village in Surrey not far away and was keen to find a charismatic church that was not dominated by ladies, or over dominated by men, and that was lively enough for her taste, and not too far away, and had a good pastoral care system where she could use her pastoral skills. She had tried all the ones we suggested, and knew several people that we knew. She came later and asked for help to get a splinter out of her finger, which Hazel managed to do successfully.
There were rowers going past, with their trainers shouting at them from their fast twin hulled outboard powered boats, and they were making a lot of wash. We normally slow down for rowers. It is not usually reciprocated.
When they had finished, it was a quiet peaceful mooring.
2 locks, 5 miles
Tue 28th April
Hampton Court Palace to Limehouse
We woke to the sound of a woodpecker somewhere in the trees, and we were away by 0815, before other boaters were up and about.
St Raphael Church, Kingston.
The red X marks the spot where James’
Dad stood on the frozen Thames in 1963.
We had a pleasant cruise down to Kingston, where we paused to buy some milk from Waitrose. Despite the sign saying “No overnight mooring”, the moorings there were all taken up, so James had to let Hazel off at the bows while he stayed at the helm to keep the boat in place.
A further twenty minutes downstream brought us to Teddington Lock, where we ensured the boat was ready for the tidal cruise. The VHF radio was in place, with magnetic aerial on the roof. The anchor was accessible on the bow deck, with the chain and rope adjacent in a plastic box. Loose items on the roof were stowed, and the front ventilators were taped up with gaffer tape.
James went to check with lock keeper, and the time agreed was 1045, consistent with our calculations, and the advice from Limehouse.
John and Barbara arrived around 1015. They hadn’t done the trip before, and were joining us for the experience before they tried it in their own boat.
There was meant to be another boat sharing the lock with us, but for some reason they didn’t set off when we went into the lock, so we were on our own.
Hazel made sandwiches for us all. John had a go at steering while James had his lunch.
It was a lovely day, but a bit cold in the wind. We saw red-crested pochards, and Herons were nesting in the trees.
Red crested pochards
There is a lot to see from the Thames – the architecture, the bridges, other boats, and even an armed helicopter that went up and down a few times.
After Westminster the river is narrower and there are more trip boats, so there is more disturbance to the water. The worst culprits are the twin-hulled fast passenger services, which create a sizeable wash, which sweeps across the river, and then rebounds off the walls and returns. By the time we passed HMS Belfast and cruised under Tower Bridge, the water was fairly choppy.
St Paul’s and the Millennium footbridge
HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge
The Tower and the Gherkin
A mean machine
We tried to call Limehouse on the radio on channel 80, but we could only hear crackle, so we phoned them instead. They had heard us and had tried to reply. We had up until then been on channel 14, and we could hear conversations clearly. They had the lock ready for us.
There was a fair flow downstream by now, and in hindsight we should have gone a little further down before crossing to the other side, and returning upstream, turning into the lock at the last minute. Instead we turned towards the entrance when we were level, and we crabbed across the river, trying to maintain our position with the use of engine power. We straightened up at the last minute and made it into the lock chamber without hitting anything, but it was a little hairy.
We tied on to the vertical cables and the boat rose at they let the water in through the radial lock gate.
Water in our chain box
The mooring at Limehouse was quite difficult, as we could not get near any of the ladders. The quayside was higher than the boat roof. John and Barbara managed to get off, and so did James in order to tie the ropes properly, but Hazel never did leave the boat. Rain was forecast, so we put up the hood, and kept Hugo in.
An exciting day. This is the fifth time we have done this in this direction. We have also done it six times in the other direction, up to Teddington.
2 locks, 25 miles
Next: through the London Canals to Little Venice