Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The tidal Thames - terrifyingly thrilling!

We've now moved along the Grand Union as far as Aylesbury at the end of the Aylesbury Arm - our final narrow canal for a long while to come ...

Thursday 16 September - part one  Warning!  Today's blog is a biggie, Barry was unable to prioritise the photos any more than he has, this being his highlight of our 2010 trip ...

We had to be up bright and early this morning, 0700hrs, for a quick breakfast then Barry was off to see Teddington Lock-Keeper to get the go ahead - "... off you go" he said, hurrah!  Barry also called Limehouse Lock and to our astonishment experienced no problems from him either - the only instructions were to call him when we were going under Tower Bridge.  He didn't ask our size, so we didn't volunteer the information.

I was unsure whether being 'allowed' to do this journey was a good thing or not - of course I was terribly excited about travelling through the centre of London on a narrowboat, but at the same time was terrified remembering the experience we had in 2009 entering Keadby Lock on the tidal River Trent and had no wish to repeat it.

The weather overcast and cool, but could've been worse.  We exited Teddington lock around 0830hrs, half an hour after high tide at Tower Bridge as instructed, and were sadly the only boat travelling on the tidal Thames today, the others turning off to Brentford Lock.  Tom and Barry had the life jackets on that came with the boat, so they were a little dated (and brightly coloured!), while I had the new one I'd bought last year.  Better to be safe than sorry ...


 We're first into the lock - very eager!









 Plenty of room for everyone - even fitting one through the centre!

P1360649 It looks like the start of a race - note the hut at the end of the lock from Monty Python's 'Fish Slapping Dance' 


 Perhaps it was a race - if so we were left well behind

The overcast weather turned into a rather cold day with a biting wind, so I donned a jumper, scarf, ear warmer, gloves and even had to put my UGG boots and thermal vest on after a while!

All was smooth sailing until Hammersmith, so I was happy to drive while Barry and Tom took tons of photos.  Then two large boats went past in opposite directions, and the boat started swaying from one side to the other - that was it, I was totally freaking out and passed the tiller to Barry and went below to make a coffee!  We were going to be meeting the big boys from now on ...


 17th century Ham House - apparently haunted by a dog!


 A beautiful building - not sure what it is?



Marble Hill House in Twickenham - no matter how much money you have you can't stop the planes flying over  P1360670






The navigation lights on the bridges to show which arch to go through - double orange is 'go' 



Along the banks of Richmond - an amazing array of craft
















 This heron looks like he's seen it all before - the only narrowboat we met coming in the opposite direction, through Richmond Footbridge


 Passing Isleworth and the ruins of St John's Church


 Looking ahead to Brentford, with a very fit rower fighting against the current


 The entrance to Brentford Locks and The Grand Union Canal - from now on we're on our own


Tom and Sandra in their snazzy life jackets


Through Kew Bridge, looking back at Brentford, with the tower of the 'Kew Bridge Steam Museum' on the right ...


and the Kew Garden Railway Bridge with an 'Underground' train going over water




Sandra looking cool, calm and collected as we pass Chiswick Bridge - no sign of nerves (yet!) 






 A row of terraced houses watch the waterfront


Chiswick Pier and another rower


  Dove Pier at Hammersmith














The ornately eccentric Hammersmith Suspension Bridge ...


with a slightly crazy boater in the foreground (beginning to look a little concerned)

P1360728 The river front at Hammersmith 


 New housing developments at FulhamP1360746 The Pier at Putney - starting line of the annual Oxford and Cambridge Rowing Race upriver to Chiswick


 The container terminal at Wandsworth, unloading from the huge barges dragged up the Thames


 Wadsworth Bridge, and the apartments get more and more striking from here on in ...


 very futuristic, though being 2010 I suppose this is the future we heard about as kids!


A little more refined - and still costing a small fortune I've no doubt

P1360760 Different style again ...


 and again - incredible to see the starkly contrasting styles here


 Hope this boat is "Ship shape and Bristol fashion"

P1360773A Can't mistake this as being London 


The Albert Bridge, currently having a bit of an overhaul P1360793A










Victoria (Grosvenor) Railway Bridge, with the Battersea Power Station chimneys behind

P1360800 The now derelict Battersea Power Station 


I see no "pigs on the wing" - for Pink Floyd fans only!


 These ones look a little threatening, as if they're about to attack!

















Passing Westminster was awesome, despite some scary moments when large boats and passenger cruisers made a cross wash and the boat bobbed up and down like crazy; rather nauseating at times. 

We knew (because I'd read the manual and had the picture taped to the back hatch!) that the warning of flashing white lights on top of a bridge arch means 'Watch out!  There's a large boat coming through', and you're supposed to avoid that arch.  At one point we came to a bridge with said white light flashing, but Barry said it was too late for us to move to the two orange lights arch - that was the point where I could see why a VHF radio would be a really good thing to have so that the warning was more in advance!  Luckily the humongous boat trailing a big pontoon wasn't as near as it could've been, and we managed to swerve out of it's path, and pass unusually on the left, in good time - phew! 











I can see why people are a little wary of navigating the tidal Thames on a narrowboat, but wow, it really was an amazing thing to do!


 The Houses of Parliament - don't go too close to the exclusion zone














 Passing the London Eye - Sandra's laughing hysterically now!


 Looks more like a bike than an eye!



 Lots of different craft of all shapes and sizes


St Pauls Cathedral peeping through, and the Gherkin making an appearance

P1360869 Millennium Bridge


 Towing a huge maintenance barge up against the tide - the vessels we managed to avoid!


Southwark Bridge


 Tower Bridge was our next point and it appeared that two battleships were blocking our way ...

P1360889 but it was just HMS Belfast and the Brazilian training frigate U27 alongside, plenty of room

P1360895 Now straight ahead through the fairytale bridge - no need to raise it! 


Tom and Sandra look like they've not a care in the world

Arriving at Tower Bridge, I called Limehouse Lock who said they'd have the gates open and to just cruise on in.  I went to the bow, ready with the rope as you have to swiftly attach it to a chain at the side of the lock once you're well inside. 

Looking back to the stern, I was horrified to see that rather than intently concentrating on the lock approach, Barry and Tom were both shooting away taking photos, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there was a huge passenger boat and police speedboat approaching on the other side round the previously blind bend and Tom was steering the wrong way.  Now I may be more anxious, being British and all that, but really the 'she'll be right' attitude of kiwi's can be rather scary!!  I shouted "look out, there's a huge boat coming", trying hard to control my anxiety that they appeared was more intent on taking photos than watching where they were going (of course Barry says he was always in total control!).

P1360917  Not sure what this is all about? 


 Great looking Dutch sailing barges


Check out the tidal drop on the river wall, with an hour an a half still to go - a drop of 4.4 metres today though it can be over seven metres


 The last remnant of a bygone era holding out against development


 How many people must live here?


 Limehouse Lock ahead - so is a blind bend!


Sandra sees the boats approaching before Barry and Tom do 


Oh dear!  Get out of the way quick!! 


Overshot a little having to avoid the other boats ...

Of course Barry skilfully avoided any chance of a collision and steered us safely into the lock - he knew it was more than his life's worth not to and had joked earlier that he'd have to jump overboard if he didn't get it right - damn right!!

Once safely inside the bosom of the lock, the lock-keeper ensures we're safely roped up bow and stern, then mechanically opens the end gates which strain to let the water in from above, rather than the normal process of opening gate paddles.  This created a humongous wash and we needed to tie the rope up to the front 'knob thing' (!) to prevent it pulling the rope out of our hands.


 But still managed to cruise in calmly


 Sandra holds on tight - with the rope also wound round the bow tie ...


 No gate paddles on this massive lock - they just start opening the gates and thousands of gallons of water come rushing in











It doesn't take long to fill

We'd hoped to stay at the 24 hr BW moorings just past the lock, which supposedly welcome you from your journey so you can stop and have a cup of tea (according to the guide!), but they were literally packed with narrowboats, at one point they were three deep and so obviously not just there for 24 hours!  One cheeky boater asked us how it was on the Thames, as they may go 'next week'!  Well thanks a bunch thought I, don't say "you're welcome to moor alongside if you want to" will you, just sit and watch us sail past unable to stop for a breather after our adventure.  There's certainly some selfish boaters around ...










 Limehouse Marina - full to bursting


Not an inch spare for poor little Northern Pride after her big journey ...


So we continued on our way up Limehouse Cut ...

Part two of the day tomorrow ...


  1. A most excellent post - I have been looking forward to this one.

  2. Really enjoyed reading this and gld you had a safe journey. This is a trip we would love to make with Naughty-Cal but it will have to wait a while until we move her closer to the area.

    With regards to the moored boats in Limehouse. Why did you not just raft up to one of the narrowboats? It is common place in some parts and others have already done so indicating that it is allowed in the basin there.

  3. Great report of a fantastic trip. You should have just tied up alongside the other boats at Limehouse. I've seen it six across there, so it wouldn't have been a problem.

  4. Thanks folks. We've never actually moored up aside another boat, had one moor alongside us but only because we offered it - I'd just think it rather rude to assume you can just bunk up next to someone - must be too polite maybe?! We'll know next time we're on the cut (if there is to be a next time, who knows ...)