Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Lesson 1: How to Avoid Rowers.

Wednesday 31st August to Tuesday 6th September 2016

We weren’t exactly early about extracting the pins and heading off on Wednesday morning – about 8:30 was early enough – we would not be going too far today.

Some weeks ago as we were passing through Sunbury Lock, the lockie suggested to us that if we were looking for a good mooring, then around the back of the lock was an area referred to as King’s Park, where spots were almost always available.

So we wanted to test them out.

Past Hampton Court Palace – pretty well chockers there – up through Molesey Lock, used the services and then pushed along and diverted to the right as we approached Sunbury Lock – sure enough, we found some lovely moorings with plenty of space.
At first it seemed a little close to the road, but upon checking it didn’t feel like it would be that busy later on.

It was another day of lovely sunshine – not too hot, not too humid and with a little bit of wind – Goldilocks weather.

A little later the Enforcement Officer came along and Diane had a good chat with him – fluttering the eyelashes at the right times. Seems that many of the locals are keeping a lookout on his behalf and advising when there were boats overstaying – he wasn’t there to see us about that – it was his normal day to come along and he would be back on Friday.
Diane explained that we hadn’t moored there before and the area looked interesting – with a wink and a nod we were right until Friday morning.

I have to say that by the time we did leave, all of the boats that were initially there, had gone and been replaced with some others – a sign that people are doing the right thing – particularly when a friendly face is using their judgement in a good way to enforce the byelaws.

Explore the area we did, but there seemed to be a predominance of pubs and a decided lack of coffee shops – we found just one – inside the walled garden – a lovely place to spend a few hours in mild contemplation.
Huge areas of parkland to wander around – we didn’t do too much wandering around, there was the little matter of a few cows grazing which seemed to put Diane off the idea of a wider area walk.
Right - youvé been warned

They really were quite OK, if just a little wary of us

By the time we had left we felt that it was a nice quiet place to stop; very easy to find a pub; peaceful; we may stop there again given the chance.

We made it around to the lock at a few minutes after 9am, thinking that we might just sneak up on the lockie, by not appearing from the main channel, but no, she was there ready and waiting for us – so straight in and up – our thanks to her for such efficiency.

Onward now towards Weybridge / Shepperton and seeing where we could find a mooring.
Our preference was for a place near to Shepperton, but sadly they were all full; even had a boat in the No MOORING area content to flout the rules and ignore the sign – encouraging us to do the same on the basis that the person patrolling wouldn’t be back until Monday – No thanks to you, that is just not on!

Further around we went – the moorings across from the lock – on the Weybridge side were full and there were reservations for the 3rd and 4th anyway, so moved back down through the cutting and then around the end of Desborough Island and onto the EA moorings there – all on our own.
After a walk into Weybridge we came back to find that most of the spots had gone, but no worries for us, we were settled there.
The weather had not been as brilliant as the two previous days, but still very enjoyable indeed.

I think that these are brilliant moorings – very quiet, very peaceful, nice wide waterway, no passing traffic, boats not passing too close.

We had reason to call Teddington Lock to see what the tide times were for a departure back down to Brentford over the next few days. The answer didn’t leave us with too many options and we would need to head back the following morning to Teddington.

It would not need to be a rush trip, but we wanted to not dally about and so we were ready to set off just after 8am – it would have been an easy U-turn from the mooring and then head back down river, if it wasn’t for a pair of rowers who decided to sit right in the middle of the river and have a chat, despite the clear indication from us that we were wanting to move and would be going right where they were – they were just happy to sit and have a nice girly chat until they were ready to move.
Not really a shared river to them.

Carefully entering the main part of the river and avoiding even more rowers coming downstream at all positions across the river we negotiated still more of them – ahead of us they would suddenly stop right in front; coming up from behind (on both sides) and darting in front as though it was a challenge.
Their handlers (coaches) in their little outboard-powered row boats were not much better.
When will they learn that someday they will have a serious accident with a steel-hulled boat and it will be they that come off worse for wear and we will have a little mark on the blacking.
Found these guys all moored up below Molesey Lock as we came through -
Dunkirk boats
Anyway, we cleared Molesey Lock and decided to stop at Kingston for a break and get a few things that we needed – a lovely spot was available on the town side (free moorings) so we grabbed it; secured the boat; got everything done and then set off again, reaching Teddington at not long after noon – where we would stay for the night.
Went down to check with the lockie about the time tomorrow and pay for the mooring and found a large number of the Dunkirk boats in the large lock heading down river for (as the lockie put it – "a G and T before coming back again”).
...and here are some of them again - heading down river
A walk into Teddington proper followed and we made it back to the boat just in time to beat the rain which had been threatening – it may have been wet outside, but the humidity vanished and it became a bit cooler and much more pleasant.

We had the alarm set for 4:15am but as usual we beat it by over an hour – the boat was ready by about 4:30 and there was a bit of light in the distance; we had something to eat and a first coffee for the day – not much to do but wait for our 5:15am slot – we would be accompanied by two other boats – neither of whom had made this passage, so we would have to lead – we were the “experienced” crew having done it once previously.
At the allotted time the gates opened and with not much more light in the sky we headed off.
When I say it was still dark.... was dark - could still find Diane in her new pink life preserver

Apart from the wonky camera work, it was very much like this as
we came out of the lock

At first it took a little bit to orientate ourselves but very quickly it became such a wonderful time.
Perhaps a better view of what it was like
There was sufficient light from our tunnel light and from lights ashore to see where we needed to go, but I do know that having been this way, even once before, made it vastly easier than not.
The other two boats were a little way back but going well; we settled in to enjoy the early morning; the sounds of the wildflife waking; no wild-life ashore on their way home that we could see or hear; and no other craft on the water – especially no damn rowers.
But it did get lighter
Richmond was well lit and very lovely in that light, but then again it looks quite good in total daylight; further along and the first planes were coming into Heathrow – one after the other – it was a busy Sunday morning in the skies, but for us, we were a million miles from anywhere.
Approaching Richmond

They were still there - not far behind
By now it was a lot lighter in the sky

Finally it had to end and the Brentford statue came into view – we did the turn and arrived at the lock just as the lockie was getting there – he would have a delayed first smoke of the day – we made it a good quarter of an hour before they thought we would – must have been a fast tide – it wouldn’t have been Diane’s river speed!
Her they come

Just peaceful river cruising - lovin' it

Back onto the “ditch” again, we shared the first locks with one of the boats, but they stopped after that for breakfast and we carried on up the remainder of the locks with the other boat and a couple of nice guys named Steve and Gavin.
They were great and really switched on about getting through – no rushing around, just good efficient lock work – at the top, we both needed to stop for about the 3rd or 4th clearout of props, from the blanket weed and tree cuttings from further down.

We headed off first, waved our goodbyes and made it to Yiewsley, found a good mooring and stayed there.

Sunday lunch at Paddington Packet Boat, back to our boat, watched England almost miss 3 points, and slept very well – it had been a brilliant day – something very new to us and thoroughly enjoyable.
Lovely lunch to finish off a lovely day
The following day, Monday, we were joined by Dot and Gordon and both crews have been here for a couple of days now.

33 Miles, 16 Locks, 2 Tunnels
YTD:  585 Miles (941 km) , 356 Locks, 6 Tunnels, 14 Lift Bridges, 3 Swing Bridges

Total: 4380 Miles (7049 km), 3055 Locks, 118 Tunnels, 59 Lift Bridges, 170 Swing Bridges


  1. Some good info about mooring spots on the Thames that I need to file away for next year! And very impressive doing that journey to Brentford in the dark - the river is beautiful, isn't it, and it's lovely listening to the birds early in the morning.
    Cheers, Marilyn

  2. Thanks Marilyn, It was such a lovely experience - I would recommend it to anyone