About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. The Thames - The Last Leg.


I pulled the pins the following morning and entered Isis Lock, the last lock on the Oxford Canal, where I took the opportunity to arrange the anchor, chain and warp on the stern deck ready for immediate use. I had only been caught out once on the Thames with a heavy plastic sack around the propeller, so I was not taking any chances.

Isis Lock - the final lock on the Oxford Canal.
The new river level indicator board, with LED's that light up.
 How much did this cost?
What was wrong with a simple green, orange and red indicator in the water?
Spend the money on clearing the silt from behind those bottom gates on this canal.
I did not have a Thames licence and was expecting to buy one at Osney Lock, but it was unmanned, as was Iffley and Sandford Locks. It was not until Abingdon that I eventually found a manned lock and could do the business. At Benson Lock there was a volunteer on duty, who so annoyed me by insisting that I had bow and stern lines on bollard, whilst he emptied the lock. He even had the audacity to quote the by-laws that had to be obeyed; obviously a ‘jobsworth’, even though he was not getting paid. Absolutely every other lockie on all the other locks were quite happy with a centre line alone. Maybe I should explain here that when the lock empties, there is no water turbulence to disturb the boat, whereas when rising in the lock there is turbulence, so bow and stern lines are essential. I seem to remember another blogger saying the same about volunteers obeying the rule book.

As I came around the corner near Tilehurst, I was confronted by what seemed like hundreds of sculls crowded together for the start of a regatta. There must have been well over a hundred boats there all across the river.

Where did they all come from?

I slowed down to a crawl and one of the marshals asked me to go down the centre of the river, which I eventually managed to do, once some of the rowers had moved across out of the way. Once clear of the crowd, I had to keep a good lookout astern, as a race ensued right up to Caversham. Bear in mind that these rowers have their backs to the direction in which they are travelling and they go very fast.
Caversham - that's where they came from!

When I got to Caversham Lock, there were already two boats in the lock and the crews, who were all pissed and they were not youngsters, were winding the hydraulic power wheels on the lockside. The power light was not illuminated, so the power had failed. I was not looking forward to doing this on my own, as it takes about 200 turns of the wheel to operate one end of the lock. Fortunately, two other boats arrived with much younger crews and I was excused the ordeal. I phoned the EA and reported it and shortly after a Teddington Lock keeper phoned to see if I had made some sort of mistake. After I had talked to him about it saying that I had done that lock many time before, he realised that I was not a novice hire boater. I have no idea what happened after that.

When I mentioned it to another lock keeper further down, he said that if you hold one of the buttons in too long, it causes the computer to crash; now that is something I did not know.

After Henley, where I was not going to pay £9 for a mooring, I got to The Flower Pot jetty and pulled in for an expensive pint of Brakspears at £3.90! At least they had wi-fi, so I probably got my monies worth.

The following day, I was in a lock with what appeared to be a Wyvern Shipping boat called Avonventuria, but there was no company name on it. I asked the skipper if it was an ex-hire boat, to which he replied that it was built for him and his wife and that he owned Wyvern Shipping Company at Leighton Buzzard. Maybe my suggestion that it was an ex-hire boat was rather an insult, as it looked brand new. He was talking about doing the Wey Navigation, so I gave him a map to encourage him.
The restored Pangbourne Bridge.

I arrived in Windsor at 4pm and moored as usual in the cut behind Baths Island, where my youngest daughter picked me up to go for a meal at her house. It was lovely to see them after such a long cruise and we had lots of news to catch up on.

The next day was windy and wet; not the best conditions for cruising the Thames, but the rain eased and for most of the time I was in the shelter of trees, so the wind had little effect. At Runnymede I spied some tempting logs left on the bank and after some hesitation, I turned and went back to collect the best ones.

At Cherstey Lock it started to rain, so the last leg of my journey to the Wey was a wet one. I cruised into the lower pound and moored up, before walking up to the lock keepers office. Both Dave the lockie, and Steve the lengthsman, were in there drinking tea, so I explained that I had come to disturb their reverie and would like to go through in the rain. Much to my surprise, they both said that the river section had gone into flood an hour ago. I thought they were joking, but not so; Town Lock was chained up and Thames Lock was about to go the same way. However, Dave agreed that I could pass through his lock and then have to moor up on the lay-by until the level fell. As it was now Monday I was not due to return until Friday, he agreed that it would be OK to stay there until then, with slack mooring lines just in case the river rose any more. Steve said that if it was raining in the morning, he would give me a lift to Addlestone rail station.

Well, that is a rather ignominious end to The Grand Canal Tour, which has been the longest ever canal and river trip for me on Stronghold. There have been some anxious moments and many more joyful moments. Above all was a great sense of achievement at having done some more of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, including the Barton Swing Aqueduct, and the Anderton Boat Lift to the River Weaver, as well as the experience of going into Liverpool, with all those historical docks and buildings. Chester and Ellesmere Port Boat Museum also feature highly on the list. Having set out in May with no particular plan in mind, this trip has surpassed my limited expectations, probably because several decisions were made on the spur of the moment, depending where I was at the time. Despite all these goals achieved, there is still more to be seen and done in the future.

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