Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The tidal Thames

Tuesday 14th April 2009

We stayed moored at Walton while Alan checked the engine, and dipped the diesel tank, ready for our trip on the tidal Thames. We knew that it would not take very long to get down to Teddington, and there was no great rush.

We set off, going through the last two non-tidal locks, and eventually moored at Hampton Court.

Hampton Court Palace

It’s £14 a head for adults, and we certainly didn’t have time for a proper visit, so Alan and I wandered around some of the gardens that are open to the public without a charge and ate scones, cream and jam. It’s certainly an impressive place and I’d like to go back for a proper look when I’ve got time to devote to it.

Mistletoe in a tree at Hampton Court

Chalice moored at Kingston on Thames - looking very small.

We then headed on down to Kingston, where we went shopping for a while - although there seemed to be an inordinate number of clothes shops with clothes that I could not possibly afford- before finally heading down to Teddington.

Strange 'stealth' boats at Kingston on Thames

We moored at Teddington and went to speak to the lock keeper, who said that we needed to leave about half an hour before high tide – at 6 pm. That was almost immediately so we went back to the boat, and then, as we getting ready to leave the pontoon the lock keepers at Thames Lock, Brentford rang to check that we were on schedule. Then, as we pulled away from the mooring a massive cloud of black smoke came from the boat’s exhaust. After our first moment of panic, it eased a bit, and by the time that we were in the lock it was back to normal – but we were apprehensive.

The 200 yard lock at Teddington.

The Thames was very wide, and there was no perceptible flow in either direction as we left Teddington. We were the only boat on the Thames apart from a couple of canoeists. As we headed out past Eel Pie Island it got quite windy and very cold. Then we travelled on under various bridges until we saw Syon Park on the left.

Feeling very small and alone on the Tidal Thames.

We had heard that it can be difficult to spot the turn into the Grand Union, so I had checked it on Google Earth earlier in the day, and was standing at the front of the boat watching carefully. In the end it was not difficult at all – the big black and white sign saying “Grand Union Canal – British Waterways” was something of a give away.

We arrived at Thames lock half an hour in advance of our booked time, but someone was waiting for us, and we went straight through. At Brentford we moored up next to Blackrose, and went to eat at the Prezzo at the end of the marina, where we had an excellent meal.

The trip on the tidal section of the Thames was not difficult. However, if we had had further difficulties with the boat then the only thing we could have done would have been to deploy the anchor and ring for assistance. There was no other boat moving, and although we were through Thames Lock a good hour before sunset, if we had had difficulties then we don’t have navigation lights. We’d checked everything before hand, but it’s never the thing that you are expecting to go wrong that gets you in the end.

Miles: 15.7; Locks: 5
Total Distance: 216.4; Total Locks: 120

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