Saturday, 26 June 2010

Braunston Historic Boats Festival

Saturday 26th June 2010
We went to the Braunston Historic Boat Festival last year, for the first time. This year we'd got the offer of a ride on Owl in the parade.

Painted Cans

We stopped off at the boat to make a measurement, as Alan was hoping to buy something at the chandlery in Braunston, while I quickly watered the plants that we put in to the small patch of garden at the end of our mooring last weekend. Then we set off for the festival.

We've discovered that Charlie the dog has a bit of a tendency to be car-sick, so we wanted to avoid any very winding roads on the way to keep him as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, Mavis (our aging Sat Nav) had different ideas, and we found ourselves taking a very roundabout route down the most narrow and twisting lanes in the whole of Northamptonshire. Not surprisingly, despite not having been given his breakfast in the morning, Charlie had been sick by the time we arrived - fortunately not much, and fortunately onto the old towels we had laid out in the back of the car. Dogs don't seem to be much fazed by this and he happily wolfed down his breakfast that we had taken with us.

We parked in the village and walked down to the canal in the blazing sunshine. We quickly found Jim and Sue on Owl, and arranged to meet up with them later, then set off to explore.

Punters in the parade - they are punting the 200 miles from Cambridge to Oxford to raise money for the charity "Help for Heroes"

The main problem that we found was that we kept meeting people that we know, and then spent far too long chatting to them. We met up with lots of people that we know through the Internet (mostly Canal World Forum), several have had quite serious injuries or needed major surgery this year, so it was good to see how well all of them looked. We saw Chris and Daphne having a ride on Tycho, the ice breaker. We managed to put some faces to names that we know, even if we didn't always get the chance to introduce ourselves properly.

Looking down from the bridge into the arm.

We were delighted to see Chertsey, still in primer, and with work yet to be done, but only a dream at the festival last year.

Eventually we tore ourselves away and made it back to Owl by 2:00 pm, when the parade for the boats in that section was due to start. This was great fun, and we were joined by Chris and Daphne who had left the group on Tycho by then.

Passing the moored boats in Owl.

The parade is slow, there are many boats moored, and there is only a narrow channel to get down.

Boats pass the Marina and the arm, and the Stop House, then carry on to the junction, where they pass under one bridge, and reverse under the other, before heading back towards the marina. They head through the marina, then go back to their mooring on the main canal.

Looking under the bridge as we passed it into the arm and the marina entrance.

Passing the Stop House. Angel had been drawn by horse, and legged through Braunston Tunnel, so that the tunnel had had to be closed to other traffic for some hours. Angel was once owned by Alan's late brother, Peter.

Making the turn at the junction, boats reversing under the other bridge can be seen.


Boats reversing back to go back towards the Marina.

Row of Stewart and Lloyds tugs outside the marina - and Ariel with a kit car on the deck.

Back at the mooring we found ourselves the outer boat of four moored up, not the inner boat - a fact that caused a few problems later on. We sat and chatted, other people came and went, and it was a very pleasant afternoon in the sun.

View from Owl at the mooring - a lot of boats.

Alan decided that he needed to go and walk about a bit. When I woke up to the fact that he had been gone for ages I had to get Charlie over three other boats to the towpath. To make matters far more interesting he has today realised that the strange stuff around the boats is WATER! And he has now discovered that he doesn't like getting wet (a bit daft for a spaniel, but he has had a few baths since he came to live with us). As dogs can't really walk along the narrow gunwales of working boats he had to go across the back counters - and each one was a major trial. He peered into the water, looked at the gap between the boats, and then refused to go. I was carrying some bags so ended up lifting Charlie, throwing him vaguely in the direction of the next boat, and then jumping over to repeat the process at the next boat.

Alan wasn't far away, he was looking at the boat Chertsey. Sarah was showing him around, they were peering into the engine room. I have to admit that I admire enormously what Sarah and Jim have done in such a short space of time.
The tugs from the marina bridge - I haven't yet found out how they got the kit car off.

We made our goodbyes, went back to Owl for Alan to say goodbye, and headed back up the hill in the evening sunshine. A great day, and special thanks to Jim and Sue on Owl for being our hosts for the day, and the offer of a ride in the parade.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Visiting Stoke Bruerne

Saturday 12th June 2010 - Stoke Bruerne
We should have been getting on with things at home, but who's going to let that get in the way of a visit to a canal festival?

Alan and I (and Charlie the dog) set off (far too late) to go to the Stoke Bruerne 'Gala Weekend'. We were further slowed down when 'Mavis' (the Sat Nav) directed us via Gawdknowswhere. Mavis does get things spectacularly wrong sometimes - including directing us down a cart track in North Wales that resulted in major damage to our car wheels and tyres.

However, we eventually reached Stoke Bruerne and parked up near to a garden with a reasonably large specimen of a Giant Redwood, or Sequoia, tree, sometimes called Wellingtonia (wiki link) in the UK - which is always a good idea, they are usually twice the height of any other tree around and are visible for miles, so you can then find your way back to the car easily from some distance away without having to remember the route.

Daniel (modern boats, like this, were in the minority)

As we approached the middle of the village, by the canal, we could hear the merry sound of 'canal folk music', played on accordions by men in waistcoats with red spotted neckerchiefs. Unfortunately (hmmmm...) we were too late to see the morris dancers. I do actually have a bit of a problem with some of the 'canal oriented' stuff that gets served up at every boat rally and festival. I know that the crowds need to be kept entertained, but I'm not aware of the traditional association of canals with morris dancers. I have been told that Irish dancing has its origins in the small space available in Irish cottages - but boat cabins were much smaller. Why morris dancing?

Then there were the pirates. No, sorry, why pirates, FGS? Why this persistent association with canals and pirates? Someone needs to explain it to me some time. They arrived on "George", an interesting old boat, accompanied by extremely loud explosive bangs, vigorous fiddle playing, and smoke producing orange flares. The dog was terrified so we walked up the canal towards the tunnel entrance to distract him.

On our way we stopped off to sample goods from both 'the Cheese Boat' and 'the Fudge Boat', deciding to make any purchases on the way back again.

There were some interesting boats up towards the tunnel, and we were pleased to meet up with Jim and Sue on Owl; who provided us with tea, beer and good conversation for some considerable time.
Victoria winded in the winding hole near Owl.

A boat had recently moved from its mooring at the end of the winding hole, the owners said that when the big boats winded there wasn't enough space.

Almost around.

It was a very warm afternoon, and we sat canalside watching the passing trip boats and a few passing hirers who seemed to be a bit confused to have found themselves in a Johnny Depp movie. Eventually we decided that we needed to move on, so we took a look at a few more boats, chatted to a few more people and then headed back towards the museum, where the stalls were.

There were fewer boats than expected, but there were still quite a few there. Many of which seemed to have been newly painted.




Archemedes and Ara were fully laden, the bows very low in the water.

We went for a drink and got chatting, once again, to people about Charlie. We were told by the rescue centre that he would attract attention, but we have genuinely been surprised by the number of people that want to stroke him, talk to him or about him.

When we got Charlie from the rescue centre we kept the name that we were told that his previous owners gave him - it was easier that way. We've now discovered that huge numbers of dogs are called Charlie - now it seems that boats are too.

We went back to the Cheese and Fudge boats, and made purchases - once again sampling all the wares first. Then we decided that it was time to go back home. We found the car quickly by a quick scan of the horizon for the distinctive silhouette of the Sequoia tree. A short(ish) day out, but a very pleasant one.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Bulbourne to Cook's Wharf

(Posted by Alan)

Once again despite getting up early to walk Charlie, (both together this time), we were moderately lethargic about actually getting going, despite what looked a fairly good day.

Then Cath said "I know that engine", as the characteristic "thump thump" of Owl's Kelvin K2 grew louder. Jim and Sue are taking Owl first to a Stoke Bruerne event, then to the historic boat event at Braunston, and had spent the last week smartening her up for these events.

Cath, however, was not awake enough initially to think of the possibility of sharing the nine locks back to our base with them. Could we get going before they had slipped too far ahead ? Well the latest massive barge moored in the narrows up there certainly didn't help, as we had to halt some time for two boats coming the other way, so by the time we were at the top Marsworth lock, Owl was already leaving it. All was not lost though, as a very slow crew were working into the next one down, coming up, and Jim had to hold in the first pound until we were into it also.

From then we had a very smooth passage down the flight, although Owl's deeper draught, and Jim's need to get it lined up at each lock after the swerving intermediate pounds made shadowing it down harder work than when sharing with less deeply draughted boats on previous days, at places where the intermediate pounds are generally straighter.

Still I managed to enter each lock at more or less the same time as Owl, which I love because I'm not particularly good on Chalice at being able to stop and not drift sideways across the lock. (On some boats I can, honestly, but I've not mastered it for Chalice).

through with Owl - Jim and I got rebuked for talking too much, and not getting on with it!

I simply loved the restrained slow beat of Owl's Kelvin driving it's mighty prop. Jim hardly ever seemed to need to open it up for more than a few beats, and much of the time it manoeuvred or stopped on barely more than tick-over. What a contrast from Chalice's buzzing, (but historic!), van engine.

The main flight was all too quickly over, but we were further cheered below the bottom lock as Owl worked it's way past the Barlow's wooden motor "Hood", restored at, (I believe), the local wooden boat specialist a few years back.

passes Hood

An otherwise excellent morning was temporarily marred by one of the local wide-beam trip boats insisting on holding mid channel along one of the narrower stretches, although he could easily have moved over to give us 6 feet more room. We were pushed into the shallows, and through some dense overhanging trees. I must admit these boats are usually very professionally operated, so I have no idea why what happened did on this occasion.

All to soon we had done the final two separated "Lower" Marsworth locks, said our farewells to Owl's owners, and were back on our home mooring, wishing we could have carried on with them to Stoke Bruerne and Braunston.

All in all a very enjoyable trip, with the obvious highlight of the choppy Thames through central London on a magnificently sunny day in a week where the weather had sometimes been far less good.

Bulbourne to Cook's Wharf
Miles: 2.5 , Locks: 9

Total Miles: 118.8 , Total Locks: 133

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Apsley to Bulbourne

(Posted by Alan)

As already mentioned, Cath and I worked many years ago at the massive John Dickinson paper factory in Apsley. Although in jobs in Information Technology, our office was nothing more than the bricked off corner of one of the large warehouses alongside the canal at the bottom lock of the three in Apsley. For many years it didn't have any windows at "people height", so to observe passing boats you had to sneak outside. I well recall the very last of the narrow boat traffic on the Roses "barrels" run from Brentford to Boxmoor. This actually outlasted the more famous "Jam 'Ole" traffic by several years, and is what I choose to think of as the last regular carrying contract of any significant distance and lock count.

In fact we both met when I had just joined this employer, so despite being a "grotty" place back then, this canal location is where our history together started.

This modern housing however now sits where our "warehouse" once was.

Our overnight mooring was just South of that lock

The plan was then that we moved up a couple of locks to deal with water supplies and emptying rubbish and toilet whilst the shopping continued in parallel. The first was quickly achieved, but Cath took so long in the supermarket that I walked Charlie over to see what was going on. We never cease to be amazed just how admired he is, and needless to say that Cath emerged to find the lady who had already suggested she slipped me some money, and I passed her the lead.

We set off again later than planned, knowing our lock count today needed to be higher than yesterday's 19, but with Cath still in charge of steering because of her twisted ankle.

In fact my pelvis held up quite well, as we ticked off the locks, just about all of which we found against us, with both top gates left open - "You are following a big green wide-beam" people kept telling us.

progress at Boxmoor

We finally found our wide-beam, a big Dutch barge, at the Rising Sun lock in Berkhamsted. They had tied it to the bollards below the lock that should be reserved for lock working, as they settled down for an al-fresco lunch with some fine wine. Such behaviour is unreasonable normally, but on a busy Saturday particularly so, as we and the boats leaving the lock in the other direction all struggled past.

I would have nominated said boat as having "most inconsiderate crew of the week", but then encountered an even vaster shiny-blue brand new (very) wide-beam moored in the winding-hole at Berkhamsted station. This area is the only place a long boat can turn for many miles, and even if they couldn't work that simple fact out, the very clear "no mooring" signs should have been obeyed. Fortunately people who behave so unreasonably are remarkably rare!

Having passed the boat that had been going ahead of us, we naively thought we would get some locks in our favour, but as we ascended the "Gas Two" in Berkhamsted David spotted a boat pull away ahead of us in the distance. However by Dudswell we had also caught them, and shared the final three locks up to Tring summit.

Sharing Cow Roast lock.

Until we recently moved our home mooring this would have been journey's end, but now we are a few more miles, and quite a few downhill locks, further on. Whilst the locks would have to wait until tomorrow, we decided to push on and complete Tring summit that night. However not until we had stopped and had a long chat with our friend Jim whose two marvellous (tastefully) converted Joshers moor there.

Moving on after stopping at "Owl" and "Hampton".

Once we arrived at Bulbourne we were having the inevitable debate about which would be a good mooring. The heavens opened, but some how we still foolishly decided to move up past a few more boats. Asking for all we got, by the time we were fully tied up we were all soaked to the skin.

Cath asked about food at the pub, but trade had been good enough that none was available, so we settled down to the rest of a quiet evening aboard.

Apsley to Bulbourne
Miles: 11.0 , Locks: 22

Total Miles: 116.3 , Total Locks: 124

Friday, 4 June 2010

Widewater (near Harefield) to Apsley

(Posted by Alan)

This part of a return trip from London always means a steady stream of locks, seldom that far apart, but never that many miles covered in any day. We were in no great rush to leave our pleasant mooring at Widewater, but knew there would be a steady effort required if we were to stay reasonably on target for the journey home.

We soon became aware that we were following a boat fairly closely, but it was a few locks before we caught them sufficiently that they held back and waited for us. This proved to be an excellent arrangement. Normally Cath and I are perfectly happy to do lots of locks alone, but with my recovering pelvis I was only doing a relatively small number, putting much of the hard work on Cath, who is herself very over-tired.

The couple we caught up proved to be a very efficient crew, with a superb R. W. Davies boat, (not a "Northwich Trader", as it predated all of those). They do a big trip out each summer, but because they are based on the Lee and Stort, they always have to do the push up the Grand Union. They were a very efficient crew, and I was able to shadow their boat and come in simultaneously with it at virtually every lock, which massively speeds progress.

Passing very efficiently up through Cassiobury Park

It was as well that they worked so well, as most locks were not in our favour, and many top gates had to be closed before they could be made ready for us. However we knew that by King's Langley they intended to stop, whereas we needed to carry on for quite a bit further, to give a good chance of being back "home" in good time. I commented to Cath that we needed to continue to take things slowly as we worked alone, as we were now tired. At the very next lock, we pulled close to the side below it, but as she stepped perfectly sedately from the boat into the recently mown grass, her foot went down one of the many dodgy holes that exist, and she fell to the ground with a cracking noise. "Did it hurt, badly?" - "Yes", but she could still wiggle the foot in all directions, and eventually managed to stand.

It's at times like this we are glad we both feel equally confident "at the tiller" or "on the windlass", and we changed over, and I then hobbled around, to tackle the next few locks, whilst Cath steered sitting on the side of the rear hatch. Actually, to be fair, son David who tends not to get too involved in operations, did turn out and help considerably - just as well, as we eventually caught another boat who were painfully slow.

We had intended to push forward to the supermarket at the middle Apsley lock, as supplies were low for an evening meal, but then I remembered that the new development on the old John Dickinson's site at Apsley has some canalside restaurants and bars. That was just what we needed in our current state of tiredness and self-destruction, so we moored below the Apsley locks, and went and enjoyed a meal cooked for us.

Cath and I used to work at the John Dickinson's site, when it was a sprawling mass of generally unattractive industry and warehouses, and back then I doubt we could ever have imagined it as a thriving residential area with marina, bars, restaurants, shops and even a new pub. It is, apart from the locks, the original bridges, and a small retained part of the mill buildings, absolutely unrecognisable from it's persona of 30 years ago.

Chalice moored at Apsley, with Marina and Restaurants behind

Middle lock, small part of original mill, and new Paper Mill Pub

We did wonder if it was unwise to moor near a pub that was doing a roaring trade on a balmy Friday evening, but either the customers were quite well behaved, or we were too tired to notice!

Widewater Lock (near South Harefield) to Apsley
Miles: 12.8 , Locks: 19

Total Miles: 105.2 , Total Locks: 102

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Brentford to Widewater (near Harefield)

(Posted by Alan)

I don't know why but the night after we came off the Thames, I had unusual difficulty staying asleep, despite being dog tired. It wasn't even for the usual reasons of poor sleep at Brentford, (often a mixture of Jumbos on the Heathrow flight-path and strange bubbling sounds as gasses seem to be released by something below the boat), so I can only assume the excitement of yesterday's rather roller-coaster ride had left my mind still rather too active.

I decided to risk the wrath of my crew with noisy sliding hatches, and take a walk around 05:30 am. We have always found getting a mooring at Brentford a pain, and have usually relied on breasting up instead with a friend on the "Island" permanent moorings, but we knew he is no longer there. In practice there were quite a few slots, and I guess the difference is that when we have visited previously British Waterways have "pinched" much of the visitor mooring space to let out as "winter moorings" In fact we were on a truly excellent spot, just above the gauging lock, that looks like it is part of the facilities area, but is marked as visitor mooring. Right by sanitary station, rubbish facilities, toilets and showers, and amazingly having individual water points and (so far as I can see) even a free mains hook-up. (We had no need of the latter, being self sufficient from battery power, when moving).

Brentford visitor moorings, looking towards gauging lock.

Brentford visitor moorings, looking North

My wander around took me under the one remaining, but derelict, overhanging warehouse, once so common in the area, and through a large enclosed warehouse with rubbish strewn water. I can't explain why, but I find these enclosed places spooky in a way that I don't, for example find canal tunnels. I'm never sorry to get out of them, although it looked like you could moor there if really desperate.

The last of the former Brentford ware- houses, from inside.

Lots of boats left Brentford Northwards before us, so it was a fair guess locks would be against us. However we caught a single hander at the first lock, and shared with him until the foot of the Hanwell flight, where he was stopping.

Whilst moving up to the second lock of the Hanwell flight, a boat that we were not sure was still behind us arrived at the bottom one, so I waited in the second lock, one gate open for them to catch up. I thought we were not going to have a good relationship when one of their crew drew a top paddle on my side, just as the bottom gate closed, and whilst I was still walking back along my roof to take the controls. Being rapidly flushed backwards towards the bottom gates with a dodgy pelvis I could have done without, but once that misunderstanding had been overcome, they proved to be a very efficient crew, much travelled, and we went up very smoothly and efficiently, with their third man always one lock ahead setting it up for us both. great when it works like this, and we were remarkably soon at "Norwood Top".

After that we were largely on our own again, except for one "passenger" who had his boat tied in the mouth of Cowley lock, waiting, (as it turned out), for another boat to come and work him through it. And that's just what happened - he waited until we had turned the lock, and opened the gates, then declared he was coming in, must use the side that we had planned to, and then sat there motionless whilst everything was done for him. Once upon a time I would have got riled by such behaviour, but when it became apparent he only intended to share this one lock, I decided to do no more than mutter under my breath!

Waiting for Denham Deep Lock to Empty.

We worked on smoothly for a few more locks, ending up in the pleasant stretch above Widewater lock. This is coming to be a regularly used spot by us when down that way, and is usually disturbance free, to the extent even of no excessive swan, geese, or duck noises. I slept better that night, perhaps because I had slept so poorly the last!

Brentford to Widewater Lock (near South harefield)
Miles: 14.2 , Locks: 14

Total Miles: 92.5 , Total Locks: 83

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Ducketts Cut, Limehouse Cut, But Mainly The River Thames

(Posted by Cath )

Victoria Park and Duckett's Cut
Our mild apprehensions about spending the night next to Victoria Park along Duckett's Cut proved to be unfounded. We spent a quiet night although at around 11:30 when I took Charlie for his last walk a couple of cyclists sped past with LEDs flashing, shortly followed by a young woman hurrying home. It didn't give the feeling of a place to avoid, so we have no idea why no-one else seems to moor at this location, whereas they are all packed in, double berthed, just a short distance around the corner at overflowing moorings on the Regents.

Charlie had a short walk in the park in the morning, and seemed to really like the walks he had there. Then we set off down Duckett's, only to find that the top gate of the first lock wouldn't seal. Alan and David spent some time trying to rake out the cill with the long shaft, but didn't manage to move anything significant. Then, an elderly woman on the bridge below the lock told us that she had informed British Waterways that the gate wouldn't shut properly, but that they hadn't fixed it yet. Eventually we managed to shut it enough to start to empty the lock, albeit with very excessive leakage still from the top gate, but the next issue was that the pound below the Top Lock was exceedingly low. It was the pound that was completely empty on our last trip through the Cut. The elderly lady said that it was regularly impassable, usually low every morning, and we would not get through without letting down water.

We started to try to run some water through the lock, only to be stopped by the lady. She said she had worked for BW for many years, and that the only way that we could run water down was to refill the lock, then empty it again. Since we needed to press on, and she was absolutely adamant how it must be tackled, we did it her way, which involved closing the bottom gates again, (even though another boat was by now approaching from the other direction), and taking Chalice back up the lock it has just descended, and back down again.

To Limehouse
Fortunately, there were no more delays and we passed down the Limehouse cut, (which appears virtually deserted), and arrived at Limehouse before 12 mid-day. We moored up and tried to get our bearings.

Limehouse Basin, the former Regents Canal Dock, is still fairly large

I was feeling very apprehensive about a Thames Trip, so allayed my fears by cleaning up, and washing the boat. Charlie was taken for another short walk, prior to going out onto the Thames, and put into his life jacket.

Alan and I walked up to talk to the lock keeper to find out what would happen, and if there were any things we needed to do. He told us that we would go out with the other two narrowboats that were booked for a trip to Brentford at 2:30. I was quite reassured by this, it meant that if we did get into any difficulties on our first tideway trip, then there would be other narrowboats around to lend a hand.

I decided to take a shower, only to hear the boat start up long before I expected, and begin to move. We had been given the go ahead to move up to the lock. Somehow it was all happening faster than we expected.

We didn't get into the lock, a large cruiser shot in before us, and rather than argue the lock keeper left him there. We were turned back, to go in afterwards - on our own. So much for thinking we would be in company!

Inside the tidal lock at Limehouse

Onto the Thames
The Limehouse lock fills and empties by slightly opening the massive hydraulic gates. There are no sluices or paddles. You see a gap in the gates, and the water rushing out.

Leaving Limehouse Lock into Limehouse Reach

We set off, alone, onto Limehouse Reach, which seemed incredibly wide, and incredibly choppy. In fact it wasn't too bad, and Charlie was happy sitting on the front, watching the world, and the boats go by. I was too busy looking at things and taking photos to feel any of the apprehension that had dogged me for days.

It's fairly wide up this stretch

On the way towards Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge
David had set up his camera on one of the brass steps on the side of the boat (strapped on with electrical tape!) to take photos every three seconds, with the plan of making a time lapse of our journey, and that was clicking methodically, but by the time we got to Tower Bridge we were in the territory of the massive Thames Clippers and the trip boats, who take no prisoners. Chalice was pitching back and forth, and waves were breaking at the bow. Charlie decided that while he was happy to watch boats, or even be pitched up and down, water was too much, and he tried to hide under the gunwale.

People were waving to us from boats and bridges, but it was all whipping past very fast. Chalice was moving forwards through water at around 4mph, but so was the tide, so we were moving at up to 8 mph relative to land - not fast on a road, but quite fast in a 50 ft narrowboat, when you have to avoid bridges and other craft.

We were not bold enough to go under the centre span of Tower Bridge!

As there were far too many things like this around!

Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast

The London Eye

We seemed to speed past so many of the landmarks - Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, HMS Belfast, the Globe, Millennium Bridge, the South Bank complex, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament (keeping well outside the 'exclusion zone').

Passing Parliament David realised that the batteries in his camera had run down, and went to change them - a pity as his time lapse video is otherwise good. Never mind, it's an excuse to make another Thames trip in the future.

There is an exclusion zone around the Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament and The London Eye

When the pitching died down a bit we took Charlie inside the boat for a while. It was a toss up between letting him be afraid of the water breaking over the bow, or being sick inside the boat. He found somewhere quiet to lie down in the dark.

Charlie enjoys the view on one of the calmer stretches

When the water stopped sploshing over the front of the boat we got Charlie out again, but quickly learned to spot the boats that made a big wash, and took him inside the boat for the few seconds that water was breaking over the bows. He was a bit bemused, not quite sure why we were suddenly taking him inside then letting him out again almost immediately, but we really didn't want him to become neurotic about being on the boat.

Then on, under more bridges, trying to keep track of which one you were going under, past Battersea Power Station. After the excitement of everything passing us we began to settle down, David and I sat down in the front well deck. Charlie with his head resting on the gunwale, watching the boats going past.

Alan checks he really was supposed to go under that London Under- ground line

My Dad wants to watch us go past
Approaching Chiswick David got a call on his mobile phone, it was my father, who lives in Mortlake, and who had been trying to contact me for some time (my phone was in my bag, in a cupboard). Where were we? Would they be able to run down the road to see us passing?

I called back to Alan "slow down, my Dad wants to watch us going past". "What? *&£%$, we can't, the tide is taking us along" - however, he slowed the engine, and we pottered past Mortlake, with David and I scanning the banks of the Thames looking for my Dad and his wife. We couldn't see them, so Alan turned Chalice after Chiswick Bridge, and headed back against the tide to see if we could see them. Chalice battled against the oncoming water to see if we could see my family waving.

We didn't see them, so we turned again and continued upstream. In fact, shortly afterwards my Dad rang me again to say that he had seen us heading downstream and turning back again, he had been waving, but from the boat it had been hard to pick out the people on the bank.

We passed from the Thames and first through the tide lock at Brentford, (which a man works for you) then through the semi-tidal "gauging locks", (which you work yourself). We used the excellent visitor moorings just above the latter locks - luxury berths with both water and power available right alongside. Although we are self-sufficient on power, being able to top up the water tank when it is not eating into boating time is a real bonus.

In the evening we met with my Dad and his wife, Dot, for a meal at a restaurant just next to the Brentford basin. A great end to a really memorable day.

Oh, and this is the time-lapse video of our trip.

Ducketts Cut, Limehouse Cut and River Thames Limehouse to Brentford
Miles: 22.0, Locks: 7

Total Miles: 78.3 , Total Locks: 69