Wednesday
Oct162013

Barking

I was tempted to open with a quip about Mary, but thought better of it. There may however be an Essex connection. The other day I heard the mournful wail of a steam horn and so went up to the wheelhouse to look. We often get steam engines on an excursion corssing the railway bridge about 250m upstream, so I assumed this was what it was. However, the noise continued and there was no locomotive to be seen. Then, round the bend in the river came this lovely steam tug called 'Barking', I'm guessing named after the town in Essex...

 

The river is a lot quieter now that the summer is over, so nice to see a boat like this.

 

 

Sunday
Sep222013

The past

I was sent this link by Marion, whose uncle used to skipper Misterton in the 1950's. At 1:08 there are a few seconds showing Misterton moored in Lincoln outside the Hovis mill, nice to see her briefly in her working time.

 

Wednesday
Sep182013

Summer 2013 - Belgium

The last boating event of the summer was helping friends Brett and Sandy take their barge 'Rival' from Staines to Belgium. Rival has been moored just in front of us at Tims Boatyard for the last two years, but they are off to mainland Europe for some more adventures.

Sandy went separately with their dogs, leaving Brett, John (owner of the boatyard) Ed (from the Dutch barge Jenner) and myself as crew for the trip. My joke that we were not really crossing the channel but were in fact just going for a lads break to the pub down river had worn somewhat thin with Mary, so I think she was glad to finally see us off at 7:00am on a September Tuesday morning.

With four of us onboard and the river quiet we made good time and cleared Teddington lock just after midday.

 

 We continued down the tideway and it was all fresh in my mind having just made the trip in Misterton a few weeks before. Ed steered a lot of this section, note the Battersea Barge (venue for our wedding reception...) in the background. I'll not mention it again for a while.

The section between Westminster and Tower Bridge didn't seem so bad having done it once before, and we were soon past the world famous landmark.

And so we carried on, the river got wider and a bit more choppy and the scenery became distinctly more industrial. Past Gravesend we started to loose the light, but the sunset was pretty good.

 Finally at around 8:00pm we dropped anchor at the smalls ships anchorage at Sheerness.  Brett prepared a fantastic meal which we wolfed down and then it was off to bed. During the night ships would pass in the distance, and then about 20 minutes later the wash would set Rival rolling. Despite this we all slept well.

In the morning Ed and I had coffee on deck and looked at the masts of the wreck of the 'Montgomery' about a mile away in the fog. The 1500 tons of unexploded munitions still seemed inert, so we were able to eat our bacon and egg butties in peace.

The tide was right to leave at midday and luckily the fog lifted at this time so we fired up the engine, hauled up the anchor and set off. I had to resist asking 'are we there yet' as after several hours had passed we were still in the Thames estuary.

Rival is equipped with AIS and Brett also had a laptop setup to display our position and that of other ships using the system (which is basically any sizable commercial craft). Some of the car carriers we had seen inbound the day before were the size of a block of flats on its side, so it was good to know where they were. At times all four of us were watching the screen, like a slow speed video game.

John (who is like the Obi-Wan Kenobi of boats) got Ed and I to steer a compass course. This sounds easy, but we boat on the inland waterways where generally there are lots of things less than 70 feet away to try and avoid, but to try and steer when there are no landmarks was quite hard. Again the AIS plotter came to the fore to display the erratic course I was steering, perhaps I'll get better with practice.

Once in the shipping lanes there wasn't much to do apart from eat sweets and check that we weren't about to get run down by anything.  Brett steered a lot of this section, here is a shot of him at the helm, somewhere in the middle of the English channel.

As darkness fell, the lights of France became more visible.  John pointed out various navigation buoy lights and kept a manual plot on his paper charts. I thought one light that flashed brightly was some super-duper French lighthouse, but at the Ferry terminal next day I could see it was in fact a flarestack from some industrial site. Luckily I kept the super-duper lighthouse theory to myself while at sea.

After many more hours, the lights of Nieuwpoort came into view. I was dozing in the wheelhouse when suddenly the engine faltered. John and Ed raced to the engine room and switched to the backup filter - the crossing must have dislodged sediment in the tank, blocking the first one. We all agreed the (expensive) dual filter system was worth the money when you where a mile off the entry to a port in choppy seas. John and Brett have them on their boats, Ed and I have added them to the wishlist.

Brett steered us into the main channel and soon we were in calm, inland waters again. The lockkeepers were waiting for us and let us into the canal at about 2:00am. After a snack and a drink it was time for bed.

I took a picture of Rival the following morning on my phone; not the best shot, but it was a lovely sunny day.

So the trip was over, Sandy arrived with the dogs, and Brett drove us all back to Staines via the Ferry, a much quicker trip.

I really enjoyed it, was a great end to a lovely summer.

 

Friday
Sep132013

Summer 2013 - London Calling

We decided to take advantage of some extra time we had this summer and attend a barge rally in West India Docks in London. This was organised by the DBA (the barge association) and they had arranged a convoy from Teddington lock down the tideway. This gave us a sense of security as we know we are not that experienced and Misterton is pretty big and not that fast. We also decided to get a bit of extra help in the form of a couple of watermen as pilots. David and Paul both work on the river professionally and we felt would give us some useful advice and guidance as well as enable us to keep Nate amused during the trip. It turned out to be a wise investment.

We set off on Friday the 16th at about 0830 to catch the tide. There were 10 barges in total, making it worth using the 'big' lock at Teddington.

The weather wasn't great, but it was due to ease up later in the day. The trip was pretty uneventful initially, the river just seemed a bit bigger.

 There was lots to see and before long the bridges started to get more frequent as we got towards the center.

In terms of speed we seemed to be holding our own, although the engine was smoking a bit as it burned off excess carbon and oil. We passed the Battersea barge, the venue of our Wedding reception, David and Paul listened to our stories of the big day with commendable politeness.

 As we passed Westminster, the river traffic got much busier as between here and Tower Bridge is the most congested part of the river.

 Soon we were amongst the traffic and passing HMS Belfast, we suddenly seemed like a small fish in a big pond.

 It was quite a good feeling to pass beneath Tower Bridge under our own power, even if I was a bit anxious about the engine (which was fine by the way, despite being 70 years old).

 More famous landmarks were passed, including the Cutty Sark that I completely missed. The river became even wider here, but the main traffic was the Thames Clippers which are very fast - up to 30 knots (compared to our 5 knots....). Paul was able to relax and catch up on some texts on this stretch.

As the Millenium Dome came into view, we knew that our destination was not too far away.

 The entry to West India Dock looks easy, but Paul knew of various back eddies that can lurk there and he guided us in safely. It was this sort of knowledge that made us glad we'd opted for professional help, we learnt a lot.

 The lock was one of the deeper ones we'd been in, David volunteered to climb the steep ladder to put the stern line on, it was pretty dirty, but luckily he took it in his stride.

We'd been a little anxious about the rally itself, as we didn't know anyone from the DBA and weren't sure how we'd fit in, but everyone we met was very friendly and we had a great weekend. Nate was the star of the show and won a prize as the youngest attendee, which made us quite proud. All in all we met a lot of lovely people and our thanks goes out to the DBA team that organised it and gave us a focus for making the trip.

A lot of the other barges had bunting, we had none, but as a result were asked to fly the big DBA flag, it looked pretty good I must say. One thing that struck me was that as well as being the largest barge there, Misterton was the only one that still looked like a commercial vessel, which is something we've always wanted to achieve. I think we were the only 'British' barge, in the sense of being a ex-working vessel from the UK. No prizes for that though, so we'll have to be content with having a beautiful son.

The trip back on Tuesday after the weekend was with Paul only, but was straightforward and we were at Teddington by mid-afternoon. It was a great trip, and many times we were thankful to have had David and Paul there to help, as it reduced the stress considerably. We're aware that we are relatively inexperienced and that Misterton is large, heavy and not too powerful. The trip has given us more confidence in our ship and also in ourselves, which is all I'd hoped for.

 

Sunday
Sep082013

Summer 2013 - Upriver

We've been able to spend some time using Misterton this year, which has been great. Lines were cast off in early August and we headed upstream, although not too far on day one, as we only got to the Runnymeade park. Past Windsor was the result of day two and on day three we made it to Cookham lock and managed to get a mooring on the lock layby. The next day we found a lovely mooring on Cookham green and were visted by Harry and Hannah, our friends from the barge 'Jenner'.

We set off early downstream and managed to find a mooring in Windsor. Our use of a willow tree as shelter was a little unconventional, but it was a great spot for a few days.

The friday night there was our 5th wedding aniversary and we managed to have a 'romantic' meal in the wheelhouse once Nate had gone to sleep.

While at Windsor, we made a 'stick garden' as pioneered by my father, here are Nate and Mary with the result. Naturally we kept my parents abreast of developments.

 After Windsor we again made an early morning departure and went back to Runnymeade. We find that given our barge's size, its easier to travel early as there are fewer boats around.

We managed to find a lovely mooring on the National Trust land, near the JFK memorial and Magna Carta island.

Another 'stick garden' was duly created and pictures transmitted to the aged parents.

After that, we headed back to Staines for a couple of days before our next adventure, more of which soon.

 

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