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Index

Tour 2001

Index

Thames Estuary, Medway, Swale, Thames Estuary, Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, Thames Estuary and Tidal Thames to Brentford

8- Blackwater Estuary, Thames Estuary, Tidal Thames to Brentford, Grand Union Canal to Uxbridge.

Tuesday 8th /Wednesday 9th May 2001

It was not a long wait for reasonable weather. Today was not bad, tomorrow would be similar, but the sea would have had a day to calm down. Still N Easterly or Easterly, but not above Force 3. This would make it uncomfortable out to Wallet Spitway, but if we arrived at low water this should not be too bad. Colin the Heybridge Locky had kindly agreed to lock us out at 03.00 Wednesday morning. It was high springs, so we should get to Brentford in one wack. Preparations were hurriedly made. Ian C managed to get the day off work, being filled by agency guy. John Chapman could make it and we also had the added bonus of Andrew Goodland standing in for Frank as ships chef – he opted to be Frank & Earnest. 
We all set of in Neil’s Passat around 16.30, that was to be abandoned in the free Heybridge car park. Linda and Neil would retrieve it the next Sunday, having a meal in the C&BN Co owned Ship Inn. On the way we stopped of at The Hythe in Maldon to see the “proper” Thames Estuary craft – the fleet of Thames Spritsail Barges that are kept here. All the old favourites were there, Pudge, Hydrogen, Centaur and Thistle. But no sign of Gladys! It was also interesting to note that the visitor mooring pontoon was completely free. This is about 150ft long , it does dry out , but is flat mud. Soon we were off to Maldon Tesco’s for a provisioning trip. Colin had somewhat warmed to us now and told us to get Earnest down to the waiting area, this was now free as “Gladys” had left on the midday tide, London bound! We soon had the boat down and stocked up. Neil put back the mast and exhaust extension, while Ian C and JC went to examine the buoyage in the light and we then repaired to the Ship Inn for a pint and meal. 
Colin was of course in there and gave us a few more tips. He also said that as the buoyage was not that known to us in the Blackwater Estuary, it would be better to lock out at 02.30, which was high water. He suggested that we get down past Osea Island with plenty of water (did not matter so much about the course), then throttle back to get to Wallet Spitway at low water. We had an excellent meal. We ended up opting for a starter Neil and JC had a huge plate of mussels, which was a meal in its self. We soon left as Neil had a few more things to do, put the 20 gallons of diesel in (just fitted) and gaffer tape up the side hatches! After paying Colin our dues (£8 / day for using the canal, weeks mooring and 20 gallons of diesel = £84), we all went quickly to bed. 

At 02.00 we woke up and at 02.15 Colin gave a bang on the side and we were off into the lock. Virtually no fall and at 02.30 we shot out into the black abyss. We had trouble keeping our speed down. Timings out of the Blackwater were thus :- N Double 7 Buoy – 02.55, Blackwater No3 Buoy – 03.09, Osea Island Pier – 03.11, Blackwater Small Buoy – 03.18, Thislet – 03.41 (getting light) We then to loose some time went up to the Nass Marker (marks western approach to Mersea Island) – 04.30. We had been doing 6-7mph, but now at tick over we went down to around 4.5mph as we headed SE. The swell was coming up now, even though near low water.
 Timings / speed thus :- Bench Head Buoy – 05.36 / 4.4mph, NW Knoll Buoy – 05.46 / 4.8mph, Eagle Buoy – 06.03 / 4.2mph, Knoll (Cardinal) – 06.15 / 3.8mph, Wallet Spitway Buoy (bell ringing merrily!) – 06.48 / 4.7mph (now getting very yompy and uncomfortable, somewhat improved as now low water and we speed up). Colin told us it would be OK to cut off Whitaker Spit if we needed to get a more comfortable direction. This we did and headed straight for the Whitaker Post and past it just on the inside -  07.45 / 5.2 mph. Now we were over the Crouch entrance we picked up all the flood, and were protected a bit by East Barrow Sands, things got  less fraught and we increased revs to start flying in on the tide. NE Maplin Buoy – 08.10 / 6.0 mph, Maplin Edge Buoy – 08.35 / 7.1mph, Maplin Buoy – 08.50 / 7.8 mph. Flood now really starting and things really calmed down, Captain Beeky started the bacon butties flowing and we settled down to high springs flood surfing! Blacktail Spit – 09.32 / 7.6mph, S. Shoebury Buoy – 09.58 / 8.5mph, Shoebury (post) – 10.15 / 9.0mph. The only craft we met out here was the same EA vessel that managed to not quite pass us on the plane! West Shoebury Buoy – 10.32 / 8.4mph (It was around here that the fatigued Ian C retired to bed – slept soundly for a good few hours! And Captain Beeky took the helm), Southend Pier (level) – 10.45 / 8.4mph, Leigh Deposit Buoy – 10.58 / 9.0mph (staying well away from deepwater Yantlet Channel!), West Leigh – 11.08 / 8.8mph, Scars Elbow – 11.27 / 9.7mph, Mucking No3 Buoy – 11.55 / 9.8mph, Mucking No7 Buoy – 12.09 / 8.9mph, Tilbury (buoy) – 12.17 / 9.2mph, Tilbury Dock entrance (nothing happening) – 12.40 / 9.9mph, Crossness – 12.55 / 9.0mph (had slight cutting corner problem here, avoided coater by going straight for bank, then coming back again to get bow wave!). Stoneness – 13.05 / 9.2mph. 
Next followed the most fraught shipping bit! . . . .We had been burned off by one of the Cobelfret Ferries and as we swung round Stoneness, the QE2 Bridge came into view and we were greeted by three Cobelfret Ferries. After a few off hand VHF comms with bridges of ships ( we could not see what they were called) we worked out that one had just berthed, the one that had overtaken us was to wind in front of us and take the berth of the third hovering one, which was then to come out. When the winding one was done we just got right over wrong side of the river and shot past the other two. This QE2 Bridge timing was 13.15, Crayfordness – 13.30 / 8.0mph. Ford’s Dagenham was passed at 13.55 / 10.5mph. 
We had the pointless comms with Barrier control (4 navigation arches, small ships take outer one, on their side of river - arch “F” inbound, arch “C” outbound – bloody great flashing green arrows show you where!) We had also picked a day (once a month – at LW Springs) that they shut and play with barrier. We think that this had had some effect on the flood, for it seemed that it had been ponded back slightly. We certainly shot through barrier – 14.38 / 9.0mph. Bow Creek Mouth passed at 14.45 / 8.9mph. The big bend round Greenwich is always choppy and today it was no exception. Much trip boat and barge train activity all the way through London. We spotted the Thames barge “Gladys” pull out from Greenwich, but we soon left it behind. 
We were doing around 9.5mph through London and all the bridges. Trip boats even gave us some respect and kept out of the way / did not pull off in front of us. Limehouse Lock was passed at 15.20. The only water taken in under the cratch cover on the WHOLE journey, was going through London. We realised that with this high springs we did not want to arrive at Brentford until at least half an hour after HW as we wanted to go straight in and get under Brentford Bridge in the semi tidal bit. 
At Hammersmith we throttled back and lost the flood. Ian C grabbed the helm at some points of the Boat Race course – he REALLY HATES rowers!!! The last bit above Chiswick was a struggle as the Thames was now really in ebb. We still managed 5.2 mph and came ploughing into Brentford Gut, causing the Dutch Barges to rattle about! We surprised Anna the Thames Locky but she was soon penning us through (17.35) Anna had agreed to wait on for us past core time of 18.00, but this proved unnecessary. At 18.00 we were through the Gauging Lock and tied up.  
Our longest non stop day – 114miles in 15.5 hours. Captain Beeky jumped ship at Thames Lock. He legged it to Brentford Station and got straight on a train to Waterloo, where he got straight on a Bournemouth train and was home in record time. Ian Clarke left as soon as we were moored up. That night JC and Neil went to the La Rosetta Italian, where they nearly nodded off!!!

 

Thursday 10th May 2001

Neil got up reasonably early – 08.00, but then we were in bed by 22.00 last night! Neil was worried about the salt covering on Earnest, so JC did the Bacon sarnies, went shopping and to the Library, while Neil reversed the boat back into the Gauging lock (water point just below) and started a thorough hose / scrub down of the outside of Earnest. The propshaft bilge was also given a wash out with freshwater and the saltwater flushed toilet tank a good flush out into the Sanitary Station. The boat was tided up for the arrival of Pat, John’s wife who was going to be with us for the day as we got Earnest back to Uxbridge. She arrived around 11.30, just as we were finishing filling up with water. 
We set off at 11.45. Earnest seemed non plused after it’s most serious day yet and we purred back up the GU. Anna was caught painting Osterley Lock. Hanwell Bottom Lock had contractors working on the side pound. The lock chamber leaked into this and had to be left empty. One of the blokes was a bit deaf when Neil told him to NOT lift the paddle the other side of the boat until it was half up. He was totally ignorant (of any thing to with locks as well!) and said that he had to fill it as quickly as possible and then started on the gate paddles. Neil shot over knocked them off in front of him and told him to “PISS OFF!”  . . . he went away muttering! Neil then had a race with him to lift the paddles to drop the water! 
Norwood Top was passed at 14.35. The BW staff were Snowceming the bridge and lock capping stones! . . .ahh! that nice 1970’s look! Bulls Bridge was passed at 15.12 and Cowley Peachy Junction (Slough Arm) at 16.10. There were two boats coming down in Cowley Lock. Neil went up just in time to see the arse of one rise up in the air – yes so much on the sill the skeg was not even bent. Neil and the other boater sharing soon dropped the bottom paddles and refloated the offending boat.   The owner and his wife were totally cool about this, it won’t be happening too many more times! Finally we arrived at Uxbridge Boat Centre and filled up with diesel. We just managed to get the 20galls discount (30p/ Litre over 20 galls, 33p/ Litre under 20 galls) – so not exactly the Mobil economy run there then!

 

Epilogue

The Medway run is doable by most well prepared and serviced narrowboats – not quite so sure about the Chelmer and Blackwater! The C&B Nav is a wonderful little waterway – the Medway – NOT. We shall return to the Medway if the EA ever get it “officially” open again, this time to get to Tonbridge and maybe a bit beyond. By the time we return hopefully BW will have taken it over . . .There are still some more creeks in the Swale and Medway Esturary to do as well.

Earnest has had it’s rust spots touched up and cleaned out and ready for it’s next adventure – Drains / Wash / Fens / Great Ouse System.

For map of Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, see the Trusts website  http://www.wmv.dircon.co.uk/cct/cbmap.htm

For Outer Thames Chart click here

For Foulness Chart click here

For Blackwater Chart click here

 

 


Gladys ready to go out. Heybridge Basin.

The Hythe at Maldon. Visitor Moorings in foreground.

The Hythe at Maldon.

The Hythe at Maldon.

The Hythe at Maldon.

The worried crew! - In the Ship Inn.

The night before. Heybridge Basin, Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation.

NW Knoll buoy.

Knoll Cardinal buoy.

Wallet Spitway buoy - clang! clang!

Somewhat choppy!

I aint getting my bed wet!

Spares to hand!

Shivering Sands Towers and anchored ships.

Blacktail Spit buoy.

South Shoebury buoy.


Anchored in the Warp.

Shoebury Marker.

Approaching Southend, bit of Normandy landing harbour.

JC in his navigatorium.  Neil still looks worried!

Yumping in on flood.

Bloody EA launch again!

The long breakwater at Shoebury, where Neil learnt to swim!

Shoebury.

West Shoebury buoy.

Southend Pier.

Southend Pier.

Leigh on Sea.

The Tour continues


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