Issue 2 The Eventider's News  February 2004

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London River Cruise  The St. Kats Trip.  The EOG go to London.


    30th May 2004 at 1100 we leave Bradwell, Richard as my crew and myself.  We are heading for the Swin Spitway and then the Whittaker, to meet the WW Dougaljo with Doug and crew Graeme on board.  The ebb tide sets us down the Blackwater and then a cross tide, as the sea ebbs off the banks off the Dengie. 

1400 and we meet Dougaljo. It is sunny and bright a Westerly F2 means we have to motor sail to make speed.  We are doing 4.5 Knots over the ground. the tide will turn soon and flush us towards the London River proper.  We are heading towards Southend first, to spend the night in the shelter of the Ray Gut. 

Rafted up together, we have a very sociable evening with Bonita and Dougaljo.

The next day the Southend Air show is on and we have grandstand seats!  One of my favourite planes, the Catalina makes a slow pass overhead!  Richard has a special interest in the show, he seems to know half the pilots!  We tune into the local radio and hear the commentary, Richard tells me the pilots names before they announce them!                    Click here to see more of the days events.

Barry, brother in law and webmaster is nearby on the Barge Hydrogen.  He bought her down from Tilbury courtesy of a load of mates who chartered her for the day..  He also used her as a camera platform to get some great pics!

Fiddler's Green seen from the Barge.  we sailed round the barge at least three times, the passengers were getting giddy!

FG with a WW in the background.  The EOG sets off for London, we are heading for Erith Y.C. for the first stop.  john has many friends there and moorings are arranged for all three boats for the night.  Of course we have to Motor sail, but for a while the sails draw and we make quite a sight sailing in line ahead!  By the time we reach the Chapman and the tide turns with us, the sun has gone and it's getting colder.  Navi lights go on.  Sails slowly come off as we sail head into the light breeze. The speed over the ground is over 6knots.   We moor at Erith at 2030.

The next day we leave Erith. 0900  It is good to be back in the London river with all it's familiar smells and sights!  Last night it looked just as it had done years ago when I was pushing Police Duty boats up and down here.  At 0800 we were thrown out of our bunks by a swell!  I bet I knew who it was and I was right, the 'Friston Down' just seen tearing up river.  Some things never change!  However the shore line does.  In 12 years the place has really been developed.  Thousands now live where there was once wharves and derelict plots.  As most of the trade has retreated to Tilbury and below, it has opened up the possibilities for residential development with a vengance.

Speaking of whom, we are  greeted by my colleagues on the River.  (I Trained many of them!)  this is one of the 'Targa' boats, the new fast patrol boats on the river, Word is out that I am back!  A cheery wave from the wheelhouse and a called greeting!

We navigate the Barrier. I am acting as VHF boat as usual.  However St. Kats is not playing today!  no answer on the phone either.  Hey Ho, I opt to go up anyway and if we are refused entry, although they know we are coming, we could easily drop down to either Limehouse to see my friends Brian and Lorna at the C.A. or even into South Dock.... all these choices.

In the Lower Pool I watch in amusement as a RIB full of heavily armed and equipt guys all in black roar up and intercept the WWs,  'You with John?'  'that's OK, no boarding parties for you today!'

As they break off they buzz me at full tilt, all grins and waves, great fun, but deadly serious as well!  I did the RNLI Inshore Lifeboat course as a preparation to train these guys to do what they are doing now, but never dreamt they would be wearing flack jackets and covered in Kevlar bullet proofing!  We motor on in a heavy Drizzle, it has been threatening for an hour or two, but as we close St. Kats down it comes.  This is the roughest part of the London river.  As the swells hit the walls they just bounce back, all day, each additional swell adding to the last.  they take a while to dissipate.  We used to have more damage to cleats and mooring lines than enough as a result.  I did not want to have to hang about off the marina.  as it happens the harbourmaster calls us straight in as we approach.  there is barely time to get the fenders out before we are in the lock!

I book us a table in the dickens Inn, next to the Marina, we have an amusing and entertaining evening.  Richard's daughter Camilla a student Doctor, cycles down to see us and share the meal.  I had hoped to repeat our walk of last year, to the wobbly bridge and back, along the Thames footpath, but the call of the bar was too much for some, and we relaxed instead!  Next year I promised to Margaret, we will do it!

Bonita and crew relaxing before we leave on the next day. Alan and Margaret, with son Nick are joined for coffee by their brother, who was just passing.  He saw us yesterday off Gravesend!

Where else can you spend a night in the centre of London for less than 20!

1200 and we are in the lock for the trip back.  Plan is to punch the tide for an hour or so then get a head start.  If all goes well we will make it back down to the lower reaches before the flood sets in.  This lock is slightly different to many, the gates fall over and lay down underwater, bit disconcerting the first time you see it!

Bonita under sail off Greenwich, the museum in the background.  After 2 hours punching the tide we are doing 6.3 knots now.

Approaching the Barrier and we are doing well, the sun is out and we have a Northerly F3.  With all the twists and turns of the river, and the buildings, it is good to be able to roll up the genoa and unroll it at will.  A few moments after  having  passed the Woolwich Ferries, a cloud of smoke appeared from Bonita.  By the time I turned back Doug, who was alongside when it happened had organised a line.  Alan was jilling along under genoa, the floor boards up.  nick soon finds the problem, the exhaust expansion box has split.  water and smoke everywhere.  Dougaljo gets a line on and we carry on at reduced speed, whilst Nick contrives a clever repair.  Within an hour Bonita is up and motoring again.

As we approach the lower reaches, the tide continues to give us  the lift and we log nearly 9knots on the GPS!  The late afternoon sun, is losing it's warmth, but we are almost in sight of Canvey.  We sail down on the Kent shore, the rapidly drying Blithe sands to the south of us.  the wind on the beam the motor goes off on FG and we romp away at 6.6 knots.  That's nearly our hull speed, great stuff.  We cross over towards Southend and the Ray Gut. 

1930, it's nearly LW and we creep into the Ray, till we run aground.  that will do!  Raft up for the evening then drift apart for the night. We have pre dinner drinks aboard Bonita.  the forecast for tomorrow is F5's, hope to sneak through the Havengore.  If they are not firing  we could have a short cut to the Blackwater, via the Roach, Crouch and the Raysand Channel. 

Call the bridge man at Shoebury, no firing at HW, so we are on.  1100, we pass Southend with Dougaljo astern.  Bonita has left to go the other way to her moorings, the repair still holding up well.  We motor against the Thames flood down past the pier and along the edge of the sands, past the old Phoenix unit, that sunk here just before 'D' Day.  At the Blacktail Beacon we turn and start to cross the sands.  There is a way to go and we have only a short time to H.W.  when the water begins to sluice off these flats.  You cannot see the shore, let alone the Bridge.  the She Bridge man informs us the bangs will stop, they sound a little loud, and indeed as we start off, silence.  Halfway over we pass close to this beacon, one of the few markers on the sands..

At the approach to the Havengore we realise we are just to one side of the channel and alter to sbdb for it, it is barely 10 yards wide and has a 'S' bend in it! We  see the bridge traffic stopped, two cars and an Army truck.  The bells jangle and the bridge lifts, allowing us to enter a different world, of quiet creeks and wildlife.  Dougaljo passes under just astern of us.  The tide is full.  The water still, the wind allows us to just ghost along.  The motor is off, too noisy, even with our silent Beta, to spoil these creeks.  The sun beams.

Dougaljo motors up to pass us as we drift along.  Doug and Graeme want to push on to the Crouch to arrive in time for the ferry boat to take them ashore!  We wave them a cheery goodbye.

An Eventide friend calls up, he has heard us on the radio and wants to know the minimum depth out on the Broomway.  '1.7 metres' I am able to reply. Loads of water for him and for his son in his accompanying G.H.! 


    We sail slowly on, the tide, that for a while ebbed against us has now reversed direction and is ebbing with us...  A huge crackle of small arms fire goes up, along with a plume of yellow smoke.  The range is incinerating a stock pile of old ammo.  The pops and bangs carry on for 15 minutes.  The smoke lazily rising, heading first East, then gently West as it reaches layers in the air.  It lingers for ages as we drift past.  We eventually bring up to the hook on the opposite shore of the Roach to the steps onto Foulness.  Avocet wade past in the mud and a seal eyes us from the creek.  Apart from one or two passing fishermen, rod and line boats, we are alone.


the next morning we up hook, under sail and make for the Crouch.  the wind goes so light we resort to motor.  We push against the tide out to the Yellow marker for the Ray Sand Channel, then swing off across the sands heading for  the Blackwater.  Motor off we enjoy a pleasant afternoons sail, arriving just as the ebb sets in at the Bradwell Creek Beacon.   Another great week, Richard is beaming, it is a while since he has done either the Rays'd or the Havengore, let alone the London river! 

John Williams, proud owner and builder of 'Fiddler's Green'.





The EOG 'Cruise in Company' crowd in Middleburg  2004.  See the 3rd Newsletter for the full story.