The Eventider's News December 2003
To issue - 2
A few pics and words about the events we held last year.
The London River Cruise
In May 2003 Fiddler's Green set off for London, the two boats we were to be in convoy with sadly had problems, one skipper broke his ribs, the other boat could not get enough tide to lift her from her mooring! They are determined to come along next year!
We made our way south, past the Maplin buoy, a bit different to the one here fifty or sixty years ago, when Maurice was writing about these waters, but I doubt if much else has changed besides the buoyage. The sands still shift, and are as hard as concrete!
As we headed up river the familiar shape of the QE2 Bridge made a gateway to the London River of my work days, boy was I in for a surprise though as we got further up. Gone were all the working wharves in their stead were thousands of riverside flats. A lot had happened in the intervening 12 years or so!
The Thames Barrier. I watched it built, from the first survey and all the dredging, to the official 'closure' by the Queen. I was that Police boat coxswain!
Wapping River Police HQ. My place of work for many happy years. The last 10 I was the instructor here, teaching raw recruits to handle boats and all the classroom stuff too, from navigation to marine law. So rewarding to watch them achieve Dti 'Boatmaster' status at the end of their years training.
Here we are approaching Tower bridge, we motored almost all the way in light but contrary winds. The sun shone and the natives were very friendly! We stayed in St Katherine's for just a night, walking the river path from the Tower to Bankside and back the other side. Could not do that when I worked here.
As we rounded Blackwall Point on our way out, I spotted the topmasts of a large sailing vessel appearing from behind the infamous 'Dome'. It was 'T.S. Royalist', The Sea Cadet ship. I recalled her maiden trip to London many years back. she was alongside Greenwich Pier and awaiting a visit that night by the Navy. I got into conversation with the bosun, who offered to take me to the top of the mast! We were just kitting up with safety harness when the Admiral arrived, needless to say we beat a hasty retreat over the side! Never did get to climb that mast!
On the return leg we took advantage of the tide and used the back door to the Crouch, the Havengore. The bridge opened on cue and we sailed over the sands with a half metre clearance. We slid into an odd world, half hidden from time, till we exited the other end near the bustle of Burnham. Radioing ahead we arranged to drop in to the Marina for fuel. On dipping the tank I was amazed to see just a few millimetres on the stick! Another half an hours motoring and it would have entailed bleeding something! Was pleased to see the tank bottom was clean and shiny though!
On leaving Burnham we dropped down to the Roach, stopping the night before finding the Yellow Raysand channel mark to creep over the sands yet again, this time with nearly a metre under the keel, real deep water here lads. We sailed up to the north and the Blackwater, perfect weather, perfect weeks sail.
The crew. Phil and Keith.
The London River trip was full of memories for me and Phil, one of my crew and a fellow 'Thames man', He 'went ashore' to finish off his time in the Police, so the changes were even more startling for him. Keith and I last 'sailed' together on the London River 30 years before, when we sailed 'Bluenose' down and out to Tollesbury. Lots of changes. One thing we all noted was the clarity of the water. Was this to do with the cessation of sewage sludge dumping? I bet it was. We could see down over 10 feet at times. Magic.