Tideway Tilly. 10th July

A photo heavy post! If you click on a photo it should enlarge.

Limehouse Basin to Ontario Bridge 205A Grand Union Canal

Not much of view this morning!

Tilly seemed keen to be out this morning despite the not so inviting view from our bedroom window. Today we’d be heading out onto the Tidal Thames so no shore leave for cats, no matter how much they shout!

One of the last jobs to do today was put Tilly’s escape pod back together ready should there be any necessity to abandon ship. She also quite likes to sit in there anyway.

Final briefing

At 10:30 all crews congregated in the car park for our final briefing. An extra sheet of paper was passed round which detailed the distances between bridges on our cruise upstream. We were reminded to keep looking behind us as that is where the danger can lie, make sure our anchors were actually attached to our boats and just to hold our course and not to turn into waves as they can come from any and every direction. VHF radios were handed to crew who didn’t have their own, ship to ship being on channel 8.

Simon watching the lock open up

St Pancras Leader, Simon, would radio VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) when they left the lock and the third lock leader would do the same when the last and final boat entered the tide way, Tail end Charlie would be Oleanna today. There wouldn’t be much commercial traffic on the river, but plenty of Clippers and speed boats. The weather forecast wasn’t so good, everyone prepared for rain which was just trying to start.

Moving into position

The first locking of four boats was at 11:15. Limehouse Lock can hold three narrowboats abreast and as two boats were short they could sit one behind the other. We watched as the boats pulled into the lock, each passing ropes round the risers on the lock walls, these are positioned directly under the bollards above.

Waiting for NB Chance to take her position in the lock

The pull as the lock starts to empty, radial gates not paddles, is strong necessitating ropes needing to be passed round a T stud to help you keep hold.

We watched as the lock emptied and then the boats departed. NB Thermopylae led the way followed by NB Chance, NB Misty Blue and NB Mobius brought up the rear. Each boat motoring out of the lock and turning right onto the Thames keeping a distance between each other.

Next lock full

The next boats were ready and waiting for the lock to be refilled, we headed back to Oleanna for a final briefing with our second mate, move the towline to the bow and untie ourselves from the mooring.

Oleanna looking forward to her trip up the Thames

Tilly was warned that that the outside we’d be moving today was likely to be quite lumpy bumpy for a while, she retired to her escape pod and waited to see what happened.

NB Coracle was lead boat, followed by NB Small World then us at the very back. As the lock gates fully opened Andrew on NB Coracle said ‘Let’s go boating!’ It was 11:48 we were 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

Leaving Limehouse Lock, the river was big but not as big as leaving Goole

I closed the cratch cover up and moved through Oleanna to the stern. I was soon pleased that I’d thought to move bottles from the galley shelves and counter tops as the river was most certainly lumpy. We turned into the flow of the tide heading upstream.

Speed boats zipped past their wakes moving across the river. They were towards the south bank, we were towards the north bank, the waves kept coming and coming, first this way then that. You said it was going to be lumpy! You didn’t say that we would be looping the loop!!!!

Tilly wasn’t happy, she was shouting at the back doors! I have to admit that I wasn’t too happy either as Oleanna rose and fell with the waves. Please excuse the out of focusness of this footage as my camera had no idea what it should focus on! This is by far the lumpiest water we’ve encountered. As a child I used to be seasick every time I even stood near to a boat, so today I did my best to keep calm and looked round at everything to keep my mind off the swell.

We fell in line behind the lead boat and NB Small World, one yellow buoy coming a touch close to us. The river was moving us along, at one point I couldn’t hear the engine, Mick had put Oleanna into tickover as we had been gaining on the boat ahead.

Behind us Canary Wharf, ahead old warehouses, the River Police jetty.

Shard ahead

The Shard came into view, then as we rounded the bend at Wapping the view opened out.

Quite a view!

The Walkie Talkie, St Pauls, BT Tower, City Hall and of course Tower Bridge. Wow!

Dora May just off centre with a blue and cream wheelhouse

At Tower Moorings we tried to spot Dora May that used to belong to my friend Kathy. She is still moored there, wheelhouse positioned with a great view over to Tower Bridge.

Just look at that! Tower Bridge built between 1886 and 1894

We managed to line ourselves up briefly for a photo we’ve been dreaming of for years, under the central span of Tower Bridge.

Then we got back in line with the two boats ahead and headed for span 1 to the north side. It is quite an impressive bridge to walk over, but more so to pass under.

We waved to the south bank of the river where Mick’s sister Christine had positioned herself.

Christine’s over there somewhere!

No chance of spotting her, but thankfully she spotted us.

There we are
Past the clipper terminal
Tower of London

I especially like the one in front of the Tower of London.

HMS Belfast and The Shard

The bridges now come thick and fast as did the swell.

Bridges lining up ahead

Trying to take photos clinging on, trying to stay upright at times was quite hard.

London Bridge Hospital looks like a new coat of white paint has been added, keeping it crisply clean, soon followed by Hays Wharf. This wonderful deco building once a wharf now contains consulting rooms and the cardiology department for the hospital.

Follow my leader under the correct spans of the bridges as waves buffeted themselves against Oleanna.

Tate Modern (opened 2000) and the wibbly wobbly Millennium Bridge (opened 2000, reopened 2002).

The Samuel Pepys pub is where Mick used to drink when he worked almost next door for BT in the red brick building.

More bridges, more sights, more big trip boats.

Pillars where old railway bridges used to be. The Oxo tower (originally a power station supplying the Post Office, built at the end of the 19th Century) more shiny tower blocks.

Waterloo Bridge (opened 1942, fully opened 1945), The National Theatre (opened 1976). Have to say I was a touch disappointed that the National hadn’t brought the horses out from War Horse onto the terrace to see us pass as they did for the Queen!

Not much traffic behind

Frequent glances behind brought different views as well as checking if we were being followed.

Hungerford Bridge (opened 1864) and the Golden Jubilee Bridges (completed 2002)

Then Hungerford Bridge and the Golden Jubilee Bridges. Were we early? We looked up as we came under the bridge.

A pair of shoes, legs, a radio 2 news presenter stood phone in hand ready to capture us as we passed below.

Us with the London Eye
A line of narrowboats
Lumpy water!

Thank you Adam, hope you got to work on time.

London Eye and County Hall

The London Eye (opened 2000), County Hall (1922), Tattershall Castle (a steamer built in 1934 and was used as a Humber Ferry) and onwards to the Houses of Parliament (finished in 1860) and Westminster Bridge (opened 1862).

Heading up stream

Such a shame Big Ben is still swathed in scaffolding, maybe we’ll just have to come and do the trip again in the latter part of 2022!

As we passed the exclusion zone in front of the Houses of Parliament I shouted out a few comments to those who run our country. I so hope they heard and will take heed of my words!

Under Lambeth Bridge ( 1932) with the MI5 offices (1929) with it’s gold roof.

Tamesis Dock

A boat sat out of the water a structure held it upright. I wonder if those eating and drinking at Tamesis Dock knew they weren’t afloat.

Mick tried pointing out another building he used to work in. ‘That one with all the windows’! It turns out Mick used to work next door to the MI6 building on the south bank, well before it was built.

Vauxhall Bridge Built in 1906

By now the river traffic was easing, the swell gone. Under Vauxhall Bridge, the four towers of Battersea Power Station (completed in 1955) rose from the redevelopment below.

Next week will see the return of the open-air cinema and theatre at The Coal Jetty. Apartments are being sold and retail and restaurants are already open. We do wonder what the residents will think of living next door to the Super Sewer though! I’m sure it will all be below ground.

Victoria Railway Bridge rebuilt and widened in the 1960’s
Chelsea, originally Victoria Bridge, rebuilt in 1937
Albert Bridge, built 1873, suspension bridge incorporated in 1884-7 and final alterations made in 1973

Victoria, Chelsea and Albert Bridges. The question is who was Chelsea? Did she have a bit of a fling with Albert getting between them!

Albert Bridge painted in pastel shades has a touch of a Wedgewood feel to it.

Battersea Road Bridge built 1885

Battersea Road Bridge was followed by numerous house boats.

House boats side by side

I wonder what it’s like living on one of those with the tides coming and going.

Lots Road Power Station, built in 1904

Lots Road Power Station which used to produce electricity for the underground is having a makeover. The internal structures have been removed and 800 tonnes of steel have been used to retain the exterior façade. Along with four new buildings the development will provide 420 residential units.

Hanging under Wandsworth Bridge ( built in 1940) is a dishevelled bail of straw. It’s an ancient bylaw of uncertain heritage that if a bridge arch is open to river traffic, but with restricted headroom, then a bundle of straw should be hung from the bridge as a warning. At night time it is replaced by a white light.

Fulham Railway Bridge (1889) and Putney Bridge (1886)

Down stream of Putney Bridge (1886) is where the Oxford Cambridge boat race starts, the course passes under Hammersmith Bridge, Barnes Bridge and finishes just before Chiswick Bridge a distance of four miles.

Fulham Football Club is having major works. The riverside stand at Craven Cottage was demolished and is being redeveloped into more than just a football stand. Floating pontoons are being used in the building work and an exclusion zone around these is in force on the river marked with yellow buoys.


Now we started to encounter rowers as we approached Hammersmith Bridge (1887). An area along the southern bank has been marked out for the rowers to use, keeping normal river traffic away from the area.

Hammersmith Bridge currently closed

Hammersmith Bridge has been closed to motor traffic since August 2019 after cracks were discovered in the bridges pedestals. The closure was extended to pedestrians, cyclists and normal boat traffic last year. It is however open for pre-booked transits which are subject to a lot of conditions. One of which is that you have an abort plan should the bridge be closed in front of you. This would entail winding and stemming the tide in a predetermined section of the river, contact with VTS would be made and then we would wait for slack water before returning all the way to Limehouse Lock with the outgoing tide.

All three groups had to pass under the bridge in an hours window. Thankfully no abort signal was given and we as Tail end Charlie passed under the bridge at 13:38, well within the hour. Phew!

Under Barnes Railway Bridge ( built in the 1890’s), more rowers and paddleboarders.

Chiswick Bridge built 1933

We received a phone call from Simon checking our location at 14:00, we could confirm we were under Chiswick Bridge and all was fine at the back of the flotilla.

Boats ahead under Kew Railway Bridge

A zoom in on the camera to Kew Railway Bridge confirmed we were catching up the second group. NB Combs Lass and NB Galatea were just passing under the bridge, it was the first time we’d seen them since Limehouse.

Kew Bridge built in 1903

Kew Bridge a wide span bridge was to be the last we’d pass under, the Tower of Kew Bridge Pumping Station watching our approach towards Brentford Junction.

Liquidity ahead

Passing islands to our starboard side we could see the sculpture Liquidity by Simon Packard. This to boaters helps mark the entrance of Brentford Junction on the Thames, to locals it caused a big hoo-ha when it was first erected as it blocked the view from new flats and a local restaurant to the river.

This was where the flotilla would split. Three boats could be seen continuing on up stream towards Teddington. NB Thermopylae now at the back. The third locks worth of boats veered off at the Junction and headed for Thames Lock. Here NB Albert Victor was joined by NB Coracle our lead boat and we joined NB Small World in the second lock to rise up to the semi tidal stretch at the bottom of the Grand Union Canal.

It wasn’t me!

I had chance to check on everything below, half expecting Tilly to still be in a tizz and maybe for her to have suffered from seasickness. I was greeted by a cat who was trying to be quite cool about everything, even if she was a little bit shouty! There was also a bit of a puddle in the main cabin. Oh dear.

However it didn’t take me long to realise that this was just water and it must have come in through our hatch despite the outer doors being closed. There was water on the surround. In absolute torrential rain with howling gales we’ve had water come in having been forced up under the doors. This must have happened when we were in the really lumpy water.

Thames Lock which takes us onto semi-tidal water

Heading to the bow to open up the cratch I also noticed a very small amount of water had made it’s way up under the front doors. These are raised off the floor of the well deck and have a frame that sits quite a bit higher than the doors. Water will have come in through the well deck drains on the choppy sections of the river and some of that made it’s way inside!

Maybe if we plan to do more rough cruises we should look at adding extra protection to these areas, the amount of water wasn’t alarming, but it would have been better to have come in to a dry boat.

A lock keeper was also on duty at Brentford Gauging Locks bring us up off the tidal water and onto the canal proper. We were now bunched up and a queue had formed at Clitheroe’s Lock. I headed up to help , other crew walking on ahead to set Osterley Lock.

When we reached the final lock of the day NB Albert Victor was waiting for a partner, so NB Small World joined them, leaving us to lock up on our own. The off side bottom gate refused, despite a bit of a waggle back and forth, to open fully, so it was one boat in at a time. On leaving half a tree trunk floated above the lock gates. NB Small World pushed it out of the way, but by the time I’d refilled the lock it had drifted back down to be in the way again!

The first sign of a gap in the moorings we pulled in, close to the community gardens. Tilly’s paw was already clinging onto the bathroom porthole her nose sniffing the fresh air, the trees here already having been given feline approval. As soon as our location had been noted with co-ordinates and what3words the rules were recited to Tilly and she was given 2 hours shore leave.

Tideway Tilly back on dry land

Time for a well deserved cup of tea!

Graeme and David with everyone else behind them

This evening we joined everyone else who’d come off the river at Brentford along with Simon who’d made it over from Teddington for a meal at The Fox. This is a pub Mick knows well as he used to live about 200 yards away. I was famished, but had also forgotten about the portion sizes. A portion of chicken wings arrived as a starter, I’d been expecting 4 or 6, but 12! Mick and I should have shared them. Sadly they had run out of rainbow trout so I chose pork belly with mash, Mick had sausage and mash. All the food was very tasty as expected.

VHF and laminated sheets

A very good evening wrapping up an incredible day. The rain had held off, the planning had been spot on, the waves added extra adrenalin, advice was shared, lead boats knew the river, tail boats were VHF qualified. Thank you very much Simon for offering us the final space on the cruise. Thank you also to St Pancras Cruising Club, from start to finish we felt we were in safe hands.

Waterway Routes under new improved rain shield which wasn’t required today

5 locks, 18.75 miles, 2 rights, 34 bridges, 3rd locking, 10th in line, 1st St Pancras cruising cat, 1 lumpy river, 1 shouty cat, 2 puddles, 1 sister-out-law, 1 fellow blogger, 1 boat in tickover much of the time, 4 rice crispie cakes, 0 flying pigs, 4 power stations, 3 lock keepers, 2 hours shore leave, 1 fox, 807 photos, 1 very nice meal, 1 fantastic day.

A fab photo of Group 1

For more photos of the trip from the front of the flotilla follow this link to Scholar Gypsy

Adam has also published a post with his photos this morning, showing the second group of boats as they headed for Westminster Bridge. A link to his blog Briar Rose

5 thoughts on “Tideway Tilly. 10th July

  1. jennie230

    I really enjoyed reading this post Pip. It brought back so many memories of when we did the trip with nb Cleddau back in 2015. We, however, had much better weather, but still faced some lumpiness., but not as bad as our second Wash crossing. I know what you mean about trying to take photos – if you look here https://youtu.be/zq2KcuP4umw, you will see that some of mine were at a decidedly odd angle! The camera was straight, but I wasn’t! Jennie x

  2. joamungoanddog

    OMG, what an exciting post! So glad you managed to join them, I had no idea of the planning and permissions involved for a trip like that.
    Great photos and something to be remembered for a long time.

  3. Anonymous

    Wow Pip great post and an enjoyable read well helmed Mick! Nice way to do it with the club I imagine lots of info. In there to soak up.

  4. Karen

    Thanks for all the unique photos of London. Since I won’t likely ever get to visit, they were great to see.

  5. Jo

    Some years ago we made the same memorable trip with St Pancras Cruising Club. We would never have done the trip on our own and cannot recommend the club highly enough for their knowledge and planning. Jo ex n/b Sarah Kate

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