Thames Barrier Closed

Reflections Flotilla Part 1. 24th September

Limehouse Basin to a buoy outside Chelsea Harbour Marina

Final preparations this morning. Fishing net, washing brush inside, everything else tied on the roof. Coal wrapped in a heat wave white sheet. Well deck emptied of everything other than the anchor, it’s chain and rope and a couple of fenders. All this as well as a full bucket of deposits were brought inside into the bathroom. Engine checks done, VHF radio and mobile phone fully charged.

The photos do get better!

Heather had been procrastinating about her lights so I headed over to lend a hand. I managed to put one layer of lights along both sides and some around her cratch before my knees said enough was enough of standing on gunnels. Heather spent time trying to fix rope light to her gunnels held in place by some strong magnets. This ended up being quite tricksy, using the hatch on the boat next door as Bleasdale was moved back and forth made it a little bit easier.

Last night we’d heard that David on NB Albert Victor would be heading back out onto the tideway on Sunday, heading to Brentford. We checked with him if he’d mind us buddying up, then we’d carry on to Teddington on our own, the fast route west, this had been our Plan A. Mick booked us in with the Lock Keeper and then proceeded to cancel our Plan B bookings, lock passage at Brentford and 2 nights in Paddington Basin. The mooring couldn’t be cancelled as the right people didn’t work at the weekend, but they would be informed on Monday morning, then hopefully we’d get our mooring fees back.

Time for a cuppa and to sit down with Tilly, both of us needing a reassuring ear rub. I don’t like it when the shower gets full, it means we’re about to go on a lumpy bumpy noisy fast outside! The thought of them makes me go all fat faced and ridge backed.

12:30. There would be three lockings out onto the Tideway this morning, the first with six boats, three full length and three shorter boats at the rear. The aim was for the lead boats to head up stream making good speed so as to secure moorings for the narrowboat and widebeam section of the flotilla, we’d been allocated several possible places to moor near Chelsea Harbour Marina, but these were also going to be used by the rest of the motor squadron, better to have steel against steel rather than trying to breast up against cruisers.

We were in the second lock with two other narrowboats, the third lock for WB Reflections. As we had a small hand held radio it was decided that we’d be the middle boat heading up stream as we’d not be able to hear everything that the others with beefier VHF radios would. The radio was tuned in to duel scan channels 14 and 8, 14 being VTS (Vessel Traffic Services) and 8 to talk to other boats.

With our bow rope passed around the riser in the lock then wrapped around our T stud, stern line passed round the riser at the stern, NB Dragonfly came in alongside and tied up to us. We were ready for the surge of the lock.

Canary Wharf just after we turned out from Limehouse

Only about two foot difference this morning. The Thames Barrier was having a routine test closure today and had started closing a couple of hours earlier, it would remain closed until just gone midnight. Leaving Limehouse we would still have a certain amount of push from what was left of the incoming tide until the river found it’s level, then there would only be what fresh water was coming downstream.


This however didn’t mean we’d have a calm start to our cruise up stream. The speedy trip boats can hammer along below Tower Bridge at great speeds as can the Uber Clippers all creating big washes that ricochet of the banks. Today it was so rough out there I got wet feet in the well deck before I moved back to the stern.

We tootled along upstream bumping around on the lumpy water in a line of three boats. Alan Ayckbourn’s London flat, Doris May on her mooring, Tower Bridge, then all the other bridges with people, cars, double deckers and trains crossing them.

As we passed under Hungerford Bridge something hit the hatch right in front of me, the lid from an after shave bottle. It hit with quite a force but thankfully missed us both, the aroma though lasted for a while!

RNLI Duke Of Edinburgh would be towards the front of the flotilla tonight
Westminster Bridge
What a beauty

Last year scaffolding had surrounded Big Ben, today the refurbished tower and clock looked resplendent, wow what a sight all that gold!

As we passed Battersea Power Station we wondered where the lead boats would have found us to moor. Eventually I could spy the three of them in the distance, the next three boats pulling in alongside.

There’s Bleasdale

Instructions had been to moor facing downstream so each boat headed upstream, turned and approached a separate buoy each with a pair of boats already moored. The journey upstream had taken just under two hours. Once secure to our neighbours we could relax.

All the way upstream I’d been a little bit conscious that we’d not heard anything on the radio, well a apart from one short exchange between boats. Last year we’d been able to hear the half hourly VTS information for some of the journey. There were comments about cake being made between crews, had we missed something? Well after a radio check (which we should have done earlier!) it was decided that our radio was no more! NB Dragonfly kindly lent us their handheld radio as this evening we’d need to be able to hear instructions from flotilla control. If the flotilla needed to make an emergency stop we’d need to hear it.

Moored with no outside for Tilly

WB Reflections arrived after an eventful trip upstream. Then later on in the afternoon three more narrowboats joined us from upstream and pulled in alongside, rafting up to await the muster time.

Terry from NB Flora Dora

I prepared some sausage rolls, but then we decided to have pizzas as it would be really quite late before we’d be eating again. Photos of spag bol, roast chicken came through on WhatsApp from the other boats.

We ended up five abreast

As the afternoon progressed more cruisers arrived, most moored up to a barge in the middle of the river. Strings of rowing boats came past pulled by ribs to just upstream of us. A Dutch Barge pulled up opposite us, just as one of our mooring buoys seemed to be moving closer to the next raft of narrowboats. Boats moved and breasted up elsewhere. We waited.

A round Tilly on Micks fleece

Inside Oleanna Tilly had come out from her hidey hole under the gunnel protected by pillows and had settled down for an afternoon kip on the sofa, good to see that she was managing to relax a little.

Fenders and checking the lights

Then as more boats arrived some had to be reminded that some of us had minimal fenders and that they should cut their speed. We deployed extra fenders between the boats as all three hulls took it in turns to bob up and down bumping and scraping against each other. We waited.

Others starting to line up

Then over the radio we were given the order to pull into position an form the flotilla.

Manpowered boats mustering upstream

Lights were switched on, each boat untied their lines and gradually moved round each other to get into our allotted position in the flotilla.


We were in the third line behind WB Reflections and the most northerly line of boats. Getting on for 150 boats were starting to make our way downstream. The flotilla was on the move!

Getting into position