Erith to Teddington

IMG_5433On Friday morning we launched the inflatable so that Kate, James, Steve and Sue could go ashore to look around Erith and pick up some supplies. While they were away Sally and I lowered the mast and stowed the rigging, in preparation for going up through London. We were just finishing this when the shore party arrived back. They had not been back on board long before we had a visit from a PLA (Port of London Authority) launch. They just wanted to know what we were doing and left quite happy when we explained. We just had time for a bite of lunch and then it was time to start the engine and continue up the river.

IMG_5438After passing through the Thames Barrier it was not long before we were entering central London with all its familiar landmarks. This was a first for Steve and Sue, who were thrilled with all the sights. I was concentrating on navigating through the bridges and keeping out of the way of the numerous other vessels using this stretch of the river. Many of these travel very quickly and cross back and forth across the river as they visit the various piers. It was not helped by the strong breeze that had got up and which made it difficult to hear the radio on the open deck.

I was relieved IMG_5441when we passed Chelsea and there was much less traffic on the river. The wind also died down a bit and we had a very pleasant cruise up through Chiswick. As we reached Kew I realised we were going to be too early for the half tide barrier at Richmond. We slowed right down, but were still going over 4 knots and the higher we got up the river the less water there was. I decided to tie up for an hour at Brentford.

Just as we were letting go a trip boat appeared round the bend. We  needed to turn around but I did not want to cross in front of him, so I just held station while he passed. After passing us he called up on the radio. I thought this would be to complain about us being on the wrong side of the river. I was very pleasantly surprised when I found it was just to have a chat about Daybreak, which he remembered seeing up at Pangbourne some years ago.

From Brentford it was a short trip up to the half tide barrier, which was still dripping as we passed underneath. Richmond looked very jolly with throngs of people, music and lights. However I had to be careful not to get too distracted as the river is much smaller here, with lots of  boats moored to buoys close to the channel. After passing through Twickenham we approached the lock at Teddington. As we did so there was an amazing firework display just above the lock, which seemed to have been laid on especially to celebrate Daybreak’s return.

West Mersea to Erith

IMG_5419In contrast to the night passages we had undertaken recently, it seemed postively civilised to be raising the anchor at 0830 in the morning. Steve was interested to see our anchor windlass in action and is keen to restore the one on his keel, Evangeline.

It was a beautiful calm morning, with the sea glassy as we motored out of the Blackwater.  As we headed back out to sea, I could just make out a Thames sailing barge behind us. I hoped they would be going our way, but when I next looked they had disappeared into the morning haze. Later we passed the barge Repertor heading in the opposite direction. They were both probably heading up to the Pin Mill barge match, which I have since found out, is this weekend.

We had a good passage through the spitways and round into the Thames. Shoeburyness firing range was active and  now and again there would be a large boom. I kept a careful eye on the chart to make sure we did not drift into the restricted area and end up as target practice.

IMG_5425Steve is a keen fisherman and before we left he had been teasing our friend and other crew member, Ian, about his failure to catch any fish on the voyage up the coast last year. He promised Ian that he would catch us a fish and took great pleasure in posting a picture of his success on Facebook. Undeterred by the fact he had not  brought any fishing gear with him, he improvised  with a boat hook, a length of twine and a bent safety pin. The only other thing he needed to ensure his success, was a whole herring from the freezer!

We warned Steve that if he dropped it over the side, there would be no fish pie for him that evening.


As usual the lower Thames was busy with shipping and we took care to stay well clear of the main shipping channel. It was getting close to 1900 when we reached Erith and we were relieved to see a suitable buoy available for us to moor up for the night. After some smart work by James and Kate we were securely tied up and it was time to relax.


Moored on the outside of the bend the ships seem to be heading straight for you before they make their turn, and  then  pass quite close by. After we gave them a wave, we got a friendly toot on the horn from one Dutch ship.


As the sun set, we reflected on our passage and what it felt like to be back on the Thames after almost exactly a year away. Sally was up early in the morning to take this picture  of the sun rising.


Lowestoft to West Mersea

IMG_5390After a few days moored in Lowestoft waiting for the weather to improve, we decided it would be calm enough for us to continue the passage. The times of the tides meant we needed to leave at 10pm, just as it was getting dark. We motored out of the harbour and turned towards our first buoy, which was already lit.

The wind had died away to almost nothing, but there was a gentle swell as we motored south.


After a  peaceful night passage we were treated to another beautiful sunrise as we motored towards Harwich. We had originally planned to make this our next destination, but as the crew all seemed quite well rested, we decided to continue on to the Blackwater.  Once there we headed to West Mersea, where we had anchored on our voyage up last year.


Once we had lowered the anchor and checked we had let out enough chain to allow for the rising tide, we settled ourselves on the after deck to eat a fry up prepared by Sally and Sue. The weather was still calm and the sunny conditions encouraged some of the crew to go for a swim.



There is obviously something special in the water in West Mersea, as Steve suddenly developed a full head of hair, in a rather fetching shade of green.




We launched the inflatable and went ashore to show the rest of the crew the charms of West Mersea.




Hull to Lowestoft

IMG_5319On Saturday morning the forecast was still for calm weather so we made final preparations for leaving, which mainly involved making sure that everything was well secured, both on deck, and below. Chris and Terry were welcomed aboard, having made a very early start to arrive before 0900. It was great to see lots of our friends on Comrade, who were taking her out for a sail upriver shortly before we were due to set off down river.


Having waved Comrade off, we went back and started Daybreak’s engine and untied. Once in the lock, Sally started singing ‘Leave her Johnny’ and other members of the crew joined in. We both had very mixed emotions. We were looking forward to getting Daybreak back to her mooring, but sad to be  leaving the northern waterways. This was mixed with a large dose of nervousness about the long passage across the Wash.


Then the lock gates opened and it was time to focus on the trip down the Humber. We had divided the crew into two watches, with Chris as the other watch leader. I had given him the first watch because of his knowledge of the Humber. This meant we were able to save some time by cutting across Hull Middle, rather than keeping to the main deep water channel. His watch took us down to Spurn Point where we left the Humber and headed out to sea.

IMG_5344My watch, with Sally, Steve and Sue, then took over while the others rested.


The wind was very slight and was against us so there was no chance to sail. However we made good progress under motor, assisted by the tidal flow in our favour for this part of the journey. We soon settled into the rhythm of life aboard on a passage. We were navigating mainly using the course we had entered into the chart plotter, but  made  hourly entries in the log and marked our position on the paper charts below . We also checked the bilges and the engine each hour, just in case. Fortunately there were no problems and we watched the sun go down at the end of our day at sea. With our navigation lights on, we chugged through the night, trying to get some sleep  while we were off watch and making sure those on watch kept warm and fed.  The AIS system I had installed proved very useful in picking up the shipping and we did make some course adjustments to ensure we kept out of their way.

IMG_5345Our watch seemed to be unlucky with the weather, as every time we came on watch it started to rain, often with thunder and lightning, but when the other watch came on it stopped. It was suggested that this was due to Chris’s lucky hat, which he wore at all times. As I stood at the helm in the dark and pouring rain I made a mental note to buy myself one of those lucky hats! When our next watch started he rain stopped and the fog rolled in.


After what was by far our calmest crossing of the Wash, we entered Lowestoft harbour almost exactly 24 hours after we had left Hull.


Keadby to Hull

IMG_5299Sally and I drove up from Staines with James and Kate on Wednesday, as there seemed to be a window opening up in the weather. We spent Thursday preparing the ship and Sally went off to buy provisions for the trip. Steve and Sue joined us on Wednesday evening, so we were ready to leave the following morning. We locked out of Keadby Lock at 0830, to punch the last hour of the tide. On leaving the lock we motored across to the other side of the river to find the shallower water on the inside of the bend, where the current was less strong. IMG_5302However even there we were only doing about one knot for the first 20 minutes or so. We then picked up a bit more speed as we approached high water and the tide turned in our favour. We had a pleasant cruise down the river to Trent Falls, where we joined the Humber. A survey vessel passed us just past the Apex light and very courteously slowed down for us, so as not to create too much wash.


The weather was very cloudy, with a fresh cool breeze, not at all what you would expect when approaching midsummer’s day. Sue found a sheltered spot in the hatchway on the after deck.

We carefully followed the buoyed channel that snakes back and forth across the Humber to avoid the numerous shallows. Because of the way the strong tidal current pushed us sideways, we spent most of the trip pointing a long way from where we actually wanted to go.  Whoever was steering had to keep checking they were in the channel between the buoys and the tide had not driven us off course. The plus side was the with the big tide we were soon travelling at more than 8 knots over the ground.

IMG_5306We had not expected to be able to lock into Hull Marina, because it is usually only opens 3 hours either side of high water. When I had rung them the previous day they said that, with our draft,1230 would be the latest possible time we could lock through. Because we had made such good progress it was just coming up to that time as we approached the marina entrance. We called them up and, after checking the height of water, they opened the lock for us. As we entered the lock I made the mistake of slowing down, as I would normally when entering a lock. However on this occasion it was a mistake because the stern touched the bottom and we came to a halt. After opening the throttle and moving the rudder from side to side, we eventually managed to slither over the cill and into the lock. We all heaved a big sigh of relief before facing the next problem, which was that we were sitting in the silt in the middle of the lock and there was no way we could get close enough to get lines ashore. This meant when they opened the sluices and let water into the chamber we were swinging around in the turbulence.

Eventually Sally and Steve managed to get a IMG_5305bow line ashore and we had a bit more control. While we were swinging from one side of the lock to the other, the crew were doing sterling work with fenders. However in the process they managed to collect quite a lot of the finest Humber mud, which coated first the fenders, then the crew and then the decks. Once through the lock we wound round the tight bends, avoiding the expensive looking plastic boats to where we saw Comrade moored against the wall off the marina. We motored past her and turned around before mooring up in front of her. The only two fully rigged Humber keels back together again. All being well we will set off again on Saturday morning for the much longer passage to Lowestoft..