Staines to Cliveden

After a few days to re stock our stores, fill the water tanks and empty other tanks, we were ready to set off on the up river part of our summer cruise.  On Thursday morning we were joined by friend Val for the trip up as far as Windsor, where she would be close to the station to get the train back to Staines. We had a very pleasant cruise up through Runnymede, although the river was busy and we had to wait for most of the locks. This often used to be the case but in more recent years the river has seemed very quiet, even in the summer months.

Canoe at Boveney

After dropping Val off we continued through Windsor as far as Boveney lock, where we were picking up yet another canoe, and as it turned out a bicycle for James. It was great to meet up again with Phil, the lock keeper at Boveney and catch up with what he was up to. We loaded the canoe and the bicycle. This meant we now had 3 canoes on board, as Sally always likes to have ours with us on up river trips. The plan was to met up with all the family, together with friends Katherine and Misha, at Cliveden for my birthday weekend and that we would have canoes for everyone. James and Misha would then take their canoes back to Cheltenham.

We continued up to Cliveden Reach and although the islands were busy we managed to find a mooring, just upstream of where we really wanted to be. The following morning the boat moored in our favourite spot moved off, so while Sally stood by to repel any other boats, I reversed out and dropped back down to the new mooring.

Teddington to Staines

We sat out the stormy weather on the Saturday tied up at Teddington. We entertained John, Paul and relatives from Maxime to coffee and a tour of Daybreak. Steve took us out for a delicious dinner on the Saturday evening. P1010349 The next day we set off for a short cruise to Sunbury where we moored alongside Pamela and Edward’s houseboat for lunch. We had arranged for our neighbour Annabel to join us for the cruise back to Church Island. We had also arranged to collect a canoe that James and Kate were  buying. Pamela and Edward had been working hard on their garden, restoring the area where the houseboat had been built.

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After a convivial lunch on Pamela and Edward’s newly constructed patio, we loaded the canoe on board and set of to complete the trip back to Staines. We had a lovely afternoon cruise and arrived back in the early evening. It did not take us long to get everything hooked up and then we were able to see how the garden had been doing in our absence. Apart from a few fallen branches from the winds the previous day, all seemed well.

 

Gravesend to Teddington

 

We had lowered the mast and secured everything after we arrived at Gravesend so we were all set to head back up river. Sally helped Steve raise the anchor and we set of a couple of hours before low water to get the maximum benefit of the tide that would take us all the way up to Teddington. We crossed to the correct side of the river and we motored up  past Tilbury, keeping outside the main shipping channel.  Even though it was close to low water there were still ships moving around and we had to pay close attention to the radio. We pulled out towards the centre of the river to make room for a coaster that was just pulling away from his berth, and received a cheery wave from the captain up in his wheelhouse.

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The weather was changing and we no longer had the blue skies that we had enjoyed earlier in the voyage. By the time we reached the Woolwich Barrier the sky was looking ominous and the wind was increasing all the time.

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We had a very windy passage up through London, with a couple of very heavy downpours, which Sally managed to avoid as they occurred while she was resting below. At one point the driving rain was so hard I could only see by putting my hand over my face to protect my eyes. As the wind was on the nose for much of the time and the tide was behind us it was also quite choppy with spray often breaking over the bows.

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Although it was still breezy the weather calmed down as we passed through central London and we had a pleasant cruise up to Teddington. P1010340

Just like when we set out we had to wait for the tidal barrier at Richmond to open. By this time there was very little tide running and we were able to hold station just upstream of the moorings at Thisleworth. After passing through the still dripping barrier we carried on to Teddington and moored up just above the lock. We were pleasantly surprised to see Maxime, an historic Dutch motor barge that is usually moored at Hermitage just below Tower Bridge. Steve cooked a tasty dish and we had a drink to celebrate a successful trip, and the fact the we were safely tucked up on the non tidal river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swale to Gravesend

We had been monitoring the weather forecasts and it looked as if there were going to be strong winds over the weekend. Tom received an email from the Kentish Sail Association, firstly warning of the possibility that the Swale Barge Match could be cancelled and then another confirming that there would be no match this year. We decided the safest thing was for us to head back upriver, to make sure that we were well inland before the really strong winds arrived. We were able to sail out from our anchorage at Harty Ferry to the end of Sheppey.

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We then turned north, but decided we had better motor into the wind to make sure we made use of the tide to get us back to Gravesend, where we planned to anchor for the night. Tom managed to sail a bit further, but then chose to motor around the Montgomery and across the Medway shipping channel.

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We had an uneventful trip to Gravesend, but had a bit of trouble finding the right spot to anchor. By the time Steve had lowered the anchor for the third time I felt we had better stay where we were rather than risk a mutiny. In contrast to the trip down we had a restless night and both Tom and I were up in the night checking that we weren’t dragging. In spite of this Tom still had to be up early and left before us to make sure that he made it back to South Dock at a time that he was able to lock in.

 

Stangate to The Swale

P1010263We raised the anchor at the much more civilised time of 0930 and prepared to sail in company with Tom to the Swale. We motored out of the Medway and raised the sail for the voyage round the top of the Isle of Sheppey, over an area known as the Cant. Once clear of the shipping lane and the Montgomery, the wreck of the WWII ship full of explosives, we raised sail again.

 

The wind continued to blow south westerly so we were able to sail all the way to the end of Columbine spit, with Tom and Monica in sight ahead of us.

P1010267As the day wore on the wind grew in strength and we made good progress, arriving at the mouth of the Swale at low water ready to take the flood tide in to the anchorage at Harty Ferry.

P1010273As we approached the end of Sheppey we passed the Thames sailing barge Greta with a charter party on board. They won’t have been expecting to see a Humber Keel under sail, but I am sure Greta’s skipper Steve explained who we were. Greta is based in Whitstable and seemed to be motor sailing out, no doubt looking forward to a good sail back.

 

As we only had Steve with us, who was new to sailing keels, and the wind was getting stronger all the time, we decided not to try tacking in. As we lowered the sail one of the tack chains came loose from the roller and we had a few exciting moments getting the mainsail under control. Eventually we got it made up to the yard and were able to finish motoring in. Heading in to the wind, we were getting spray over the bows that reached as far as the aft deck.

P1010286We dropped the hook closer to the Sheppey bank of the Swale, where the holding is better and within a short distance from the causeway that leads to the Ferry Inn. After making sure the anchor was holding and everything was made secure we launched the inflatable and we all went ashore to eat. I was pleased to be able to find a seat where I could keep an eye on Daybreak whilst we ate. After the meal we introduced Steve to the pleasures of east coast mud as we carried the inflatables down to the water for the trip back to our anchored vessels.

 

 

Gravesend to Stangate Creek

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We raised the anchor at 0630 and motored down river while I finished rigging out and  prepared to raise sail. It was a fantastic feeling when we hoisted the sail and were able to turn off the engine. We had a fair wind to complete the voyage down the Thames as far as the entrance to the Medway.

 

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We lowered the sail and started the engine to navigate the comparatively narrow entrance to the Medway where there is still a considerable amount of commercial traffic. We motored a short distance up the Medway  before crossing the shipping channel to the entrance of Stangate Creek. In the creek we anchored  and met up with Tom and Monica who had cruised down to anchor there ahead of us. It was Tom’s birthday  so he and Monica came over to Daybreak for the cake that Sally had baked and presents. We all ate together that evening and reminisced about our wonderful day.

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Staines to Gravesend

Before setting off we had to get all the rigging on, trying to make sure everything went on in the right place and the right order.WP_20190718_18_15_05_Pro

Having finished getting Daybreak rigged and with plenty of supplies stowed, Sally and I set off from Staines on Saturday 3rd August.  Our departure was delayed slightly by discovering that the leeboard head chain was over the man rail and it took a while to get it all in the right place. The rest of the trip was uneventful, although we had to get used to going through the locks with the leeboards on again. We moored up above the lock at Teddington and continued our preparations before locking through onto the tidal Thames. As Daybreak is our home we always have to make sure everything is stowed securely down below and all the gear is lashed down on deck. Although we were not making a major sea passage, the tidal Thames can get very lively with the effect of ship wash on the shallow waters outside of the main shipping channel.

We had originally planned to stop at the draw dock at Isleworth to clean off the weed that was growing on the hull. However by the time we reached Teddington most of this weed had come off, so we decided to spend an extra day at Teddington. As it turned out there was plenty to do, deploying the anchor over the bow,  installing our chart plotter and installing a new vhf radio. I also fitted the navigation lights in preparation for our early start the following day. On Sunday evening we were joined by Steve and Graham, our crew for the trip down river, and Miranda, Alex and David who joined us for a pub supper.

P1010230We locked through on to the tidal river at 0400 and made our way down to Richmond, where there is a tidal barrier that opens two hours either side of high water.  As it turned out we had to hang around waiting for the barrier to go up and then pass under the raised barrier with the water still dripping off it.P1010232

One advantage of our early start was that there were no trip boats operating in central London, but the river was still busy with the high speed Thames Clippers carrying commuters and other commercial traffic. It was noticeable that the new Thames Tideway sewer project is generating lots of additional working craft movements.

Having had the benefit of the ebb tide for most of the trip we ended up punching the first of the flood tide to reach our chosen anchorage at Higham Bight, just below Gravesend. As we arrived we were greeted by a WWII spitfire flying overhead and doing a loop above us, before it continued on its way heading south.  After lowering the anchor we checked the depth all round with the lead line and made sure we had enough chain out.

After lunch we raised the mast, then lowered it again to sort out the slabline,  and then raised it again and checked everything was in the right place. After our early start and a long day we were all ready to turn in early, especially as we would be leaving at six the following morning.

Getting Ready for Sailing

Before we could go sailing we had to fit the restored leeboards.

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We used the main halyard to lift the head of the board into the right position to fit the head chain. Having got the port side board on, the following day we turned the ship around to fit the other board.

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After fitting both boards we tried reversing out of our narrow backwater, so we could turn around again. Unfortunately this did not work out as the very low level of the water meant Daybreak was even more difficult than usual to steer going astern.  This meant we had to lower the mast so that we could get  under the footbridge to our island mooring. We then went on a short cruise down river. As we went down river, several neighbours were waving vigorously, thinking we were setting off on a major trip. They were very surprised when we returned only an hour or so later.  Our short cruise was extended by a quick visit to a local riverside bar for a celebratory pint.