Gravesend to Stangate Creek


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.




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.


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.


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.


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.



Restoring the Leeboards

Before taking Daybreak across to Holland we wanted to make sure everything on the ship was in good order. One job we had been putting off for some years was the removal and restoration of the oak leeboards. They have been on the ship since being rebuilt in Goole in 2003 and although the external face had been regularly maintained, there was a section of the inside face that could not be reached without removing them.  I found much more rot than I expected and have had to cut out large sections and replace them with new timber..

Seasons Greetings


Here we are safely tucked up on our mooring on Church Island, decorated for Christmas.

For Daybreak and her crew this has been a relatively quiet year after returning from our trip up north. We have had a few short cruises on the upper Thames.




Our main sailing in the summer was aboard our son’s boat Kensa, a Heard 28, which is based on the Falmouth workboat. Tom has had to do a lot of work  on Kensa, including replacing the engine and redoing the cockpit, so it was very satisfying to get her sailing again.




We also had a lovely sail on our son in law’s folkboat Valmik, which they keep in Brixham.





Just in case we were in danger of having withdrawal symptoms from  not going in dry dock, Kate had her barge Kleine Aukje hauled out at a yard in Chertsey and the family  set to cleaning and painting the hull.



summerhouseOur other project this year has been working on the floating summerhouse,  which we have constructed at The Orchard. As we plan longer cruises we need somewhere to stay when we return to Staines without Daybreak. The old summerhouse we used for this purpose has flooded badly in recent years, so we decided we needed something that floats. It is securely moored up to piles at the back, so hopefully won’t go drifting off down the river when the island next floods.img_6730

We are now looking forward to next year when we will be taking Daybreak to Holland. As always there are lots of things we want to get done before we set off. We went over to stay with friends in Holland and visited the annual rally of LVBHV, the Dutch organisation of traditional boats. We plan to be there for next year’s event in Hasselt at the end of July.



Removing a Leeboard

IMG_7172.JPGDaybreak’s leeboards are made of oak  and weigh around half a ton. Taking one off, and getting it into our garden,  proved to  be quite a challenge. We were lucky to have help  from Kate and James, who had come to see us over the weekend. We started by constructing a makeshift crane. Once we had a means of lifting it out of the river we lowered the outermost leeboard into the river and towed it round the bows to the bank. IMG_7176.JPG

Kate and James hauled the leeboard up with a block and tackle, while I controlled the angle of the  ‘crane’ using one of the two tack  rollers on the foredeck of Daybreak. Sally kept an eye on the security of the  strong point we had created in the lawn and took the photos. img_7175


We had one failed attempt when the rope on the block and  tackle snapped. We decided to make some adjustments to the position of the crane and then, after a lot of heaving and winding, we managed to haul the leeboard up the bank .


The next attempt worked and once the leeboard was up on the level we were able to move it around on rollers.IMG_7188.JPG

I can now see how much work I need to do to restore the board, which I built over 20 years ago.

Abingdon to Staines

img_7123We cruised back down river, passing this herd of cows who seemed unconcerned at a Humber Keel passing close by as they bathed in a narrow section of the river. We cruised as far as Walllingford, but had to stop a mile below the town as there were no moorings available.




After mooring up we noticed a plume of smoke and heard sirens. We  walked down the towpath to see where it was coming from. We didn’t have to walk far before we came across a burning haystack in the centre of a field. By the time the fire brigade had extinguished the fire there was not much left of the stack.



As we set off the following morning we passed a hot air balloon drifting low across the adjacent fields.




We stopped for lunch at Goring, where we renewed acquaintance with the owners of the very smart new build barge Joni.  We took the cog boat to explore some of the weir streams.


As we passed this fine wooden clad house, we spotted one of the few remaining paddle and rymer weirs. The owner of the house saw us photographing it and invited us to moor up and look at what the Environment Agency is doing to update the gear. He was angry about what he considered to be a complete  waste of money.



On the trip up river we had looked for the post box which used to be on Sonning bridge, but it had been removed.  We were pleased to see it has found a new, equally inaccessible home in the middle of a huge railway embankment wall just above Reading.


img_7151We moored up for the night just below Reading, again across the river from Laurel. Marcus came to tea and he said he would like to do a picture of Daybreak in the morning light. He was out early in the morning taking photos and when we went over later in the morning he had already started  painting. We are looking forward to seeing the finished artwork.



Later that day we saw friends Penny and Basil on board their barge in Henley and decided to stop to say hello and to have our  lunch. It proved to be an expensive lunch as we were charged for  a night’s  mooring, even though we were only stopping for an hour.





As it was now October there were fewer lock-keepers and we had to operate most of the locks ourselves. We moored overnight in Marlow again.


img_7156We had been  lucky to  have lots of sunshine and fine weather during our trip, but after leaving Marlow it continued fine, but increasingly windy. By the time we reached Bourne End, where there was a long, straight stretch in line with the wind, there were waves and white caps. We are used to these conditions on tidal waters, but it came as a bit of surprise on the upper river.


wp_20161005_15_55_00_proWe moored up at Cliveden for lunch and then continued down to Boulter’s Lock. As we motored into the lock we saw a pair of working narrowboats in the lock cut. We moved right down to ensure they could fit in the lock with us. As they got closer we saw it was the Narrowboat Trust, who deliver coal to riverside properties. As we hadn’t ordered any we asked if they could stop  at the Orchard.  They suggested that they could deliver to Daybreak  at the next lock.


wp_20161005_16_09_20_proWe let them into the small lock first, where they unloaded 20 bags onto the lock-side. We then took Daybreak into the lock and moored her alongside the coal. We then emptied the lock, so that the deck was almost level with the lock side, and the narrowboat crew then helped us to load it onto  Daybreak’s well  deck.

img_7158With our cargo of fuel on board we then carried on to a mooring above Boveney lock. As there was still  a couple of hours of daylight, we took the cog boat to explore another weir stream.





The next day was a short run back to Staines where we arrived in time for lunch. After I had unloaded the coal of course.














We spent a day exploring the town of Abingdon, wandering through streets full of historic buildings.






We were particularly taken with a beautiful garden that was run by volunteers as a place for quiet reflection.






The garden backed on to a backwater of the river, on which was moored a rowing skiff that was almost full of rainwater. We thought we should bale it out as a thank you for our visit, which we did later when we explored the backwaters in the cog boat.



In the evening we visited a pub we had spotted during the day. When we went in we met three men from a narrowboatthat we had seen a couple of times before on our trip up river. As we talked we found that they were all from Brixham, where we have a cottage, and one was actually the estate agent who sold us the property! The following morning they came to have a look round Daybreak.




They then carried on up the Thames, while we turned round and headed back down river.



Up the Thames to Abingdon

wp_20160923_19_02_28_proApart from a couple of short trips upriver we have not cruised Daybreak much this year, so we decided to take a longer trip up the Thames while the weather remained reasonably warm and sunny. Our first leg was a short one, up to Old Windsor to moor alongside our friends Caroline and Carl’s beautiful barge Spaarnestroom.


The next day we cruised up to Cliveden where we moored up to one of the islands. While there we met a group of young people who had arrived in canoes and were camping on the island for the weekend. They were really interested in Daybreak and we invited them aboard for a look around.



We spent the weekend at the island and then cruised up as far as Marlow. Whilst we were moored in Marlow, Joss and Dave,  neighbours from Church Island, arrived on their narrowboat, and moored alongside. We met up with them later in a local pub, along with Sally’s cousin Royston and his wife Evelyn. The next morning Sally’s brother Graham, who also lives in Marlow, visited.

We then cimg_7016ontinued up river as far as Shiplake, where we explored another series of islands and eventually found a suitable mooring for the night. The next day I ferried Sally ashore to go for a long walk, while I did some painting and made a start on scraping down the mast, which is in need of re-varnishing.



The following day we continued up river, stopping at Reading for lunch. We  moored opposite the beached remains of the wooden Humber Keel Laurel, which has been made into a riverside studio by the artist Mark Randall. He came over to join us for lunch and we went over to have a look at some of his work.



After lunch we motored on through Reading and past the keel Hope, which is being restored by our friend Matt Biss. He has done a lot more work since we last saw her. He has removed the large wheelhouse and restored the tiller steering, so she is looking much more like a working keel.



We moored for the night on the meadows at Pangbourne.






Above Reading the river meanders through miles of beautiful countryside. For some years now the Thames is  being used by fewer and fewer boats, so for much of our cruise we had the river totally to ourselves.img_7060



Some of the bridges on the upper Thames are a bit tight for a vessel the size of Daybreak. This is the bridge at Clifton Hamden with its distinctive pointed arches. After passing through the bridge we moored up in the reach below Culham Lock.



The following morning we passed through Culham Lock, which we had to operate ourselves and  took 20 minutes to fill. From here it was a short cruise into Abingdon, where we moored on one of the plentiful free moorings provided by the town. We moored right at the end so that we could tie to a substantial tree, rather than relying on mooring pins. We were then able to spend some time exploring the beautiful historic town of Abingdon.






Teddington to Staines

IMG_5452Being back on non tidal waters we were able to have a very leisurely cruise up from Teddington as far as Sunbury. Here we moored alongside Angelus, our friends Pamela and Edward’s barge.


Pamela joined us for the next part of the trip, which only took us only as far as Shepperton, where we moored up  alongside the Thames Court pub and restaurant.  We decided to stay there for the night and Edward joined us for a meal in the pub.

IMG_5466The next day we set off on the final stage of our year long voyage. As we approached Staines we could see crowds of people and stalls in the park below the bridge.  We realised that this  was the Staines Upon Thames  River Day, which had been last held exactly a year ago, when we had set off on our  voyage up the east coast. It was heart warming to see lots of neighbours and friends waving and cheering to welcome us back.IMG_5471 After passing under Staines bridge we were soon entering the backwater to our mooring . As we approached our mooring the church bells started ringing as if to welcome us back to Church Island. We had very mixed feelings at this point. On the one hand there was a tremendous sense of achievement at having completed the voyage that we had planned, but on the other hand this was the end of our wonderful trip.

IMG_5517The coming months would be dedicated to preparing for James and Kate’s wedding in September, but there will be more voyages in the future