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Limehouse 24th June

Yacht Quintet
Limehouse Basin
East London

24th June, 2005

<-Southend 23rd June Limehouse 29th June->

Here we are at the end of a week's sailing and we're still talking to each other, we haven't yet come to blows and we've generally agreed on which bits of string to pull and which direction to go in. Actually I think that we have such confidence in each other that apart from checking the other's decision for obvious oversight, we tend to accept the other's decisions as correct, and feel comfortable about them. And the boat, the lovely Quintet, has been comfortable and watertight, well pretty much, so all bodes well for the rest of our voyage.

Today has been a bit exciting. We were looking forward to a pleasant ride up the Thames, after all it's only a river. Maybe we would sail if the wind stayed out of the west. But when we woke this morning we were enveloped in a light mist and the air was as still as still. One could have shaved in the reflection from the surface of the river. (one didn't, and the other one certainly didn't!)

So we were resigned to motoring leisurely up with the tide and had calculated that departure at 0930 and a maintained speed of 5 knots over the bottom would have us at Limehouse at slack water ready to go through lock at high tide at around 1630. With up to two knots of flood under us we could just throttle back when we started to move too quickly. We would have a pleasant dawdle between the fragrant banks of the garden county and the home of Essex girls. Oh 'the best laid plans', etc.

Click for a larger imageThe first few miles were pleasant enough. The haze was sufficient to make seeing the next navigation mark a bit of a strain for poor old eyes but as the hot sun burned off the mist, this navigational difficulty literally evaporated.

As we left the Tilbury Container docks behind, we saw a magnificent Thames barge at anchor. She looked beautiful.

Skies to the west started to change colour over the next few minutes and as we approached the Queen Elizabeth Bridge at Dartford we got the first strong gusts which were to precede an hour of squalls.

The river started to stand on end. The bow rose and crashed down into the troughs sending curtains of spray into the face of the helmsman and skipper, one Clive Anstiss. And all the while the crew, me, was huddled in the doghouse making meaningless pencil crosses on the chart, but staying dry.

Clive donned waterproofs and continued to steer into this horrendous chop, salty water dripping from hat and beard. I continued to stare at chart and GPS for fear that the skipper should catch my eye and demand assistance. But it was a doomed strategy. I felt the hand of authority on my shoulder as Clive suggested, firmly, that we were going to lose a headsail unless I tied it down more securely, and as it was me that had tied it down..

I donned waterproof jacket and harness, it was that lumpy, and went out into adventure land forward of the mast. Clive's wait for retribution was not to be long. Before I had even passed the mast, a wave drenched me. And there were a few more before I got back to the safety of the cockpit.

As we were pounding so hard, I went forward to check where planks had wept a little when we first went into the water. As expected, there was some trace of minor leakage but nothing to worry us. But she obviously wants some nursing in a big sea, otherwise it might become a worry.

But the big problem was that in spite of tidal assistance in excess of a knot, the headwind slowed our speed over the bottom to little more than three knots. At this rate we would be anchoring in the tideway to wait for the next flood unless we could do something about it. So we were fortunate that the wind started to abate and we were able to increase speed again and make good our earlier slowness. Sadly the reduction in wind speed coincided with our passing of Erith. At least the strong wind had dissipated the smell. What is that horrible smell at Erith?

Click for a larger imageBy 1330 we were back on schedule and at that point on the river where one should advise the Thames Barrier control of one's intention to pass and to be allocated a span through which to go without running into something coming the other way. So I started to call on the radio. I tried calling Woolwich Radio which is what my chart says. Nothing heard. I tried calling Thames Barrier Control which is what I thought it might be. Nothing heard. Eventually, probably as a result of my cries for attention becoming more desperate, London VTS answered and advised that we should pass through span 'E'cho. I have since discovered, with some difficulty, that VTS stands for Vessel Traffic Services and that London VTS is the current name for Woolwich Radio. So why wouldn't they answer before? Bloody mindedness? Or maybe our radio really is not broadcasting at any range. Let's hope for 'bloody mindedness'!

It was interesting to see one of the spans with the barrier panel above water as we passed through.

Once through the Barrier we were struck, almost physically, by the interesting smells of Beckton. And then into Gallions Reach we were further amazed at the residential building development, amid that strange smell and right under the flight path into City Airport. I do hope they are fully double glazed and air conditioned.

We picked our way past lumbering Woolwich ferries, past the beautiful buildings of Woolwich and came in sight of the dreaded and dreadful Millennium Dome. Even now I still cannot believe that whereas great civilisations have built commemorative building to last: the pyramids, the Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower; the British government put up a bloody 'tent' to commemorate the two thousandth birthday of Jesus Christ, that they spent millions over budget and then they got the date wrong by a year! What a bunch of tossers.

Click for a larger imageEventually we were in the shadow of Canary Wharf and were able to contact Limehouse to let us into the Marina. It's a great feeling to have the London traffic stopped so that your little yacht can pass through.

With Clive's skilful manoeuvering, we stemmed the last of the tide without mishap. We locked in and were soon inside the historic Limehouse Basin and tied up alongside the lovely Michaela of Poole.

A celebratory litre of Pimms (between us) and a quick pint in the Cruising Association bar preceded dinner at the Narrow Street Tavern where the food is excellent, the clientele is cool and elegant apart from us, the wine list is diverse but, sadly, the music is dire. Dinner was bangers and mash for one and a super-burger for the other accompanied by a couple of bottles of fine South African red. Hangovers are to be expected.

Les Sutcliffe

PS. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the skipper.

<-Southend 23rd June Limehouse 29th June->