Sunday, May 29, 2016

Extreme Narrowboating 2–negotiating the maze.

Note: If you haven’t read Part 1, do that first. In fact even if you had read it on Sunday, you might like to do so again now that I have fixed a lot of the typos – especially the missing “no” in the sentence Sue and Richard on Indigo dream are previous Herbie Award holders in recognition of their bounteous hospitality and today was to be no exception.  Anyhow, here we go with part 2

After the thrills and thankfully no spills of the first half of our mega journey we arrived at our turning point opposite Southend.  This might technically be the Thames estuary, but, come on, it’s the sea ain’t it. Resisting the temptation to cruise over to Southend Pier for an ice cream we somehow managed to identify the line of green buoys we were looking for, not at all easy as there were buoys all over the place.  It was a good job we didn’t head for the biggest bunch of buoys because it seems they mark the site of the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery which sank in 1944 with 1400 tonnes of explosives on board.  Bits of it appeared to be still sticking out of the water. On the map I showed in my previous post, the spot is marked by a star like shape. Suggestions of drifting over there dangling a sea searcher magnet were oddly ignored! 

If you draw a straight line from Shoeburyness on the Essex shore, through our position and on to the land on the South shore inside the Medway estuary, that’s over seven miles width of water.  A bit wider than yer average canal.

Having avoided the explosive wreck we did a wide sweep into the Medway estuary in search of our next explosive target, a socking great liquid gas tanker discharging its load inside a 250 metre exclusion zone.  Size wise, this picture doesn’t do it justice.  it was a whopper.


messages on the VHF were warning boats to keep away. We didn’t need much persuading. Imagine that lot going up! En route to it though, we still had some excitement when two lifeboats came roaring across our bows at some speed heading towards the open sea.  They didn’t miss us by much, I don’t think they were in any mood to stop.

lifeboat 2

We thought we were going fast until we saw these guys.


They didn’t even give us a wave, although they left us some choppy waves in their wake.


The Medway estuary is truly vast and has lots of islands and it took us hours to get through on a zig zag path so bewildering that I am not at all sure that the route I have marked on the map is the one we took  I’m glad to say though that the water conditions were nice and calm, which enabled the wonderful Sue to warm up the scrummy stew she had prepared.  It was an exact copy of a recipe she got from Rick Stein, except she had changed all the ingredients (and probably the method for all I know).  Anyhow it had lamb and almonds and chorizo and I want some more.  Rick Stein should be getting lessons from Sue.  We had been travelling for about eight hours so far and we still have twenty odd miles to go.

The wind had now died down a lot, so much so that a group of beautiful Thames sailing barges that I think had been racing earlier had slowed down to a stately crawl.  What fabulous boats.

barge 1


barge 2

After what seemed an age and after several blind bends in the shore line we entered something that actually looked a little bit like a river and we began to relax.  Well we would have done had we not ended up in the middle of a sailing dinghy race.  I’m not quite sure how we avoided a collision at this point, but we did. I don’t think they see a lot of narrowboats down here, especially coming off the sea. We got looks which said “How the hell did you get here?”  Anyhow, the seemed fairly amused when we asked if this was the way to Birmingham.

Having done all the scary stuff we were now oblivious to more warnings of explosions.



Soon came Rochester


and Chatham


or was it the other way round? Anyhow they both look well worth a visit, especially to the historic dockyard at Chatham.

Then on up the river, now looking like Kent and obviously beloved of plastic cruisers.


after which came some miles of winding through of salt marshes


before reaching a cosy quintessentially English landscape


and at last, at about half past four, our destination  Allington lock which lifted us off the tideway


and into the safety of the river


where we all stopped, had a glass of pink champagne, followed by a couple of pints (surprise surprise) at the Malta Inn. Well we’d flippin’ well earned it after eleven hours non stop cruising don’t you think?  In the pub we met up with some of the crews that had done the same trip in a larger flotilla a couple of weeks earlier.  They did it with overnight stops in Gravesend and Queenborough and had had flat calm and good visibility.  Amateurs Winking smile.

Millions of thanks to our unbelievably generous hosts Sue and Richard, our genial crew companions Trev and Jan, and Andrew and Frances Phasey on Doris Katia without whom none of us would have dared to make the trip.  I don’t suppose any of us will ever forget it.


Anonymous said...

Is that Kev having a mini collapse in the last photo?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this - a good record of the trip, and you certainly had less clement weather in Sea Reach than the main convoy a fortnight beforehand.

Simon Judge
NB Scholar Gypsy

Anonymous said...

PS Chatham is before Rochester.

Sue said...

Fantastic trip!! My turn next year in a proper cruise ship!! :D

Vallypee said...

Wow, wow and wow again! What an amazing trip! And great photos too! Thanks for the virtual ride!

Vallypee said...

Just a question...what was the purpose of this trip?

Marilyn McDonald said...

It was great to read but I am SO glad it wasn't me doing it!
I've sent the link to this and yesterday's post to a friend who a) lives in Chatham, and b) has been on our boat, and c) has had a trip on the pilot boat out of New Plymouth harbour to transport the pilot to a container ship that he had to bring into harbour.
The language in her reply to my email was too colourful to transcribe here, but words like made, nuts, WTH seemed to feature largely ...
Glad you are all safe and sound!
Cheers, Marilyn

Richard Beynon said...

My burning question (reading this on July 23) is: how did you get back, and was it as hazardous/exciting/nailbiting?