The River Thames….part 1

Canals we were good on but to get to the Kennet and Avon Canal we have to use the River Thames. That is big open water compared to a little canal. We were, to say the least, terrified for what it would be like.

The Sunday morning Alan push me off and walked along the canal for the mile to Isis Lock. We didn’t meet any other boats and Alan was able to have the lock open and ready for me. Seemed like a good start to the day but then we read the instructions on the lock. They were bizarre and had us manoeuvring the boat in a 360 degree turn which got us stuck in a tree. I understand others don’t bother with the instructions and just turn right without difficulty. Do NOT listen to the daft instructions.

We used the barge pole to push ourselves out of the tree and into the channel to the Thames. Under a low train bridge we went and at the junction it was a hard left onto the Thames. Next stop was our first Thames lock at Osney.

We had no idea what to expect to be honest. We got to the lay-by (what they call a lock landing on the Thames) and tied up then another narrowboat came up behind and we learned quickly to push up as far on a lay-by as possible. We got into the lock and I discovered I had no idea how to throw a rope over a bollard. With help we got the ropes around and the keeper let the water out. At this point is when I learned we would go down enough that my rope would come off the bollard on my stern and I would have to catch it and hold on to both ends. I learned this when I saw my rope end getting away.

Now we were out of the lock we cruised through Oxford with rows and river boats all around. There were many boat houses on both sides of the river and parks where people enjoyed the view. A decorative bridge and the opportunity to spot the river signs directing us around little islands along the way.

Cruising on the river is much quicker than on a canal. The speed limit is well above our abilities I suspect but with the current moving us forward as well as our engine our time helming was much reduced for the mileage we were getting in. Through Iffley and Sanford Locks we went….still learning along the way. Remembering to turn off my engine in the lock is an ongoing lesson for me.

After Sandford Lock it was clear sailing to Abingdon. Alan did most of this as it was open and wide. We had very few other boats around us so it was quite relaxing. We had the Thames Path along on the right for the five miles to our last lock of the day at Abingdon. Once we were through our plan was to find the first mooring spot possible.

While in the lock we were advised we could moor anywhere after the red buoys (or red floaty things as a sign described them for the unknowing). I spotted that last red buoy and headed almost immediately for the bank. We got a very nice spot across from the bottom of the weir…a bit forward of it as well.

My personal goal for the week was to get to the end of the Oxford canal and we went over and above so I earned my reward of a meal out. W wandered into town and tried to find a place to eat. The first pub was closed for unforeseen reasons. The second had a very small and uninspiring menu. The third would have cost us our first born. The fourth wasn’t serving food for another hour and a half. The fifth place we looked had decent prices and an interesting menu. I had tapas so as to have room for churros as dessert.

We realised we had no idea how long we could stay at a mooring as there was no signage like on a canal. Alan needed to be in the office the next day so we felt all we could do was risk it. On Monday, we each were searching for mooring information and getting nothing concrete. All the official websites said was 24 hours is typical but sometimes you can pay to stay longer. Forums said that one could usually get away with three days. Finally after several search’s I got the right combo to find that you need to search the local mooring rules. Abingdon allows three nights.

Three days was perfect as the weather was not and Alan needed to work. It was decided we would stay put until Wednesday morning. Abingdon is a lovely town so very happy to stay put.

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