We left the Kennet and Avon on the Tuesday with an aim to get as far as we could manage before booking our use of the Thames Lock at Brentford. We were not sure how long we would need to get to Teddington.
The first day started off pretty well. There was one tree that tried to take out of solar panels and everything else on the roof while I attempted to collect Alan from the lock landing at Fobney Lock. We won that battle and moved on. The Thames was lovely and the weather was good. At lunchtime we arrived in Henley and moored up. Henley is a great town that is boater friendly. We walked into town and did a bit of a shop and had ice cream on the way back to the boat.
As it was early we decided to push on to Marlowe for the afternoon. First we were queue jumped by some self-important Sultan (literally a Sultan of somewhere) who had to have the lock to themselves due to security. Then when we got to Marlowe with three mooring areas listed on the map found only about half of one area completely full. We get to the lock and find it self-service and the landing not attached to land or lock in anyway. What idiot designed that thing?!?
Inside the lock is where the drama happened. To get all the boats in we budged up a bit in the lock not seeing a bit of a ledge sticking out into the lock. Only small but under our bow gunnel. There was a family volunteering unofficially at the lock manning the controls. Alan had the bow rope and I had the stern. I noticed the stern was pushing out and I couldnt pull her in with the rope. As I was facing the boat behind me I turned around and found we were flipping over. I screamed for help. Alan jumped out and started kicking the bow to try and dislodge it. The kids on controls did an emergency stop. Just barely in the nick of time as we were probably at a 60 degree angle from the water the bow slid off the ledge and the boat righted itself. After that we were so shock and scared that we found a decent tree to tie up to for the night not far from the lock. We never want to see Marlowe again as long as we live!
Day two we headed for Windsor. We were still feeling so much from the terrifying evening before that we needed a calmer and shorter day. Windsor was only about 8 miles away which was a nice short day. There were several locks but we arrived in Windsor in time for lunch. We got very lucky and found a spot at the Windsor Castle moorings at a local park area. After a shower and change we had a pub lunch, popped to the shop and walked home through the park. Windsor was surprisingly our noisiest mooring though as at one point a nearby fun fair had music blaring, a train was zooming past and a plane from Heathrow was going overhead. We were tired though so it wasn’t hard to ignore it all and go to sleep.
That night while moored at Windsor we decided to book our passage through Thames Lock. We didn’t expect this to be such a limited choice. Our only option for a couple of weeks was to make the Tidal Thames journey on Friday evening. We had expected to book for that to happen on Saturday morning so we would have the whole day to get through as much of London as possible. Friday evening meant travelling all day then mooring almost immediately after the lock. We had only heard horror stories of not finding mooring spaces or needing to double or even triple moor. This had us stressed right back out again.
From Windsor we headed out with a goal on Sunbury for the night. On the whole our journey this day was smooth. It took about an hour and a lock to get from our mooring around Windsor Castle and past the estate. Runnymead was a really nice looking area which Alan and I intend to go back by car and explore. So much history around there but we had to push on if we were to get to Teddington on time the next day. As we came up to the last lock of the day we spotted moorings. Lovely and safe mooring that didn’t require me climbing around like a monkey which is just not happening with the broken wrist. We decided that stopping there didn’t add but maybe an hour onto our time and there was no guarantee of finding another farther downstream. We moored up at Shepperton.
Shepperton has a pub immediately across the street from the visitor moorings and an artisan market with cafe about 50 metres down the way. The lock within eyeshot of our boat had facilities for waste so we could get rid of our rubbish and other things. The best part was that we wanted to go to the store and there was one not far away. We googled the directions only for it to expect us to walk across the river….not bridge but river. Excuse me? Turned out to be a ferry crossing. Once I realised that I had to go to the store even more because, well, …. a ferry! It was about a two minute right but food shop by ferry is just not something I get to do everyday.
We were now about 8 miles I think…maybe 10 from Teddington. It was Friday and our crossing was 4pm. 9am we headed to the lock and tied up. Alan went to see if the keeper was there. The keeper tried to fast fill the lock for us. That sucked the water down and us under the landing pulling us overas the water rose but the gunnel was caught. Alan and I pushed for all we were worth. The keeper did whatever it was he needed to do to get our boat released and we were ok. He did apologiseand also gave me pointers about the Tidal portion of our trip.
After this drama we were a bit shook again but we enjoyed cruising up into London proper and managed to moor up at Hampton Court Palace itself! This was my dream come true!! This was the one and only mooring that I wanted to have. I could only have it for a lunch breat before leaving again at 3pm for Teddington but I got my mooring. We had lunch then walked to a cash machine which was too far away and the weather was too hot. We walked back and had a rest for about an hour before it was time to go again.
Hampton Court to Teddington got a bit choatic. Around Kingston everyone seemed to get stupid. First some teenager decided to swim across our bow while we were moving. Alan threw us into reverse and we missed him but also lost sight of him before he came out the oter side so didn’t know if we hit the idiot. Then a moron in a rowing boat with his wife and two small children decided to row to the centre arch of a bridge and stop. The centre arch is for motorcraft. We were headed for that arch. We hocked at him but he didn’t move. We honked again and still no response. Alan is back in reverse and I am yelling for this guy to turn around and look where he is going. to which he turns around and stops again. Alan just about managed to maneouver around him but again if this were survival of the fittest the world would be down another 4 people.
Teddington had its own issues. At locks I need to helm as I can’t manage the front ropes as well as Alan because the rope is attached there. At the back where I am the rope can release to make it easier to pull in when it is time to pull out. The landing was off to the right ad well positioned if you were going into the right hand lock but a nightmare if going in the left. Obviously we were going in the left. I had to back up and turn hard over but I couldn’t get a good turn and ended up almost perpendicular with the lock I needed to get into before going hard over in the other direction and somehow getting into the lock. I am still not sure how I managed not to crash. After the lock I handed over to Alan as I knew that I wouldn’t have the strength to battle a tidal current if anything got tough because of the wrist.
The Tidal was so calm. People were still swimming off to the sides of the river and lots of little boats, kayaks, and even paddleboarders were out. London is gorgeous from the river. Not so fond of it from the road side but from the river you would never know you are in one of the biggest cities in the world. Finding the Brentford turn was difficult. We knew it would be difficult. We had our map and a gps for finding the turn. We had watched videos and knew landmarks for the turn and it was still so difficult. There are also low water/ sandbars in the area to distract while looking for the turn. We spotted it and Alan started the turn. Not too close as it is about a 120 degree turn but not so much that we get pulled downstream into a sandbar. He said he was struggling with the tiller as the current tried to force it the other way. we got the boat around though in a perfect turn and up the channel to the lock. We switched helmsman and got straight into the lock. A lock of 5 inches of depth change.
We missed that there were 24 hour moorings immediately after the lock. We had even called ahead asking about nearby moorings and noone mentioned these were there. They are not in the map book either. We thought we had missed our chance. We went on the the Brentford Gauging locks and got water immediately after. Alan went walking down the canal to see if he could find anything and found us a single spot around a corner. No double mooring. Not the best of spots but we were so done for the day.
What did we learn on the Thames? It is actually easier to find mooring nearer to London that farther out. Marlowe is a terrible place. Henley is everything good we had heard. London is beautiful by boat!