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The London Ring rally 2011

           
           
                 
   

This first event of the season was one of those 'shall we make? can we do it?' jobbies. Frustrating complications all round and the boat in pieces as is always the case at this time of year. Well obviously we made it, which meant a couple of really late nights and some cunning last minute work tying shock cord around trailer brakie bridges to allow us to depart, albeit 12hrs later than hoped.

Much trailer checking and soon we were on the way. All went well till we ended up in a housing estate... but a phone call assure us that the sat nav was ok.. even though you're convinced you're lost keep going and voila! A load of wet macs all chomping at the bit to be setting off. We threw the boat in the water and scrambled to be as quick as poss to get off. Valid insurance certificates? registration documents?? office manager somewhere??? In the end a random certificate code was imagined after failing to get through my emails. At last we set off. The air was a little tense, due in part to the heatwave that was making all a little sticky. The weather was utterly beautifull.

           
   

           
   


We arrived at the first lock. Mandy leapt out and ran and barked like a sergeant major organising sluice gates and windlass wielding. I looked smugly on as I held Restless on our new colour matched (Black and Burgundy) mooring warps and new burgundy edged black bimini. The aloofness was from the fact that we were sporting a bumper crop of fenders. As the day wore on I tried to remember where I read about tooling up with the airbags for lock-work. I could almost let the boat just bounce about. Still, keeping the outboards off the sill and controling the boats' descent prompted me to reach for my ropework gloves. Make a note here... big rope burn potential. Even in the heat, I was very happy to have these on!

More locks... and yet more!! Evenyually we came to the tidal Thames lock in Brentford. It had been a hard push. I had not realised just how much work was involved in the process. We managed to ram 4 bats in each lock. Had we been 5 it would have been a different story completely. Also, we were stressed for time to get to our destination. If we missed the Limehouse basin lock we would be forced to spend the evening on a Very bouncy waiting pontoon, or worse, in an area of London that one would really not want to without being armed.

 

           
               
   
Much to my relief we hit the Thames with the possibility of reaching our destination. However, we were punching tide. It sucked. We ploughed on. I looked out and recognized random pubs and areas. We pushed on. I recovered a fender and lost a hat. We kept on pushing. Suddenly the landmarks of central London came into view. The tide had turned, and we were now pelting along the banks. The weather had brought all out, and they lined the banks in row upon row. Our SOG picked up. I began noticing that there were some strong wakes on the bridges, and we still had miles to go. Keeping a lookout for random torpedoes (tre trunks/railway sleepers) we continued to pick up speed. Between the bridges we were now plunging through standing waves of over a meter.. it was begining to feel like being out on the sea. Tower bridge came and went in such a flash I realised that I was very happy to be in a mac. I was gratefull of the horses on tap as at times I was calling on them as we thrust and parried with the weight of watery bodies. Shorty after we arrived. We hooked the tidal stream.. and it was indeed a spring... and gunned up revvs as in procession we crabbed our way to the gate. The youngest of clan Kinnard had radioed us about strong currents, and as we approached sideways at 45deg I guessed the run must have been about 7kts. Suddenly in the shelter we eased the revs and coasted into the sheltered lock. The gate guardians informed us of current news and took us in. Within a few minutes we were tied up in a millpond amonst barges and asorted river craft. We wrapped up the evening with a gathering at a local pub, and spied on the locals till we got to discover the shower code. For private berth holders only now, apparently.

           
   

--Day 2--

           
                 
   

The next day saw us attacking the locks again. A little more spread out, and still in the same heatwave. By now we all had our places in the locks so the process was alot more relaxed. The canal sides looked splendid, which surprised me somewhat as Mile End road really is a bit of a dump! We also passed by the floating community, moored 3 deep and preparing for battles with British Waterways. They are begining to pin Section8 (as with non-mot'ed vehicles) notices on unlicensed boats then subsequently crushing them.
The Islington tunnel was an oddity. Restless has now cruised underground, and for quite some distance. It is really dark and really narrow, though if you hit the side it is the stanchions that protest. The boat ahead learnt this the hard way and we can attest the sound is horrific. The only way off the graunch is by pushing the nose off with a boathook.

           
   

           
                 
   

By the time we got to Camden we were a well oiled team. Just as well really... being a sweltering bank holiday the crowds were out in droves. Not only were we utterly different from all other river/canal cruisers, there was also a whole gang of us. We came into the locks with people shoulder to shoulder along the railings. A good thing they had been put there too.. a coule of locks previously an ignorant mother had her toddlers sitting between the bollards and was most put out on being informed that they ought to move least fall foul of a warp. Locks are very dangerous places. Deceptive.

           
               
                 
    Randomly via a quick phone call I managed to aquire some extra crew.. namely my sister and her Beau. (who became official photographer for the day)            
   
           
               
   
After a short cruise through Regents park we came to Little Venice. It was certainly little, but not like Venice. Anyway, before I could ponder on that much further the heavens suddenly opened. Not even my super new bimini with wings for extra all night protection could keep that driving rain off the captain. The wind picked up something crazy too, so within about 10 mins we were all wet and actually quite chilled, tying up to neighbouring vessels of several tonnage as our ground stakes twitched and turned, threatening to pull out. And then it was over.
I counted that as my shower for the day and after minimal faffing we all set off to find a local. I think someone spiked my ale(s) as I have only the vaguest recollections of dancing with vice, than falling asleep on top of Carpe Diem. Can't believe my first officer allowed this to happen...

           
    --Day 3--            
                 
   


Sunday, our third day together saw the fellowship of the ring part company. Aranah slunk of early heading south-west back to the dark and desolate plains of Southhamordor from where it had come, crying out with maniacal triumph at having avoided the indignity of being awarded a certain well deserved rat. Restless held the faith with Carde Diem and resolved to return to the fray of middle London, whilst Cyan checked the tides.

And so ends the first chapter of story of the London Ring.

           
    --Part II--            
   
The rest of Sunday was an easy day. We wound our way towards Camden, found a mooring, tied up and , well... we stayed a while.
           
                 
               
   
Restless in fine river livery sporting a half river rudder, 4hp auxilliary drive, fully fendered with a few other bits too...
           
   
At about this time, events took a strange turn. Having found a pefect mooring, Primrose Hill, right by a huge supermarket and 3 mins down the canal to the center of Camden market, we observed something that Stephen Hawking has been desperate to prove for decades. Time began to slow down. Almost imperceptible at first, but ever more certain as the mooring ropes proved. They sat still as memories accrued of West end shows, Camden market , strolls through parks. Tea and chats with neighbours, both fixed and floating. We proved the gourmet capabilities of the galley time and time again. The solar shower (with an extra kettles worth) strung from the sprayhood poles provided an excellent wash facility, with the perticipant standing in a gorilla tub. Perfect weather day after day eased us into this part of the world with all its charm and guile. Our floating neighbours rotated, the tourists came by in their droves chattering away in their carious tongues. We borrowed a waterways key and sneaked into locked parks at night, deserted plains in the center of London with cries from the zoo jostling for place in the night air against the far away traffic. Day after day we put off returning, another reason, another excuse came and went. Eventually we departed, though why exactly I'm not sure. We threaded our way towards our trailer, passing herons in odd places in the most bizarre and often grotesque poses, as though auditioning for some role as a gargoyle. At one point we were on an aquaduct. It pleased me to note that Restless has now made passage through storm, underground and now overground. From there it was a jet lagged return to reality. I still get the peculiar feeling that I left something behind...
           
                 
               
   
Tucked in amoungst the tanks in Londons' most sought after visitor mooring.   Putting the new table to really good use again