Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Limehouse to Woolwich via Thames Flood Barrier and back

Saturday 21st August 2010

Limehouse Lock filling by opening the gates

We weren't due out of Limehouse Lock onto the Thames until the afternoon, so we spent a lazy morning doing not very much. We did look at some boats locking through onto the tideway, though. The water looked a little choppy! Some large boats going out needed the Narrow Street swing bridge swung.

I made wedges to block off the drain holes in the well deck, and constructed navigation lights out of plastic drinks bottles and coloured plastic film. And a couple of LED lights. These worked fine until we were asked to use them "in anger": then I found that the batteries in both lights had almost run out. Oops!

David, Penny and Fergus, with friend Mike, rejoined us just before we needed to enter the lock, so it was a bit of a rush to get everybody kitted out in lifejackets.

three boats entering the tideway

Going through the lock, at 1600, was interesting. The lock has no paddles: to empty or fill it the radial gates are opened slightly! We had to pass lines through risers in the lock side so that we could hold the boat steady. Not a problem going out as we were locking down onto an ebbing tide, only a couple of hours before low water.

In a few minutes we were in the short lock cut, sounding the horn as we entered the tideway proper. This was it! Nothing between us and the sea! There was quite a lot of rocking and rolling, or so it felt, especially when the large passenger boats went past. We had to turn the bow into the wash so as to minimise its effect. A wash hitting us broadside would have been quite scary, and things might have fallen over inside the boat! That didn't happen, though, and I suppose conditions must have been perfectly OK for us to do the trip, or the St. Pancras Cruising Club would have called it off.

heading for Canary Wharf and the O2 Dome

Our destination was the Flood Barrier, with the option of continuing to the Woolwich Ferry if time and tide were favourable. We passed several landmarks, Canary Wharf and the O2 dome being the most notable, before steering through Span E of the Thames Flood Barrier. Well, someone steered. I was inside trying to get new batteries into the navigation lights.

Fergus steering

passing through the Thames Flood Barrier

Mike, his camera, and me in the lens

After the flood barrier we went on before turning just above the Woolwich Ferry. I think the water must have been fairly slack when we got back to Limehouse Lock, as there was no problem making the turn and entering the lock. Then it was a case of passing lines behind the risers again - stout vertical steel ropes set into the walls - and holding on while the gates opened to let some of the water in the basin into the lock.

Our space against the wall in the basin was still free, so at 2015 we tied up and discussed how we were all going to get to Blackheath, where everybody else lived, for a barbecue. There were five bikes for six people. Jan and Fergus went on the DLR, leaving David, Penny, Mike and me to cycle.

Stick with me, because this didn't go according to plan. (And I haven't even mentioned what could have been a bigger disaster yet!) I was assigned Fergus's bike, whch had been bought in France a couple of weeks earlier. This is relevant. French bicycles have their front and rear brakes cabled differently from British bikes: on French bikes the front brake is operated by the left hand, and the rear by the right. I didn't know this, and, although I noticed that the brakes seemed quite fierce, I hadn't realised they were the "wrong way round". On an uneven brick-paved road I must have braked to avoid a dip ... and suddenly I found myself slamming into the ground chin first! A bit of a shock. The bike had stopped dead, and I'd gone over the handlebars. Fortunately there was no traffic around. I soon discovered that I'd grazed and bruised my left shoulder, and grazed my right leg, presumably on bits of the bike. After a minute or five to recover we cycled on, I riding mostly one-handed now.

Wow! A lot of words. And I haven't started on the discovery I made in the engine hole the next day. That will have to wait for another post.


VallyP said...

Fantastic! That must have been really something to go through the flood barrier. Glad you weren't hurt doing acrobatics with the bike! Now I'm intrigued as to what the disaster could have been....

Debbie said...

I am so jealous! My dream is to take Tickety Boo on the Thames, so read your blog with great interest, photo's are great. Sorry to hear about your tumble off the bike Halfie, hope your grazes are healing nicely, not to mention your pride!