Monday, 14 January 2013

Entering the Royal Docks

After the excitement of the Woolwich Ferries came the entrance to the King George lock.

I think this must be the largest lock I have navigated. I estimate that you could fit 60 wide Grand Union locks in here. Those are the (Thames-side) gates closing behind us in the photo below.

Just five minutes later (according to my camera's timing) the dock-side gates were opened. That's as fast as any Grand Union lock!

After a twenty minute delay while clearance was awaited from air traffic control - London City Airport is built in the middle of the dock - the bascule bridge started to open.

We had a ten minute window in which to clear the aircraft approach area. As soon as the bridge had opened sufficiently the tall-masted plastic boats powered out of the lock ...

... leaving the narrowboats standing.

But we got the "hurry up" and charged out ourselves.

The three boats in the photo below look as though they're on a wide choppy river: they're actually still in the lock!

Immediately on exiting the lock we turned right. Right under the final approach path for aircraft. Doris Katia is powering past the lights at the end of the runway.

Above Lotus No. 10 and Doris Katia are aeroplanes on the hard standing. This is Royal Albert Dock, whose water seemed lumpier than the river we'd just left.

Dividing Royal Albert Dock from Royal Victoria Dock is the Connaught Bridge, actually a road bridge and separate foot bridge. Andrew Phasey had confidently advised the authorities on the VHF radio that narrowboats didn't need the footbridge raising. The plastic yachts had blasted on ahead and the bridge (or bridges? Presumably the road bridge is also a moveable structure) had already been lowered. There was plenty of room.

One constant feature throughout the latter stages of this docks cruise was photographer and Canal Boat magazine deputy editor Martin Ludgate. We first spotted him on the Thames-side lock gates, and now here he was on the impressive suspension bridge spanning the Royal Victoria Dock. (He's that speck in the middle!) For his high-angle photo our narrowboat convoy formed up seven-abreast.

And then it was suddenly the end of the cruise, and somehow I was still steering. I hope Richard, Paul, Andy and Sarah will forgive me for hogging the tiller. A neat U-turn, and we tied up right where Jan and I had enjoyed the view in the sun six months ago. That was just before we watched some Olympic table tennis at ExCeL on the dockside.

For my final photograph I set up the camera on its self-timer. Here I am (flat cap and blue scarf) looking very happy!

And it wasn't entirely down to Andrew's generous doling out of sloe gin and whisky, the traditional ending, as I learned, to this particular SPCC Royal Docks cruise. But it may have helped. No, actually, I would have been grinning anyway after such a splendid bit of boating.

For more photos, including excellent ones of the Woolwich Ferries I missed getting, see Richard's on his Indigo Dream blog.

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