I LOVE this time of year on the river. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a bright, crisp autumn day or a dull, misty morning, the Thames has its own very special moods.
The main attraction, of course, is that for those few of us prepared to venture out onto the water as winter approaches, there’s the joy of having the river virtually to yourself.
My brother, my wife and I recently took our old Seamaster 25 cruiser ‘Terra Nova’ from Shepperton down to Richmond on a gloriously sunny autumn day.
And it’s a very different tempo to those crowded hustle-and-bustle days on the Thames during the summer months.
The lock-keepers have time to talk to you, yarning about what they’ve seen and giving gentle advice about taking it easy on the approach to this or that reach because of bank repair works.
And when you do see fellow boaters, they, too, seem to have succumbed to the slow-moving ethos of the river in autumn.
As we passed under Kingston Bridge, for example, the sight that greeted us was another boat broadside on and stationary across the river.
We pottered up to it and were greeted by the sounds of muffled grunting and muttering as the skipper wrestled with a recalcitrant outboard motor that had died in midstream.
“Need a hand?’ I enquired, and the grateful owner asked if we could tow him back to his mooring so he could find a larger hammer with which to service his old engine.
“I just couldn’t resist getting out on the river today,” he volunteered as we guided him home, “It’s just so lovely when it’s quiet like this – mind you, I wasn’t expecting that wretched outboard to join in with the quiet thing…”
As we passed through Teddington lock onto the tidal Thames, we watched several cormorants drying their wings in the sunshine and preening themselves on the top of mooring posts. It was idyllic.
Terra Nova is now out of the water, snugged down on its trailer, but I’ve made sure to tell the boatyard not to hide her away in an inaccessible corner of the yard because we shall certainly take her out again before the end of the year.
Really, I suppose, I’m just trying to put off for as long as possible all those dirty, unpleasant jobs that boat ownership brings during the close season. Which reminds me, I must ask my wife what colour anti-fouling she fancies painting on this year…