THE thing about owning a boat on the Thames is that, just occasionally, there’s a desire to venture to pastures new. To cast off from one’s home mooring and head off into the unknown (well, almost unknown, anyway).
It’s probably got something to do with the old chestnut about Englishmen having seawater in their veins – island race which used to rule the waves and all that.
Whatever the deep underlying psychological reason may be, it’s worked its magic on my brother Alan and me and we’re off on what my bruv calls ‘an adventure’ when we’re taking our old Seamaster cabin cruiser all the way down to the Thames Estuary and then heading into the River Medway as it winds its way through the Kent countryside.
Now, that might not sound like much of an adventure to some – I’m not claiming to be the next Robin Knox-Johnston here – but for a couple of old geezers with an elderly boat powered by a cantankerous diesel engine that came off the production line some time around 1962, it does require a bit of thought and forward planning.
On the upside, it’ll be fun to venture through central London, past the Houses of Parliament, the Millennium Wheel, St Pauls, Tower Bridge etc in our own boat. We’ve planned the trip to take advantage of the tides so that from Richmond half lock downstream we should be helped along by the ebb speeding us past Kew, Fulham, and Wandsworth into the heart of the capital.
But you have to make allowances for the unexpected. And we’ve certainly done that. We have enough anchors aboard to keep the Queen Mary II from moving in a force 8 gale and sufficient warps (mooring lines, to the uninitiated) to stretch from Shepperton lock to Chertsey and back. The boat is also now crammed with yacht flares, a tender and outboard, spare fuel cans and we’ve made sure the VHF radio is in good working order. The electrics seem to be in good order and the engine (touch wood) is behaving itself.
The trip from Shepperton to the mouth of the Medway is around 100 miles by river and with a top speed of around six knots we’re certainly not going to be setting any world speed records – but that’s not what we want to do.
As the river widens out past Tilbury docks and the sight of big ships entering and leaving the estuary becomes a common sight, we’re both looking forward to taking something of a step back in time to that period when London was one of the busiest trading seaports in the world and Britannia really did rule the waves.
And maybe, just maybe, feeling the seawater pulsing through our own aged veins as we navigate our way across the estuary and into the heart of Kent.
It should be fun – I’ll report back on the trip in two week’s time.