Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Thames Raid Day 3

Sometime just before the crack of dawn as the sparrows were just about to start their cacophany the billy can clattering started. As Dave was heard muttering to Mary- Dog " If I'd known I was travelling with a bunch of bloody insomniacs I wouldn't have come!"

The group were definitely dividing into two groups, the early-birds and the big ZZ brigade.
The early's were up, breakfasted and packed as the ZZZds were just appearing bleary eyed at the tent flap. I would normally be snoring on with the ZZZds and Mrs N was shocked to hear how early I was up and about, but there was method in my madness. I was very keen to get going in the morning and making a good start otherwise Pam and I would be creeping in at midnight.

So once again it was an early start, this time we didn't even wait for the lock keeper. Being such experts we thought we could manage just fine ourselves. There are a couple of things it's best to remember when operating locks. One, is when going down its best to close the sluices on the upstream gates otherwise it takes along time to empty. It also pays to make sure your boat has plenty of free line, otherwise it'll get left hanging on its own on the painter like yesterday's washing.

The main point of interest on today's trip would be passing through the historic and picturesque City of Oxford with it's Dreaming Spires and Quiet Quadrangles. Equally famous for it's rowing teams we would pass the college boat houses along the river side. All of this would be of even greater interest if ANYONE had taken any photograph's. But sadly such was the hurry to get somewhere, anywhere, onward ever onward they rowed.

To be fair we had arranged to catch up with Chris and Viv Perkins at the pub at Sandford Lock so we pressed on.
Lunch at the King's Arms was a bit of a relay race, as the first group were just finishing and getting ready to leave another couple would turn up although the hopeless service ensured that you had plenty of time to wait while the others caught up. I was just leaving as Wayne was arriving but he decided just to keep going "I'm on a roll" he claimed with the usual cheery grin.

A mile or so below Sandford I caught a glimpse through the trees of a canoe coming up the other way. As it got closer I slowly began to recognise first the hat and then the canoe, and finally Gary Sanderson who we'd first met at Barton Turf in May.
Hail friend well met and all that.

Gary and I paddled and sailed a bit all the way down to Abingdon. This was the first time the breeze had actually swing round behind us all week. In fact the breeze had stayed where is was, the river here is flowing pretty much in a south easterly direction. And of course now that the wind and river had got their acts together, the breeze had died to a whisper.

The Fleet's in.
The entire flotilla moored at Abingdon Lock, except for Octavia who was up-ended and converted once again into Chris IV's Camper-Boat.

There isn't a campsite at Abingdon Lock, but there is a handy bit of ground next to the lock which looks like a camp-ground and a friendly lock keeper who left us the key to the loos.

Gary gives navigation lessons to the crew.
" OK Chaps, listen up, we are here, Gerry is here, here, and here, run for your lives!"
A few of us headed down to the pub for a pint and something to eat. I have to say that the further down the river we travelled the worse the riverside pubs got. And they were pretty grim at the start.
It seems that the best locations have been bought up by the kind of Corporate Chains I normallly wouldn't be seen dead in.

So back to the camp site where we opened the bottle of Launching Fluid which had been entrusted to us by Christo Perks.
It got a fair hammering too once folks stopped being all shy and coy about it.

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