Thursday 24 December 2009

Pam Paddles past Palace in New Year's Message.

Photo courtesy of Max at Bursledon Blog

Back in early November the HBBR took a jaunt up the Hamble.
We rowed and paddled past a multitude of Yachts and Motor cruisers all tied up for the winter and probably most of the summer for that matter.

Coming past that great Gin Palace I did wonder how often its' owner actually gets to use her.
I just cannot comprehend having so much money that I could afford such a toy.
Polythene Pam cost next to nothing but the fun and enjoyment she has given me this year could never be valued.

Maybe its a reminder that wealth is only relative.

May you and yours have a happy and indeed prosperous New Year.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Thames Raid Day 5 - Beale Park

Photo courtesy of Chris Perkins

The final morning dawned. For once there had been a "Planning Meeting" the night before. We were supposed to arrive at Beale Park with some fanfare, and Kathy was supposed to be taking photo's for posterity and/or Watercraft so an ETA had been arranged for 10.00, however from experience we decided this was a bit too early as we all needed to get there at the same time, the ETA was revised to 11.00

It was agreed that Wayne should lead the charge. He had manfully and cheerfully rowed Everhopeful all the way and was definitely man of the match.

And so it was a happy band who set off on the last leg...........

Photo Courtesy of Chris Perkins

Tim O'Conner our native guide who had done the recce and coerced the lock keepers tucks into a cracker and squeezy cheese, Mmmmmm

Phil Oxborrow, and Gem the Wonder Dog in his prospector canoe
keeping Wayne company over the last few miles.

Tony Waller, finally off the phone to the plumber stretches out

Richard Rooth the man who sharpened Ray Mear's knives
glides along using those rear-view mirrors.

Chris Waite in Octavia keeping to the back for a change.

The ever smiling PaulH in the Ever- Ready Millibee.

Dave and his faithful and un-complaining friend Mary-Dog doing what they do best.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Perkins
Can I get off yet?

Cheeze ! Chris Partridge in Nessy his home-from-home for the week.
Just Don't take the Pith out of his hat.

Me, still plodding along behind in Polythene Pam.
Are we nearly there yet?

Chris Adney and Dave chatting to Phil Ox.
Bit of an end of term party spirit going on there chaps.

Almost There!
Devon Belle taking trippers from Beale Park comes out to greet us.

Add Image
And Finally! Wayne leads the fleet through the entrance to Beale Park. Having bravely and cheerfully brought up the rear all week in the rather reluctant Everhopeful. Wayne was shoved to the front to lead the procession into the lake.

Part of the deal with Pete Greenfield of WaterCraft was to enter our boats in the Amature Boat Building Competition, in exchange for free entry and camping.
No sooner had Chris IV got Octavia out of the water but he was surrounded by interested people. Other HBBR minions stand around in awe.

And so it came to pass that Polythene Pam took her place in the competition at Beale Park.
Never a contender, but her proud owner was happy to stand by her after such a brilliant week.

Excellent company, brilliant weather and fantastic scenery.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Thames Raid Day 4

Day 4 dawned, there was a fine mist rising from the water, drifting across from the weir, which made everything seem etheriel. People rose, took their turn with the loo key and quietly made their preparations to move on.
Its worth noting that during this entire cruise there was very little discussion. There was talking, chat humour, banter, all that stuff, but there was almost no discussion. No debates about what, when, where, would be best and what if? No bloody what-if's! No risk assessment no planning no schedules no time-lines.
People just quietly got on with it. They were independent. No-one forgot their tin opener. If there was a problem it was solved, if someone needed some help they got it, very quietly and with no fuss.
We moved on. Down under the bridge at Abingdon and away.

Another glorious day, this is Middle England at its best and that's something coming from a Scot. We spread out, by now the whole group were in a rythme. The early-birds got away and soon spread out. We didn't wait for each other at locks, if you were in sight the lock keeper would probably wait, if not, you got the next one. The ZZZd s came along behind, sometimes caught up most times didn't. Nobody bothered we just rolled along.

This section of the river is very up-market. The Houses with their rolling lawns down to the waterside looked beautiful and expensive. The view from the river is more than slightly marred by the "NO MOORING" signs. An Englishman's home is indeed his castle and the Thames hereabouts is his moat. The boats also tend to be in the higher price bracket. Once down below the lower bridges the boats get bigger with flying bridges, and all sorts of of equipment better suited to off shore cruising. I'm left wondering how many ever actully make it out into the tidal reaches of the Thames Estuary.

There's a bit of a dearth of decent pubs along this stretch, I got all excited when I eventually saw the Shillingford Bridge Hotel looming majestically in sight, hoping that the front runners had done the decent thing and stopped for a pint. However as I got closer it was plain that this was yet another place which had shunned the casual river traveller. The high steel pilings along the bank made landing impossible, onward ever onward.
With no decent watering holes the group had pressed on into Wallingford, our stopping point for the night. Theres a little beach in the park just under the bridge and we gathered there.

We had been invited to spend the night at Chris P (S) 's rellies who own a waterfront property with enough space to let us all camp. We'd arrived in Wallingford just after lunchtime which seemed more than a trifle early for polite company so we wiled away the afternoon, above you can see Chris IV having a kip under a tree in the ever versatile Octavia.
Just above the bridge there is yet another waterside pub in an idillic position, needless to say its a mega chain selling plastic beer and food at inflated prices. It also had NO MOORING signs along its water frontage. I don't get it.

Chris P (S) headed down to his rellies to prepare them for the onslaught of twelve or so smelly boaters and one large dog. Some were beginning to get worried that they would take one look at us and put up the Private Keep Off signs. Contingency plans were being hatched.

Slowly, one by one, almost by stealth we slipped down the river and pulled our boats up their slipway.
The Water Gypsy encampment was erected with the minimum of fuss, the early arrivals bagging the best waterside pitches. I for one felt a bit like a trespasser, waiting for the gamekeeper with the shot-gun to appear.

It goes without saying that we were made very welcome.

Not only did they provide almost limitless hot water but they also put on a fantastic BBQ.
In the late afternoon we got chatting over the fence to a lovely lady who showed lots of interest in our trip and seemed to know that we were heading to Beale Park. It slowly dawned that I recognised her face, this was Kathy Mansfield, world famous boaty photographer, who happened to live close by.
Kathy, possibly taking pity on her neighbours as much as our group promptly offered the services of her bathroom to the long queue of rather smelly boaters who by this time were standing around hopefully clutching wash-bags and towels.

Here she is clutching that camera and trying not to get too close.

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.

Monday 23 November 2009

Thames Raid Day 2

........The bird scarers started about 4.00am, Just loud enough to wake you and far enough apart so you could just drop off before the next one. Then, the banging and clattering started, what on earth? Sounded as if someone was re-building his boat, I poped my head out the tent flap, Richard was making tea but it wasn't him. Dave was talking softly to Mary-Dog, it wasn't him, Chris IV's head was still sticking out of his Camper- Boat, it wasn't him either.
Chris P (S) had an equipment malfunction. His Lilo had punctured, and with an air of deflated resignation he decided to pack his tent and every time he moved his boat bounced off Millibee wakening Paul.

Good Morning Campers welcome to paradise.

So another early morning start, we were all up and raring to go by the time the Lock Keeper came on duty. But at least we'd done five miles more than the group behind.

These photo's are in no particular order and may not even be of day 2 but you get the idea.

Paddling Polythene Pam was serious hard work, especially against that persisent wind. She's a bit of a stranger to Weight-Watchers, and so am I for that matter so with the added weight of the camping gear it took quite a lot to shift her. The rowers could mostly all keep up a higher speed than me and it became quite normal for us all to spread out during the day. I would try to get away reasonably sharp and gradually as the morning wore on I would hear first one then another rower come up behind and gradually overtake me.

You have to get into your own rhythm, its your journey, and I gradually relaxed and enjoyed the trip.

Somebody remarked that we were a group of individuals who all happened to be travelling the same route at the same time.

The second day was thankfully much shorter than the first, at least for those who had done the long haul on Monday. So we started to arrive at Eynsham Lock around 3.00pm. The rear-guard arrived over the next couple of hours. The camp site is on the Lock Island and is very pretty.

We soon had it looking like a refugee camp.

After a bit of shopping Richard and I had TWO Ice Poles each, life is good.
Dave walked miles to get some petrol,
Chris P(S) got a new Lilo

A meal at the pub and a couple of pints.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Thames Raid Day 1

The day dawned early, it being June and having ignored it as long as I could, I nipped out for an early morning wee, and found TOC sitting making a cup of tea when I got back. It was still O God O'clock but all around you could hear the gentle tinkle of billy cans being put on to boil. I had breakfast and walked into town for some supplies, and it was still only 8.00 when I got back.

The "plan" had been to leave around 10.00, but everyone was up and chomping at the bit, so we got loaded up.

This is my entire kit for the week, although the food was supplemented quite a bit. I managed to get it down to 42 lbs in the end, squeezing it into Pam didn't leave a lot of room for me.

However having squeezed it in, we were off. Chris P (S) got fed up waiting for everyone to get sorted so set off to find a tree to sleep under. Gradually we all got afloat and followed.

Here Paul H practices his look-no-hands steering technique while taking pictures, a new definition of Bum Steer.
It was only a mile or so to the first lock so we waited for the others to turn up. Chris had found his tree by then. Tim O' glides by.

Chris IV in Octavia doing his Jack Sparrow impersonation, this was how we were to see him all week, in front looking back at us, mind that tree Chris.

Chris P (S) cruising under one of the many footbridges which carry the Thames footpath.

This is the first day lunch stop. And very welcome it was too. Already we are beginning to look like a ramshackle tribe of Water Gypsies. Tony managed to find an attractive young(ish) social worker to chat to. She seemed happier to spend the afternoon chatting to us in the pub garden than go looking for her clients. Can't say I blame her.

Wayne had been having a bit of a problem with his auto-pilot. In a sensible attempt to save weight he left his centreboard and rudder behind, but unfortunately the flat bottomed Oystercatcher wouldn't keep a straight line so he waltzed down the river. Eventually Dave took pity and gave him a tow. Here's Wayne in the Beau Brummel outfit, with Dave the only man to look cool in a Breton Cap.
A quick call to Wayne's mum brought the rudder speeding to his aid.

When we were at Barton Turf in May Richard had problems with the foliage on several occasions to the point that he eventually fitted rear view mirrors to his boat, if you look closely you can just see them.

What you can't see in the Photo's is the wind. In a country with prevailing westerlies, how come the week we chose had strong east/north-easterlies veering and backing to make sure they were always on the nose. I honestly felt like I was paddling up hill, I stopped for a breather a few times, I nosed Pam into the reeds so the I didn't get blown backwards, there were loads of damsel flies which were almost exactly the same colour a Pam.

And loads of wild-fowl including this wee coot sitting on her nest.

There are restrictions on the number of tents allowed at some of the Locks which meant that we had to split up for the first night. Reasoning that a mile done today is a mile you don't have to do tomorrow I elected to go on ahead. By about 5.00 o'clock I was seriously beginning to regret it. Eventually the advance party made it to Shifford Lock. You can see the Solar Panels on Millibee's coach roof, which were to re-charge the battery for his electric outboard. They were also in much demand to re-charge peoples phones.

Chris IV enjoys a well earned tinny while
Chris P(S) contemplates the finer points of Pino Grigio from a plastic mug.
Tony introduces us to the squeekiest lilo pump on the planet.

Mary-Dog has had a tiring day.

And so by 9.30 or so with the light fading fast and not a pub for miles there was nothing else for it.

Night Night everyone sleep well...............