Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Ruffled Feathers

We always knew this was going to be the day the adrenaline started pumping and that’s exactly what happened.  The first 40 minutes were rather easy with a gentle cruise from Burghfield to Fobney Lock where one boat was already waiting to go down.  What a relief… we wouldn’t have to be first!  Moreover they could warn any boaters coming upstream there was a boat of crazy novices behind.

Fobney Lock has a damaged gate and passage can only be undertaken with CaRT assistance twice daily.

The CaRT employees arrived promptly at 10.00am and filled the lock for us.  Jan had a relatively relaxing trip through the lock as the CaRT staff worked the paddles and gates.

We had already agreed to be last in and last to leave the lock.

Our cunning plan was to let the experienced boaters go first and watch how they exited onto the river which joins from the right.  They kindly offered to wait for us at the next lock (County Lock) and have it ready for our arrival.  I planned to give them one minutes start and follow out of the lock.  A change of heart… and I decided to wait two minutes.  Then I decided to wait 2½ minutes.  Just as the time expired and I was about to move forward a boat appeared coming up stream <phew>!  If we had left 30 seconds earlier we’d have met the boat on a bend with the current pushing us along <disaster!>.  We waited for the boat to enter the lock and then powered across into the flow of the river which caught the bow and dragged it around to the left exactly as I had anticipated.  No sooner had I regained some control over Waiouru it was time to negotiate the “chicanes” with a tree hanging into the river on the right followed almost immediately by a bare branch protruding out of the water on the left which curved across the river at roof height.

Waiting in the lock for the boat coming upstream to arrive.

No photo’s of us leaving the lock or the first bend as we were both too busy!

Left arrow – 1st tree and right arrow the branch sticking out into the river.

We weren’t out of the woods as there were another two trees to negotiate.

Things then started to calm down (with us… not the river!) and we entered a stretch where it was urban to starboard (right) and light industrial to port (left).

A row of three storey terraced houses with long and narrow backyards to the riverbank.  The approach to County Lock is obscured by a bridge abutment but we had been warned to keep to the right and navigate directly into the lock.

The lock doesn’t provide much of a drop in water level but the adjacent weir had a reasonable flow.  It’s one way from this point through the ‘Oracle Shopping Centre’ and boat movements are controlled by traffic lights.  Once you have the green light there are 12 minutes to get through the ‘narrows’.  We again let the other boat go first so I could watch how they handled the current and the bridge approaches.

We needed to manoeuvre Waiouru out into mid stream for the first bridge hole which was on a bend.  Jan managed to take a photo of the water passing over the weir behind us as we left County Lock.

Note there is no anchor on the back.  We have it in the cratch in case of an emergency!

Part of the cunning plan was for Jan to work the bow thruster controls on my command should it prove necessary (it did!).  We made it under the first bridge and then entered the ‘narrows’ through the Oracle Centre.

The next bridge is inaptly named “High Bridge”.  It’s a low arch stone bridge on an angle to the river.  Apparently it’s the oldest remaining bridge across the River Kennet and was constructed in 1788 at a cost of £3500.  We’d previously been told to aim for the right abutment and allow the current to “drag” the bow under the bridge.  Then throw the tiller hard to the right and apply power to stop the stern striking the left abutment.  And don’t forget to go through the highest point to avoid damaging the sat-dome.  Jan worked the bow thruster controls whilst I worked the tiller and throttle.  As a consequence there are no photo’s of the actual passage under the bridge.  But we made it without striking anything!

Looking back makes it appear easy!

The turn into the Jail Loop was much easier than I had expected.  The high rise buildings on the corner solved some of the wind problems.

Turned into the Jail Loop

We are now moored outside the prison which will make it much easier to visit Australian relatives! Smile 

It was a waste of time washing Waiouru’s roof yesterday because we are under trees and the birds have already used the Houdini hatches as aiming points!

Had to lean against Waiouru whilst my heart slowed!

However Jan appeared to enjoy the cruise! Smile

There’s only one other boat moored in the loop and that’s down the other end.  We’ve moored by the prison CCTV so they can keep and eye on us tonight!

There’s a small bronze statue of a fisherman with his net on the island whilst around the corner to the left is the Reading Riverside Museum and a rather large weir.

Further to the right the loop re-joins the canal.  Another two hundred metres along is Blakes Lock which is controlled by the Environmental Agency The lock provides access to the Thames.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be heading through the lock and turning left going up the Thames towards Oxford.

1 comment :

Nicholas said...

Wow sounds exciting!. There are those that would say you should have the anchor at the stern when traveling downstream particularly on a narrow river so the boat doesn't swing right round in the current if you are unfortunate enough to have to use it!
Hopefully the Thames will be a bit less exciting!