Thursday, 26 August 2010

Windsor to Hampton Court

Windsor to Hampton Court
4th August 2010

20 miles - 9 locks - 7 hours

The mechanical issues delayed our departure with the RCR engineer arriving to assess the damage. His view concurred with my own - the fracture was very old and only the thread had been holding the stud in for months, if not years.


That said, to play it absolutely safe it should be rectified now - would he like me to call an engineer to perform the task? Now this is a tricky question. My instincts are telling me that it's been running on three bolts for years and is highly unlikely to fail in the near future but the worryguts inside is concerned lest it snaps on the tideway. What to do?

Shepperton Lock

It was made absolutely clear that the decision was mine, but that my point of view was reasonable and if he thought it reckless he would say so on the report - and he wasn't. In the end I he tightened the remaining nuts and nothing was moving or flexing so I decided to carry on. If it holds for the next 8 hours it will probably hold for the hour or so on the tideway, and if it holds that long we may as well give it a shot at making the return journey and sort it out back in the Midlands. I dont know if this is the right decision - but I the blog stops moving you will know that my gamble went spectacularly wrong!

Grey clouds rolled over us today, hurling water down as we passed Windsor Castle and obscuring our view of the Queen waving down at us from the state rooms. Obviously, we were welcome to stop for lunch but we really didn't have time.

As we passed through Boveney lock I spied Gazelle going up river, an identical boat to the Lindy Helen we hired back in the late 1960's. The sight of this venerable old lady of the waterways had me racing back up the towpath to grab some photos, but this chance encounter justifies a fuller post of its own which I will address in the near future.

Houseboats at Hampton Court
We had planned a visit to Windsor but the combination of a two hour delay and torrential rain put paid to that idea so we slipped quietly through. The rain was so heavy we could see very little, the water penetrated the brolly and almost as much hit me from being splashed up as hit coming down.

We descended accompanied by two big plastic cruisers, huge great bulbous whales wallowing their way downstream in clouds of diesel smoke - lovely. As each lock they roared away, only to be forced to wait at the next whilst slowcoach WB chugged up at the rear.

Cpt , Stephen and Joy

After Windsor one passes under the M25 and immediately the standard of waterside properties deteriorate. Places like Walton On Thames with its modest riverfront houses mixed with weary and run down boating clubs, a far cry from the swanky pads upstream. But this world weariness reverts back again below East Molesley. The approaches to Molesley and Hampton Court Locks are suddenly all posh again, the river and islands lines with amazing houseboats of all shapes and sizes.

Strike - the lucky dog

Just above Hampton Court Lock a fisherman yelled at us to watch out for a dog, but I couldnt see any creature at risk of being run under. Then we realised that he was referring to a small dog which had fallen in and was being sucked towards one of the huge intake sluices leading to the adjacent waterworks. Its owner was dashing to and fro on a landing stage eight feet above, and thinking of jumping in after him.

We arrived in the nick of time - reversing close to the dog as it hung trembling from some flotsam around the intake - just out of the wost of the current. He wouldn't come to us but a boat hook through his dog collar provided an unstoppable force which had him to the stern in seconds. Then a quick hoik and he was up on the stern receiving hugs for delight from his owner, which he re payed with a spray of shaken river water. My good deed for the day.

Belle, Joyful and Jeff

Hampton Court Lock was the last of the day and we moored at the free 24 hour visitor moorings at the palace. We met up with Joy and Stephen and their daughter, old friends form Belle's student days who arrived armed with a much appreciated take away curry. The evening  sped away as we caught up, Jeff entertaining the swans and their daughter watching a DVD.

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