St Katharine Docks 2019

Log of the RBYC Cruise to St Katharine Docks
July 2019

Of course, it’s inevitable that when you plan and set a date to cut loose and set off for a cruise the weather sets out to thwart you to a greater or lesser extent, and so it was on the day we were due to start our cruise, with a weather forecast of benign conditions during the morning and windier conditions setting in during the afternoon. I decided we would go, predicting that we would reach Queenborough before it became too windy.

The Beach Hut left Burnham some time before Grey Lady and Lucy, who set off at 06.30hrs, Havana Papa and Sea Bear leaving at a much more civilised time and motoring at speed direct to London. For us it was a lovely morning, reaching the Inner Whitaker at low water. We then turned into the Swin channel, at which time Havana Papa passed us on a seemingly curious course with Sea Bear passing us further down the channel. We eventually caught up with The Beach Hut making good progress near the Maplin buoy.

By the time we reached the Thames estuary the weather had deteriorated and the wind had picked up. In a small boat, uncomfortable, but no problem and we had the Medway buoy in sight. It was off the Montgomery wreck (a munitions supply ship sunk during the Second World War, which still has its cargo and is too dangerous to move), when we received a call from Lucy, whose engine had stopped and was drifting towards the Montgomery. Oh jolly japes!

After a “bit of a palaver”, and some nifty driving by Grey Lady’s helmswoman, in what can be described as pretty boisterous conditions, we managed to get a line aboard and take Lucy in tow. The 18 knot head wind reduced progress to a snail’s pace but we eventually berthed at Queenborough at 12.35hrs.

By sheer coincidence, The Beach Hut experienced the same problem, engine failure, just off the wreck, so they had jolly japes too! Fortunately, the problem was remedied and we all berthed together on Queenborough’s floating quay.

Saturday dawned wet and windy and Sid decided, sensibly, to abort the trip and arrange for Lucy to be taken home by road, which was carried out on the following Tuesday. Grey Lady departed at 08.35hrs following The Hut. Whilst the weather was inclement, we were, at least, in the river although the wind over tide conditions made the going uncomfortable and, whilst passing under the QE II bridge a squall came in causing a “white out” where we couldn’t see beyond the bow. Fortunately it only lasted a couple of minutes.  We caught up with The Beach Hut at Greenhithe by which time the weather was improving and we went through the correct bay of the Thames Flood Barrier in brilliant sunshine.

Despite the improved weather from the Barrier to The Pool of London, the water state was very confused due to the wash from commercial vessels, which seems to reflect off the walled river banks creating, sometimes, dangerous wash conditions. However the fantastic skylines of Canary Wharf and the City more than compensate for the aches and pains endured on the way up! We arrived at St Katharine’s at 15.10hrs and picked up a visitors’ mooring in the river with The Beach Hut arriving half an hour later. The bad news, they kept us waiting two and half hours before we entered the lock at 17.32. It was great to have a reception committee comprising Havana Papa’s and Sea Bear’s crews and Sid greeting us at the lock side.

The Beach Hut created much amazement with the Lock Keepers who had been informed of their imminent arrival from Queenborough’s harbour master. Apparently Queenborough and St Katharine are in communication with each other.

The Beach Hut and Grey Lady berthed together in the central lock and, once secured, proffered libations to Poseidon for safe delivery to our haven! All participants enjoyed a celebratory meal ashore in the evening.

And so to bed, I’ve decided small boating is something akin to camping with all the privations that the word implies.

Sunday brought a clear blue sky and sweltering temperatures, a day to relax and watch London walk by. A leisurely breakfast spent watching Ant clean his windows, and chatting to the crew of a Dutch boat moored on the next pontoon.

Monday, and another fine day.  It was time for The Beach Hut to move on and keep its appointment with a coracle building workshop further up the Thames.  We had arranged to meet our son, Dan, at Tate Modern to see the Olafur Eliasson exhibition which was well worth seeing.

Tuesday, the weather getting warmer and the day spent checking the engine and sorting out our course for the trip home. International relationships between us, France and Holland were improved (?) by extensive discussions about Brexit, resulting in a late night despite our early lock out at 6 am the following morning.

Wednesday, homeward bound. Weather forecast excellent, and very warm.  Eventually locked out 06.45hrs and had a fine trip back down the Thames, hitting 9 knots at one stage. We reached Shoebury at low water and then proceeded to punch the tide up the Swin channel where our speed dropped to 4 knots . However it was lovely being out on the water on such a fine sunny day with a calm sea. It was a struggle up the Swin but once we reached the E. Maplin buoy and altered course, we crossed the Foulness Sands by the Whitaker Beacon and our speed picked up, coming into the river with the last of the flood tide. After 11 hours we berthed in Burnham Yacht Harbour at 18.08hrs.

So, Sea Bear returned Sunday, Lucy arrived home by trailer Tuesday, and Grey lady returned Wednesday. At the time of writing The Beach Hut is on its way home and Havana Papa has another two West End shows to see before returning next week.

An enjoyable cruise!