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Day 21 Whitstable to Kingston-Upon-Thames

We left Whitstable at 05.30 to avoid being in the harbour at low tide. The weather was lovely again, and the sea was calm making our journey towards the Thames estuary relatively easy, so we thought. What we had forgotten from the previous evening was that there are a number of shallow areas around Whitstable and the Isle of Sheppey.

We travelled for one hour before running aground on one of the sandbanks. Well, we were not completely aground, but the rudder was stuck enough for us not to be moving, and we needed to wait until the water was deeper. We waited it out with more coffee and a chance to write some of the blog posts and after about 50 minutes we were able to get going again.

Soon we passed Southend-On-Sea, and we were in the Thames Estuary. We trundled under QE2 bridge (the first bridge since we had entered the harbour at Dunkirk a week ago) and motored on into central London on the incoming tide.

As we approached the Thames barrier Martin rang them to advise that we would like passage through, “Hello” said Martin “This is a courtesy call to ask for passage through the Thames barrier please”  “It is not a courtesy call, it’s compulsory!” came the curt reply from a man that Martin thought sounded like Boyce, from Only Fools and Horses TV programme. We thought the man’s response could have been a little more polite, but leaving that aside the Thames barrier is a really awesome sight from a boat.

The Thames barrier, an impressive sight from the boat!

As we travelled up through London we saw all the familiar sights, and just like the Thames barrier, they look so different from a boat. There was very little boat traffic on the way to spoil our view, in fact, we really only saw water taxi’s until we reached central London. One of our best moments was turning round one of the bends in the river to reveal Tower bridge (they didn’t open it for us though).

Approaching Tower bridge. You can see the Shard on the left
and many other familiar sights. How many do you recognise?

However, before reaching the bend, and just after the Rotherhithe tunnel we had to give way to a colossal French cruise liner being pulled downstream by a tug boat. We were asked to follow behind a sightseeing boat, which was OK for the first few minutes. All of a sudden, and without warning the sightseeing boat went into reverse. We also had a boat behind us, and a barge moored to our port side. In effect, we were almost trapped. Martin reversed as fast as possible and swung the boat as hard as he could, turning it at the same time. He had to avoid the moored barge on the port side as well as avoiding the boat reversing towards us. The boat behind us meanwhile managed to reverse out of our way. We think that the sight seeingboat didn’t realise that there was anyone behind them. We almost had two collisions, but Martin handled the boat brilliantly. His knowledge and expert handling of our boat wasextremely impressive (I think he deserves a medal!). 

Our position in the river with the moored barge on the left, and
the sight seeing boat in front of us before the incident. 

We passed under the other bridges of London, one of my favourites is Albert bridge (just before Battersea). It is always so pretty with its lights on at night time, although we were passing under it way before dark, so wouldn’t see it in all its glory this time. 

We passed Fulham Football ground, Mum always supported Fulham, and so does my former colleague Mark. So here is a picture of it for you Mum and Mark.

Fulham FC. For Mum and Mark

We started to encounter rowers with their coaches practising their strokes really sight were a mixture of eights, single sculls and coxless pairs (the latter always sounds like a derogatory term to me ‘just look at that coxless pair!’). There were ladies boats, men’s boats, and even one mixed boat. Many stopping to avoid rowing in the wake of our boat, but smiling and waving as we went past. We motored along the Oxford and Cambridge boat race course from Putney to Mortlake, at a fraction of the speed though, and without the flotilla following us, or the man with the blogs shouting for us to move over away from our opponents. sightseeing didn’t seem to have any other boats along with us on that stretch, only the rowers.

Soon the Tower blocks, sightseeing and ancient river side pubs of London were replaced by tree lined banks, and the water was more visibly ‘river like’ with the tidal behaviour of the water diminishing. We passed large houses with well manicured lawns, Kew Gardens, Richmond, and Twickenham.

Eventually we went through Teddington Lock, and left the tidal Thames behind us. The river was now much easier to steer the boat in, and we finally moored up conveniently alongside a John Lewis/ Waitrose at Kingston-Upon-Thames. We filled up with much needed provisions, and enjoyed a glass of wine while the warm evening sun bathed the quayside in its evening light.

We retired to bed knowing that now we had a river that lay ahead of us that we (well at least Martin!) are much more sure about both in its behaviour, and in its navigability. Tomorrow we hope to get as far as Egham.

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