I’d known in advance that getting moored in London was going to be tricky. As we came in from the west I was monitoring the availability of moorings – it will be useful knowledge for our return journey. We were still more than 3 miles from Paddington Basin when we passed the last section where mooring seemed reliable. Further in to the centre every usable mooring spot was occupied. As we approached the centre most moorings were not just occupied, they also had a second boat moored alongside.
I was pleased that we had booked a spot in the “Eco-Mooring” at Angel, and I was relieved to find a length of bank there that was very nearly long enough for us. When Elena arrived a little while later, the only available spot was alongside us, so of course she moored up there. I was starting to realise that this was just normal for London.
When we moved away from our moorings with Kirsty and Adam on board, I continued to watch out for mooring opportunities, but there were almost none. Some of the offside moorings were in use too, but not always by boaters.
We had planned to get reasonably near to my brother Roy’s house. He had assured us there would be space at Three Mills which there was. Roy later said that even there it was more crowded than usual. The following day we took him upstream in the sunshine. At lunch time, we stopped on a water point and filled the tank while we ate – there were no other mooring options. In mid afternoon we found a mooring by tying to some railings across an outfall. That enabled us to walk him to the tube station so he could get home, but I wasn’t happy with it as an overnight mooring.
We moved on again until we found an empty stretch of bank – had we gone far enough to escape the crowds? It turned out that what we had found was a shallow section. We couldn’t get near enough to the bank to moor. Another lock later we saw something similar, but I was hopeful we might get near enough. While we were trying, two women from a boat opposite suggested we might have better luck opposite the bench (a couple of boat lengths further). We did manage, but neither end of the boat was actually against the bank.
I had been hoping to fill our tank with HVO from a boatyard just above the next lock. It was already a bit late in the day to expect anyone to be there, but I went to have a look. On the way, I saw a small crowd around a boat below the lock. The boat was selling fish dinners in a Turkish style. I didn’t find anything useful about the fuel, but I showed Clare the menu when I got back and we decided to eat out.
The menu was slightly confusing, but the proprietor was very friendly and we both managed to order enjoyable meals. The sun was just setting, but it was still warm enough to eat on the provided tables rather than walking the short distance back to our boat.
As the evening progressed I could feel that I was getting a cold. This is the second one I’ve had since the start of lockdown! My throat was a little sore and I started to feel a little congested. By the next morning, I was felling a little sorry for myself, though not really ill. We walked back up to see if we could better understand the fuel situation. We found two men loading a pair of fuel boats with gas cannisters. They confirmed that they could sell us diesel, but that HVO was not available – being green at double the price was not a popular option. An hour later they arrived at our boat as promised – so we now have a full tank again, but still fossil fuel.
I was still feeling a little under par, so we decided to stay another night on the same mooring. We went for a short walk on the adjacent “wetlands”. These turned out to be a lot more wet than land – narrow strips of land either side of reservoirs.
Today, I’m feeling what one of my colleagues always called “a bit two dwarves – Sneezy and Dopey”, but a bit more enthusiastic than yesterday. We had gone a few more miles and several locks before there were any more empty moorings. Once we’d gone under the M25 it started to feel like getting moored was going to be easy again. There was even room for a narrowboat with its own greenhouse on a tender.
While waiting for a lock to fill I overheard a woman on the bank complaining that she needed a toilet because the baby was kicking her bladder. She was not happy with the suggestion from (presumably) the dad to find a hedge, but was delighted when I offered her the use of our facilities. The boat was very nearly at the top of the lock by then, so she was able to step on and off very easily.
After a few more locks, we were deciding we’d done enough for the day. Immediately after the next lock we found a straight stretch of canal that is more than half a mile long with no boats moored on it at all. It has one boat moored on it now!