We planned to set off early this morning so that we could get some miles covered. We still went off to the shop for milk before departure. Mooring points on the Thames are annoyingly hard to find. Stopping to pick up milk can be a surprisingly tricky operation.
We are generally sticking to the standard advice on a river which is to face upstream when mooring. In the gentle currents we are experiencing at the moment, the bow thruster can get us out of trouble, but the river is so wide that turning is easier.
So the first thing we did after casting off was a slow turn. Just as we started, there was a pulse of upstream traffic (the lock must have emptied) and a few boats coming downstream too. One of the downstream boats had to change course to avoid us, which I acknowledged with a friendly wave. It was only as they waved back that I recognised the rubbish dumper from the previous day. We dawdled along to the lock and were pleased to see that they had already gone through before we arrived.
When it was our turn to go in, I was surprised by an unusual feature in Cookham Lock – middle gates. These are apparently fully operational, though rarely used. In principle the lock can be operated in large, medium or small mode, thus saving water at times when that is important. The medium version would have been enough for us today, but the full lock was used anyway.
We left the canoes behind when we left the lock, the other two powered boats roared away from us towards the next lock. The timings must have been against them though, as we caught them up on the lock landing for the next lock. Clare had spotted one of the boats the previous day and was intrigued by the name, Tattie Bogle. She has since reminded herself that it means scarecrow. We didn’t manage to ask the obvious question – why?
By the time we reached Bray Lock we were both feeling hungry. The lock was on self-service and there were two boats ahead of us. The locks are not of a consistent size, so I headed towards the gate behind them not knowing if there was room for us. As the gates started to close, I assume whoever was operating the controls had decided not. I reversed on to the far away end of the lock bollards and we moored up for lunch.
We were just contemplating setting off when a large passenger boat arrived, (the new) Queen of the Thames. The lock was just wide enough for this boat. We could see the lock keeper was back on duty now. Two more boats passed and joined the jetty in front of us. There was some embarrassment when they realised we were wanting to get in the lock, easily dispelled by Clare telling them we’d been having lunch. We were also joined by two lads in a tiny boat called Two Hoots.
At Boulters Lock the lock keeper seemed more casually dressed than normal. It was only later that I realised that she wasn’t wearing a life-jacket either. Clare had spotted immediately that this was a boater operating a self-service lock. She was actually with the narrowboat we ended up alongside at the front. Her crisp and helpful advice about where to place ourselves in the lock made her sound very much like she was in charge.
On approach to Boveney Lock I allowed another large boat to pass us. It turned out to be the Queen of the Thames again. We waited behind on the lock moorings. This time the lock keeper came to apologise for not letting us in with them. A few smaller boats behind us were called in though – hence the apology.
While we were waiting for the lock, a man from the boat behind struck up conversation. He was intrigued by the set up on our boat, so we invited him to come in and take a look around. He seemed amazed at what he saw, telling us we’d made his day. Their plan had been to get as far as seeing Windsor Castle and then turn back to Reading. We waved to them later when we saw them coming back towards us.
Our last lock of the day was Old Windsor Lock. As we came along the lock cut we were overtaken by Two Hoots again. We’d seen them in a few more locks during the day and they’d been very friendly. This time as they passed, one of them called: “My boats faster than yours – would you like to swap?” I’m glad I didn’t take them up on the deal as a few minutes later the lock keeper told them off (gently) for going too fast.
We had to wait a few extra minutes in the lock for the arrival of the steam boat Streatley. We had seen her earlier today and several times yesterday. Her distinctive steam whistle can be heard over some distance.
We asked the lock keeper about the electric charging point, but unfortunately it is out of action. We’d run on electric all day today, so that was a shame. The batteries were down below 80% by then. We drove a little further on diesel until we found a mooring. We’ll have to do some more diesel miles tomorrow to replenish what we’ve used today.