Yesterday we set off promptly to get the distance we needed done before the heavy rain forecast for later in the day. We travelled in gusty winds to the weir above Teddington Lock long before lunch. There was time to talk to the lock keepers before walking in to the town to purchase a few supplies. We spotted a man from the telly buying food in the same high class food shop as us (other men from the telly and high class food shops are available).
The rain started soon after we got back to the boat, and we were very glad we had done so. The rain was both heavy and long-lasting. Sitting inside was the preferred option.
The Thames below Teddington Lock is tidal. Narrowboats can only safely traverse this section of the river around the time of high tide. When the tide is rushing in or out, the water moves faster than the top speed of our boat. We had a passage booked to leave the lock a little before high tide. For the previous few days, high tide has been before dawn and we are not equipped for travelling in those conditions.
Today we were scheduled to enter the lock at sunrise – 06:45. We rarely need to get up for times as early as this, so I set two different alarms to make sure we didn’t miss our spot. We managed a hasty breakfast before casting off. I could see that the tide had now almost filled the basin on the other side of the weir.
The lock was open as we approached, so we roped up inside and waited. The friendly lock keeper came out and told us she was waiting for another narrowboat, but that our timing was nearly perfect. The other boat soon arrived and the lock was cycled. The drop between empty and full was barely noticeable and the gates opened almost immediately on to an expanse of smooth water.
Yesterday we had been battered by strong winds and the boat lashed with heavy rain. I’d been reading all the safety information for the passage and we’d put our life jackets on for this dangerous stretch. It was slightly surreal to drive out on to the still waters in the early morning quiet softened by the morning mist. There were a few canoeists and rowing pairs on the river but the only other moving boats were our lock companion and a harbour master boat that followed us for the last mile. I was glad the mist wasn’t any heavier. Rowers I had already spotted almost vanished when they went in to the mist banks.
I kept an eye on the map on my phone so that I knew when we were approaching Brentford Creek. Even so, I was surprised by how soon we had arrived. There is a large metallic artwork at the entrance. Once I saw it I pulled back on the throttle and began a turn to point upstream. As we turned I began to feel how much of our speed was due to the current. More throttle was needed to get us moving upstream again as we entered the creek. It all went very smoothly though, I have had quite a lot of experience of driving on moving waters in recent months.
The lock keeper worked us through Thames Lock once the other narrowboat had caught up with us. We drove on in to a surprisingly strong current on the River Brent – all that rain yesterday was heading for the sea. We soon came to Brent Gauging Lock which had a cabin for staff. We moored at the lock jetty and waited. When nothing happened we eventually realised that there were controls for boaters – operated with the usual key. After some experimentation we managed to get the lock empty but only one gate open. A little manoeuvring got both boats in, and we also managed to get out when only one of the top gates would open.
The next lock was more conventional, except that there was so much water in the river that it was flowing over the lock gates. It took three of us to get the first gate open. We didn’t have to wait long for the lock to fill, but It took four of us to open the top gate.
The strong flow in the next few sections of the river made things interesting. I noticed the flow coming in to the river from under a bridge on the side. Despite deliberately accelerating and turning in to the flow, the boat was rolled and the bow pushed half way across the river before the stern was pushed to follow. We negotiated a similar hazard just below a lock and I tied the nose on to a bollard. Unfortunately, when the lock was drained both boats were pushed out to sit diagonally across the canal.
After a few locks we left the river behind. Moving between the closely spaced locks was much smoother, in most cases we managed to drive in to the locks simultaneously, which saves a lot of fiddly work holding to one side of a lock while the other boat arrives.
I spotted a place to moor just before the final lock and decided to stop for the day. I helped our companions through the final lock and waved them off. An hour or so later I realised that we were heavily aground – perhaps this pound wasn’t a good choice after all. I decided we ought to move through the final lock too. The pound we are in now is over twenty miles long, so it is unlikely to change level very much overnight.