Tide and Time

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).

View of Teddington Lock Weir from downstream. In the foreground some moored boats sit in low water levels.  Behind them a curtain of white water shows the location of the weir.  Just visible through the railings at its top are a row of boats waiting to use the lock.
Teddington Weir – Bartimaeus is Moored Opposite

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.

View of Teddington Weir from Bartimaeus.  The tide has come in so the water on the other side of the weir is hardly any lower than this side.
Teddington Weir at High Water

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.

View from Teddington Lock.  The gates are open showing a large expanse of smooth water.  There are steps along the sides of the lock.  There is a slight mist on the water and a patch of light cloud in the sky.
Teddington Lock Exit

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.

View from the helm of a narrowboat.  In front of the boat a bank of mist sits low on the water.  Behind, the side of the valley is mostly wooded.  Light cloud is giving way to blue sky.
Low Mist on the Thames

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.

Landmark for leaving the Thames.  A large shiny metallic artwork sits on the bank almost obscured by moored boats.  Further downstream there are wooded islands.
Landmark for Leaving the Thames

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.

View from inside the Brent Gauging Lock.  One lock gate is open.  The white-painted lock gates have no arms and are only a few inches above water level.
Brent Gauging Lock with One Gate 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.

Water cascading over lock gates.  There is a walkway and step above water level.
Water Cascading in to the Empty Lock

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.

Two narrowboats diagonally across the canal.  The drivers of each are in the vegetation on the far bank.
Narrowboats Washed 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.

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