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A cruise to Boveny Lock where we were able to see a demonstration of birds of prey.

The Itinerary stated “Come and go as you please” and that is what members did. For some, Henley was far enough while others cruised to Pangbourne and some even to Day’s Lock. This provided for plenty of conversation as we compared experiences.

Tales of mooring spaces gave much scope for discussion. Two boats shared the last mooring space at Pangbourne while those at Day’s lock could not find a space and had to return to Shillingford for the night. Cookham was very popular on the final Saturday and several of our boats were rafted so thank you to those on bankside who allowed rafting.

A number of eating places had good reviews including the Bexley Arms in Windsor, The Peking Garden at Pangbourne and the Catherine Wheel (Wetherspoons) in Henley. In the Catherine Wheel, the food was tasty and plentiful (and many choices came with a “free” drink) and the beer was cheap. What more could a boater ask for?

It is always a pleasure to moor at the Upper Thames Yacht Club in Sonning and from there, some of us walked to the Theatre for a meal and to see a play, The Father of the Bride. Everyone agreed that the meal was delicious (most having the steak, mushroom and ale pie) but the reviews of the play were mixed.

One mishap occurred when Julia (Pieces of Eight) trod on a patch of grass that was actually just a cover to a hole that went down to the water. This resulted in a very painful knee. We hope you are soon recovered, Julia. Time will tell whether this mishap results in the award of a yellow duck.

Malbec joined us at Henley on Friday, it’s arrival marked by Ron waving a crutch out of the cockpit while Sheriden did all the work. He was able to report that his foot is now mending.

Julia and Ron were given a half hour start for the walk to the pub on the basis that they were slowed by their injuries. In the event, they sprinted and were two drinks ahead when the rest of us arrived.

Eight club boats were in attendance at the final mooring in Cookham after two boats carried on to their home berths. However, our numbers were swelled by family and members arriving by car for a final BBQ in the evening.

Following the unfortunate weather during the upriver cruise in the last couple of years, we were blessed with very good weather this year. Most days were hot and sunny with a cooling breeze.

As always, thanks are due to Phil (Kerry Ann V) who carried all the equipment for the BBQ’s and led the erection and subsequent dismantling of the tent. Our thanks to everyone for your company and for making the week so enjoyable.

 

Roger Harden, Chimerique

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The Ship Hotel in Weybridge was the venue for our Gala Dinner in January. Members and their guests turned up in their finery to enjoy the evening and some booked an overnight stay at the hotel, where they were made extremely welcome. We don’t have many opportunities to dress up these days, do we?

A drinks reception before the meal gave us the opportunity to chat to friends and catch up after Christmas. Then we sat down for the meal accompanied by the elegant background music of the “Sounds Easy” jazz band. Toasts were made to The Queen and “absent friends” and an amusing speech by the Commodore was followed by a toast to the guests from members and a reply on behalf of the guests, given by the Commodore’s son Mark O’Brien.

Guest speaker Jean Haynes was a highlight of the evening. Jean was the first woman bailiff in the country. She described how she got started in the business, and then regaled us with many wonderful stories about her experiences, ranging from the difficulties of dealing with travellers and livestock, to impounding a Jumbo Jet when the owners owed £35,000 in taxes.

Trophies were awarded to those members who were present. A very special award was made to Bob and Viv Tapp for their outstanding dedication and commitment to the club over the past 34 years. Bob was the fifth Commodore of Walton Bridge Cruiser Club and has served on the Committee for many years, generously sharing his remarkable expertise whenever it was needed. Viv’s quiet calmness has given great confidence to many families, particularly those new to tidal cruising. Throughout the years they have extended the warmth of their friendship to club members and other mariners alike and are always willing to engage with individuals from all backgrounds and circumstances. In doing so, they have been tireless ambassadors for the club and have brought us many new members. The couple were presented with a beautiful crystal vase engraved with details of the award. Thanks to the Commodore and his Committee for a terrific evening and congratulations to them all!

 

Thursday

We'd been looking forward to this cruise for some time because, although we are nervous of tidal cruising, we knew that there was a large window to get in to Limehouse Marina so that took a lot of the worry away for us. Graham had spent a great deal of time and effort planning the cruise and the detail he gave us in the days beforehand was reassuring. So we left home mid-morning and made our way to Penton Hook to get Pieces of Eight ready for the cruise down to Teddington. The day was dry and bright, always a good sign, but we left the front of the canopy on to give us a bit of protection from the breeze. We decided to stop off at Sunbury for lunch, which was a bit of a busman's holiday because that's where we live but at least it gave me the opportunity to walk home to pick up the camera which I'd left behind. After this, we carried on cruising down to Teddington arriving about 4pm to find Chimerique already moored up with some friends and so we were able to moor in front and joined them for a very well earned cup of tea and some chocolate cake and biscuits.

Friday

By now Proncois had arrived, having got to Teddington around midnight because of work on the Thursday. The plan was for the three of us to go through the lock about 9.30am and have a peaceful, steady cruise down to Chiswick Pier where we would moor up for the night. This is exactly what happened and was lovely. We saw so many sights such as the heronry at Richmond, The London Apprentice, Syon House and, of course, the historic sights of Brentford and Kew. The other two boats, Prime Time and Rosette, would spend this night at Teddington and catch us up en-route to Limehouse during Saturday. The mooring at Chiswick had all been arranged and we easily moored up on the lower pontoon just by the RNLI station which was fortunate because they were called out on an emergency after we moored up so we had a close up view of their speed. Once we had sorted ourselves out, we had a lovely walk up to Hogarth's House which, funnily enough, is right by Hogarth roundabout. This was extremely interesting and housed many artefacts. Wiliiam Hogarth (1697-1764) was a famous painter, engraver and satirist and lived in the house from 1749 until his death. If you ever get the opportunity to go I'd certainly recommend it and it is free. Afterwards, we walked back to the boats through Chiswick House grounds which were beautiful.

Saturday

The three of us at Chiswick cast off about 9 am for a slow cruise down to Limehouse ensuring there was enough headroom for Pieces of Eight to get under Hammersmith Bridge. The two boats at Teddington left earlier as they had to wait at Richmond for the barrier to lift before they could catch us up because they are faster. The journey was very peaceful and we rarely exceeded 1500 revs so it was nice and steady. No need to push us or the boats. It was only once we'd reached the centre of London that it became a bit choppier and we all experienced some rolling but this was only to be expected with all the pleasure boats, river taxis going back and forth not to mention the clipper boats and ribs that seemed to be travelling at 40 knots or more.
However, the two boats coming from Teddington timed it perfectly because as the three of us approached Limehouse Marina entrance, the two faster boats caught us up and followed us in to the lock after we had gone through. Mooring in the marina was easy and we were all fairly close to each other. So, after sorting out the admin with the marina office and finding the showers etc. we all had a richly deserved cup of tea on Prime Time.

Sunday

After a leisurely early morning, we all met at 11 am with Mike and Linda catching us up later on. So off we headed to the Dockland Light Railway, which was very close, and after much scratching of heads and consulting those with degrees in quantum physics, tickets were purchased from the automatic machine. We only had to go a few stops before we got off so that we could all go across the Thames on the new Emirates Airline sponsored flight i.e. the new cable car crossing. This cost only £3.20 and was superb. The views are stunning and with the weather being so good we could see for miles. We landed right next to the 02 Arena.
The plan now was to walk to the Cutty Sark and how we didn't get lost I'll never know. It wasn't too far and we passed some interesting old sights but when we got there it was nearly 2 pm and the queues were very long to get on board. Coupled with an entrance fee of £12 each, so we decided not to go on board.
The next part of the plan was to cross the Thames by way of the foot tunnel, the entrance of which is next to the Cutty Sark. This was something most of us had never experienced before and I found it quite unique. We now started what turned out to be a long trek across the Isle of Dogs back to Limehouse Marina.
After recovering from the epic walk, we made our way back to the marina to rest before the evening festivities. We had booked an Italian restaurant near the marina and the meal was excellent. We all slept well that night to be ready for the cruise back the next morning.

Monday

We woke to yet another glorious day. Bright blue sky, wall to wall sunshine and hardly a breath of wind. What more could we ask for? It had already been agreed with the marina staff that three boats would go through the lock at 9 am and the two faster boats follow behind. Because the weather was going to be so good, we had decided to make the return journey topless. But before you all get too excited, that only meant taking all the canopy down.
Because we were now going through Westminster before most of the fast tourist boats had got going it meant that the river was fairly calm along this stretch and once we had passed this busy area, the river became a mill pond and the cruise was all peace and tranquil. There weren't even that many rowers for us to battle through.
Graham, modest as ever, timed the journey to perfection as we arrived at Richmond just as the barrier lifted and so cruised through without any problem.
Once we got to Teddington, Rosette and Chimerique had to continue on but ourselves together with Proncois and Prime Time decided to moor at Hampton Court for the night but, as it was now 2 pm,, we felt that the mooring there would be full so decided to stay at Teddington for lunch. Good job we did because Rosette sent a message to say that Hampton Court was indeed full.
We agreed to leave Teddington at 4 pm for the short cruise up to Hampton Court and we were fortunate because as we arrived there were just three spaces available. This was OK because that's all we wanted.

Tuesday

Yet another gorgeous morning and we went topless again for our cruise back to Penton Hook leaving the others there to continue their journey back to Bray.

Final Thoughts

A brilliant weekend. We couldn’t have asked for better weather and the cruising was lovely as was the company. Graham must be congratulated for all the hard work and effort he put in to taking away any stress, pressure or worry. His planning, timings and overall arrangements worked very well. It was a very good idea to stop off on the journey down river at Chiswick Pier because this took away any concern over tides, depth of the river, bridge heights etc. and made for a very relaxing trip. Thanks to everyone else who went for making the entire weekend so good.


Jim