Canal Boat - - Tidal Cruising -

The Thames Tide­way is a great in­tro­duc­tion to proper bolder boat­ing. What could be more thrilling than tak­ing your nar­row­boat un­der Tower Bridge and past the Houses of Par­lia­ment?

The eas­i­est route by far is up­river from Lime­house to ei­ther Brent­ford for the GU or Ted­ding­ton, where the ti­dal river ends. Down­stream to Lime­house is much trick­ier: the ebbing tide is faster and fiercer, and the en­trance to Lime­house Lock de­cid­edly tricky.

You leave Lime­house Lock cut and swing right into a daunt­ingly big river. I re­mem­ber it well. We pitched and rolled in the sud­den swell as the tide and waves took us. After a cou­ple of min­utes, when I re­alised we weren’t about to sink, I started to set­tle down to en­joy the trip. You pass tall old river­side build­ings and the

fa­mous Prospect of Whitby pub, then around a curve is the awe­some spec­ta­cle of Tower Bridge and the glim­mer­ing nee­dle of The Shard.

Be­fore the bridge, we’d al­ready been passed by one of the high speed Clip­per cata­ma­ran river buses. If you’re wor­ried about river traf­fic then try to plan your trip for a pe­riod when the tides suit an early morn­ing start. We didn’t so the trip boat ac­tion came thick and fast.

Bridges fol­low each other quickly through cen­tral Lon­don, and mostly at dif­fer­ent an­gles on the curv­ing river. Be alert that the tide will push you to­ward the outside of the bends so line up for bridges ac­cord­ingly.

Clip­pers, trip boats and tugs haul­ing big barges seem to be moving ev­ery which way but they’re all on the alert and, so long as you don’t dither or do any silly, you’ll be all right. Well, we were any­way. It was only later when we looked at Adam’s pho­tos from Hunger­ford Bridge that we re­alised quite how diminu­tive we were. “Don’t dither, make pos­i­tive de­ci­sions,” was our ex­pe­ri­enced crew­man’s ad­vice. “If a boat is wait­ing to pull away from a pier then in­di­cate to him which way you’re plan­ning to go by show­ing him the side of your bow and he’ll re­act ac­cord­ingly.”

And keep well away from the Houses of Par­lia­ment if you don’t want to be ar­rested. Keep right as al­ways but stay vir­tu­ally in mid-river.

Sadly the Tide­way is like a three-hour ac­tion movie in which all the stunts hap­pen in the first hour. After the Houses of Par­lia­ment the river qui­etens and flat­tens and you’ve time to con­tem­plate an un­be­liev­able num­ber of luxury river­side apart­ment blocks and then the large and lux­u­ri­ous houses of the sub­urbs be­fore Ted­ding­ton Lock.

Next time we will have to head left out of Lime­house and take a trip to the Thames Bar­rier. I’ll re­port back.

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