We hauled our lines in just after breakfast and headed upstream towards Windsor, where we were hoping to moor at The Brocas. This is a large open space, ideal for Alfie (our Border Terrier), on the Eton bank of the river at Windsor. I have to admit, the fact that we were also guaranteed a tv signal for the England Group 16 football game in the open spaces of The Brocas, also influenced my passage plan!
Looking across Windsor Great Park to the Castle
After negotiating a couple of very pretty and well maintained locks at Bell Weir and Old Windsor and circumnavigated the vast grounds of Windsor Castle, we passed under the centre span of Windsor Bridge and kept right looking for a mooring at The Brocas. There were already a few boats moored to the bank and we headed for an inviting gap, however it was a little shallow for Anticus. We are just over a metre in draught and the shallow sloping banks meant that without a gang-plank of some sort we wouldn’t be able to get ashore.
Luckily a hastily arranged plan B materialised and we spotted a lovely mooring on the Windsor bank with a view of the Castle.
The view from our mooring in WIndsor
We spent a very relaxing couple of days here, watching the river traffic. Passenger boats heading upstream towards the Henley Regatta, day hire boats nipping around like swarms of bees and the very noisy Windsor Duck amphibious craft giving camera touting tourists views of the castle (and Anticus!).
It really is a lovely place to stop and I would highly recommend it to any passing Captains and their crew. Unfortunately time was pressing and we were all too soon heading back on our return journey to Shepperton. We couldn’t resist a second stop at Runnymede on the way.
Since collecting her in Reading, and bringing Anticus home to Shepperton Marina, our cruising has mainly been in the very near vicinity of the marina. A couple of trips to Sunbury and the odd turn or two to Lady Lindsay’s Lawn.
Lady Lindsay’s Lawn
However the time was upon us when we decided to be a little more adventurous and push the boat out (sorry!) with a trip to Windsor. A plan was formed which was: Day 1 – Runnymede, Day 2 & 3 Windsor and then back to Runnymede for a night before returning to Shepperton.
It’s only about 3 hours from Shepperton to Runnymede including 4 locks. The trip was quiet and leisurely under a fabulous blue skies, high 20’s temperature and the greenest of green board river conditions.
One of the great things about our Piper Barge is the ease of handling such a large craft. In locks we can stop it exactly where we want to, enabling us to easily lasso the bollards. After past experiences on twitchy plastic hire craft which are bounced around in locks, the confidence to Piper gives us is fantastic.
Locking on the Thames – we are aiming for the 4th bollard after the steps!
Arriving at Runnymede we were very luck in finding a lovely National Trust mooring in sight of the Magna Carta memorial and the Air Forces memorial. There are no facilities such as electricity or fresh water, but the moorings and secluded and peaceful.
Whilst moored there we were treated to the sight of some lovely boats cruising past including some Dunkirk little ships and a French Brothers steam tourist boat.
Tomorrow it’s on to Windsor……….
To be honest I’m not sure what they are called, which meant that when I phoned Thames Covers and said I wanted “a blue canvass thingy around the back of the boat”, they suggested a visit might be the way forward.
The result was that an order was made for the boat to be plus one in the rail cloth inventory.
Thames Covers dressing Anticus
The fitters have made a very neat job, at a very good price, and it really finishes off the stern of the boat.
I’ll try and get some ‘action’ pictures when we go out tomorrow.
Well dear reader, here I am, sat in glorious sunshine moored just down the pontoon from Gloriana. Haven’t seen HRH Liz yet, but have the kettle on ready if she fancies a cuppa.
After our trip downriver from Reading last weekend I seem to have spent most of the week cleaning. If my mother could see me now ……………
Anyway, the deck scrubbing and polishing was not in vain as my sister and family came to visit on Saturday. We took them out for a short cruise through Sunbury lock and found a lovely quiet mooring just below the weir.
As luck would have it, we were 50 yards from The Magpie pub, and, well, I’m sure you can guess, we upped our #bargelife bonus points and strolled to the afor mentioned pub for a bit of lunch time grazing. Very nice it was too, even forgiving the fact that the fish and delicious chips came with a pea puree rather than the more chewy mushy peas. Well, at least it was on a plate and not in/on anything resembling roofing tiles, flower-pots or any of the other nonsense that seems to be de-rigour in inner M25 eating establishments. A very nice pub, with clean, easy moorings very close by if you happen to be in the area.
One other thing of note this week, which had my flabber gasted. This very blog was inundated with a message from the USofA. No, not from Trump Towers but from Pennsylvania and one of it’s (I’m sure) formost residents, Michael Ferman. Apparently he was taking the air alongside the Thames at Runnymede whilst holidaying in the Mother Country and spotted us cruising past. He snapped some pics, tracked down our blog and a result is below. Amazing! (Well it is to me!)
On Thursday 7 June, 2018 at 08:40 Anticus was lowered into the water at Thames and Kennet marina, Reading, on the River Thames.
Vinnie and Josh, from Piper Boats (our builders) were on hand to give the boat a thorough series of shake-down tests, and after a bit of too-ing and fro-ing we set off downstream from Reading towards Henley.
Anticus being lifted off the low loader
Vinnie took her under Sonning bridge, a particularly tight, low and challenging obstacle on the Thames for a boat our size. So much so that, Vinnie knows it as Sodding Bridge!
After a while with no great obstructions in sight I took over the helm and stood there steering our own boat down the Thames. Exciting didn’t cover it. We navigated three locks without mishap and arrived in Henley in the late afternoon mooring in a lovely spot 5 minutes walk from the town centre.
Unfortunately our proximity to the epicentre of this lovely town proved our downfall in terms of our pledge to “cook on the boat and not squander money on eating out”. One of our favourite restaurants, The Square, serving beautiful fish and meat with a flavour of Portugal was beckoning and we just didn’t have the will power to resist. Ho-hum, at least we know having a boat hasn’t changed us !!!
Things are moving along at quite a pace now with the build. Although every time I look outside and see blue skies and check the River Thames conditions and see Green Boards, it seems like the launch can’t come soon enough.
We visited the Piper yard a couple of weeks ago to finalise a few details with the help of Warren, the very skilled and helpful carpenter who is fitting out the boat. Chatting to Nick, who has guided us through the build, we are looking at the 7th of June as the date we are going to launch at Thames and Kennet Marina in Reading.
Our aim is then a gentle cruise, probably 4 days, to our berth in Shepperton Marina.
Nicola and I are equally as excited as we are nervous about our first few days with Anticus, Nicola about the locks and me about dinking the paintwork! (Note to self: order touch up paint !!)
Seeing the boat looking like a boat is fabulous, and really feels like it is SO close to floating down the Thames. We really just need to add water !!
Love the colour
As things move on a-pace in Biddulph, the home of our builder, Piper Boats, our attention has moved to finding a home for Anticus to moor.
Our criteria is really that she should be no great distance from our house in Twickenham, which is on the Thames (the town that is, not our house ! I hasten to add the film Brewsters Millions was not based on me in any way, shape or form). We are not planning to live full time on board, indeed Nicola still has a year before she can retire (she has told me to emphasise EARLY retirement).
So the lower non-tidal Thames seemed to fit geographically. The first decision was un-serviced options moored to a bank or eyott (island, for those who don’t speak Thames)!, or a marina with the bells and whistles of electricity, water, security, and of course far greater fees.
After perusing the ‘wild mooring’ options we eventually decided on selling a kidney or two and opted for the marina option. There are a couple within 20 mins of our house that could take Anticus, Shepperton and Penton Hook.
Quite honestly there was little to choose between the two marinas. One had a yacht / social club – doesn’t really float our boat (sorry about that!:) Both had a decent chandlery. Neither had a crane that could take our Piper. Penton Hook was about 15% more in fees, but has reciprocal access to all MDL marinas. And the final clincher, especially as far as Nicola was concerned – from our potential mooring at Shepperton, we saw a pair of Kingfishers in the bushes 30 yds away!
So, as someone once told me, BOAT means Bring On Another Thousand. Well in this case it was around 6 BOATs worth, but we are booked into Shepperton for 12 months.
Home Sweet Home
At the beginning of the week, after the snow had thawed, Anticus saw the light of day, albeit briefly, as she was moved from the steelwork shed to the fitout shed at Pipers.
Hello reader, I’ve just had a few photos in from Andrea at Pipers.
Very exciting that the boat looks like a boat now, and that the wheelhouse is being positioned.
By the way, I can here you asking why is it a boat and not a ship? Well, it appears that it is to do with size. A boat is small enough to be carried on a ship, but not vice versa ! Don’t even ask what that makes a dinghy !!!! 🙂
Last year both Nicola and I did barge handling courses at Bisham Abbey – in fact I enjoyed it so much I did it twice, gaining my ICC and CEVNI qualifications aboard their barge Le Coq.
Le Coq – training Barge at Bisham Abbey
A couple of weeks ago I added to my nautical CV with a Diesel maintenance course and a VHF course, also taken at Bisham.
This really is a first class facility on the Thames and a perfect environment with knowledgeable, patient instructors. Highly recommended.