Circumnavigation complete – back to base via the River Brent

This is the day we complete the circumnavigation of London by returning to base (though south Londoners might take exception to putting it that way). We cruised slowly up the canalised River Brent, which was green and leafy, the birdsong interrupted only by the roar of traffic as we approached the bridge carrying the M4 over the canal.

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Soon, we were into the locks, tackling 10 altogether, 6 of them in a single flight. We had lunch in a basin between two locks.

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By the time we got to the top lock, we had a pretty good system going, with two people walking ahead to prepare the next lock. At the top lock we paused for a group photo (below). The two boats crewed by Norwegians were close behind, racing through the locks, almost catching us at the top.

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Finally, we stopped half a mile from the marina and walked 10 minutes to the restaurants of Southall where, after a stroll to look in the windows of the fabric, jewellery and cake shops, we had a splendid meal in Gifto’s Lahore Karahi.

Next morning we moved the boat into the marina, packed and left. We discovered that the Norwegians had come specially for the round-London cruise. Black Prince has bookings for London from as far afield as South Africa and New Zealand.

Altogether a great holiday on our own back doorstep, seeing London from a completely different perspective.

Limehouse to Brentford with the tide

We’ve booked the lock into the Thames for 1130, to catch the last couple of hours of the tide, which will sweep us up the river. (The boat goes so slowly that it would hardly move if it tried to fight the tide). Three other Black Prince boats head for the lock, with a shared professional pilot, but one turns back because of engine trouble. We head out into the Thames, giving our plan to Thames VTS (traffic control) on VHF channel 14, and head for Tower Bridge.

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We intend to go through the centre span but as we approach a white light starts flashing which is the signal that a large craft needs it, so we divert to the right hand span as a small coaster looms behind us.

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We pass the Tower and all the other sights of central London’s riverside, while concentrating hard on the currents which swirl round every obstruction and moored craft, at the same time reading the bridge by bridge pilotage guide – sadly no longer in print.

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Ben took time off from work nearby to take pictures of us as we went past HMS President.

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Then we passed the London Eye and parliament, where there is a 70 meter exclusion zone for boats.

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The bridges became easier as the traffic eased and the number of darting river buses fell – their stops alternate sides of the river. The first complication was Battersea Railway Bridge, where we had to call Bridge Control for permission to pass because of the extensive work being done on the bridge.

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Two Black Prince boats rented by Norwegians, which had left Limehouse with us, overtook as we approached Chiswick.

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Chris steered the last leg up to the entrance to the River Brent and the tidal lock.

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We wound our way up the narrow river, crowded with moored barges, to the Gauging Lock at Brentford, where we went through into the canal basin and moored for the night. Susannah brought Tom and Ella-Rose to see the boat.

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And this is the photo Ben emailed of us passing The Globe.

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Dinner on board.