Out and about on the river – now it’s Summer
A recent riverwatch blog told of my recent visits up to Guys from Greenwich by Thames Clipper. Guess what – the following week I went up to see Mike Ellis prior to his cardiac operation at London Bridge Hospital which I am glad to report was successful. In fact Mike was able to send me a shot of the view from his riverside bed with the pleasure steamer ‘Balmoral’ negotiating a ‘turn about’ at Tower Pier! – a rare sight indeed.
This Bristol-based craft twins up with the Waverley of Glasgow to tour the UK coastline with a well-planned daily excursion for seaside locals. Forward planning gives a series of opportunities to savour the delights of these iconic craft, as presented by enthusiast Timothy West in a recent TV series. I had the pleasure of his company in the engine room of the paddle steamer Waverley a few years ago. Do you remember the old Woolwich ferries which once gave our children a glimpse into the past, with the remarkable insight of paddle steamers at full power! As I write, a Thames Sailing Barge loaded with trippers slips down on the ebb tide while in contrast a Thames Clipper speeds by on her way to the O2, also passing by the slip ways of barge builders of yesteryear. Recalling happy days on board ‘Repertor’ and ‘Ironsides’ taking part in the annual barge matches on the Swale, Thames Estuary and the Blackwater up in Essex when one savoured the beauty of those tan sails in open estuarial waters as well as negotiating the narrowest of channels with the vocal aid of us amateurs on board identifying the buoys and withies, while calling out the depths of water beneath – essential skills to keep ahead of our competitors.
Perhaps nowadays keeping a lookout for fast incoming illegal immigrants bound for the hidden creeks and beaches. These fast outboard ribs are similar in size to those that ply for the tourist trade off many Thameside piers. They swish past our Greenwich house and at high tide we have to keep an eye out for incoming wash! In contrast, regular visitors like the canoe singles and pairs have to keep a weather eye out as did the trans-Atlantic rowers in their purpose-built skiff, sensibly escorted by a mother boat.