The irony was not lost on us when we realised, a little over two weeks ago, that having regrettably alienated many of our friends and family during months and months of fastidious effort to keep our diaries clear for The Move, the date we ended up with turned out to coincide with the only exception we’d allowed ourselves: tickets to see the hottest show in town this year, The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre (if you haven’t seen it, book tickets and go immediately).
So Monday last week was always going to be a bit of a hoo-ha, but there was nothing to be done; we packed our overnight kit and sleeping bags on Sunday night, took them to work on Monday, fell out over the time I took to arrange a cool bag and ice packs at work for our picnic, cutting it excitingly close to get to the theatre in time and check all our clobber into the cloakroom – INTERMISSION while we howled our socks off for 2.5 hours – then we pegged it out of the theatre astonishingly early enough to catch the 10.25pm HS1 train from St Pancras International, on which we had a much-needed but still-slightly-grumpy sandwich from the Picnic Box of Contention before arriving at Strood at 11 and jumping in a pre-booked taxi to Cuxton where we were met by R at approximately 11.10pm and invited to rest our heads for a couple of hours before preparing for departure at high tide, around 2am.
We made it! so this, then, was strictly-speaking our first ‘night’ on board. Albeit just 2.5 hours long.
At 2am I bounced out of bed (yes, really) to be greeted with a hot cup of sweet black tea by our crew for the trip: R (our broker) and P (his friend and colleague who had been the crew coming from Holland and also the key holder and general source of all knowledge all those times we hauled ass to Kent in the past few weeks.) Between them they have decades of experience and vast volumes of knowledge on all things boat, so we were in good hands.
At 3am, we cast off. P did the first hour at the wheel to get us over and around the worst of the Medway’s mudbanks, and then the Owl took over, like this:
Cool, huh? Admittedly Sheerness Power Station helped with the drama… Although I maintain most things look dramatic at dawn, especially when you’ve only had 2.5 hours’ sleep and a poxy sandwich the night before. Here is a wonky Sheerness landscape:
And here is us in the middle of it as the Sun Also Rises:
(Incidentally, I spent much of the trip finishing a fictional autobiography of Zelda Fitzgerald which had Ernest Hemingway down as a heinous, manipulative and misogynistic egotist. Somewhat ruins his writing for me, if true…) anyway, here’s a fast-forward to me reading it:
Those of you who made it all the way through my post on the Shipping Forecast a few weeks ago may remember a penchant for buoy names. This one’s is no exception – in fact I liked it so much, I’m considering promoting it to my new favourite insult:
And just for the hell of it, here’s another one. Can’t remember what the down arrows mean, but no doubt it’s very nautical and interesting.
I should mention that at some point between the Sun Also Rising and my tryst with Zelda, I hit a wall and went to lie down for a bit (ok: about 4 hours) which means I ‘felt’ rather than ‘saw’ the only real bit of sea proper we dealt with between the Medway estuary and the Thames. It was still fun though, rolling about with the big waves all wrapped up and dozy in my new cabin. By the time I woke up, the Owl had also succumbed and was snoring gently next to me; the sun was up, and the water looked just as big and brown as it had earlier.
More industrial buildings…
Lots of ships both big and small:
Hello, Gravesend. (It’s actually rather pretty, I rather liked Gravesend. Sadly on retrospect however I don’t think this is a picture of it… It’s too far away to tell)
Hello London International Cruise Ship Terminal, you dilapidated monster of embarrassment, you:
Hello, container ship.
HALLO, CITY OF LONDON!
At this point we realised we were actually going to be early (which felt kind of amazing given how achingly slowly we’d been going for the best part of 12 hours – we’d even slowed down at one point. That’s the magic of tides for you). We stopped on a chunky yellow mooring buoy in the middle of the Thames and tried to think up all the questions we might want to ask the experts after they’d departed, and then about 45minutes later we set off again, into the jaws of this bad boy:
The Roding Flood Barrier. A bit like passing under a guillotine, though of course we’re not in France which was some consolation.
And then we were on the home straight – the view back was like this:
and this lay ahead:
just kidding. That was on the east bank, along with loads more industrial sites. The river ahead looked like this:
Actually there was the most horrendous stench around about now which I later realised was an enormous – and I mean ENORMOUS – sewage plant on the west bank (to port, if you will). So mostly we stuck with the industrial view and tried not to imagine we were entering the Bog of Eternal Stench…
After a few more bends…
…and under the A13 (this is evidently NOT the QE2 Bridge as originally stated which looks like this . Not sure where that red herring came from to be honest, but in case you’re interested: the QEII bridge is apparently the only bit of the M25 that’s not actually the M25 because it’s privately owned and thereby gets demoted back to an A-road for those few metres)
… we found ourselves approaching The Barking Barrage…
And lo! The ode to Mondrian which marks our corner…
And then here we have ourselves a barrage. Kind of like a lock, but with only one set of doors, a special little dude from the council to open them, no gates, and a weir to the left. Sorry: PORT. And we’re going in…
This is what high tide looks like when it hasn’t rained for a while:
And suddenly here we were, waving to the first of our neighbours like we were the Spirit of Chartwell, only a bit less damp…
this likely looking gap has had our name on it since May, so we just needed to get down the end, turn around and come back, past all our new neighbours, watching to see how we did. Which wasn’t intimidating at all.
so basically they’re amazing: a more colourful motley crew of piratical, remade fantastical floating inventions I’ve never seen. Together they look like how you might imagine the cast of the Wacky Races on a boating holiday… Although up close they all make perfect, if sometimes slighty eccentric, sense. For a second, I felt slightly boring with our trad, safe Luxemotor… And then we moored up in our final spot and our eyes rested for the first time on the view. We have a folly! And a timely reminder to know your limitations. This will do us very nicely for now, thanks. Hello Fresh Wharf, thank you for having us. We’re very happy to be here.
And I am unspeakably pleased to have finally finished this interminable post.