A Short Account of a Trip to the Eastern Hemisphere, or To the Thames Barrier and Back

Sunday 13th February 2011

First came the email, a trip to the Thames Barrier, “great” I thought, “a Sunday, able to park in Lots Road all day, on the river in daylight, a new experience to get into the heart of London (as I have only been as far as the Eye), better reply quickly as there is bound to be a large uptake.”

So came the day, Andy, Geoff and I on a dull and overcast morning met at Cremorne; rain was forecast. After getting the boats out and having the usual kit faff (trying to sort a skeg out) we got on the water at about 10:15.

Through London taking in the architecture, history, riverscapes etc – it was terrific!  Although it can all be seen from the bank, being on the water in command of your own boat is quite special.

This was the longest paddle that I have done, and beyond Tower Bridge I was experiencing pain in my right wrist.  Geoff very kindly let me use his cranked paddle and the pain was instantly reduced.  He let me keep it for the rest of the trip – just as well as I think I would have had major problems if I had tried to carry on with mine.

Anyway, we reached the Barrier, and Geoff, being our comms man, got on to London VTS and they told us which span to come through…. the light signals turned from red crosses to green arrows…. WELL!  Architecture, history, riverscapes etc all paled into insignificance as three grown men in kayaks experienced deep joy and satisfaction at this small and insignificant event.  So far, the highlight of the trip!

Once through the Barrier we beached the boats and ascended the ladder taking us up beside the visitor centre, which was unfortunately closed until April.  So we all shared coffee and chocolate and Andy called London VTS on his mobile.  Next minute a chap came out on the balcony and gave us a wave.  They were friendly and chatty and Andy thanked them for all their help and assistance both just now and in the past – perhaps we’ll arrange a visit to them in the future?

Then back in the boats and back through the Barrier (once again, the lights changing specially for us) and then a short paddle to our second highlight of the day, the Greenwich Yacht Club.  An amazing building, hot lunches and pints, and a couple of old boys happy to chat.  With Youngs and Fullers on tap and Ireland v France about to start on the TV we could have been well settled for the afternoon, but time and tide wait for no man and the river called.

It was quite a testing paddle back, at least it was for me!  Geoff and Andy tried surfing the wake of the fast Thames Clippers.  Getting past the O2 seemed to take a long time – the bend in the river I suppose.  We pushed on to Tower Bridge where we stopped on a beach right in front of the Tower of London.  Time for another quick coffee and for us to put our lights on, then back to Cremorne.

The expected rain mostly held off; a bit of drizzle hit, but we were safely in the yacht club at the time.

All in all a great day.   I will not deny that by the end I was cold and the hot showers at the Centre were worth the membership fee alone!  Looking forward to doing the trip again with a bigger group and a nice warm sunny day.

Richard H.

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