Windsor to Hampton Court Palace

November 1st sees the start of major lock works so now is my last chance to explore east of Windsor for a few months. A fairly long trek to Hampton Court, 7 hours with 8 locks. Surprisingly the locks east are much wider. I did ask one keeper why, he thought it may have been due to the density of traffic when they were built, tourist boats. Not a problem except there’s more room to drift about before I get the ropes sorted.

On leaving Windsor I get another view of the castle and have been warned not to moor or breakdown on the castle grounds or be swiftly met by the security services.

This route is much more built up, after passing Runnymede and the home of the Magna Carta I went under the M25 and M3.

The river becomes wider the further east I go. Through Staines, close to Thorpe Park and past Shepperton there’s a short cut which I took, I’ll explore the longer route on my way back. As I pass Sunbury the river bank is covered in Houseboats. They look charming, each one different but all are trying to make the most of their beautiful surroundings.

As I passed through the last lock (Molesey) before Hampton Court I went under the A309 which made me smile as I’d crossed this bridge many times in a car going the same speed I was doing in Angela Dawn.

The mooring for Hampton Court are almost deserted. Right next to the Palace with manicured pathways.

The trees are full of squirrels for Nutty to chase and beautiful green Parakeets chirping away. Miles of park and country riverside to walk along although Nuts had to be on the lead at times inside the Royal Park as it was full of deer.

The mooring at Hampton Court is free for 24hours then £5 a night, not bad at all. I’m staying for 2 nights before slowly moving back to Windsor. Lovely pub close, The Mute Swan with Wifi, great beers and dog friendly.

Marlow to Windsor

I’ve done this route a few times now but there’s always something new to see. Stopped off for the night at Dorney Lake home of the Eton College Rowing Centre as I ran out of daylight. An amazing facility used for the 2012 Olympics. At 7200 feet long I couldn’t help thinking we should bring back sea planes and stop mucking about at Heathrow!!

 

Abingdon

In the last couple of weeks I’ve moved from my mooring at Windsor to Abingdon and back again 59 miles, 19 locks each way. The weather  by and large has remained lovely with the odd shower. It took around 4 days each way cruising. I could certainly have walked it faster! The views are stunning, I’ve seen 2 Kingfishers but the little blighters moves too fast for me to get a photo. Last week I met up with engineers from the boat builder to rectify a couple of issues. Now I have a working bow camera which helps me get up close in the locks and hopefully spare those in smaller craft from being crushed by 30 tons!

I’m just loving life on Angela Dawn. It is incredibly comfortable and the pace is slow. The central heating or oil stove keep the boat toasty warm on those chilly nights and early mornings. When moored up and in the wheelhouse I get no end of questions from passers by. Once below though I’m in my personal apartment that gently rocks every now and then. Nutty loves it when we’re by a park, huge garden with endless squirrels to harass.

Abingdon was great, I met up with a group of ex RAF Fighter Controllers for our biannual liver abuse and intake of toxic curry. Mum and Dad came down  and stayed the night, it was lovely to show them the completed dream.

I’ll cruise as long  as the weather and river conditions allow probably exploring east to Teddington. Starting in November there’s a handful of lock closures through the winter to enable maintenance to be completed. Most last for 6 weeks so I’ll have to keep close attention to that.

Views on the river

Today we move back upstream to Marlow, 3 hours and 5 locks. Pumped out the black water tank at the first lock, Boveney. It was far from full but just wanted to see how it worked. The EA charge £10 it can be double at a marina. In theory I could go for at least a month between pump outs, I don’t think so! Sorry if you’re eating. The rivers quite quiet for boat traffic many of the pleasure boats winterised. The weather turned and for much of the trip it rained but still plenty to see and cosy warm in the wheelhouse.

 

Windsor mooring

Although I intend to move around as much as possible I decided to take up a base mooring for when river conditions or lock closures restrict movement. The cost of marinas is eye wateringly expensive and I don’t intend to be there much. I found a mooring in the centre of Windsor for half the price. There’s no onsite facilities as in marinas like electric hook up, water, waste ect but as I’ll move frequently I can pop into marinas and the locks have differing facilities. The mooring is great for visiting the town but I do get a lot of Japanese tourists doing selfies in from of AD. Very amusing watching them. Immediately behind there’s flats being built which is noisy during the day however the view across the river to Eton is very pleasant.

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The Boatman pub 20 yards away serves a lovely pint of London Pride and the staff spoil Nutty.

Angela Dawn Technical Bits

For those interested in facts, Angela Dawn is 49′ long 13’9″ wide and weighs 26 tons empty. She holds 1200lts of fuel used for propulsion, hot water and central heating. There’s a separate tank to the diesel stove heater. 1500 ltr fresh water tank and 1000 lts Black (Loo) Water tank. Grey water (Shower,washing up) is pumped overboard. I have no idea how long these will last before they need attention but the gauges indicate I’m good for a while yet. The fuel I’ll keep topped up to avoid condensation. img_0544

The engine room is big enough to sit in, around 3′ tall and sits under the rear deck accessed under one of the wheelhouse bench seats. Left to right storage, Red box is the heating, water boiler and calorifier. white box is the generator, essential when Kirsty uses the hair drier. Green Beta Marine 105bhp engine. Under the stairs at the back is the engine cooling tank, in front the hydraulics for the steering, bow and stern thrusters. The battery bank is in the grey box behind and right. The turquoise/white boxes are the electric management system.

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The wheelhouse controls are top left, bilge pump, AC electric switches, Simrad plotter. On the plotter I can put Radar, chart, basic navigation including radar position indicator (very useful) heading, speed over the ground and depth below the hull (again very useful) As you may see the radar and chart are not aligned yet, need to speak to Simrad about that. The options on this plotter are endless and will keep me busy for hours.

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Below the grey switches are the VHF radio, I’ve had AIS receiver fitted so I can see who’s mowing me down when I go to sea!! Car radio next to that.

Bottom row is the holding tank pump, engine gauges then the thruster controls.

On the roof there’s the Simrad 4G radar, an amazing piece of kit. Totally over the top for the thames but will come into its own on the estuary or sea.  I tracked a swan going right past me today, great toy.

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On the mast I have 2 WiFi booster, VHF and GPS aerials. Also on the mast anchor light on the top. navigation, steaming light and horn below.The satellite dish lays flat on the roof, you press a button up it comes and automatically finds the Astra 2  satellite, hey presto TV, magic.img_0550

Well done if you’ve got this far and are still awake. I’ve a massive box of instructions to work though yet. Cheers Dean x

First Solo

After 3 nights in Marlow, the last one sober, it was time to visit my mooring in Windsor on my first trip solo human.

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Life jackets on

Set off just before 9 and had a few minutes to wait at Marlow Lock for the keepers to set sorted. A little nervous but I ended up helping a plastic hire boat  to moor. They were drifting to the weir which took my mind of the first solo lock. Why did I worry, the training stood me in good stead, I may have been slow but it worked. The trip took 3 1/2 hours with a total of 5 locks to negotiate. At each lock I tried different rope positions until I felt comfortable. The hydraulic thrusters were a God send but I’ll get some short centre ropes just in case. The Lock Keepers were great, very complementary and always checked if I wanted help as they could see I was solo. Angela Dawn performed perfectly.  A few electronic issues, the bow camera needs replacing. Would have helped in one lock with a 2 man canoe in front, what was that noise! The WiFi Router has a problem so I’m writing this in the Boatman pub 20 feet from my base mooring in Windsor, Oh the hardship!!

Henley

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This weekend has been spent by Temple Island near Henley with 10 other Piper boats. The event is laid on to enable prospective boat buyers and people who are on the waiting list for a boat to view the different sizes, layouts, wood, colour schemes and gadgets. It also gave me the chance to pick the brains of other owners and the Piper team. A lovely weekend, so nice to hear of peoples many dreams. I don’t understand why I kept waking up with a headache! Attending this sort of event in so essential to the boat buying process. It was made even better having Ashley and Kirsty with me. After the event I moved closer to Henley which was fun. The moorings are very shallow and after 2 attempts I managed to get her close ish to the bank but facing downstream. Not ideal but there’s no current. Should be fun getting her off in the morning!!

Thanks to Ivan for taking the interior pictures below,  much better with a wide angle lens.

 

Launch of Angela Dawn

 

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Yesterday morning my boat Angela Dawn was successfully launched into the Thames marking the start of a new and exciting life. It was quite a sight to see the guys maneuver almost 30 ton of boat around by remote control. The launch from truck to water took around 30 minutes. Once in the water the team from Piper Boats has several checks to complete. A few drips were noticed by the weed hatch so they lifted her out and a welder from Stoke turned up to make her watertight. Ballast (bricks) were inserted to level her out. It took several hours for the work to be completed. Kirsty and I unloaded a van I’d hired and began moving in. I did consider at one point that maybe I’d need a bigger boat!

Tom from Pipers took Angela Dawn the short distance to the visitor mooring at the Thames and Kennet marina near Reading. Unpacking in sweltering heat was not particularly fun but we were amazed at the number of cupboards, drawers and cubby holes that swallowed up my worldly belongings. While we were doing that more checks tooks place. After a very long day it was time for a takeaway and beer. First night on Angela Dawn was lovely, the boat is beautifully finished and quite roomy. Our ever changing garden is fabulous, as I brushed my teeth this morning and through the porthole a swan escorted her signets past.

Today more unpacking, collect Nutty, some very enjoyable chilling and starting to learn how to work the many new toys on board. Tomorrow the guys from Pipers will go with us to Henley and go through the boat handling, I can’t wait.

The cabins are far from organised but what’s the rush?

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Nutty looking fed up at yet another move!

This weekend Ashley joins us and we’re joining 10 other Piper Dutch barges for Pipers annual get together. It’s an opportunity for prospective new buyers to look around the boats. I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow boaters and picking up plenty of advice and tips.

Thank you to all the team at Piper Boats, a magnificent job, she was worth the wait. I look forward to see family and friends onboard soon.

I’m certain Ange would approve. I just wish she was with me.

More at the weekend from Henley and I’ll try and workout how to do a video tour of the inside. Cheers Dean xx