Upstream from Marlow
Shetland 27 ‘NAIAD II’ Goes as far as possible West
by David Horn, February 2017
Tuesday 16th August 2016 was a beautiful hot day, ideal for starting a River Thames Cruise. With NAIAD visible on her pontoon from the window it was just a matter of shopping for perishables and loading last minute things before casting off late morning.
Passed Bisham church and Bisham Abbey en route to our first lock at Temple in a mile and a half. Then the short stretch to Hurley lock with a pleasant wait overlooking the mostly covered vanished slipper launches in Peter Freebody’s yard. Beyond was Medmenham, the once home of Sir Francis Dashwood and the Hellfire Club which closed in 1774. Then going alongside a field between trees we hammered the mooring spikes into the ground for a long lazy light lunch. Sheep too were munching their lunch as we soaked up the vitamin D before the short hop to Hambleden weir. Three small canoes played in the turbulent downstream water. Just through the lock we spied the lovely little ketch ‘LUTRA’ whose photo won a box of chocolates at Cast Off !!
Being mid- August the Henley Regatta restrictions had been removed so it was easy to moor alongside in Remenham but difficult not to tread on duck droppings in the process! The spot we chose was reserved for the weekend as the site was being prepared for the Henley 80’s Pop Festival. For this, according to the collector of the £8 mooring fee, 4,000people had already booked! The walk into Henley past the Rowing Clubs and over the bridge to the Angel Pub alongside it proved longer than anticipated. Fortunately, Mike and Cate Goffe who we joined for supper at the Angel kindly gave us a lift to Remenham Church so the walk back to the boat in the dark was much shorter.
There is a tendency to think of the River Thames as flowing from West to East and hence refer to the North or South bank. This is fine at home in Marlow but in Henley the road runs east/west over the bridge as the river flows south to north at this point. Using Left or Right hand bank going up stream is far less confusing. So, the busy park and Rowing Museum moorings on the right bank lead into Henley’s ‘Marsh’ lock. Here there was a touch of James Bond as we followed ‘Casino Royal’. In continuing brilliant weather it was lunch again between trees on The Lynch, a wooded island just beyond Shiplake College. No sheep this time but several families with lots of energetic children and several small day boats.
Sonning Lock was passed without sight of the nearby celebrities - Mays & Cloonies. As Caversham Lock drew near it was fortunately noticed that the holding tank Red Light was ON! We were almost outside the Better Boating Co. so it was an unplanned pump out and, while we were at it, a top up with ‘red’ diesel.
Reading seen from the river is far better than from the roads. Another festival was in preparation on their enormous site with even a temporary pedestrian bridge being built across to the Oxfordshire side. By the time we were through Mapleduram lock it was find-a-spot-for-the-night time but we made the mistake of rejecting one close-by because of masses of geese poo. Several attempts at getting alongside tempting looking spots on the left bank lead to vigorous reversing and much churned up mud before getting to the National Trust field just before the next lock only to find all the spaces taken. So back the two miles, not obeying the 8 kmh ( an exciting 4.3 knots! ) speed limit, to join the geese in preference to operating Whitchurch Lock ourselves and hoping for something better up-stream. It was actually a very nice spot and we did not begrudge the £5 fee collected by an estate worker next morning.
After passing through Whitchurch and Goring locks in their picturesque settings and Cleeve with a fall of only 2 feet 3 inches, the smallest on the river, it was time for lunch. Ye Olde Leather Bottle looked attractive for an indulgence by the water but we were not allowed alongside as the berth was already reserved. The grass bank across the river beckoned and over our sandwiches we watched the African Queen moor up and several passengers go into the restaurant. Goring Sailing Club is next door but there was no sign of activity.
The historic town of Wallingford, only the second in England to get a Royal Charter, was a natural stopping point as it was already almost full and we didn’t want to be charging about like the previous night. Under a willow tree was fine until next morning when the Le Boat hire boat tried to leave in the rain to return to their base just upstream in Benson - it was well aground! We cast off for fear of being run into as they went back and forth at great revs! The day was spent close to Wallingford’s long, fine bridge as the weather had broken into rain, wind and grey sky. Our long plank was needed for Marion to get ashore.
Continuing miserable weather and four more locks got us to Abingdon, another historic town on a site first settled in the Iron Age and having a bridge built in 1416. After a night here, it was the stretch through Oxford beginning with Sandford lock which has the biggest fall on the Thames of 8 feet 10 inches and needs the Lock Keeper to help take the lines. It was reconstructed in 1972/3 with an entirely new system to reduce the filling time without producing excessive turbulance by the in-rushing water. The old lock was enclosed in a coffer-dam using 424 steel piles restrained by 78 drilled ground anchors. The new lock floor was made of reinforced concrete with two 32 inch wide culverts running along each side the chamber, each having 13 equally spaced outlets into the floor of the lock. The head sluices were thus eliminated and hydraulic controls on the inputs and emptying make for a smooth lock transit for the various types of craft through this deep lock.
On leaving progress was slowed by a regatta racing down-stream from the College Boathouses which was not marshalled to the Marlow Regatta standards!
Roger Pilkington in his ‘Small Boat on the Thames’ published in 1966 writes “Sadly the Thames is forced to confess that the burghers of Oxford have made the course of England’s loveliest river hideous with dereliction, …. ‘. We would not go that far but were surprised and disappointed by how ordinary it was from the river and lacking in facilities for our type of river boat.
One of the highlights of the trip was to go under Osney Bridge with a headroom of just 7 feet 6 inches, the lowest on the Thames and a barrier to the modern gin-palaces with their flying bridges and the like. They were no spaces available on the towpath side of the river so we tied up to the railings of an old warehouse building to lower NAIAD’S windscreen. Our heads had to be ducked very low and we were through with about 8 or 9 inches clearance!!
After a mile the right bank opens up to the 350 acre Port Meadow, a flood meadow used for over 1,000 years for common grazing. The grey painted pontoon of The Perch gastro pub was empty hence the ideal spot to re-erect the windscreen. The notice said ‘no overnight mooring’ but on the basis that we would only eat there in the evening if we could moor for the night agreement was reached after my promise/guarantee to the Manager that NAIAD would not sink!! There was even Sunday afternoon dinghy racing from the Medley Sailing Club to watch - the only sailing seen on the two-week trip and this in light airs.
The next lock, Godstow, was the last one electrically operated. Just through it is the 8 feet 5 inch Godstow Bridge we assumed would be no problem, apart from being at an angle across the river.
The bow was well under the arch before it was full revs in reverse! Good clearance in the centre but not for the outside corners of the screen. So tied up by the ruins of the 1139 Benedictine Nunnery, which Marion went to explore, while I again lowered the screen and associated bits.
Passed a narrow boat aground well inside the red buoys as it was coming downstream. Lady helmsman (don’t like ‘Helmsperson’ ) frantically revving back and forth and a chap in the bow looking contrite. Too shallow to help so told the King’s Lock Keeper, who groaned! Had our first experience of a manually operated lock.
Steak that night at the Rose Revived by Newbridge.
Started to pass several concrete Pill Boxes, built in 1940 as a line of defence against a German invasion, as we motored through very rural country side along a very narrow, meandering Thames with the sound of wind in the reeds and willows and swifts swooping low over the water.
This took us to Kelmscott Manor, a stone farmhouse built in 1570 and lived in by William Morris from 1871 until his death in 1896. A worthwhile visit.
Through Buscot and then St John’s Lock, the resting place of ‘Old Father Thames’ since its relocation in 1974 from ‘Thames Head’ where it had suffered vandalism.
Mooring to a grass bank had a great view of Lechlade Church. Then under Half Penny Bridge which opened in 1792 and took its name from the toll imposed on walkers except those going to church!
Just upstream was the end of navigation at the wooden bridge by Inglesham Roundhouse.
Mission Accomplished!! 86 miles cruised in 9 days from Marlow through 30 locks which raised us 44 metres.
We end this snap shot of cruising up the River Thames not with the customary sunset but a rainbow taken from the Lechlade mooring. It won another Cast Off box of chocolates !
’The end of Navigation’
Bornholm, Island in the Sun
By John Apps
It is claimed that the island of Bornholm has more sunny days than anywhere else in Denmark. In summer the sun does certainly seem to shine constantly and a high seems to settle over that part of the Baltic and produce idyllic summer days.
Bornholm marked in red. Denmark is white.
For the Danes, Bornholm is considered to be a holiday island and there is a constant flow of ferries and aircraft bringing holiday makers to its shores. Because it is closer to Sweden Germany and Poland than it is to Denmark itself it also attracts tourists from those other European countries as well.
Then there are the pleasure boats that visit Bornholm. In its 22 boat harbours you can see flags from most European countries but the overwhelming number are Danish, Swedish, German and Polish. And of course as with everywhere in Europe there is a large representation of boats from the Netherlands.
The British ensign must be a rarity as I was asked a number of times what country my red ensign represented, displaying the Union Jack in the top corner and the rest a big expanse of red. One German woman asked if it was perhaps the NZ flag. I had a NZ ensign down below so I showed her the extra four stars that the NZ flag had. Most seem satisfied with the argument that the Red ensign like most things British was an oddity. I did say to one enquirer that it represented the Communist Party of Great Britain but fortunately they didn’t accept that answer.
Strategically Bornholm has been important as an island in the middle of the Baltic. Hammershus, the largest castle ruin in Northern Europe is on the northern tip of the island. Gudjem on the North East coast is one of richest areas of Viking settlements in all of Denmark.
Geologically Bornholm is split between Scaninavian bedrock and European lowland bedrock. At Natur Bornholm site just outside the village of Aakirkeby it is possible to stand on rock that under one foot is 1.2 Billion years younger than under the other foot.
Most yachts arriving from Britain will probably stop off beforehand in Denmark or Sweden, although Germany is another alternative and then make a passage to Ronne which is the capital of Bornholm. Ronne has two ports: the very busy ferry and commercial port and a completely separate marina to the north of the main port. Ronne ferry port can on a summer’s day resemble Dover with the number of ferries (including high speed ferries) going to and fro to Sweden, German and Denmark.
Even though the marina is separated from the main port it is well located close to all facilities in the main town. The harbour master will direct you into a convenient berth and take your lines if he or she is available. It is the normal Baltic two posts astern and bows to the dock. Ronne like most Danish marinas has a machine to pay for berthing by credit card. The unmanned diesel dispenser also accepts credit cards but may not accept British credit cards as I found. However 500 metres away from the marina there was a perfectly good service station where I could fill up cans at a very reasonable price.
When paying for my berthing at Ronne, the machine offered me 6 nights for the price of five at most of the marinas on Bornholm. I knew I would only stay two nights at Ronne and was then going on to Svaneke on the East Coast to meet family. Svaneke was included in the deal so I paid for 5 nights.
The only day on Bornholm that there was a decent wind blowing was the day I made the voyage from Ronne to Svaneke round the southern tip of the island. I had a 20 knot westerly which was ideal to broad reach down the west coast and then a beam reach back up the east coast. Expecting Svaneke to be busy I had considered going into Arsedale (pronounced Osdel, fortunately), but while I had seen Svaneke harbour previously from the shore and noted a significant number of rocks I had not seen Arsedale before and with 20 knots of wind I decided to try Svaneke first and go back one mile to Arsedale if it was full. Arriving late in the day after a 40 mile voyage, the harbour looked very full with the outer harbour packed solid with beamy French and German designed boats. However the Harbour Master was on the groin to greet me. Assessed my 9’6” (2.95 metres) beam and directed me between two fishing boats in the inner harbour with an inch (3cm) either side to spare.
Svaneke is one of those lovely medieval towns that are can still be seen around the Baltic. One of the fortunate things about Bornholm’s declining permanent population (around 39000 at last count) is that there is a limited demand for modern housing. Svaneke has a very good selection of restaurants and takeaways as well as a well stocked mini supermarket and a micro brewery. The Fish and Chip takeaway just up from the boat harbour offers great fish and chips although the fish being a number of small pieces rather than one big piece is not as we in the UK would expect.
If Bornholm is the sunniest place in Denmark then Svaneke has to be the sunniest place on Bornholm. It is the most easterly point and its few very narrow sandy beaches are packed out with holidaymakers.
A delightful day trip or overnight stop from most of the ports on the East Coast of Bornholm is to go to Christianso. Christianso in fact comprises three islands: Christiansø, Frederiksø and Græsholm, plus a number of minor rocks and skerries. Only Christianso and Fredrickso are populated while Graesholm is a bird sanctuary. Christainso and Fredrickso are separated by a sound which forms a wonderful natural harbour. At one stage is was a major defensive position for the Danish Navy but now the old military accommodations are mostly occupied by artists and writers.
Christianso also has a vibrant fishing industry and its Sild (Herring) are considered a delicacy throughout Denmark. Most of the meals I had in various peoples houses on Bornholm included at least one serving of Sild done is a variety of sauces.
It has a good variety of restaurants and ice cream shops. Sitting overlooking the harbour is a wonderful way to spend a lazy lunchtime. For the more active it seems to be a very popular place to have a swim particularly on the western side of Fredrickso. Many yachts see it as a good opportunity to put their kayaks in the water and go for a paddle.
I took a boat load of family up to Christianso from Svaneke. About two and a half hours motoring due to lack of wind, that high was still hanging around. When we arrived at the southern entrance to the harbour we were informed by a waiting motor boat that there was no room in the harbour. Fortunately my daughter in law who was born and bred in Svaneke suggested we try the north entrance. We managed to navigate our way around through the numerous skerries and kayakers to the northern entrance using Navionics on the Android pad. There were very few boats inside the northern entrance and we soon found a good mooring.
A rarely opened swing footbridge separates the northern side of the sound from the southern. While the ferry wharf bringing trippers to the islands is located on the north side, we found it produced little wash to disturb our boat. We were there on a relatively windless day but it is advised that if there are strong winds you decide whether to enter the north or south entrances. A black ball or three red lights are shown if it is not advisable to enter the harbour.
I had my two year old grand daughter on board for the trip along with her parents and we decided that it might be best to go back to Svaneke for the night. However if you can stay, they say that Christianso only shows its unique atmosphere after 1700 hours when all the 3 hour tourists have left. There is quite a celebration at the inn to which yacht people staying overnight are very welcome.
One place that is on my list for the next time I visit Bornholm by boat is Hammerhavn on the northern tip of the island. It is described as a beautifully scenic harbour with no village activities or service facilities. It is also the closest marina to the Hammershus Ruin, that large fortification, mentioned previously.
On leaving Bornholm I made up for missing out on Hammerhavn by making my next port of call the marina at Lohme on the German island of Rugen another idyllic spot with no village activities unless you are a mountain goat and very few facilities, but lots of sylvan beauty.
Gordon and Pauline took their old wooden cruiser "Chimere" up the non-tidal Thames in 2016, stopping off at the Thames Traditional Boat Festival on the way. This is what they found........
There is something about wooden boats that stirs even the most glass reinforced heart. The shine of varnish, the elegant lines, or the sheer variety of traditionally built boats has a lure like no other. You may shy away from owning one (I don't blame you, the upkeep can be horrendous) but looking and admiring is the next best thing.
And where better to view traditionally built craft than the Thames Traditional Boat Festival held each year at Henley-on-Thames? Admittedly, these are mainly river boats - the sailing barges and smacks can't get this far up the Thames - but the spectacle is still there.
First held in 1978 as a rally for owners of wooden boats, time and increased popularity has brought changes. No longer is it an event where the public came to see boaters at play. It is now a day out for the public in its own right, with more than 10,000 people visiting over a long weekend in July.
Getting the balance between bank-side entertainment and the boating has been a major challenge for the volunteer organisers, one they have succeeded in achieving admirably. Onshore there are boat builder's stands, demonstrations, exhibitions, boat jumble, craft tents, food, a pub and live music 'till late on the Saturday night.
But it is really still about boats, attracting over 200 each year. Among the lovingly restored and maintained historic boats this year were the Dunkirk Little Ships, a first world war motor torpedo boat (they fired their single torpedo over the stern), and MTB 102 its WWII equivalent.
Add to these the steam boats, Edwardian launches, slipper-stern day boats, skiffs and cabin cruisers. All are traditionally built (no GRP or plywood allowed!) and many are truly veteran, some well over 100 years old.
The river is a scene of continuous activity: There are sail pasts with a commentary on each boat. There are featured boats like Bluebird K3 (attended last year but sadly missed out this year) and Gloriana the replica Thames Row Barge that has become a regular visitor. The magnificent steam launch Alaska usually runs a free scheduled passenger service. Many cruiser owners open their boats to visitors and take them on board for the sail pasts when they can.
But for stirring emotion you cannot beat the daily parade of Dunkirk little ships, often with veterans on board.
One particularly poignant moment at this year's festival was to mark the deaths in the terrorist attack in France a few days earlier. A cruiser over from St Malo for the festival paraded with the two motor torpedo boats to the last post sounded by a bugler ashore. Not a dry eye among the spectators lining the bank.
Traditional craft take a lot of maintenance and there is a thriving traditional boat industry along the river to support the owners. Some of us do our own maintenance but those with the funds keep the yards busy. Want to restore an old boat? Re-varnish to a mirror finish? Refit the interior? The yards will welcome you. The money involved can get silly; one boat this year was restored at a cost of over a million pounds. Needless to say it won the trophy for best boat at the Festival!
The 2017 Festival will on 14 to 16 July at Fawley Meadow, Henley, just off the Henley to Marlow road. Plenty of free car parking but an entrance fee of around £12 per person. Full information and a gallery of pictures from previous festivals on the official web site www.tradboatfestival.com
If you do visit the Festival, keep an eye open for "Chimere" and come aboard for a drink. We will be flying the GXSA pennant.
Traditional, restored or replica?
Or how to start an argument!
Traditional boats are generally agreed to be those constructed of traditional materials in a traditional way. Mainly that means wood, but can include riveted steel boats. Some are quite old - going back to the late 1800s - while others are quite new and are a testament to survival of skills and the continued interest in beautiful boats. Many of the older boats are from the latter years of traditional boatbuilding until costs and GRP forced its near demise.
The real dissention starts over the question of restoration and when the result becomes a replica. Does keeping one plank from the original boat in an otherwise new build mean the boat is "restored" and can claim its age from the first build? Or is it a replica? Owners of restored boats can get quite touchy when asked how much of the original craft remains.
What the boatyards say is that if the rebuild takes place in the same volume as the original - ie the structure is replaced bit by bit - it is a restoration even if nothing of the original remains. If it is built alongside the original, it's a replica.
I'm not sure I agree, but it is good for a heated discussion, if nothing else!
You may be interested in previous articles and Cruising Logs that we have published. Out members are adding to our library of Cruising Logs, that can be found here (in the News-->Cruising Log section.
John Rugg won the Trophy in 2015 for his essay about Family Sailing Holidays in the Lake District
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