Tuesday 16 August
Finally, I get to see the place where I’m registered, and all the sights along the river: I went under the arching road bridge of the Dartford crossing, the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge (and over the tunnel that carries the M25 traffic in the other direction, according to my chart plotter), past Fords in Dagenham, a site enshrined in the Mate’s family folklore, and through the Thames Barrier just downstream of Greenwich – a truly awe-inspiring sight for my crew. They enjoyed snapping photos of all the landmarks familiar from land: the O2 (Millenium Dome) with its multi-coloured cranes, London’s only lighthouse and the Emirates cable car that soars over the river. A multitude of river craft was churning the waters as we approached the lock gates of South Dock, opened for our arrival, and I effectively washed in sideways, bouncing off the stone walls in spite of strategically placed fenders, two of which gave up the fight and were later fished out of the lock basin by the helpful lock-keeper. Once I was in he slid the gates shut behind me and some degree of calm was restored, albeit with a few new grey hairs for my poor crew, and a few new scratches for me. Ginger beer and chocolate were the immediate remedy, and soon we were ready to turn the tight corner into our visitor’s pontoon berth. The people tied me up without further drama, and that’s where the fun really began.
South Dock was built as the holding dock for the much bigger Greenland Dock next door, which is now the home of Surrey Quays Watersports Centre. Smart apartment blocks have been developed around three sides of the dock, and most of the vessels moored here are canal barges and houseboats. Most of these never leave the dock, so it doesn’t see many visiting yachts. It is surrounded by a wire fence, and the access to the visitor’s pontoon is down an iron ladder on the dock wall, the top of which is housed in a fenced cage with a security keypad on the gate. I’m just glad I wasn’t going anywhere, as my crew had something of a palaver to get shopping down the ladder, never mind filling my tanks with water, when the tap was some 80 metres away. Heigh ho, never a dull day in sailing.
Anyway, this ‘escale’ was all about catching up with friends and family, and me having a chance to show off to some of the crew’s friends I hadn’t met before, and it wasn’t long before my second mate and her brother arrived aboard. The Mate’s friendly personal trainer brought her family over for supper too, and it sounded like a good time was had by all. I love the Little L’s visiting – they find all my hidey holes and really make themselves at home. There seemed to be a second shift of visitors, as another couple arrived for the last of the supper just before the small people took their parents home for bedtime. I’ve never seen so much action in one day.