The leaving party
Friday night I threw everything onto the boat that was scattered around the pontoon, the leaky outboard motor was strapped to the pushpit, bits of old plywood thrown onto the cabin roof, ready to move out of the west basin the following morning.
We made the most of our last quiet evening in the marina, glass of wine, some dinner, possibly the only night since we arrived that was warm enough to sit outside and take it in.
We awoke at 5:30am and motored over to the central basin to our new spot for the day. My folks drove up ridiculously early to ‘beat the traffic’, despite the leaving party not starting til midday. They sat in the car for 2 hours til we were ready to get them.
The leaving party was great fun, manic and utter chaos at times.
The day went unbelievably quick, almost too quickly to chat to everyone who turned up. Old mixed with new. People tripped off the boat after a drink too many, legs went flying, glasses were dropped. How the solar panels stayed on I don’t know, as people grabbed whatever they could to get on and off the boat. I found the loo overflowing on countless occasions, wives went missing, whiskey bottles appeared from hatches, people from different friendship groups were having drunken rants, parents chatting to the sloshed. There were tambourines and singalongs in the cockpit. I couldn’t have wished for a better send off personally!
The day ended almost as quickly as it started. Before I knew it I was walking my folks back to the car with Trina, Oli, Stuart and Neem with bits of wood, chairs and freezer bags.
It been almost impossible to savour the last few weeks, days and hours in marina whilst we’re in the midst of preparations for this trip. Living in the centre of London has been an absolute privilege, sometimes a surreal experience, and even more meaningful than living in the heart of London has been the people I’ve met and the friendships forged over the years. I’ll miss the community, the likeminded spirit, and the boat counselling sessions with fellow friends. There’ll never be another St Kats!
Anyway, we finished the night off with a few drinks in the Dickens before calling it a night.
Once again we awoke at 5:30am. We had a half an hour scramble to once again throw everything back onto the boat and slip our lines to make an earlier 6am lockout. The long keel and prop wash did its best to thwart our exit from the berth, hungover and tired, we pivoted the boat on the end of the pontoon until she was facing the right way. Into the lock we went. Shit everywhere on deck, shit everywhere below deck.
We rafted up to a Dutch boat and had a morning chat over hangover coke and hangover teas. The Arc flag is a good ice breaker and gets people talking.
With a pocket full of beer caps from the night before we departed St Katharine Docks for the final time. There were no familiar faces waving us off, no brass bands, no ticket parades, just the realisation that we’re actually actually off!
The river was quiet on a Sunny Sunday morning, so we did a couple of loops outside Tower Bridge before setting off. It’ll be a long long time before Excalibur seas home again. Another chapter closes.
We pootled on up the river, and started hearing over the radio requests for visibility reports around the Thames barrier. No sooner as we passed Greenwich peer we were greeted with a thick patch of fog, so thick you couldn’t see anything whatsoever. We had heard of a boat up ahead that had stopped to wait for the fog to clear. We turned round and ran for cover as the fog chased us back up the Thames. I radioed London VTS to ask permission to moor up to Greenwich pier until the fog lifted. We were told it wasn’t in their jurisdiction, but we should be fine if we moored up on the inside of the pier. So that’s what we did. We had a 20 minute snooze and readied to depart as the fog cleared enough to go on. It wasn’t quite the start we’d anticipated. Just as I fired up the engine and we were about to depart, a TFL man with a official looking clipboard came over and told us we weren’t supposed to be there and would be reporting us to his boss. We kept it polite, he kept it abrupt. Given the circumstances it would have been foolish to have continued in thick fog, and to our defence we had been told about the inner pier by London VTS and the first Thames Clipper to Greenwich Pier wasn’t for another 3 hours, so we hadn’t caused anyone any trouble.
Great start to the adventure. Tim & Trina celebrate leaving the marina, bound for a 5000 mile trip to the Caribbean, half a mile later, hit fog, get scared, run back, tie up, go to sleep.
Not much happened after our fog incident.
Half way down the Thames I realised one of the coiled halyards was half way up the mast, but this didn’t bother me much. There were a lot of things that weren’t right, but we were heading in the right direction. Other things that weren’t quite right included noticing half of the Thames had disappeared from the chart plotter. We’d somehow lost or used up half a tank of diesel which raised a lot of questions, including whether we’d run out of diesel before we got to Gillingham. We didn’t have any washing up liquid, so we had a parties worth of washing up in bags thrown into the forepeak. Oh and the sink was blocked. The whole trip was on a whim and a prayer! Thankfully we were in familiar territory.
We arrived outside Gillingham marina at 5:30pm having just lost the swim ladder over the side thanks to a speeding motorboats wake. Richard and Alice had been watching our progress and took our lines as we got into the lock. We narrowly missed a post as we came out of the lock and then narrowly missed another, before pulling into our berth by luck more than skill. Today for whatever reason Excalibur decided she quite fancied a port side berth, unlike every other time.
So we made it. Leg one was a short trip. The evening was spent sitting in the evening sun with Richard and Alice, appreciating how bloody lucky we all are over a few beers.
We’re now out of the water. We have 5 weeks to get all the important jobs done, and for the yard to do the jobs we haven’t got time to do.
- Departed 06:40
- Arrived 17:38
- 48 Nautical Miles
- 10 hours engine time
You can follow our progress using the link below, but please don’t attempt to send messages unless in emergency as it uses up our credit.