Tower Bridge, built in 1892 from over 70,000 tons of concrete. Clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone. This is to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the bridge a pleasing appearance.
Along with some friends we planned a trip on the Thames with the idea being to cruise through central London to the Thames barrier and then back to St Katherine’s Marina at Tower Bridge for the evening.
We set off on the ebb tide from Brentwood Marina heading west, down river. A slow meandering journey enjoying the sights.
All is going well as we get to Westminster Bridge where all hell is let loose. We find ourselves dodging huge commercial barges, high speed water taxis, huge RIBS and a plethora of wide beam cruise boats.
We live on the South Coast and so we are use to the commercial traffic in the Solent but this is a navigation nightmare. However we make it to Tower Bridge and onto Greenwich at which point the tide turns.
All plans to reach the Barrier are now scuppered as what I can only describe as a tsunami hits us. We have forgotten that it is a Spring tide, one of the highest tides of the year and there is no slack water in the Thames. It goes from quite calm to boiling surging frothy eddys in a blink of an eye.
We make a decision that as we have an hour before the lock at St Kats Marina opens we will take refuge on the inside of one of the water taxis pontoons. OH BIG MISTAKE! So strong is the flow of water that it rips our central cleat clean out of the boat. The spring line it’s attached to snaps back like an elastic band just missing hubby. We think we would be safer in the midstream so we make our way back out into open water and slowly back to Tower Bridge.
St Katherine’s Dock is just below the bridge and has a few mooring buoys to tie up to and wait for the lock. The marina is tide dependant.
I gingerly made my way to the bow armed with a rope and boat hook. The tide was racing in. Wearing a life jacket made it difficult to lie on my front over the bow of the boat in order to lasso the buoy and I dropped the rope. Hubby unaware of this is at the helm fighting the current and decides to get closer. He swings the boat around unaware of the loose rope, which promptly wraps its self around the prop and cut the engine. We are in a 8 knot tide, no power and heading for the buttress of Tower bridge. Not good news.
Remember what I said earlier about 70,000 tons of concrete and granite?
Our friends, sense we are in trouble and put out an emergency MAYDAY call. The next thing we knew 2 Thames police boats turned up with full blues and twos. “A fouled prop” I shouted. The entire stretch of the Thames between Limehouse and London Bridge was brought to a complete standstill. We were thrown a rope, which was thick enough to pull the Queen Mary and towed into St Kats lock where we could untangle the engine.
As with all boating incidents, spectators had been bused in. Bear in mind that it was August bank holiday and there were hundreds of Japanese tourists on the bridge capturing us on every smart phone imaginable. People are 5 deep on the lock side and all armed with cameras. Facebook and Youtube are going to be busy tonight night. We are going viral!
I thank the officers and apologise for the inconvenience. Traffic is still stationary and backed up on the river.
“You will be amazed at the amount of fouled props we get darlin’” says the officer. “All sorts of rubbish gets thrown into the river, you’re lucky that it wasn’t a steel cable or a body! Mind you we do get a few idiots that get tangled up with their own rope. Bloody amateur sailors”.
Redfaced, I just didn’t the heart to tell him.