Waiting for time and tide


Having seen just how hard the tide was running outside the lock-gates at St Katharine’s Dock I went along to the harbourmaster and asked to leave at around HW when the stream would have stopped. But because the tide was one of the highest of the year (7.3m at London Bridge) I was told I had to lock out either two hours before HW or two hours after. They were not going to open the lock between those times for fear of flooding.
As I did not want to miss two hours of ebb I decided on the former. I found myself out in a river which was roaring up into London at about five knots! There was no wind so after struggling to get a few yards down river under power I ranged alongside a PLA rubbish lighter and took a turn. I did not want to find myself subject to engine failure and trying desperately to anchor under the buttresses of Tower Bridge. I would wait until the top of the tide. Tree trunks, palletts, and railway sleepers bounced off Minstrel Boy’s topsides. Worse the passing high speed ferries set up a dreadful wash rolling my topsides against the rusty lighter. I grabbed pliers and hammer, knocked out the split pins of two stanchion posts and laid them flat on deck before they were torn out.
At last the tide eased and I rode the furious ebb back down to Grays where I picked up my old mooring for the night and to await the dawn’s ebb to continue to my new berth at Paglesham, Essex.