We were due to return to Penton Hook on Wednesday 19th August 2020.
We actually arrived back on Friday 11th September which was 23 days later!
While at Chatham all members made the most of their enforced visit.
We had a couple of very successful barbeques, several meals out at local restaurants which were all carried out in a Covid social distancing way.
Members made full use of the Chatham situation with trips out to known areas of beauty for an extended lunch and a practice at dropping anchor.
This is not an activity very often carried out on our normal waters of the non-tidal Thames, so all members benefited from this experience.Hammersmith Bridge had been closed to all traffic travelling over and under. As the picture shows the three red symbols of no entry were firmly affixed
This information was discovered on our arrival at Chatham on Thursday 13th August.
This caused great consternation amongst all the members that had travelled away from their own moorings. Luckily for the majority who were MDL members the thought of paying additional fees was not a worry.
Venture however, had to act quickly to cancel their Shepperton affiliation and join MDL to avoid what looked like being an extensive and expensive stay at Chatham.
Luckily they were able to join MDL, and Shepperton generously cooperated with refunds and accepted the situation.
The trip to Burnham-on Crouch went ahead, superbly organised by Maurice Marshall of Venture.
The boats that went to Burnham were; Venture, Jacamar, Beatrice Rose, Breakers ll, Purple Orchid and Mojito with the crew from Enterprise lll on board as their boat was having some turbo engine problems.
The fight to get back under Hammersmith
After much discussion by email with Mr Anvar Alizadeh, the Highway Structure’s Manager at Hammersmith & Fulham Council, and the PLA, which went on for several weeks a glimmer of hope emerged. We were grateful for the interest and support of both the ATYC and the RYA.
We were to be given a one-off slot of time to pass under Hammersmith Bridge.
Members details were requested. Boat names, lengths, widths, air draft and deep drafts, plus all contact details were sent off as requested.
We finally hear back from Mr Alizadeh. The transit day was given to be Friday 11th September.
The times of transit however for each boat varied by five minutes, starting at 06.00am to 07.00, with slots also given to Upper Thames Motor Yacht Club who were in a similar predicament and moored up in St Katherines Dock.
It was decided as a club to travel back upriver on Thursday 10th September and moor overnight at Imperial Wharf near Battersea pier and railway bridge due to the early start needed to make our transit times.
Below, we see Bermuda Blue following Beatrice Rose through the Thames Barrier. Bermuda Blue passing the House of Parliament and a few of our boats birthed at Imperial Wharf.
Most boats arrived in London and were moored up by about 17.30 hours and plans for a night out and a few celebratory drinks were consumed on various boats prior to a meal in a local Restaurant.
Martin Spriggs had attracted media coverage by the BBC news and a number of members were seen on national television explaining our situation.
Nobody had a late night and several members had to get up and ready at 05.00 the next morning.
The view of darkness from Enterprise was what all members had to experience. Luckily the tide was coming in and there was a little ambient light from the footpath lighting on shore. Because of shallow waters and no room to turn at this point one had to steer in reverse to exit the moorings. Fortunately the tide was not that fast so we avoided any problems.
A sense of relief and excitement filled my mind at getting on the open, dark and flowing homeward Thames. From a personal perspective I know that I left far too early to get to my 06.25 slot under Hammersmith Bridge. But I didn’t care! They couldn’t stop me now!!
Bermuda Blue and Enterprise drifted slowly and steadily through Wandsworth and Putney as the expectation grew. I thought I would get past the Fulham flats first and then call the Hammersmith Guard boat to request transit.
The only troubling thought was that I was half an hour early, as was Bermuda Blue behind me.
So without further hesitation, I called up the VTS guard giving my boat name and requesting transit, which was confirmed immediately. Yes, we may have jumped the queue, but with nobody else around we passed under the Bridge with a feeling of great relief. Bermuda Blue seen below followed close behind me. Now for Teddington and then home to Penton Hook with a slowly emerging sunrise.
This is just my story and I am sure every skipper in this particular Albany fleet has their own stories to tell.
Chris Barry, Enterprise III
Innocently we planned to continue AMYC’s return to boating programme after the tribulations of 2020 with a cruise to Chatham and Burnham. After lots of planning eight of our boats gathered at Teddington on 12th August, ready for departure the next morning. We enjoyed a pleasant socially distanced meal that evening at the Anglers pub and retired for the night. Up at the crack of dawn ready to start locking out at 7-30 am, we needed three locks to fit us all in. On our way down the Thames as we neared the estuary Venture was boarded by the Border Force. They were very pleasant and simply asked a few polite questions about our route and the purpose of our voyage.
Despite earlier concerns about the weather it was actually quite clement. We were welcomed by our Commodore on Mojito when we entered the Medway. Sadly two boats suffered mechanical problems with one, Bagpuss & Co, having to be towed to safety into Chatham Marina.
Our arrival was celebrated that evening with drinks and nibbles aboard Mojito followed by an enjoyable meal at the nearby Italian restaurant Villagio.
Our innocent joy was not to last: the next morning we were greeted by the news that Hammersmith Bridge was in danger of collapse and had been closed to navigation. Then there was another message suggesting that navigation might be possible through one arch. Then finally confirmation that passage through the bridge was completely impossible, preventing a return to our home berths at Shepperton and Penton Hook on the non-tidal Thames. After much discussion we decided that the best thing was to continue with our plans and see how the Hammersmith situation developed.
That evening we had a splendid barbecue, accompanied by Pimms, at Chatham Marina with the cooking expertly supervised by Chris and Tony:
A good time was had by all; as the evening progressed there may have been some singing to sustain our spirits in the situation. Fortunately most of our members have not attempted to make a career in the music industry <grin>.
Saturday dawned fair and we set out to our next destination, Burnham on Crouch. After a pleasant trip we all moored in Burnham Yacht Harbour and enjoyed its peaceful location and the pleasant stroll along the riverside into the town.
An enjoyable socially distanced dinner at the Swallowtail Restaurant in the marina completed the day.
Sunday was spent either exploring the town or relaxing onboard. In the evening the more energetic of the group walked into Burnham to enjoy an excellent curry. Here they are looking pleased with their adventure:
Monday saw us returning to Chatham to complete a very enjoyable cruise.
Of course due to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge we cannot return by water to our home berths on the non-tidal Thames but fortunately we have all found a safe haven in Chatham Marina to wait and see if the Hammersmith Bridge situation improves.
Here’s a few photos taken by members on the voyage down the Thames and back up the Medway to Chatham: