« Reply #1 on: Dec 18, 2011, 5:41 pm »
In the end the Christmas lunch run was undertaken by two craft and three people. Me, my son James and friend of the club- Russ Pullen.

First thing in the morning I did a pre-run check of the craft which involved de-icing it, especially the drain plug holes which were iced up. I tightened the belts, filled up with fuel and check that the engine started. I lubricated the rudder pivots and checked the throttle moved freely. The skirt was fine but I packed a few spare seggies.
There was a small piece of damaged gelcoat in the cockpit where we'd hit a rock on our evening cruise so to be safe I smeared some PU sealant over the damage and a put a piece of duck tape over it in case I needed to float the craft.



As I mentioned, there was a bit of unforecast rain and sleet when we set off from Gillingham Strand around 11.30. after a few minutes this stopped and the river became very calm.
The only activity we saw on the river was a bit of dinghy racing near St Mary's Island and Hoo with a support RIB and one small commercial boat near Rochester.

There were plenty of cormorants, gulls, curlews and herons along the river. One cormorant surfaced right in front of me like a  submarine. It looked a little shocked to see me and flew off quickly. Most of the other birds we saw weren't bothered by our passing.

Further upstream the river was flat calm with the occasional small rapids and exposed gravel bed. As it was low tide there were exposed mudbanks both sides of the river, most of which were quite steep.


As we passed Aylesford I noticed a few people on the bank videoing and taking photos. These turned out to be Geoff and Derek Sweetman and  family who later met us at the pub a mile or so down the road.
The final approach to Allington lock is a narrow bit of river and the plan was to try and land on a high, flattish bit of river bank that I'd reccied the last time we planned to do this run.

We approached the lock and flood sluice and I assessed how easy it would be to land. First we cruised up to the sluice which was only trickling rather than the raging torrent of water you get when it's been raining further upriver. We turned round and lined up to mount the bank. I went first and got nice and high up the bank. Russ followed and parked up to my right.
The next challenge was climbing up the river bank above this small "beach". Just as I was checking out a route up through some roots and brambles, we saw some familiar, friendly faces looking down at us- The Sweetmans had arrived.
With Russ's rope and some helping hands, we all climbed up the steep bank and set off for the pub.


The pub, the "Malta Inn" is on the non-tidal side of the lock so we walked along the river bank and across the lock gates and sluice to get to it.
Inside we found some tables and got some well earned drinks and some hot food.

When we returned to the craft it was now after 2pm and the tide appeared to have gone down even more.
Using the rope, we climbed back down to the craft.
On the way back it started raining when we left the pub but didn't last for too long.


The hood of my new super waterproof, heat retentive coat kept falling down so I stopped on a gravel bed to tighten it. Other than that it was a really pleasant, leisurely cruise back to Gillingham. Going past Strood we took a slow pass-by of the old Russian submarine which is now looking very rusty and forlorn.


Every now and then there are clusters of new homes, some right by the riverbank no doubt being extolled by estate agents of having picturesque views of the river. Well, this part of the river is not what you call pretty. There's the pretty village of Aylesford with its medieval priory but much of the river here is muddy banks with tidal debris, the odd shopping trolley and garden chair and alongside the river, paper mills, scrapyards and industrial estates.

When we eventually got back to Gillingham the sun was already setting. There was a bit of "a do" on at the yacht club next to the slip so there were a few cars around the approach road.
Our way wasn't blocked so we managed to get both craft up on the roadway side by side ready for loading.

All in all a successful cruise with our main objective achieved and no dramas. With the right preparation and the right winter clothing a cruise at this time of year is most enjoyable. Still- it was nice to get home afterwards, put everything away and enjoy a large mug of hot chocolate.

Thanks to Russ for coming along. Commiserations to Chris and Mike for not being able to make it. Thanks to the Sweetmans for their help at the river bank and their company at the pub. Maybe next year we can do it again with a few more craft although I don't know where we'd park them at Allington.

Happy Christmas everyone.
« Last Edit: Dec 21, 2011, 12:59 pm by John Robertson »