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We are planning on moving our permanent mooring from the Oxford Canal to the K&E next year after enjoying the winding Oxford Canal and Grand Union.

 

I've never cruised on rivers and I am researching as much as possible. I've read about mooring the stern before the bow, travel upstream to moor, right-of-way to downstream traffic, etc.  My main concern is navigating the Kennet junction without being washed down the Thames to London and advise on how and where to moor on the Thames.

 

We have a 60' narrow boat with bow thrusters and would welcome any tips, advice, books and websites that would prepare us. Also, what anchor and chain length should we check we have?

 

Many thanks.

 

Alan

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As its your first River trip try to do it when the flow is low, don't worry, it will be lovely.

As long as the flow is low you don't need to worry too much about all this facing upstream stuff. Most Thames locks have a lock cut so its just like a canal, but you do stop on the flow on a couple of locks. Work out where the water is flowing and use it to your advantage. It is back rope first when stopping downstream, though from memory the flow is sort of sideways at the "on the flow" locks and if you stop the boat in good time the flow will gently push you sideways onto the landing.. Kennet mouth is huge so presents no problems unless the Thames is flowing like mad, but you could overshoot, turn and moor above the next lock down, then make an early start on the Kennet the next morning.

 

The Thames is generally tame and easy but the Kennet can be more tricky in places unless the flow is really low. Reading is not the best place to stop so many boaters try to get up as far as the Cunning Man for the first stop. 

 

I suggest you go the Sheepwash route, moor overnight on the canal and walk down and have a good look at the first lock (Osney) to see how it all works. This is likely to be the most difficult part of the trip, once through here it gets easier

 

...............Dave

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The general rule when mooring up on a river is to get whichever end is upstream tied onto a bollard first, because otherwise the current might catch the upstream end, taking it out from the bank and swinging the boat round.

It makes a certain sense to turn and point upstream to moor, because that makes it easier to control your steering as you come in against the current, and the river has plenty of width for turning. But of course when you arrive at a lock you'll be past the weir stream and in still water in a narrower channel, so then it becomes just like arriving at a canal lock, except that there's often a lock keeper on duty who will operate the lock and direct traffic.

Oxford to Reading is a lovely stretch of river. Some moorings come with a charge of maybe £10 or so a night, but there are various places where it's free to moor; somewhere on CWDF there's at least one topic listing them.

Beware the low bridge at Osney; a normal narrowboat should fit under it but you may well need to take your chimney down.

The main safety concerns are:

(1) make sure you end up in a lock channel not pulled onto the weir, so have a map to show you where they are (often but not always signposted) and carry an anchor in case your engine fails at the wrong moment.

(2) Keep a good lookout for small craft, you will often meet rowers, canoeists and even the occasional swimmer.

(3) Wear a lifejacket when on the outside of the boat.

 

For Reading, remember there's a section through the shopping centre between Blake's Lock and County Lock controlled by a traffic light, and you have to get over to your right to press the button then await a green light. At Fobney lock, beware the bywash which comes in under the lock landing and can push you outwards, and open the top gate paddles cautiously, they can produce a big torrent.

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14 minutes ago, Peter X said:

…….and carry an anchor in case your engine fails at the wrong moment.

And, its well worth having the anchor attached to 15-20 metres of 10mm chain, with the chain firmly attached to the bow of the boat (ideally not to the T-Stud as these have been known to rip-off when load is applied).

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Pretty much what DMR says above. To some extent it's all about technique. Remember that the River always has a flow of at least 1 mph, so rather than try to pick up a mooring and then struggle with pulling/ reversing your boat back to where you intended, why not use the flow to help place your boat exactly? Turn and approach the mooring from downstream and punch the flow so that you can inch the bow gently into the space. The flow will then push the stern into the shore. Saves a lot of hassle and shouting...

(I see Peter X has said much the same while I'm typing)

 

I would disagree with joining the Thames at Sheepwash. The trip from Duke's Cut is not very pleasant and turning into Sheepwash channel is tight for a 60 footer. The RH turn at Isis lock  is quite tight and the flow from the stream will push you over. The railway bridge is quite tight and there are obstructions to avoid At the far end there's a tight LH turn which is awkward unless you position the boat just right. This is hampered by all manner of boats obstructing the channel. All not a real problem, just a bit frightening for the uninitiated.

Instead use Duke's cut. A bit manky for the first 200m but then you're into a side stream. Your first lock is King's - the last of the 'proper' locks with balance beams and a joy to operate. The lockie will take your money for a Thames licence and offer advise if you ask for any. Thereafter all the locks are electric which you can operate out of hours or if the lock is unmanned. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS on the control panels - in particular do not  HOLD the sluices button - just press for 2-3 seconds - the rest is timed in three stages. If you do hold the system will lockup and you'll have to call for assistance which can take hours...

All locks except Abingdon have a lock cut separate from the river, so you don't have to worry about the river pushing you away from the mooring.

It's well worth taking your time and do a bit of exploring. You can do the transit on a 'one day' ticket (it ends on midnight the day after you buy it) but it's a bit of a rush

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Yes. I haven't yet done the last bit of the canal via Sheepwash, but the route via Duke's Cut poses no great problems. But be aware of the buoys marking the shallows on the inside of bends, the stretch between King's lock and Godstow lock is very twisty.

Unless you're in a hurry it's best to buy a week's ticket to do Reading to Oxford, it doesn't cost a lot more than the 'one day' and you can take your time, maybe include an excursion up to Lechlade.

So long as you remember Old Goat's advice, and bear in mind you may be sharing a big lock with several plastic boats so make sure their crews are ready, operating the locks yourself is easy.

PS: Or indeed Oxford to Reading as in your case!

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If you were talking about doing this now, you are not going to get washed anywhere with the flow on the Thames.  Based on my gps readings, upstream of Oxford, the flow there is about 0.25mph.  I have not been bothering to turn to moor facing upstream, just fasten the upstream end first.  

 

There is very little water, and you biggest danger is running aground, make certain you understand how red and green buoys work as there are plenty of them marking the shallow spots.

 

personally I would always go the Dukes cut route, it is slow and a bit grotty on the canal going into Oxford.

 

We came from above Oxford today and are now in Abingdon, there are few boats about and the moorings are all empty.

Edited by john6767

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Generally agree with most of the above, except for a couple of points:

 

I think the run down into Oxford via the canal is one of the most interesting bits of canal in the country - as long as you are not in a hurry, so each to their own.

 

When the flow is as low as it is at the moment, the wind has more effect on your mooring manoeuvrability than the current so its not always necessary to turn into the flow of the river. In any case, learning to moor with the current is a skill you will need to learn for the Kennet, where turning is not always an option due to the narrowness of the river. Coming downstream through Woolhampton bridge comes to mind. 

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Lots of great advice about Thames cruising above but don't be intimidated by the number of things you need to be aware of. When the Thames is normal it is easy and absolutely beautiful to cruise. Different to canal cruising but no more difficult once you have been on it a while.

 

Don't know when you intend to make your trip but parts of the Thames are often "in flood" until late April/early May. After that usually fine until late autumn. Occasionally goes in flood for a couple of days after periods of heavy rain. In last five years (three cruises each year) I've only been caught out once and it just meant we had to moor up at Wallingford for 3 or 4 days. 

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Its not a difficult river except when there's a lot of water in it and it takes a few weeks of wet weather to make a difference. It really is a beautiful river and a definite must if you can do it. I've tried mooring whilst going downstream when there's a bit of current. Complete disaster, boat full of twigs and branches and satellite dish in the river.

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I have to ask why on earth would you want to move from the South Oxford to the K&A?  Just my opinion but I wouldn't have a boat if I had to moor on the K&A...

 

If you are keeping count add my vote for the Dukes Cut, until they get it sorted out that stretch through Oxford is dire whereas the run from King's lock is delightful.  Just be careful though the first time we did it I saw a narrowboat go aground misjudging the wide section.  

 

Funnily enough we have just had this discussion with a couple who are making their first trip down that way next year.  The were/are equally apprehensive about the Thames but TBH you see more narrowboats than any other sort of craft on the non tidal section these days.  The only slight difficulty is this business of roping fore and aft to bollards in the locks which can be a bit of a faff with a narrowboat.  Tie your mooring lines securely to the T stud/dolly - narrowboaters do tend to just hang the line by the eye splice but if you do this the lockie will ask you to loop it round so it can't slip off.  

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8 hours ago, Peter X said:

The general rule when mooring up on a river is to get whichever end is upstream tied onto a bollard first, because otherwise the current might catch the upstream end, taking it out from the bank and swinging the boat round.

 

This was explained to a boater who asked why his boat had mysteriously spun round on two occasions that day above County Lock, when heavily in flood

 

And I thought that it had been understood - until he asked which end of his boat was the upstream end.

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8 hours ago, OldGoat said:

Pretty much what DMR says above. To some extent it's all about technique. Remember that the River always has a flow of at least 1 mph, so rather than try to pick up a mooring and then struggle with pulling/ reversing your boat back to where you intended, why not use the flow to help place your boat exactly? Turn and approach the mooring from downstream and punch the flow so that you can inch the bow gently into the space. The flow will then push the stern into the shore. Saves a lot of hassle and shouting...

(I see Peter X has said much the same while I'm typing)

 

I would disagree with joining the Thames at Sheepwash. The trip from Duke's Cut is not very pleasant and turning into Sheepwash channel is tight for a 60 footer. The RH turn at Isis lock  is quite tight and the flow from the stream will push you over. The railway bridge is quite tight and there are obstructions to avoid At the far end there's a tight LH turn which is awkward unless you position the boat just right. This is hampered by all manner of boats obstructing the channel. All not a real problem, just a bit frightening for the uninitiated.

Instead use Duke's cut. A bit manky for the first 200m but then you're into a side stream. Your first lock is King's - the last of the 'proper' locks with balance beams and a joy to operate. The lockie will take your money for a Thames licence and offer advise if you ask for any. Thereafter all the locks are electric which you can operate out of hours or if the lock is unmanned. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS on the control panels - in particular do not  HOLD the sluices button - just press for 2-3 seconds - the rest is timed in three stages. If you do hold the system will lockup and you'll have to call for assistance which can take hours...

All locks except Abingdon have a lock cut separate from the river, so you don't have to worry about the river pushing you away from the mooring.

It's well worth taking your time and do a bit of exploring. You can do the transit on a 'one day' ticket (it ends on midnight the day after you buy it) but it's a bit of a rush

Dukes Cut or Sheepwash is a bit of a "six and two threes" or even "six of one and half a dozen of the other" 😁 but I still reckon Sheepwash for a first Thames transit.

The turn below Isis is tricky in a longer boat, but pushing the front round with the long shaft before applying any engine power works well. But as I said, mooring on the canal gives a chance to walk down and get familiar with the low bridge, narrow approach, and possible stopping on the flow, plus a look at how a Thames lock works. Going Dukes cut involves navigating the very tight bends going downstream, plus the skew bridge, and I actually like the canal down into Oxford.

 

As well as Abingdon, Osney Goring and Whitchurch?? all involve some degree of stopping on the flow, and Osney can be tricky if the Thames is flowing. And watch the turn into Benson too!, but the Thames really is something to be enjoyed rather than feared.

 

If the Weather is good, the flow low, and time available, then get a weeks licence, go all the way down to Teddington then turn and go back up to Reading, or could even pop out on to the semi tidal section and turn at  Richmond.

 

We always do Sheepwash heading down and Dukes heading up.

 

................Dave 

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12 hours ago, dmr said:

Dukes Cut or Sheepwash is a bit of a "six and two threes" or even "six of one and half a dozen of the other" 😁 but I still reckon Sheepwash for a first Thames transit.

The turn below Isis is tricky in a longer boat, but pushing the front round with the long shaft before applying any engine power works well. But as I said, mooring on the canal gives a chance to walk down and get familiar with the low bridge, narrow approach, and possible stopping on the flow, plus a look at how a Thames lock works. Going Dukes cut involves navigating the very tight bends going downstream, plus the skew bridge, and I actually like the canal down into Oxford.

 

As well as Abingdon, Osney Goring and Whitchurch?? all involve some degree of stopping on the flow, and Osney can be tricky if the Thames is flowing. And watch the turn into Benson too!, but the Thames really is something to be enjoyed rather than feared.

 

If the Weather is good, the flow low, and time available, then get a weeks licence, go all the way down to Teddington then turn and go back up to Reading, or could even pop out on to the semi tidal section and turn at  Richmond.

 

We always do Sheepwash heading down and Dukes heading up.

 

................Dave 

Agree with all of the above, but I never could see the attraction of Sheepwash, dark - flats on one side and overhanging trees on the other. Contrarywise it's slightly nearer the city centre if you want to go rubbernecking. The market is good and the colleges, museums are well worth visiting. If you want to hear some good singing and organ playing (and aren't phased by the religious angle) then attend a Choral Evensong. Very relaxing.

I forgot about the three locks above -

Osney has a rubbish lock layby, approach is a bit better now that most of the flow now goes down the bypass weir to power a turbine.

Goring can be a pig as the weirs draw you onto the layby and you bounce off again. Best to hover way back and wait for the lock to open, or - if no-one's waiting push right up to the end of the layby onto the shelter of the lock island

Whitchurch is similar to Goring, difficult to hover midstream, but move onto the layby at the lock end. 

 

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5 minutes ago, OldGoat said:

Agree with all of the above, but I never could see the attraction of Sheepwash, dark - flats on one side and overhanging trees on the other. Contrarywise it's slightly nearer the city centre if you want to go rubbernecking. The market is good and the colleges, museums are well worth visiting. If you want to hear some good singing and organ playing (and aren't phased by the religious angle) then attend a Choral Evensong. Very relaxing.

I forgot about the three locks above -

Osney has a rubbish lock layby, approach is a bit better now that most of the flow now goes down the bypass weir to power a turbine.

Goring can be a pig as the weirs draw you onto the layby and you bounce off again. Best to hover way back and wait for the lock to open, or - if no-one's waiting push right up to the end of the layby onto the shelter of the lock island

Whitchurch is similar to Goring, difficult to hover midstream, but move onto the layby at the lock end. 

 

In terms of boating interest and scenery I agree that Dukes cut wins, the trip across the meadows is unique, Kings lock is pretty, and Dukes cut itself is interesting. The little boat community just into the cut after Kings looks good, the scruffy boats getting in the way at the lock onto the Oxford are less good.

 

Hopefully the OP will enjoy the Thames and want to do more river boating in future so he can do Dukes cut next time. If the Kennet does not put him off Rivers then the K&A does have the truly wonderful Avon down to Bristol.

 

...............Dave

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Lots of good and nostalgic points above.

My only addition is to suggest you try anchoring (on purpose), either for lunch or if you are feeling brave overnight. There are several locks where you can explore the weir stream (from below) and then just lower your anchor and chain (or mudweight if you have one) and then reverse gently away while a crew member pays out the requisite amount of chain. Riding at anchor is such a lovely feeling. Obviously not so good if you have a dog on board.

 

There are several islands where you might be tempted to try the wrong side. This is not always a good idea....

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54 minutes ago, Scholar Gypsy said:

Lots of good and nostalgic points above.

My only addition is to suggest you try anchoring (on purpose), either for lunch or if you are feeling brave overnight. There are several locks where you can explore the weir stream (from below) and then just lower your anchor and chain (or mudweight if you have one) and then reverse gently away while a crew member pays out the requisite amount of chain. Riding at anchor is such a lovely feeling. Obviously not so good if you have a dog on board.

 

There are several islands where you might be tempted to try the wrong side. This is not always a good idea....

If you think EA's tree maintenance on the channel side is poor, then the wrong side can be almost impossible. Just go very, very slowly...

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On 12/09/2018 at 17:11, Neil2 said:

I have to ask why on earth would you want to move from the South Oxford to the K&A?  Just my opinion but I wouldn't have a boat if I had to moor on the K&A...

 

If you are keeping count add my vote for the Dukes Cut, until they get it sorted out that stretch through Oxford is dire whereas the run from King's lock is delightful.  Just be careful though the first time we did it I saw a narrowboat go aground misjudging the wide section.  

 

Funnily enough we have just had this discussion with a couple who are making their first trip down that way next year.  The were/are equally apprehensive about the Thames but TBH you see more narrowboats than any other sort of craft on the non tidal section these days.  The only slight difficulty is this business of roping fore and aft to bollards in the locks which can be a bit of a faff with a narrowboat.  Tie your mooring lines securely to the T stud/dolly - narrowboaters do tend to just hang the line by the eye splice but if you do this the lockie will ask you to loop it round so it can't slip off.  

Hi Neil2. Thanks for the reply. We have traveled up and down the Oxford and recently found it very shallow. There are also very few pubs north of Banbury along the Oxford Canal. We also want to try other places and have heard the K&A is beautiful.

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Thank you all for some wonderful and helpful advise. I will re-read them all in more detail.

 

Another concern I have is apparently the maintenance of locks and moorings have gone downhill over the last few years, but this could be subjective.

 

Also, I have heard it can be very difficult to find decent over night moorings on-line. I'm lead to believe some boaters block moorings the 'one nighter' boaters as they have an arrangement amongst others that every two weeks they play musical boats, i.e.  one boat moves off and the other two or three slightly move up to block the site until a replacement boat comes from another blocked mooring site. I'm not sure if this is true or if moorings are few and far between on the K&A.

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I have not been on the K&A for over a year now as we are rather taken with the North, but previously have spent every winter on the K&A. Its a busy canal in places but not everywhere. There are a lot of liveaboards but in summer there are also a LOT of hireboats, mostly  at the Western end, and a lot of visiting boats. Its patrolled quite hard so most of the liveaboards really do try to keep off the visitor moorings. The "exchanging spaces" think is likely mostly just an urban myth created by the usual anti-liveabord crowd, though usually Sunday is moving day, and small groups of boats will move together so some natural exchange of spaces will occur. If you moor away from the 14 day moorings then a longer gangplank will be very useful. There are a few bits where is almost impossible to moor, but most is ok with a bit of determination. 

 

I got the impression last time we were there that away from the Western End hotspots there were more "dumpers" than liveaboards.

 

.................Dave

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7 hours ago, Alan Wheeler said:

Hi Neil2. Thanks for the reply. We have traveled up and down the Oxford and recently found it very shallow. There are also very few pubs north of Banbury along the Oxford Canal. We also want to try other places and have heard the K&A is beautiful.

Fair enough I'm all for exploration but don't assume the K&A is any better depth wise, in fact I would say it's worse overall than the Oxford and finding an "off piste" mooring spot is much, much, harder.  The two canals really are chalk and cheese, the K&A is a very heavy canal with many turbulent slow filling locks and some nasty swing bridges.  It is very picturesque at the western end certainly but the eastern side isn't that wonderful IMHO - you may have guessed it isn't my favourite canal so read these remarks in that context...

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9 hours ago, Alan Wheeler said:

Hi Neil2. Thanks for the reply. We have traveled up and down the Oxford and recently found it very shallow. There are also very few pubs north of Banbury along the Oxford Canal. We also want to try other places and have heard the K&A is beautiful.

I you like good pubs when you get on the Thames may I recommend the Isis Farmhouse just above Iffley lock. Not open every day in winter but fabulous just the same. Only accessable on foot or by boat.

http://www.theisisfarmhouse.co.uk

https://goo.gl/maps/GYhfg8nCS3u

 

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