Not sure when this was received, but was obviously sent to the Club much later than the events which took place in about 1950

 

 

Belated thanks to E.Y.C.

In 1949 my friend Vic, and I, bought an old ship's lifeboat, moored at Putney, and got a local boatman to tow us down the Thames to the Limehouse Cut, which at that time had its own lock.

We had to push our way through a jam of loaded and empty lighters in the Cut until we could start on the long trek along the towpath, taking turns to pull or steer. Our destination was Radley's boatyard on the river Lea, situated between Walthamstow and Clapton.

We worked on it for a year and by September 1950 we had turned it into a nice looking little yacht. Everything was in short supply after the war but we managed to buy a second hand British Anzani outboard which we hung over the side.

Athough it was late in the year we decided to try and get it round to Maldon. We set off back down the Lea, under engine this time, and spent the night moored in the Cut next to Bow Locks. We were woken early by the lock keeper and were surprised to find that the whole of the lock was under water and we could go over the top into Bow Creek without paying.

Off Limehouse the prop hit an obstruction and the shear pin parted. The mast was still lowered and we were swept sidewise on to the front of a moored Tate and Lyle barge. We thought we were going to lose the boat but managed to push it round to the side of the barge and tie on. We replaced the pin, hoisted the mast and set off again.

We sailed down to Hole Haven where we anchored for the night. Unfortunately we were pinned down for a few days by a gale which, we read afterwards, pushed the old Queen Mary on to a sand bank off the Isle of Wight. We decided to give up Maldon and get back to the Lea.

Progress back up the Thames was very slow against the prevailing West wind. through lack of keel the boat would only sail well off the wind and the engine kept stopping.

By Saturday afternoon we had reached Enth. The tide turned against us and we were making no progress. We decided to run into the South shore and drop the anchor. As we approached, a chap in an open workboat came alongside and offered to tow us to a mooring. He then brought us out a dinghy and told us to come ashore when we were ready. (We had no dinghy and our method of getting ashore had been to go aground and wait for the tide to go out.)

We rowed ashore to a warm welcome in an old lightship. The boatman agreed to look after the boat for a week and have a look at our outboard. (The river Lea locks did not open on a Sunday and our week's holiday time had finished.) We then set off in the dark to find the local railway station.

The following Friday, after work we caught a train back to Erith and followed the tortous route across the planks to the lightship. On Saturday morning we set off upriver but only got to Barking before the engine stopped and we had to anchor in the extremely smelly water to prevent getting swept back down river.

Eventually a young lad in a workboat came by and took pity on us. He towed us through the shallows against the tide and moored us alongside the old North Woolwich Railway Pier, where we were surrounded by tugs and working Thames sailing barges. We spent the night there and worked on the engine on Sunday but to no avail. On Monday morning I persuaded a tug skipper to give us a tow as far as the enitrance to Bow Creek and we used the tide and paddles to take us up to Bow lock.

Once again we had the long walk along the towpath but fortunately, around Hackney, we were overtaken by a barge pulled by a large white horse, and the bargee kindly offered us a tow. I don't think that there are many yachtsmen alive today who can claim to have their yacht towed by a horse.

The following year we managed to get the boat to Hullbridge, on the Crouch, where we kept it for a number of years. We always remember the kindness and help we received from the members and staff of Erith Yacht Club in those far offdays, when the commercial Thames could be quite a hostile environment. My friend Vic has been gone some years but I would like to wish every success to the Commodore and members of the present Club.

P.S I enclose a picture of the'Endymion'. So called because Vic reckoned it was the fastest boat in Nelson's Navy. I'm afraid it didn't live up to its name.

Norman Dorrington

   
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