Erith to Sheerness

26 nautical miles – about 49 km

We leave Erith under a cloudy sky: Shortly afterwards it rains. We travel fast, by using both the Mainsail and the Mizzen, keeping a seven-knot speed. The stream kindly gives us three and a half of them.

The Thames is now magnificent, wide and powerful. We are approaching the estuary and the landscape feels of North Sea.

The wind gets stronger and so we reach 10 knots, 4 given by stream, under a dazzling sun that opened a breach through the clouds.

We are happy: In just four hours we travel 26 miles. When we get to the Isle of Sheppey, we plan to enter the Meadway to moor in Queenborough, but the last mile of navigation have in store a different story for us.

The wind changes, hitting our noses, and the sea gets bigger. We try to pinch for about an hour, gaining half a mile: Then the stream changes and the wind gets stronger yet.

We double-reef the Mainsail but we’re still wrapped. After nearly capsizing twice (Jacopo’s hair are straight despite the buckets of water he keeps getting on the face) I decide to turn back to the Thames, direction Sheerness.

I know there is a Sailing Club on the beach, safe from further troubles.
Bye Queenborough!

In a few minutes we are landed. James Bell, the Club’s Commodore, with a few fellows come to greet us with great kindness, offering to moor Clodia to a close boa. I go alone: Jacopo will come to pick me up shortly afterwards, aboard a little dinghy.

It’s sundown. Wind: 20 knot, southwesterly. Air temperature: 12 Celsius degrees. Water temperature: very cold. Not my idea of a nice bath.

When Jacopo comes, he tries to approach the boat facing a very strong wind: He pushes the oarlock a bit too far and it crashes. I see the dinghy capsizing and Jacopo falling under it.

In a blink of an eye, Jacopo re-emerges, swearing as I never heard him before! He’s so upset that he turns up the dinghy by sheer anger, and swims toward me pulling it. I come close to let him get aboard Clodia (hypothermia is not unlikely under these conditions), steering with an oar towards shore and towing the dinghy full of water.

Wait a moment: A life raft from the Club comes to rescue us.

We’re safe! How kind these British people are!

We’re invited to sleep in the Club overnight, and Jacopo takes a hot shower straight away. Tim is fantastic like all other members, Mark makes us a coffee as hot as hell and I’m relieved that all went well…

We sleep as children, then in the morning Tim wakes us up (please watch and vote this video) and shows us a place where we can have breakfast.

There we meet Sue & Sue that take care of informing people about the many advantages of breastfeeding.
The social Club where they work is wonderful: It makes you feel at home. We wait for the high tide and get ready to leave.
 
Thanks Isle of Sheppey Sailing Club. You are our friends.

We set off by sailing, from the boe. A 15 knot tailwind will take us to Withstable in a couple of hours: There a surprise awaits us…
 
 
 
 
 

 

London to Erith

15 nautical miles – about 28 km

Let me apologize for being so late, but things have been quite intense over the past few days.

The stretch of the Thames running from the London Bridge to the Thames Barrier (a lock preventing London from being flooded by high tides) is a delirium.

The sadness of the landscape, full of large, awful buildings and skyscrapers without any measure, pairs with the arrogance of Clippers Captains that make huge waves upon the river, causing complete chaos.

Ugliness generates ugliness.

While crossing the Greenwich meridian we are greeted by a nice side wind and we can raise the Main Sail, at last. It seems a good omen, but shortly afterwards the wind changes back and hits our noses…

After Greenwich the landscape keeps looking very sad, inspired by managers of no taste nor culture, then we start seeing the factories and the massive docks, built to house steel monsters of 200 meters or even longer (thanks God it’s Saturday and we don’t meet any of them).

Jacopo almost weeps. Nothing is gentle to us, all seems dirty and oversized. We console ourselves with a few dried apricots and a taste of Marmite, a savoury spread very popular in England.

Then, after Tilbury, the Thames returns to look more natural, despite the industrialization process has left its footprints in several ways. We are downstream for all six hours of navigation: Its power pushes us toward the sea, notwithstanding the opposite wind.

We get to face Erith and we start to think about a place to stop for the night, before the tide changes.

We see a wonderful ferry anchored and a few masts of sailboats: It’s a Sailing Club!

The wind against us is close to 18 knots and rowing is very tough. While we wander around the boas in the deepest stretch of the river, a kind young man, Mark, comes close with his dinghy, asking if we wish to moor.

ErithYes, of course!

In a blink of an eye we are inside the Erith Yacht Club, a very quiet, genuine and cozy place, full of generous souls.

A friend from Malta gives lots of help; Anne, a gorgeous lady, makes us a hot coffee and shows where we can set up our tents; Guy and David offer their boat (a steel Van der Stadt that crossed the Atlantic ocean) for the night to the filmmaking crew that has joined us in the meanwhile.

Syd, a master boatbuilder, fascinates us with his tales about the wooden boats they’re trying to restore. Visit their website to read more.

Then we fire up the stove to cook an unsalted cous-cous (we don’t own any salt whatsoever): At last we jump into the tent and over the glorious mattresses made by Stefania Carniato of Imbotex, for a memourable sleep.

I forgot to tell you about them.

In the morning we wait for the high tide, then we set off, helped by a gentle tailwind.

Thanks to all our friends from the Erith Yacht Club: You gave us your help and your warmth. See you soon, I hope.
 

 

God save the Clodia

clodiaWe have made it! We are in London, under Tower Bridge (which, seen from below is not as pretty as I’d hoped!).

Although we’re small, we are managing among the waves of the Clippers, those big barges that zig zag across the Thames at breakneck speeds. A few hairy moments!

Jacopo is brilliant: he helps me as a skipper, which is enough!

The days since leaving Henley have been full of special moments and beautiful sights: the living river, loved, full of life and nature. Even here in London, among this mass of people and concrete and stone. I love London. But out there among nature, it’s better.
 
 
The accompanying group is being wonderful: despite the difficulties and continuing changes, Nicola, Alessandro and Martina are doing their best to help us. Their support also comes with great spirits. I was especially concerned about the traffic and tides but both proved to be within our capability after all.

davidClodia is super! A few minor outfitting jobs and we’re ready to face the Channel.
By using the middle sail only, blown by a strong tail wind, and helped by a very strong stream, we reached a four knots speed. We even towed David, a friend that followed us for a good while with his centenary canoe.
 
 
We get stopped by many people along the way: They wish to take pictures and greet us.

bridgeEven at St Katharine Docks, a fabulous mooring below the London Bridge where we are surrounded by luxury boats, people are very friendly. They come to see Clodia and talk to us, both astonished and happy. We get thanked for what we are doing: It makes us feel good.

So much life in too short time, and very little rest! However we indulged in a memorable sleep in a king’s house, that of David. He is a businessman with a big heart and a deep love for the river, going well beyond words. After rowing along with us, he offered his hospitality to the entire team, taking us in his Victorian Mansion! Thanks David, once again.

esaustiNow I’m in Ali’s house, an old university fellow of mine. His generosity and hospitality has moved our hearts. Thanks for everything, forever, to Ali and his wife Anne, great friends.

Phyllis, Roland’s sister, kindly opened his house to Massimo and Martina. A big thank you to Phyllis too, since I can’t get to see her.

We are exhausted: writing these posts is getting harder every time. Our days are so full! I wish to keep going all night, but I’m nearly falling asleep.
 
jacopoBefore that to happen, I want to thank the fishes, the sky, the air and the wind of this gentle and generous Country.

And thanks to the Thames’ waters. A river beloved and to be loved.
 
 
 
 
Wargrave to Henley-on-Thames video


 

Bray to London video

 

London, at last!

london bridge

The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
Cause London is drowning and I, live by the river
The Clash – London calling

We are pleased to invite you to the London press conference of Giacomo: For this occasion, he will be telling us about the purpose of his journey and answering questions.

The press conference will be held in:
St Katharine Docks (where the boat is moored)
East Docks
Friday, April 23rd
10:00 a.m.

Photos can only be taken on the pontoons if you wear a life jacket.
We kindly ask you to confirm your attendance to

so that we can optimise arrangements with St. Katharine Dock’s organisation.

 

From Wargrave to Chertsey

The volcano’s clouds can’t stop Clodia: we may be slow, but we go!

Wargrave to ChertseyAfter the days spent in Wargrave at the Bushnell Marina, things took up a brisker pace. Colin Henwood, who has built many a famous boat for the Thames (see the Henwood and Dean site) a lovely man – and wife Lucy – put us up at their home.

As well as lending us equipment and materials to complete the works, on a wonderful evening in Henley, Colin entertained us with his tales spent on the Thames. We were also treated to the alluring sound of bagpipes across the green meadows.

The nights in the tent are rather damp and cold, with morning frost and warm sun in the daytime: but here, the water is lovely. It’s smells – and feels – so fresh.

Jacopo and I are continually surprised by a river that is safeguarded so well: the vegetation and wildlife are really plentiful. The landscape changes continually and the houses are designed in harmony with nature.

The Thames is a huge resource, one that everybody here is proud of. It’s an example of excellence in management.

Wargrave to Chertsey
 
Yesterday, after 25 km and another 4 locks, we reached Bray, where the Bray Marina allowed us to stay for free for the night and Aberdeen camping site gave us a pitch at a giveaway price, which our photographer Massimo kindly put up!

The river flows quite slowly here and we can make about 25 km a day. Our rowing synchronism is still in need of finer tuning. Jacopo is doing well on the oars .. I’m the one who’s rather rusty!

Wargrave to ChertseyThis evening we reached Chertsey, in Surrey, after passing Windsor (the castle is amazing!).

After yet another lock (we have done about 15 so far), we sought a mooring place and entered a canal where we find some “live-aboards”, which are houseboats where the owners live permanently. We were not allowed to moor there and ended up in a public zone, which didn’t seem too safe. So off we went to the prettiest Marina: well, we can only try…

At the reception, amidst all the luxury pleasure boats, a lovely young lady told us that the cost was £20. Then we told her about the project and the price went down to … £0 (and she even offered us a coffee, a pin-badge and a bag with a ladybird: really pretty!).

Tonight we sleep in the warm at a B&B. They are friends of Claire, who is also the Bates Marina owner’s wife. We are surprised and touched by peoples’ warmth.

Wargrave to ChertseyClodia is doing just fine. Today, with only the mizzen raised, we were even able to sail on some breeze. It was another day with lots of encounters, we will tell you more about soon.

Everyone is very curious to know about us and are genuinely interested in our our story. One person gave us 10 pounds as a good start to our fund-raising activity!

Unfortunately our resolution to live at a zero budget is still not fully applicable: there are many of us and we have to share. The film crew of the documentary cannot be abandoned and as far as possible we try to keep together.

A big “thank you” to Michele, who has helped us so much and who endured a crazy journey to get home, leaving us with Martina, who will be part of the group for a while. We already feel like so many Forrest Gumps.

A presto.

 

Taking on Thames

taking on thames
A brand new set of photos from the first two days of the journey, by Michele Spiller.
Check them out on Flickr!

Thank you Michele (who is now stuck in London due to the volcanic ash from Iceland…)