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  This was a downstream cruise from Aston (a couple of miles below Henley) targetting one or two retrieval sites. The packed last day of the Henley regatta was just upstream above Hambledon Lock, but this was launching from the end of a quiet country lane with easy parking. The breeze conformed to Windguru’s promise of South-Westerlies 8-10 mph, a good direction for the sinuous run west down to Hurley and the first of the bridges.

(Below: Only a Catapult can do this--- tilting the mast to miss trees hanging over the launch site--an old ferry crossing, very basic.)


The view above sums up the attractions and the difficulties of cruising the Thames-- the breeze rippling the sun-dappled water, with the mixture of real countryside and the interest of the waterside buildings---
 and the downside that trees crowd the sailing water and thin out the breeze.


The run east from Aston again brought back the attraction of slipping along between fields, and past occasional houses--and also the frequent frustration that trees brought the breeze back down to a whisper---Thames cruising really needs 12 to 15 knots of breeze.

(Right: Catapult in Hurley Lock)

  Again it is only the Catapult and only the Classic rig that can do this easily --the sail wraps around the mast, and the boom is tightly lashed up the mast, to go into locks (paddling or rowing.) For bridges I can lower the wrapped sail and mast back, to glide
 through (usually successfully for the shorter bridges) with the heel of the mast tied down firmly into the socket. 

It has to be said that re-rigging the sail on the water on the far side of bridges and locks takes time (and can involve a bit of dashing back and forth across the river as puffs catch the part-set sail.)

(Below: the oars in position--they can scoot the boat along: see bottom of the page for more.)


 A second reminder of past lessons is that cruising the Thames is much better on a weekday, with shorter waits at the locks --if not too long, the waits are very pleasant in the sunshine with quiet action all around, and the little Catapult gets a fair deal amongst the cruisers, but the waits add up.

The next good sailing stretch is the long approach to Marlow from Temple Lock, the breeze usefully funnelling down the river, and a suitably picturesque church at Bisham. (Photo below) (The photo also shows part of the forestay blocks allowing the mast to come back for bridges, resting on my shoulder while we drift through.)


 Above: Heading northeast with the breeze behind, down the long approach towards  Marlow, a good Thames view! Then through Marlow's bridge and lock into the wooded stretches below the hills around Cookham and so back to slow gradual progress. Eventually, more open fields in the stretch before Bourne End brought better wind with small dinghies and the A-Raters (with their huge rigs) racing in front of the club, before the railway bridge.


After Bourne End the southwest breeze comes across unobstructed fields  with easy sailing down to Cookham
 Bridge, with dinghies out in force from the next club. The end of the (small) voyage was marked by Cookham with its pub-side launching ramp (again a small scruffy earth ramp, a 300 year-old ferry legacy.)

 Cruising the Thames is strictly one way, ensuring the breeze is broadly with you, as
 dead spots amongst trees will prevent real progress 
upwind, especially against the small current. This time the return was a smoothly executed by a set of short train rides back to Henley, with the plan to get a cab to Ashton-- but it was more pleasant and interesting to walk the couple of miles in the sunshine through the departing Henley crowds ( rugged rowers and Hooray Henrys) and finally the Queens Barge coming bizarrely upstream from the regatta start. (Photo below)

Alastair Forrest



 More on rowing Catapult The row-locks mountings are very simple, as in the pictures below---just fairleads screwed to the beams.  (There is no significance in the different shapes, just ones I had, although I guess the metal ones with short screws are stronger.)

The row-locks themselves are secured on the oars, not in place on the boat (as they could give a nasty injury!) The width of the boat just happens to be very suitable.

  The fore-and-aft position was guessed-at to give a reasonable bows-down trim, and it rows very easily. However, it is so far forward that rowing with the Classic sail in place is very awkward---so I row only in locks etc when the Classic sail can be wrapped tightly around the mast, with the boom tied up vertically, as in the photo above. If I had to row any distance (for instance in a long narrow channel with the breeze masked)  I would put the sail up like that.


   Below: some more Thames cruising pictures, June 2015   

Above: Moored for lunch at Shiplake Lock, narrow-boat emerging.

Above: Below Sonning Bridge--after emerging through the central arch. (This was an unsuccessful attempt to hold the mast half-up!)


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