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PlanetSKI Turns Into PlanetBOAT – Part Three

With the mountains effectively out-of-bounds PlanetSKI is confined to the UK. So, we’re trying a few outdoor activities within our shores. Next up it’s a spot of river cruising on the Thames. But have we managed to master it on our final day?

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Our  editor, James Cove, and his wife the PlanetSKI social media supremo, Kisia Cove, are heading towards Marlow in Buckinghamshire on a 4-day and 3-night trip.

With the inland waterway specialist, Le Boat, and this is their home and mode of transport.

The Caprice.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Correction, they were heading towards Marlow in Buckinghamshire.

See here for the start of their adventure in their first blog when things didn’t quite go to plan:

Things then improved.

Sort of.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

10+ hours of cruising with 18 locks to progress through.

Passing through Windsor, Bray, Maidenhead and Cookham.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

They may be able to ski alot, but can they boat a bit?

Words and steering: James Cove

Pictures/Videos and knots: Kisia Cove

Day Three

Now we had decided to take things at a slow pace and not as go as far upstream to Marlow as we had planned, breakfast was a leisurely affair in the early morning sunshine after a bit of a lie-in.

We were in no rush to go anywhere, slowing down was a good call.

A very good call.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Now it’s probably the time to show you inside the boat – and why it is so heavy.

Time to pull anchor.

As I reported yesterday King John put his seal to the Magna Carta in Runnymead on June 12th 1215.

The Clause 39 of the document signed between King and the Barons of England declared thus:

“No free man shall be taken, imprisoned, outlawed, banished or in any way destroyed , nor will we proceed against or prosecute him,  except by lawful judgement of his equals and by the law of the land”.

It has been the basis for law and individual rights, plus the basis for reform and protection against tyranny that has led to the development of democracy throughout the world.

It was good to alight from the boat and stroll around.

No rush today.

The most obvious commemoration is the Magna Carta Memorial that was commissioned by the American Bar Association and unveiled in 1957.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

The American constitution and legal system derives from values in the Magna Carta.

There was no-one around and it was a delight to sit quietly having read up on the Magna Carta and consider its significance to the world and the ongoing struggle for liberty.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

In the field below is another commemoration of its impact.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

‘The Jurors’ by Hew Locke.

It was installed in 2015 to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.

12 high-backed bronze chairs whose are decorated with images and symbols representing freedom, the rule of law and human rights.

The field itself was worth a visit in its own right.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Back on the boat it was peace and tranquility.

So, what are the rules and guidelines for river cruising on the Thames?

  • Navigation after dark is forbidden.
  • Obey all signs and follow any arrows marked ‘channel’.
  • Pass oncoming boats on the right-hand side of the river.
  • Boats coming downstream have right of way at bridges and sharp bends.
  • Avoid turning near bends, bridges or locks.
  • The speed limit is 5 miles per hour/8 kilometres per hour (a fast walking pace).
  • Don’t create wash and slow down when passing anglers and moored boats.
    When mooring, don’t leave unusable gaps and be careful not to damage the riverbank.
  • Boating under the influence of drink or drugs is not tolerated .

We’d add another – don’t wear flip flops.

And what about pandemic precautions and procedures?

“The extensive health and safety procedures ensure customers have a safe and worry-free experience, without hindering the sense of freedom that a Le Boat holiday provides,” said a pre-departure statement from the company.

The measures include:

  • Supplying pre-departure information digitally.
  • A  comprehensive safety video.
  • Enhanced cleaning processes at the Le Boat bases and on the boats.
  • The introduction of Perspex screens and hand-sanitiser at receptions.

In these Covid-19 times people are protected by Le Boat’s flexible booking policy, which allows customers to change their booking free of charge up to the day of their departure, in the event of travel restrictions coming into force.

And for those that do not want to re-book immediately they can receive a credit note for use towards a future holiday departing any time before 31st October 2022, or receive a guaranteed cash refund.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Back on board we had a gentle cruise downstream towards Penton Hook lock.

I took great delight in seamlessly going through the Bell Weir lock – scene of my disasterous attempt a couple of days earlier that caused the pub crowd much merriment.

Here is how it was reported in our first blog post on Day 1:

We approached the second lock, Bell Weir.

Bell End might have been a more appropriate name for what was to follow.

We (me) had perhaps enjoyed some beginners’ luck at Penton Hook.

“James, slow down and turn left a bit or we are going to hit the wall of the lock entrance,” shouted Kisia loudly to me from the back of the boat as she remained poised on the edge with the ropes to hand, ready to secure us once inside the lock.

“James, Turn left now!” she shouted even louder a few seconds later.

“For heaven’s sake what’s the matter with you?!”

Her voice caught the attention of the people in the pub garden by the lock who raised their gaze to study my ‘skills’.

They were rewarded with a not-so virtuoso performance as I hit the lock gate with a resounding thump, and then needed several attempts to enter the lock and almost lost it altogether.

It is not so easy manouevering a double-decker bus that weights the same as a few elephants.

And doing it all on water.

But I was at least providing entertainment.

Judging by the jeers and cheers from the pub they thoroughly enjoyed my demonstration of how not to do it.

I did not enjoy the experience and wished I was elsewhere.

Summer glacier skiing that is well within my comfort zone perhaps.

Or outside a pub by a lock with a beer in hand watching an utter idiot making a complete fool of himself.

But one total miss and several bumps later Lock No. 2 was under my belt, though hardly  conquered.

I bowed to the pub garden audience as they applauded my eventual entrance.

16 more to go.”

A couple of days later from I waved at the crowd as we glided gracefully out of Bell Weir (End) lock, and a few waved back.

I would be too much to ask that some of the people from two days were there and recognised my improvement , but I like to think someone was.

As we reached the final lock the keeper was the same as the first time we came through.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

“You seem to have picked this up rather well. By the way the next lock is Chertsey and it is unmanned,” he advised.

“No worries,” I said. “Thanks for the advice.

Inwardly I breathed a massive sigh of relief.

This was our final lock before returning to Penton Hook Marina and we didn’t have to try to operate the lock gates.

Maybe we will test those skills next time.

Le Boat has another base further upstream at Benson near Oxford and perhaps we will head there later in the summer to explore another section of the Thames.

Next time we will use a smaller vessel that is more manoueverable and, having done a bit of research, I reckon the Tango would be better than the Caprice for the requirements of Kisia and myself.

It is shorter at 9m rather than 12m, and comes with the aforementioned ‘bow thrusters’.

The crew will certainly be pleased.

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

I can report that after a few hiccups in the first couple of days Kisia seems to have forgotten about my steering abilities – or should that read ‘inabilities’.

I can report that my marriage is intact after a few rough moments.

And before venturing back on the Thames I need to report on my flying lesson over SE England.

Compton Abbas airfiled, Dorset. Image © PlanetSKI

Compton Abbas airfiled, Dorset. Image © PlanetSKI

There is a cycling trip to Scotland to organise, plus a planned visit to Wales for kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and a few other activities.

We’re intending to hike sections of the South Downs Way and head to Devon for another section of the SW Coastal Path.

South Downs Way. Image © PlanetSKII

South Downs Way. Image © PlanetSKI

SW Coastal Path. Image © PlanetSKI

SW Coastal Path. Image © PlanetSKI

Oh, and we’re off to the Latitude Festival in Suffolk this coming weekend and are going on a cycle tour of Cambridge and its surrounding countryside.

Who needs mountains in the summer when there is so much on offer in the UK?

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

FACT BOX

Le Boat is the No.1 provider of inland water boating holidays, bringing together 50 years of experience, expertise and memories.

Le Boat has a fleet of large self-drive cruisers, allowing entire families to stay on board and to explore their chosen region.

The self-drive Benson Return river cruise, allows holidaymakers to explore the western section of the River Thames.

Here moorings are easy to find and the distance between locks is greater than at the river’s eastern end, which means more cruising.

Staying on Le Boat craft means that guests have their own private bubble, with no need to worry about social distancing.

The dreaming spires and universities of Oxford are a six-hour cruise to the west of Benson, or head east and in six hours boaters can be in Henley-on-Thames, the home of British rowing.

Perfect for those seeking an affordable staycation and with no previous experience necessary, Le Boat’s Thames holidays can be whatever guests want them to be, from a full-on action-packed adventure to a slow-paced, relaxing chance to unwind.

This year, Le Boat’s boating season will run until 31 October 2021 in England. Next year’s boating season will run 1 April – 31 October 2022.

The boat and accommodation For the three nights of your trip you travelled on a Le Boat Caprice sleeping a maximum of six.

The two en-suite staterooms are located forward, leaving lots of room in the rear for the saloon and aft deck. The saloon has a radio/CD player and MP3/USB connectivity.

Sample price:

A three-night self-catered cruise on the River Thames during the 2021 boating season, starting and finishing at Le Boat’s base at Benson, is priced from £389 per boat.

Transport to and from the base is not included.

Contact Le Boat:  (023 9280 9124) or www.leboat.co.uk

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

Cruising with Le Boat. Image © PlanetSKI

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