The voyages of PicoMicroYacht, a seaworthy small sailing dinghy converted for rowing long distances, fitted out with a removable rowing system with slides and riggers. On 26th July 2012 PicoMicroYacht crossed the English Channel from Folkestone to Cap Gris Nez. Subsequent voyages, including rowing round the western tip of Cornwall (2013), down the Thames River (2014), along the South Coast of England, around the Isle of Wight (2016) and across Ireland (2017).
I set off again and quickly came to Pangbourne, where a
bridge was completely demolished to be rebuilt.
I couldn't help thinking Monet
could have painted this scene, including the cranes and the clouds, a mixture of modernity and nature.
When I got to my next lock, Mapledurham, I was kept hearing
a series of bang noises, like small arms fire or semi-automatic rifles. Rounding
a bend in the river looking through the trees I could see some soldiers in
World War 2 uniform.
I had stumbled across the Mapledurham at War event in
which visitors were invited to 'taste the atmosphere of army and civilian life
as war rages across Europe.'
Further down an amphibious vehicle was making it's way upstream
I reflected on the contrasting peacefulness of the Thames as
it meandered through the pastoral landscape.
After Reading I took a break in what I thought was a little inlet
But looking over the bank I saw stretching into the distance
an Olympic size 2000 metre size course - I was at the start. Under 23 rowers
were being trialing for the national squads and shot off the start at three
times PicoMicoYachts maximum speed.
After some more Monet like scenes, the river seemed to pick up pace.
Henley came into view.
was glad to stop at the Angel Inn for Lunch.
PicoMicroYacht rested whilst I visited my favourite vinyl store 'In the groove' and bought
(sorry it is cheesy) a recording of La Mer, which I had to protect from the
rain for the rest of the trip to Marlow.
It would take nine days to row down the Thames and I was
doing the first four days, starting at Lechlade.
My uncle, a retired Royal Navy lieutenant commander and World War 2 veteran, was there
to send me off.
I have to admit it was my first time using a lock since the
1970s and the first for PicoMicoYacht. I
had to learn the etiquette again. It
said 'self service,' so I got out and
opened the gates. Before I could get back in
a motor boat swept past me into the lock and blocked the steps, so when
I entered the lock I would be trapped in the boat. Then I thought .... relax and
remember what Old Father Thames had said - 'in this world of rush and
hurry it matters neither here nor there.' I stayed put whilst he did the lock.
I was then getting into the groove, pulling hard one side
and then the other as I negotiated the kinks in the river.
The scenery passed by as a kaleidoscope of water colour
paintings, with beautiful trees and picturesque boats.
Eventually I got to Newbridge and found a Jetty opposite the
Rose Revived, the stone bridge build by monks in the 14th Century.
13th April 2014:
It was a short trip to Pinkhill Lock, about eight miles from
Oxford, an idyllic spot.
But in my last but five strokes my rowing seat disintegrated.
One of the spindles had broken.
Early the next day I
went to ES Rowing Services. They were really helpful, attaching new wheels to my wooden seat in a jiffy. 'That
one you had there had single flanges - that's dangerous.' Well it would have been last year half way
round Land's End.
E Sim's seem to know what they are doing and mend boats,
this one having an argument with a barge.
14th April 2014:
The sun kept shining
and the animal life continued, a mother duck leading her brood to safety, geese
cackling by the lock and horses grazing in Port Meadow near Oxford.
The dreaming spires of Oxford drew closer and soon I was
opposite the Christ Church meadows, glimpsing through the trees the college
building where I had lived for a year.
Another way to see Oxford is to arrive in large white
fibreglass boxes with powerful motors and all modern luxuries.
It's a myth that all Oxford undergraduates waste their time
partying - some just hang out down at
their boat club houses, chatting away on their concept rowing machines.
Nearing Abingdon with
the light was fading and PicoMicroYacht passed the Radley School boathouse.
15th April 2014:
An early start and the sheep were curious about
At the Days Lock the divers were checking the gates. One
diver was taking it easy whilst his mate was down in the lock, soon to emerge.
The gaffer, an older man in red with an Australian accent,
was friendly and halted the diving operation to let me past, also offering to
Further down the river the effects of the flooding were
Eventually I reached the sailing club at Goring and they let
me leave my boat there for the evening.
Crossing the English Channel in a rowing boat is still off limits and Picomicroyacht has decided instead to row down the river Thames from the source to the Thames Estuary. Talking of sources a great mystery in life is how the source of a river is chosen. Here is the source of the Thames - yes the exact location and definitely not the spring in the other valley.
Trewsbury Meadow in Gloucesterhire - the source
But even Picomicroyacht is too big to start here, so will begin the voyage near Lechlade, where the statue of Old Father Thames marks the start of navigational water.
Old Father Thames
A different style of rowing is called for, a more leisurely approach...
'There are some folk who always worry
and some folk who never care
but in this world of rush and hurry
it matters neither here or there
be steady and realistic
don't hanker for gold or gems
be carefree and optimistic
like Old Father Thames'
Peter Dawson - Old Father Thames - Recorded Abbey Road Studios 1933
This year I am again collecting money for CASPA - which helps young people on the autistic spectrum and their families - I shall be steady and realistic, carefree and optimistic - not hankering after gold or gems, but I am hoping for some sponsorship.