0530 on Sunday the 3rd June 2012, and the lights came on at SARA Sharpness Lifeboat Station, Coxswains Geoff Dawe and Alan Palmer, along with crew members, Nick Cresswell and Deryck Pritchard had arrived on station to take the new SARA Sharpness Lifeboat, the ‘Dave Moore’ to London to join the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant.
Setting of with a latest arrival time London, of 0800, it was best safe speed to the capitol.
Arriving in London and heading toward the Thames became a battle of wits, as all roads to the Embankment had been closed for the event by the Police. Frantic phone calls from our colleagues in Gloucester Fire and Rescue Service, who were joining us on the Dave Moore for the event, and who were waiting for us at Lambeth River Fire Station, added to the frustration of being unable to to get to our launch site alongside the MI6 Building.
Finally, at 0805, we were there, a quick recce of the slipway and the Land Rover was pushing the lifeboat into the murky Thames.
A short run down the Thames saw us raft up alongside the Thames Fire Boat the ‘Firehawk’ and quickly on to the Fire Station pontoon. Then straight into the briefing room where the detail of our passage to follow HM The Queen’s Barge was worked through in detail.
We then took the ‘Dave Moore to the marshalling area some miles up the Thames at Barnes Reach, arriving at 0930. Plenty of vessels around, so we rafted up to and I requested permission to board a large charity vessel, skippered by an ex member of the Royal Navy, I achieved my goal by blagging a cup of tea and a comfy seat. There I set about completing our passage plan, a pro forma document supplied by the Port of London Authority, which detailed tidal information, depths, air draughts and details of all of the bridges we were to pass under and the unique part of the structure which we were to use, based upon draught, air draught and Pageant position. All of our information worked out and entered in the plan, we then fixed on the Pageant Pennant and we were ready to go.
There we stayed till 1430 when we were requested to take our position in the Pageant, slightly before which, we watched a fantastic array of rowing boats pass us, centred by a Mouri canoe with the regulation yelling of her crew as they struck such a uniform stroke with their paddles. These rowing boats were to lead the Pageant. What a sight, every type of rowing boat, crewed by all ages and brightly coloured, were spectacular, and for me, apart from Her Majesty, was the best part of the Pageant.
Then off we set at a 3 knot pace to maintain our unique position in the Pageant. What a fantastic sight, buildings, embankment, trees, parks, decorated brightly with flags, yelling crowds, beautifully dressed moored craft, music, big screens following the Queen ahead of us, made the atmosphere quite surreal and very special.
And then it started to rain, torrents which continued to fall for the rest of the day. Not for one minute did it detract from the special feeling on the water. And then, ahead of us to Port, was H.M The Queen’s Barge, resplendent with gold crafting around her gunwales, red carpet all over the decks, huge floral displays and the pageantry of the Her Majesty’s attendants standing rigidly to attention. Then we were passing Her Majesty, The Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the Royal Family. A sight never to be forgotten.
We were tasked to continue on to allow all 1000 craft to pass the Royal Barge and thus allow the Thames to be re-opened. Approaching Tower Bridge, it appeared out of the torrential rain and mist as a huge ghostly image. Here the official route of the Pageant ended. However for us, it was keep going, past all of the London and Thames sights, past the Millennium Dome, West India Docks and almost down to the Thames Barrier, at which point we were permitted to heave to, and wait until the PLA re opened the Thames, it was now 1900.
Eventually we were cleared to go, a slow run back to Lambeth Fire Station to drop off our two colleagues from Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, and we were headed back to the slipway to recover the Dave Moore.
2100 and we were out of the Thames, and then the journey back to the Lifeboat Station. 0115 saw us back at Sharpness after a long, tiring but hugely memorable day.