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Limehouse to Brentford

Planning Your Cruise: Top Tips

Last updated: 08-08-2022 @ 09:11

  • Make sure your boat is fit for the tideway
  • Even if you are going out during normal Lock opening hours do give the Limehouse Lock Keepers a ring at least a day in advance and make a booking. Contact numbers are here. Ideally you want to leave Limehouse as soon as there is enough water to get over the cill, on a rising tide – say 3.5 hours before HW London Bridge. For various reasons Limehouse may offer you a slightly later slot ie HW-2. This is still feasible but your trip will take longer as you will get less benefit from the tide pushing you upstream.
  • Book a lock into Brentford well in advance. Do it at least two days before via this page, make sure you get a confirmation.
  • Make sure you have a copy of the relevant tideway handbook – see links below
  • Check the tide times, links on this page
  • Check the PLA Notices to Mariners – click here
  • Make sure you boat is prepared – check lists are a page still in development but here it is
  • Have your anchor ready to deploy – 15m of 10mm chain and 35m of 14mm rope please – it can be very deep out there
  • Check the weather forecast, we don’t like going out if predicted winds are more than 15mph. Met Office, or Met Check
  • Turn right when you leave the lock. If the first bridge you come to is a suspension bridge then you may have turned the wrong way out of the lock.
  • If appropriate please call London VTS to advise them that you have left the Tideway

Planning your cruise: In Detail

Information Resources:

Make sure you have this book:

Click here for our list of other useful publications (page still under development) and this page for all cruising guides.


Aim to leave Limehouse 2½ hours before high tide.

If you are going out close to a spring tide then check headroom under Brentford High Street Bridge – there’s a height gauge just before it.

Booking Locks:

Lock Manned Booking Details
Thames Lock, Brentford Always pre-book passage at least 2 days in advance. Book through this page: used to be: 020 8568 2779, not verified that it is still current. Postcode: TW8 0AB. We recommend that even in the summer months you book at least 48 hours in advance
Limehouse Lock Normal working hours are:0800-1800 daily Apr-Sep;
0800-1600 Oct-Mar;
Outside of normal working hours you must book. Even if going out in normal working hours we suggest booking. Their telephone number is 020 7308 9930, or 07766 774726, mobile probably best or possibly VHF Channel 80 – NOT channel 80A – they’ll hear you but you won’t hear them. Post Code E14 8EG


  • Check tidal lock availability during public holidays such as Christmas and New Year; ‘normal’ lock working hours may vary between the summer and winter periods.
  • Check sunset / sunrise times eg here as it is a load easier to go up in daylight hours
  • Early in the morning there is less commercial traffic eg no east bound clippers till 7am so you will have a gentle passage at 6am

Navigation Notes:

Specific Notes for this Trip:

  • Leaving Limehouse Lock: Follow the Lock keepers instructions and take a loop round your studs as they recommend.
  • Let London VTS know that you are just about to enter the tideway (Simple message: London VTS, narrowboat XXX <wait for their response> We are a XX foot pink narrowboat with XX people and YY dogs on board wishing to head for Brentford). You probably only have a little one (aerial) so broadcast on 25W. Note if you have a hand held radio on 5W then they won’t hear when you are in the lock, the lock walls and surrounding buildings block signals very effectively.
  • You emerge out of the lock into the relatively calm lock approach but it can get a bit rougher quite quickly.
  • As you enter the tideway have a look out at the front giving clear hand signals not trying to do it verbally. Sound your horn.
  • It can be a bit bouncy till you get above Westminster. The main thing you want to do is to make sure that as far as possible big waves don’t hit you broadside so turn into the wash if it is coming towards you from the front, turn away if it is coming from behind you. Yor are unlikely to manage to hit the bow wave square on, don’t worry, just try to avoid them hitting you broadside.
  • Let London VTS know that you arrived safely
  • Enjoy your cruise and take lots of photos so you can tell tall tales to your admiring boating friends
    (with thanks to Andrew Phasey for plagarising one of his favourite phrases)

General Notes for the Tideway

  • VHF: You must have a VHF radio unless you are in a convoy or come under one of the exceptions – see the PLA web site. Even if you are an exempt boat, we recommend having a VHF radio as you can maintain a listening watch on CHANNEL 14 whether or not you are a licensed user. In particular, listen for the river broadcasts at 15 minutes and 45 minutes past the hour – these give up-to-date information about the state of the tide, any bridge restrictions and other navigation information e.g. unusually large or fast-moving traffic.
  • Don’t hesitate to throw out your anchor if you get into trouble, don’t wait till you are pinned up against a bridge.
  • Keep your crew warm.
  • Maintain a 360 degree watch the whole time, get your crew to help. Basically drive on the right, stay out of the way of the big boys but position yourself so you have room to turn into or away from the big boys bow waves.
  • Get your crew helping with navigation, you need to be thinking of which arch you are going through now and at the next bridge.
  • Navigable Arches: The navigation channel under each bridge is clearly marked in the tideway handbook (see link above); but if you don’t have a copy or there are any local changes e.g. to allow for bridge works then the navigable arch will be marked by two amber lights – there may be more than one navigable arch – in that case, choose the one which seems the most sensible taking into account factors such as the current, obstructions such as moored barges and oncoming traffic. If you are going under a large central arch which is shared by downstream and upstream traffic, then stay to the right of centre; if you are passing through a one-way arch then aim to stay in the centre. Avoid passing to close to the bridge supports – the flowing tide can sweep you into the piers and pin you there. Listen to the river broadcasts as they give information on any arch closures on that day
  • Non-navigable arches: These are marked by an inverted triangle of red discs (red lights after dark) – DO NOT pass through a non-navigable arch – there may be shallows, underwater obstructions or even divers (in the case of bridge works).
  • Headroom: Headroom at some bridges e.g. Hammersmith Bridge may be restricted during very high (spring) tides – be aware of your air draft, the predicted height of the tide and the state of the tide at the time you will be passing. Restricted headroom under some arches may be indicated by a bale of straw suspended from the bridge.
  • Isophase lights: These are bright white flashing lights on bridge arches – these lights indicate that the arch will be used by a large commercial vessel e.g. container barge with poor manoeuvrability. Keep a good look-out and use an alternative marked navigable arch – it is your responsibility to get out of the way when these large barges are passing under bridges.
  • Sound Signals: Commercial boats on the tideway often use sound signals to let other traffic know when they are manoeuvring. It is worth learning the basic signals – then your 360 degree watch can include your ears as well as your eyes. The basic sound signals are listed in the tideway guide (see link above), but you may want to start with these:
    • one short blast: I am moving to starboard (right)
    • two short blasts: I am moving to port (left)
    • three short blasts: I am moving astern (reversing)
    • Four short blasts followed by one short blast: I am turning fully round to starboard (right)
    • Four short blasts followed by two short blasts: I am turning fully round to port (left)
    • Five short blasts (evenly spaced): I am unsure of your intentions i.e. what on on earth are you doing, get out of my way!
  • Buoys on the water: You may see red or green buoys along the tideway – these mark restrictions in the channel – cause either by shoals (shallows) e.g. or marking ‘lanes’ used by rowing clubs e.g. Putney. When travelling UPSTREAM leave green buoys on the RIGHT and leave red green buoys on the LEFT. Some of the buoys are set well out into the channel – do not be tempted to cross on the “wrong” side.
  • At Hammersmith Bridge the tide tends to push you over to the right hand side in an attempt to get you intimately acquainted with one of the Dutch Barges moored there. You will see on the bridge the words Hammersmith and Bridge, aim exactly for the gap between Hammersmith and Bridge and you won’t get swept into Dove pier:
When travelling upstream under Hammersmith Bridge – aim between the words “Hammersmith” and “Bridge”

When travelling upstream under Hammersmith Bridge – aim between the words “Hammersmith” and “Bridge”

Preparing for your cruise:

We are working up some check lists – see this page

9 comments to Limehouse to Brentford

  • Phil Wainwright

    What about the Hammersmith Bridge traffic light system? Is this still in operation? How likely is to be red?

  • thamescruising

    NTM U4 of 2021:

    I am not aware of the bridge being closed in the last 12 months, but I should not be quoted on that.

    It is worth checking the NTMs, eg (at present) those relating to Blackfriars and Barnes in particular, as well as Hammersmith.

    The full set is here:


  • Phil Wainwright

    Thanks. Will re-check all notices before we proceed in July.

    Limehouse are currently operating the lock when the tide is 4m or above. We are going out on a day when high tide is at 12:29 BST and they are letting us out at 09:45, some 2hrs 45 mins before high tide. We are going to Brentford so still plenty of time to get there on the rising tide.


  • Simon Judge

    If going to Brentford, I would currently advise you book a Brentford to Teddington slot on the CRT website (HW-2 to HW), and email customer services to explain what you actually want to do.

  • Phil Wainwright

    Hi Simon. Sorry I should have thanked you earlier for your advice. We booked as you advised (as we have done before) then I had to call CRT because the Limehouse time had changed and they said “Oh you have an outward bookng at Brentford you can’t use that!” so I explained the situation and their silly booking system that doesn’t seem to know when people are coming from Limehouse. Anyway they have booked me an inward passage at Brentford now and I htink the time will be OK as we will start later from Limehouse. I find the lock keepers at Brentford just let you in when you arrive if they are there, irrespective of the booking time.

    The June 2022 London Boater’s update on 23rd June said that “The Limehouse journey has now been added to the booking system” but it hasn’t been as far as I can see at the moment. You still only have Teddington choices.

    Anyway thanks for your help and the useful info on this site.

  • Simon Judge

    Thanks. The website upgrade is imminent, I am told. If there is a booking on a given tide then the lock keeper should indeed be there for the entire window.

  • Bill D

    1. Many thanks for this website, the most useful of the many Thames Cruising Guide sites Ive found. May I suggest you review your search engine optimization, so your site appears higher on the search results list?

    2. The CRT Thames Lock booking on their website has been (partially) updated and now allows bookings from Limehouse.

    Although the text on the page does not mention Limehouse, but the drop down list for Direction now includes Brentford to Limehouse and Limehouse to Brentford.

    3. They have also fixed the very annoying bug whereby at least 48 hours notice excluded the weekend, e.g. if booking on Saturday, you can now book a passage on Tuesday. Previously, if booking after 5 pmish on a Friday,the first dayoffered was Wednesday.

    4. CRt closed the Limehouse route for the last weekfor urgent repairs. Let s hopetheyfixed the seals. Going through this Monday,, will update if I find out

    cheers Bill , Jabulani

  • Sam

    Any advice on how to deal with the wake from thames clippers? I’ve seen narrowboaters do the run (from the safe viewing of a greenwich pub) and the pace of those clippers is terrifying!

    • thamescruising

      Apologies for the current look of the site, we have an issue with updating php.

      Like everything else on the tideway treat wash with respect, if you do that you will have no issue though you may get the front of your boat very clean.

      The clippers tend to slow down when they see a narrowboat, so not Greenwich speed when they are going past you.

      * Always make sure that you are in the correct part of the river with some room to manoeuvre.
      * This is the technique we use: As the Clipper comes towards you, watch the wash, wait for it to come close and only then turn towards the wash. Initially you will only feel confident to cross wash at 90 degrees, as you get used to it you will be happy crossing at a shallower angle, you just don’t want wash hitting you straight on from the side.
      * If the Clipper is coming from behind you then the same except you turn away from the wash.

      A few other points:

      * No one is trying to sink you, they are Pros, know what you are capable of, may call you a monkey boat but in an emergency, absolutely fantastic.
      * The narrowboats that I have seen have all been really good at coping with very approximately end on wash.
      * As the Clippers tend to slow down for you the wash is slightly longer amplitude, not as sharp.
      * Keep your front doors shut!

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