Ash Island was my home for ten years, and where the 'drifting' experiment started. Houseboats have been moored at Ash Island for at least half a century and the island has a thriving community. It was here that I got the idea of making a float (pictured) out of things that were trapped behind my boat by the current of the river - bottles, a tyre, old rope and driftwood. I put deliberately put holes in the bottles so they would fill with water and get dragged by the current rather than the wind, a design I borrowed from equipment that is used to track ocean currents.
I wanted to find people to talk to about the culture of the River Thames, so I let the float go here in the hope that it would lead me to some river people.
To start off with I spoke to Howard Bissell (pictured here) who has been
living on houseboats longer than anyone I know. He is the first person
I go to to ask advice about any trip downstream - he used to commute in
his boat to Eel Pie Island in Twickenham every day, where he had a boat
repair business. We first met down there when he surveyed my boat.
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