Should I go on the Tidal Thames meet?
Ask yourself some questions:-
Q. Is my boat up to it?
A. That depends on many factors. Breaking down on the tidal river is a thing to be avoided at all costs. There is no option to just pull into the side to sort out the problem. A breakdown will probably result in an RNLI call out and alot of inconvenience to other commercial river users.
Is your boat reliable?
Have you undertaken lengthy cruises in recent years that have been trouble free? Is your engine in the best possible condition? Has it been fully serviced in the past 2 years? That’s Coil, points, plugs, impeller….. not just oil and filter.
You will be running at slightly higher speeds for quite some time, is your cooling system used to this, does your engine overheat if pushed hard?
How clean is your fuel tank? The single biggest reason for engine failure on moving water is dirt stirred up from the bottom of the tank being sucked into the carburettor.Make sure your tank is spotless.
If there are any tiny weaknesses in your boat, the big river will find them and break them.
Q. Are you and your crew up to it?
A. The Westminster stretch of the Thames is choppy due to the other bigger and faster boats. It’s worse than being at sea. There is no smooth path. Are you agile enough to be able to move about your boat when it is bouncing around? It is a long trip and there are very few places to stop.
The tidal Thames is moving water; this means manoeuvring and mooring are very different to the relatively still waters of the upper reaches. Do you have the skills and experience to handle a boat in this environment?
It can be done single handed, but unless you have lots of single hand experience, now is not the time to start.
Q. Do I have the right equipment?
A. If you need to ask……. You probably shouldn’t be coming…. BUT…..
Lifejackets – One each and worn all the time when tidal.Automatic gas for preference. Must be recently serviced. DIY OK if you are competent, but in date and checked.
Anchor – This is your life saver if you break down. Without it you could end up in France! The river is over 10 meters deep in London….. 20 to 30 meters of chain minimum and if needed a long rope too. Your anchor needs to ready to deploy at a moments notice, but secure enough so it doesn’t bounce off the deck. Bungee straps are good for that.
VHF Radio – The biggest challenges on the inaugural Tidal Thames were created by the inability to communicate with some boats. Some form of VHF is essential. Borrow a handheld of you can.
Flares – Not required.
Torch – A good torch is always useful and although we shouldn’t be out after dark, accidents happen.
Life Ring – These are difficult to store and deploy from a small boat but shouldn’t be necessary if everyone is wearing life jackets.
Fuel – You will probably use more than expected. Make certain your tanks are full before setting off.
Fenders – Up or down? ???? A very contentious problem, which can only be decided on by the skipper. This issue led to a great deal of debate and leg pulling last time, be warned!!!!! If you haven’t got a sense of humour, you should not be coming anyway.
On a serious note, they may get ripped of or bounce up and break windows if down…… BUT …….. you will need them when locking onto Limehouse and it is very unsafe (impossible on a 22/23) to be out of the cockpit at that time.
Q. Who is responsible?
A. You are.
The Tidal Thames cruise organisers accept no responsibility for you or your boat.
The cruise is a time where like-minded owners will cruise together to the same destination. There is no emergency cover provided; there is no backup boat or towing service in case of breakdown. The skipper of each boat is entirely responsible for his/her craft, crew and decisions. They are also accountable for the consequences of their decisions.
Advice and support will be given in the event of problems, of course. But each skipper must be aware of his/her responsibility too.
The route passes through some very busy and congested areas; skippers must endeavour to follow instruction from the organisers as closely as possible as they will in turn be acting on direct orders from Thames VTS. (They are like Air Traffic Control for the London stretch of river) This is for your safety and all the other river users safety too. Just to put this in perspective, the Thames Clippers run at 30 mph and are about 100 feet long. They won’t be able to steer round you.
You would be foolish not to register with the Tidal Thames Navigators Club. (I assume you can use Google?) It is totally free and they will send you a lovely laminated chart of the tidal Thames and your own set of tide tables….. Be sure to leave them lying about the cockpit when in your marina….. owners of lesser makes of boat will stand and gape in awe of you and your bravado.