Be safe on the tidal Thames

Published: Wednesday, 26 April 2017

WITH the start of the boating season, and boaters interested in cruising the tidal Thames, the Port of London Authority (PLA) is helping narrowboaters prepare to make the challenging journey between canals and waterways along the river.

It is offering the top tips to prepare your narrowboat in preparation for a trip on the tideway, as boaters can struggle with the demands of the powerful river.

Thames tidalCan be demanding

When the weather is calm and the tides are right, a journey down the tideway can be calm and boaters can even ride the tidal current to reduce fuel use. Conversely, travelling on the tideway against the current can be demanding on the boats with tidal flows of 4 knots (approx. 4 mi/hr) and waves up to 1.2 metres.

PLA assistant harbour master Darren Knight explained:

“The tidal Thames can catch some narrowboaters off guard after travelling on the calm waters of the canals. It is best to have your narrowboat in tiptop condition when travelling on the tidal Thames as it is a demanding waterway.”

“We have a few simple tips that will help make a narrowboat journey safer and hopefully allow for a more straightforward trip.”

Our four top tips

Engines—The engine will be working harder than normal so make sure that filters, hoses, and wiring are in good condition and that fuel and oil have been checked.

thames wakeSafety equipment—Safety equipment is important should any thing go wrong during the journey. Check that your navigation lights work, for travelling during low light conditions, your lifejackets or buoyancy aids are in working order and that you have a VHF radio tuned to London Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) on Channel 14 and or have saved the VTS phone number (02088550315) in your mobile.

Water ingress protection—While the canals tend to have calm waters, the tideway can have large waves so check that that water cannot easily enter through any openings in the engine room vents, cabin doors and weed hatches.

Have the right information to hand—Before you set off check the tide times, mooring locations, and Thames navigation restrictions in the PLA Notice to Mariners and the PLA Online Events Calendar. This helpful information is available through the PLA Tidal Thames App and Regular Thames boaters should consider becoming a member of the Tidal Thames Navigators Club.

(The above photogrph was taken from our own boat as we were caught in the wake of a passing boat on the tidal Thames up through London.)