Navigation Issues

by admin on May 6, 2011

Many river users consider dredging (or lack of ) to be a major issue and, given financial and logistical constraints, it seems unlikely that any major undertakings will be possible in the foreseeable future.

Dealing with the fairway, the Customer Charter defines this as, generally speaking, as being the middle third of the river, and declares stretches of the river as being suitable for navigation in the fairway by boats with certain approximate drafts – e.g. Reading to Windsor 1.3 metres (4’6”).

The river depth in any one stretch is usually significantly greater than these targets but there are some ‘hot spots’ in each stretch that are close to the minimum and where any significant shifts or deposits of material could create problems – the upper end of Benson upper lock cut springs to mind as a specific example. By definition, lock cuts themselves should meet the depth criteria and the ‘middle third’ is inadequate widthwise in such narrow channels.

In arriving at a realistic dredging policy, it should not be too difficult to recognise these ‘hot spots’ and for the Customer Charter commitment to be such that any notification of problems at these locations be given immediate attention.

The ‘middle third’, as an indicator of greatest depth,  cannot always be relied on, particularly on significant bends, as the deepest water may well lie to one side or the other.

Some additional attention should be given to the provision of Navigation Marks which, at the present time, are constrained to notices on trees (sometimes obscured by foliage) indicating the main channel and a (very) few buoys marking shallow water on either side of the main channel or isolated hazards. The location of these buoys seems very arbitrary and only indicates that shallow water exists.  One buoy actually sits on top of a sandbank which is visible at normal river level!

It would be much more helpful if such buoys were positioned to indicate the limit of, say, 1 metre depth, thus giving a clearer indication of where the deep channel lies.

Where depth restrictions are absolute – e.g. above and below the bridge at Clifton Hampden where the river bed is hard rock – navigation marks indicating the position of deepest water would be helpful as well as a declaration of the depth at those points.

Dealing with depths outside the fairway, and particularly at mooring places, more could be done to explain the responsibilities of the EA and the constraints they face in managing these issues.

Where the EA is responsible for moorings it would be desirable for such moorings, wherever possible, to accommodate vessels with the same approximate draft relevant to that stretch of the fairway.  It is appreciated that this may not always be possible but a published indication of the depth available at such moorings would be helpful to river users.

Thames MotorBoaters Association

by admin on May 4, 2011

Launched a new user group today – the Thames MotorBoaters Association or TMBA for short.

Read all about it and join up at

The Need for Lock Keepers

by admin on April 18, 2011

User operation of locks

The advent of Out of Hours Power (OHP) at locks has made it easier for river users to transit locks when lock keepers are not available. Until recently, this was mainly before and after the working day.

However, staff shortages have resulted in this facility becoming more frequently used during the working day and there are suggestions that this situation could continue, and even escalate, if financial constraints become more severe.
Although, on the face of it, OHP appears to make it feasible for user operation of locks to eventually become the norm, there are some issues which need to be recognised and which make it highly undesirable – particularly at peak periods.
Also, not all locks can be regarded as equal when considering the impact of  OHP during the main part of the day.Firstly, OHP operates at a reduced flow rate and this extends the locking cycle by 100% or more. A locking cycle of 15 minutes with experienced lock staff may well be 30 minutes or more when boaters operate the lock.Secondly, boaters will not be as skilled, or, dare one say, as patient, as regular lock staff when it comes to maximising a lock cycle (number of boats admitted) and this will also increase the delays at busy periods. This issue is already evident when summer assistants are left to their own devices !

The presence of a professional uniformed lockie also brings with it a level of quiet but customer observed authority which should not be underestimated.

At peak periods, significant delays are already experienced at many locks and the intentional use of OHP in these circumstances would inevitably  lead to even greater delays and adversely impact on river users.

Another , often overlooked, consequence of significant queuing during busy periods is the problem of ‘hanging off’ because the waiting area is already full. This is not too much of problem travelling upstream, but can be potentially dangerous when proceeding downstream as the pull of the weir can be quite significant and can catch out even experienced boaters if there is a significant stream running.

If reliance on boaters providing self service at locks is to increase to include significant periods of the normal working day then it will no longer be just  ‘out of hours’  but will, I fear,  become regarded as the norm and it will only be a matter of time before lock keeper services disappear altogether.

When do we need lock keepers most?

The major traffic during the summer months is Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Tuesday , Wednesday and Thursday are relatively quiet by comparison and self service could be acceptable if on demand assistance can be available.The ‘season’ runs from April to October.  From November to March there are usually only a few hardy souls on the river and these will mainly be people who are well able to look after themselves.

So. one could argue that, as far as desirable lock manning is concerned, a 4 day week during the season and a seven month season would largely meet the needs of the majority of river users. On most Bank Holiday weekends it would be advisable to include the Tuesday immediately following.

Who will be most affected by reduced lock manning?

Make no mistake, the only river users who will suffer significantly will be users of powered craft.This sector includes trip boats and holiday hire craft. There will be little inconvenience to Rowers, Anglers, Sailing Clubs or Walkers.In other words, the users that contribute the major part of the direct revenue will be those that will be most inconvenienced – hardly equitable?


First Trip Out !

by admin on March 26, 2011

Nice day today and nothing else getting in the way so had the first trip in the Hardy since it was delivered to Penton last October.
Engines started fine and a lot quieter than I expected being right on top of them. First time with twins on shafts so need to spend a little time getting used to them (and no bow thruster !).

Anyways, gently away from the pontoon and round and out of the marina to Penton Hook lock followed by a starb’d turn and a run down Laleham reach past Doliitle’s. Oudrageous and Two Rebels tied up at Laleham but no signs of life so presume they were down the pub.

Played with the toys a little – Garmin 450 and Raymarine Radar/Plotter all tickety boo. Need to get to grips with resetting the depth alarm keep going off.

Turned round before we got to Chertsey lock and meandered back. Very little wash at 5 knots so thats good. Manual cable steering a little heavier than I’m used to but slid back the sunroof and stood up with head through the hatch enjoying the sunshine.

A couple of really basic but truly useful mod cons – rudder indicator and gauge for the freshwater tank – bliss!

One or two boats out and about but so quiet and peaceful with the sun shining.

Stopped off at the caravan centre on the way home and bought some new melamine table ware. Roll on Easter when we can really get going at last.

Happy New Year

by admin on January 5, 2011

I trust you all find 2011 meets your aspirations and that we all enjoy good cruising on the river or wherever you may be.
The last knockings of 2010 brought a prolonged spell of severe cold weather with snow and ice affecting the non tidal Thames. Temperatures in some areas fell below -10C for several so, for the first time in many years I had low level heating running in the engine bay and managed to maintain the temperature at just above freezing throughout the cold period.
In years gone by, we have occasionally managed the odd frostbite cruise between Xmas and New Year but no chance this year as we were frozen in at the marina.
So, we now wait for the return of more temperate conditions – at least the days will lengthen from here on and it won’t be long before the new season beckons us.


by admin on December 14, 2010

After much deliberation during the summer months, we decided that a 36 foot steel boat was becoming both physically and economically more demanding than our current needs. So, after some seven years we decided it was time to move on.

The new ‘Legacy’ is a Hardy 27  fibreglass cruiser with twin 78HP diesels on shafts. Purchased on the coast, she has now been transported to the Thames and suitably ‘interfered with’ to meet the Boat Safety Scheme requirements!

All we need now is some half decent weather to start enjoying what we hope will be a new chapter in our enjoyment of the river.

Information Sources

by admin on September 10, 2010

The PAGES section of the menu at right now contains a new link to sources of information of historical and current interest about the non-tidal Thames.

No more new Brooms ?

by admin on September 4, 2010

Long established boatbuilders C J Broom have shut down their boat manufacturing side and laid off 70 or so employees.

Full story here:

Deep in Doo-Doo ?

by admin on August 26, 2010

Apparently the EA pump out stations at Boveney and Shiplake are both out of action.

With several hundred boats converging on Beale Park for the IWA Festival this  weekend one wonders where all that poo is going to finish up as the nearest EA alternatives are at Abingdon (upstream) and Molesey (downstream). There are commercial services at marinas and boatyards but they do cost more !

UPDATE 12 Noon 26/8/2010 – Boveney is now reported working and Thames Water are working on the problem at Shiplake.

Why shouldn’t Narrowboats use the Thames?

by admin on August 16, 2010

Isn’t it time we got over this NB-phobia thing and moved on? They are just people like us who enjoy being on the water but in a different type of boat. Yes, NB’s may be more suited to the canals but that doesn’t mean they can’t (or shouldn’t) be used on the Thames. We could argue that many of the cruisers on the river are more suited to being on the sea – particularly those that create significant wash even at low speed. Many NB’s visiting the Thames for the first time need to adjust their thinking and relearn some procedures but that doesn’t mean they are some sort of alien beings. Most of us made an absolute pigs ear of handling our boats when we first got them and had to learn the ways of the river. We actually encounter problems with many of the hire boats and their enthusiastic holiday-makers but we seem to tolerate them OK most of the time.

My biggest beef about the river is the severe lack of mooring space and there is no doubt that NB’s exacerbate that due to their extreme length. They could assist us greatly by realising this and rafting up in busy places rather than all wanting ‘their bit of the bank’. However, just as annoying is the large gaps left between boats, and cruisers are just as guilty of that. At Marlow last weekend their was room for at least 2 or 3 more boats both on the park and below the lock, and we could have stopped at Cookham if a couple of boats had been prepared to shove up a bit.

So what is it that is so detestable abut NB’s ? Or is it just a stupid perception that needs to be laid to rest?

As far as Beale Park is concerned I did suggest earlier in the year that a few of us might make an effort to join in. Unfortunately other things prevent me attending. However, for an organisation that calls itself the Inland Waterways Association and has arranged a significant discount on visitors licenses for the event, I do think they do precious little to attract membership from us Thames residents – does anyone know what the relative numbers of canalites to river based members is?