Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Reflections on rowing a small boat through London
I had thought about this particular journey for weeks. I kept thinking, how come you never see small self propelled boats out on the Thames in central London? There must be reasons (stylistic understatement here...).
I read all the guidelines and rules and found nothing about needing permission or a license for this part of the river. I was encouraged by reading about kayaking trips down through London and took the view that PicoMicoYacht is safer than a sea kayak - less likely to capsize, more easily rightable and easier to spot.
I figured out the risks were as follows: being run down by a boat and being swept under one of the piers. For small boats, there is the added risk of overfalls below the main bridges when the tide is ebbing. These can get quite substantial and I have often observed breaking water that could overwhelm an inexperienced small boat.
Studying the Thames from the shore I realised the biggest danger to me would be the large craft that provide the river bus services. Imagine your average local frenetic bus who is trying to keep up to schedule and having to drive aggressively. Imagine a few of those on the river charging up and down, not just keeping to their side of the river but darting across to quickly reach their 'bus stop' pier. Imagine if the ship captain wasn't keeping a good look out, got momentarily distracted and didn't see the little boat ......
So my strategy was to go at a near neap tide, keep to my side of the river, stay clear of the river buses, go slowly and keep a good lookout. In the event, the river police, who had been monitoring my progress, complimented me on my seamanship and told me that I looked like I knew what I was doing.
Would I do it again? This was my best city touristic experience, but I would only recommend it as a 'one off' event, because of the possible risks.