Once again a number of Thames Twitter friends have kindly joined in with a project to share their pictures, this time of different types of craft on the tidal Thames from Teddington Lock to the Sea. Though not by any means an exhaustive list of boat types – there are no Thames barges, super yachts or large sailing ships – hopefully you will still have some idea of the variety boats that you might see if you walk along this section of the Thames Path.
Teddington Lifeboat Station is one of the four lifeboat stations watching over the tidal Thames. Their crews are all volunteers and regular training exercises prepare them for possible incidents along their section of the river. In February this year they rehearsed their response to the potential breakdown of pleasure boat the YARMOUTH BELLE, with her engine cut out in the middle of the river and several passengers needing medical attention. Two D class lifeboats towed the *stranded* boat safely back to her base so that the ‘casualties’ could be transferred to London Ambulance. The skipper of the YARMOUTH BELLE praised the crews for their professionalism, adding that he felt should such an event really occur, he was confident that his crew and passengers “would be in the safest of hands”.You can follow Teddington Lifeboat Station on Twitter @rnli_teddington
Many houseboats make their way along the Thames, this one, photographed by Captain Quack, himself an intrepid kayaker, was in difficulty, stranded on the Ham bank by Eel Pie Island. However it didn’t have long to wait for release by the incoming tide. The Captain enjoys exploring the Thames from Kingston to Kew, taking videos and photos drawing you into his views of the river and its surrounds. You can follow him on Twitter @KaptainKwack
Many of you will be familiar with Ruth Wadey’s lovely and often dramatic photographs on Twitter. She is an accredited BBC Weather Watcher, whose images appear under the name “ruthiebabes”. Her views of the river and ever-changing skies appear frequently on several television weather bulletins, including those of ITV. Much appreciated, a group of her friends rallied round with affectionate photo-messages when she returned home after a stay in hospital. She is also a talented artist whose work you can see here. And, if your timeline needs cheering, you can follow her on Twitter @ruths_gallery
Rowing eights are a familiar sight on the Thames, particularly on the river upstream from Putney Bridge. Rowing is a strongly supported sport at the Godolphin and Latymer School, and among pupils to have been inspired to further develop their talent is Alex Riddell-Webster, ex-Captain of Boats. The school was very proud to support her as she rowed in the Cambridge boat that won the Women’s Boat Race this year.
There are a number of sailing clubs along the tidal Thames from Teddington to the Estuary. You can explore all kinds of recreational possibilities here: Boating on the Thames. Kristi Tange knows the river around Hammersmith well, posting some lovely pictures, and you can follow her on Twitter @KristiTange
Beside Wal Daly-Smith’s work for Thames Ranger Marine Services, he is a keen photographer, often contributing to my articles, including a whole piece featuring his views “From the River” in January 2020.
Tug REGAIN, is one of Cory’s fleet of sturdy tugs daily removing London’s waste by the river, saving central London from traffic congestion and heavy pollution. Classed as ‘key workers’, they maintained their service throughout the Covid pandemic.
Taking advantage of the fast flowing tides on the Thames, kayakers from the London Kayak Company and the Chelsea Kayak Club – who you can follow respectively on Twitter @ChelseaKayak and @london_kayak – bring an exciting element to the sport and a different dimension to sightseeing on the river.
Bateaux London’s floating glass restaurant. A stylish and relaxing way to see central London from another angle and to enjoy delicious lunches, teas or dinners served by attentive staff. Speaking from experience I had a lovely birthday lunch on board four years ago.
Two of London’s elegant sightseeing boats M.V. SAPELE and M.V. SARPEDON can be seen regularly on tours from Westminster Pier to Tower Bridge and beyond.
Port of London Authority vessel BARNES cruising past the new Tower RNLI Station, shortly after its arrival at Waterloo Bridge. Installation work is in progress at the moment and the Station is due to open soon.
Chris Walker, a Thames Commander at Tower RNLI comes to London from Scotland for regular shifts. His photographs illustrate the various sides of the RNLI’s work on the Thames. You can follow him on Twitter @RescueShrek1 and you can *meet* him here in 2019 at Tower RNLI’s old Station.
GPS Marine tug VINCIA towing a large barge past HMS BELFAST at her mooring, taken by a Twitter friend, who when he gets the chance on visits to London, photographs views and boats along the Thames. You can follow him on Twitter @Flaneur_SFW
A rare sight against a City backcloth. Bryan Jones explains that here chemical tanker SIR JOHN FISHER is leaving Tower Bridge and London on March 29, 2023 having been moored alongside HMS BELFAST overnight for her naming ceremony. She is equipped with dual-fuel engines so enabling her to run on less polluting liquified natural gas (LNG) as well as conventional marine gasoil. You can see his ‘Out and About’ website here and you can follow him on Twitter @mrbryanjones
One of my favourite places along the Thames, St. Katharine Docks Marina, is Central London’s only marina. Right next to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, it couldn’t be better placed in the heart of the City, which is why all sorts of smaller vessels choose to visit, stay and to hold special events there. And for some, fuel is needed. The picture above is of Thames Marine Services’ motorised fuel tanker CONQUESTOR in St. Katharine’s Lock, where comings and goings always attract enthusiasts and onlookers. You can follow them on Twitter @StKatsMarina
A lovely shot by The Liquid highway created by Ben, a Waterman & Lighterman of the River Thames, whose blogs and photo archives of all kinds of boats from tugs and barges, to large cargo or passenger vessels along the Thames, are a unique, major resource for information on the river, both current and historic. Here Ben has captured Thames Marine Services‘ motorised fuel tanker HEIKO passing North Greenwich Pier at sunrise. You can follow him on Twitter @liquid_highway1
HNLMS ROTTERDAM, of the Royal Netherlands Navy, leaving London having negotiated the Thames Barrier. All kinds of boats pass through here, and for some it requires an extra steady hand at the helm. Flood forecaster Alan is at times in a position to take a photograph and the image above is his. For flood warnings and Barrier closures, you can follow him on Twitter @AlanBarrierEA
As you probably know, The Port of London Authority has a fleet of over forty vessels operating on the ninety-five miles of the tidal Thames that they cover. You can read about the different boats and their functions here. You can follow the P.L.A. on Twitter @LondonPortAuth
London photographer Andrew Christy has been documenting the construction of the new Lifeboat Station for the Tower RNLI at Waterloo Bridge. The image above shows CPBS Marine Services‘ multicats SHAKE DOG; SEA DOG and HOUND DOG on Gallions Reach manoeuvring the Sea Devil crane barge after it had been used to prepare the Tower RNLI site. You can see his “Dock, Lock and River Blog” here and follow him on Twitter @AJBC_1
Cargo ship CAMILLA leaving Tate & Lyle’s Silvertown Refinery having discharged her cargo. Krispen Atkinson is an expert photographer and enthusiastic about all kinds of shipping. You can follow him on Twitter @Krispen_Ships
From her great vantage spot Michelle Buchan can see and photograph many different Thames craft. Here she has captured multicat SHAKE DOG pushing a loaded barge. You can follow Michelle on Twitter @M_Buchan, where you will not only see a variety of boats and lovely views of the river, you will often see some spectacular sunsets.
Cargo ship SCA ÖSTRAND heading into bad weather above East Tilbury. Fraser Gray is knowledgeable, watching out for and photographing many impressive large ships on the downstream Thames, giving a good idea of the present day working on the river around Tilbury. You can follow him on Twitter @FraserG32883664
Bulk carrier NORD SUNDA sailing along Gravesend Reach.
Cruise ship VIKING VENUS sets off at night-time from the London International Cruise Terminal at Tilbury. One of the many fine images shared by SkyShark Media Aerial Imagery. You can follow them on Twitter @DroneSkyshark
Seen from above, bulk carrier SEA MELODY as she is guided skilfully into Tilbury Lock by tugs RT AMBITION, VB CHEETAH and VB PANTHER. SkyShark Media Aerial Imagery are based in Kent and operate drones to achieve their exceptional images.
…to all who have contributed to this *boat spotting* exercise, sharing photographs to give some idea of the kind of ships and boats that now operate on the Thames. Leisure, sightseeing and recreational craft are a feature of the upper tidal Thames but those who have been working along the river for a long time have seen a great change to the character of river traffic since the 1970s and containerisation. Where once in the past the majority of trade was carried out in the Pool of London and the nearby docks, now it has moved downstream beyond the Thames Barrier so that trade further upstream is virtually non-existant. There are of course still the reliable, sturdy Cory tugs daily relieving London of fifteen per cent of its waste and you will often spot GPS and SWS tugs delivering aggregate and other materials needed for construction.
Sources and further Information
The Port of Tilbury
DP World London Gateway
Stone, Peter: The History of the Port of London, 2017.
The Liquid Highway , created by Ben a Waterman & Lighterman of the River Thames, is “the worlds largest Thames Vessel photo gallery and database with full details and up-to-date information”.
For all who love, or who would like to learn something more of the river Thames, see Jill Mead’s engaging articles, sharing her real love of the river, its views and some of its people. ‘A Year on the River Thames, part one’ in the Guardian, May 23, 2022; ‘A Year on the River Thames, part two’ October 17, 2022; ‘Tower Bridge steam-cleaned and an Essex Serengeti…’, April 6, 2023. See Jill Mead’s website and follow her on Twitter @speediemeadie
If you are interested in finding out more about the Thames, follow me on Twitter @Tidal_Thames95 and discover more of the many who tweet about life on the river, its history, nature and its profound influence on London over the ages.