The Thames as a Party Venue…
Most often seen on the central London Thames are the regular Uber Boat Thames Clippers taking commuters to work; passengers preferring river travel to the alternatives; and sightseers. However, here I’m focussing on the rarer party boats I’ve seen plying the river in daytime, some with a definite air of celebration, quiet or lively.
An elegant gathering on Gentleman’s motor yacht Bluebird of Chelsea. A member of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, she was built in 1931 for Sir Malcom Campbell to mark both his knighthood and the breaking of the land speed record in his car Bluebird. She took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 and was one of the many boats joining in with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Parade on the Thames in 2012.
The Clifton Castle was built in 1926 and based for a time in Scotland. She saw active service during the Second World War. One of Colliers Launches, she is based in Kingston but her trips cover the Thames up to, and beyond Westminster and can be hired for all types of functions.
The Edwardian was built for Sir Richard Branson in 1985 and now owned by Thames Luxury Charters. It’s been good to see her back in action since the darkest days of Covid. She has been hired for all types of functions and has “played starring roles” on film, television, and used for many PR events. You might well have seen her, among others, as part of the flotilla for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on June 3, 2012; in the EastEnders’ 35th anniversary episodes; and “as a floating green room for James Bond in Spectre”…
The stylish Elizabethan is one of the most glamorous boats on the River Thames. She too is owned and operated by Thames Luxury Charters and can be chartered for all kinds of events both corporate and personal. She is a replica of a late nineteenth-century “stern-wheeled Mississippi paddle steamer” and for a moment, as you watch, the Thames is translated into another place and time.
The Emerald of London is another of London’s popular party boats. She was formerly named the King Edward.
Launched on the Thames in 2007 the Erasmus is part of the City Cruises – London fleet.
Capital Pleasure Boats, formed in 2002, have a fleet of ‘Golden’ boats: Golden Flame; Golden Jubilee; Golden Star; and Golden Sunrise, often seen with a variety of parties aboard both day and night enjoying views of London from the river.
Run by the London Thames Boat Company, The Golden Salamander is often moored at Chiswick Pier and serves all the central London piers as well as Putney, Chiswick, Richmond and further upstream to Hampton Court and Walton on Thames. She has some fine wood work, especially the access doors above her stern.
Havengore has taken part in many national ceremonial events on the river, so you are likely to have seen her on film during these occasions. She is particularly known for bearing the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill along the Thames on his final journey in 1965, watched by millions across the world. She is now “the most historic charter boat operating on the River Thames in central London” and available for all types of exclusive entertainment. I have often seen her at her mooring in St. Katharine Docks where she is beautifully maintained.
This was my last, sad view of MV Hispaniola, for many years a popular restaurant and party ship, about to be towed away from her Westminster mooring to be broken up at Erith. She was previously called MV Maid of Ashton and operated as a passenger ferry on the Holy Loch in Scotland.
A popular party boat, the Hurlingham has an interesting history. She took part in the Evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, afterwards becoming part of the River Emergency Service where she was used as a supply tender for most of the Second World War. Following changes of ownership, she ran the Westminster to Greenwich route from 1983 to 2002 after which she has been used for charters.
On August 20th, 1989 she witnessed the tragic sinking of the Marchioness after the collision with the dredger Bowbelle. Her crew managed to rescue over twenty survivors but fifty-one young people lost their lives, an event that affected the river community very strongly. It was this tragedy that eventually led to the setting up of the four RNLI Stations on the tidal Thames.
Often seen on the river and at St. Katharine Docks, Dutch Barge Leonie has an interesting story. Once transporting coal, she was bought and impeccably modernised by David Suchet, known to many for his legendary television portrayal of Hercule Poirot.
The lovely M.V. London Rose was built in Regensburg, Germany, where she was named M.S. Passer Wolf and cruised along the Danube for a number of years. Now part of the Viscount Cruises fleet she is a familiar sight along the central London Thames.
London Party Boats’ Onyx of London.
London Party Boats’ Pearl of London.
This has been a personal look at some of the party boats I have seen during the past year, all of which have brought colour and animation to the River Thames. However, the list is not exhaustive and the information here, some of it scanty, may not be up-t0-date, so if you’re thinking of taking to the river for a party, which I can thoroughly recommend, check details carefully and be aware that some boats may appear on more than one website as they can be hired through other companies.
Part 2 will follow in a fortnight.