Thames Boat Parties 2

A personal record of party boats continued…


Elegant Party boat the Pride of London is owned and operated by Cruise London Ltd. Built for private charter and sightseeing tours, she was designed by Thomas Hugen and launched in 1975. She was previously known as the Pride of Greenwich.

Wedding party aboard PRINCESS FREDA

The Princess Freda, one of the famous Dunkirk “Little Ships” was built on the Isle ofWight in 1926. Her exploits in Operation Dynamo are well documented in this quote from her details courtesy of The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships: “Apart from the low profile and the modest freeboard, Princess Freda was the ideal ship for lifting troops off the beaches.” The bravery and determination of “Sub-Lieut. E.S. Forman, who commanded her, must be admired when you consider that he manoeuvred this 65ft launch with a fast tide running close to shallow beaches on a lee shore under fire, filled her to capacity with troops and ferried them all day to an off-lying destroyer until flotsam fouled his propeller and he was towed home by the Dutch tug Betje.


The River Princess is part of Thames Cruises fleet that has been operating in London for over forty years.


A popular party boat, the Royalty, was built by Salter Brothers, Oxford in 1913. During the Second World War she was commissioned by the Royal Navy to serve as a hospital ship.


The Salient was built in 1979 and first named Sydney Hull. After damage while in dry dock, she was rebuilt and acquired by a new owner who renamed her Salient.


Built in 1925, Sigrid of Chelsea is a classic motor yacht of that time. During the Second World War, she was “requisitioned by the Royal Navy, where she performed a number of duties including delivering fleet orders from the Admiralty.”

SILVER BARRACUDA gliding beneath Lambeth Bridge

The glamorous, Art Deco vintage cruiser, Silver Barracuda is part of the Woods Silver Fleet. She has been operational on the Thames for over four decades hosting “prime ministers, film stars, pop singers, writers and royalty.” She was built in 1977 by Southern Shipbuilders, London – Faversham, UK.


The elegant, luxurious Silver Sturgeon, Woods’ Silver Fleet flagship is a star of the Thames. She was built by Prior Engineering, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and launched in 1997. Thanks to a “revolutionary wheelhouse design by Alan Woods”, she is able to pass under all the central London bridges.

Among many prestigious events, she was chosen to host a river trip celebrating HM the Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Wedding anniversary, and in 2007 she underwent a £2 million redesign to mark the Woods Company’s Diamond Anniversary.

M.V. SYMPHONY with Bateaux London’s Glass Room Restaurant

N. and I had a special anniversary cruise aboard Bateaux London’s Symphony on Sunday, September 10th. We had a good table and nice food and wine in a relaxed atmosphere. We were well looked after, all the while accompanied by an excellent jazz band.
Bateaux London began their cruises through central London in 1992. Built by Parisian architect Gerard Ronzatti in 1991, she was originally designed to cruise along the Seine in Paris but only operated there for a year before coming to London.


Though permanently attached, and most often marooned on her sandbank unless the tide is high, the Tamesis Dock Bar is a converted 1930s Dutch barge moored between Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges. She worked on canals in Europe before coming to London.

TATTERSHALL CASTLE, a smart pub on the Thames

Sitting quietly with a friend on the deck of The Tattershall Castle, permanently moored on Victoria Embankment since 1982, we could both understand her popularity for memorable events and parties. Directly opposite the London Eye, with views of the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben and passing river traffic it was as if we were in a moving postcard.

Built in 1934, The Tattershall Castle was a passenger ferry on the River Humber between Hull and New Holland. During the Second World War she was used “briefly as a tethering vessel for barage balloons in the Humber estuary before returning to duty ferrying troops and munitions, and she was one of the first civilian vessels to be equipped with radar.”


M.V. Valulla is moored on Lambeth reach so I see her quiet, or busy almost every day. She has recently had a makeover and is looking grand.

Viking Invaders…

A one-off unusual sighting on June 3rd, 2022, where there was definitely a party going on. The boat was sailing merrily along Lambeth Reach during Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations but I’m not sure it was involved in any way.


The Viscount was built in 1908 by Salter Brothers of Oxford for Joseph Mears. “In May 1940 she took part in Operation Dynamo, sailing downriver to Sheerness. On May 30, 1940, she left for Ramsgate. However she broke down as her freshwater steam engine could not operate in salt water. As a result she was unable to cross the channel but is still credited as a Dunkirk Little Ship.”


Wairakei II, a Dunkirk “Little Ship” was built by James Silver, Rosneath on the Clyde in 1932. An elegant, sturdy motor yacht, she is said to have saved 150 soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk. Moored on Chelsea Reach, she is maintained by the expert Dennett Boat Builders, and I often see her sailing along Lambeth Reach.


As mentioned in my previous article, this has been a personal look at party boats seen during daytime. They operate during the night-time too, and a cruise, taking in the Illuminated Bridges as well as some of London’s famous sights, is a magical experience. The list of boats is by no means 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.

Sources of quotes and Further Information
Thanks for help and guidance from Dunkirk “Little Ship” on Twitter: @Margo_II
Bateaux London for dining cruises and special events.
City Experiences
Dennetts boatbuilders
National Historic Ships UK
Prestige Venues
Thames Cruises Operating from Lambeth Pier.
Thames Party Boats based in the heart of London.
Visit London list their ‘Best 15 Thames River Cruises and London boat trips’
Woods’ Silver Fleet

Boat Parties 1

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 with a group of singing football supporters.

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.

EDWARDIAN and ELIZABETHAN adding extra style and glamour to Westminster Bridge

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.

GOLDEN SUNRISE with a newly wed couple aboard

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 with a small party aboard

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.

M.V. HISPANIOLA, October 31st, 2022

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.

Dutch Barge LEONIE

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.


London Party Boats have a number of vessels operating both day and night, including the London Belle. See their fleet here.


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.

M.V. PEARL OF LONDON where a PR event of some sort is taking place.

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.

Further information

Article on Thames Clippers May 19, 2021
See: Uber Boat by Thames Clippers