Friday 18 January 2008

Thames Skiffs

An earlier post on skiffs prompted David to comment "Nice post! It is a fond wish of mine to recreate the trip from "Three Men in a Boat" one day.. and here's where to get the boat: Thames Skiff Hire."
Which reminds me that I wrote about Thames Skiff Hire in a short piece I did for a travel supplement in The Times (London) last year. Here is the opening part - the rest was about narrowboating and 'coasteering' and such, so I won't bore you with it:
"Britain is blessed with an abundance of water for playing on, in and around. Nowhere is far from a coast, river or lake offering every kind of boating from laid-back cruising on the canals to the exhilaration of white water rafting.
But nothing is more ingrained in the British psyche than rowing on the Thames, implanted as small children by reading Wind in the Willows and later by Three Men in a Boat. Not to mention the Eton Boating Song.
Tom Balm of Thames Skiff Hire in Walton on Thames takes old rowing skiffs and restores them into symphonies of varnished mahogany, bronze and canvas. Then he rather generously allows us to play at being Ratty or Jerome K Jerome in them.
You can start and finish anywhere along the river - he will deliver the boat to one of 30 and collect from another one so you can row downstream only if you feel lazy.
Four people can fit in a boat, but only three can sleep so one will have to put a tent up on the bank. Cooking equipment is provided, including that essential tin opener."

Here are the boats, in an image on Tom's website, and lovely things they are. Note the iron hoops that support the canvas boat cover used for camping and to keep the rain off. Rain is actually much less prevalent than is usually believed (far less than Seattle, for example) but Jerome K Jerome himself had to call off his trip at Pangbourne and head for the station because they were drowned out.

1 comment:

James said...

I'd be interested to read the rest of your published article if it's posted? Myself and two friends are paying homage to JKJ thanks to Thames Skiff Hire... keep an eye on and in just over a month I'll let you know how it goes!
Nice blog.