Friends of RTBP Spring Newsletter
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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project,
Spring has sprung, the rain has stopped, and the cruising season is upon us. Although, as you will read below, the School on the River season almost never stopped this year - well done to those growing this part of the 'business'. There are lots of new things to report on - the new season, the search for new boat ideas, the new dock and new uses for the Venturer (you can now charter her at Friends' rates for that special party!).
And I wanted to say a brief thank you to a couple of people helping out behind the scenes with the thankless task of proofreading the newsletter. Anthony Holley (former volunteer mate and onetime management committee member) and Judy Cope (former RTBP Project Administrator) are using their Boat Project knowledge and their attention to detail to try and spot all my silly mistakes!
What a winter! Any bets on the weather this summer are off. Our clients have been booking up trips so a busy season is in store. We are pleased to welcome back Sail 4 Cancer who have booked a weekend residential for children with cancer and Lest We Forget (see the article about them below) who book more trips with us than any other group and bring a smile to many a veteran able to enjoy a cruise.
The New Season
School on the River runs into November and can start again as early as February so there's not much time to fit in maintenance or training. Fortunately the early season crew refresher training days were held in cold but dry weather, allowing volunteers old and new to brush up on evacuation drills, safety equipment, handling wheelchairs, and that old favourite - the davits! For those who remember her, Edith, our evacuation model, is planning a return appearance next year ...
She'll be reassured to know that we held two first aid training courses for crew during the winter and for the first time Boat Project training went online when we provided volunteers the opportunity to complete a food hygiene course.
Luck was on our side with the weather this month when we completed some much needed sprucing up and painting of the Venturer before the season starts in earnest in May. A big cheer of thanks to all those volunteers who came out to help - it's great to see her looking smart on her new mooring on the outside of the dock which we were able to move onto once the river calmed down.
There's a great calendar of events for the summer including our first preseason shake down party in May and rounding off the season will be our dry docking this autumn. We look forward to seeing you on board!
Peter Oldham, Skipper
Charter the Venturer
We would like to offer the Friends of the River Thames Boat Project the opportunity to charter the Venturer for events and parties at special Friends' rates. All charities need to raise funds and what better way for us to do that than to use the Venturer herself! In recent years we have been growing our fund earning arm Venturer Photography, and this year we would like to offer Friends the opportunity to stage their own events and hospitality.
Subject to her ongoing charity commitments, the Venturer is available for weekday evening cruises, or static parties in the evening or at weekends. If you have an anniversary you would like to celebrate, a business group you want to entertain or just simply want to throw a great summer party, you can hire Thames Venturer for £250 for a three hour cruise for up to 12 people, or £100 for a static event (up to 50 people). Catering is available at an additional charge, if you don’t want to bring your own.
These rates are only available to RTBP Friends and Volunteers - and you must be on board with your party. Please contact Pippa in the office to discuss prices and options for hosting your unforgettable summer party.
New Boat Update
We continue to look at the options available for a replacement for the Venturer but so far have not found our ideal and are looking at as many boats as possible to give us ideas. So far we have been to Bristol and seen a hydrogen powered boat which was very interesting and which would fit well with our environmental credentials but presents challenges with accessibility. The boat itself was small and would not suit our purposes. Whilst in Bristol we also looked at two other boats belonging to Bristol Ferry. These were standard ferry/pleasure craft capable of carrying up to 40 people. Both boats were enclosed although the sides could be opened. One had a lift for wheelchairs.
We have also looked at two other craft. The ‘Rivertime’ at Henley is owned by the Rivertime Boat Trust and has similar community projects to us. This is a single deck vessel with a ramp and lift for wheelchairs. There is a toilet for the disabled and a large saloon with a sliding roof for sunny days. The boat can take 12 passengers (including carers). There is a small galley for tea, coffee and a small microwave.
The next stage is to speak to naval architects to get an indication of likely cost of a vessel incorporating some of the features we have seen in these boats.
The other boat is the 'Celtic Queen' which was built 18 months ago. It is privately owned and has been finished to a very high specification. The basic design is attractive as it offers space both fore and aft for clients sitting outside and with its side openings wheelchairs could access the boat via a ramp rather than a lift. It also has bow and stern thrusters making the craft extremely manoeuvrable.
Memories from Linda Emerson
In the autumn we had the first Memories article, with stories from the very early years. All of the stories focused on the late Martin Emerson without whom there would be no River Thames Boat Project or Thames Venturer! This time I’ve been able to speak to Linda Emerson, Martin’s widow, about how it all started and how important it was to Martin.
As the newly elected Mayor of Richmond, Martin needed a mayor’s charity to support. He was aware that Richmond is the only London Borough that straddles the River Thames, he was very interested in education and he knew that there were a lot of people who couldn’t access the river – those who were disadvantaged or disabled. He also thought that overall the river should be used more! With all of those thoughts the question was ‘what next’?
The first meeting to get the project started was on Martin’s birthday. He asked a few people and it was advertised in the local press. Martin was looking for people with contacts who knew how to get this going! Bob Tough of Tough’s Boat Yard became involved at this early stage and he later became one of the first group of Trustees.
Linda’s first memory of the Gerja (as she was named then), which had been transporting coal, was that she was so completely filthy how could anything be made of her! She says a major turning point was hiring Miranda – not only was she a full time person to drive the project but she knew the river and the people on it. The next major turning point was the Challenge Anneka event. Before that the renovation felt almost impossible, a massive uphill struggle; afterwards there was a feeling that ‘we can do this!’
Martin was passionate about the project; it was very important to him. He got very excited with each step forward and it was wonderful to watch it take off. He wanted something that would go on, a lasting legacy beyond his term as Mayor.
He was particularly excited at the first proper cruise with a group of disabled children. It was their first time on an outing without their parents and their first time on the river. The feedback from the parents was amazing – how much the children had loved the day, what a difference it had made to them. Martin was thrilled that the boat was now being used exactly as he had dreamed, what he had wanted it for. And of course it still is more than 25 years on!
A Client Story
Lest We Forget is one of our longest standing clients and books more trips each season than any other group. We asked Chairman Alan Lenton to tell us about the organisation (which was formed almost 92 years ago!) and how the Boat Project contributes to its activities.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 and we shall all be thinking of those who gave their lives in the conflict, and especially those whose lives were changed forever by the horrific injuries they received.
From August 1914 until many months after the end of WW1, more than 2.6 million British and Commonwealth sick and wounded returned from the battlefields of France. At the major London railway stations volunteers handed out tea, chocolate and tobacco to the injured in the ambulance troop trains when they arrived. However, it was soon realised that a more structured and long-term commitment to these troops whose lives had been shattered was needed.
At a public meeting in Kingston-upon-Thames in November 1922, it was decided to form the ‘Lest We Forget’ Association and to register it under the War Charities Act. The Association initially had nineteen branches, all situated in the South East. Now only the Epsom Branch is left to fly the flag.
But it is flying more strongly than ever. With just a small committee of volunteers, we organize some 60-70 events a year, ranging from seaside trips, narrow boat hire, pub meals, in-house entertainment, Wimbledon tennis, an annual concert and days on the ‘Thames Venturer’ (around 23 trips per year). These river trips are by far our most popular event and we provide a picnic spread and an afternoon tea for all our guests and crew.
The Homes that we support are Headley Court (Headley), Combat Stress (Leatherhead) the Royal Star & Garter (Surbiton), Care Ashore (Alfold), the Royal Alfred (Banstead), Queen Alexandra Hospital Home (Worthing), Sussexdown (Storrington), Blind Veterans UK (Ovingdean) and Haig Housing (Morden).
Feedback from our groups following trips on the river have included the following comments:
‘We got a lot of pleasure and relaxation from going on the boat. All the comments from our clients are very positive and they talk about their experience for days after.’ (Royal Alfred Seafarers)
‘The value of a day like this for our patients cannot be underestimated within their overall recovery pathway. Socialising outside of Headley Court allows them to forget about their injuries and rehabilitation for a few hours and the benefits are enormous.’ (Headley Court)
‘We are a diverse group of ex-seafarers. One of us on his first trip was so impressed by his experience that he became much more communicative and sociable. Everyone appreciated the privilege of travelling on the river in such style and hospitality.’ (Care Ashore)
‘The men who had been on the boat before were delighted a trip was planned whilst they were at Tyrwhitt House. One said “This trip is the icing on the cake – best therapy ever”. Another one told me later how much Peter had helped him. He said he not only trusted me to steer the boat but let me take it through Teddington Lock. He said it was the best experience ever. "Thank you Peter for understanding." One patient was anxious about missing therapy sessions back at Tyrwhitt House but was told by his therapist that the boat was the best therapy he could have. He entirely agreed at the end of the day.’ (Combat Stress)
We spend about £17,000 per year but our income is far below this and now comes from our reserves and the occasional donation. If anyone would like to know more or to help, please visit our website Lest We Forget.
Alan Lenton, Chairman
Know your Trustees!
We have introduced you to some of the Boat Project Trustees in previous issues of the Newsletter as part of various stories. We thought we should start to tell you about some of the others over the coming months.
Byron Turner’s experience of boats and the ocean started with ten years as an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, including being loaned to the Air Force at the Institute of Aviation Medicine to do the human factors engineering for an ocean going hydrofoil and also specializing in crash survival (hope we don’t need to call on that expertise…)! After retiring from the navy in 1969 he spent much of the next 25 years in the high powered corporate world, but left that in 1994 and returned to the sea as an avid sailor, sailing primarily in Northern European waters and the Mediterranean. His sailing ranges from Club cruises and yacht deliveries to racing both at the Club and International Offshore levels.
He was both a volunteer and mate with the Mayflower Sail Training Society which operated the Kenya Jacaranda, one of the last five remaining Brixham trawlers in the world. This provided trips for disadvantaged youngsters until it was disbanded in 2008 when it was no longer feasible to maintain the boat.
In 2005 he joined the Boat Project as a volunteer (after finding it through the Reach Skilled Volunteers website) and the next year became a mate and was asked by Sir Peter Harrop to become a Trustee (and was Vice Chairman for two years). As Ratty said to Mole, “There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats (on the river)” especially on a warm summer’s day with Hampton Court Palace as a background.
Spring has arrived and Venturer Photography, which helps earn funds for RTBP, is offering four evening cruises on board Thames Venturer this season:
3rd June (Tuesday) from Kingston riverside
All cruises last for 3 hours, starting at 6pm, and include refreshments. Professional photographer (and RTBP volunteer) John Frye is on hand to help you get the most from your pictures.
11th June (Wednesday) from Hammerton’s Ferry, Twickenham
16th July (Wednesday) from Kingston riverside
7th August (Thursday) from Kingston riverside
The Venturer's size and stability creates the perfect floating photography platform; while down below there is ample room to store all shapes and sizes of photographic equipment. A maximum 12 places ensures plenty of space and time for individual attention from John. And there's no obligation to take photographs - you (and your family and friends) can just enjoy an evening on the river.
If none of those dates work for you, get in touch - we can also help you organise your own photo cruise. To book, or for further information:
go to www.venturerphotography.com
phone 020 8940 3409 and speak to Pippa.
New (Green) Use for the Old Dock
In October 2013 Kingston MP Ed Davey, as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, performed the formal switch-on of a new Open Water Heat Pump System alongside the dock that originally took coal-laden barges for the adjacent Kingston Power Station (and until recently was the home of the Thames Venturer).
The NHP Kingston Heights development of apartments, hotel and conference centre, will, uniquely, receive all of its heating, hot water and cooling requirements using the solar energy stored naturally in the River Thames thanks to this pioneering system.
The plant room’s pumps extract up to 150 litres of water a second. The twice-filtered water passes through high-efficiency heat exchangers that harvest the low-grade heat before being immediately returned to the river. The process is totally environmentally friendly, producing no negative impact whatever on the environment or river ecology.
This is the first installation in the UK to utilise the system for a large-scale development. The scheme produces zero on-site carbon emissions instead of the 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions that would be dumped annually into the environment by the alternative combustion-based district heating system.
What an excellent use for the Venturer’s old home!
A more comprehensive article about this impressive project, by Mike Spenser-Morris of NHP,can be found on the Friends website.
Meanwhile NHP Leisure Development, which for 15 years gave the Venturer free mooring inside the dock, has now given her a long term home just outside, so the next time you visit the boat you will see the new pumping station.