Friends of RTBP Autumn Newsletter
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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project,
Welcome to another edition of our newsletter - written at the end of a busy and successful summer - full of great client groups, fund raising endeavours, brilliant sunshine, high diving and the building of the new boat.
And welcome to Jill Sinclair - a volunteer crew member with RTBP for over five years - who is now helping with this newsletter.
A final report - Peter raised a total of £4,865 for RTBP (including off-line fund raising and gift aid) cycling the formidable Etape du Tour. A stunning achievement all round - thank you Peter!
Your comments and stories are as welcome as ever.
From the Wheelhouse
Another successful season draws to a close with some very special end-of-year trips. It’s great that we welcomed back the Royal Star and Garter Home. Some of you may remember they were the first group to take a trip with us when we started all those years ago.
A hardy group from Hillview enjoyed a late autumn weekend residential and why not – the river will be quiet and the autumn colours will confirm there’s no better place from which to enjoy them.
This was also a season when the average age of the crew was often halved by the presence of our Inter-Generational Volunteers who came to us through our charity partner The Challenge and their Headstart programme. Twelve young volunteers undertook basic crew training before helping out on trips throughout the summer. Their company was enjoyed by crew and clients alike. I hope we can welcome them back next year.
Soon after Stanley Primary School finish their Education Day we will be taking the Venturer off on her biennial trip to Sunbury dry dock. A hardy team of volunteers have put themselves forward for the arduous task of blacking the bottom of the boat. And that’s only the beginning! There’s plenty of wear and tear to fixtures and fittings which will need attention too. This will probably be the last docking before a refit of the Venturer takes place, after the introduction of the new boat.
Peter Oldham, Skipper
The new boat’s keel laying ceremony was held on 31 August at the yard in Polruan. Keel laying ceremonies are said to bring good luck to the vessel, her builders and crew. Thirty people attended the event, including the Mayor of Fowey Cllr. Ruth Finlay, our President Sir Peter Harrop, Chair of Trustees Louise Sibley, three generations of the Toms family and members of the yard staff.
New Boat Update
A special plaque acknowledging the organisations and individuals whose generous donations made the building of the new boat possible was presented by Sir Peter to Alan Toms to secure to the main beam of the boat. Then Alan’s grandson Elliot (representing the youngest apprentice) placed a shiny new pound coin in a special box that had been welded to the keel. For those who could not make it to Cornwall, a video of the keel laying was made and shown at the AGM. The video has been posted on the Boat Project’s website, YouTube Channel, Facebook and Twitter; a link has been sent to VIPs, key donors, Members, Friends, Volunteers and funders and has received over 150 views to date.
Naval Architect Nic Crawford from MECAL has been appointed to ensure the boat is built to the required standard and has already carried out an initial survey. He will visit the yard at intervals during the build and will provide the necessary certification when the yard hands over the boat to us.
Miranda made a visit to Polruan on 11 November and reports that the ribs and bulkheads are now welded in place, most of the hull plating is also welded in place and work on the super structure has started.
The new boat’s timetable is now:
Nov-Dec Plating, fit tanks, decks and internal compartments, priming and painting starts
Dec-Jan Fit engine, stern gear, rudder and lift
January Interior fit out
April Launch in Polruan, river trials on the Fowey and final 'snagging'
April-May Delivery to Kingston
May Equipping, work-ups (getting to know the boat), volunteer training, naming event
Report from the AGM
The AGM took place at the Pavilion Leisure Club in East Molesey on Monday 7th November. In addition to the normal company business, there was an update on the year's work by Peter Oldham and a progress report on the construction of our new boat from Miranda Jaggers.
Education and Learning Programme
Keith Knox ran through some of the key operational decisions regarding the second boat, in particular arrangements for moving our day work to the new boat and how we bring on volunteer skippers to work on non-tidal waters. At the close, Louise announced that we have a new Patron, Baroness Jane Campbell.
Louise also made a short presentation to thank Wendy Moss, Gemma Hindi, and Alison Oliver for their services to the Charity. They are moving on from their respective roles as Company Secretary, Education and Learning Manager and Lead Trustee for Finance. Linda Varney will take over as Company Secretary, Zaria Greenhill has accepted the position of Education Co-ordinator and will be joining the staff team in January, and the search for a new Lead Trustee for Finance is under way.
After a rigorous shortlisting process from the 150 names proposed, which included checking the name's availability, all those attending were invited to take part in a ballot for the new boat's name. The result is Thames Discoverer (proposed by Eric and Penny McMaster and Graham Jaggers)!
Our New Patron
We are delighted to welcome Baroness Jane Campbell - a distinguished disability rights campaigner - as our new patron.
Statement from Baroness Campbell:
'I am thrilled to have been invited to become Patron of the River Thames Boat Project. All my life I have campaigned for disabled people to enjoy the same social activities as every other member of society. There are few boats, whether they be sailing boats, motorboats or canal boats, that are fully accessible to disabled people, even in 2016 when we have disability legislation supporting full inclusion. I am therefore particularly interested in supporting this Project that will allow disabled people to enjoy the wonders of the Thames River from afloat.
I took a canal boat holiday in my early twenties. It was the very first accessible construction – lifts, accommodation and a seat both at the front and the back. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Fast forward to 2016 and I believe there are still only a handful of canal boats with these facilities. I have no doubt that the River Thames Boat Project will help fill a huge gap in the market. I am thrilled to endorse this Project.'
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton DBE
A Client Story: Oxygen
Oxygen is a Kingston based Christian youth charity which provides youth clubs, after school clubs, a mentoring programme, advice to those not in education, employment or training ('NEETs'), and a variety of programmes designed to support young people to discover their potential and help them overcome the barriers they face in life. Developing Leaders is a programme of training and activities designed to equip young people with the skills they need to lead their peers and make a difference in their community. The participants are then encouraged to apply the skills learned in planning activities for other young people and in getting involved in community projects.
About three years ago John Trend, Director of Oxygen, attended a voluntary sector meeting at the Rose Theatre in Kingston where he heard about the River Thames Boat Project – and immediately knew it was something that would help him deliver the Developing Leaders programme. The group's first residential trip was in 2014 and they returned for a second weekend in July this year.
John told me what makes a stay on the Venturer a unique opportunity for his group. "The programme is very structured and the young people must plan and lead peer training. This is a particular test on the boat, merging the course with the hands-on boat experience". Adam Kelly, who coordinates the Developing Leaders Project, says "it is a challenge to find experiences that can give the participants real responsibility. Peter and the crew are unusual in that they really ‘get it’ – they give responsibility to the young people, supporting their learning and even allowing them to get things wrong – within limits!"
And they love it. Despite living in Kingston many have never been on a boat. Being on the river is relaxing, reduces stress, and generates a different attitude; sometimes we forget that young people haven’t yet developed all their ‘coping skills’ and stress can be a significant issue. The young people feed the crew, steer the boat, throw the ropes and are treated like adults. Described by some as 'the best weekend they could possibly have!' Even jumping off the top deck into the river – something which the sunny weather made possible - is a big positive. The buzz it creates helps the kids to feel positive about themselves and increases their self-confidence.
One youngster was so impressed that he said ‘I want to come back; I want to help; how do I get more involved?’ - and he is now a crew member! John Trend said he is looking forward to working more closely with us in the future and particularly with the Charity’s expanded activities and the new boat.
What a busy and productive year 2016 has been! Thanks to a grant from Global’s Make Some Noise, we have been able to incorporate citizen science water quality testing activities into our flourishing Eco Venturers science and sustainability programme based at Kingston, Wapping, and on summer cruises for young people.
Our partnership with the Freshwater Watch programme means that our staff, volunteers and clients now have the skills to collect accurate scientific data on the health of the River Thames, and have greatly improved their knowledge and understanding of the importance of the river ecosystem and environment. It has been a huge success for the Boat Project and thoroughly embraced by our volunteers and clients. Read all about the first 6 months of the programme here: https://freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org/blogs/first-6-months-and-350-participants
In October the education team enjoyed returning for our biannual visit to Hermitage Moorings in Wapping. Teaching our Eco Venturers programme in the heart of London is an amazing experience, and provides an interesting water quality data comparison with the data from upstream near Kingston. We already have a week booked at Hermitage in May 2017, and plan to gain more bookings for October 2017 too.
Our School on the River programmes have also been going well, with many exciting sightings during the foreshore sessions at Teddington. This autumn, school children standing at the water’s edge shrieked with delight at a mysterious creature moving in the shallows. It was a very healthy-looking adult eel! This indicates that efforts in recent years to boost the declining eel population of the Thames have been successful. This find sparked a wonderful discussion about the importance of the river ecosystem…and jellied eels!
As you may have heard by now, I am leaving the Charity after almost four years. I can’t emphasise enough how amazing it has been to be a part of such an inspiring and unique organisation, and how much I have gained from working with such dedicated staff in the office and teaching on the Venturer on the Thames. My thanks go to all the fantastic volunteers who are the true heroes of our education programmes, to Jane Newman who is truly an exceptional Lead Trustee of Education, and to Miranda Jaggers whose environmental vision has inspired the education side of the Charity to grow and flourish. I hope that it is not completely ‘goodbye’ but, in the meantime, I will miss you all!
Education & Learning Manager