Friends of RTBP Spring Newsletter
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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project,
With the season already well under way there is lots to report, and the news about the new boat is particularly exciting - see below under Update on Future Plans. We have a new string to the education programme's bow, new technology (on the boat and in the office), new crew, a new trustee and new ways to fundraise! And (although you have heard about this before) don't miss the last chance to be part of the Special Anniversary Cruise - day spaces are still available on 4 and 5 July (see below).
We have had a lovely early spring; here is hoping that we get a lot more of the blue skies and kind weather throughout the cruising season!
From the Wheelhouse
How lucky are we to have enjoyed such a warm and glorious spring - the opportunity was not missed to call upon our volunteers to help with the never ending task of painting. Thanks to the team that turned out Venturer is looking shipshape again. We have a few more tasks to complete including the installation of a new all singing and dancing vhf radio which will give us hands free communication with the bow crew from the wheelhouse.
Crew refresher training started earlier than usual this year - necessitated by School on the River bookings and a very early first client trip on 29th March! This year’s training was a 'back to basics', reinforcing knowledge and experience of evacuation, fire extinguishers and safety equipment. We mustn't forget our knot know how too !
The new intake of volunteers will shortly be put through their paces on our new crew training day - we wish them well as we look forward to another season of making memories for crew and clients alike.
Peter Oldham, Skipper
Things have been moving apace since the last newsletter in two main areas - boat development and fundraising.
Crew Training in February
Update on Future Plans
The Board of Trustees has now given formal approval for the construction of a new day boat, based on a high-level specification - in terms of build, accessibility and facilities - that was drawn up by the boat team (led by Trustee Peter Low). We are now in the process of appointing a naval architect to develop the detailed specification that will be put out to tender. This is a discrete piece of work, but obviously the more detail at this stage, the more robust will be the tender document and the final estimates. We will be inviting three yards to tender.
The decision to construct, as opposed to purchase/refit, was taken following an assessment of the benefits/drawbacks of each approach, and drawing on professional advice. As a disabled-access boat, we have very distinct requirements.
We also spent time considering whether to increase passenger capacity above our current numbers. Client feedback, together with the regulatory challenges of increasing the number of passengers we carry, led us to conclude that 12 (including up to six wheelchairs) is still the optimum number. Any more and the impact on client service - and costs - could be negative. Talk to Peter Oldham next time you are on board if you want the technical detail around licensing!
We are still crafting the plan and the message for a public fundraising campaign - as it's not just about boat building - but our private fundraising is going well. Thanks to some very generous individual donations already received, and a further source of funds that we are in the process of finalising, we are in a great place and able to move forward quickly. The behind-the-scenes support the Charity has received for this project has been more than we could ever have hoped for at this point, and we consider ourselves to be very fortunate indeed.
More next time.
Louise Sibley, Chair of Trustees
A Client Story: INS
Integrated Neurological Services (INS) first came on the Venturer in 2001 and they have been back every year since, currently doing 6-7 trips each season. I talked to Mandy Peake, one of the physiotherapists, who organises their trips with us.
INS is a Twickenham based charity providing long-term rehabilitation and support for people with neurological conditions, particularly multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke. Mandy told me that they pick up where the NHS leaves off, and offer neurological support for life. With well over 600 clients on their books they offer physical, occupational and speech therapy, counselling, social work support and just about anything else you can think of. Many of their clients are housebound but others come to regular group meetings.
And then there are the trips on the Thames Venturer which she said are hugely popular, partly because they are one of the few INS activities when their clients can just relax! (They are usually being worked very hard…) The cocooned environment on the boat, the feeling of being looked after and indulged in a safe atmosphere, is a special experience for their clients. Another benefit is being able to bring their other halves (who are usually their carers) and the INS team makes sure it is a relaxed day for them also. This is a rare day out for many of their clients. With various levels of ability, helping each other do things, and being able to see others with similar issues outside of the home environment, is a positive experience.
Of course she couldn’t complete the discussion without complimenting the crew, looking after and engaging with the guests, and answering questions about the river and the wildlife!
She concluded with the following quote from Belinda Canosa, INS Fundraising Manager: ‘These outings are the highlight of the year for many INS clients and carers. They provide an opportunity to enjoy a unique experience without having to expose their level of disability to public gaze, which many people find difficult. They are therefore particularly suitable for people who are normally housebound and would be reluctant to cope with crowds.’
We look forward to seeing more of INS this season!
Scouts Clean Up
1st New Malden Scouts gave up their Saturday on 14 March to take part in a river clean-up.
Help us with Fundraising
Can you help us raise funds through your online shopping?
The charity has signed up to Give as you Live, an online shopping link which gives donations to charities from commissions paid by the online retailers you buy from (at no cost to you). You first need to join, and select the River Thames Boat Project as your cause. If you join using this link we will obtain an additional £5.
There is a website page from which you can click through to retailers, or use a price comparison function, or check on how much you have raised. If you prefer you can install the ‘shopping toolbar’ which then shows at the top of the screen whenever you go directly to a participating online retailer (although some like Amazon don’t allow them, so you will need to access them from the Give as you Live website)
Why Give as you Live? We have looked at this type of site before (and tried a few), but Give as you Live appears to be less intrusive to users, has less security concerns, provides a better payment rate with greater transparency and support for the charity, and provides you with the ability to track how much you have raised.
Who can use it? Anyone. Please invite friends and family. You can either send them the invite link above or create your own using the ‘recruit your friends and get a free £5 donation’ option. Make sure you ask them to specify the River Thames Boat Project as their cause! Here is a quick video of how it all works.
And please tell us what you think. Are you comfortable with this sort of fundraising? Have you come across better options or other things we should look at? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And a reminder of some other fundraising activities:
Not a story headline which you might expect to see in the Friend’s newsletter - but some very interesting new technology will be arriving on the Venturer which will improve the experience of our clients. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of The Hedley Foundation, we will be buying six tablets and a wireless 4G router. There are a number of uses for the tablets. We will go paperless for cruise log sheets and client feedback and be able to upload the information directly to the office. Clients will have access to the tablets while on the boat to take pictures or research information about the river and what they are seeing. We will be able to offer them as a communications tool for clients with speaking or hearing issues - some clients already bring devices on board for those who communicate through the use of a keyboard. And I suspect Gemma has plans for use in the educational programme...
- Venturer Photography - evening photography cruises to raise money for the Charity.
- Phil the Boat - bring old clothing along to the boat for recycling.
- Charter the Venturer for your party - a fabulous sunset cruise - contact the office for details.
- Anniversary Cruise 3-5 July – a few spaces left! Read more about it below.
In addition to the tablets we also now have FishCam. This is an underwater video camera on a pole which we can use to show what is happening under the surface of the river. The images are fed directly by a cable to the laptop on board. This was acquired initially for the educational programme but also has the potential to be used for client groups when the boat stops at lunchtime. Some might wonder whether the Thames is too murky for much to be visible, but I am assured that on a good day there will be plenty of fish to be seen!
The Launch of Eco Venturers!
On the 18th March 2015 the River Thames Boat Project launched its new sustainability programme with a special event on the Thames Venturer. The launch was attended by the Mayor of Kingston Cllr. Ken Smith who gave his full support for the new programme. ‘Eco Venturers’ is an exciting day of water, energy, waste, green design and technology workshops, based on Venturer, which challenge children to rethink their current lifestyles and inspire them to be the eco inventors of the future.
Gemma Hindi, Environmental Education Coordinator, said: “We are thrilled to be launching Eco Venturers! It is an innovative new programme offered to primary schools in addition to our popular education programme, School on the River. We are looking forward to delivering more workshops this year”.
Groups receive a free Education Pack with their booking, endorsed by Trevor Baylis, local inventor of the wind up radio. Feedback from the Eco Venturer pilot schools has been very positive, with teachers pledging to rebook the following year. The Eco Venturers programme has been generously funded by the City Bridge Trust and Kingston Borough Council.
How you can help
Please forward our Eco Venturers e-newsletter or education leaflets (available from the office) to schools and youth groups, and pass on any contacts to email@example.com. We also need more eager crew assistants and workshop leaders, so get in touch with Gemma if you enjoy working with people and sharing your knowledge of the river. Please note that this isn’t a traditional crewing role - no rope throwing involved! Training will be provided.
Gemma Hindi: Environmental Education Coordinator
Jane Newman: Lead Trustee for Education
A New Volunteer
Our volunteers come from all sorts of places but many have a connection to boating and/ or the river. Pam Taylor has been involved with the Thames for over 50 years. It all started when she was at school in east London and an outdoor pursuits programme included staying on a barge in Haybridge Basin and ‘messing about in boats’. She remembers having to break the ice on the Blackwater Canal to do a capsize drill, required to be allowed to carry on with canoeing! From ‘messing about’ she graduated to competitive kayaking, including training at Richmond, and moved to the west of London as the competing became more serious. It resulted in her going to the 1972 Olympics (plus a couple of world championships)!
After marriage and kids she came back to the sport, coaching kids at Elmbridge Canoe Club in Shepperton. Over the years her interests and activities have involved a number of things which speak to the Boat Project’s activities and aims - working for Social Services with learning disabled people, as an ‘independent visitor’ for a child with family issues, as a brownie/ guides leader talking to the children about the river, it’s history and uses, and as a Home-Start volunteer, providing support to a family with young children. Her family history has made her particularly sensitive to people living with disabilities - from the time she was a small child her mother was in a wheelchair after having polio.
Being around the river Pam was generally aware of the Venturer without knowing any details about the Charity. Then she went to Walton Heritage Day last year - and in her words got too close and was ‘press-ganged’ into going on board! She says it was an eye-opener - the facilities, the education programmes, the opportunity for children to learn about the river and ecology, and the opportunity it provides for those who otherwise would have no chance to learn about or travel on the river. It was an easy sell - and on 29 April Pam did her first crew training. So those of you who crew, watch out for her when you are on board and make her (and the five other new crew members Peter, Tony, Robert, Gillian and Warren) welcome. And for those who man the boat on open days note that encouraging reluctant visitors to come on board can make a difference…
In addition to the work which everyone sees, important changes have also been going on in the background. Over the winter a new client booking system has been developed which streamlines the recording and scheduling of client bookings. It does away with a lot of the double entering of data, it also links together calendars, activity reporting and client billing.
Hard at Work in the Office!
None of this is headline grabbing but it plays a vital part in improving our efficiency and the accuracy of records for our clients. This project has been led by Pippa in the office with lots of input from Peter Oldham, but the real star who has undertaken the actual development work is volunteer Julian Galpin!
Paul Boyd as Lead Trustee for IT would like to thank all involved for their hard work. But of course there is a huge amount more to do, Paul said ‘over the next two years we need to upgrade almost every one of our systems in order to improve efficiency, security and resilience’.
No small challenge for the team then!
Know Your Trustees
Jon said he was immediately drawn to the Project as it is such a clever idea, using a boat on the river to provide people with various mobility issues such a wonderful day out. It has an enormous therapeutic value, stimulates people’s curiosity and is a unique way to use such a brilliant local resource (the river). He also loved the idea of School on the River - the best possible base from which to teach about things like water quality, the river foreshore and tides, and a great use of the boat’s downtime! And he commented that the Charity has a powerful local focus.
Jon Chapman is the newest addition to our Board of Trustees. Originally from Sunderland, he has been based in south west London since the 1980s. He told me he has always been a water person and some 15 years ago rowed for (and then captained) Lensbury Rowing Club. The Chairman of Lensbury was Philip Wilkinson (long time volunteer and husband of Anthea on the Friends team) and of course he started hearing about the River Thames Boat Project.
Jon came to Charity events and provided some ad hoc support over the years. But it was in 2011, when he moved from fulltime large company employment to being self-employed with a bit more time available, that he spoke to Peter and Miranda about becoming more involved. In 2012 he joined the crew roster, in 2013 started teaching School on the River, and he has now joined the Board of Trustees.
Currently Jon is on the HR committee, contributing his experience as an employment lawyer. His background also includes large company commercial and corporate law and he hopes that experience will also be useful as the Charity continues to grow. He said that it is fantastic to be involved at this transitional stage, to be involved with the development of a second boat and the Charity’s new direction. And the Boat Project isn't his only river commitment - he is also an RNLI lifeboat crew member at Teddington!
Special Anniversary Cruise 3-5 July
Venturer last cruised the tideway to Tower Bridge and beyond ten years ago. Now she is revisiting the Pool of London, sailing from Kingston to the Thames Barrier and back over one weekend, to celebrate 20 years on the River Thames and to fundraise for our second boat.
Leaving Kingston on Friday 3rd July at cocktail hour, we will take an evening cruise down to Chiswick Pier where we will moor for the night. There will be an introduction to the work of the Pier Trust and the RNLI station there, or you can walk ashore with a self-help guide to follow the Thames Path through the historic Chiswick to Hammersmith reach.
On Saturday we depart early and pass through London, to moor late morning at the Hermitage Moorings - only accessible to historic boats. From there, we have a perfect view for watching the Thames Historic Barge Driving event that afternoon; Watermen and Lighterman row barges upstream from Greenwich to Westminster in their annual celebration of the days when rowing was the only power available. There will then be time to explore ashore.
On Sunday we take the ebb tide down to the Thames Barrier and then turn upstream to enjoy the full flow back home, taking in the glory of Central London’s sights, and views that have changed radically in the last ten years, before disembarking back in Kingston later in the afternoon.
Residential places for the full experience are now all taken but there are two day spaces for Saturday and two for Sunday. Early starts from Chiswick Pier (Saturday) or the Hermitage Moorings (Sunday). There is a suggested donation of £75 for joining the cruise for the day including breakfast and a light lunch or (Saturday only) £100 if you'd like to stay for dinner too. If you are interested email firstname.lastname@example.org