Friends of RTBP Spring Newsletter
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Dear Friends of the River Thames Boat Project,
Welcome to another edition of our newsletter - and welcome to Stephen Mowat, our new Friends Trustee, who will shortly have the joy of helping me to put this quarterly missive together!
We have a lot to tell you in this edition about the new boat and the planning and fundraising related to it. Boatyard appointed, fundraising going extremely well (but we must not rest on our laurels - still a lot to do), recruitment of a marketing/ fundraising executive well under way (he/ she will be very busy), Gemma busy expanding the education programme - it is all systems go!
But let's not forget the Venturer, whose season started in January this year - Peter and crew working hard to deliver excellent days out to our clients, while trying to find a few spare minutes to finish the painting... And Peter is putting his feet to the (cycle) pedals on 10 July for an extraordinary fundraising challenge for the Charity - 140km with 4,000 meters of ascent in the 'Etape de tour'! Read a bit more in his profile below but more importantly please go to his fundraising page and support him!
Please enjoy reading about it all, but also think for a minute about how you might be able to help with all that is going on.
From the Wheelhouse
Thankfully the winter was kind to us as School on the River trips started on 22nd January. This meant we had to squeeze painting into the Easter school holidays. Thanks to a
merry band of volunteers the Venturer, Dock and Lock Island are ready for another busy year. (Linda Varney, Sally Woodward, Ken Glover, Tony Woodward, Tony Steadman, Ivor Gibson and Barry Adams all pictured.) Thanks also to a tireless Pete Gallon who helped with the difficult and unpleasant task of re-plumbing the black water tanks.
Volunteers have been on board for their annual crew refresher training and we welcome 5 new volunteers to the Charity – Martin and Linda Taylor, Robin Martin, Pat Kilminster, and Eric MacMaster. Here are four of the new volunteers learning the ropes (Pat Kilminster not pictured).
We look forward to another busy season - and as Friends you can help to grow our client base by spreading the word to potential users about our services!
Peter Oldham, Skipper
The New Boat
C. Toms & Son Boatyard, Polruan, Fowey, Cornwall has been appointed to build our new day boat subject to contract. We are delighted that we will be working with a British boat builder, a Cornish family business with a fine heritage which operates boats as well as builds them.
Tenders from five boat yards were assessed on ten criteria including competency, ability to deliver, inventiveness of approach and of course cost. C. Toms and Son, which was recommended by our surveyor Stefan Fritz, not only tendered the lowest price but also scored highest on the other criteria.
A visit to their boatyard in March by Miranda and Peter completed the decision. Among the things they saw there was a Thames sailing barge under construction for the Sea Change Sailing Trust. C. Toms also confirmed that they could meet our completion date of spring 2017. The naval architect Graham Westbrook is now producing detailed drawings. The first step in building the new boat is preparatory steel work which will take place in Holland, and construction in Cornwall will begin in the summer.
One topic which has required considerable thought is the type of engine for the boat, as the desire to be as eco-friendly as possible is a major consideration. The boat team considered various engines, and consulted with a marine engineering expert. However, a combination of cost, available technology, and safety means the boat will have a conventional diesel engine, as quiet as possible, and solar-powered batteries. Other options discussed and rejected were:
Environmental considerations remain high on our list of priorities and Peter Low commented that 'In the future there will no doubt be developments in LNG power plants for small vessels and we could at some stage convert the new boat to this if it seems sensible at the time.'
- hydrogen-powered, but the cost at about £70k is too high (the diesel engine will cost less than £10k),
- natural gas, but the technology is not yet suitable for boats of this size,
- LPG, too dangerous because it is heavier than air and a leak would be a major safety problem,
- hybrid electric/ diesel, but while this works in cars where it uses the car braking to help to charge the battery, there is no equivalent source of charging on the boat; also electric engines are very noisy.
Peter joined the Boat Project in 2007 - an auspicious year if you remember the floods and not something he was familiar with having come from working on the London canals. His experience of boats is long and varied. Going back to the 1990s he spent two years as the Captain of the Hotel Barge Luciole, cruising the Burgundy and Nivernais Canals in France, before taking to the sea on an Oyster 55 as crew for a private owner. There followed a year teaching English in Chile - no boat involved but note the education theme!
It's not all about the money...
But we certainly can't do our work without it - and the second boat is on its way so soon thanks to the financial generosity of some extraordinary people and organisations.
As of now, we are delighted to announce the second boat is fully-funded only 18 months after we announced our intentions at the 2014 AGM. Then, we showed an early drawing of our imagined second boat. Now the design is complete, a yard is chosen and we are on the verge of starting the build, with the financial backing we need to undertake the work - the estimated building cost is £300,000 and there is additional budget for equipment, delivery and project management - although we hope to deliver the project at under this if we can.
So how were we able to achieve this? At the beginning of 2015, the Charity was facing a mountain to climb in terms of fundraising and the trustees were not at all sure how long it would be before we could actually get going. We had the general funds needed to support our current operation for approximately six months (in line with our financial policy), and an emergency reserve for Thames Venturer - the Major Repairs and Replacement Fund. No fat in there for building a new boat. We had a potential offer of matched funding in the capital pipeline, had identified a trust that offered major capital support to community buildings, and had just under £4,000 in a special new boat kitty (originally £5,000 but we spent some on the research into capital sources).
That was it, but it was sufficient to give us confidence to make that announcement.
And then the magic. Within the first four months of announcing our plans we received two donations that enabled us to crystallise the matched funding offer. Those donations (critically they were 'unrestricted' which has given us great flexibility, a major gift in itself) and the matched funding (restricted) are anonymous at present, but the charity cannot express its heartfelt gratitude enough. With that in place, we could approach the Veolia Environmental Trust and put in a bid for major capital funding. Their requirement - that the rest of the project budget was secure - could be met in confidence and, as of this month, we are happy to say our request was met in full and we have just completed a Finance Agreement with the Trust for £80,000. Of course, there was just the little matter of persuading the Trust last year that a boat was a 'community building'........but we have been getting to know Veolia since 2013, bringing some of their representatives on board Thames Venturer, working with their engineering department on our carbon neutral status and talking to them all through the process.
So we are in an extraordinary place. We have the funds for the second boat and thanks to a further generous donation we have a start-up fund for the next stage in our plan (refitting Thames Venturer). And we have some money in the development fund (which the trustees set up in order to section off unrestricted gifts for development purposes, such as the new boat and creation of new programmes) to cover a contingency against any unexpected expense in the boat build and progress some of our other future plans.
Does the fundraising stop there? Can we sit back, put our feet up and pat ourselves on the back? Well, anyone who knows anything about running a charity knows the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT.
This has all been about finding development money to facilitate a plan to do more, for more clients. By the time we have another boat on the water, the development fund will need replenishing. Most important of all, the daily grunt of raising the money to fund our day-to-day operation goes on. No change there, and in fact it is easy to lose sight of operational financial needs in the excitement of thinking about the future.
This coming year we will need in the order of £170k to keep Thames Venturer on the water, delivering service, and for all the back-office work that makes that happen. And with two boats on the water - hopefully next year - our operational funding needs will increase (although we are planning that they shouldn't double). At present, the fees and charges to clients are expected to bring in just over £45k. It's easy to do the mathematics. We subsidise our cruises and education activities heavily compared with the cost of delivering them. The rest is applying for grant income, attracting donations (including the Friends), and every day fundraising. The last two are the key reasons we are recruiting a new member of staff to oversee marketing to new clients and to develop fundraising.
There is still a big hill to climb, but we count ourselves unbelievably fortunate to have got this far, thanks in most part to the goodwill of others. Thank you.
Louise Sibley, Chair
Lighting the Beacon
On 21 April the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston Cllr Roy Arora lit the Queen's 90th Birthday Beacon on board the Thames Venturer. We are honoured that he asked to use the Venturer for this very special occasion!
A Client Story: Friends and Neighbours
The Richmond Charities is an almshouse charity based in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames with its origins dating back to 1600. The aim of the charity is to provide housing to elderly local residents who are in need of an improvement in their living conditions. There are 124 almshouses (cottages and bungalows).
For some time annual outings to the seaside had been organised by the staff but in 2004 one of the residents, Pat Platt, heard a comment that ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have more outings and things to do together’. So ‘Friends and Neighbours’ (F&N) was born! F&N is a club run by residents for residents. Members decide on destinations for outings, Christmas meals, coffee mornings and other events. There are a variety of outings including an annual coach trip to the sea as well as what has become an annual trip on the Venturer. Pat also told me that they regularly raise money for local charities (and note that their outings, including trips on the Venturer, are self-financing – there is no external funding).
Pat had already been on the Venturer with another client, Abbeyfield, so it was an obvious choice to try a boat trip for the F&N group. And they have never looked back, coming almost annually since 2005 (apparently an alternative boat trip was tried one year but didn’t measure up!). The Venturer trip is so popular with some regulars that Pat has to carefully time it around certain residents' other commitments as any conflict would cause significant issues!
Pat told me that the river trips are just perfect relaxing days amongst friendly people. Peter and the crew make them feel so welcome and there is a lovely atmosphere. The Venturer is perfectly set up for the group; many have mobility issues and some who haven’t been before will say ‘oh I couldn’t manage such a trip’ – but it is never a problem! She said that she couldn’t find sufficient words to express how special the trips are.
The Autumn 2015 issue of the Richmond Charities newsletter said: June was a busy month which also saw us take a trip with the River Thames Boat Project. We all love these trips, the peace and quiet of the river, the wildlife and the shared meals all make for a lovely, lovely time. The crew are always so helpful, and apart from Peter the Captain, are all volunteers. A real treat!
We look forward to welcoming Friends & Neighbours back on board this season.
New Friends' Trustee
Welcome to Stephen Mowat who joined the Charity's Board of Directors in March. He fills the role of Friends' trustee vacated by Paul Boyd last year.
Stephen has a business development background and will be working closely with the new marketing/fundraising executive to develop the network of Friends and grow essential financial support for our work as we head towards a new future.
Stephen is a co-opted trustee/director until the next AGM in November when there will be a formal procedure of nomination and approval by the Members of the Company, in accordance with our Memorandum and Articles of Association.
A full profile on Stephen will be published in the Summer newsletter.
Skipper Profile - Peter Oldham
On his return he found an opportunity to combine his interest in boats and the skills learnt teaching English with the Electric Barge on the London canals where he spent five years and was part of the team that launched the Floating Classroom. This provides educational programmes for children and young people living in built-up, often overcrowded and deprived parts of London - opportunities to discover and explore the natural world. Sound familiar?
But then he discovered the River Thames Boat Project and the rest is history as they say. He says he was attracted by the river (rather than canals) but probably more importantly the fact that all of the cruising was for the benefit of people with disabilities rather than more commercial activity. Peter likes the variety that comes from working with the wide range of client groups the Boat Project introduces to the river, together with a great crew of volunteers.
Peter also likes adventure, which has taken him as far north as the river Yukon in a canoe and as far south as the Antarctic in a Russian icebreaker. Having turned 50 last year, he is following other middle aged men and in a moment of madness agreed to swap his sea boots for cycling cleats to ride stage 20 of the Tour de France in the Etape du Tour. Covering 140km with 4,000m of climbing it is a very demanding challenge. This is a fundraising effort to raise money for the Boat Project and he would be very happy to receive your support! You can visit his fundraising page through this link. (Editor’s note – personally I am very happy for Peter to do the pedalling and me to do some supporting. Good luck Peter!)
Education, Citizen Science and more...
The education side of the Charity has been extremely buoyant, with 60 bookings within the 2015-16 financial year, a 40% increase from the previous year, benefitting 2,123 children and adults from London and Surrey.
Our new ‘citizen science’ activities have been going swimmingly, with 142 children, parents and school staff so far this year testing the quality of the water in the Thames and Hogsmill. Take a look at our results at Charter Quay in Kingston, uploaded on FreshWaterWatch’s online database. We will review the results of one years’ data in spring 2017.
Pupils taking part in citizen science water testing on Eco Venturers at Hermitage Moorings, Tower Hill.
We would not have been able to expand our education programmes without a grant from the City Bridge Trust for the role of Environmental Education Coordinator. Gemma was appointed in April 2013, and has now been with the Charity for 3 years. This month the Trust’s funding comes to an end, and Gemma has been given a new title of Education and Learning Manager.
Due to the increase in bookings the education team are in need of more volunteer teachers, so do put the word out! Programmes cover a range of interesting topics such as river geography and science, water conservation and renewable energy, river wildlife and history. Training, support and full lesson plan notes are provided. Contact Gemma if interested.
Gemma Hindi, Education & Learning Manager firstname.lastname@example.org