I was lucky enough to have a boating father, and I learned early to love rowing on the Thames, picnicing under weeping willows and watching the world go by, as my dad did all the rowing work while the rest of the family lay around the boat watching the water ripple around our fingers. Great days, and beautiful, elegant boats. Those family outings were forty-odd years ago and many of the skiffs have now been replaced by plastic boats. However, there are still skiffs on the Thames, many are treasured by doting owners, and a few can even be hired (see below).
So as we face up to winter arriving here in the UK, I’d very much like to take this opportunity to take www.intheboatshed.net readers back to the river for a few minutes to the often sunny world of rowing skiffs.
Clubs devoted to racing skiffs:
Hire a skiff:
The traditional Swan Upping event, during which skiffs and other boats are used to mark swans to show who owns them:
Traditional boat rallies on the Thames:
This is Hollowshore Services, at the junction between Faversham and Oare creeks. Probably better known as Tester’s yard, Hollowshore Services specialises in smacks, and so this remote corner of Kent is a great place for sightseeing old boats and a few newer ones built in the old way. Many of them are moored along the creek’s eastern bank or nearby in the main channel. The shed itself is one of the last two in the country purpose-constructed for building sailing barges; the sailing club is housed in a small shed alongside that was once used for making barge boats.
Tucked away at the back of the yard is the Shipwright’s Arms, a sweet old pub complete with a splendid collection of beers. They say there is also the ghost of a shipwrecked barge skipper who after fighting for his life as his ship went down struggled to the inn and finally died of cold on the doorstep after failing to rouse anyone from their beds. No doubt they were all sleeping off the effects of a rollicking night in the cosy little front room…
For more on Hollowshore Services:
For more on the Shipwright’s Arms:
For a map:
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