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Spring into a busy summer on the tidal Thames

Mark Towens - PLA Harbour Master for the Upper and Middle reaches of the river – offers some seasonal tips for boat owners.

On 20 March,100 boat owners from near and far joined us on the river for our pre-season briefing.

This annual gathering of Tidal Thames Navigators’ Club (TTNC) members is the most reliable indicator for me that spring has finally arrived. 

It’s always a great opportunity for us to update them on everything they need to know for a safe – and enjoyable – summer on the Thames.

High on the agenda again this year was a reminder from us of the basic checks boat owners need to complete to ensure their vessels are ready for action right through to the autumn, often having been in hibernation over the winter.

A simple Easter-time once-over of a boat’s electrical wiring, filters and moving parts can prevent breakdowns on the river, that are a real headache - both for the owners and us in our work to keep traffic flowing on the river safely.

Keep an eye out for a social media campaign we will be running on this theme in April.

Ensuring there’s an anchor on board is another thing to remember, as well as preparing a proper passage plan. 

This year, with construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel well underway, we were also able to advise TTNC members on measures being put in place to protect all river users during the “super sewer’s” peak tunnelling phase.

These include innovative new lights, controlling access under the northern arch of Blackfriars Bridge.

It’s just one of the locations, from Putney to Deptford, where the tunnel’s engineering team is working to intercept the thousands of tonnes of untreated sewage that discharge from the capital’s Victorian sewers into the Thames from overflow points built into the river wall. 

For everyone linked to the Thames, spring also means the Boat Race.

This year there’s an extra twist to the proceedings, with the selection of Olympic veteran James Cracknell for the Cambridge squad.  

For us at the PLA, the event is all in the planning.

It’s the culmination of months of careful liaison with the organisers, the police and rescue services to ensure all goes well.

That includes for the thousands of spectators. The river is full of surprises, not least the fast moving current and tides.

If you are heading to the embankment to watch the race on 7 April, please always put your personal safety first and stay off the foreshore during the rising tide. 

Membership of the Tidal Thames Navigators’ Club is free: You can join here: