It was a brilliant Father’s Day Present, even if I do say so myself.
About a month ago, we took the kids up to London to a couple of Galleries and saw, out on the river Thames, a couple of yellow RIB boats zipping around on the water. DH especially was impressed. ‘ I’d love to do that’, he said.
And so a plan was born.
The RIB boats we had been watching belonged to Thames RIB Experience, and they have great reviews on Trip Advisor, so I booked with them. I decided that it was going to be the sort of present that DH got to share with his loving family. After all, we couldn’t have him having all that fun alone. The kids and I made up a little voucher on the computer and gave it to DH for Father’s Day, but the trip itself was booked for yesterday, that last Sunday in June.
I was hoping the weather would behave and luckily it did. We even had sunshine. But Thames RIB know what the English weather is like and provide hats and coats if necessary, so their boat trips operate all year around.
We left home in plenty of time to get to Embankment Pier, 15 minutes before our boat left, as the terms and conditions we were given when booking made it very clear that there would be no refund if we were delayed. We actually got there early, as did the other 6 people in our party, so we all had our life jackets on and were ready to go about 1/4 of an hour early. The boat was ready too, so off we went.
The boats are extremely stable to board; there is no awkward jumping or balancing, and there are hand rails available to hang on to as you choose your seats. I sat in the front seat with DD3, DH and DS sat in the middle and the two older girls sat at the back. The boats take 12 people at a time and the only limit is a lower weight limit of 15 kgs. This is the weight of an average 4 year old, who would probably find the whole thing a little loud and scary, to be honest.
One surprise I had was that there were no seatbelts, but we really never felt we needed one. The seats were comfortable and we felt secure in them. It’s probably a good idea to put smaller kids on the inside seat, rather than the outside but the company has had no accidents in the 5 years they have been running, so you probably don’t have to worry too much.
We had a Mike as a commentator and Mark as a skipper and were obviously in safe hands. As we tootled up the river, under Westminster bridge, we got a great look at the Houses of Parliament , as well as a little history of the building. Then a U turn was performed, and we got a hint of speed before we went past the London Eye and headed down the river towards Canary Wharf.
Speed limits mean boats can’t go really fast until they get as far down stream as St Saviours Dock, which is about 400 m past Tower Bridge. Until then the boat cruised along at 12 knots, giving Mike plenty of time to point out various land marks on the banks and skyline. The Royal Festival Hall, the OXO tower, the Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the HMS Belfast, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge were among the attractions pointed out to us while we were fed various bits of interesting information about their history and architecture.
We never felt we were going slow though. Compared to a lot of the bigger ‘cruise’ boats on the river , we were positively zipping along and attracting some very envious glances as we did so.
But once the RIB slipped past the Metropolitan Police Marine Support station, the PA went off, the James Bond music went on and the throttle was opened up. The boats are allowed to travel up to 30 knots in this area and they speed and swoop, twist and tilt and generally muck around for 10 minutes or so. It was bit like being on an aquatic roller coaster and there were some squeals and screams from all the passengers. There was some spray from the river as we bounced across another boat’s wake but at worst I got a little damp, but not at all wet.
The older girls are 9 and 11 and they loved it. DS found it a bit loud and scary, but he coped. DD3 was another story.
I looked down at her at one point and she was pulling this face.
I thought she was laughing; she’s a bit of a thrill seeker so I thought it would be right up her street. But then I realised she was crying and had a dilemma on my hands.
We had been told that if anyone was scared or felt sick, we should put our arms in the air so the men standing at the back could see us, and they would slow right down. But if I did this, I would spoil the ride for everyone else. So instead I hugged DD3 close, told her she was safe, and kept quiet. She was okay really, I think, just a little overwhelmed by things and she settled as soon as we slowed down to our ‘normal’ speed. Then she spent the trip back chatting away and pointing out things on the banks, so I don’t think she was too traumatised.
Fifty minutes later we were back at Embankment Pier, clambering off our boat and eyeing the next lot of customers queuing up for their turn. We even bought a copy of the cheesy trip photo they offered, which is something we rarely do.
A word of warning though; we were all completely knackered afterwards. I don’t know if it was the fresh air, the sunshine or the adrenalin coursing through our systems, but we were all simultaneously hot, hungry and thirsty and had to go find somewhere for a sit down and food. So be prepared to go looking for sustenance after you step off the boat. If you have children, carry something in your bag that can be offered to prevent a hunger meltdown.
This trip was a definite success as a family outing/ Father’s day present despite 5 minutes of hysteria from the 7 year old. It wasn’t cheap; adults cost £36 and children £22 for the 50 minute trip we went on. You can book your trip online but if you are a family of four or more, they offer a discount if you book by phone so it’s worth checking that out.
It is a different way to ‘see’ London. Visitors to our great city will come away feeling they have learnt something about London and had an fun experience at the same time, but people who are familiar with the capital will probably get even more out of these trips. Seeing all the old and familiar landmarks from the Thames, with a bit of history provided, does allow you to take on London from a different angle, even if some parts are a bit of a blur.