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About Us

The objectives of the Thames Traditional Boat Society are:

  • To encourage the use of traditional unpowered boats through organising rallies, cruises and social events.
  • To encourage the restoration and maintenance of existing craft and the building of new ones.
  • To provide spokespeople to represent the interests of traditional boat owners to relevant authorities.
  • To encourage young people and newcomers to improve their standard of watermanship.
  • To maintain historical records for the benefit of Members and future generations.

The Society was founded in 1980 to promote the continued use and conservation of traditional, non-powered craft, mainly Skiffs, Dinghies, Punts and Canoes. During the summer months, weekend and longer cruises are organized and rallies, regattas and festivals on waterways in the UK and abroad are attended. During the winter months social events with a boating theme are arranged.

Whilst the Society’s interests centre around the traditional hand-built timber craft so popular in Victorian and Edwardian times, all unpowered boating is encouraged, members with other types of boat are most welcome and you do not have to own a boat to join the Society.

We produce a quarterly magazine, called Scull, Pole & Paddle, which reports on any activities, relevant news items and members may advertise boats etc. for sale. In between we send out Bulletins occasionally to remind everyone of forthcoming events. 

Our members come from all walks of life; some have grown up with boating and for others it is a new pastime when time allows. Many members own boats, some of which have been in families for many years, but anyone interested is welcome to come along to events. Often on day cruises there are spare seats in boats and an extra crew member to cox or scull can be very welcome!

If you are not very practised there will be someone to advise and pass on helpful hints on improving your style.

We offer help and advice on learning the skills of handling boats, restoring and maintaining timber craft, buying traditional boats and can offer valuations for insurance purposes.

We particularly encourage young people to take up rowing and sculling. Newcomers are especially welcome and you do not have to own a boat to join the Society. The Society owns a quad skiff, Sgian Dubh, and a double camping skiff, Thomasina, which are available for members’ use and are normally kept at the society boat store, Port Fonty. We work with skiff racing and punting clubs.We are not a static museum, nor are our interests centred solely on the Thames.

Several members are expert craftsmen and restoring and maintaining craft is always high on the agenda of any gathering. Again, advice on what to use and how to do it is always at hand. Not all our boats are historic and traditionally built; all hand propelled craft are of interest.

We participate in rallies, regattas and festivals along the Thames, its tributaries and elsewhere and we arrange social events with a boating theme. During the summer months, weekend and longer cruises are organised at a relaxed pace along various waterways in this country and on the Continent. In the winter months social evenings incorporating a relevant topic and monthly weekend walks, usually with a watery theme, are arranged.

The Thames and Kennet and Avon Canal are favourite haunts for cruises. We have also visited Cornwall, Norfolk, Gloucestershire, Cumbria, Warwickshire and Lancashire.

Overseas visits have included: Berlin; Nantes-Brest Canal & Douarenez Boat Festival, River Sarthe, River Charente, Le Canal de Briare, le canal de la Somme, Canal du Nivernais, Argentina and Poland. Holland is another favourite location for our longer trips.

Our base – “Port Fonty”

We do not have a Clubhouse and our members come from a wide area, but we have a base called Port Fonty at Caversham Lakes, Reading. There is access to the River Thames and meetings are held here in the summer for advice, instruction and ‘simply messing about in boats’. This facility is open to members to launch, and recover boats as well as providing a convenient over-night stopping point in this area for cruises on the river. We have constructed a boat storage building on the site where members may rent space to keep their boats.

It all started as a ‘Dream’ of our then President John Fontannaz at the Society AGM in 2001. This only became possible through David Sherriff’s great generosity in finding the plot of land on which to build the facility and the hard work and determination of a number of Society members. The three prime movers were Gavin Dunbar, John Galley and Edward Lines. A major milestone for the Society was its official opening in April 2005.