“I live on a 57' wide beam barge and am up at seven to walk the dogs before driving to meet my crew on the overnight mooring. This could be in Oxford, Reading Henley or Windsor depending on the time of year. We get the boat set up on the jetty and wait for our passengers to arrive. Our boat is named ‘Rivertime’ as we believe that no one should be excluded from time out on the river, she is a spacious – purpose built cruiser with large open sliding roof hatches.
Many care homes and well-being centres throughout the
Thames Valley use the boat on a regular basis. Being on the water seems to encourage happy memories and some of our passengers have water based connections from their past and it is great to hear their stories. It is really touching to you hear how keen certain folk are to sign up for the boat trip even though they are not far off 100 years old. At the other end of the scale are the school kids, they play bird bingo and sing along to ‘Messing about on the River.’ We occasionally get special requests for my dog, Diesel to join us on board. Like me, he’s been on the water all his life so he’s no trouble.
Lunch can range from a quick sandwich on the hoof to a handmade buffet. Some groups make a real effort with their cakes, cookies and cream teas. The most memorable, and tasty, was the jerk chicken with rice and peas brought all the way from Walthamstow, East London. Our boat has a 12’ beam with large open plan saloon allowing plenty of room for the table to be set up – guests can make a proper meal of it if they want to.
My work with The Rivertime Boat Trust began eight years ago but before that I was a lock and weir keeper. As I come from two generations of river workers I feel very proud to be keeping up the family tradition. I love the pace of river life, it forces us to slow down and take in nature and it seems to relax everybody which is good for all of us, but most importantly our passengers.
As Head Skipper, I am almost always on call during the boating season which runs between April and October and on office days, my fabulous team of volunteers do a great job running the boat, allowing me time to catch up with the admin.
There are plenty of jobs to keep me busy during the winter. ‘Rivertime’ gets craned out of the water, allowing me to pressure wash and antifoul the hull. Policy and Procedure documentation is updated and volunteer refresher training planned. The little extra time during the day allows me to keep up with the daily tasks involved in living on the water.
In the evenings I like to listen to music or play my guitar. I also enjoy canoeing and fishing with my partner Darren and the dogs, it’s the simple things that make us happy and luckily they are right on the doorstep.
The last thing I do at night is make sure my alarm is set. I always look forward to tomorrow as every day is a good day on the river.
Member since: 1st December 2015
Julia Thum is one of the writing partnership Ginger Black (www.GingerBlack.ink) whose novel, Riverside Lane is set in and around Bray and the surrounding riverside towns and villages. Riverside Lane...