TVBC boats at Cookham (above)
and Boveney (right) rallies. Pix: Mike Phillips

A club whose purpose is to encourage the use and restoration of traditional boats on the Thames is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, writes John Llewellyn. 

The Thames Vintage Boat Club had its genesis at Wilson’s Boatyard in Sunbury in early 1983 where three friends met over the restoration of a wooden boat.  One of them was Robin Newlands, a former river inspector with the Thames Conservancy, who became the first commodore and still serves the club as president.

One of the club’s first tasks was to create a register of all known traditional boats on the river complete with photographs.  Over the years this has grown into an invaluable archive containing details of hundreds of craft. 

There are also members dedicated to saving old marine engines and providing manuals on them.

 All member’s boats are issued on joining with an enamel plaque – brown, green, white or black according to their age and where they were built.  This remains with the boat through changes of ownership so that it can be easily traced.

An early honour for the club was to be given the task of towing the Uppers skiffs for the annual Royal Swan Upping and this duty is still carried out every year under the direction of Colin Patrick.

The club has supported the Thames Traditional Boat Rally - stand pictured above - and has always had a strong presence there with a stand. It musters more boats for its sail-past there than any other organisation.  It also provides a display at the Beale Park Boat Show including a pontoon of boats.

Like other boating clubs on the Thames it has summer rallies and winter social evenings with talks from visiting speakers.  The rallies are held at Cookham Island and Boveney Lock. It prides itself on its informal and friendly atmosphere and there is a wealth of experience for members to draw on. The Club’s quarterly magazine, The Boater, is renowned  for its quality and content.

Anyone with a traditionally built boat is invited to be a member, eligibility of craft being at the discretion of the committee. Boaters with a genuine interest in old wooden boats, but not owning one, are welcome as associate members.

Club Commodore David Lister said: "I feel honoured and privileged to be Commodore of the TVBC, this feeling is made greater on the TVBC's 30th Anniversary. Working with our boats, members and getting so much help from our committee, makes boating in vintage boats even more enjoyable.”

Story dated October 17th 2013