Tidal Crane Boat Info

This is a summary of the information given out at the Tidal Crane's Boating Afternoon in April 2018.


  1. Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of Earth. More info here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide
  2. 2 high tides every 24 hrs about 12 hours apart
  3. They move on by about an hour each day, taking about 2 weeks to return to the same sort of time in the day
  4. We get navigable water between 1-1.5hrs either side of high tide depending on the size of the tide and how close you are to the river Thames
  5. The automatic gates just before the Crane meets the Thames close for high tides and also you need to pass under the second bridge about 45 mins before large tides to make sure you can get under (even earlier if you have a big boat!) To maximise your time while out, suggest setting off as soon as your boat is properly afloat in the water. It is also pretty impossible to get up the Crane once the tide starts going out – it is like water going down a bath plug so if in doubt, give yourself more time than you think you need, especially on your first trip on the Thames.
  6. Richmond Lock is a half-tide lock. For 2 hours either side of high water (earlier in drier months) arches #2 and #3 are normally open to navigation.
  7. https://www.tidetimes.org.uk/richmond-lock-tide-times (1 week ahead or option to purchase tide table book) or download as pdfs from PLA - http://tidepredictions.pla.co.uk/ (click on Gauges on nav bar). There is also a handy PLA app which shows you Richmond tides for that day and links to their website.
  8. If looking at a tide table that gives times at London Bridge, add approx 1 hr 10 mins for the tidal Crane

Types of boats:

Motor boats

  • Various sizes have been on the Crane from cabin cruisers to small dinghies
  • Most common is an open boat with an outboard engine
  • These can be made of a few types of material GRP (glass-reinforced plastic), Rotomoulded plastic and inflatable. All have their benefits:

                                                   i.      GRP – lots of options available new and second hand and can be more attractive designs, most are very strong but it is worth noting that if they hit anything very hard they are likely to need a repair (I had one for 4 years and had no issues)

                                                 ii.      Roto-moulded plastic – very durable, usually flat bottomed to stable to get in and out. A few options and sizes

                                               iii.      Inflatable – benefit of removing in winter and storing in a shed, although large ones for families can be heavy and bulky. Recommend a fairly durable make (usually red or dark grey material) as they will cope with edges of the river better. Options include rowing inflatables, inflatables with outboards and inflatable kayaks.

  • All boats have classification on the number of people they can carry, usually printed on a metal label in the boat – for the Thames you need to see how many it is rated at Category D
  • Finding a boat: www.boatsandoutboards.co.uk for a search across the UK at options and locally Shepperton Marina www.sheppertonmarina.co.uk has a range of options to choose from new.
  • We hear good things about Bic Boats www.bicboats.co.uk which are low cost, double hulled and recyclable plastic boats that can be easily hauled out of the water. You can buy them direct, including oars and rowlocks (the bits you stick the oars through!)
  • Powering the boat:
    • Can be from petrol or now electric outboard.
    • Usually tiller steer on smaller boats but some boats can have a steering wheel (can be termed consul steering and in UK these are usually only larger engines)
    • Engine size depends on size of boat, how many people and how far you want to go e.g. medium sized dinghy for 6-8 people to reach the pubs from here 4-6hp is fine
    • Up to 6hp petrol are ok for one man to carry and put on boats
    • Above 8hp the engines are twin cylinder so a bit smoother and quieter become heavy and may need to remain on the boat once fitted
    • Electric – lots of lower power engines available which make it far more peaceful but longer trips may be a challenge (I have no experience though!) New larger options from Torqueedo look fantastic but are expensive
  • It might also be worth a trip to a boat show, there are the larger ones in London and Southampton and there is a more river orientated one near reading http://www.bealeparkboatandoutdoorshow.co.uk/


  • To avoid all engine noise and cost paddling is also a great option:
    • PLA – paddling guide https://www.pla.co.uk/Paddling-Code - Buoyancy aid is required on the Thames
    • Canoe – either a 2-3 man Canadian canoe made out of very durable plastic, a 1 or 2 man roto-moulded sit on top, or a 1,2 or 3 man inflatable option (Much improved over the years, durable and can be stored away in winter, make sure it is dry!!)
    • Kayak – enclosed with two bladed paddle, usually 1 man, various styles from white water to sea, a good option is a cross over that is comfortable on most water. Inflatable kayaks see www.aquascene.co.uk but plenty of other online stockists.
    • Local shop in Shepperton - www.whitewaterthecanoecentre.co.uk/
    • Lots available on ebay – most hold their value very well
    • Paddleboarding – new very popular sport – easy to get started. Two options for boards hard and inflatable. In a few styles Wave, all round, touring. For most people, all round is the best bet. Inflatables are nearly as stiff as hard, bounce off concrete and can be stored easily (and taken on holiday).
    • Find out more about courses - http://www.active360.co.uk/, bluechip (nr Hampton)

If you let us know you are considering buying a boat, you can let us know and we can put out a call to TCA residents. It is always much easier to buy a boat that’s already on the Crane. 

Moorings and security:

Use a chain and padlocks if possible as there have been boat and boat engine thefts (with sheds broken into where engines were being stored for winter etc.) Use an engine lock to secure outboard to boat.

Allow enough chain for the boat to rise and fall on the tide. Depending on the riverbank where you are, your boat is likely to be ‘beached’ except when the tide comes in.

Simple mooring – chain to a sturdy tree or other permanent feature on your bank.

Rise and fall mooring – mooring chain is attached to a ring which can freely rise and fall up and down the pole with the tide.

Dock with mooring – because of flood risk, any alteration to the river bank means you need to check with the Environment Agency whether you need permission for your works. See www.gov.uk/guidance/owning-a-watercourse

Where can you get to?

Most trips are in and out on the one tide (unless you are planning a holiday aboard!) Key is not to be too ambitious, especially on your first trip. The White Cross Hotel by Richmond Bridge is easily achievable. The White Swan at Twickenham is also a possibility, though further. You can also easily get to the London Apprentice at Isleworth. Take a look in advance at mooring possibilities – the pubs themselves can often offer advice. The PLA website also has a section on Thames public moorings.

The maximum height your boat can be

To get out onto the Thames you need to be able to pass under two bridges (Talbot Rd and St Margarets Rd) at high, or nearly high, tide when the space between the river and the underneath of the bridge is greatly reduced. Owners of cruisers (the ‘tallest’ type of boat currently on the Crane) reckon the maximum total height from bottom of keel to top of boat that can get under the bridges is approx. 4’8” (1.422m). You may be able to remove Perspex windscreens etc. to lower height. Most other types of boat are shallower than this and so should pass under fairly easily but if in doubt, check with other boat owners on the river.

Thames Boat Registration

This is needed for all types of craft and you will not be allowed through a lock without displaying your licence. For more information and forms see www.gov.uk/register-a-boat

Lifejackets/buoyancy aids

It is sensible to wear these at all times when on board. There is a difference between a lifejacket (which keeps your head out of the water even if you are unconscious) and a buoyancy aid which is basically an inflatable vest. Easily available online and there is also a selection at Clas Olsen in Kingston.


Questions? Email tidalcrane@gmail.com 

If you have specific questions about a particular type of craft we may be able to put you in touch with owners who can share what they have found out about their craft and boating on the Crane.