Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Hidden Gem Of London Sailing Courses

When I announced to a family friend that I was attending a two-day sailing course in Pimlico, his response was sceptical. 

"But what body of water would that be in? It can't be the Thames, that would be too busy and you'd probably catch Weil's Disease!"

Well, this was it, the Westminster Boating Base.

*this image isn't mine
Well, to be precise, we didn't sail right next to the Houses of Parliament; we were closer to Battersea Power Station and Grosvenor Bridge. But that's not really my point. My point is that we were sailing on the Thames! I, a beginner who'd only ever sailed in a shoebox on a dreary reservoir in Essex, sailed on a major thoroughfare yesterday and lived to tell the tale! Yup, no Weil's Disease (the Thames is apparently the cleanest metropolitan river in the world, according to our instructors) or being run over by ferries (almost all the larger boats we spotted were moored). I survived.

In many ways, it's strange that this place 1) has such minimal advertising and 2) is so unheard of! Why am I probably the first blogger in the world ever to rave about it on the World Wide Web? Don't other people see that there's nowhere else like it in London, or maybe even all the riverside cities in the world (correct me if I'm wrong; I haven't researched this "fact")? But I guess there is a good side to this in the lack of crowds (our group had only eight people, with two or three on each boat). To further prove this point, I also tried a popular kayaking centre in the Docklands, which had all the fancy websites and gushing admirers, but realistically, it's just packed with about seventy kids waiting around, half of whom end up without their desired place on the course. So maybe a small centre like WBB could do fine without any publicity. But I still think the location deserves it.

Anyway, enough of the publicity debate. Now onto what we actually did when we got out onto the water. Well, the format was actually a lot better and more educational than my previous sailing course, with everyone on the boat given about half an hour each to sail independently and get individual pointers from the instructor (who was on the boat, a fact which, although technically for safety reasons, I think was an improvement on the shoebox sailing course, where we were all thrust out onto a lake alone without a clue what to do). And the instruction itself was actually some of the most friendly and helpful I've ever received from these activity centre-type places, and that's probably a result of the lack of crowds meaning these often-long-suffering people aren't tormented by difficult kids day-in-day-out. Or maybe that's just me being cynical, and they're all actually genuinely nice people. We shall never know.

So I can now proudly say I achieved my RYA Stage 1 just downstream from Battersea Power Station. And I can cleat a halyard. The latter which, to my layman level of expertise, sounds a lot more impressive than the former.
-DP :)

PS We're going up to Scotland for a week in a couple of days, and the presence or absence of Wi-Fi is so far unconfirmed. But I haven't spontaneously combusted if I don't post for a week or so :).


  1. Sounds like it was a lot of fun! I've been wanting to sail on the Themes for awhile now.

    Have fun in Scotland!!