Below are comments by our members, past and present on our work, aims and their experiences.
If you feel you have something to say please contact us
"I wanted to say thanks for all the sailing support and after school racing opportunities Maxi had earlier this year at WBB. He loved coming to the base after school and participating in the race training and junior race series. … ...we would not have found out about the London Youth Games if it had not been for WBB - unfortunately Maxi did not qualify with his school or home address to sail for Westminster.
He sailed in a Topper (sailing dinghy) for Lambeth in the end, which eventually led him to try out and be accepted into the RYA SE Zone Squad and Topper 4.2 National Squad for 2014/15. Kirsten and Maxi
...I was able to, as part of my 60th birthday celebrations, spend a day sea kayaking in New Zealand." -Shan Stephens
I just want to offer a big thank you to all the team involved in the RYA Level 2 Power Boating course... (the instructors) delivered what I rate as one of the most professional training deliveries I have ever had to pleasure to receive. The personal manner, technical knowledge, humour and not forgetting patience shown made for a perfect learning experience and most enjoyable weekend.
I look forward to advancing the experience with additional time on the river through the Powerboat Experience and furthering my knowledge with additional RYA courses. The whole experience had a real live element demonstrating what boat handling skills can offer when the instructors and students were involved in a real life rescue from the river at Chelsea Bridge after receiving a the VHF radio transmission during training time. Thanks again for a great experience.
...I started going along to the boating base every week right into the winter and it was such a joy to be out there on the water with such a great bunch of people - it felt a real privilege and still feels the same at 61
...Everyone is very patient and encouraging, and you are never treated like “an older person”. Seeing what some of the much older people involved get up to has made me set aside some of my own preconceptions!
...it’s not just about going along to the boating base and doing a sporting activity for an afternoon a week, it’s also about being encouraged to be involved - with the other people and with the WBB itself.
...I’ve certainly gained some fitness and a sense of pride in making some progress on that front! But the activities themselves and the camaraderie of the staff and fellow UpperDeckers have had a real impact on my sense of wellbeing. It’s a real endorphin booster and for me personally after some “time out” it’s really helped my confidence and encouraged me to be outgoing again...
...I'm writing just having had my first ever experience of driving a power boat , having longed to do boat related activities all my life. Finally aged 55 you gave me this wonderful chance and I'm so very grateful. Our Tutor was excellent - so calm with us 3 oldies with 2 of us who'd never even driven a car let alone a boat! And made it so interesting with his knowledge of London on the Thames - which is still a bit like a secret world. Can't wait for Kayaking and Canoeing next week. I feel incredibly lucky. I came off the water feeling like a different person, invigorated and happy. Thank you very very much!...
...Many of the young people engaged have never participated in these types of activities or had the opportunity to sail along the Thames. It has been hugely gratifying for us to observe the young people, many of whom are initially very anxious, grow in confidence and ability each week. A number of boys have continued to attend the open sessions in the evenings.
The level of tutoring, support and encouragement has been excellent. We have also been provided with a space to use after the water based activities to deliver our workshops around community safety. The young people respond well working at the base...
...enthusiasm and creativity has been displayed by the staff in enabling weekly power boat and kayaking sessions along the lines of the RYA level 1, but with an appreciation of our students’ low cognitive levels and lack of spoken language.
I can not stress enough the benefits we have observed in the students: increased confidence and self-esteem, the engagement of some of their parents as well as them in this healthy outdoor pursuit, the broadening of their horizons and opportunities to learn and practise problem solving, team working and communication skills. Above all this disadvantaged group really enjoy the activities. The Base staff work safely and collaboratively with us to make it all happen...
...Our residents at Edward Alsop Court have benefitted tremendously from the first class training and assistance you have given them. We have seem them develop in confidence and self esteem as well as having fun and gaining knowledge.
Twelve of our residents have been involved in activities at your Boating Base leading to accredited qualifications in kayaking and power boating.
For some of them it has been life-changing, giving them a focus and a sense of achievement that has supported them in their ongoing battle against the hold of alcohol...
...WBB have helped our service users fulfil a healthy and exciting lifestyle. They always look forward to attending these outings. The staffs are very friendly, helpful and care for our services users. The instructors are very professional and make our service users feel comfortable and ensure that they enjoy their activity in a safe manner.
One of our service user, Debbie, is 42 years old and her favourite activity is power boating. She looks forward to this activity every week as it is the only thing she enjoys doing. She doesn’t attend any other activity. It is great to see her open up and enjoy herself...
On my summer kayaking trip to France with Westminster Boating Base I had the best time ever.
There was never a dull moment in an action-packed 10 days.
I learned so many new skills (including how to eskimo roll) and it was a fun way of learning. We surfed waves (well, tried to), crossed fast-flowing eddies and, after lots of persuasion, I even managed to go down "fluffy" (the main big drop on the course).
At the beginning of the trip we started with the basics on the easier parts of the man-made course and worked our way up.
As the days passed we began trying out more challenging areas, such as "Devil's Cauldron". Everyone encouraged me to do this and eventually I plucked up the courage to have a go, even if it was only for a second. But the support made me want to do it all again.
In fact, throughout the holiday, everyone else from the Base gave me an enormous amount of support in everything new I tried and it made me feel like I could take on anything, well, almost anything.
Away from the water, we had a fantastic time with lots of activities to keep us entertained, such as campfire nights and roasting marshmallows. I even had a crack at roasting my cola sweets, something I probably wish I hadn't.
We made lots of new friends, especially amongst the French group situated near us. We played England v France at football, which I think we won, and had water fights. Great fun.
I would not hesitate to go on this trip again. I never realised before I went just how much fun it was.
Comment by Sean Garnett (Caitlan's dad):
...when she returned she was as delighted as we've ever seen her after a holiday. In fact, she described the trip as "epic" and spoke about it for weeks to come. She raved about the thrilling aspects of the whitewater kayaking and told us about how she was nervous about trying certain activities on the rapids, but with the encouragement of others in her group, she eventually had a go and said it was such a thrill she wished she'd tried those things earlier...
... We would have no hesitation letting Caitlan go on this trip again, or any others like it...
To learn to sail or canoe on the Thames is to become part of London's oldest estate, and to navigate confidently on that great river so feared by landsmen, is to make some of the river's power your own.
The kids don’t know this: they sense it, and when they’re older, they’ll put that feeling into words. For them, as it was for me, it’s just a huge adventure, with the important chance to make new friends.
If there’s one thing the Westminster Boating Base (WBB) experience gives a young person, aside from confidence, it’s a rounding of character, and the first steps on the ladder to that elusive and seldom-mentioned quality – worldliness. My memories are of long Sundays kayaking and going up through the ranks to instructor; companionable summer days having splash-fights; freezing weekends at slalom events at home county weirs; the yearly whitewater kayak trips to the south of France; tacking a fast dinghy into the eye of a cold wind howling upriver from the North Sea on a freezing day; taking the SAS for a paddle in the cooling water outlet of Lots Road Power Station; then always relief of warm showers and dry clothes.
Taking to the water in a small vessel can change a child’s life – but WBB also caters for just as many adults. And though we might be beyond hope or change, we still do a good job of enjoying ourselves – on and off the river! Today I’m still on the water, as a yachting journalist, and still on the Thames with WBB. It’s fair to say that my life’s course was helped in those first days on the river in the late 80s. And I’m not the only one, nor will I be the last.
Many places claim to be London institutions. The WBB actually is one. For £10 a year, where else in central London can any child, of any background, have the biggest adventure of a lifetime?
Steffan Meyric Hughes
Classic Boat Magazine
It all started five years ago with a young girl standing watching the fast moving river with terrified eyes. All she was really thinking as she was being told about what to do if she capsized was “Oh no, this was a bad idea, I am definitely going to get eaten by sharks or alligators”
Little did she know that this first trip out on the river was probably going to change the rest of her life forever and open doors to new experiences, new adventures and many new friends on the way.
I started kayaking on my tenth birthday. My first session was easy. It went without a hitch and most importantly without a capsize. We got onto the water, me in a nice big boat, and mainly played games. I learnt how to manoeuvre my boat and had some lovely hot chocolate and then for the next five years I didn’t stray far from the Westminster Boating Base where I spend more or less most of my life outside of school. I kayaked and sailed about five days a week. On the weekdays it is mostly training but on Sundays we go for longer trips up to Putney, Tower Bridge or even the Thames Barrier.
The most memorable kayaking and sailing experiences I have had are journeying through the city and back because you see all London’s famous buildings and you see all the life on the river.
I love both kayaking and sailing and have competed in both. I paddle a slalom kayak and was promoted to Division 3 which I am very proud of as I have never really been the kind of person to do that well at sports. I am really looking forward to the next few years so I can progress more and do better. Through kayaking and sailing I have met many incredible and influential people and I hate to think what my life would be like without it.