Westminster Boating Base
open menu
close menu
search website

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions


Will there be lots of other people on the session with me? Will there be other people my age?

Unless you are booking a specific 1-2-1 course or experience, you will be with other people of a similar age group. Our youth sessions are for people aged 10-23yrs and adult sessions for those aged 18+.

How long does the tide take to go in and out?

At WBB, the tide goes out (ebbs) for approximately 7.25 hours and comes in (floods) for approximately 5.25 hours. A full cycle of the tide (from high water to low water and back to high again) takes approx 12.5hrs. This cycle is the result of the gravitational pull of the sun and moon and can be predicted well in advance - but the exact time of the tide can be influenced by wind and rain.

Is there a lot of boat traffic on the Thames?

Yes the Thames can be quite busy depending upon time of day and state of the tide. Whether kayaking, sailing or powerboating you will be supervised by a suitably qualified and trained instructor whose number one concern is your safety.

Will I fall in the river?

Whether sailing, kayaking or powerboating there is a chance you could take a swim. The likelihood of this varies depending upon the weather conditions, the craft you are in, your size and build, etc. You will almost certainly get a bit wet from splashes at least which is why we insist upon a full change of clothes.
Part of the basic training for sailing and kayaking includes a capsize drill where you will deliberately turn the boat over and demonstrate that you can recover it. This will always be done under supervision. They are called watersports for good reason!

Do I have to be able to swim?

No it is not essential and we don’t encourage it! You will be provided with a jacket called a buoyancy aid which will keep you floating on the surface if you fall in. You should however be comfortable in and around water.

Will I be swept away by the strong currents?

If you were out on your own, you could be. All our sessions are organised taking into account the tidal conditions and the ability of the group to make both the sailing and kayaking as enjoyable and safe as possible. We often use powerboats to drive the group against the tide so they can paddle or sail back with it.

Does the Thames have rip currents that will suck you down?

No, the water flows in and out from the sea, creating swirls called “eddys” on the downstream side of any fixed objects eg. bridge supports. These are an interesting and playful feature of the river for kayakers and if you are with us for long enough, you’ll learn how to take advantage of these.

I was thinking of buying a boat and launching on the Thames by myself…

Although this would be legal and doesn’t require any licensing as long as you followed the Port of London byelaws, it is not recommended unless you are an experienced boatman as the tideway can be a busy and challenging piece of water depending upon conditions. We can provide you with the basic knowledge and training to ensure that you and/or your family can enjoy themselves in safety.

Do you provide moorings for private boats?


Will I see any wildlife and are there fish in the water?

There are over 100 species of fish found in the tidal Thames. Other wildlife you might see include seagulls, ducks, cormorants, moorhens, coots, dolphins and porpoises, grey seals and perhaps even a lost whale!

Is the Thames clean?

A few years ago, the River Thames was announced to be the cleanest metropolitan river in Europe.

Why is the river water brown in colour?

The colour comes from the mud on the river bed being stirred up by the strong tidal flow. A glass of the water left to settle for a few hours becomes uncannily clear once the sediment has sunk to the bottom.

Will I catch diseases from the water?

Unlikely. Your first visit to our centre will include a safety brief with advice on how to take basic precautions to protect yourself from any infections. There are times when the water does become polluted such as after heavy rainfall. The sessions will be cancelled if we believe there is a health risk.
How will I know if the sessions have been cancelled due to poor water quality?
In most cases we will post this on our twitter/facebook/google plus feeds as soon as we know. In most cases we will provide some shore-based activities.

I’m too old...

Nonsense! Tell that to the people in their 70s who attend the Upperdecker sessions!

A Royal Yachting Association (RYA) & British Canoeing (BC) approved training centre, regulated by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA).

Trust marks