Earlier this year I was lucky enough to win a free ride for two on the Thames Jet Rush in a competition run by Silver Travel Advisor to describe the best view of the Thames.
The Jet Rush is a fast rubber boat with a fibreglass hull, known as a rib, which can seat 16 people and travel at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. The prize was for a 50 minute ride on the Thames from Westminster Pier to Canary Wharf and back. Up to Tower Bridge the ride is sedate due to the speed limit but it gives one time to admire all the interesting sights along this section of the river whilst listening to the boat’s commentary.
I am over 70 years and it was difficult to find someone to accompany me as many friends feared it would be too dangerous or injurious to bad backs etc. This was partly due to the Jet Rush advertising which spoke of Aquabatics!? I have a bad back myself so left the booking until after my holiday in case of problems. Viewing YouTube videos and Trip Advisor reviews was re-assuring and there were plenty of silver-haired customers to be seen.
The appointed day dawned and we travelled by train from Cambridge and arrived at Westminster Pier 30 minutes before departure in heavy rain. Our only concern was about getting soaking wet – and did they provide waterproof trousers? Duly togged up in long well insulated and hooded blue jackets, no trousers, together with life jackets we were given a short safety briefing indoors and warned on no account to pull the red toggle on the life jacket as this would I inflate it and cost any miscreant £50 to repack. The life jackets would inflate automatically should we end up in the water. There was a locked box into which we could deposit our bags which one should not take on board.
We had decided we would prefer to sit at the back of the boat for a better view being away from the high bow. We waited near the exit door of the briefing room to be first on to the boat and fortunately it was boarded from the bow so we had complete choice of where to sit and occupied two of the rearmost seats on the starboard side. There were 16 seats in all being four rows of four with a central access aisle having pairs of seats on each side. There were no seats belts but well-padded seats and a substantial rail in front of each pair of seats to hang on to. There were two crew members on board and loudspeakers for the commentary to the front and rear but these were not always audible due to the noise of engines and rushing water.
Fortunately the rain had stopped during the briefing and we stepped out into lovely warm sunshine with puffy clouds in blue sky and London was looking at its best. We set out at a gentle pace down river having first slipped through Westminster Bridge to view the Houses of Parliament and the recently renamed Elizabeth Tower which I suspect will still always be known as Big Ben.
I have done the cruise several times in larger boats but one gets a different perspective with a ducks eye view when in a smaller boat which can also go through the lower arches on bridges and closer to other boats such as HMS Belfast, the only surviving Light Cruiser from WW 2 and now a floating museum. The river was busy with many other much larger tourist boats often creating choppy conditions as their wakes crossed each other but Jet Boat coped wonderfully despite her very low sides and not a drop of water entered the boat. We moved on downriver passing the London Eye, The National Theatre, The Millennium (wobbly that was) Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London and Tower Bridges as well as The Tower of London and many other well known buildings and monuments. Wren’s magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral could be seen on the left and to the right, the 95 storey Shard, being the highest building in Europe, completed in 2012 and nearby a new very tall residential skyscraper advertising apartments at no doubt sky-high prices.
Once through Tower Bridge the skipper let rip and we twisted and turned for several kilometres towards Canary Wharf. There was much less river traffic here so our way was unencumbered as we passed St Katherine’s Dock, the police boat base and many moored boats both residential and commercial. The ride was still comfortable and we held on to the safety bars, by this time photography had been banned and the boat was throwing up huge spray on each side of the bow but none of the water came on board even in tight turns largely due to good helmsmanship and the bulbous design of the hull which threw the water well to the sides. Had there been strong winds or rain it would have been a different story.
Just past Canary Wharf we made a fast 180 degree turn for the home run where tall new building are still being erected and the poor first tower, which stood alone for many years, is now almost completely surrounded and losing many of its former great views. On the way back a chance to see things we had missed on the outward run.
All in all, a very enjoyable and comfortable ride to see the wonderful Thames River-scape and to enjoy in comfort, no damaged backs, the exhilaration of a fast ride which blew away any cobwebs. Thank you Silver Travel Advisor for organising the competition and Thames Jet Rush for your well organised trip and for the gentle but reassuring demeanour of your staff.