Narrow boating on the tidal Thames presents a unique set of challenges, but for the experienced it can be a most rewarding experience, whether just hopping between Teddington and Brentford, or going all the way through Central London to Limehouse.
Safe passage requires a sound knowledge of the effects of the tidal stream, including the resultant currents and variable depths which are not found on the (non-tidal) canal system.
The passage between Teddington and Limehouse is only recommended for the experienced boater, as waves over a metre in height and tidal flows in excess of four knots can be encountered.
The PLA’s General Directions require a number of vessels, and those of 13.7m or more in length overall, to have an operational VHF radio on board, but narrow boats greater than 13.7m in length overall, and which are navigating only between Brentford and Teddington, are exempt. However, any narrow boat wishing to complete the “London Ring” (the Grand Union Canal and then transiting from Limehouse to Brentford) are not exempt from this General Direction.
When navigating on the tidal Thames, there are locks which are operated by different agencies. Some can be found on our Thames Map, and we highlight some of the more popular/regular sites below:
Thames Lock Brentford
This is owned by Canal and River Trust (CRT), they request that you must book the lock at least 48 hours in advance by either calling 0303 040 4040 or emailing CRT’s customer service team stating when you wish to book passage through Brentford Lock in the message box. You can also book online. Please note: the CRT team works 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Thursday (and 9:00am to 4:30pm on a Friday, with last bookings taken at 3:00pm on a Friday).
Limehouse Lock is operated by Aquavista and is not available for around two hours either side of low water at London Bridge. In the summer (1 April to 30 September): the lock is open between 8.00am to 6.00pm. It’s also possible to use the lock from 5.00am and to 10.00pm if it is booked 24 hours in advance. In the winter (1 October to 31 March): the lock is open between 8.00am to 4.00pm. It’s also possible to use the lock from 5.00am and to 10.00pm if it is booked 24 hours in advance. To book the lock, you need to call Aquavista, formerly known as British Waterways Marinas, in advance on 020 7308 9930.
Bow Lock is owned by Canal and River Trust (CRT), which must be booked 24 hours in advance. Availability is restricted to two hours either side of high water at London Bridge between 5.00am and 10.00pm. To book the lock, call 0303 040 4040 or emailing CRT’s customer service team. You can also book online.
West India Dock Entrance
West India Lock is owned by Canal and River Trust (CRT), which must be booked in advance. Availability is restricted to one hour either side of high water at London Bridge (minus approximately 20 minutes) between 7.00am to 4.30pm. Only where you have a confirmed berth or booked visitor mooring is there no charge. Plus, you’ll need full salvage cover / wreck removal insurance to enter West India Dock. To book the lock, call West India Marine Control on 0303 040 4040 or emailing CRT’s customer service team. You can also book online.
Teddington Lock is owned by the Environment Agency, which is manned 24/7 and does not require to be booked. The lock office telephone number is: 02089 408723
Richmond Lock and Half Tide Weir
Richmond Lock is owned by the Port of London Authority, is manned 24/7 and does not require to be booked. A fee is payable if using the lock. However, for around 2 hours either side of high water, the weir sluice gates are raised, allowing free passage of craft. Where possible, schedule your transit to pass through the barrier during this time. The lock foreman can be contacted on: 0208 940 0634 and further details about the lock can be found here.
Advice on safely enjoying the tidal Thames from the Port of London Authority.
Pleasure craft can be considered to be vessels that are used for sport or recreational purposes only and do not operate for any financial gain to the owner.
Tidal Thames Navigators Club
A free membership offering you a range of benefits in addition to the latest safety and navigational information.