LOTS of boaters I know don’t belong to a boat club of any description. They simply like to potter around on the river with family and friends, taking in the sights and sounds of the Thames in all its beauty.
But even for solitary boat skippers, its important to recognise the work carried out by an organisation called the Association of Thames Yacht Clubs, which, as its name implies, brings together members of more than 50 motor boat and yacht clubs along the length of the river from Lechlade near the source all the way down to Southend in the estuary.
Why do I mention this now? Because over the Bank Holiday weekend from Friday, August 24 to Monday, August 27, the ATYC is holding its annual rally – and any boat owner is invited.
Chairman Michael Shefras, who lives in Wraysbury, says: “The ATYC works tirelessly on behalf of all its member clubs representing boaters interests to authority and protecting their interests on the river.
“We stage an annual rally and this year it will be held on the riverside at Beale Park, Pangbourne.
“Most of our clubs will be represented but we also welcome non-affiliated skippers who might just like to come along, meet like-minded people and find out what clubs are doing in their own areas.”
The association was created 62 years ago when three Thames cruiser clubs – the British Motor Yacht Club, the Thames Motor Cruising Club (now the Thames Motor Yacht Club) and the Upper Thames Motor Boat Club (now the Upper Thames Motor Yacht Club) – joined forces to campaign for the abolition of individual lock charges by the Thames Conservancy.
Having won that initial battle, the association’s continuing aim is to promote and protect the interest of the private boat owner.
And I speak from personal experience when I say that they do a tremendous amount of good and work incredibly hard to ensure that faceless civil servants do not impinge on our rights to use the waterways responsibly but without hindrance.
Over the years, the Association has grown in stature. It has negotiated with the original Thames Conservancy and as regulatory bodies changed, with the Thames Water Authority, the National Rivers Authority, the Environment Agency, British Waterways and the Port of London Authority. The association is also affiliated to the Royal Yachting.
The annual rally happens at different venues up and down the river. This year it’s being held well up river at Beale Park while in 2013 it will take place at West India Dock.
The ATYC rally is always good value with a good deal of socialising, an excellent formal dinner on the Sunday night and some fun boat handling competitions aimed at highlighting the skills of skippers old and young.
Whether you decide to join a club or not, the rally is a fun weekend. The cost of registering for the rally is £35 per boat, which covers two nights’ mooring and admission to the social events on Saturday and Sunday. Food is extra.
For further details, visit the website at www.atyc.co.uk where there is a downloadable application form.