Rules for Tidal Thames
These rules apply to paddling on the tidal Thames.
- 1 Definitions
- 2 Port of London Authority Compliance
- 3 Requirements for paddlers
- 4 Group co-ordination
- 4.1 Nominate a trip co-ordinator
- 4.2 Role of the co-ordinator
- 4.3 Role of the leader
- 4.4 Buddy up
- 4.5 Notify London VTS
- 4.6 Have at least three Qualified Paddlers
- 4.7 Group paddling formation
- 4.8 Show required lights
- 4.9 Carry required safety equipment
- 4.10 Stay out of the Fairway
- 4.11 Cross at right angles
- 4.12 Log participants
- 5 Co-ordinator’s role
- 6 Each paddler’s role
- 7 Group size and ratios
The tidal Thames centred on the Shadwell Pierhead and covering the area from Greenwich Pier to Westminster Bridge
Downstream of the Shadwell Pierhead classified as moderate water under normal weather and tide conditions (at nil tide downstream includes the upstream section as far as the river police station)
Upstream of the Shadwell Pierhead classified as advanced water under normal weather and tide conditions
Any trip not specifically covered by these rules or listed herein as a “private trip” is carried by members in their individual capacity and entirely at their own risk
Club accepts no liability for actions or failures of members on private trips
Private trips should be marked as such on website forum or other communication
No private trip may take place in home waters during “Tuesday Club” hours
Port of London Authority Compliance
The Tidal Thames is a navigable river under the control of the PLA
Any group paddling on Thames home waters must comply with rules and directives issued by the PLA
All paddlers on Thames home waters should familiarise themselves with the most recent PLA paddling guidance found at http://www.boatingonthethames.co.uk/Paddling
Paddlers must be aware of any current notices to mariners issued by the PLA at http://www.pla.co.uk/Safety/Regulations-and-Guidance/Notices-to-Mariners
An exceptional group of more than 30 paddlers (e.g. Christmas paddle) is classified as an event and require advance notice to the PLA
Requirements for paddlers
To paddle on the tidal Thames, you must meet one of the following conditions:
- Hold BCU Three Star award
- Passed THCC’s Introduction to Paddling on the River Thames course (“Qualified Paddler”)
- Satisfied the requirements of a Qualified Paddler
Thames Qualified Paddler
To paddle on the Thames, you must have a BCU Three Star award, or have passed THCC’s “Introduction to Paddling on the River Thames” course (“Qualified Paddler”).
A Thames Qualified Paddler is a Club-specific designation and applies to a paddler who has:
- been assessed by both an L2 holding Moderate Water Endorsement and a 4* Sea Kayak award holder
- demonstrates sufficient awareness of the hazards and protocols
- demonstrates an adequate ability to handle themselves in a safe manner on the Tidal Thames home waters
The Club will maintain a list of Thames Qualified Paddlers for the avoidance of doubt.
Non Thames Qualified Paddler
A paddler who has a BCU Two Star award may join a group of Qualified Paddlers on a one to one buddy system, provided that there are at least three Qualified Paddlers.
A paddler joining THCC for regular paddling on the Thames with significant relevant experience but without the above qualifications or an equivalent BCU recognised foreign qualification may be granted Qualified Paddler status subject to he/she demonstrating his/her skills in a brief basin assessment. In addition, he/she should join the “Introduction to Paddling on the River Thames” course, when it is run.
A visiting paddler (i.e. a non THCC member not intending to paddle regularly on the Thames) may be permitted to join a Thames group by the Qualified Paddlers of that group, subject to equipment availability and capacity constraints. THCC is not obliged to accommodate the request of any visiting paddler. The visiting paddler must satisfy the requirements of a Qualified Paddler before being allowed to participate on a river paddle.
Each group must have a leader or, if no leader, then a co-ordinator A group without a leader must appoint one of its number to act as co-ordinator
Nominate a trip co-ordinator
Each group should nominate one of their number to be its co-ordinator. Each member of the group is responsible for his/her own safety, and must also take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of the group generally. As THCC is a not for profit activity club and as the co-ordinator is an unpaid volunteer, the coordinator assumes no legal responsibility for the safety of the group. One of his/her roles is to co-ordinate, with the support and assistance of the rest of the group, the recovery of a capsize, the management of an accident or other safety issue.
Role of the co-ordinator
Hold a trip briefing before departure and agree with the group:
- the direction of travel
- any resting points, taking into account the predicted tide at the time of paddle
- crossing points and general safety for that trip
Where the group is unable to agree any of these topics, the co-ordinator’s decision is final.
Ensure London VTS is informed of the group size and direction of travel before the group leaves, and is notified when the group returns.
Ensure that the appropriate safety kit is carried by the group.
Ensure the group:
- is familiar with the PLA rules and current notices
- meets the minimum experience to paddle on the Thames
- has the necessary safety and lighting equipment with them
- members have signed the trip log and any incidents are recorded on the log
The co-ordinator is not responsible for leading the group
Role of the leader
The same points as the co-ordinator Leading the group on the water
A one to one buddy system should be organised so that paddlers are monitoring each other, particularly at tricky parts of the Thames.
A buddy should paddle close enough to know where the other is
A buddy should summon help if the other gets into difficulty
Notify London VTS
Inform London VTS by VHF on Channel 14 (alternatively by phone on 020 8855 0315) of group size and direction prior to departure, and inform them of the group’s safe return.
It is best practice to inform London VTS when crossing over to the other bank
The group should monitor VHF Channel 14 for any broadcasts while under way
Have at least three Qualified Paddlers
Paddlers must paddle in a group consisting of at least three Qualified Paddlers. Where possible and sensible, a group should not exceed ten paddlers.
Group paddling formation
Paddlers within a group must paddle together within a distance (not to exceed 50 metres, from the paddler at the front to the one at the back) that allows for easy communication between all group members and to allow each member to be able to respond on a timely basis to incidents. The formation should be appropriate to the immediate environment; e.g. long train through constricted hazards; in a tight group when crossing the fairway
Show required lights
If paddling after sunset, each paddler must have at least one non flashing white light switched on, on his/her boat/person. Each group should also have at least one all round white light switched on. Paddlers must be aware of dangers from behind and the group should ensure that 50% of the lights are facing backwards.
Carry required safety equipment
Each group should carry a safety pack containing:
- VHF radio (or mobile phone)
- Two-person emergency shelter
- At least two towlines
- Set of splits
- A first aid kit
Each paddler should have:
- A buoyancy aid
- When any part of the paddle occurs in the hours of darkness, paddlers must have adequate lights as specified by the Port of London Authority (PLA) guidance found at http://www.boatingonthethames.co.uk/Paddling
- A Whistle
- Appropriate clothing
These packs will be stored in the club cupboard/office.
Stay out of the Fairway
You should avoid paddling in the main fairway of the Thames whenever possible. The main fairway is used for shipping. Canoeists who paddle in the fairway for navigational reasons must be aware of Rule 9 of the Collision Regulations of the International Regulations for the Prevention of Accidents at Sea, which “requires vessels to keep as near as possible to the outer limit of the channel lying on their starboard side as is practicable” (i.e. powered vessels are obliged to be as close as possible to the river bank – this means a canoeist also has to be as close as possible to the river bank, especially when a powered vessel passes by).
Cross at right angles
Cross the Thames at right angles. The strength of the tide may require you to paddle a diagonal course using a ferry glide. Wait until the Thames is clear of traffic and ensure the group stays together when crossing. Paddle so as to minimise the time spent in the fairway during the crossing. It is best practice to notify London VTS before crossing.
Before going on the Thames, each paddler must write his/her name on the whiteboard in their paddling groups. Group co-ordinator should be highlighted on the board.
For large club events such as the Christmas paddle, appropriate safety arrangements will be made for that individual event, following the above rules as closely as possible.
- Ensure that London VTS is informed of the group size and direction of travel before the group leaves, and is notified when the group returns.
- Ensure that the appropriate safety kit is carried by the group.
- Agree with the rest of the group, the course, distance, resting places, crossing points and general safety for that trip. Where the group is unable to agree any of these topics, the co-ordinator’s decision is final.
- See #Nominate a trip co-ordinator above.
Each paddler’s role
- Comply with the River rules above.
- Assist the co-ordinator.
- In addition to meeting THCC criteria for paddling on the Thames, satisfy him/herself that he/she has the necessary skills and experience for paddling on the Thames in the conditions prevailing at the time.
- Ensure that he/she uses appropriate footwear, buoyancy aid and light(s).
Group size and ratios
|Environment||Coached Session||Uncoached Session||New BCU Awards|
under normal conditions
|1 x L2 Moderate Water Endorsement : 4 x 1* students
For each 1 x 4* Sea : another 2 x 1* Must include 1 x VHF operator
|1 x 4* Sea : 4 x paddlers 1* or 2*
For another 4* : 4 x 2* can go
+ 1 x group co-ordinator + VHF
1 x 2* for each 3*
Sea Kayak Coach (Moderate Water Endorsement)
Performance Coach Sea
Sea Kayak Leader
Sea Kayak Award
Paddle Explore Kayak
under normal conditions
under adverse conditions
|No coached sessions in this environment||1 x 4* Sea : 4 x 2* paddlers
3 x 3* Sea including
1 x group co-ordinator + VHF
PLUS 1 x 4* : another 2* can join
1 x 3* : another 2* can join
Sea Kayak Leader
Sea Kayak Award
Paddle Explore Kayak
|Advanced water||No club trips - private trips only|