I recently completed the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman course with Thames Boat Training.
Thames Boat Training is run by an awesome guy called Paul, who is an incredibly experienced sailor. He’s based on a narrowboat in Shepperton and will tailor courses to meet your needs. The training takes place onboard one of his two narrowboats, and due to the sheer size of the boats offer the perfect training experience for any future motor cruiser.
Initially i was put off by the fact I’d be learning on a narrow boat, as I own a motor cruiser and have no intention of going down the narrow boat route. But I can not recommend it enough. Narrowboats are tricky to maneuver, and have very special needs which if you can get to grips with, you’ll be able to handle a ‘normal’ river cruiser no problem.
The RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman course is a 2 day course, however as I had previous experience, Paul (from Thames Boat Training) tailored the course for me and we completed it in a day. He was flexible on dates, quick to respond to my emails and very reasonably priced. He charged me £190 for the day and my official RYA certificate came through the post a week after I’d passed.
There is essential pre-reading to be done before the course, and you’ll be sent a book (or you can download the e-book). It’s an easy read and covers lots of theory and elements that you’ll be tested on when you come to do the practical element of the course.
The day itself was spent cruising around the Shepperton area of the Thames, going through the lock a few times and practicing lots of different mooring techniques. Paul talked through lots of theory (water flows), springing off, engine checks/maintenance, COLREGS, rope work and lots of other important elements of being a great helmsman. And he also tested me on all of these elements too!
Some people question the need for doing the Inland Waterways Helmsman course, as it is not a prerequisite after all. Let’s face it, rightly or wrongly, anyone can buy a boat and take to the Inland waterways. But if you want to do so, and do it safely with a great knowledge of the COLREGS and general rules of the road, then I highly recommend that you do this course. If you’re not sure if this is the course for you, then go to the RYA website and check out their huge range of courses. They have something for everyone.