Monday, 18 March 2013

Small Boat on the Thames - book review

Small Boat on the Thames
by Roger Pilkington
March 2013

In the grand scheme of Roger Pilkington's travelogues this one is a bit of an anomaly.


We left the old Commodore in Bordeaux, bowing out of her starring role in this watery series and this book marks the birth of Thames Commodore, a bigger, faster steel hulled boat built to the Pilkingtons specifications. So, one would expect this book to be all about the rekindling of a love affair with the River Thames, taking their boat up river and down memory lane. But that would be wrong.

Instead we start with a chapter about the construction of the new hull and we conclude with a chapter about the initial trip from Teddington to Limehouse, but for the bit in the middle it is by and large it is a reworking of Thames Waters, his very first book which was itself a collection of recollections of watery incidents during their first few years afloat.

In some ways it is a disappointment that the trip from tideway to source was virtual, capturing many of the tales already told. But I suspect that by the time this book was published in 1966 he had developed quite a following of readers who were unaware of the delights of our own River Thames, and this book was something of a filler before they took the new craft over the channel to begin a further series of adventures on the continental waterways.

Whereas the first book was mostly a record of travels, the return to home waters was embellished with Pilkington's trademark historical stamp. Many historical facts fantasies were shared as the Thames was tracked down to its source near the Sapperton Tunnel but it lost a certain edge by not being grounded in a specific journey.

The elements I liked the most were the beginning and the and, the bits which were boat based. It was interesting to learn that in boats power delivered is a matter of diminishing returns. Thames Commodore was fitted with twin 130hp diesels and if one was run at half speed the craft managed a respectable 6 knots. Open them both up to maximum power and the speed increased to 10 knots (probably increasing fuel consumption by a factor of 4).

So, In conclusion - not one of Pilkington's finest but it does serve to transition between the two craft. 


No comments: