City Cruises, the guys who run most of the tourist boats that travel up and down the Thames in London, have come up with a new concept that’s rather less sedate – the new Thamesjet service, which rockets you up and down the river at speeds of up to 40 knots…
The first in what will be a line of new boats, Blue Thunder (no relation to the cop show from the mid ’80s) is a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) made by Ribcraft in Somerset. Powered by a huge 315hp engine, this motive power is turned into jet-powered propulsion by a HamiltonJet unit from New Zealand, which makes her the only commercial boat of her type along the Thames.
There are two choices of Thamesjet trips – the first takes you from Westminster Pier up as far as Canary Wharf, while the extended version goes all the way out to the Thames Barrier. It’s all quite calm up until Tower Bridge because local byelaws dictate a maximum speed of 13 knots along this part of the river – this is the part of the journey where you get a voice-over from well-known cockney actor Alan Ford (Snatch, Cockneys vs Zombies etc) telling you all about the various sights on the banks of the river.
However, once you get past Tower Bridge the mood changes – you’re now part of an imaginary James Bond-esque chase along the river, complete with a thumping sound track over the boat’s big sound system. For the next twenty minutes or so the boat rapidly accelerates and decelerates while executing wild turns across the water that see you tilting at 45 degrees one way and then the other and then back again – the only way that I can describe the experience is like some waterborne roller coaster. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted or people who are prone to seasickness, but personally I loved it and can’t wait to try it out again!
There was a bit of controversy associated with the launch day, which I’ll briefly tell you about. Befitting the super spy theme of the the Thamesjet ‘ride’ they’d employed look-a-likes to attend the opening day – a Lara Croft, a current era James Bond, Arnie in Terminator guise and a Mission Impossible Tom Cruise. In order to take some publicity shots this motley crew were sent out on to the river in Blue Thunder while waving their guns around – unsurprisingly given their proximity to the Palace Of Westminster, the Met’s Marine Policing Unit were sent out to investigate. Cue embarrassed looks all around! As you can see from the photographs, they’re not bad facsimiles – I think the guy impersonating Daniel Craig in particular is spot on.
If I’ve sufficiently whetted your appetite to try out the ThamesJet for yourself, you can book tickets here – prices are £35 for the 50 minute long thamesrush and £49 for the 75 minutes thamesmax that takes you all the way out to the barrier. Not cheap I would agree, but it is a unique experience that you won’t get from any of the other companies plying their trade up and down the Thames.
If you’re lucky, your captain for the trip will be Matt Beckwith (@voiceinlondon), the Thamesjet director who thought up this new experience – despite running the service he likes to get out and pilot the boat himself a few days a week, and who can blame him. It’s a real thrill as a passenger so it must be even more fun behind the wheel.
If you want to see what other people are saying about it, why not check out the Thamesjet Twitter feed – of course you can also follow their parent company City Cruises if powering along the river at high speed just isn’t your thing!