What We Row and Where We Go

GYC has the free loan of a Thames Waterman Cutter 'Cito' which is the property of the Information Technologists' London Livery Company and of a Jollyboat 'Jubilee Gal’, lent by Mr George Tutt.  GYC members row about every two weeks, usually on a Sunday.

We often row up the Thames to Tower Bridge and up Bow Creek to Channelsea Island and Three Mills. In most months we take a different trip; this can be round the Isle of Dogs, into Greenland Dock or the Royal Docks, down to Erith, to the Olympic Park, Deptford Creek, South Bank, Victoria Park or Springfield Park.    

We moor up at favourite nooks to take a break whilst the tide turns to carry us home. We can in this way cover 13 miles in half a day. It is a great way to get to know the river, to see London with a new outlook from so close to the river, or to see the wildlife in the quiet waters of Bow Creek (herons, plovers, a kingfisher) and even the busy waters of the Thames (seals, a porpoise, cormorants).  If you are new to the club, it is a way of getting to know members (10% of us have now rowed in Cito, if only the once).

Cito is 10m long, with six oars in line. Rowers sit on fixed seats; there is a cox in the stern to navigate and steer, and room for one passenger. Jubilee Gal has four oars. Rowers maintain the boats and we collect a £5 cash contribution from each person  on board to cover equipment and maintenance. No experience is required for rowers and no special gear is needed. Everyone aboard must be able to swim and we all wear a buoyancy aid. These can be borrowed.

Rowing does exercise, they say, 85% of the body's muscles (so where are the rest?) which results the next day in a sense of general well-being as if you'd been swimming. Our crews are richly mixed as to gender, age and ability.

Bookings are made by email on a first-come basis for members, with any empty places available in the last week before a trip being opened to a guest or visitor. For bookings or general enquiries about rowing, please email



Rowing Practicalities

Practical Matters for Rowing trips with Greenwich Yacht Club - information for new rowers - 2017

  1. Safety . All crew members must be able to swim. All crew members wear Buoyancy Aids when we are afloat on the Thames or on Bow Creek. Since we began rowing seven years ago no-one has fallen overboard and we have never yet been swamped or capsized. We are a vulnerable craft on a busy waterway. When moving about the boat, keep your body weight down and keep at least one hand to help you move. When afloat, only one person at a time should stand up. Buoyancy aids can be borrowed from the club. The Thames is a dirty river and you should avoid handling unwrapped food with wet hands.
  2. What to bring; your buoyancy aid ; a pair of old leather gloves ; a light waterproof; an extra top ; anything to eat or drink ( no alcohol on board, please) ; Your £5 cash contribution to the rowers’ kitty. The kitty pays for the maintenance of the boat, any canal tolls and for improvements to equipment. Short ‘deck’ wellies , yachting shoes or trainers. Thick socks in cold weather. We usually avoid wet feet. The seats are fixed and we provide sitting pads for all.
  3. When we come and go; Each trip has a meet-up time when all crew should have arrived and be ready for putting the boat into the water. After the trip, we all pull the boat up the slipway and replace the cover before going home.The whole trip takes about four hours. Bookings are made or confirmed by email to  Club members have first choice of booking but visitors and guests can go on a provisional list. When there is less than a week to go before a trip, members’, visitors’ and guests’ bookings are then taken in order of receipt. We welcome guests and visitors for three trips but we ask that you give your club member account number when you book for your fourth trip.
  4. New to rowing? Sit facing backwards. The oar dips in to just above the white painted section at a slight angle ‘/ ’ to keep it under water. Pull the oar handle back, starting with your back , finishing with your arms. Leave the last foot or two to come back without pulling. This allows the oar, which is flexible, to straighten itself out before leaving the water- and that reduces your chance of ‘catching a crab’. If the oar does decide to stay in the water once or twice and push you off your seat backwards , just let it happen and then start again . Your rowing rhythm is taken from the ‘stroke’ oar who sits nearest to the back end of the boat and keeping together makes your efforts much more efficient. Don’t hold the oar too tightly. After a while, it begins to come naturally  as your limbs and hands become used to the motion .
  5. Instructions; come forward means lean forward and put your oar blade above the water; ready means put it in the water and row means to pull the oar handle backwards as far as you can, in time with the other rowers. Easy means finish the stroke you are doing and then stop. Back means put your oar in the water at right angles to the boat and push the handle away from you, the ‘wrong way’. Instructions to individual rowers are given by their name (not oar number); or as Port Side and Starboard Side, when those rowers act together. The instruction ‘hold’ means all rowers to place their oar gently into the water at right angles to the boat and to hold it there. This will slow the boat down. The instruction may be given just to ‘starboard (or Port) side hold. This is will both slow the boat down and turn it.  ‘Hold hard’ is the signal for an emergency stop . All oars must be put into the water and held there, simultaneously . All of these instructions will be demonstrated on board  and practised in a safe place.
  6. Terms; the right hand side of the boat when you face the way the boat goes is the starboard and the left hand side is the port ( that means it doesn’t matter which way you are facing , the word means the same to all of us ). The boat’s own front end is the bow and its back end is the stern. The bronze Y for your oar is the rowlock ( its shaft is greased) and the things hung over the side to prevent damage are the fenders. The rope at the front end is the bow line.
  7. Both boats carry two paddles, a boathook, & a pole. These are to push the boat out into the water . The oars’ blades are hand-carved , fragile and expensive and are never used for this, though the other end, the handle, can be used that way if necessary. And we carry a horn, first aid, an anchor, spare rope, an emergency ladder, hand pump, 4 buckets, crew’s own mobile phones and one VHF radio. Each boat has its own trolley for launching and bringing out .
  8. Destinations. We usually row with the tide; to the Tower, or for a gentler row, we go up Bow Creek to Three Mills .We can enter part of the canal and dock systems, or row through London. We have been to Richmond, Woolwich, round the Isle of Dogs & to Victoria Park, the Royal Docks , Deptford Creek the Olympic Park and Greenland Dock. We have been downstream to Erith ; and up the Lee Navigation to Springfield Park in Hackney.
  9. Passenger/Reserve role. Bookings are taken from members on a first-booked, first-taken basis and the email system gives the exact order, time and date of each booking. A seventh booking is often taken for each trip as passenger/reserve. This person has first call on any vacant place and will get a row by rotating the passenger role with other crew members.
  10. Coxing. If you would like to try your hand at coxing Cito, please let me know as we need more alternate coxes. The job requires experience in navigating on the Thames and working with a crew.