[Ad - we were given a free two hour boat ride in exchange for an honest review]
Ever fancied being captain of your own boat for a couple of hours? Well, you can be just that, and we had the pleasure of doing this on Monday just gone with GoBoat in Kingston. We have seen these little electric picnic boats before during a boat ride down the Regents Canal last summer. The prospect of me being captain did not bode well, I don't have great co-ordination at the best of times so the fact that the Kingston location is good for beginners sold it to me as the river is a lot wider here, so there is less chance of bumping into other river dwellers. The other two London locations are Paddington and Canary Wharf.
We parked in the Bentall Centre car park as it is just a short walk away to reach the GoBoat kiosk at Riverside Walk if you are travelling by train Kingston station is also within walking distance.
The boats can be rented for one, two or three hours in total. You do need to book online in advance to guarantee a time slot as they can get pretty busy at the weekends. The boats can seat up to eight people and they are electric (so eco-friendly) and have a picnic table in the centre so you can take some food on board. When you arrive you will have to sign a waiver, if you have under 16s with you they will be given a life jacket and then the nominated captain (who must be over 18) will be given a board with a map attached and told the rules of the river and shown the route that needs to be taken.
Our boat was called Barbara. Our instructor gave Lee a run through on how the boat works, how to steer it and we were told that there were spare life jackets and some umbrellas in the hatch if we needed them. There were five of us on board, our kids are aged 10 to 15, and in all honesty were slightly dubious about their Dad steering a boat with no experience. In their own words he's always having accidents and we'll probably fall in.
Steering a GoBoat is actually pretty simple once you've got the hang of it. There is a rudder at the back, so the captain sits on a seat at the back. Basically you have to remember to pull the handle the opposite way that you want to go (so to your left to steer right etc)
The boats travel at 4mph which gives you enough time to get to Hampton Court Palace again and back to the jetty.
Our main instructions were to keep to the right hand side of the river bank and give way to everything, there were a couple of islands to navigate which we had marked out on a little map and then once we reached Hampton Court we had to turn and head back.
Lee managed to set sail like a pro and steered us under the bridge and we set off on our merry way. Being electric, the boat was very quiet and it was a really chilled and smooth ride. The seats are plastic benches and it felt spacious enough for all of us to have a comfortable ride.
We passed by plenty of other boats from pedalos to big tourist boats, hydrofoil flite boards and sail boats. There's lots of wildlife to see along the way too including swans, mallards, Canada geese and we saw a cormorant sitting on a post.
My son is 10 and has always been nervous about water, apart from the canal boat from Little Venice to Camden and a little go at kayaking last year, this was his first little boat ride and he ended up absolutely loving it. Although children aren't allowed to be captain, he sat alongside Lee and helped out.
We made it safely back to the kiosk in our allotted 2 hour time slot having has no bumps or scrapes and went home feeling happy and fulfilled after all of that fresh air. Thank you GoBoat London, we honestly loved the experience, it is pretty costly but if there are a few adults who can split the cost between them it is well worth it.
Locations: GoBoat London (Paddington), GoBoat Kingston and GoBoat Canary Wharf
Time: 09:00 - 19:15
Price: £95 for 1 hour, £135 for two hours, and £175 for three hours.
Where to book:https://goboat.co.uk/