COXING AT GREENWICH

Talking of our stretch of tideway navigating a four either to Blackwall Point for a flood row or Millwall for an ebb row was an inexperienced coxswains nightmare, fortunately the old heavies had room in the stern sheets(pronounced starn) for an experienced cox’un as passenger, usually one of the old watermen Bill Smith or Bob Storey who would instruct the novice cox’un on crossing the fairway under the stern of the huge ships passing up and down to the wharves and docks up river, or how to position the four to allow the wash to pass under without swamping the boat. The numbers of barge roads, (moorings) were also potential hazards and a danger to unwary cox’uns. A cox’un soon learned the correct positioning of the boat to avoid the dangers of being washed under the barge swim. There was also a great deal more respect shown by tug and ship helmsmen by easing down when passing racing craft, a friendly wave from the wheelhouse and similar response from the cox’un sealed the deal, the skipper then opened up and the wash missed the racing boat completely. Respect for other river users that would be welcomed and appears to be sorely missing nowadays.

Around about the end of the fifties the old heavy boats were coming to the end of the line, up river boat builders were amazed that these boats still existed, repairs that could not be carried out by the members resulted in the boats being ignominiously loaded onto a lorry and delivered to a park in Barking where they were repaired along with the hire boats that used the lake in the park.

A decision was made to start replacing the fleet, meanwhile the main source of revenue, club racing, had to continue to finance the new boats.