On Sunday 24th September the sun shone for MAABC’s outing on the Queen’s Rowbarge Gloriana, created to mark her Diamond Jubilee. Some 19 rowers and a dozen passengers assembled as per organiser Peter Robert’s instructions on the dot of 10am (well give or take 25 minutes), all successfully clad in MAA kit (though of varying era and number of layers). We were briefed on how to row her – fixed seat, square blade paddling, no buttons or gates, long strokes – and the need to be able to “toss the blades”, then we went aboard. There was much interest in the brightly gilded exterior and the more muted and subtle interior but undoubtedly the most interest was generated by the regal red loo.
We paddled off upstream at a fairly sedate rating receiving complements on our rowing from Malcolm, the QRB Events Manager. The advice about long strokes left some of us simultaneously hitting the back in front while being hit in the back from behind. Malcolm spoke about some of the events Gloriana takes part in such as HRR, the Lord Mayor’s show, and the Tudor Pull from Hampton Court to the Tower of London. He told us that the Royal Watermen hadn’t had any actual royal rowing to do for some decades before Gloriana was built, so it must have come as a bit of a shock when they when they discovered they had to row it 22 miles, albeit downstream. We discovered what a difference the stream makes – it took some 40 minutes to get from Putney Pier up to Harrods where we turned, and there was even a whisper that we were getting a little bit of help from the engine, but the return downstream to Putney took only about 15 minutes unaided. It was here, as we prepared to dock (under power) that we had to toss the blades – lift them up out of the water and hold them vertically for a photo opportunity before stowing them for landing.
It was a very interesting and fun occasion for all involved, both rowers and passengers, but it will be nice to be able to use the legs again next time!
Video and photos on the Gloriana Facebook page-