Raven's Ait


Raven's Ait

Location map
Greater London
lat=51.397894
long=-0.310064
width=180
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caption="Raven's Ait shown within Greater London"
(gbmapping|TQ175679)

Raven's Ait is an island in the Thames at Surbiton, in Surrey, in the reach above Teddington Lock. It is situated at the upstream end of Queen's Promenade [http://www.kingston.gov.uk/browse/environment/land_and_premises/recreation_sites/queens_promenade.htm] where it departs from the river and opposite [http://www.thamessailingclub.co.uk/A96C9/Home.aspx Thames Sailing Club] , home of the Thames A Class Raters [http://www.thamessailingclub.co.uk/E0760/Raters/Rater_Descriptions.aspx] at gbmapping|TQ175679. Access is from Queen's Promenade, by ferry.

Level with the upstream accommodation block is an area on the Surrey bank that the locals used as a car park, but which is actually an old draw dock.

History

Long owned or leased by The Navy League, then the charity responsible for the Sea Cadet Corps and the Girls' Nautical Training Corps, Raven's Ait was the home of TS Neptune, a major sailing, canoeing and boating training establishment until The Navy League invested instead in TS Royalist a small Brig.

Until 1970 the buildings were the familiar wooden clad "Sea Cadet Blue", with very old style dormitories and a very naval discipline. In 1971 a major rebuilding operation started, with the entire accommodation except the superintendent's house rebuilt by Haymills Construction. That rebuilding replaced all the old wooden buildings with today's island buildings, which are nowadays a conference and wedding centre [www.ravensait.co.uk] .

During the rebuilding a small number of activities were carried on downstream of Kingston upon Thames, at the Albany Park sailing base opposite The Royal Canoe Club, with instructors commuting daily by boat.

Activities while A Navy League Watersports Venue

Raven's Ait was accredited by the Royal Yachting Association and by the British Canoe Union to conduct training in their respective disciplines. It also provided a semi-permanent mooring for "Sparkle", a catamaran designed to be sailed by persons of restricted physical ability and mobility.

Motor Boating Skills

The boats were almost all naval stock, and all diesel powered:
*a 25 foot naval cutter (Twin cylinder diesel), centre pseudo-cabin housing engine
*several "Viking" open tenders (single cylinder air cooled diesel) with poor handling
*workboat with a cuddy, acquired from Haymills Construction after the rebuild, similar to the Vikings, but with better handling
*"Number 8", a small clinker built smart, stubby, open launch, about 16' LOA with relatively low freeboard (Single cylinder Lister air cooled diesel

Pulling (rowing)

Basic pulling skills were taught, usually to Sea Cadets, either in the ASC or in one of a pair of admiralty whalers (a clinker built pulling boat of approximately 28' LOA, slim beam, designed for naval pulling races, but originally a practical ship's boat)

ailing

Boats were a mixture of typical naval stock and somewhat strengthened "ordinary" dinghies.

There were the following fleets:
* ASCs - the "Admiralty Sailing Craft" 16 foot gaff rigged dinghy, sometimes known as the GRP16, moored alongside the island. [http://www.coventryseacadets.org.uk/Activities/act_pul.htm] [http://www.bossoms.com/html/afc.php]
* Bosuns, allegedly able to be swung out from Her Majesty's ships on a torpedo hoist in the middle of any ocean
* Cadets, which were being phased out
* Coypus, a redoubtable short, fat, slow gaff rigged dinghy
* GP14s, heavily strengthened
* Fireballs, kept at Island Barn Reservoir for trapeze training
* Puffin Pacers, a light Jack Holt design made by Polycell Prout with a tendency to scoop up a large volume of water over the leeward quarter when hardening up

When the wind was too strong for novices in the early 1970s, the instructors had the habit of putting absurd rigs on small boats and terrifying themselves. One such was a Puffin Pacer with a Fireball mast and sails. Another was a Schooner rigged ASC

chools which used Raven's Ait for watersports under the Navy League

* Epsom College
* Stockwell Manor

ee also

*Islands in the River Thames

External links

* [http://www.ravensait.co.uk/ Raven's Ait]
* [http://www.freewebs.com/sealionscouts/ 1st Surbiton Sea Scouts]


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