Diamond Jubilee Pageant: Family to row on the Thames

Messing About
Image caption Messing About is being bedecked in bunting for the Diamond Jubilee Pageant

A couple have turned their kitchen into a makeshift boathouse and are spending weekends practising royal salutes ahead of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Messing About is one of the smallest boats taking part in the Diamond Jubilee Pageant of 1,000 boats along the Thames on 3 June.

Owners Nicholas and Katharine Syfret from Pangbourne, Berkshire will row along with friends John and Jennifer South.

They were selected for the flotilla to represent communities along the River Thames.

Without a garage or boatyard, the Salter's Double Skiff's footboard has been laid out on the family kitchen table to be varnished ahead of the trip to London.

Sacrificing meals to make sure Messing About is shipshape for the seven-mile (11km) row in front of the Queen and tens of thousands of spectators is just one aspect of their preparations.

'Tossing oars'

With heavy rainfall in April and May raising river levels, training opportunities on the Thames around Pangbourne have been limited.

In order to practise the royal salute of "tossing oars", raising oars to the vertical in front of the Queen, the foursome have had to take the boat on a trailer to nearby Beale Park nature reserve early on Sunday mornings.

Image caption The boat has been worked on in the family kitchen

Mrs Syfret said: "The anglers looked quite bemused as we practised tossing oars, but the chaps are getting the hang of it."

The fibreglass and wood boat has been "part of the family" for 17 years.

"All our children and friend's children have spent summer weekends having picnics and rowing up and down the Thames between Goring and Pangbourne."

"We want to represent all the families who just love messing about in boats."

The boat was also called into action during the floods of 2007, rescuing Pangbourne residents who were trapped by rising river waters.

"We were a ferry for the district nurse and the poor people whose houses got flooded and weren't capable of wading so we could take them to higher ground - so we we did our bit," she said.

Messing About was named in tribute to author Kenneth Graham who lived in Pangbourne and whose Wind in the Willows stories were inspired by the same stretch of river where the friends regularly row.

Despite donning striped blazers and decorating the boat with bunting for the jubilee pageant , Mrs Syfret is under no illusions about how tough a physical challenge it will be for such a small boat.

Image caption The pageant route is approximately 7 miles (11 km) long.

They have taken part in the 23-mile Great River Race over the past decade so have experience of rowing in "the full-on Thames" as well as the more tranquil waters of Berkshire and Oxfordshire.

"The cox has to be very aware. It's the concentration of keeping your pace of four knots and watching out - you don't want to smash into the pillar of a bridge

"It will be a once in a lifetime moment for all of us aboard Messing About, as part of this glorious moment in our rich royal history," said Mrs Syfret.

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