Cruising the Ouse – with YorkBoat

By: shortfinals

Dec 19 2013

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: canals, England, ships


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You can make a strong case for Europe’s rivers being classified as one of the driving forces of civilization on that continent. Involved in everything from migration to trade, defence to food production, the local rivers spread everything from pottery to religion at a time when much of the land was covered by thick, dangerous forests. It is not by accident that some of the most significant European cities have been built on a river. Over the millennia, as well as being used to mark political boundaries and supporting long-distance trade, local peoples began to use them for leisure purposes. Nowadays, it is common to see long, narrow ships from such companies as Viking River Cruises, Avalon Waterways and Uniworld River Cruises making their stately progress up and down the Rhine, Danube and the Rhone on long-distance voyages.

Great Britain’s rivers are not long – the River Severn is the longest at 220 miles – but they still play an important part in the economic and cultural life of the country. The Ouse, one of several rivers bearing that name, which derives from the Celtic term ‘Usa’, meaning ‘water’, flows through the centre of the magnificent city of York. Its tributaries including the Nidd (see previous diary), Don and Ure have drained huge swathes of the North of England, particularly the North York Moors. Another tributary, the Foss, joins the Ouse in the centre of the city, before the ouse continues on its journey towards the Humber Estuary, and the North Sea. The Romans found a Celtic settlement at the confluence of these rivers and, recognizing the strategic nature of the site, built a stationed a Legionary garrison there, and began to build a city. Eboracum, as it was known became the capital of the short-lived Roman province of Britannia Inferior in 217CE. When the Legions were withdrawn from Britannia in 410CE, the Saxons, Angles and Jutes flooded in. These Germanic tribes found the flat, fertile floodplain of the Ouse much to their liking, and Eboracum became Eoforwic.

Unfortunately, other peoples – this time from the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway – found the fertile lands just across the North Sea equally attractive. The Vikings struck at Eoforwic, and began the process which would lead to the establishment of ‘the Danelaw’ and the Scandinavian kingdom of Jorvik (875 – 954CE, with various intereggna due to English invasions). Although the Norse bands moved across country, they also used their ‘longboats’ to penetrate swiftly to places such as Repton, on the River Trent. English control of the city was short, as the successful Norman invasion in 1066, saw the imposition of the feudal system and the rise of the great ecclesiatical buildings which still grace modern York.
All this has meant that York has become one of the major centres for tourism in the whole country, and this is where ‘YorkBoat’ comes into the picture.

Here we can see one of the company’s five vessels, ‘River Palace’ (Maritime & Coastguard Agency Registered No. 483346) – the others are ‘River Prince’,’River Duke’,’River Duchess’, and ‘Captain James Cook’ – heading downriver from the just below Lendal Bridge. This is where York River Boat Cruises Ltd (which trades as ‘YorkBoat’) has one of its two landing stages; the other is at King’s Staith on the upstream side of Lendal Bridge. There is SO much to see from the river that it is hard to take it all in at any one time – the city walls, the towers of York Minster and many other churches, the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, the Museum Gardens and much much more. As well as running regular cruises during the season, the company undertakes specialist charters, and caters for wedding receptions, hen nights, birthday parties, and other private functions. They have a special reduced rate for educational cruises by school groups, and pride themselves on their dinner cruises and their BBQ Nights in summer. Every skipper is fully qualified and holds a UK Maritime Safety Agency Master Licence (as well as have passed in-house training examinations). The craft themselves are licensed by the Canal & River Trust to operate boats on the River Ouse above Naburn Lock’, and has life rafts, life rings, man-over-board recovery equipment, fire extinguishers and first aid kits; the boats are in constant VHF contact with the company office at the boatyard. Naburn Lock is the site of a weir on the Ouse, which is bypassed by a short ‘cut’, and the lock itself and the weir mark the start of tidal waters on the river.

If this were not enough, YorkBoat also operates a fleet of 8 self-drive motorboats; they are finished in the company colours of red and white and are called, naturally, ‘RedBoats’. These carry up to 8 passengers each, and are (I quote) ‘simple to operate’. The company suggests that you ‘bring along a picnic’ to enjoy whilst you are on your leisurely tour.

Right now, YorkBoats are operating their award-winning Santa Cruises, which are completely sold out (as they are every year). The package includes, ‘1 hour cruise, personalised present delivered by Santa, face painting, magic bells, refreshments, activities and lots of fun!’ I wonder what the children get?

2 comments on “Cruising the Ouse – with YorkBoat”

  1. We are big fans of river cruises and this has been added to the list 🙂


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