Time and Tide

The river trip from Westminster to Hampton Court is unique. At 35 kilometres (22 miles) one-way, it is the longest regular scheduled boat service available from London. On a fiercely tidal river such as The Thames it is difficult and sometimes impossible to provide an exact time of arrival. The timetable on this website accounts for all predictable factors and is able to give a best estimate of journey times. It is worth listing here the factors taken into consideration when preparing our timetables, as many of the delays en route are the very features that render this trip incomparable.

There are two tides a day on the Thames it takes approximately five hours to come in and little over seven hours to go out. Each high tide occurs slightly more than twelve hours later than the last, commanded by the gravitational pull of the moon the tide advances.

Near to the new and full moons (about every two weeks) we have spring tides when there is a rise and fall between low tide and high tide of up to 8m (26'). Seven to eight days after spring tides we have neap tides where the tide is neither as low nor as high, then the difference between low water and high water is around 5m (16').

Unfortunately, tidal predictions cannot allow for other factors such as wind in the estuary and land water from the hills, that all have a bearing on the time and height of tide.

The most obvious way the tide affects vessels is direction. Traveling along with the tide; upstream with the flood and downstream with the ebb, is more efficient than pushing against the ebb going up and the flood going down. To illustrate, the Kingwood can complete the journey from Westminster to Kew in 55 minutes with the tide yet the same journey takes 90 minutes against the tide.