Long Tom

Regent's Canal Sight-Seeing Boat


Long Tom is a passenger sightseeing boat jointly owned by London Canal Museum and Angel Community Canal Boat Trust

A little history

Blue boat on canalside mooring

Long Tom was once called White Swan and then Blue Swan. We have little information about its past but in late 2022 the idea emerged from conversations between Angel Community Canal Boat Trust and London Canal Museum that we should together buy a boat. Around the same time Blue Swan was offered for sale in Lancashire.

London Canal Museum had for some years operated tunnel boat trips from the museum through Islington Tunnel and back, using chartered boats from other charities in London. However this was becoming more and more dificult as there were too few boats and the cost of chartering them was sometimes too much to enable the trips to break even. Angel Community Canal Boat Trust (known more briefly as Angel Boat) has for many years provided affordable boating opportunities to community groups using their full-length narrowboat Angel II. Angel II is equipped for residentail trips and that lessens its availbility for other group in the summer. Angel Boat wanted another boat to enable them to offer more opportunities to get afloat. For both organisations the purchase of a boat was a big step and neither could be certain of success. The idea of a shared boat meant that the risks involved were shared and reduced and the capital cost shared too.

Angel boat has many years of experience operating canal boats and a full-time skipper is employed, who is also qualified to assess skippers' competence and award the Certificate of Community Boat Management, a qualification that is widely accepted as demonstrating competence to skipper a passenger boat for 12 passengers. London Canal Museum did not have similar experience or capacity as an organisation but brought different strengths to the partnership. The museum had the proven ability to sell tickets for public trips, nd an ideal starting-place for boat trips combined with a museum visit. We also had the volunteer team that could be expanded to provide guided commentary, an important feature of our trips as public education is the museum's charitable object. So the two organisations brought different capabilities to the partnership that complemented each other.

The boat that is now Long Tom was advertised for sale from its canalside mooring in rural Lancashire on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal,so early one morning the Chairs of the two London charities boarded a train for Liverpool on a mission to inspect it. It was used for cream tea cruises but changes in the owners' personal circumstances had led to closure of the business. No boat is ever perfect but this boat had many of the qualities we wanted. It was the right length for ease of navigation, had great viewing windows for passengers, and was in generally good condition. The access steps were a little awkward to use but other than that there were only minor things that we felt the need to fix.

Next step was a surveyor's survey, which meant moving the boat to a suitable boatyard. The results were satisfactory so we moved on to the final hurdle - the heal test. This is a stability test and answers the question as tto whether the boat would tip over if 12 passengers and 2 crew all stood on one side. The chances of this happening are remote, of course, but it is a test we needed to do. It was done by hiring weights on a very wet winter's day and assembling them on one side under supervision of a surveyor to simulate the situation.

Boat on supports in boatyard rear view

These tests completed, negotiations were rapidly concluded and the deal was done. Transport was by road from Liverpool to Watford with some canal travel at each end, and at a boatyard in Watford various maintenance work was carried out and the name was changed to Long Tom.

The Name Long Tom

The name comes from a story told by an oral history interviewee. He claimed that the Regent's Canal policeman who chased boys off the canal when they went there to pay, in those days not permitted, was known by the boys as "Long Tom". so Long Tom is nothing to do with the length of the boat, which isn't very long at 45 feet, but a story from the social history of the canal. It cannot be verified as historical fact!

Long Tom Today

Boat interior with tables and chairs either side of aisle

Long Tom is shared between the two owners who both have use of the boat for roughly half the week. Long Tom does scheduled public boat trips on Thursdays Fridays and Sundays for London Canal Museum although evening charter is also possible for private groups on those days. On some Wednesdays Long Tom provides short trips for families on the museum's Family Fun Days and on some Wednesdays there are other public boat trips from the museum. On other days Long Tom is used by Angel Boat for community group trips and private charters.

All trips are managed by a qualified skipper. A team of skippers is available, some of whom are also London Canal Museum team members. Twelve passengers can be carried with a crew of no more than two or eleven passengers and up to three crew.

boat in rainy weather in lock with buildings behind

Facilities on board

Long Tom has a toilet, but passengers are encouraged to use shore-based facilities whenever possible as the on-board toilet has limited capacity and has to be emptied as necessary.

The boat has a fully-seated layout although for private charter tables can be folded away. It is equipped with an electric water urn for making hot drinks, a very small galley, and a microwave oven. Windows are large and can be opened in good weather. In winter weather there is background heating but warm clothing is still reccommended. Access is via narrow stairs with a turn.

Getting On Board

For private use of Long Tom for your group see the Angel boat website

To book a seat on a public trip from London Canal Museum see the LCM Boat Trips page.

Drawing of boat in logo format