In 1993, while we were between jobs, we enjoyed perhaps the greatest vacation of our lives. We hired a boat and motored about on the Thames River, upstream of London. Our beautiful boat was the Lady Alexandra, a 38-foot river cruiser with all the amenities. We had planned to hire a smaller boat, but there was a mix-up in the reservations. The result of the mix-up? We two spent the week on a boat large enough to sleep at least eight!
The weather was pretty typical for England. For the seven days spent on the water, we had two perfect, sunny days, two days of pouring rain, and three days of intermittent rain and sun. This all took place in mid-to-late May, during the "shoulder season" before the boat rental prices escalated out of our price range. The English spring was in full bloom: lambs were jumping in the fields, trees were blooming, and all of the river birds had their babies in tow. We felt like we had stepped into a couple of well-known books: The Wind in the Willows and Three Men in a Boat.
The scenery along the Thames is right out of a story-book. There are many famous large estates that front the river, as well as small boat-houses, and the occasional pub. We did visit some of the pubs from the water, which adds a different dimension to that classic institution. With the scenery and the slow pace (no more than 4 MPH), you have a very relaxing vacation. We were especially impressed by an encounter with different speeds. We were drifting at about 3 MPH under a bridge built in 1839, while an InterCity train ran overhead at 125 MPH and the Concorde flew over our heads just after her takeoff!
Our cruiser, Lady Alexandra offered cooking facilities and plenty of room, so we tended to eat on board for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, it depended on our location. When staying in the country, we took care of our own dinner. When in or near a town, we walked over to a pub and enjoyed the food, drink, and fun of that (still) British experience.
The "Lady A" was pretty easy to handle. There is an engine governer that keeps the speed below 4 MPH, and we had experience from boating on the Mississippi River. Added to that, we had recently taken U.S. Coast Guard boating training. Getting in and out of locks just requires care and slowing down. The drops in the locks are not large, so just a little line handling is needed to deal with it. We were boating early in the "season", so had only a few busy locks to deal with.