Traditional ‘swelling’ process readies Windermere rowboats

They are currently submerged in water close to the shore of Windermere at Bowness, getting ready to carry passengers later this month.

Operated by Windermere Lake Cruises, the fleet of about 55 rowboats, with many dating back to the 1930s, are a popular attraction.

Operations manager at Windermere Lake Cruises, Nick Thompson said: “We give them a lot of care and attention over the winter months to make sure they are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

“But that conservation work means they are out of water and in our work sheds where they dry out, the planks shrink and they develop leaks.”

To reverse the effects of the winter storage, these boats are put through a ‘swelling’ process.

The Westmorland Gazette: The rowboats are being prepared to carry passengers this visitor seasonThe rowboats are being prepared to carry passengers this visitor season (Image: Windermere Lake Cruises)

Mr Thompson said: “Before they return to passenger duty for the main visitor season, we put them through this traditional process of ‘swelling’.

“By submerging them in water, the wood expands and naturally closes any gaps.

“They will be left submerged for about a week before we pump them out and see if the swelling has been fully effective.”

Once the boats are watertight and floating, they are fitted with their floorboards, footrests and seating and finally checked by inspectors who license them for operation.

The historic wooden rowboats of Windermere are a fan-favourite with visitors to the Lake District, thanks largely to their long history.

Mr Thompson said: “They used to be very much a first-class way of travelling on the lake.

“Victorian ladies would be rowed across Windermere to the area known as Strawberry Gardens to enjoy an afternoon tea. In those days the boats were very plush with lovely cushions to make the ride extra luxurious.”

Passengers can start enjoying the rowboats again from Saturday, March 23, when the boats will be back in service and the full visitor season begins.

The same day, the company’s traditional historic ‘steamers’ Tern, Teal and Swan will return to full passenger service, along with the full range of cruises, on England’s largest natural lake.

Cruises can be combined with visits to other popular attractions like the Lakeland Motor Museum at Backbarrow.

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