Becoming an Apprentice 

At Waterman’s Hall we facilitate the development of competent and highly skilled river craft Masters and crew who pride themselves on ability to navigate in close quarter situations on the UKs, if not Europe’s, busiest stretch of Inland Waterway.   In recent years there were nearly 10 million passenger journeys on the Thames and over 5 million tonnes of cargo transported on the tideway. Nowhere else on Inland waterway navigation does there exist such a mix of freight and passenger vessel activity, add to the fact that leisure vessels, cruise liners and shipping from around the world share our river, 30 bridges cross the Thames obstructing the river traffic and that the tidal characteristics can restrict our ability to move from place to place, so you can see navigation can be quite a challenge.

Currently, the Watermen’s Company offer a training programme for anyone aged 16 years and above to obtain their Tier 1 Level 2 Boatmaster’s Licence and specialist endorsements, including the Thames Watermen’s Local Knowledge Endorsement and a comprehensive knowledge of the tidal river Thames from Teddington to the Estuary.  Once an apprentice has received their training modules, they are encouraged to attend the study sessions at Watermen’s Hall in preparation for their examinations.   Some training topics covered will include chartwork, passage planning and ship management.

Apprentices are encouraged to have a Master (a Journeyman Freeman) who is able to mentor/assist them through their training.  Once they have completed their apprenticeship and have successfully gained their Boatmaster’s Licence with two endorsements, they will be invited to obtain their Freedom of the Company and become a Journeyman Freeman themselves.


All those that pass out of our training programme will have at least 5 years of experience afloat, of which at least 2 years is on the River Thames. This has been the Company’s standard for decades and continues to date.   Those that are bound between the ages of 16 and 18 and complete a 5-year apprenticeship.

Becoming Free in their early 20’s entitles young Freeman to race in the prestigious Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, competitors have to be under the age of 28 years to participate in what is the oldest boat race in the world.

We continue to develop and offer training in traditional skills such as barge driving and through the activities of our Lighterage Committee, we are able to offer regular local knowledge voyages covering the whole area and sea going Sail Training opportunities in the waters around the UK.

If you are interested in becoming an apprentice, please get in touch by calling Kelly Lesurf our Membership & Outreach Manager on 020 7283 2373.

Binding and Admission

What is Binding?

An official Company Court ceremony at which apprentices enter into a commitment with the Company to serve an agreed period of time as an apprentice. The timeframe is likely to between 2 to 5 years (depending on age and experience) and the Master will contribute by committing themselves to help and assist their apprentice.

What is Admission?

An official Company Court ceremony when an apprentice, who has completed apprenticeship, received their Tier 1 Level 2 Boatmaster’s Licence with at least two specialist endorsements and having been examined by the Company for their local knowledge, are admitted to the Freedom of the Company.  In addition, they are able to receive their Watermen’s and/or Lightermen’s Certificate/s.

For further information or guidance, please contact Kelly

Newly admitted Freemen in the Court Room (below)


Training Surgeries and NEWS

Our Training Manager, Tony Mason can be contacted at [email protected] or call him on 020 7283 2373 with any training queries you may have.

We also have our Membership & Outreach Manager, Kelly Lesurf who is your go to contact for any questions regarding Bindings, Examinations & Admissions, river trips and rowing events.  Contact Kelly or call her on 0207 929 7452

Interested in being Bound?
Contact Kelly Lesurf or call 020 7929 7452 to receive an application pack.

Already Bound?

If you are bound and have over a year’s experience on the river, which includes over 150 days work afloat, then it’s time to think seriously about studying to get your Tier 1 Level 2 Boatmaster’s Licence.  If you meet the criteria and are interested in sitting our Study Entry Exam then please contact Tony Mason [email protected] or call 020 7283 2373.

River Trips
Several River trips are organised during the year to improve your knowledge whilst meeting some of your fellow apprentices and Freemen of the Company.  Keep up to date with all our events via our social media platforms and this website.

Already have your Tier 1 Level 2 BML and Endorsements?

Freedom of the Company is available on examination to apprentices who have completed their time and hold a Tier 1 Level 2 BML, with both a passenger or towing endorsement and the Thames Watermen’s local knowledge endorsement. Check the Company Calendar for our upcoming Examining Committee date.