Outings: Are we nearly there?': Messing around in boats

A weekly round-up of outings for children;
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The Independent Travel
Britain is a maritime nation but Britons are often dubious about putting to sea or indeed to river, lake or canal. They feel happier when someone else's hand is on on the helm. Fortunately, there are many boat trips on which landlubbers can be press-ganged without having to wonder exactly how far away the nearest air-sea-rescue helicopter is based.

Kingswear Castle paddle steamer, Historic Dockyard, Chatham (01634 827648) This elegant craft has been given new life by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society and is now said to be Britain's only working coal-fired example. The good ship Kingswear puffs up and down the Thames, causing Tower Bridge to open when necessary. She also does a 2 1/2 hour Medway cruise on most afternoons; and there are also one-hour jaunts and a six-hour cruise into the Thames estuary. Prices from pounds 3.95 (adult) and pounds 2.95 (child) to pounds 15.95 and pounds 7.95.

Kennet Horse Boat Company, 32 West Mills, Newbury, Berks (01635 44154) Once again, horse-powered barges are slowing making their way along on the Kennet & Avon. If you're looking for racey excitement, don't start here - this is the stuff of pure, old-fashioned nostalgia. Trips start from Kintbury, which is halfway between Newbury and Hungerford, and last for an hour or more. The Company also runs somewhat faster, motorised barges, which start from Newbury Wharf. Prices: pounds 3.90 (adult), pounds 2.80 (child).

Gondola and Edwardian launches from G H Rose, Swan's Nest Boathouse, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire (01789 267073) A trip on the River Avon in one of these gondolas costs pounds 30 for a half-hour trip and there is capacity for five passengers, who are serenaded by a wind-up gramophone. Advance booking is a must. The company's venerable launches such as Britannia, built in 1906, run regularly every day from Easter to the end of October. They start at the waterfront of Bancroft Gardens next to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Prices: pounds 2 (adult); pounds 1 (child).

Coniston Launch, Castle Buildings, nr Sawrey, Ambleside, Cumbria (015394 36216) Gales permitting, the small but good ship Ruskin criss-crosses the top of Coniston Water and provides the best way to visit Brantwood House, the attractive home of the Victorian artist and writer John Ruskin. Catch her at the jetty of Coniston village, leaving at 10.30 am and hourly every day until 3 November. Also, at 2 pm on Wednesdays during September, "Conservation Cruises" chug down through Arthur Ransome country. Prices: from pounds 1.20 to pounds 6 (children half-price, dogs 40p).

Queen Boadicea II, National Waterways Museum, Llanthony Warehouse, Gloucester Docks (01452 318054). Sixty years old and a former Dunkirk "little ship", the QBII leaves Merchants Quay for trips ranging from 45 minutes to six hours. Some cruises include the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, which may be a new one on you but when it opened 170 years ago was the world's widest and deepest; 14 bridges pop up to let the ship past. Other trips go towards Tewkesbury on the aquatic motorway of the River Severn. Prices: from pounds 2.50 (adult) pounds 1.75 (child).

HMS Trincomalee, Jackson Dock, Hartlepool (01429 223193) This one is for real landlubbers. The oldest British warship afloat (1817) isn't going anywhere. At the visitors' centre don the safety helmet to protect your cranium from the low ceilings, then walk the gangplank and follow the conducted tour over the three decks. Children can let off a (simulated) broadside on the cannons. Prices: pounds 2.50 (adult), pounds 1.50 (child).

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