The Main Hall

Start your journey in the Main Hall.

Here you can orientate yourself in the building, admiring the hanging Flotilla display over your head.

At the heart of this display is the enormous Thames steam launch, Waterlily, a memory of an age of elegance, idleness and long, sunny, summer days. Dating from 1866, she was one of the earliest such pleasure craft on the Thames and helped set the trend for the Edwardian era that followed. Fricka, a restored Fife yacht from the same era is a gentleman’s sailing yacht to set the heart racing. Alongside these are a Grand Banks cod fishing boat – not a boat for the feint-hearted – and the very first Mirror dinghy which went on to become one of the most popular classes of all time.

Beyond, in the Survival Zone is Edna Mair, the tiny dinghy in which the Robertson family – five people and a friend – survived for 38 days in the Pacific after their yacht had been holed. This is one of the great ocean survival stories of modern times. Another display covers the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s trip in the James Caird. Or experience a life-raft or RNLI rescue lifeboat.

At the far end of the Main Hall you can see shipwrights at work restoring and building boats in our Boatbuilding Workshop. Using interactive displays you can discover how a boat moves through deep water, design your own craft or test your skill at crossing an expanse of water.