Or, as this 1963 copy of the Launch Digest puts it, ‘This booklet has been compiled with the object of helping launch owners to enjoy the river without inadvertently breaking the Conservators’ byelaws…you should study it carefully.’
Knowing that with launch ownership came launch responsibility, new owners could then note best how to avoid incurring the Conservators’ wrath.
For example, any explosion on board your launch had to be reported to the Conservancy offices within 48 hours. If repainting your launch after an explosion, plain lettering only could be used to mark the name, which had to be in a contrasting colour to the bow and stern. And once you were shipshape again, you were not permitted to go faster than 7 knots.
The Conservators – who had been created in 1866 to succeed an even earlier body – finally gave up their launch licensing duties in 1974, but the boats that met their specifications are still a feature of the Thames. These days they change hands for substantial sums of money.