Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about Thompson Boat Center. If there is anything that you don’t see here, feel free to contact us.

Registration – Lesson/Program Capacity

Lessons at TBC do not require rowing experience and are limited to 1 or 2 week sessions. Programs are usually technical and recreational, requiring rowing experience, and run from 4 to 13 weeks.

Lessons at TBC cater to all individuals of different levels of rowing skill. If you believe that you should not have to take any rowing instruction you may work with a TBC instructor who will advise you as to the best course of action. TBC will rent shells to individuals who have been certified through TBC lessons or can prove rowing skills to a TBC sculling instructor. You may contact the Head of Sculling Programs at [email protected] to arrange an appointment for a check out. TBC prefers individuals with rowing experience to take a refresher lesson to familiarize themselves with the traffic pattern and hazards of the upper Potomac River.

Coxswains are now required to pay for program participation but at a reduced rate.

TBC’s on-water season program typically runs from March to mid-November each year and lessons are given from April to September. Lesson sign-up begins in March.

No. All registrations must be done online. Click here to see activities available at Thompson Boat Center.

The registration page will indicate whether a class or program is full, please check there first. You may also contact the boat house by e-mail: [email protected]

No. Rowing classes at TBC are extremely popular and each class has a finite capacity determined by coaching and equipment availability. We can only recommend that you periodically check to see if someone has dropped out of the class in which you wish to enroll.

TBC’s goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable rowing experience for all. We keep this goal in mind as we establish capacity limits for programs. Once a program hits its maximum enrollment, adding more participants would create a shortage of equipment and compromise the coaches’ ability to conduct their program safely and effectively. We’re excited that our programs are gaining popularity, but in most cases, we must limit program size.

The Junior programs at Thompson Boat Center have no official affiliation with local schools or clubs. Often, coaches of school teams rowing out of TBC are on the TBC coaching staff. TBC programs are open to ANYONE; however, spaces are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.


Lessons at TBC do not require rowing experience and are limited to 1 or 2 week sessions. Programs are usually technical and recreational, requiring rowing experience, and run from 4 to 13 weeks.

Full refunds will be provided to anyone withdrawing from a class at least 48 hours in advance. A 75% refund will be provided to anyone withdrawing at least 24 hours before the start of a class. All other requests for refunds are at managements’ discretion. No refunds are provided after the second day of a class.

For lessons such as Beginning Sculling, TBC requires mandatory attendance during Monday and Tuesday of each new session. We established this policy to ensure that all participants are familiar with basic boat handling techniques and safety concerns before they launch onto the river. Additionally, we require that participants attend at least 80% of the program’s sessions. If you cannot attend the first week of any given session, or know you will not be able to meet the minimum attendance requirement, please register for a lesson/program at another date or time.

Unfortunately, due to coaching and equipment limitations, we cannot allow participants to attend programs other than those in which they are confirmed participants. Absences may not be made up by attending another section of your program.

A junior is a competitor who will not attain the age of 19 during the season year, or who is and has been continuously enrolled in secondary school as a full time student seeking a diploma. A competitor’s age is determined as of December 31.

Refresher Sculling and Junior Programs will occasionally practice on weekends.

Kayaks and Canoes may be rented for the day but must remain on the Potomac River from Memorial Bridge to Chain Bridge. Shells are rented by the hour or you may use a row pass.

Weather, Apparel, Amenities, etc.

Yes —Instructional programs at TBC meet rain or shine as scheduled. If lightning, wind or other weather factors are severe enough, participants will not be permitted on the water, and will have an alternative indoor instructional class — but class will not be cancelled. If you feel the weather prevents you from safely getting to TBC, please let your coach know you will not be attending class.

The basic guidelines are these: LAYERS — dress appropriately for the weather, including a windbreaker or Gore-Tex shell if necessary, but make sure you can shed layers when you begin to warm up on the water. DIRTY — your rowing clothes will get dirty. If you have shoes, pants, anything that can’t get dirty — don’t wear it to the boathouse. COMFY and SNUG — your clothing should allow you to move freely and be comfortable. Baggy pants, shorts, and shirts, however, tend to get stuck in the sliding seat upon which you will row. Your best bet is a pair of shorts or leggings similar to cycling pants, and a shirt that can be tucked in.

Yes. Shower and locker room use is restricted to slip holders and rowing lesson/program participants. We advise all rowers to bring a lock and use lockers on a daily basis to ensure security of their personal items. TBC is not responsible for items lost or stolen from the boathouse. Although rare, we have had instances of theft of items left out in the locker room and lobby areas. There are keypad locks on all locker room doors, the staff will provide you with the code. Please take measures to protect your belongings.

A limited number of storage racks are available for single sculls, kayaks and canoes. Rack space is assigned from a waiting list; at present, there is at least a 1-2 year wait. Our storage is reserved for annual contracts only. Learn more about Boat Storage.

Bike and Boat Rental

No. We cannot hold any rental equipment. Rental is first-come, first-serve.

No. TBC rents equipment by the hour or by the day. Three hours or more is considered “day rate.” All equipment must be returned two hours before closing time.

No. Thompson Boat Center motorboats are used as safety and coaching vessels. All other motorboats belong to the rowing teams that use TBC for storage.

Rowing passes are for customers who wish to rent TBC rowing singles and double shells on a regular basis. Currently shell rental is $16.00/hr. per person. For a $155 (plus tax) rowing pass you receive 11 rows per person, for a $195 (plus tax) pass you receive 17 rows per person giving a significant savings for frequent rowers.

The launch window for rowpass users is significantly larger than for daily renters. The rowpass launch policy is as follows:


Click here to determine the sunrise/sunset time.

Passes may be purchased at the front desk and require a certification card as proof of single shell rowing skill. Passes are only valid within the year they are purchased, no refunds for unused pass outings, absolutely no exceptions.

General/Office Questions

Each customer’s call is important to us at TBC. The facility is equipped with two phone lines to handle all calls from rowing and rental customers. A voicemail recording does not mean we are ignoring you! Usually we’re busy answering others’ questions. Our Web site and voicemail are designed to help answer your questions, but customers are encouraged to leave messages when they haven’t found the information they need. The office staff is prompt about returning calls, and barring extenuating circumstances, can usually answer your questions within the same business day. Leaving a daytime and evening number increases our chances of returning your call efficiently.

For emergency situations, you can call 911 from the main lobby phone. GW hospital is just down the street.

Yes. Our rental staff is very busy on weekends from March to September and our rowing programs staff usually spends spring weekends administering local Potomac River competitions. If you are calling for information, please feel free to leave messages, with the understanding that we will attend to them the following Monday.

No. TBC does not rent out the facility.