Today sees the launch of Pleasance Ahoy: Tall Tales from the Riverbank, a 'comedy relay' of free pop-up gigs taking place along British canals and rivers between London and Edinburgh.

The narrowboat begins its six-week journey this afternoon, aiming to arrive in the Scottish capital in time for the start of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 3 August. The project is part of the London 2012 Festival.

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival, will launch the boat this afternoon. She will be joined by comedian Jenny Eclair.

Comedians, both big names and newcomers, will travel with the five-person crew for different parts of the journey before doing gigs at venues along the route. The narrowboat itself will function as a stage at points, with comedians performing to audiences from the roof of the vessel.

The first gig of the tour will take place at the Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice this evening. The compere is Tim FitzHigham and the line-up is Cariad Lloyd (who received the nomination for best newcomer at the 2011 Edinburgh Comedy Award), Sam Simmons, Cardinal Burns, Idiots of Ants, Pat Cahill, John Kearns and NewsRevue. There will be a launch party this evening.

The next scheduled event, which features Reginald D Hunter, Jarred Christmas, Rob Beckett, Matt Rees and Tim FitzHigham (compere), will take place at the Bounty in Cock Marsh on 2 July. Further gigs will be announced on the project's website and Twitter feed. Events are free, but ticketed.

As the narrowboat makes it way north via Cookham, Henley-on-Thames, Oxford, Stone, Manchester and Glasgow (the Manchester-Glasgow leg of the journey is made via land, with a new vessel completing the final stage), the crew, led by Skipper (and stand-up comic Nicola Redman), along with the other comedians involved, will be blogging, video blogging and podcasting.

On 12 August there will be a closing ceremony at Cargo at Edinburgh Quay, further details of which are yet to be announced. The crew will continue to podcast from the boat until the end of the Edinburgh Fringe on 27 August.

Redman, who spent three months last summer touring the UK's inland waterways by narrowboat with Mikron Theatre Company said: “The canals are a really fantastic part of our heritage and they're getting lost amongst crazy day-to-day life. This is a great way to get young people involved and down to the canal to see how beautiful it is and how much fun you can have there. You can also see some amazing comedians”.