When Andy and Bonny sold their bed and breakfast business on the Isle of Wight their next venture was even closer to the water. Andy found a 1923 Luxe Motor barge cruising the Shannon as a hotel boat and thought it would be a great idea to bring her to the Thames. And that is exactly what he did over the following 18 months finally docking in Henley on Thames in 2005. Thus began a refit and then more than a decade of entertaining 12 guests at a time on board African Queen. The barge is fully booked for the 2021 season as it has been every year since featuring on Alex Polizzi's 'The Hotel Inspector'. Alex sprinkled her business savvy over Andy and Bonny's then nascent enterprise and the tweaks she suggested turned the boat into a profitable and enjoyable business to run.
However now the time has come for Andy and Bonny to finally retire. They have always employed two staff to run the kitchen and hospitality side of the business while Andy has been at the helm and Bonny mainly on the end of the phone more recently.
The barge could be run as it has been, and very successfully, to date, or a new owner may wish to put their mark on it, either in terms of the actual interior decor or maybe by reducing the number of cabins to rent the boat out as a private charter. From our own experience at HSC there is a strong market for private charter with families wanting exclusivity, a choice of menu and also location. Whatever the aspirations of a purchaser, this would be for 2022 onwards as the barge has a full diary for 2021 which would offer a new owner the opportunity to learn on the job as a member of crew while earning a living.
Currently the boat has a mix of customer cabin options with twins, singles, doubles and all are en suite. The skipper's quarters, where the owners originally lived full time, are located aft of the large professional galley with the lofty helm and a private walk way leading to a comfortable double bedroom, bathroom with bath and a sitting room with a TV.
One of the huge advantages of African Queen is her fantastic mooring under the trees above the weir at Mapledurham Estate. With its own private entrance down a country lane just a few miles from Reading town centre the location makes a dream place to live. There is electricity and water on site while mobile pump out and fuel facilities come directly to the mooring. You can find plenty of information on the cruising ground, length of cruises, pricing etc on the African Queen of London's own website www.african-queen.co.uk. The business has a five star rating on Trip Advisor.
I found the boat to be comfortable, cosy below decks and can see from the fan mail they have received that thousands of guests have enjoyed their food and hospitality while cruising the middle Thames. I met two of the crew who also seemed to enjoy the ambiance on board. They say that the five day cruises are hard work with three meals a day being served most days, but they have honed their offering and are willing to share their expertise with new owners.
A full inventory, set of accounts, specification for the onboard systems etc are available on request.
Viewing strictly by appointment through the office on 01491 578870.