It is the time of year when we start to get excited about coming together with family and friends during the long winter days, and we even start to look forward to spring. Believe it or not we are still selling boats at an average of one a fortnight, and no one is more surprised and delighted than I am.
Every new boat brings a new encounter, firstly with the boat and its vendor and subsequently with prospective purchasers. The moment when you actually see the boat can be the start of a fascinating journey. Often there is research to be done, and here is a case in point.
Last week found me once again in Cumbria. This time on virgin territory as I had never previously visited Ullswater. Yes of course it was raining, but nevertheless the landscape was breathtaking. And especially the Aira falls, which we climbed to the very top. Down on the lake the smart old steamers still operate a regular time table, whatever the time of year.
We met a couple of potentially keen vendors in the pub at Pooley Bridge. We then followed a narrow and tortuous lane along the side of the lake until we came to a semi derelict dry boathouse. The excitement was palpable as the door creaked open and in the gloom we could see a beautiful skiff, which had lain untouched for 30 years.
As I explained to the eagle eared vendors the access with a trailer would not be ideal. And the fact that the boat was shoehorned into a corner of the boathouse with the bow sticking through the wall into the backroom where once the chauffeur is supposed to have lived, makes viewing somewhat disjointed. It would take half a rugby team on an abseiling exercise to launch the boat from its roadside resting place to the water several steep meters below.
After considering their options the vendors have decided to hang on to their skiff and I have no doubt that it will still be there when eventually the old garage/boathouse is demolished in favour of a splendid riverside residence.
Reconnoitring and research are two of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. The third is the opportunity that the job offers to meet such a wide variety of interesting people.
Where are you taking your favourite people for some riverside revelry this Christmas?
We are heading downstream to Maidenhead to savour the delights on offer at the new Roux food venture, namely Roux at Skindles, which opened in November and is set to be the hip place to be seen this Christmas.
As of spring 2019 you will be able to rent an electric boat there supplied by us.
It’s a seven seater electric scoop, and we will let you know when this option becomes available.
Should you find yourself in Paris during the festive season, the “eminence grise” of the gallic culinary world, Alain Ducasse, has just launched Ducasse sur Seine. A breakfast and dinner cruise venture on a 100% electrically powered boat.
You can even purchase a voucher for a mere €1000 if you want to treat a very good friend. For a lot less cash, Gail will make you a beautiful voucher for either self drive or a summer charter on board Midsomer Maiden! Just email [email protected]and we will adapt the gift to your budget.
Also in Paris "Le Nautic - Salon Nautique International de Paris" is currently in full swing and one of our suppliers, Ruban Bleu, is exhibiting their new model, the Legend, which allows a wheelchair user to helm the boat. We love the styling. I will be going to see the boat for myself in January at “Boot” in Dusseldorf.
The current leaflet has not yet been published in English, but I intend to produce an English version in the very near future. In the meantime please let us know if you would like some more information on this cutting edge electric boat design.
While electric is clearly the future some readers may not realise that my first job in this industry was with the Steam and Electric Launch Company which was at that time based in Ludham, Norfolk. I was the Thames agent and in charge of all the sales and marketing. I loved my job as I got to travel to promote the joys of silent electric cruising.
But the clue is in the title and yes we also sold steamboats. Nowadays, and even then in the late 80s, steamboats were essentially an enthusiasts’ pursuit. The engine and boiler were the main fascination while the actual boat itself often took second place.
Many is the time that a guy would approach our stand at a boat show and extract a crumpled photo from his inside pocket, brandishing said photo with the same pride as one would a graduation snapshot. The boat owner in this case usually had a beard and a worn tweed sports jacket.
There is therefore still some nostalgia for me associated with steamboats and luckily I do occasionally come across a truly beautiful and interesting specimen.
On Monday for example I went to view the venerable steam launch “Amaryllis” in her wet boat house (lucky woman) in deepest Norfolk. I met her charming owner who was kind enough to share his lunch with me.
After a protracted build started in 1995, the boat was finally launched in 2002. So one could say that she is in fact a contemporary classic!
If you have always fancied growing a beard and that old sports jacket is calling to you from the back of the wardrobe then "Amaryllis" could be a wonderful Christmas present which just keeps on giving all year round.
For my Christmas gift, which is in fact a belated wedding present, the wonderful Tim Atkinson is building a bespoke coffee table. I love coffee and I love wood. Steve and I spent a couple of fascinating hours with our Cumbrian friends visiting Tim in his Lancashire workshop.
Wish me luck in the Federation of small Businesses Competition in which HSC will be competing in the "Ecology and Sustainability" category.
Let us not forget that wood is the most amazing natural resource. According to a specialist from a company called Slow Wood; “Wood used to be for old people or the mountains, but it is tactile, ages well and each piece is unique.”.
We will leave you with a rather touching poem by Robert Frost, wishing each and every unique reader a very enjoyable Christmas. We look forward to touching base with you again in 2019.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.