The office phone has been busy with vendors enquiring as to the general state of the boat market. Obviously I can only comment on the snapshot of my little world and the conversations I have with other brokers. The new build market appears to be holding up, but I would be lying if I did not report truthfully the sentiment that the market is poor right now and who knows when things might improve.
Nonetheless we have in fact been making sales to hospitality providers who are actively thinking ahead to their spring and summer seasons, and must be buoyed by last summer’s profits.
Who would have believed that the centenarian saloon launch with a World War I history would be heading out to Botswana to be part of a wonderful foundation in the Okavango?
Great Plains Conservation, founded by a group of seasoned experts, is dedicated to innovative conservation in Africa's threatened habitats. Their mission is to harmonise conservation, community welfare, and commerce for a sustainable impact on wildlife and wildernesses.
This organisation confronts environmental degradation and species endangerment due to human activities, proposing a novel approach: Conservation Tourism. Great Plains Conservation manages stressed environments with sustainable, low-impact tourism, involving local communities as key beneficiaries. This model, placing conservation ahead of traditional eco-tourism, ensures that their efforts and your visit positively affect the land, wildlife, and local communities, making each visitor a partner in effecting meaningful change.
We love the fact that while protecting Africa's pristine wilderness, Great Plains is also determined to use electric boats within its organisation and preserve totally sustainable wooden craft to enhance the visitor experience.
If you have the desire and the resources to enjoy one of their camps, you may well arrive there on one of our boats, but look out for that Buffalo crossing!
Regular readers will remember that I trekked across to Amsterdam on a couple of occasions for viewings on a magnificent German-built vessel called 'Albatros' (with one 's'!).
She has now found a new home on this side of the North Sea thanks to a venerable, old established British hospitality company by the name of Thwaites.
Daniel Thwaites set up a brewery in 1807 in Cumbria. The company outgrew their farmyard premises many years ago, investing in pubs, inns, and more recently adding hotels to their successful business model.
The latest addition to their portfolio is an absolutely splendid Victorian pile overlooking Lake Windermere, off the main road between Windermere and Ambleside. Langdale Chase reopened on November 21st.
Before its recent transformation the hotel was in a state of decline and dilapidation, although I imagine it was splendiferous when built for its original Victorian industrialist owner.
Thwaites appear to have injected new life and luxury into this iconic site, and I look forward to visiting early on in 2024, hopefully by boat, mooring on one of their new pontoons.
We expect Albatros to be available for charter from the hotel in early summer 2024.
Please, those of you who have your boats with us on brokerage, do not despair. Remember this is a niche market, and so far this financial year (from October 1st onwards) we have sold five boats including 'Lady Audacious', which is heading back to the Thames from Falmouth, where she will be sitting proudly alongside The Beetle and Wedge in Moulsford and will be available for overnight stays.
We have also received an enquiry recently from a fabulous hotel to the west of Paris, an old abbey, which I read about in the FT weekend and just thought (as I do), "Looks like they need a boat!" upon which I wrote a letter in my best French which received an immediately favourable "Oui Oui".
I look forward to jumping on Eurostar and heading out to do some prospecting in person at the Abbaye des Vaux-de-Cernay. As it happens the hospitality company that operates this luxury hotel, Paris Society, has two large barges on the Seine in Paris which are available for hire for corporate events and parties.
This is a true example of a very exciting part of our job here at HSC; 'the match-making' i.e. finding the right buyer for the various boats on our books, which all have their own history and are all unique in their own way.
As I gain in age and experience people occasionally ask me to act as a consultant, which is most enjoyable.
It has been a pleasure working with Thomas Martin, and a real boost to hear that he too, enjoyed working with me.
"Our paths crossed twice recently, firstly through your excellent newsletter, complete with your superb resource links, and secondly, I am in the final stages of completing the purchase of a boat in the Netherlands. I got there in the end after reflecting on the many questions you asked me, and with each one, I took my answer and used it to form the next question - I took each line of enquiry down to four out of five levels, and amazingly, this revealed the truth.
I 'd like to formally thank you for your time, for sharing your expertise and for remaining enthusiastic as I struggled to define what I was really after. Your reports after boat visits on my behalf were really insightful. I have now decided and am quietly chuffed that you arrived at the same conclusion."
Many thanks, Thomas, for your kind words.
Clearly there is still plenty of interest in classic boat ownership as all UK yards involved in this sector appear to be expanding, and that includes Dave Cockwell in Falmouth who not only builds new boats but also restores boats like 'Fleury II'.
C&M Restorations, who started out in Runnymede, are expanding into much larger premises at Harleyford Marina, and how wonderful it is to hear that the young family members that now run the marina are enthusiastic about bringing back tradespeople to make the boat yard a thriving working environment. With luck we may see a trimmer and a chandlery take root alongside C&M restorations.
If you are a potential buyer, please note that many vendors, including the owner of 'Cristobel', who has now purchased a Dunkirk Little Ship, are open to offers at this time of year.
Do not hesitate, therefore, to pick up the phone and offer yourself a new boat for Christmas.
I recently read that some 'selfie-taking' tourists capsized their gondola in Venice.
If the chilly Venetian waters do not seem attractive at this time of year despite the obvious attraction of sourcing your Christmas gifts in "La Serenissima", then you might enjoy a visit to the spa waters of Thermae Bath.
You could shop until you drop in the afternoon before enjoying a relaxing twilight package in this spa's spectacular rooftop pool, where the water is nice and warm.
The spa water comes up from about 2 km below the earth's surface, emerging at an average of 45 degrees Celsius before cooling to a very comfortable 34 degrees Celsius.
Having gone there recently, ostensibly to ease some aching muscles, I remembered just what a lovely city Bath is, and it is very easy to access by train.
If you don't have time to go to Bath, Venice or Paris to do your shopping, you could of course buy a voucher for Pure Boating boat hire for the 2024 season. Vouchers are available online or via the office if you would prefer to give us a call.
Alex at the yard wishes you all
a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
on behalf of everyone at HSC!