Sunday, 30 May 2010

Down to the wire

Things can be right stressful sometimes.

Take these new cookers we bought. Brand spanking new New World freestanding gas cookers. Nice looking things in Silver, shiny, clean and new. Did I mention that they are new?

Well, these new cookers failed a boat safety test on Thursday on a boat that's due out on holiday on Friday. The oven burners were producing an orange flame which our gas/boat safety examiner found to be totally unacceptable. We checked the oven jet was clear and also checked it against the manufacturers spec to ensure it was the right jet for LPG. Sure, it was, the oven is only designed to run on LPG.

We had two cookers, one on the boat, the other in store, still in it's wrapping. So, we manhandled the failing one out of the boat, put in the new one and the same fault.

At this stage, there's less than 24 hours before this boat is due to go out and we've got no cooker on board. The stress levels were rising.

A phone call to the manufacturers and the lady couldn't promise me that I'd be seen before the bank holiday. Joy. Now the options were simple; find a cooker that worked and fitted or... Well, that was it really.

We had an old cooker in store but it didn't have Flame Failure Devices on the burners so would have been illegal to refit after having one with FFDs. Tony Urwin from Banks Boats (our Gas and BSS man) got on the phone around some yards as did I. Between us, we located a couple of cookers and it was one of my neighbouring yards that came to my rescue with an old Stoves Vanette, complete with FFDs. It was a bit battered but after removing a panel or two, a couple of blows with a rubber mallet on an anvil soon straightened it out. Then it was out with the new and in with the old and with Tony (pulling out all the stops on his day off) due back with us at 3pm just an hour before the boat was due on holiday, we got it in. Tony arrived on time, tested the cooker and wrote out the Boat Safety paperwork.

In the mean time, the Stoves engineer had actually arrived and was saying that these cookers do burn with an orange flame and that it was pretty normal and had passed the tests like that with no evidence of sooting up. That was until he looked at the two new units we had; he too said that he wouldn't pass them as safe and that we really should take them back for a refund! Later, after he had spoke with his HQ, he explained that the cookers are quite normal to burn as they did during his tests and that the manufacturer could provide a document proving it! Now, we seem to be faced with a dilemma - keep the wretched things and have to produce a bit of paper each year to try and convince a gas engineer that it burning wrong is normal and that he's talking out of his hat when he says he's not going to pass it or try for a refund.

I'll be on the phone to the supplier on Tuesday.....

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Summer's here!

This coming Saturday promises to be one of the hottest, sunniest days of the year so far and what a great build-up to the Whitsun holiday it's going to be. We've got a few boats leaving on holiday this weekend and have a few out already. Our customer feedback this year had been very positive overall and our booking levels are up on last year. Some vessels, notably Song of Freedom have surpassed our expectations; there's just three nights left to sell for June 2010!

Sadly though, you can't please everyone and, purely to provide some balance to this posting, we had some customers out for two nights over the last weekend who absolutely hated the boat and came back with some choice phrases about it. In fairness, a couple of thing did go wrong (about half of which was a direct result of the customer's intervention) but the customer chose not to telephone us to get them fixed and, instead, complained when they returned the boat (more than three hours late, I might add). I really can't fathom why they didn't call as one of their issues was that the domestic water pump wasn't working and with 9 people on board (one a 2 year old) and no water, it's difficult to see how they managed. What's worse is that the problem was as simple as one of the party having turned the pump off via the isolator switch.

It's so disapointing when people decide not to call; we have a dedicated fault reporting service monitored by a number of people, specifically so that we can deal with problems quickly and efficiently. Most customers will report things quickly but there's a few who'll not mention anything until they return when there's nothing we can do to assist.

So, a plea. Please, if you have any questions, concerns or faults to report, please let us know as soon as possible and we'll do what we can to get a speedy resolution.

Fair Freedom

Progress is still steady but we're horrendously behind on the boat and now have people working long hours on it to get it ready for Whitsun. We've just taken recepit of new headlining material today which we'll be fitting to cabins over the next few days. The outside is in the process of being painted now and the first couple of coats of undercoat are on.

We've got a replacement engine to fit and we're waiting for a local engineering company to produce an adaptor plate so we can connect the hydralic pump to the flywheel.

There's a couple of new cabinets being fitted; one to the saloon and one in the twin cabin and new flooring will be laid too.


The Whitsun week is looking very busy. Pretty much all our boats are booked for the week with the only availablity being to Day Boats and the occasional picnic boat. We still have availability at some of the holiday cottages, so if you're looking to get away, we can do a deal for a cottage and you'll also get 10% off day hire too. Plus, if you're a Facebook Fan, you'll get two free bottles of wine if you book a cottage or boat today (19th May 2010). Take a look at for availability and pricing.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

A little history

The Broads, for me, have been a life-long love affair. My first holiday was on board Brooklyn Bridge, an aft-cockpit cruiser from Bridgecraft in Acle at the tender age of about six months. That was my parent's first Broads excursion too and the beginning of many years of boating and chalet holidays.

Over the years we rented countless boats from many yards, most of which are no longer around. I honestly can't remember all the boats or companies we rented from, but here's a few: An Aston Thames class vessel (possibly even the boat that was to become Rambling Freedom) from Loddon, an Horizon 35 from Acle, Connoisseur from Porter and Haylett, a sedan style boat from Womack, Dawn Supreme, a Bounty 35 or 37 from Wroxham, a Caribbean from FB Wildes just after Guinness took over and lord knows how many more.

Some years we'd hire a chalet from Potter Heigham's Riverside Rentals and a day boat from Maycraft. We probably had six or seven chalets in our time and my grandparents would often share the holiday with us. Many great times can be recalled and a few sad ones too. One year, we'd arrived in the most horrendous thunder storm. Fork lighting cut through the darkened afternoon clouds - it should have been seen as an omen. My nan had recently discharged herself from hospital in London to come on holiday, and just one or two days into the holiday, she passed away.

We stayed away from the Broads the next year as the memories were just too vivid and I just don't remember coming back for quite some time.

Many years later, after I lost my Mum, my Dad decided to buy a cruiser and get back to enjoying the rivers. This was in 1992 and we spent weeks trawling around boat yards on the Broads looking for a suitable boat; I recall viewing a stunning timber vessel at Percival's in Horning; it was the right price but we (sensibly) went with our head and not our heart and chose something else.

Eventually, we plumped for a Freeman 23 and managed to mix GRP with a classic wooden interior. Sadly, though, the Boat was not on the Broads but on the Ouse in Cambridgeshire. This ended up working well as it was a much shorter journey for my Dad who lived in London and for me as I lived in Bedfordshire. The shorter journey made it easier to use the boat and most weekends in the summer were spent on-board. We never changed the name her and, to this day, our first boat is still in the family. She's looking a little dejected now as most of my time is spent on the Freedom fleet, but she's got a new coat of paint on the hull is looking better than she has for many years. Time permitting, I'll polish the GRP superstructure this year, renew all the window rubbers and maybe even get the fittings re-chromed. Her name?

Dragonfly, of course.