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March 2024 Boating News

Gillian Nahum
March 29, 2024

As the days grow longer and the water calls, we are slowly but surely gearing up for another busy season of boating fun!

A day in the life of a boat broker

As I reflect, with my colleague Barbara, on 10 years of newsletter writing on a pretty much monthly basis, I am chuckling at some of the feedback from readers. It mainly goes along the lines of "You have such an exciting life. You are always travelling. What an interesting job you have!" The list goes on. 

However, I would like to point out that although my work does take me on the road to interesting destinations near and far, to view beautiful boats andmeet fascinating people, which provides me with engaging material to write about every month, I also spend a lot of time behind my desk, and an average day in the office can be fairly predictable, occasionally monotonous and sometimes damn right frustrating.

Gillian in the HSC office, where you can find her most days.
Gillian in the HSC office, where you can find her most days.

Take yesterday, for example, when I would have gladly tied Boris Johnson and his Brexit cohort to an office chair with a Fedex customer service robot on the other side of the phone repeating interminable messages. I was simply trying to pay for duty due on a small piece of equipment (sent from the continent) required for a warranty job! 

Believe me, it was a relief to discuss with Regine, an actual human being, where we might go for coffee and a sandwich at lunchtime. Also, thank you to those who called in with enquiries about selling or viewing boats, as this is what keeps us ticking over and enthusiastic about our profession.

Gothic grandeur and 'guinguettes': a journey through Occitanie's heritage

A couple of weeks after braving rain and tempest on the Jurassic Coast, I went in search of further traces of our Neanderthal past in South West France or, more precisely, the area known as Occitanie. 

It so happens that one of my dear daughters, who is French, decided to relocate to this area after buying a medieval turret in the fortified village of Puycelsi. Joanna has her mother's sense of adventure in spades and she also loves water.

Puycelsi Copyright - All rights reserved by mike glascock
Puycelsi (Copyright - All rights reserved by mike glascock)

The weather was changeable and even dramatic at times, with lightning, hail, sleet and very strong winds throwing the force of nature at us in the space of an hour. 

Prior to that however, we had been standing in evening sunshine admiring the lofty vaulted ceilings of the impressive cathedral in Albi, a mere 45km east of Puycelsi.

Albi, France, on the river Tarn (85m northeast of Toulouse)
Albi, France, on the river Tarn (85m northeast of Toulouse)

The Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d'Albi is a true depiction of Gothic architecture nestled in the heart of Albi; an awe-inspiring building that serves as a tribute to centuries of history and creativity. It has remarkable features such as its imposing size and its high windows and thick walls reminiscent of a fortress, but most of all we were captivated by the painted ceilings with their bright frescoes and ornate decorations telling stories from the Bible. 

This particular style of brightly painted ceiling is characteristic of the area, and even the tiny village church of Puycelsi, which only recently got a water supply (in 1962), has this stunning internal decoration.

Painted vaults in the Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, Albi (France)
Painted vaults in the Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, Albi (France)

To say that we were blown away by the cathedral in Albi is a complete understatement! I shall return in the summer to view the soaring brick cathedral from the river Tarn, which runs through the town. 

An enterprising company named Albi Croisières is operating a replica of an original 'Gabarre' boat on the river. These boats were designed centuries ago to take merchandise and cargo along the rivers of France and would have been adapted for sail, or hand-powered with oars depending on the conditions. They are mainly flat-bottomed as the height of the rivers varies enormously with the time of year.

A 'Gabarre' boat on the river Tarn
A 'Gabarre' boat on the river Tarn

In the company's promotional literature, I was introduced to the concept of the 'bateau guinguette'. I love the word 'guinguette' as it conjures up the kind of atmosphere we see in some of the impressionist paintings where people are hanging out outdoors enjoying a drink and dancing in a natural setting, preferably close to the water.

'At the Moulin Rouge' - an oil painting on canvas by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
(painted circa 1895)
'At the Moulin Rouge' - an oil painting on canvas by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (painted circa 1895)

The French painter Toulouse-Lautrec was a fan of the 'guinguette' and a native of Albi. There is an excellent museum/gallery dedicated to him housed in the Palais de la Berbie, an impressive fortress-like palace in Albi overlooking the river Tarn.

Could Wallingford's Pure Boating experience be getting even better?

Rumours in Wallingford suggest that The Boat House pub is to benefit from a long overdue renovation, which might enable us to create a 'guinguette' atmosphere on the terrace given the right meteorological conditions. We have the boats and a prime location, while in theory, the pub could provide a slightly more enticing offering than has been the case to date. 

Once Greene King announces their plans, we will update the Pure Boating website and hope to offer aperitifs afloat on that dreamy stretch of the River Thames. 

Pure Boating in Wallingford at The Boat House pub terrace
Pure Boating in Wallingford at The Boat House pub terrace

Pure Boating was set to open on Easter Weekend, although more rain scuppered our chances, and frankly, it still feels a little chilly to be venturing out on the water.

Coming up: HSC's open weekend!!

This year, for the first time, we have installed some pontoons on the lake at Beale Park to give us the possibility of mooring customers' boats.

'Rekindled'
'Rekindled'

To celebrate this and showcase some of the lovely boats we have for sale at the moment, we are planning an open weekend on April 20th and 21st, between 11 am and 4 pm, with a number of boats afloat on the lake, including RekindledMerlinGlenelg, and Spirit X to name but a few. Other boats will be on show at the yard.

'Merlin'
'Merlin'
'Glenelg'
'Glenelg'

Although prior notice is not mandatory (please do just pop in on a whim), it would be helpful to know how many beers and bubbles to put in the fridge for the weekend, so if you are thinking of coming please don't hesitate to let us know by phone (01491 578870) or email (office@hscboats.co.uk).

'Spirit X'
'Spirit X'

Bag yourself a boat and a Hambleden Marina mooring

We also have a couple of boats for sale at Hambleden Marina, where moorings are 'rarissime' and, provided you have a clean police record (which doesn't include speeding fines), you may be lucky enough to keep the mooring with the boat.

'Kyrenia'
'Kyrenia'

'Kyrenia' (a member of the Traditional Vintage Boat Club) is a cosy yet spacious little family cruiser with generous berths and a practical, comfortable interior. 

We will also add 'White Heather' to our website soon. Built in 1923, she has been in the same family on and off for over a hundred years. She is also moored at Hambleden Marina.

'White Heather'
'White Heather'

Your chance to be part of Dunkirk history

With a year to go to the next 'Return to Dunkirk' under the auspices of The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, now is the time to purchase your very own vessel as you will need time to acquaint yourself with her foibles.

'Lady Sylvia'
'Lady Sylvia'

Take a look at 'Lady Sylvia' which has just appeared on our HSC website having been the result of several years of hard labour by her owners. 

Very sadly ill-health now means that their dream of crossing the channel with the fleet in May 2025 is not to be. Nothing would give the owners more pleasure than to hand their precious little ship over to someone who will take on the responsibility, and the joy of owning this historic craft.

Vintage and traditional boats & transport galore

Last week I was invited to the launch of the Thames Traditional Boat Festival at Fawley Hill, kindly hosted by Lady McAlpine. 

Thames Traditional Boat Festival
Thames Traditional Boat Festival

It was a very jolly gathering with several sponsors offering financial help. Indeed if you would like to sponsor a pontoon or even a toilet cubicle for this year's traditional boat festival (July 19th-21st), your contribution would be very much appreciated. Please do contact the organisers directly via their website for this, and if you haven't registered your boat for the festival yet, then there is still time to do so, but don't wait too long as last year there was a waiting list.

Fawley Hill Steam & Vintage Transport Festival
(May 17th-19th, 2024)
Fawley Hill Steam & Vintage Transport Festival
(May 17th-19th, 2024)
Fawley Hill Steam & Vintage Transport Festival (May 17th-19th, 2024)

Lady McAlpine also hosts the Steam & Vintage Transport Festival in mid-May at Fawley Hill in aid of the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and Macmillan Cancer Support. 2024 will be the last one, and it marks Judy's 80th birthday. 

The event promises to be a blast and HSC will be there with a couple of glorious boats, depending on what we have on sale at the time. 

Limited early bird tickets are available now online (use discount code EarlyBird10).

Easter-fun at the River and Rowing Museum

Talking of steam, the River and Rowing Museum in Henley owns a splendid example of a steam-driven umpire launch by the name of 'Eva'. Tucked away in the Henley section of the museum, just across the glass walkway, 'Eva' is easy for visitors to miss. However I would strongly advise that you make a special effort to make the journey across.

'Eva' - stream-driven umpire launch at the River & Rowing Museum
'Eva' - stream-driven umpire launch at the River & Rowing Museum

The museum's new director is working hard to inject fresh life into the museum's exhibits and overall experience. 

A range of activities for children is on offer over the weeks to come. With the cafe being open and fully functioning again, the museum is the perfect destination for a family day out over the Easter holiday.

If you see anything of potential interest as you browse through old photo albums, read interesting books or take photos on your daily walks, please send snippets to me gillian@hscboats.co.uk

I look forward to hearing from you with your sales enquiries, your photos and your stories.

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About

Henley Sales and Charter Ltd have gained a reputation over the last 30 years for selling and chartering beautiful, classic boats. Experience of operating and selling boats on the river Thames enables us to offer expert objective advice to prospective owners on all aspects of boat ownership including purchase, surveys, repairs and moorings. We will do our best to find the ideal craft to suit your individual needs - for a day or for a lifetime.

Henley Sales & Charter Ltd

29 Station Road
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
RG9 1AT

Sales

01491 578 870
sales@hscboats.co.uk

General enquiries

office@hscboats.co.uk
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