My father had a caravan park so I initially started off buying and selling caravans. Hanbury Wharf came up for sale in 1993 so we bought it. We felt we could broker boats, and then got into running the marina and boat yard services, then promoting and expanding the boat sales. And from that we identified a niche in the market for the production of ‘off the peg’ boats. I set up New Boat Co in 2000.
For New Boat Company the concept we really wanted was to supply a high level of service and after service. So we teamed up with the guys up in Liverpool and started selling ‘sailaways’ to begin with and then we went into building fully-fitted boats which was a great success. This boat we're sitting on now is the Aqualine which has more bespoke elements. But with the Hanbury range, we do from ‘sailaway’ right up to fully fitted, with all the various stages in between. People can personalise their boat and make it very much their own which is like buying a car to some extent. It simplified boating really because I think we'd all over-complicated it.
We have offices in Mercia up in Derby, and we have the marina here at Hanbury Wharf, and we work closely with Droitwich Marina just down the road. We have been focused on widebeam boats, but because the market has moved on, we've been able to get back to narrowboats. It's great to be able to offer those again.
The Droitwich Canal has now been restored, and that's been tremendous - the amount of additional traffic that it's brought to this area is brilliant! You introduce a new canal, even if it's a restored old canal, and it's just exciting, it's great. It's just nice to think of the network getting back to full strength, with all the people coming to the network to really go see what there is to see.
Chris, Hanbury Wharf, Worcester & Birmingham Canal