"My job is definitely better than any office job! I've worked here for 15 years, and it still keeps my interest because it's not just the same thing every day. I'm involved in all the maintenance on the hire fleet here at ABC Boat Hire in Worcester, and in any day my job might be anything from repairing a mechanical breakdown to showing a customer to their holiday hire boat. I love it, and all the hands-on stuff. There's not much I haven't come across on boats - the problem is if anything goes wrong, it's all my fault!
I'm part of a team of three, and we do everything to keep the hireboat fleet running smoothly. We'll sort the boats when they come back from hire, hand them over to customers before they go out and train people to drive the boats if they need to learn the basics before they set off. You have to gauge how experienced each customer is, but most people learn quite quickly and get the swing of it. I generally say to people, "Don't think about it too much". If, like me, you think too much about which way to turn the tiller, you start getting confused!
We'll go out in vans to do repairs if needed, and that means travelling anywhere on the waterways routes where customers get into trouble on their hire boats. You really never know what you're going to be doing any day!
When I was still at school I didn't plan to work on boats when I grew up, but boating has been a constant part of my life. My Mum and Dad always had a boat when we were kids. They started way back in the '60s and '70s with a fibreglass boat and then later they had their own narrowboat.
Straight after school I initially went into electrics, but I got laid off 12 months into my apprenticeship. So then I chose to go into welding and fabrication - painting and anything to do with steel work, wrought iron, forging and everything. I had a mate who started a boat-building business and when he asked me to help, that led me into working with boats. I was there for about three and a half years until I got a job with ABC Boat Hire. For the first few years with this company, I was based in Alvechurch working on the boat building, and then I moved to the Worcester base.
Even though I work with boats, I still love boating for fun. For good customer service it makes a difference if we know the routes our customers cruise - so we go out in boats ourselves whenever we get the chance. The Shroppie and the Llangollen Canal are probably my favourites, but I like the stretch from here to Birmingham, and the Staffs & Worcs Canal too. If I had to pick a highlight in my 15 years though, I think it would have to be the restoration and reopening of the Droitwich Canal – it was a highlight for everyone!"
Paul, Lowesmoor Wharf, Worcester, Worcester & Birmingham Canal