Some of you will know Aaran and myself as the naïve narrowboat enthusiasts who embarked on a boat restoration back in 2016, only to fall utterly in love with the waterways and decide to launch a one-boat holiday hire company.
The Boutique Narrowboats concept was borne out of a love of five star hotels as well as the canals and it seems that many of you felt the same way. Our first year saw an occupancy rate of 94% which, we are told, means that we did good.
Anyhoo – don’t laugh – but then we had another idea.
When the Market Harborough narrowboat hire business at Union Wharf came up for sale we went to take a look – and knew straight away that it was the perfect home for our little fleet. So in 2019, 9 months after our first boat was hired out, we found ourselves the new owners of Union Wharf Narrowboats Ltd.
This company manages the canal basin at Market Harborough, operating its own self-drive Day Boats up to Foxton and back. The setting is a stunning one, with the lovely Waterfront restaurant and bar taking pride of place at the foot of the basin. Union Wharf has a rich history, too, acting as a distribution centre for coal, grain and wool in its heyday.
Most importantly, the Boutique Narrowboats is in the perfect setting for our guests. Free parking, a dedicated marina office for checking in and out and electric hook-up if you prefer to stay in the basin and explore the historic Market Harborough on foot.
Fast forward to 2022 (hurrying through the pandemic lock downs which we are entirely happy to forget) and following a LOT of enquiries from people looking to build their own boats, we decided to launch a boat building arm of the business. It seems that many who have been attracted to the Boutique Narrowboat hire boats are actually looking to create one of their own.
Our small team has started to work with private clients to design, commission and fit out Boutique Narrowboats for sale. We are loving the collaborative process between client, designer, engineers and fitters. In addition, we are also designing and fitting a boat which will be for sale in it’s completed form next year.
We continue to offer our core Boutique Narrowboats for hire and are ably-assisted at Union Wharf by manager, Alan, and his team.
I honestly think this is an adventure which will keep surprising us but we are happy to continue on this journey for a long time to come.