From the Tiller

by Charles Foster

Having been elected as the new Chair for our Association, I am looking forward to being able to represent our views and concerns (for both inland and coastal members) to the Government and relevant bodies. We need to keep close contacts with these bodies, discussing issues as much as possible on equal footings; and not be treated as a box ticking exercise, as I believe some of the authorities may have viewed our inputs in the past.

In my tenure I hope to build on our historic past and engage with the residential boater of today, so that we can offer more advice and practical solutions to the many problems we face as residential boaters. More on this in the future. Watch this space for future initiatives and relationships.

I feel that you as members may wish to know a little more of my history in the inland and coastal worlds. I have been involved in rowing around and sailing, both inland and offshore, since the tender age of around six. From leaving college, having studied business studies, specialising in Marketing and Law, I decided that life in a stuffy law firm’s offices was not for me, but that racing and generally working on boats was more my cup of tea. So I initially went to work as a coastal yacht broker, selling both powered and sailing vessels. After a couple of years apprenticeship, I had the opportunity to set up on my own, which I did, with the added benefits of selling a number of new vessels imported from Europe, Taiwan and the States – Jeanneau, President, Chris Craft and a few others. This has produced a wealth of knowledge in how and how not to buy boats and of course deal with VAT, import and export and tax effective purchases! At this time I also started a yacht charter business with over 30 owned and managed craft, both sailing in the UK and overseas. This led to involvement with the Yacht Charter Association, whose code has been largely taken over by MSA (Maritime Safety Agency). Much useful knowledge was gleaned from the production of contracts and hire agreements which can be passed on to members.

Finally time came, as age was creeping on, plus the first brutal recession which some may remember. Surviving that by the skin of my teeth, new ventures and changes of direction were required, so I became involved in printing and set up as a freelance print broker from experience gained in production of boat sales material and charter brochures – in fact working with a company called the Penwell Press, who actually at one time had the contract to print some of the Pearsons Guides. This led to buying a print company and moving into the digital print arena. From this developed a consultancy service and hopefully my final move into Wills, Trusts etc. when All Wills and Trusts was set up, and also its off-shoot, The Boaters Will Company. During this period the yearn for water and living in the middle of the country led to not doing so much sailing and boating which had mainly been delivery work, due to having gained my RYA offshore commercial tickets. Inland waterways seemed a good idea, so the appropriate RYA helmsman qualification was obtained and off we went, hiring boats to get the feel of things. Quite different from the sea going expertise. The result was that we decided to sell the house and move onto a narrow boat. Just in case, we bought a do-upable boat at a reasonable price, hedging our bets. That was over 15 years ago and she is still going strong today, offering a home and a business. Our narrowboat, Kirby Mist, can be seen during the year cruising about the system, offering wills afloat, which quite a few boaters have taken up. Yes, we do have a trading licence, something else to know all about if contemplating life and an income stream afloat.

What does this tell us? Hopefully that I have, together with the other Officers of your Association, a very broad base of business and boating experiences in the boating and commercial world that I hope can be brought to bear to improve our services, both our use and our importance to the ever growing number of residential boaters. We are here to help.

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