Plastic day boats arrive in London

May 2017 - The first self drive day boats have arrived in central London, perhaps the busiest canal in the country – Peter Underwood has been looking at how the city's canals will cope.

The first four boats arrived in Paddington Basin on Tuesday on a lorry from Scandinavia, and C&RT has arranged for them to use a visitor mooring pontoon on the side opposite the hospital. Additional visitor space has been created beneath the hospital on the other side of the basin to compensate.

Called GoBoat London the eight-person day boats are plastic, powered by an electric outboard and designed to seat all the occupants around a central table.

They will be the first self-drive day boats in central London for many years and experienced boaters are already discussing how the small vessels will cope with the sometimes chaotic canals; populated with passenger trip boats on a timetable, a multitude of moored boats and many other moving vessels from working boats to musical punt trips.

GoBoat comes from Scandinavia and will be the only self-drive, powered boating experience in central London. It claims it 'will make London’s canal waters accessible to all'.

It might add 'at a price'. An introductory offer for a limited time only prices the vessels at £49 for an hour rising to £140 for 4 hours up to £260 for a full eight hour day – roughly twice the price of a ten person day boat elsewhere on the system.

Unconfirmed reports suggest charges will rise to £70 an hour once the boats are established.

GoBoat's website puts it like this: “Be the captain of your own boat, chart your own adventure, and choose your own crew.

“GoBoats can carry up to eight people, with no previous boating experience required. The boats are powered by electric engines, and designed to create a sociable atmosphere.

“Our boats serve as a breathing space in the city, and as a platform towards fun and cultural experiences that can be enjoyed by all. GoBoat is the perfect experience for any social occasion.”

The firm says the boats are designed to support a sociable experience. “Our boats allow guests to comfortably face each other, whilst enjoying food and drink on a large picnic table in the middle of the boat.”

The concept, and experience on other canals, gives some London boaters nightmares of drunken day-boaters endangering themselves and others. GoBoat insists: “Anyone who steers the boat (the captain) must remain sober during the experience.

“Guests who do not steer the boat may consume alcohol. At GoBoat we encourage sensible consumption of alcohol, and do not tolerate anti-social behaviour.

“Customers who arrive at the GoBoat London pontoon with excessive amounts of alcohol will be required to leave the alcohol in our office before boarding the boat(s).”

From its base in Merchant Square, GoBoats is urging hirers to explore 'a stunning section of the London canal network'.

It promotes an East Route, telling hirers to 'Take a picturesque journey and enjoy some of the most historical sights on the London canals, such as Little Venice, Regents Park, London Zoo and Camden Lock. A one hour rental period will allow a trip to Little Venice and a venture through the Maida Hill tunnel up to Regents Park. Two hours and more will allow you to journey past London Zoo and experience the cultural hub of Camden Lock before returning back to base'.

The West Route for the plastic boats is also described; 'Explore the Grand Union Canal, surrounded by incredible architecture, green land, industrial land and art. Enjoy the canal spirit travelling past hundreds of moored narrowboats. The West route provides 14 miles of canal to explore, so take as long as you want! Travelling two hours west allows for a return journey through Westbourne Green, Ladbroke Grove and Kensal Green. In three hours Wembley and the River Brent can be reached.

The company puts emphasis on sustainability claiming 80 per cent of the volume of each boat is made from recycled plastic, and any wood used is sourced sustainably. The boats are powered by electric engines in order to 'ensure no noise or environmental pollution'. ​

Photos: (1st) The first boats arriving by lorry from Scandinavia. Picture from the GoBoat website, (2nd) The eight-seater vessels. Picture from the GoBoat website, (3rd) Paddington Basin from the Eastern End where a floating garden is to be built. The day boats will be based on the pontoons on the right hand side, (4th) Little Venice - an attraction for those heading west, (5th) Camden Locks, the eastern target for the self hire day boats.

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