No doubt the reasons for this are complex and multifarious, the organisers are as ever looking for maximum footfall at the turnstile, while the exhibitors of small boats are looking for serious customers, not lookers and sookers as my mum calls them. Living close to Southampton I know that it's boat show is heavily advertised as a grand day out for all the family, but I'm sure the purveyors of multi-million pound yachts would settle for just one family providing they can afford the price-tag.
There now seem to be fewer boat builders at Beale than in previous years, where can they all have gone, has the recession done for them? Well actually it appears some of them have gone to Southampton where the Wooden Boat Traders Association have set up camp smack bang in front of the main entrance for all the world and his uncle to see, no doubt in the hope of attracting some real buyers, and jolly good luck to them all.
So Beale does its best to lay on an eclectic mix of entertainment for all the family. There are craft and food tents selling gee-gaws, trinkets and inedible liquorish for those partners and other-halfs who aren't so nautically minded. A children's play area with the ubiquitous bouncy castle, climbing towers, archery lessons, etc. to keep the little blighters occupied. A beer tent and various food outlets cater for the more basic needs, although it was noted with some anguish that the Cornish Pasty Van hadn't made it this year.
For me the Irish Dancing and Steel Band (mercifully not at the same time) are a little intrusive, and the Newfoundland Rescue Dogs seem to hog the lake just when everyone else wants to use it.
To quote one of our band of brothers "I don't bring my boat to a dog show so why do they bring their dogs to a boat show!" No prizes for guessing who.......................
Much of the nautical interest is provided by the various clubs like the Old Gaffers Trailer Section, Dinghy Cruisers Association, Thames Traditional Boat Society and so on which does make the place a grand get together for boaty types of all sorts except those who enjoy large expensive bits of plastic. They even let the HBBR in and we are gradually becoming more established.
One new group this year were the Historical Maritime Society who brought their 23ft Frigate's Launch which was hard to miss, as it pirouetted around making a grand show of waggling its oars in the air. Chris Partridge reported on it in Rowing for Pleasure, but what could easily have been missed was the other boat they brought along.
This is their WWII Mk 8 "Cockleshell" Motorised Commando Canoe, which goes by the name of "Geoff's Fabulous Uncle Archie".
The rearmost occupant, the stoker, sits with this engine between his legs, which will no doubt keep you warm in the winter but must get very hot, noisy and smelly the rest of the time.
No wonder he keeps a fire extinguisher handy.
The observant will notice an element of cross dressing amongst the crew. They'd just disembarked from the 18th century Frigate's Launch in all their finery and decided to take Uncle Archie for a spin. Here they are in their proper WWII drab the following day, complete with Bren Gun.
It would have been wonderful to take Uncle Archie up the Kennet & Avon with us.
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