As the calendar turns over a leaf for 2019, may I wish all a Prosperous New Year, and a Good Boating season. We are entering an exciting period of change for the Society with a renewed membership drive and an expected need to raise more funds, quicker, to fulfil some of the more urgent requirements to keep the Canal fully navigable. I believe that the John Pinkerton and Kitty operations will continue to be the major source of financial support, and will rely even more heavily on its volunteers.
The recent appeal for more volunteers to help with publicising JP Charters and Public Trips resulted in several people coming forward to form a group; thank you to Cheryl Richards, Derek Taylor, Colin Beale, Martin Dovey, Harry Glover and Roger Whiffen. The initial meeting was held in December, with the next one early in January. There is a lot of work to do, so if anyone else can spare even an hour a week, they would be most welcome to help share the load. Contact Cheryl for more details.
The schedule for 2019 has been completed, and is now available on the JP web pages. Some of the new-for-2019 theme trips just need a little more detail to be added to the descriptions, but to whet your appetite, look out for the ‘Murder on the Canal’, ‘Caribbean Night’, ‘Classic Songs’ cruises and a Family Treasure Hunt over the May bank holiday to complement the old favourites, courtesy of Roger Stanwell.
In retrospect, the 2018 season was undoubtedly the most difficult to predict, with an early and unseasonably cold Easter, followed by a warm April and an extremely hot late summer. Water levels started well, but rapidly declined from early July to make trips to KJC impossible. Crews struggled in the latter months to achieve normal journey times, whilst also nursing a drive system which had suffered damage in the low water conditions. Charter trip numbers for the year were down about 28% from the peak seen in 2015 – see chart. Public trips continued as scheduled, and passenger capacity increased following favourable Facebook promotion. More public trips have been added for the coming season.
The effect on crew was that some were offered fewer trips than expected, though unusually, there appeared to be occasions when no-one was available, and these trips proved difficult to roster. If anybody has an explanation for this phenomenon, please share! Hence the appearance of several skippers on a few trips; it wasn’t planned this way, but they were needed.
Despite fewer trips, our Treasurer Steve assures us that income was maintained, though there will be some extra non-budgeted expenses, eg the cost of a diver to clear a crayfish net from the prop, and other maintenance work. The drive system has already been fully repaired, and engine mounts replaced for the new year. The damaged propellor has been repaired, and returned as a spare.
Thank you to all crew for continuing to volunteer; the record of trips crewed by members in 2018 can be found here.
Could YOU do just a little more to help?
For the coming season, we are looking to increase the publicity, and this is where all crew can play their part. During the next couple of months, in your local area, please build up lists that can be used to help the publicity group:
- Local papers that get read – ignore those filed WPB.
- Local clubs, WI’s, Church groups, Scouts, and any other group that could charter.
- Public places that you could contact, library, tourist information centre, pubs…..
- Schools that could be engaged with educational programmes or charters.
- Talk to your friends who have birthdays, anniversaries, weddings or any other celebration, about the superb & inexpensive venue and facilities on-board John Pinkerton.
- Any other ideas!
If you have personal contacts with any of the above, please use or share.
The more places that can be collectively covered, the more chance there is of getting new business; from data collected in 2018, 30% of charters came from repeat business or member / crew charters. Internet added another 30%, so all of us need to concentrate on finding that extra trip. It could be one of the ones that you are available to crew!
And don’t forget our gift vouchers for various denominations to exchange for public and theme trips can be purchased through the web booking system.
David Lloydlangston has been our hard-working supplier of goods and souvenirs for around fifteen years; he tells me he can’t remember exactly when, but he received a telephone call mid-season on the sudden death of the previous incumbent, asking for his help. Since then he has unstintingly re-stocked the barn, and performed the duties of alcohol licence holder with enthusiasm. During the latter months of 2018, when he was away or on holiday, John King volunteered to be his understudy, and spent time learning the job guided by David.
For 2019, John will take over from David, with I think, mixed feelings by David. Sorry perhaps to miss the enjoyment of a responsible job, but pleased to have more time for crewing. Our sincere thanks to him for all his time and effort, mostly done unseen in the background, but essential. John lives very close in Odiham, so will be handy to make quick checks on stock if necessary.
The boat committee are always keen to hear from crew members about ideas to improve the operation, or for different, interesting cruise formats. Two years ago we had a suggestion that curry was popular (with some!), so we arranged a trial evening cruise with food supplied by the Waterwitch pub. The evening went with very few hitches, enjoyed by all, and proved it was possible. However, it was not taken up as a regular part of our programme, as since that time, manager changes at the Waterwitch have meant it is now unavailable through them.
However, this year we have had an idea from a new member who is keen to get involved by organising a barn dance. The Committee has decided to try this as a water-borne event, rather than a land based meeting, so it will be held on John Pinkerton on Saturday 27th April; please put this in your 2019 diary. Roger Whiffen will be our caller, provide the music, and keep us entertained for the evening. He tells me he has run a barn dance in a railway carriage – not much different from the shape and size of JP, so the evening should be a hoot. Cost at minimum, or free if all can chip in with an American supper. Time 7.30pm to 10pm. Maybe it will catch on?
If you have ideas for other events or ways to smooth the operation, please share.
The Boat Committee have their first meeting this year on 31st January. If you have anything you would like to see discussed, please let a member of the committee know.
Training will be organised for March, details later. We aim to make it fun, as well as instructional. We look forward to your continued support in 2019; let’s hope the weather is a little kinder to water levels.