Life Afloat a Tug & Butty design, the Shell taken hostage, Simpsons going bust and loosing £20,000. And that is just the beginning!


The Start of the Dream

So, why? You know when you're a water person… You devote your life to being on it, in it or around it. We met through water sports, mostly Kayaking and Canoeing but also partial to Surfing, Swimming, Fishing, Diving, anything to do with water, or combinations of! 

What better than a life afloat we thought! Buy a boat and live on the water all the time!… Bliss.

We thought second hand wouldn't do. Firstly we couldn't find what we wanted but we also couldn't count on the history of the boat. How well, or not, had it been maintained?

We are Civil Servants, the money's not great, the perks are good - it balances it out. We were in our early and mid thirties on signing the contract. In the monetary climate back in 2007 we could have bought a tiny flat on a faceless estate, or gone with our dreams. So we decided for the adventure!

We visited a lot of the boat makers and eventually decided on Simpsons Boats Ltd at Brimscombe, Stroud. We went for them because they had won loads of Best in Shows, great ideas, great price (too good in the end!).  Oh yeah, and a great salesman!

The dream was very much alive...up to signing the contract with Simpsons, then it pretty much went down hill from there!


The Start of the Nightmare - Where do we begin!

Chapter One...

We signed our contracts in September 2007, with Simpsons Boats Ltd (Brimscombe) for a 58ft Tug & Butty to be completed by May 2008. We put a £1000 deposit down and then a few weeks later we gave them another £10,000 to commission the hull. The shell should have been finished at the end of November. As the time got nearer we chased them to find out that they hadn't started to build our shell. In fact they were still working on the tug design as it would not float by itself. You may ask why did we go for the T & B? Well we were novices, we had been assured that the design made the Butty exempt from VAT, we would save over £15,000, and need I say more. By Christmas we weren't impressed with Jonathan Mills, so we had an emergency meeting with him regarding our contract. We had a list of 23 questions, to quote a few examples: At what stage is our hull? Too much emphasis on new customers & lack of loyalty to present. We told him we wanted to pull out of the T & B as we had our concerns. He showed us a letter from the tax man which he believed was proof of the VAT loop hole. We read it differently and once hearing the third generation tug was about to be tested, we decided enough was enough.

Chapter Two...

So in February 2008 we signed a new contract for a normal 58ft Wide Beam partial fit out (the budget just wouldn't stretch to a full fit!) to be completed by July 2008. Jonathan Mills contracted in Harley, Mike and Stuart to build our shell for his new company Abdella & Mitchell and we handed another £15,000 over. In March the shell was started and we thought we were on our way. We were told the shell would be completed by the end of April (6 weeks away). We made regular visits, as normal the build was taking longer than we expected. The Engine & inverter were ordered and delivered so we were invoiced for a further £9000. But in between this Si had to move out of his house into cheaper accommodation to make ends meet. Si started camping with his VW T4 as he couldn't afford the luxurious river side living & paying back his boat loan. I was expected to be homeless in July, but luckily for me I had a lovely landlady who let me stay on & Si to move in as she had moved into boyfriend's house. The Steel guys started to get nervous as Jonathan Mills stated he would not pay them until they completed the shell and understandably they were nervous he didn't have the cash flow to pay them. On a sleepy afternoon when all the Simpson workers had gone home, they turned up with a crane, cut a hole in the wall and stole our boat! We turned up unannounced to see our boats progression to find an empty warehouse and a boat shaped hole in the wall (if you think we are joking about the hole in the wall....we're not!). We were in complete shock and very angry as once again we had been kept in the dark, apparently the shell was taken hostage a few days earlier. The police were called but they said it was a civil matter. Our boat was now being held hostage! They took a further two weeks to complete the boat and it was finally taken to Sharpness on the 23rd July, as Simpsons were going to share land with Big Fish (something else we didn't know). We visited our boat on the 29th July, all looked well, and so paid the next installment of £11,000 to Jonathan Mills, money we didn't know we'd never see again.

Chapter Three...

A couple of weeks later Si received a call saying Simpsons were going into administration and we would have lost the £11,000. We were in total shock ...again. When we thought things couldn't get any worse, Si received a phone call the next day to say Isuzu had reclaimed their engine because it had not been paid for, although it had been delivered in June! Big Fish couldn't find our inverter, they came to the conclusion it was either never ordered or it was stolen out of the warehouse in Brimscombe (apparently this was a regular occurrence, including LCD TV's out of the partially built boats!). We left work immediately to travel down to Sharpness, we had to feel like we were doing something. Chris & Polly (Jacq's parents) arranged to meet us there. We arrived to find Chris already in the office talking to the Big Fish guys as Jonathan Mills was nowhere to be seen. We were told it was as bad as we feared and we were looking at a loss of £20,000. We decided to at least make the boat a little more water tight as it had been moved onto the tow path away from Big Fish. British Waterways had already put a ticket on it because it was unregistered and to a passer by looked abandoned! We spent the next couple of hours trying to tie tarpaulins on and making fenders out of coke bottles, in the wind and rain. The following day we contacted British Waterways and insurance companies because the shell was now uninsured and we had no river license. Everyone was really helpful and we received a lot of "Dad type" advice from Collidge & Partners. That afternoon in the rain and wind we almost felt like giving up. It was a terrible down moment. It was when we chatted later that we realised that sometimes these things do come in the way of your dreams. Maybe they're sent to try us? We resolved that we wanted this boat, and way of life even more. We still have not received an apology from Jonathan Mills or any correspondence (at the time of writing this). Unfortunately these days we would probably be done for liable if we wrote our true thoughts on what we think about him. We never did like the guy, never trusted him and are still shocked he could do this. It's not just us of course, though we are one of the worst hit customers. There are plenty of other creditors out there affected by this. Neither of us has ever so felt angry, we really scared ourselves in the hatred we felt towards him on the 13th August 2008. For the £46,000 we paid Simpsons, we were left with a rusting shell. With hindsight you see all the warning signs and the things we could have done. We hope if you're looking at getting a boat built you don't fall for a good salesman hiding a terrible accountant! 

The plan, to build the boat ourselves, with the help and guidance from the good boating community. We had our fingers crossed there were no more nightmare ahead......wishful the blog!


Naming of the Boat

Whilst building her we asked for name suggestions, until we chose September Air. Below are just a few suggestions, some we didn't even consider but they still put a smile on our face:

Professional Nomads, Buoy meets Girl, Love a Duck, A Handsom Randsom, Once Upon a Time, If fishes were wishes, It Started with a Kiss, One Step Forward Two Steps Back, Argy Bargy, Heath Robinson, Ship Happens, Up the Creek (without an engine),

and two slogans:

Good judgement comes from experience........experience comes from bad judgement!

The only boat builder to finish on time, was Noah and he had an incentive!