Our business began back in 1994 when Rodney Bowles diversified from farming to pursue his hobby as a commercial venture with partner Sarah Sims, taking 12 passengers out on their boat, ‘Woebetide.’ As demand increased, a bigger boat was needed, so Rodney and Sarah bought and renovated ‘Mystere,’ to carry 25 passengers in 1998. Then in 2001, Sarah bought an old wooden boat from Plymouth, which would become ‘Boston Belle.’ Sarah successfully rebuilt the Belle into a thriving enterprise for many years before selling out to Rodney in 2013.
Mystere was sold into private ownership in 2013 and Rodney purchased another old boat, the Prince Charles (Charlie), formerly operating from Ely, Cambridgeshire. Six years of restoration saw the “Charlie” sympathetically transform into “Prince George.”
Pete Westwell accompanied his Grandfather on Woebetide from the beginning, as a child. Qualifying for his Boatmaster’s License in 2005, Pete is now a Director and Master of the Boston Belle, along with Rodney who Skippers most cruises on the Prince George.
Day to day Pete and Rodney run the business with the help of loyal volunteers and staff, some of which have served 25 years. Pete deals with all the bookings and admin, but Rodney is still very much ‘at the helm’ keeping a close eye on things, especially the engines.
Originally built at Leigh on Sea in 1949, she is built on sawn oak frames, planked with larch on the topsides and iroko below the water with a shallow keel of Douglas fir. The planks are caulked with natural cotton and sealed with red lead putty in the traditional way. This is a labour of love which we are continually replacing. She served as a passenger boat from the beaches in Rhyl, Wales as an open boat, powered by two Chrysler petrol engines. She served for a time in the 60s on the Thames at Westminster before moving to Plymouth as a trip boat. At some point during this time she was repowered with a single diesel engine. She was purchased by Sarah Sims and transported by lorry (and police escort) to Lincolnshire in 2001 where she was overhauled, and the enclosed superstructure was added, along with extensive repairs to the original planking.
In more recent history, she has had a complete new foredeck in 2019, where the seating, bulwalks and gunwhales were renewed. As with any old boat, the restoration programme goes on and we continually renew things as necessary.
Prince George was commissioned as the ‘Prince Charles’ in 1949 as a 49’ passenger boat for Bithell’s Boats in Chester. Little is known of her history, but she was commissioned as a half decked boat with a Thornycroft engine.
After service as a passenger boat in Ely, Cambridgeshire, we brought her by sea to Lincolnshire. Lifted at Fosdyke, she underwent a six year restoration which included a whole new superstructure, designed by Rodney. Prince George was also fitted with 20 batteries, 8 solar panels and an auxiliary electric propulsion pod enabling short range silent cruising and long range hybrid cruising using the economical diesel engine and electric motor.