WHILE many firms are struggling to keep afloat, business is booming for a luxury yacht and boat valeting company on England’s famous Lake Windermere.
Former oil rigger Charles McPhee , owner and managing director at Lakeland Valeting Ltd, has spent the past 15 years making sure the luxury craft in the playground of the rich and famous at sprauncy Windermere Marina, near Bowness, have remained in sparkling ship-shape condition.
And thanks to his success, he has now launched a new grime-blitzing product which he hopes will help captains and first mates across the country give boat-algae and other nautical filth the brush off.
Charles and his company spend up to three hours at a time cleaning individual luxury boats – some up to as long as 45ft - at the high class marina, which adjoins England’s largest lake.
He and his crew have the exclusive licence to clean up the luxury craft on the marina – which is home to around 400 boats ranging from small tenders and sail boats, up to large ocean-capable yachts.
Business has boomed over the past 15 years for Charles who also operates out on the lake cleaning moored boats, and in the close Cumbrian neighbourhood.
The team now hopes that the launch of two new eco-friendly boat cleaning products will propel the company to further success.
“While of course it is fantastic if you're are lucky enough to be the owner of a boat – especially here on lovely Lake Windermere, which has one of the premier marinas in the country, – boats do especially suffer from collecting grime, black streaks, algae and all other sorts of water and airborne related problems.
“There’s nothing better than having a gleaming, lovely personal yacht or boat which shines from bow to stern or from tip to toe – but there’s also nothing worse than having such a beautiful boat and then letting it become grimed up. And that’s where we come in.”
Charles’s sparkling success arose out a chance break from his former career in the oil exploration industry.
“Many years ago, I worked on the oil rigs and during my leave break in about 1998, a good friend of mine who had a boat here at the marina asked him if I would come down and help him clean it.
“I did so, and then around that time, the chap on the boat next to him asked him who had valeted it; he gave him my contact and as a result, during my two leave breaks in that time from the oil rigs, I started cleaning boats here in Windermere - and that’s literally how the business started.
“The marina then approached me in about 2001 to offer me the licence to exclusively operate here – and the rest is history.
“We clean anything between 45-50 boats a month within the marina, and we have a floating pontoon and working dory which we use to service our other clients’ crafts on the lake.
“Boats here in the Lake District are particularly prone to collecting all sorts of grime – especially from aviation fuel; Windermere is beneath the track of many trans-Atlantic jets and RAF military trial operations.
“We have also have a lot of log and coal burning fires in the Lake District.
“All of these elements go up into the atmosphere, come down with the heavy rain in this area, and then leach into the canopies of the boats, leaving all the craft black-streaked up , which is both unsightly and a major problem to clean.
“Also, specifically on Lake Windermere, we have a major problem with algae on the canopies of the boats, which is notoriously difficult to remove unless you have the right cleaner.
“I’ve seen many a skipper and crew every season here on the jetties furiously scrubbing their canopies with ordinary soap or detergent and water, and it is back-breaking work.
“We’ve now developed two products which we are just taking to market which are algae and grime –busting organic products, which we’ve been successfully using ourselves over the past few years.
“They use organic – and I stress the words natural, organic acids – to eat away at the algae itself. Both products will take all of the back-break out of the cleaning of boats and canopies for long suffering boat owners. The job still works up a sweat but we reckon there are a lot of long suffering skippers out there nationwide who need every help they can get.
“Of course, we are still here to provide a bespoke service, but we only do that in Windermere and its environs. But we can’t do that nationally. This is where our two products – All Gleam Boat Canopy Cleaner and Shampoo come in.
“They are both eco-friendly products – we don’t want boat owners to be discharging any phosphates or other nasties into the water.
“We’ve been absolutely delighted with the response to our service – and our new products so far.
“In terms of the service we offer here at Windermere Marina, I have some clients who have been on my books for ten years –in fact, there are some for whom I have been cleaning their boats every single month over that period.
“You can imagine how proud people are of their prestigious boats, and to be honest, if people keep up to them, they often don’t need an intensive clean. But others are more lax and we sometimes even have to bring out the high pressure jets – but really this isn’t desirable.
“It doesn’t take long for a boat to get grimed up - and it doesn’t take long to clean – about three hours from top to bottom. I say to people, if you have a £300,000 boat, 40ft boat, what is the point in having it looking filthy?
“Everyone knows which are ‘my’boats (as ones we have cleaned) on the marina as they are sparkling and we’d like to encourage more owners to keep it that way.
“Many boat owners live far away from the marina - perhaps just visiting very little – and there’s always the danger that their boats will become badly grimed. Equally, many others are more diligent or more frequent visitors but look forward to that bespoke service which we are proud to offer to give their craft that extra special gleam.
“Luxury boats are like graceful, beautiful objects – they deserve every respect, and when they are looking at their best, they are absolutely dazzling.”