July 7 2015 Latest news:
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Norfolk entrepreneur Stephen Pitkethly will be realising his father-in-law’s dream when he launches an innovative craft at the Southampton Boat Show next month.
For the pedal boat, described as a cross between a gondola and a pedalo, was developed by David Williams in the 1950s and used by him to cross from the south coast to the Isle of Wight.
Mr Pitkethly, 51, of Briningham, near Melton Constable, said: “The boats have always been in the family and two years ago we decided to market them professionally by launching a company Dad’s Boat.”
Two prototypes have been built by Norfolk companies and Mr Pitkethly, a father of two, will be launching them at Southampton, Britain’s biggest outdoor boat show, which runs from September 12 to 21.
He said: “We started gently, exhibiting them at a couple of local shows, but there has already been massive interest. If we get good orders at the show I’ll need to take on an employee straightaway to help with all the admin.”
The plan is to begin production in January and build at least 15 of the fibre-glass boats in the first year.
He said: “We will be selling the first 10 for £4,995 and after that we will have to put the price up to over £5,000.”
The prototypes are kept at his father-in-law’s home in Ropes Hill, Horning and Mr Pitkethley said when family and friends take them out on the River Bure they are always a magnet for attention.
“People are always approaching us and asking, ‘where can we get on of them’,” he said.
The beauty of the pedal boats was that, unlike canoeing, they used the biggest muscle groups in the legs, he explained.
He said: “Unlike pedalos when you sit side by side and go nowhere fast, you sit facing each other in the pedal boat, both pedalling in a forward direction with one person steering.
“You can comfortably go at 3 to 4mph and because it has a flat bottom it is very stable.”
Mr Pitkethly, who previously worked in automotive design and as the boss of a recording studio, is initially pitching the boat at the leisure market on Britain’s inland waterways, focusing on the Broads, but he feels there is also potential to sell it on the continent.
He believes there may be scope in the future to launch production in-house at a purpose-built centre.