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Birthday Cruise


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As I write this, I am at work looking out to a busy high street and above that grey clouds threatening to let loose their payload of water.  It feels it could have been a week since I was on the rivers but it was in fact only the weekend.

I’d hired White Champagne – you know that colossus that is more known for cruising about the rivers with about 10 men and a few hundred cans of larger on the cabin top sides as they celebrate ‘Pauls Stag Do’ but this weekend it was different as a group of older more responsible* men and women used it as their base to celebrate my Mums birthday.  Along with this boat was Broad Ambition looking splendid with her new shiny cabin top dressing strips keeping eyes away from the bruised and worn hull of the Ideal 45 that was White Champagne.

So what was the boat like?  Well there will be a video review (though excuse the rush as I filmed it on hand back to Richardson’s) but the boat was spotlessly clean and sure there were a couple of niggles – you see it has two hot air heaters, one worked a little bit the other not at all we got one replaced and the other a ducting hose had popped off it and the 12v accessory socket had seen someone jams something inside it other than its intended use (I dread to think what) rendering it inoperable. As ever with Richardson’s the wait for an engineer was short, and the service excellent. 

Talking of niggles I have no reason to believe the engine fitted is not the original, it looks like it has had a few repairs and repaints over the years and the hour meter shows almost 15,000! Yet there is no smoke and while she has virtually no torque will happily cruise all day at 4-5 MPH.  However on stretches where you can get up to 6MPH or going against the tide the engine struggles because anything over 2,00RPM and she begins to get very hot – weed filter clear and plenty of water being ejected leads to suggest a scaled heat exchanger.

The boat is simply cavernous I guess the saloon must be a good 15 feet long alone and I can’t believe it is 12ft wide because it seems to dwarf boats moored by its stern that are also said to be 12ft wide. This boat packs away people yes, but it does it with space to spare and even has a shower that would fit two along with a third sat on the loo – not that you might wish to explore doing this, but now you know you can if you wanted to!

 Once you get the hang on the hydraulic steering that has about 14 turns from port to starboard she actually handles well, despite having no bow thrusters stern mooring into a tight spot at Salhouse was not to tricky and you can see what the stern is doing being able to look out of the window by the helm down the side of the boat.  Huge windows let the light poor in and the only negative is the side access doors and big step down from them to the interior of the boat. A good sized fridge and microwave added to the comforts, a separate DVD player would be nice if you wished to have a movie night while the four speaker stereo system was of an unusually high quality for a hire boat. The knives and cutlery were of good quality, there was a non-stick frying pan and a larger capacity kettle along with a huge folding table and stools for everyone to sit together and eat. 

I’m not sure why other boats of this type cost so much more for just a couple of extra berths but if you have a large party to accommodate, two families, or a group of friends then these should be looked into rather than hire a couple of smaller boats. 

*The responsible crew let loose with an onboard party complete with disco lighting, glow sticks and party popping glitter gun which proved great but hellish after the event to clear up! I was on the turntable (ok laptop with Spotify) but much fun was had and my mum had a very memorable birthday, not least the evening meal on Saturday evening at the Bridge Inn at Acle, 15 of use made up of friends and forum members alike – made all the better when two of Norfolk’s least lady like and perhaps oldest crosser dressers arrived for a quiet dinner and had the room trying to contain the laughter – only after they had left could Laureen - Charlie’s wife – give up trying to hold the laughter in any further as ‘his’ mini skirt was shall we say a little too mini and revealing causing more to be seen than anybody had wanted. 

So I’d thoroughly recommend these boats  - indeed if you ever had wanted to buy a boat that had massive potential to become a true floating home these would be them – built to survive anything, and with the space a one bedroom London flat would struggle to compete with you can imagine my mind was working out what could be moved and changed...Richardson’s as ever were efficient, helpful and we got back just over £74.00 of our fuel deposit back showing big does not always mean thirsty.



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Hi Robin,

When White and Pink Champagne were at AJ Boats Acle, White had a seperate freezer and fridge, also a Mini Drinks Bar!. I remember someone telling me the water tank was 250 gallons, and took an age to refill. Sounds after all these years later, the heating is still not good, it was rubbish in 1990 when friends had it. They ended up using two gas cylinders just using the hob for extra heat. Before that, a group of Canadians were on that boat and were amazed at the space in it. But once again disappointed with the poor heating on it.



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I think White Champagne was built in the late eighties, it may have the original engine but probably rebuilt a few times.

I wouldn't rely on an hour meter fitted to a hire boat.  When we removed, rebuilt and refitted an engine the hour meter was not touched, if it was even fitted.  We normally had a rebuilt engine ready and waiting to go in case of a major breakdown during mid season.  These were often fitted over the winter and another engine rebuilt in it's place, sometimes even a new engine or two.

Towards the end of my time the old Perkins and BMC's were gradually being replaced with Nannis rather than rebuilt.

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Interesting, you can see remnants of the past - there used to be a TV in the front and rear double cabins still a 3 pin 12V Socket - the space provided now filled with some plywood.  The fridge freezer would not have been electric i don;t think because you can see where the flu ran behind the new unit and indeed the large mushroom dome vent on the roof remains.  Masses of ventilation throughout the boat - a lot more than on modern 44ft Alpha builds.

The heaters actual work very well - once the ducting was put back on and the other replaced - so the boat has 6Kw heat power 3kw for aft three cabins and 3Kw for the forward two.  This is getting close to heating power of the mode built Broadsman's with their duel heating systems!

Other nice things are a working water accumulator tank that pressurizes the system so the water pump does not cut in all the time and two tapes at either end of the boat will run well when both in use.

It used to have a dinghy on davits - long gone, but the patched over davit mounting points remain. 

The sheer amount of space under the floor is amazing.  There is also a good amount of height above the engine to the cabin floor which is unusual and helps absorb engine sound so under way its rather quiet.

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Hi Robin,

Yes there were indeed remote control TVs in the bedrooms, a flush toilet system too then like what we have at home. It was Mid October when I was invited on it and then it did have the dinghy on davits. I think from memory it was a cooker hood above the hob so that may explain the vent on the roof. The Fridge and freezer were electric and noisy! More so the freezer than the fridge. 

On another occasion we saw Pink Champagne down at Loddon and they had to moor it bow in because of the davits and dinghy. As you say, the amount of space is excellent for the number of crew it can have. The Centre entry door though not good for tall folk to get in and out of IMO.



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