The Amana credit: Beds On Board
My guest and I arrive for our watery night’s stay in Lymington Yacht Haven in the New Forest — a two-hour train ride from London. As soon as we arrive we get a text from employee Mark Seamer, who greets us in a nearby bar. During the walk through the marina to our home for the night, Mark explains that 90 per cent of boats in the UK are vacant at any given time. It’s a smart idea, especially when you consider how high mooring costs are (around seven grand per year). The idea came to founder Tim Ludlow after he struggled to find accommodation while holidaying in Majorca. The lightbulb moment happened as he took a stroll along the pier and spotted all the empty boats.
Beds on Board now own 250 boats all over the UK, and around a thousand boats in over 60 countries. Unsurprisingly, yachts are moored in some pretty nice places, from Malta to Puerto Rico, and it’s tempting to lap up some of the more unusual locations.
Lymington itself is a quaint and sleepy town, packed with nice pubs and restaurants. Its marina is stacked full of gleaming white boats, and ours is the Amana (a Sunseeker Camargue 50, if you wanted to show off to your friends…) Unfortunately we can’t sail off into the sunset to begin our new life at sea, as all the boats are securely moored — but that’s probably for the best, as getting hit with a yacht-sized bill wouldn’t be the best end to a night’s stay.
The saloon credit: Beds on Board
Inside, the vessel is surprisingly roomy; all walnut gloss and cream leather. After showing us the ropes, various buttons and locks (“You use it like you would a hotel”), Mark points out a bottle of Sancerre that’s been left chilling for us and leaves us to enjoy the sunshine. Blessed with tanning weather, we make the most of the cushioned sunbed on the top deck and test out the on-board sound system with some sea-themed tunes, from Enya to Aaliyah.
The double room credit: Beds on Board
There’s pretty much everything you could possibly need on the two-bedroom boat, including Sky TV and DVDs, a well-stocked bookshelf (if you like reading about boats and Jeremy Clarkson), plus a hob, microwave and deep fat fryer (we decided against using this). The showers are hotel-worthy, and there’s also a fridge packed with beverages from Fosters to prosecco, so you can get shipfaced on board.
The marina has its own restaurant, The Haven, which serves up delicious catches of the day and a killer view out over the Solent and Isle of Wight. If we hadn’t had to shoot off to work on Monday morning, we’d have done some of the activities helpfully recommended to us by Mark — including a walk along the sea wall, or taking the ferry to Hurst Castle (built by Henry VIII).
Staying on a floating hotel was something I’d never previously considered, but Beds on Board is an ingenious way of adding 20,000 beds to the UK tourism industry without one bit of construction. Plus, there’s the novelty factor — instead of chartering one of these luxury vessels, you can pretend to be a billionaire in your Primark boat shoes.