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                          Thames broker Gillian Nahum has a talent
                          for bringing boats and buyers – and sellers
                          – together. Martin Smith watched her at
                          work. Photographs by Ray Little

          illian Nahum                                                                                                   and a streamlined ver-
          started                                                                                                        sion of the catering
          Hambleden                                                                                                      and entertainments
Sales and Charter in                                                                                                     business, which she
1992 when she moved                                                                                                      now operates in con-
into Hambleden Mill                                                                                                      junction with up to a
Marina on the Thames                                                                                                     dozen other Thames
near Henley, with her then boyfriend, Peter     potential problem. The marina provided a           boat owners. Hambleden’s own charter
Jones. For a time, the business grew nicely     great focus for customers, as well as having       ‘fleet’, to which its name alludes, now
out of the work that Peter was already          the facilities to perform many of the tasks        amounts to just a single clinker dayboat
doing at the marina combined with Gillian’s     that the business required.                        named Rose O’Dea, which can be taken for
experience in seeking out just the right           But as things turned out, the lack of a fixed    a day for the sum of £250. Rose, a charming
craft for her clients and for getting buyer     base and a change in her outlook has meant         diesel-powered, canopied vessel from 1904,
and seller to come to terms. She also took on   that Gillian’s new business can now come           is probably at present the only self-drive
the chartering of the Lady Florence, the        from anywhere and, as she puts it, she now         classic launch for hire on the Thames.
1926, 40ft (12.2m) river cruiser Peter had      has “less of a tendency to sit back and wait for
restored. Large parties could be thrown on      customers to arrive”. If she ever did.             New-build boats
Lady Flo, and Gillian and her two daugh-           Since the restructuring, Gillian has cer-       Hambleden’s current range of new boats
ters provided the catering.                     tainly been putting in the miles, pounding         consists of a 21ft 6in (6.6m) GRP clinker
     The break-up of the relationship           the Thames towpaths, and further afield             hull, known as the Venturer, and a smaller
between Gillian and Peter a couple of years     too, keeping tabs on potential boats for           clinker GRP dayboat, the 17ft 5in (5.3m)
ago explains why Hambleden’s office             sale and meeting new customers. She man-           Roamer, both built for her by Norfolk
address has now moved away from the             aged the purchase of Islay, then in Italy, for     builder Martham Boats, plus the 14ft
marina and was the reason for the firm’s        Adam Toop (see Restoration of the Year,            (4.3m) Otter, built by John and Nancy
fresh impetus as well as a slightly different   p22, and last month’s CB). Noticeboards            Caschere, also in Norfolk. The Cascheres
focus over the last few years.                  strategically placed along the towpath and         are also building a new 25ft (7.6m) Andrew
   Today, the business side of the operation    around Henley broadcast boats for sale and         Wolstenholme-design, as yet un-named,
is run out of Gillian’s flat in Henley, while    Hambleden’s services – and on top of that          which will be available with or without a
the sales and charter side has spread far and   she simply gets out there to meet people.          day cabin. As with other boats in the range,
wide. When the change in her circum-               As well as the core brokerage business,         power can come from diesel or electric,
stances came about, Gillian saw the loss of     Gillian has added new-boat sales, a winter         with interiors fashioned to suit individual
a fixed base for the brokerage business as a     storage facility, a few Thames moorings            need and budget.

42                                                     CLASSIC BOAT JANUARY 2009
                                                            CLASSIC BOAT FEATURE

“Less of a tendency to
sit back and wait for
customers to arrive”

                         Gillian in the driving seat;
                            right, with Martin in her
                         office, and, opposite page,
                                aboard Rose O’Dea

                                CLASSIC BOAT JANUARY 2009                          43

Joanna, the last Andrews                                                           Gillian believed
Day Cruiser, restored by                                                           Joanna was right
Rupert Latham                                                                      for present owner
                                                                                   Walter Goldsmith

 One of
 Venturer class

   As we met up with Gillian at the Bourne      important part of the broker’s trade, and        from 1940 to 1942. Walter took us for a
End Marina on Spade Oak Reach, early            Gillian seems to have this skill off to a tee.   trip on the river, and between puffs on his
one October morning, preparations were          Her easy manner and matter-of-fact air           large cigar the as-yet unretired company
under way for the defining part of the sale      hint at the avoidance of conflict; she cites a    chairman warmly described the work that
of Njord, a 1959 Osborne Kestrel, already       number of boats that have passed through         Rupert Latham had carried out on Joanna
up in slings ready for the coming surveyor.     her hands for repeat sales over the years as     to get her to the best condition of her life.
Her current owner, physicist Vere Smyth,        testament to strings of contented parties.          Rupert has been a long-term associate of
was jilling about the docks awaiting the           The bane of her life, though, she says,       Gillian’s ever since he employed her in the
arrival of the man with the clipboard and       are engines: “They cause more trouble            then Steam and Electric Launch Company,
hammer, as well as the prospective owner.       than anything else, because people often         at Ludham on the Broads in the late 80s.
Vere undertook the refurbishment of             expect them to be like modern car engines        He is now doing fine restoration work, as
Njord himself while completing a boat-          and not 50-year-old period pieces.” But,         well as providing electric motors and con-
building course at IBTC, Lowestoft, and         thankfully, she’s against the seemingly          versions. One of his restorations, Seven
living aboard her.                              ever-increasing and misguided school that        Springs, a former Thames Conservancy
   Survey time is a nervy part of any sale,     promotes junking serviceable original            launch by Salters, will feature on the Classic
    matter how well you
noThe clipper bow slices know your own          engines and fitting modern diesels in an          Boat stand at the London Boat Show.
   through Vere showed no signs of anxiety
work, but the water                             otherwise authentic boat.                           At first, Walter had wanted to move on
as he confidently admitted that Njord                                                            from the big modern GRP river cruisers he
hadn’t required any work to her double-         Restoration                                      and his wife had previously owned to a slip-
diagonal planked hull. I maliciously waited     As part of the preparation for our interview     per launch, but to Gillian’s mind the lack
to hear if the tap-tapping of John Tough’s      I had asked to be given access to a ‘typical’    of overall space and creature comforts was
– of Toughs of Teddington, the former           owner. We met Walter Goldsmith at the            not going to work for the couple. She per-
boatyard owning family – wooden screw-          moorings of the highly exclusive Phyllis         suaded Walter to consider the 25ft (7.6m),
driver handle went dull as a soggy patch of     Court riverside club, where to the distant       cabined day cruiser, and Walter admits she
planking was encountered.                       sounds of croquet mallets and tennis racquets    was right, though it required a few modifi-
   By the time we were ready to leave, the      Walter showed us the 70th-birthday               cations. A Phillips auction catalogue from
woodpecker noises were still reverberating      present that he had acquired for himself         1991 shows Starlight – as she was called
solidly up and down the gravel towpath,         with Gillian’s help. Joanna, now beauti-         when built – with her original configura-
while conversation was still relaxed between    fully restored by Rupert Latham, was the         tion of long aft cabin, and maybe it’s that
buyer, seller, surveyor and broker.             last Andrews Day Cruiser to be built by the      tastes are changing, but she seems more
   Managing the relationships, not to           famous Bourne End firm in 1965 and was            attractive with the shortened version that
mention the expectations, between the           first owned by Air Chief Marshall Sir            Walter had instated. The longer open cock-
parties involved in a classic boat sale is an   Richard Peirse, who ran Bomber Command           pit that this allows embraces four Lloyd

44                                                     CLASSIC BOAT JANUARY 2009
                                                                                                    CLASSIC BOAT FEATURE

                                                                                                                   Baby of the fleet: Kuburuku,
                                                 Nada, the 1926 beaver-                                                  ...and going through
                                                                                                                               5.5-M rule yacht
                                                     sterned lauch has                                                    Hambleden’s books
                                                         been coming...                                                          over the years

                                                    Riva Super Florida,      The Aladdin’s cave
                                                  probably sold by now       at Beale Park

Loom chairs with ease and the cabin is still                                                            After tea and cake, we head off again,
capacious enough to contain toilet facili-           Gillian’s top ten tips                          this time to the boat store, located in farm
ties, a sink and two padded benches. In a            for selling boats                               buildings on the Beale Park estate – the
further modification, Joanna’s BMC                   1 Service the engine and keep the invoice       Beale Park Boat Show has always been a
Vedette four-cylinder petrol engine was              prior to putting the boat on the market.        high point on the Hambleden calendar –
replaced with an electric motor and batter-          2 Ensure that the BSS certificate has at         and as the vinyl curtains draw back a
ies. The fit-out, in pale ginger mahogany             least one year left to run (it may take this    turbulent world of wooden boat history is
throughout, by Latham, is rich, elegant              long for the boat to sell).                     revealed. The 15 or so boats inside are of
and of a high and lustrous quality, the cost         3 Ensure fire extinguishers are in date.         mixed vintage, size and condition. There’s
of which I just know that Walter – who is            4 Refresh the antifouling and waterline.        a Riva Super Florida, awaiting survey;
in “property and banking: all the good               5 Prepare a dossier with historic notes         Nada, a gentleman’s beaver-sterned launch
things” – is not going to tell me.                   and maintenance records.                        from around 1926 – Gillian’s sold her
   As Walter puts the boat covers on and             6 If applicable, include a serviced trailer     twice already; an unusual Simmonds
prepares to toddle over the lawns to his             or offer as an option.                          aluminium sports boat; Dunkirk Little
lunch, we head down to the pub for a bowl            7 Remove all personal possessions from          Ship Lady Isabelle – her owner has bought
of pasta. Gillian rattles off the names of           the boat and keep the boat clean and tidy       five boats through Gillian; Old Jolly, once
many of the boats that she has sold along            through the selling process.                    owned by Gillian’s ex-husband, plus many
this stretch of river over the years, and the        8 Be honest with buyers about any work          more launches, cruisers and dinghies.
characters that inhabit the Thames river-            that you believe is required.                      I begin to wonder about how the current
bank world in which she exists.                      9 Ask for advice on pricing and check           financial climate will affect the lives of the
                                                     similar boats on the web.                       people I’ve met today: all part of a Thames
Reference library                                    10 Use a broker. We can help with difficult      continuum that is going to change as it has
From the river we head to Gillian’s office            customers, have third party indemnity           done many times before, but won’t stop.
at the back of her top-floor flat on the hill          insurance and produce a paper trail.            The people may prosper or fall on hard
overlooking Henley in order to pore over                                                             times. But the boats are lucky; being inan-
the drawings for the new Wolstenholme               back many years. These, containing boats         imate they will simply await the river of
launch, and look through the small but              sold repeatedly over the years, start me         time to bring them a new owner.
delightfully ancient library that Gillian uses      thinking about how, in this Thames-side          Fortunately for them, Gillian will be around
for research. It’s good to see a full set of        community, it is the boats that remain a         to facilitate the introduction.
Classic Boat magazines alongside the                constant. People may come and go but, on
glossy Riva books that Gillian picked up            the whole, these boats remain and they are       Hambleden Sales & Charter
when visiting the Italian factory recently          as much a part of the river as the huge
and the Phillips auction catalogues dating          chestnut trees and weeping willows.              Tel: +44(0)1491 578870 Mob: 07813 917730

                                                           CLASSIC BOAT JANUARY 2009                                                          45

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