The Boat - July 2017
It's that time of the year folks, when the evil day star hangs in the sky and I feel the sudden urge to go for a jaunt down the river Thames with a bunch of other kinksters. Yes, it's time for The Firm's annual event: The Boat.
It's actually been quite a struggle this year, the long and short of it being that we've had (in no particular order): a snap general election (which left us without an actual government), several terrorist attacks in London (very minor ones at that compared to the IRA's activity during 'the troubles') and a heat wave. I can't honestly point to any particular one as the reason why with a fortnight to go we'd only sold 30% of the tickets... so I guess it's something akin to a perfect storm, although I can't honestly say if it's been affecting every London based club at this time and I'll need to poke a few friends to see what's what.
Still such things are sent to try us and whilst a struggle this event has been running for over 20 years so it's going to take more than this to stop it from happening! Although with the, potential, reduced numbers (I tend to write these intro's well in advance) did offer me a potential silver lining: less people = more space = petticoats? So I asked the question if they wanted flash or normal for this year; hey I LIKE the full regalia, doesn't slow me down in the slightest.
And so here I am, the day after The Boat 24 (July 2017), writing in real time and yep... the word that sums up The Boat after 4 years of working on it? Surreal. Utterly surreal. Honestly it doesn't matter how weird, wild or odd things go on the actual pleasure craft itself you always get that surreal sensation when you think about where you are and what's happening around you.
This year things have been a bit... tense. In 24 years only two boat parties haven't sold out: 2008 and 2017. Now I'm not saying anything nor trying to get all political but: 2008 was the year of the global financial crash. 2017 and we're starting to see the effects of Brexit starting to appear? I'm not laying the blame at that on its own (although I think Brexit and the Tories in general are to blame for the other things) but we've just had spate of quite public terrorist attacks in London. Small ones, in the grand sceheme of things, but very loudly and repeatedly reported thanks to our 24 hour news cycle.
But London is London and it will do what it's always done. At least that's the line of thinking most people have... so why did the city feel so subdued on Saturday 1st July 2017? We cast off and usually under the first few bridges their are revellers, tourists and the like waving and cheering from them. Same thing heading home at 2am, usually we're dodging people coming home from clubs, enjoying their night out and generally doing what people do at 2am. Yet they weren't doing it as much as either of us two remember from previous years.
It dawned on me that this was the closest Saturday to July 4th and London usually has a fairly large contingent of Americans celebrating, setting off fire works and generally making merry... and engaging in mutual piss taking (it's an English thing and we're more than happy to infect you with it). Yet I don't remember hearing or seeing anything... perhaps they're all throwing parties the weekend after July 4th? I don't know just seemed odd... subued. Very weird.
From my end this meant that I'd have 80 - 90 people to deal with rather than the 120 or so of previous years. This year we also picked up three vanilla's, basically they'd missed their boat party (seemed to be some sort of Asian wedding thing) they stumped up the cash and spent an evening with us instead! By all accounts it seemed like that had the better evening so I'd call that a bloody big win.
The second problem of the night turned out to be both a big one and one that didn't really matter: half the food was forgotten. Now this is a big problem, you have two 14ltr hot boxes full of sausages and chicken that you've spent the whole damn day cooking! As you can imagine it was fairly devestating to the poor person and their wasn't enough time for them to get back to their home, crab the boxes and get back to us. We didn't really have any other options as the route the boat follows is the route, it's set in stone: we can't just putter off to a different dock nor can we hang around and wait for a bit.
As an aside, these two were the only person I heard this sort of stuff from, at least with regards to the boat making "multiple stops" and/or "pulling in to the other side of the river"... curiously "Well a bunch of people are all on the other side and said they'd wait for the boat to come to them".
But with the reduced numbers what we did have pretty much all went and we had little to no wastage. We just didn't have enough people to warrant 70+ sausages and an equal number of chicken wings. Funny how things work out and I did say "We'd muddle through" several times. See? Trust the fuck head.
The only real downside was we decided not to cart trays of food around, we had so little of it we figured loading a smaller tray would just make everything look worse... and people seemed happy to come to the tables to grab stuff as they had more room to manuver than they usually do. So... yeah... funny how that one works.
Whilst we didn't set off the the usual rendition of 'Friggin in the rigging' (perhaps we've finally killed it?) with the way the river was pulling away from the dock actually settled out little pleasure craft down quite a bit; before hand it'd been bobbing around like crazy and something of a departure from the previous years. Yeah I know, it's a boat, on a river, at some point it's going to move around on the water that is a given and I'm an idiot: I'm just saying it made setting everything up and dragging cargo on to the thing a pain.
From up front our DJ's were working up a veritable storm with my other half definetly on a hot one. With very little to actually do beyond keep an eye on stuff and refill what we could with what little we had left I had plenty of time to just stand around and watch the world go by. And you know something? Beyond chatting and taking turns keeping an eye on and helping with the food area that's pretty much all I did for the duration!
And you know something? Feels really good. It was a perfect evening for it: not to hot, humid or blowy and not a hint of rain either. Just cruising past places whilst the music came from downstairs. Everyone seemed to be having a really good time and with the cleaning kit I'd brought with me tucked away near the actual play kit (and getting some use) dealing with last years issue all I had to do was putter along collecting the occasional empty.
Nobody ever has a bad Boat party. At least not as far as the front of house stuff goes, anything bad is usually behind the scenes or otherwise tidied away out of sight. I've never had a "bad" Boat party... yeah sure, I've had "meh" ones more because of my own issues than anything else but this year? I'm in full agreement with the large number of people who were saying it was "the best boat party in a long time" and "exactly what they needed". See the thing is that with the reduced numbers we had a lot more space! Don't get me wrong, it didn't feel empty, far from it but it certainly didn't feel like a crush. I was able to get down to the DJ area without feeling like I was crashing in to peoples scenes, people were able to get to the bar and outside easily and so on all the way down to the queues being noticeably smaller for the toilets.
So by forgetting the food we ended up having just enough for the people who did buy tickets who ended up having the best party in a while because of all of silly people that didn't buy tickets. Funny how that one works isn't it? That's the Boat. That's just how it works.
Sure for us on the business end if started off with a grind that seemed to drag on for hours but for everyone who actually paid to be there? We buggered off from the pier and partied for a good long time non-stop before teleporting back at 2am.
And that's pretty much the end of it, I'd been quietly sorting out things about an hour or so before the end. Nothing major, just as we ran out of condiments (and I do mean ran out) I'd get the bowel's wiped down and stacked quietly in the corner, same thing for the trays once we'd expended that particular resource as well. So it really was "Thanks for coming, hope you had a wonderful time" wait 5 min util the customers have gone, grab it and go on that front (felt rather chuffed at myself for doing it as well but hey ho).
And that was pretty much it. I helped carry a load off stuff back off the boat and guarded it on the pier whilst transport was sorted out and then helped my Owner back to the car with her DJ equipment. Once back in we trundled back through the city, took a few breaks and ended up collapsed back in bed at 5am.
So there you have it; The Boat 24 (aka The Boat Party - July 2017), the party we needed... if not necessarily the one everyone on board wanted. I can roll with that quite happily.
See you next year for The Boat 25.