Whispering Reeds Boats Ltd was founded in 1962 by Jack Tusting, a Norwich builders merchant and Frank Chettleburgh, a local farmer. Both were involved with Hickling Broad Sailing Club, and it was always said that they bought the old Beales Boatyard on this site to ‘stop the big boys moving in’. The boatyard was quickly established as a holiday business, letting houseboats, holiday cruisers and day boats as well as managing moorings and carrying out repairs and maintenance. This remains the company’s core business to this day.
In 1975 Frank Chettleburgh died, and his shareholding was bought from his estate by Shaun and Patricia, the two children of Jack. When Jack Tusting died in 1988 his half share of the company passed to his wife Nell, who subsequently gifted those shares to Shaun and then when Shaun died in March 2006 his shareholding passed to his widow Aase.
In the past, under Jack and Shaun, the company was run as something of a hobby. Something to ‘keep our own boats in the water’. Most boat owners will know that it’s an expensive business maintaining your pride and joy, and it was certainly made easier by having a boatyard in the family! So essentially, as long as the boatyard ticked over it was an acceptable arrangement. Especially through what are often referred to as the boom times on the Broads. There was always a manager and a good staff manning the yard day to day with only the larger decisions referred to first Jack, and then Shaun. Both however enjoyed spending Saturdays at the yard, meeting and greeting, and Shaun, being an accountant by training, took care of much of the accountancy side.
When Aase and her son John became involved it quickly became obvious that the business could no longer be operated in this manner. There have been a large number of boatyards closing in recent years, or ‘selling out to the big boys’ which is precisely what Grandpa Jack had been trying to avoid by setting up the yard in the first place.
Aase could have looked forward to a long retirement in her garden, instead she is working, full time in charge of what she likes to call ‘the domestics’. That ranges from laying slabs, to cleaning on a Saturday! John gave up a career in the motor trade, to come and run the yard. Both felt that it would be wrong to simply let the yard go. In fact they thought it was their duty to Shaun, and to Grandpa Jack to throw themselves into it and make a go of it. The accountants and bank manager initially would have said we were mad to try, but things are going well, and for Whispering Reeds at least, we think the future is bright.
In 2011 we took the decision to stop doing the conventional hiring of week long cruiser holidays through an agency. As most of the smaller yards on the Broads have found, it’s just impossible to make a small fleet pay it’s way any more. Since then we’ve concentrated on offering great Houseboat Holidays, days out in a load of different boats, and this year, in 2016, we’re starting the exciting task of building brand new, high quality, boats.
The future is very exciting for Whispering Reeds.