Mumbai Boatshow

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By James Wharram

At the moment my dream is to sit aboard a Tiki 30 in a quiet creek with access to a bay and the open sea. I wish to sit there for several days with a stack of books, simple good food and wine and DO NOTHING, just wait for the peace and oneness with nature to enter my world.

Then when that happens, with a few wind ripples showing on the water I will hoist sail and gently sail off. No effort, no stress, just enjoy. Mentally in tune I will enter the bay, then sail out of the bay and into the open sea, the roadway to the ocean and far lands.

The reason for this desire to go back into myself, is that for the last 2 months I (with Hanneke) have been on the move, from aeroplane to aeroplane, country to country. It started at the end of February with two weeks in Mumbai/Bombay India, followed by one week in Phuket, Thailand, meeting franchised builders of my boats, owners of my boats, would-be owners of my boats, hearing stories of my boats, sailing on my boats. Then within two weeks of returning home we were off again to Oslo, Norway, to give a paper at a Conference. All this has built up to a 'noise factor' in my brain that sets me dreaming of finding my essential self, the person behind the 'noise'.

People in conversation at a boat show
Mumbai Boatshow: Our builder Rajesh talks to the customers, while I have a quiet chat to the representative of the Italian Trade Federation.
A walkway leading down to a pontoon

India is part of the British psyche. Britain, as one of the last of its invaders is also part of the Indian psyche.

I/we were met at Mumbai airport by our new Indian franchised builder Rajesh Desai. Within half an hour of first meeting we had a mutual feeling of friendship; we needed it. There are 17 million people in Mumbai, at any one moment several million of these people are driving down Mumbai's road system. Big cars, small cars, 100s of ancient taxis, trucks and the space between filled solid with motorised rickshaws (tuc-tucs). The traffic in Mumbai is like a river, it flows along the path of least resistance, through every gap and channel that it meets.

At first it seemed I was risking my life with this relative stranger. In actual fact, the streets of Mumbai show the essential good manners, patience and tolerance of India (well at least of the 17 million Mumbai people). Rajesh showed us his organisational skills as we were first taken to our hotel, fed lunch (curry of course) and then taken to the special Press/VIP evening of the second Mumbai Boatshow.

Compared to the glossy boatshows of Europe, Mumbai's second Boatshow was like all new boatshows, lacking in gloss. The stands were housed in temporary tent structures (with some air conditioning problems too hot half the day and then too cold in the evening), built on a development site in the centre of Mumbai, while the boat pontoon (where the only sailing boat, Rajesh's Tiki 30, was moored amongst a clutch of luxury motor boats) was over one hours drive or train ride away by the Gateway to India. This meant many people either only came to the land site and missed the boats, or the other way round.

Rajesh's generous sized stand was in the third hall. Here the French, Italian and British Trade Federations also had their stands, coloured the usual dull blues to represent the sea. Rajesh's stand, in the centre isle, stood out with a huge backdrop of a glowing orange sunset sea. Rajesh's sister is an artist and organised the superb photographic displays. Our stand was not easily missed!

People posing for a photo on a boat
A stand at a boatshow
Rajesh's stand.

The highlight of the press evening was a fashion show, with models parading up and down the stage dressed in cut-away, revealing, glittering saries, some of which, we were told, cost £1000 or more. Yes, India has a super rich class and this boatshow was set up to attract such people, enticing them with glossy motor yachts and beautiful girls.

On day 2 there was a reception in the luxury Hyatt hotel, resplendent in black and ochre polished marble, with a three story high atrium waterfall. While drinking several glasses of wine; I met an Indian who had rowed single handed across the Atlantic; I met some sailors who had sailed from Cochin out to the Lakshadweep Islands in a 19 ft open boat; I met keen sailors from the Bombay yacht club; yet the official line was that India did not have sailors, that the importation of expensive Western yachts (35% import tax) was necessary to encourage a yachting community, particularly as it was my trade organisation, the BMF, who runs the London Excell Boatshow, who were giving the Bombay Boatshow organisers advice.

Over the next few days I learned much about Rajesh and the possible future in Indian yachting, meeting many very keen yachtsmen at the boatshow stand. Rajesh, a Marahata, is a fully trained ship's engineer, rode large motor cycles, is a noted paraglider, made adventurous journeys in Europe and New Zealand, a practical, hard working man, we found easy to get on with. His wife Harinder is a trained travel agent, she is from a Sikh family, she fully backs Rajesh's plans to become a boatbuilder and with her meticulous approach has been responsible for drawing the boat building patterns.

The question is, in all this mutual goodwill, can he build Wharram boats? His first Wharram boat was a Tiki 30, which he exhibited at last year's First Mumbai Boatshow after building her in just two months!! She was again exhibited at this Boatshow and we had a chance to go sailing on her, she was well built and passed inspection. His second boat, a Tiki 38 for a local owner, well on the way to being finished, also passed inspection.

Workshop with Tiki 38 hulls under construction, people stood in front
The workshop where Rajesh and his team are building the Tiki 38.
James with the boat building team
Rajesh (right) and his foreman (left).

Most important we met Rajesh's foreman. The foreman in a boatbuilding yard is the essential craftsman, who keeps the building going while the boss is doing all the paperwork. Andy Smith in the Philippines is very fortunate with his Ronie. Rajesh' foreman, a fierce looking, but modest leader, reminded me of my father's foreman 55 years ago. On his tool bench were some exquisitely maintained hand tools.

Our advise to Rajesh is that for the next year or two, he should be spending his time satisfying the numerous prospective Indian customers, gained from exhibiting at the Mumbai Boatshow. Meantime he is seeking to improve his building conditions, by hopefully building a workshop on a site out of town, so he can keep out of the hectic, time consuming Mumbai traffic as much as possible.

So please, prospective Wharram owners in the rest of the world, do not overwhelm him with requests for boats. For the time being there is Andy Smith Boatworks to build for the worldwide market.

To be continued, with our visit to Seascape, Phuket, Thailand.

- James Wharram