The Pride is doing wonderfully well now, the general opinion of the guests who are taking it is that it is the best in Kerala, and the options that I've introduced for the boat makes it easier for all tourist of all budgets to take the boat as per their budget and requirement. My only problem is that guests do not know how lucky they are to take our boat - the 3 options, the service and the friendliness of the staff are unlike what many tourists experience on other boats and in that I guess I'm pretty lucky with getting the right crew. Yes, my men on the boat are just perfect. Nice people for the Best Houseboat In Kerala.
It's finsished, done, whew. Did a couple of daytrips and one overnight trip already.
I started building my new houseboat Johnson's 'The Pride', last August 2007, to be exact, and it's due to be finished sometime in December 2008 this year.
What an experience, building a new houseboat is. I started building the new one right from scratch, right from sourcing the wood off the trees of an estate of this fine Kottayam gentleman. So, I struck a price for 7 trees, huge 'Anjili' or jackwood trees, some as wide as 100 inches wide. Then we got down to the business of cutting down these trees and unlike in the west, here everything's done by human power (getting a crane into the estates was impossible , 'cause of the terrain). Once the cutting and felling of these trees were over, I had to get elephants, yes, elephants to move the fallen logs to the edge of the estate, where the elephants placed them onto a lorry and took them to the mill, where it was cut into planks. This whole proces itself took about 5 months, and then we transported the planks to the houseboat building dock in Alleppey, or Alappuzha as I am supposed to call my town now. Here, they put the hull of the boat together, another 4 or 5 months, and on May 4th 2008, we finally rolled it into the water, and yippee, it floated. I took a break for the next few months on account of the monsoon and we've just started work again, on the top portion of the boat. This was one hell of an experience, dealing with different types of people, labour problems, at one time the mill where I was cutting the planks in Kottayam, caught fire and I thought, there goes my wood and investment. Luckily, they brought the fire under control and I could continue . Almost every tourist who stays with us does the houseboat trip and one FAQ from them is how much it costs to build a boat. So let me tell u , it costs anything between 1.8 million (which is what I expect my final expense to be) to 5 or 6 million that some people put into boats these days in Alleppey. It's now become almost like a status symbol, the houseboat, and everyone wants to make their boat more expensive, if not better, than the next guy's. I am not joining the rat race though, I know exactly what my customers want, and it is designed by myself for that purpose, I'm making it as eco-friendly as possible and as puting in as much of nature produce in it as I can. On my new boat, the luxury is in it's nature eco-friendliness. International tourists would have seen enough luxury, state of the art gadgets and gizmos, and the latest of them in yachts or boats that already plies in Europe, America, or elsewhere in the western world. Oh, and another FAQ is how long it takes to build one - well, you can make a houseboat in Alleppey in as little as 4 or 5 months, there are a lot of contractors out there who just makes the hull, or the whole thing in maybe even less time. But, that's just business, they do it for money and God knows how long the boat's going to last. I've already spent more than a year on mine, and I'm still not in a hurry to finish it even though the season is fast getting to peak. I want mine exactly the way I visualize it, and I want to do it in my own time. So there. But back to the actual making, the one thing that I've done is to take the entire thing , right from cutting the trees, to the elephant moving the logs part, the making of the hull, getting the engine off a dilapidated old bus and converting it into the engine for the boat, everything else of the making of the boat , I've captured it on video. And at the end, I'll be releasing a making of the houseboat video. I'm the only person who's taken the whole thing, captured the entire process of making a houseboat on video.
I'll keep u guys posted on how it goes with the boat.
It's Feb 2009 and I still haven't finisihed theboat. Thought it would be done by Dec 2008. But, no worries, I think I'm closing the deal very soon. We just had the first trial and I felt real proud( and relieved) when the babe moved into the backwaters. Doing the interiors now, and I'm driving the head carpenter and his workers nuts. They just can't understand why someone should want the whole room on the upper deck and just 2 bathrooms and loads of space below. But, when it's finsihed, I think the design is going to surprise a lot of people and some may want to copy the design. I might very well start a new trend in houseboat design.
Keep every one posted on how it goes.