This is what Lake Burley Griffin is for. Not looking at. Not walking around. Heaven forbid swimming in. Nope. Floating on, while sitting back and sipping a cold one. Put Jack Jones through the speakers too, waxing lyrical about how “love” is “life’s sweetest reward … Let it flow, it floats back to you …”.
‘Love Boats’ is the lake’s newest arrival, and from where I am – on board one, with a glossy wooden wheel in hand, faux captain’s hat on head and plush vinyl under bottom – the experience is almost Venetian. Except the water is brown.
“Everybody told me not to name it that but it was the only name I kept coming back to,” owner Charles Chatain says.
“People know the song, and it’s the first one they have lined up to play. So I’m happy with the decision.”
Charles grew up around boats in Chicago in the US (hence his nickname of ‘Chicago Charles’). Since 2009, he’s provided various event services such as live music, lighting, sound, audio/visual and photobooths across Canberra.
On Lake Burley Griffin, he’s known for his 104-year-old ferry, which he bought from Pittwater in NSW to use for hosting weddings, Christmas and engagement parties, and other small events on the water.
During Floriade, he also captained ferry rides to and from the Kingston Foreshore and Ferry Gate near Commonwealth Park.
It was then he took the plunge to start his own Canberra boat-hire business.
“I can’t play guitar for forever,” he says.
“So as soon as the boats idea came, it took a couple of years to figure out how it was all going to work, but I applied for space in the marina and then ordered the boats.”
There are four boats for now, custom-made in California for around $150,000 each. A flank of batteries in the keel supplies the power, enough for a top speed of 5.2 knots (about 9 km/h). This is the legal limit for those without a boat licence, so you’re able to drive yourself.
To put it another way, you can sail under both bridges, past the National Museum, around Springbank Island and back to Kingston in under two hours.
Initially, all four boats were to be blue.
“But I was watching the Barbie movie with my daughters and, halfway through, my eldest daughter turned to me and says, ‘Dad, we should get a pink boat’,” Charles explains.
“And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I should get a pink boat’.”
Christening it ‘Barbie’ probably would have landed Charles in hot water, so he settled on the name of his old 2000s band, ‘Miss Pink’. The other three boats are named after his two daughters – Harriette, aged 7, and Cecilia, 9 – and late grandmother, Eileen.
There’s room on board for 10 people, and all the boats are fitted with a drinks fridge, built-in sound system, courtesy lights, and – to save tillers from having to ponder over which way to point the rudder – a conventional steering wheel. Don’t ask where the brake is.
Miss Pink also sports a cheeky disco ball from the roof.
“My favourite thing to do is get into the Central Basin, put the boat in neutral and just use it as a floating lounge room,” Charles says.
Love Boats only opened for business earlier this month, so bookings have been few and far between, but Charles hopes interest picks up ahead of Valentine’s Day in February and the Canberra Balloon Spectacular in March.
“Valentine’s Day will be my time to shine,” he says.
Canberra might be a risky choice for launching what are essentially fair-weather picnic boats, but thanks to the canvas roof and zip-up plastic windows on the sides, Charles’ initial early-morning research shows the boats to be quite toasty inside too.
“Once we get to June, July, August – I think people will still take them out and enjoy the lake in the middle of winter.”
Love Boats are available to hire from Kingston Foreshore from $199 for the blue boats and $229 for the pink boat.
Visit the Love Boats website for more information.
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.