We arrived back at Southampton with £15,000 in the bank and started another life.  We bought a car, unloaded all of our stuff from Glencora and moved back into our old house in Tamworth.  The boat sat 12 inches higher in the water after we had unloaded our gear.

We spent a week varnishing and tidying up Glencora to sell her.  She was lifted out and placed on the “hard“ to sell.  We didn’t get any serious offers, so we sailed her back to Ipswich in October. We sold her two weeks later for £59,000 - not bad considering that we bought her for £55,000, four years and 20,000 miles earlier.  I helped the new owner sail her up to Hartlepool and never saw her again.

Brett and Craig loved being back in a house and going to school. Imagine having friends that didn’t sail away after a few days!  They did well at school and were a couple of years ahead of their age group in the basics of maths, writing and reading.

We set up a company called Orion Systems, bought two computers and launched BoatNet.  We put over 1,000 sailing-related companies onto the web site and gave them all a single web page advertising their services.

Our plan was to persuade companies to have a bigger web site linked to Boatnet.  Our proposition was that they would only pay £100 per year for a eight page web site - we could then persuade some companies to have bigger “custom” web sites.  If we could get 500 companies to subscribe to the basic web sites, then that would give us £50,000 per year.  We could then use that as a base to become an Internet Service Provider and expand the company.

I developed a web site generator which would make the publishing of the eight page web site an automatic process.  All they had to do was run a little application on their PC which would guide them through providing all of the data for their web site - price list, contact details, product descriptions, etc.  We could then automatically generate their web site and publish it to BoatNet.

We sent out a mailshot launching the BoatNet web site and informing the 1000 companies that they now had a free web page on the Internet.  We then started a tele-marketing campaign to ring each of the companies to further promote the advantages of BoatNet.

The telephone conversations went something like this:

“.......... So, you’ve got a free one page entry in the Product Directory of the BoatNet web site!”
“What’s a web site?”
“It’s on the Internet, and allows people to see information from their computers.”
“What’s the Internet?”
“It’s like Ceefax and will allow you to advertise your services to the whole world.  People can contact you immediately by email.”
“What’s email?”
“It’s a way of sending messages between computers - like an on-line fax”
“Why would I want to do that?”

After a month of mind-numbing telephone conversations, we gave up - we were two years too early.  After six months of effort, we were running out of money, so we got “proper” jobs.

I continued with the clarinet for a year and passed the “Grade 4 Jazz Clarinet” exam. I then gave up and haven’t played it since.  Craig picked up my clarinet and went onto Grade 6 before beer and women took precedence.

Brett and Craig are now at university.  Glenys and I built up and sold another business.  We’re planning to buy another yacht soon and go cruising until we’re too old to carry on.

Neville Howarth
April 2010

P.S. We managed to contact the owner of Homer - he made it home ...