Lymington’s maritime history

The BOATAFLOAT offices sit near the quayside in Lymington, one of the most prominent yachting centres in the UK. Boats have been chartered from Lymington since the 14th century at least; but Lymington Harbour hasn’t always been filled with pleasure yachts. The earliest charters were of commercial and military vessels. Peter May, our resident history scholar from Trinity College Cambridge, has been doing some historical digging to uncover Lymington’s Maritime History.


Early Lymington

Not much is known about Early Medieval Lymington. Between the 5th and 7th centuries, the area was inhabited by a Germanic tribe called the ‘Jutes’, who coexisted alongside the ‘Angles’ or ‘Saxons’.

Lymington’s name (‘Lentune’ in Domesday) may be a British-Saxon hybrid meaning ‘Marshy River Settlement’. The ‘Jutes’ were eventually conquered by the ‘West Saxons’ (later known as ‘Wessex’), a tribe based at Winchester who eventually founded the ‘kingdom of England’ in the 10th century. Some historians think that the ‘West Saxons’ (and potentially also the ‘Jutes’) were actually Britons who adopted Germanic dress, language and identity. If the name Lymington has a partially British root, this may support the idea of ‘Wessex’ having had partially British origins.

Remarkably, despite the natural harbour, there is no evidence that the Jutes, West Saxons, or even the Romans ever used Lymington for sailing.

The Salt Trade

By 1147, Lymington had become an epicentre of British salt production, which led to the development of a thriving shipping town.

Historically, salt was extremely valuable: the word ‘salary’ comes from the fact that Roman soldiers were paid in salt when cash was not available. The 17th Century travel author Celia Fiennes noted the importance of the salt trade in Lymington, and Daniel Defoe wrote in the early 18th century that Lymington supplied all of southern England with salt.

By 1730, there were 163 saltpans in the town, and between 1724 and 1766, 4000 tons of it were exported from Lymington, mainly to the rest of the British Empire. Whilst all that is needed to produce salt is some seawater and a saltern, many colonies (particularly India) were banned from producing their own – keeping them economically reliant on trade with Britain.

Salt made some local merchants extremely wealthy: one 18th century salt producer, Charles St Barbe, made a post-tax profit of £25,000 in a year, which is the equivalent of £2.2m today. He used his wealth to found the St Barbe museum, where you can visit and explore the history of Lymington today.

A Trading Town

Lymington received its town charter during the 12th century ‘Salt Boom’, and the town quickly became a commercial hub. Receiving a town charter was extremely important in the medieval period. It officially granted a settlement the status of a ‘borough’ (allowing coins to be minted, mayors to be elected, and judges to be appointed) and granted its inhabitants ‘citizen’ status. The local aristocrats, the de Redvers family, who had given the town its charter, also ordered a market to take place every Saturday. King Henry III went on to grant the right for the town to host an annual trade fair in 1257.

Rivalry with Southampton

In the early 14th century, Southampton claimed the exclusive right to collect import tariffs in the Solent, meaning that technically any ship unloading goods in Lymington couldn’t pay tax on their goods. Unsurprisingly, trading ships started to prefer missing out on their tax obligations and started docking at Lymington ‘by mistake’.

Lymington quickly caught onto the trend and started independently collecting a (much lower) tariff on goods, while still giving the King his cut. Lymington grew as an importer of French wine, and an exporter of salt, wool and timber, much to the annoyance of Southampton’s merchants.

In 1325, Southampton attempted to sue Lymington to shut them down and the court battle carried on until 1730, when a judge finally found in favour of Lymington.

Image result for lymington

The French Connection

Sailing in Medieval Lymington also had a military importance thanks to French raiding parties and their Italian mercenaries.

The first raid was carried out at the same time as an attack on Southampton. Whilst no physical evidence of the raid remains in Lymington, visitors to Southampton can still see the burn marks inside St. Michael’s church.

The architect of this attack, Charles Grimaldi, was an Italian mercenary: his family used the proceeds of this attack (not least Edward III’s own wine cellar!) to purchase Monaco and build a palace there. Demand for luxury boats in Monaco now supports many maritime businesses on the Solent – so Lymington’s failure to defend itself may have actually proven a good investment in the long run. A cadet branch of the same family also went on to found ‘Grimaldi Lines’, who are now one of the Port of Southampton’s main shipping lines.

A Military Port

Lymington proved a major source of warships for the English navy, providing more ships than Portsmouth during the wars of the 14th century.

Lymington was not always cooperative with the war effort. Edward I demanded two ships from the town in 1324, the ‘Boldre’ and ‘Kyavene’ (Keyhaven), named after two local hamlets. The owners of these ships, and all other owners in the port, didn’t like the idea of risking their livelihoods in war without any compensation, and refused to moor their ships. The situation was resolved when the local sheriff simply stole another ship from Lymington harbour, along with another from Port Hamble and five from Southampton.

Related image

Boatafloat’s ancestors

Fittingly enough for the town that Boatafloat now calls home, Lymington had become the charter capital of southern England by the 14th century. Merchants from Norwich, Bristol, Weymouth and Salisbury chartered ‘cogs’ (small trading ships) for trade with Normandy, Brittany and Bordeaux. The first recorded charter in Lymington happened in 1342; may they continue for another 676 years!

Piracy and Smuggling

Lymington’s early focus on commercial shipping had some unfortunate side-effects: first piracy, and then smuggling.

In 1426, two men from Lymington hijacked the Christopher, while it was coming to England from the Flemish town of Sluys. They are only recorded because they were eventually apprehended: it is probable that there were other pirates based in Lymington who we know nothing about, because they were never caught.

In the 18th century, Britain’s hostile relationship with much of the Continent led to high import tariffs being imposed. Lymington responded by becoming a smuggler’s haven. It even appears that the local vicar was something of a smuggling kingpin, and that local funerals were sometimes used as cover for smuggling.

The life of Tom Johnstone, born in Lymington in 1772, really sums up the different roles of sailors in the town: he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy, deserted and took up smuggling, became a spy for France, lost all his ill-gotten gains gambling in London, and ended up as the captain of a revenue cutter in Lymington Harbour, hunting other smugglers.

The Transformation of Lymington

Lymington’s harbour was saved from stagnation and decline by the gentrification of the town during the 18th and 19th centuries. By 1778, Lymington had become fashionable as a party town, and aristocratic army and navy officers flocked there in droves, transforming the parochial market town into a cosmopolitan centre.

Like Southampton, the town also became popular for sea-bathing among the upper classes, leading to an even bigger influx of urban middle-class migrants. In 1833, purpose-built saltwater baths were opened due to high demand on the harbour.

Old Lymington and New Lymington

The Old Lymington of commercial sailing coexisted for a while with the New Lymington of pleasure boating.

By 1819, the town’s shipyard, now owned by Berthon, focused exclusively on revenue cutters to chase smugglers, and yachts for the leisure-focused. Gentrification also brought gas lights and railways in 1832 and 1858 respectively, transforming Lymington from a small trading post into a lavish resort town.

By 1865, the last Saltern had closed, and Lymington’s transformation into a major centre for yachts was almost complete.

The Yacht Clubs

In 1851, boats from Lymington competed in the forerunner of the America’s Cup around the Isle of Wight. This first iteration of the now famous competition was a fleet race, rather than the modern match race, and featured three boats based in Lymington: the ‘Alarm’, the ‘Arrow’ and the ‘Strella’.  None of the three finished under the time limit, and the race was eventually won by the ‘America’, which the competition was thereafter named after.

There were initially no formal yacht clubs in Lymington. There were abortive attempts to found them in the 1880s and in 1914, although in both cases war disrupted the mainly military membership. But in 1922, the Lymington River Sailing Club was founded. It was given its current name (Royal Lymington Yacht Club) in 1938; the club paused its activities during WW2 due to naval activity in the Solent, and because many of its members were still themselves involved in the military. The Lymington Town Sailing Club followed hot on their heels in 1946.

Team Boatafloat’s Honda 150 driving experience


Team Boatafloat tested out one of our most exhilarating boat hire experiences on the Honda 150 Race Boats last Friday. We absolutely loved it and can’t recommend the ride enough for anyone looking for a high speed adrenaline rush out on the water!

From Shamrock Quay in Southampton, the four of us and our Skipper made our way up the river, driven by our intern Peter as he got his eye in for the first time being behind the wheel of a powerboat.

Luckily, we picked a stunning day and drove out in the sunshine with the glassy expanse of the Solent in front of us, ready to make some serious waves.

Each having a go at driving the boat, we all practiced making turns and rounding marker buoys the tightest we could, pushing the boat’s incredible ability to take corners at speed. I think a favourite for all of us was getting some air off the wake of the Red Jet ferry – our Skipper taught us exactly how to hit the waves at a 45 degree angle and make the boat fly.

We were also incredibly grateful for the spring-loaded seats which take all the impact for you as you return to the water. Richard also learnt that it is very important to hold on…

Check out our videos and pics, which the boys amazingly managed to film as we were going along, with no technology casualties going over the side!


One of the great things about this experience is it’s suitability for any level of boating and driving experience. Totally accessible to novices, whilst also hair-raising enough for our motorboat-mad Fleet Manager Harry… “Where can I buy one!?”

“It was okay” is never enough for Saber’s Nadia – each powerboat experience has to leave riders buzzing, and that’s exactly how we felt returning to the marina! Windswept and salty-faced, what a way to kick off the morning. Ladies, take a hair-tie, I’m still untangling the knots now…

For £49 per person, we reckoned this would be a perfect team day out, birthday present experience or maybe a date idea that’s that little bit different… Check out our experience package or boat hire options for these Honda 150’s.

When can we go again!??

Round Britain and Ireland 2018

1,805 Nautical Miles

28 Teams 

200 Sailors

The Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race 2018 is underway, with the front of the fleet skirting the west coast of Ireland as we speak on Wednesday lunchtime.

We’re tracking the progress of Boatafloat director Richard, sailing Pata Negrathe 46ft performance race yacht that we also have listed for charter on You can follow his progress, and the rest of the fleet, here.

Established in 1995 by the RORC and taking place ever four years, the race is one of the toughest in the yachting world. Depending on conditions, sailors are racing non-stop for ten to twelve days from the start and finish point in Cowes.

The last race in 2014 set five new world records after an area of low pressure caught the boats on the downwind.

This year’s conditions are also predicted to become increasingly challenging, with strong winds and unpredictable gusts creating opportunities for dynamic position changes within the fleet.

RORC posted this update from Pata Negra‘s Chris Hanson – sent from the boat as they rounded the Fastnet Lighthouse:

“Things are pretty good on board now, we have been bounding around the Celtic Sea in a rather nasty chop and we have now cracked sheets at long last. It is so nice! Boat speed is up but we just found the chain locker and bow full of water, so there has been a big pumping job going on. Hopefully now the bow is on the rise.”

Onboard they’ve been reaching speeds of over 12 knots, and we’ll be watching closely as the wind strength is only set to increase as the boats head North.


“Looking at the weather ahead with gale force winds forecast for the top of Scotland, good seamanship will be a big part of this race” commented Wouter Verbaak from sponsors of the event, Sevenstar Yacht Transport.

We’re wishing Pata Negra and all the boats the best of luck and look forward to following their progress through this week and next…

#boatafloat #yachtcharter #boathire #yachtracing #cowes #rbi



Best Sailing Apps 2018

We’ve got the low-down on five of the most recommended sailing apps:


Designed for cruising rather than racing, Boatie costs £6.99 and provides all the basic tidal, weather, navigation and port information for UK coastal waters. Not all features work offline though, and the developer suggests that the app works best for “meeting the crew in the pub for planning your weekend”.Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.22.14.png

Y & Y

The Yachts & Yachting Magazine app gives you online subscription access to the latest articles and features from across the sport. Options range from 1 issue (£2.99) to a year’s subscription of 12 issues (£39.99). Take your reading material with you for those light wind days or evenings on the mooring.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.23.06.png

Tides Planner 

Add favourite locations to access accurate tide times from their offline database – a major bonus for anyone on the water away from a decent connection. The free version gives you tides for one day, but the in-app purchase option enables tidal information for over further ahead, for over 8,000 locations.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.28.44.png

iRegatta Pro

This paid-for app (£19.99) is more focused on race tactics, tracking headings and wind shifts via GPS. It also includes features for setting your start line and measuring distance to the line and identifying line bias/favoured end. The developers are also in the process of adding a facility for tracking waypoints.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.34.42.png

TimeZero iBoat

Created by marine navigation experts MaxSea and Nobeltec, the TimeZero iBoat app combines traditional chart views with satellite photography. Raster and vector charts are available for route planning and tracking, as well as capturing COG (course) and SOG (speed) data.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 12.39.47.png

Affordable boat hire: 5 cheaper ways of getting afloat


Starting at £16 per person, this boat trip experience will have you out the beautiful Cornish coastline at very little cost. Cruising past golden beaches, keep an eye out for seals, dolphins, sun-fish and basking sharks who are seen daily on the way to Seal Island – the home of the Grey Atlantic Seals.

‘Little Mermaid’ also offer fishing trips starting from just £18 per person.

two sea lions in ocean at daytime

From just £49, you get a two hour adrenaline rush from the UK’s only speed-boat experience where you do the driving. Each Honda 150 boat has identical power and weight, and the craft are checked prior to your event to ensure they are capable of achieving the same lap times. Your experience begins with a safety briefing and an introduction to the boat, after which you change into racing team kit and safety gear and then get going, fast!


At an hourly rate of £29.00 or a day’s boat hire from £135.00, this could be a great and inexpensive day out shared between up to six people. Explore the Norfolk Broads, going down to the Nature Reserves, or visiting bustling Wroxham, in this little electric cruiser which is available for bareboat charter.

Take to the water from £40 as you hire stand-up paddleboards from the sandy beaches at Bournemouth and Boscombe. Paddle along the coastline and maybe catch some mini-waves as you build your SUP-ing skills and get a workout at the same time. If you prefer, then the surf school has professional instructors on hand to give you some guidance or a one-to-one lesson.

woman standing on paddleboard on body of water

Up to 8 people can take to the water in this easy-to-operate Mystic boat, as you peacefully explore Britain’s largest lake from only £29 per hour. Lake Windermere is arguably the most famous and popular area in the whole of the Lake District, with Bowness Bay as the perfect place to get afloat.

What does it mean to have a boat ‘coded’?

Any boat used for commercial chartering will need to have been coded by the owner. Coding certification is a measure enforced by the MCA (Marine Coastguard Agency), to ensure that any boats used commercially are safe to take afloat, and meet legal requirements.

A yacht charter or boat hire will have a ‘Category’ from 0-6, which tells you where and when you can take the vessel, and with how many people on board.

Coding certification will vary depending on what you want to use your boat for. Below are the seven possible categories:

  • Category 6: To sea, within 3 miles from a nominated departure point(s) named in the certificate and never more than 3 miles from land, in favourable weather and
  • Category 5: To Sea, within 20 miles from a nominated departure point named in the certificate in favourable weather and daylight.
  • Category 4: Up to 20 miles from a safe haven, in favourable weather and in daylight.
  • Category 3: Up to 20 miles from a safe haven. (Night equipment necessary)
  • Category 2: Up to 60 miles from a safe haven.
  • Category 1: Up to 150 miles from a safe haven.
  • Category 0: Unrestricted


Category 0 obviously provides your boat with the highest cover, but with this comes additional costs and responsibilities for providing the very highest level safety equipment. You may want to think about what you use your boat for and which category is consequently most suitable.

A ‘safe haven’ is defined as somewhere you can safely tie up and make repairs.

Using the terminology around coding, people will say “This boat is Cat (3) coded” or “I need to charter a Cat 2 cruising yacht”. This means everyone can be on the same page about what the boat is safely capable of.

For a more in-depth guide to coding your boat, see our guidance at 

5 transferrable skills children can learn from sailing

Whether it’s on a family yachting holiday, or learning to sail a small dinghy by themselves, there are so many transferrable skills that children can learn on the water…

  • Patience

If you’re a sailor yourself, then you will know that sometimes we have to wait for the wind. This involves concentration, sitting still, and a whole load of patience. If they are engaged and determined out on the water, those light-wind skills can teach children to that patience really is a virtue…

  • Adaptability and Resilience 

Your child may be the kind who likes to plan meticulously, or may prefer to make it up as they go along; but either way they will have to be flexible when they are on the water. The conditions change, as do the boats around them, and they will have to take charge and adapt. Often this means bouncing back if the situation has become a little more difficult or frustrating for them…

  • Ability to lose

Similarly, not everyone can win every race. Your child might start to engage in casual racing at their sailing club, or aboard your family boat, and with this comes the experiences of winning and losing. Often, sequential races mean that sailors must quickly shake off bad results and re-focus for the next start.



Whether it’s negotiating trolleys down a slipway or communicating on board a double hander, sailing requires teamwork. As a less intensively ‘team-orientated’ sport than some, sailing can particularly suit children who prefer working in smaller groups, but still enjoy participating around others.


  • Confidence

I remember a conversation I had with a parent of a six-year-old who was taking out her first Optimist dinghy. This child was shy and reserved, but had grown in confidence with her sailing over the summer. Her dad commented that it was amazing to see his daughter, who was normally so dependent on adult help, being solely in control of this ‘vessel’! Driving a car or even pushing a trolley may seem second-nature to us as adults, but being ‘the driver’ is a big deal for a child – a chance to be trusted with the controls.


If you are keen to get your family into dinghy or yacht sailing, why not hire or charter a boat to find your feet, and then explore your nearest RYA sailing centre?

Becoming a commercially endorsed skipper

The chances are that if you own a boat, you’re probably already well qualified to skipper it. However, no matter how experienced you are, you need to be commercially endorsed by an MCA licensed authority such as the RYA before working on any British flagged vessels, including your own boat!

Becoming Commercially Endorsed involves the authority checking that your qualifications are legitimate and current.

Below is a matrix from the MGN280 which details the qualification needed for each type of boat and the category it will be sailed under:

For example, you can see that for a Cat 0 (unrestricted) vessel, it is a requirement to have a Yachtmaster Ocean qualification, and also to make sure that someone else on board has the Yachtmaster Ocean or Offshore. If you were on a chartered yacht and your skipper was injured or unwell, you would need a competent replacement to keep everyone safe.

You can also see that for Cat 5 and 6, the RYA Day Skipper qualification is sufficient, along with twelve months relevant experience. If your vessel is only registered for Cat 6, you could just take the RYA Powerboat Level 2, which is a course that can be completed in one weekend.

Such courses are easily accessible and will teach you valuable information about protecting yourself, your boat and other water users. Look on the RYA website to find courses near you.

See here for Boatafloat’s full guide to gaining commercial endorsement

Best boats for family cruising

We’ve chosen four boats available on which we think are perfect for that family sailing holiday, abroad or at home…
Available for crewed charters in Greece, Happy Feet is a Lagoon 50 catamaran with space for up to ten guests. Five air conditioned double cabins and an elegant exterior make her a highly suitable family boat for exploring the beautiful Greek islands.


This Lagoon 39 Catamaran is based in Croatia on the Adriatic coast. With four comfortable double cabins as well as galley kitchen and saloon, she is a highly suitable boat for families and children.


For a UK option, Indulgence is a 40 ft cruising yacht, perfectly positioned in Lymington with easy access of the Solent and South Coast. Described by Boat of The Year judge Steve Callahan as having “broad shoulders” and a “beamy transom”, the Beneteau 40 is beautifully designed inside as well as out, with light and airy surroundings and three double cabins.
Finn can be chartered either with a skipper or bareboat in the Isle of Skye, with capacity for up to 8 people. On deck the Bavaria 36 Cruiser is easy to handle and to work on; with touch screen chart plotter and the auto-helm as well as a windlass to assist with anchoring. Down below there is a well-equipped galley with hot showers and heating available after the engines have been run for a short time.
For more information or guidance on booking a family boat, give us a call
on (0)1590 427 599 to speak to our office in Lymington.

Best European boat charter destinations with nightlife

At Boatafloat we love all things boating. But we don’t like to miss out on a party so we thought we’d list out some of the best charter destinations with great nightlife.

Mallorca and Ibiza:

Access All AreasNina and Malua are all available for charter from their prime position on the party island of Ibiza. Between days spent on golden beaches and dipping in and out of the turquoise waters, choose from a variety of overnight moorings at the island’s Spanish nightlife hotspots.

Either skippered or bareboat, you can easily island-hop between Ibiza, Formentera and Mallorca, visiting the range of bars and clubs that have made these islands infamous! XprimeAegir and PHANare all available for charter from Palma de Mallorca.


Greek Islands: Salamína, Égina and Ýdhra

Explore these European party islands from Athens, where you can charter motor yachts like Kambos Blue and Solaris – or sail away on Blue Dream or Axia.

Sail your way around the Greek Saronic Islands aboard Axia… 

From the main Athens marina you can easily reach the Saronic Islands; visit the port of Hydra and the old port of Spetses for all-night bars and clubs which and organise dance parties, or head to Aegina island and Poros island for a more relaxed night out in the tavernas.


The Dalmatian Coast: 

Croatia’s gorgeous Dalmatian Islands are the go-to destination for beach, sunset and late night clubs during the summer and autumn. The island of Hvar is definitely one not to be missed, with a growing nightlife in the old Hvar Town and its surrounding beaches. Charter a catamaran like Blue Point, or the custom-built motor yacht Korab and visit the town that never sleeps…