In 2008 while travelling in Switzerland by Lake Neuchatel, Wolfgang spied a lady.
It was love at first sight. She was very stylish and elegant in a kind of 30’s way with a delicately rounded derrière. Problem was, she was big. Very big. How to bring her back to London with him? For Mouette, as she was called, was a lake boat carrying 250 passengers. As a nearly new boat she had been moved to Lake Neuchatel from Lake Constanz in Germany three months before the outbreak of World War Two. This was to save her from almost certain military requisition.
She had a happy and useful life shortcutting the need to travel round mountains and lakes to see lovers and relatives. Then she was deemed to be too old and was put on the market. Wolfgang bid, but was beaten by Swissair who wanted her as a corporate entertaining centre. But the affaire was meant to be. Swissair went bust and never picked her up. Wolgang was able to complete the deal and Mouette was his.
Look at a map and you’ll see that there is no easy way to connect Switzerland and Chelsea by water, but Wolfgang is a resourceful chap. How had the lake boats of Geneva been brought from Glasgow? How had Mouette got to Neuchatel from Constanz? Why, overland of course. So he set about planning the trip with precision. He would need to slice off the upperworks to reduce the height. But where to take such a large boat out of the water?
Big crane access was needed. There was no dry dock.The local park on the lake side was ideal but permission was denied. Craftily the boat “lost control” and drifted to the ideal spot. She had to be “salvaged”. Emollience was employed to smooth and family were summoned with tools to cut off the superstructure. Electricity was gained from the local toilet for cups of tea and hot soup, and work commenced. When the two armed policemen turned up the charge sheet was lengthening: working on a public holiday; working in a public space; illegal immigrant workers; theft of electricity. Wolgang was hauled before the judge. He agreed to pay for the electricity and finally after some fast talking the other charges were dropped.
So Mouette was craned out and the journey overland began. Unfortunately, buildings and roads anda few bridges, (one so tight that even with tyres let down on the low loader only a finger’s breadth of clearance remained) had been built since her previous journey. Traffic lights had to be removed, trees chopped down, roundabouts flattened; fountains and flowers removed; civic sculpture shifted. A team followed to replace everything in Swiss order exactly as they found it.
The good folk of Switzerland were amazed to see a large boat cruising down their narrow village streets. Jolly conversations ensued with folk chatting from upstairs windows. Obstacles were surmounted. Mountains were scaled. 48 hours later they reached the Rhine at Basel. Tattooed folk were employed to lift the boat into the river. Having charged for a full shift (and hoping for an easy, short one), Wolfgang found lots for them to do!
Mouette sailed to Amsterdam, but
Wolfgang received a call that his dad was very ill. So they turned around and went home to see Dad. (Dad got better and lasted another three years as accountant on the project).
Dad secure, Wolfgang shanghaied kindergarten friends, braved the November weather and sailed to Ramsgate. A surprised harbour master asked what sort of licence they needed for such a big craft. Licence, what licence?
Then rounding the North Foreland into the Thames estuary Wolfgang and his lady and friends finally made a stately entrance into London, tying up briefly at Canary Wharf before taking up residence on Cadogan pier.
Parties, fun and film roles ensued in the shade of one of the most beautiful bridges in London. All seemed set fair for the future. Then the (faithless) peripatetic Wolfgang spotted another
woman; even bigger this time.....
Offers invited for a 150 foot 1930’s Swiss lake boat, moored at Cadogan Pier, Chelsea!