Orwell Lady and Sailing Barge Victor prepare for 2017 season in Ipswich

Ipswich Waterfront business operators:
Craig Ambury and Chris Spraggons (Allen Gardiner), Emma Ligh

Ipswich Waterfront business operators: Craig Ambury and Chris Spraggons (Allen Gardiner), Emma Lightfoot (Orwell Lady), Linda Pipe (ABP) and David 'Wes' Westwood, (Sailing Barge Victor). - Credit: Archant

Leisure boat operators at Ipswich Waterfront are joining forces for a first Open Boat Weekend to launch their 2017 seasons.

Restauant boat Allen Gardiner at Ipswich Waterfront

Restauant boat Allen Gardiner at Ipswich Waterfront - Credit: Archant

Operators of the Allen Gardiner river cruise restaurant, the Orwell Lady and the Sailing Barge Victor have got together to organise the event, on April 1 and 2, and it marks a new era of co-operation for the businesses.

The Orwell Lady has been offering river cruises from Ipswich for the past 15 years, while the 100-year-old Barge Victor was restored in 2006.

The Allen Gardiner restaurant boat is a relatively new arrival coming from South Africa four years ago. It is a sister business to the Lady Florence on the River Ore.

The three craft will be moored outside the Old Custom House for the weekend and there will also be live music from Annika Rands and from a sea shanty crew to celebrate the start of this year’s sailing programme.

There will be a chance to find out about the history of each vessel and win a cruise on each of them in a free raffle.

Emma Lightfoot of Orwell Lady said: “The Allen Gardiner wanted to do this last year, but we never quite got it together.

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“We feel that the three boats all offer the chance to see the river in different ways.

“It is very special for Ipswich, to have that offer, and we want to celebrate it.”

The Orwell Lady season starts from Easter, and during May, will offer cruising alternate weeks with the Barge Victor, both increasing the number of cruises in the summer months.

Craig Ambury, of the Allen Gardiner, said: “We operate all year round. We had a birthday party cruise last week, with more in the summer. We have the support of ABP (port operators) and the council with this. Other local businesses are also supporting it including the Last Anchor.”

David `Wes’ Westwood, of the Barge Victor, added: “We all want to promote Ipswich, and what we do. It makes sense to work together.”

He has recently returned the barge to Ipswich from dry dock at Maldon where it had its winter maintenance work completed.

More work will take place at the quayside, ready for the first charters of the season, which are booked for early April.

Emma Lightfoot added: “Ipswich Town are at home on the Saturday, to Birmingham, so we hope that Town fans will come on down to the Waterfront before and after the match.”