Broads hire boat firm’s Ruby of an idea

She seemed oblivious to her new-found fame yesterday but seven-year-old boxer Ruby was the inspiration behind the latest step forward for safety on the Broads.

Daniel Thwaites, a director of Barnes Brinkcraft boatyard in Wroxham, explained the dilemma facing him and wife Sara when they wanted to introduce their son Reuben, three, to the fun of boating.

For a dog-mad family, a holiday is no holiday without their pet – but the problem facing them was that boxers are not designed for the water.

'They don't swim very well, they are very solid and if they fall in they tend to sink,' said Mr Thwaites.

His solution was to treat Ruby in the same way as they do all their customers – and fit her out with a special lifejacket.

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The experiment proved such a hit – 'she actually likes it because it keeps her warm in the wind' – that his company is now launching dog lifejackets as an optional extra for the coming season.

Mr Thwaites, who lives in nearby Barton Turf, said: 'It seems such a simple idea, and there are companies which manufacture them, but we are the first Broads hire company to offer dog lifejackets to holidaymakers.'

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To suit all types of dogs, the yard has ordered three dozen in small, medium and large sizes. And they even come with a handle on top to help people get their pet on board – or in the worst case scenario, hook them out of the water.

He said: 'A Broads holiday is very much a family affair and we like to encourage pets in our properties as well as on our boats.

'My own parents don't want to go anywhere other than England or France because they would not be without their dog on holiday.'

He said they had even been content to entertain cats and parrots on board their holiday cruisers.

Yard manager Sam Lowe said: 'We have already had a good response. One lady was insistent on us reserving a lifejacket for her pet as a condition of her booking one of our premium boats.

'To the best of our knowledge we have never had a pet fall from one of our boats but these days families need reassurance for their dogs as well as the rest of the family.'

Broads Authority head of waterways safety and strategy Steve Birtles said: 'This is an important step forward because if dogs go in the water their owners often jump in after them and in the past this has had tragic consequences.

'If they know their pets are supported by a lifejacket they're less likely to do so.

'Generally more people on the Broads are wearing lifejackets now, especially people who have hired boats, and that is very welcome.

'The Broads Authority will be running another safety campaign this summer to highlight the potential dangers on the water and we're having another five super-safety days when we will be out and about offering advice to boat users.'

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