You can tell times are good, because MDL’s marina berth price hikes are being greeted with total indifference by the rest of the marine industry.

You can tell times are good, because MDL’s marina berth price hikes are being greeted with total indifference by the rest of the marine industry. This is in marked contrast to the reaction last time, ten years ago, when not only berth-holders but also the trade were up in arms, and leading industry figures convened seminars to lament what was seen as a dangerously short-sighted and damaging attack on the marine business in the UK.

Much good it all did. The marina giant continued to grow in the 1990s, and now berth-holders have even less choice of who to pay their money to. Prospector V’s berth in Mercury Marina on the River Hamble has gone up from ‘4,373 to ‘4,872 (an 11% increase), or would have done if we hadn’t decided to move her to Dart Marina; and the price of launching our RIB from its base at Hamble Point, another MDL operation, has just been increased from ’18 a time to ’25 (up by 14%).

Adjusted for inflation, berth prices are generally lower than they were ten years ago, and the increases, while steep, are less extreme. But MDL are once again leaving themselves wide open to accusations of profiteering and abusing a monopolistic position, and boating in the UK is getting even more expensive. Of course, this is not the old, arrogant MDL who reputedly sneered that they would keep squeezing “until the pips squeak”. They’re much more cuddly and sensitive these days – that was them on the phone just now, inviting me out to lunch.

It was only recently that I discovered Patrick O’Brian. True, his boats are made of wood and engines hadn’t been invented yet, but if your boating takes in a passing appreciation of the salt air and the endless motion of the sea, not to mention a vicarious glee at whacking the odd Frenchman about, you’ll find in this enigmatic author a kindred spirit. Our tribute in this month’s issue.