For consumer journalists, particularly those involved in testing products...

For consumer journalists, particularly those involved in testing products, it?s always a treat to find something to complain about. These days,
products are just too good (toasters and Renault Espaces excepted). Rarely does a product make it to market that hasn?t undergone a vigorous and comprehensive R&D programme to iron out the bugs and ensure that the manufacturers aren?t on the receiving end of large lawsuits.

This is great news for the consumer, but bad news for journalists who, in the interests of their journalistic integrity, like to be seen to be sinking their teeth into things from time to time. But modern motor boats are generally superbly designed and built to astonishingly high standards. We could list the bad boats we?ve tested over the past five or six years on the fingers of one hand, such is the high standard these days.

So it?s unusual to find ourselves with not one but two boats tested this month that don?t quite cut the mustard. Don?t get me wrong ? the Birchwood 510 and the Astondoa AS46 are by no means bad boats, it?s just that they could be better. And in a marketplace packed with excellent products, ?could be better? just won?t cut it. We hope that Birchwood and Astondoa will take something positive away from this and make the improvements necessary. Particularly Birchwood, who have emerged under new management from a difficult period and are heading in what we hope is the right direction. We certainly wish them well, because we?ve already lost one long-established British boatbuilder this month in the shape of Fletcher. My first experience with motor boats was on an Fletcher back in the 1970s, and I?ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them. They will be missed.

The good news this month is that Tomfoolery (the column you love to hate) is being kicked into touch to be replaced by the ?out there? rantings of seasoned boater and occasional freelancer John Matthews. Here?s Johnny!