BOAT­ING BUSI­NESS

With Crick around the cor­ner, Peter and Su­san Ma­son are now look­ing for the right new owner to take their com­pany for­ward

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS & PIC­TURES BY NICK WALL

Change could be afoot at Braid­bar Boats

Suc­ces­sion plan­ning in in­land wa­ter­ways busi­nesses is a cu­ri­ous thing; of­ten it just hap­pens in the nat­u­ral cy­cle of events as the new gen­er­a­tion grad­u­ally takes over from the old while dad and mum slip grace­fully (usu­ally…) into the back­ground.

But not al­ways – and when you talk to Braid­bar’s Peter and Su­san Ma­son you re­alise that some­times life can be a lit­tle more com­pli­cated.

In 2006, Iain and Louisa Bryce­land wanted to sell their boat-build­ing busi­ness Braid­bar, although they had son, Josh, and daugh­ter, Maria. The cou­ple had a good rep­u­ta­tion for build­ing six or seven clas­si­cally ex­e­cuted craft a year to a very high stan­dard and they had built up a loyal fol­low­ing; an in­de­pen­dent own­ers’ club had even sprung up around this sim­ple for­mula.

Peter and Su­san Ma­son, how­ever, had come into the boat­ing world by a rather un­usual route. Peter’s ca­reer was founded on the tan­ning busi­ness (“that’s leather rather than sunbeds”, he says wryly), and Su­san’s was in bank­ing with Bar­clays.

They’d both known each other since meet­ing at col­lege in Ewell, Sur­rey in 1977 when Peter was study­ing for the tan­nery busi­ness and Su­san was study­ing fi­nance, and they mar­ried in 1987. Ini­tially, Peter had a tan­ning busi­ness in Sand­wich, Kent, be­fore moving to an­other tan­nery in Rochdale and Su­san moved to be with him as a cor­po­rate man­ager for Bar­clays in Ch­ester.

You might think that liv­ing in Rochdale, not a mil­lion miles from Braid­bar at Lord Ver­non’s Wharf on the Mac­cles­field, makes a quick end to this par­tic­u­lar story, but you’d be wrong.

Peter and Su­san had a son, Michael, in 1990 fol­lowed by daugh­ter Cather­ine in 1994, and Peter pur­sued a fairly in­tense international ca­reer, moving to a tan­nery based in Maine, New England. The fam­ily liked life in Amer­ica and, in some ways, their story could have ended there. But with two young chil­dren and Su­san on a two-year ca­reer break, they knew they would have to make a de­ci­sion about the future – to stay or re­turn to the UK.

They opted for the lat­ter and Peter moved back to work in the tan­ning industry here while Su­san moved back into the bank­ing world as a project man­ager in Knutsford. Dur­ing this time Peter had to help the com­pany through a pe­riod of change of man­age­ment, which meant he spent a fair amount of time on the tan­nery shopfloor learn­ing how things worked and pick­ing up tech­ni­cal and DIY skills, ex­pe­ri­ence that would stand him in good stead for the next, un­ex­pected change in their lives.

Michael fell ill in 2006 and, de­spite a brave fight, they lost him in 2007. It was a fam­ily tragedy that caused them to re­assess both their lives and the future. “I missed a lot of him grow­ing up while I was in Amer­ica,” ad­mits Peter.

With such a shock to con­tend with and Cather­ine still only 13, they de­cided to

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