The fabled hot tub boats from HotTug UK have finally splash-landed in London – we took ’em for a cruise.
When I was a saucy young butcher boy, nipping down the canal towpath for a hot tug meant something quite different. Fortunately, this is something else altogether.
Sailing from Angel’s Islington Boat Club, the duo behind crowdfunding sensation HotTug have finally floated their two seven-seater floating hot tubs. The idea, co-founder Tommo told us, had been on the back (wood-fired) burner for years, but in January he decided the time was right to import these marvellous contraptions from Rotterdam to London. [Photos courtesy @HotTugUK]
The beginning of the adventure is perhaps the least luxurious part of the experience, disrobing and departing from a base that’s more or less like your old PE changing rooms. (That said, it is the home of a local kids charity, and every hot tub voyage contributes money to the cause.)
But once you slink into the water, things get nice real quick.
A surprising number of people seem to think the water comes from the canal itself. No, you cretins, it comes out of a tap, is perfectly clear and it is heated by an on-board wood-burning stove to just under 40 degrees. It’s lovely.
Also on board: an ice compartment pre-loaded with prosecco and beers – you can BYOB if you prefer – some logs to top up the fire if you need more heat, and a waterproof tub for yer phones; although if you’re anything like us you’ll spend 80% of the journey gingerly removing and replacing various handsets as everyone takes turns getting the perfect Boomerang.
Orientation consists of a quick safety briefing, and then going on a little test cruise around Islington Basin. Despite an overwhelming shared feeling we should in no way be trusted to drive boats, we successfully puttered around in a loop for five minutes without crashing once, at which point we headed out to the wild, unforgiving ocean, the last refuge of pirates and buccanners, the lawless International Waters that are… a quite nice bit of Regents Canal.
Forget your stretch limousines, friends, and leave your helicopters at home, because if you want to attract the warm appreciation and curiosity of your fellow Londoners, a hot tub boat is the only way to travel. Sure, a year from now the novelty among locals may have worn off, but when we tried it, the admiring glances and occasional whoops from passers-by gave us the delicious glow of totally unearned fame.
If you’re really lucky, someone who vaguely knows you from a party will spot you and leave an intriguing message on your Facebook wall for your friends to admire!
(I am now endeavouring to be glimpsed aboard unusual forms of transport more often. ‘Yes, I saw him racing an ostrich-drawn chariot down Peckham High Street,’ they’ll whisper. ‘But was that before or after he was on that glow-in-the-dark hovercraft?’)
A brief experiment, for science, revealed that a certain quiet nonchalance caught more love than, loudly, drunkenly and rhetorically asking ‘HOW COOL IS THIS YEAH?!’ at random strangers. Be advised.
The voyage lasts ninety minutes, which is enough time to explore the furthest reaches of the available route (the HotTugs cannot be taken beyond the canal locks east and west of the basin), not to mention consume all available alcohol on board. (We should tell you that the nominated ‘captain’ is not supposed to drink more than the drink-driving limit.)
The experience is not cheap at £224, but each HotTug seats seven people, potentially bringing the price down to a manageable £32 per person, and perfect for a party to remember. Alternatively, it’d be a cute date for two if you’re feeling spendy! There are still a few slots available this summer, although plenty have been snapped up by people who took part in the crowdfunding campaign.
But worry not! As you’re up to your neck in toasty water anyway, Tommo reckons they’ll come into their own in the winter months, when the cosy/cold contrast will imbue the experience with a Scandinavian quality. Here’s a chap in Copenhagen last December showing what I mean:
What can we say? Every Londoner should get a HotTug at least once.