Trading Tales – The Oatcake Boat
What wonderful tales we’ve had to date – The Pirate Boat, The Art Boat, The Glass Boat, The Doggie Boat, The Borders Cheese Carrying Boat, The Beverage Boat and Phoenix Gifts, The Bag Boat, The Jam Boat, and The Floating Art Gallery Boat.
This week sees the tenth tale – and sadly the last one I have lined up. When (rather than ‘if’!) I receive more from Floating Traders, I’ll post them – on a Friday at 12 midday.
Introducing Kay (and Steve)
What’s the name of your boat, and what business do you run from it?
Our boat is called Que Sara Sara (a clever play on names, Kay and Sara), and we sell homemade (Staffordshire) Oatcakes – with mainly savoury fillings, occasionally sweet ones. As Oatcakes are mainly a Staffordshire delicacy, that’s where we tend to cruise and trade.
Staffordshire is famous for pottery, more so historically. Oat straw was used to pack the pottery before the canals were built, as the pottery was transported using a horse and cart. People wondered what to do with all the left over oats, and subsequently Oatcakes were invented.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves?
Having been born in Stoke, I’ve always known how to make Oatcakes.
I previously worked as a care worker, supporting adults with learning disabilities. I also worked in the pottery factories for a few years when I first left school – it was sort of expected that people went into the pots or the pits after their schooling in Stoke! Following that spell I wanted to do something more rewarding, which is why I went into care work.
Living on the boat with us is our dog, Doris. She’s our pet and our ‘alarm’, and let’s us know if anyone’s nearby. She’s always kept guarded and never in the kitchen area when I’m prepping and serving food (we have a Five-Star rating from Environmental Health, with their knowledge of our dog on board as we always keep her away from the food prep and serving).
Give us a glimpse into the how and why you decided to become floating traders?
My brother has lived on a boat for over 10 years, and I liked the lifestyle. Once the kids grew and left home, I wanted to do something different. Shift work didn’t tie in with the lifestyle we wanted, so we looked at what we could do.
As the Oatcake boat, we generally only work weekends, cruising during the week – apart from the preparation of the Oatcakes.
Describe the joys and drawbacks you’ve experienced to date as a floating trader …
Joys – meeting loads of different people from all walks of life, from all over the world. Seeing nature do its thing being so close to it, watching the changing seasons. If we don’t like the neighbours we can move! The boating community, and other traders, getting to know people. Lots of places to walk the dog, the scenery is always changing.
As the Oatcake Boat, it’s become an all year round income-stream, which maintains our simple lifestyle. During winter we tend to stay around Stoke City Football Club, as the footfall is still there.
A couple of drawbacks:
1/ All Oatcakes we sell are freshly prepared and last around three days. We add no preservatives, so once they’re sold out they’re gone! Obviously there’s a limited capacity to the quantities we can make on board. It’s not easy knowing how many to make for each event – the challenge is either too many, and then you waste some, or not enough and you sell out.
2/ Another drawback of course is the weather. We could’ve made lots of Oatcakes for a trading weekend, but if it’s raining no-one comes along the towpath.
Is there any sage wisdom you could share with anyone reading who may be contemplating venturing into this watery ‘working’ world?
Do your research, or chat to other traders, about what you would need to set up your business. If it’s a food boat, you’ll need to contact Environmental Health for an inspection and certificate. You’ll need a Trading License from C&RT, and additional insurance as a business.
Mostly just go for it if it’s what you want to do!
It’s not always easy, but we have found it worthwhile.
Obviously there can be unexpected bills to pay, and you must maintain your premises, which in our case is a narrowboat. We now have three fridges to carry enough stock, which is quite a drain on the batteries, so that’s something we also have to consider.
Anything else you would like to add?
If we travel too far outside of Staffordshire, we’ve found people don’t know what Oatcakes are, so we’re sort of confined to trading in Staffordshire and Cheshire.
Where can you find us?
As I explained above, mostly in the area of Staffordshire.
We have no more planned festivals/events in 2016, so we just ‘pop up’ at different locations where we know there’ll be people visiting.
Check (and join) on our FaceBook group to see where we are each week.
It’s likely we’ll be moored up at Westport Lake for the weekend of 16th & 17th July.