Getting bored with flooring, Joe then moved on to entertaining up to 70 people a night on his very own trip boat – complete with remote controlled leaks in the floor, bangs and flashes from the engine room and at least one crew member overboard on every trip. Advertised as the ‘first trip since the accident’ – the visitors book is full of glowing compliments for a night out with a meal where everything that can go wrong, does, but all in the best possible taste. The only trip boat to be reported to the Department of Transport for bringing trip boats into disrepute, the trips were sold out on all the evenings Joe could run it, without advertising, by recommendation only. All sorts of trips, from the English rugby squad to corporate entertainment, to the posh hunting set, to family gatherings with a fish and chip supper and groups of old aged pensioners’ tea trips, all were entertained hilariously – especially the women’s institute who daren’t walk along the gang plank and insisted Joe carry each one over his shoulder and up the bank.
The Department of Transport sent an examiner and his wife unannounced for a spot check on one of the evening trips – both said it was the best evening out they’d ever had, but were concerned that, had their been a real accident, the guests would think it was staged, and wouldn’t leave the sinking boat. They were especially concerned that Joe, with the only Boatmaster’s licence (yes, he can be trusted to take large groups of people out to sea and MARRY them) had at one stage fallen in the river. Joe managed to persuade them that he hadn’t fallen in, he’d just been checking the prop for weeds. And they did have to admit that, had we had a real person overboard, we were better prepared than any other crew to rescue them as we had a practise every night.
Because of the problems with authorities and safety issues, and the small number of people the boat could accommodate, Joe transferred his wacky river trips to a restaurant in a hotel on dry land. The dinner, sold only as Café Chaos to some corporate guests, turned into a riotous evening. A lot of the gags perfected on the trip boat were used – with free wine and beer flowing. The remarks were that they had never laughed so much or had such a good night out. The alcoholic organist got in a mess on the rising platform, two guests had a domestic dispute and had to be asked to leave, having given the head waiter a black eye, the head waiter was in tears as the staff went from bad to worst, and the evening ended in a battle of paper napkins as the smoke alarms went off, the flambé trolley caught fire and the automatic watering system came into effect, sprinkling over any enthusiastic guests.