All About Smok

Mike on Smok near Allington July 2017

Smok is a 60 foot narrowboat built by Amber Boats in Poland in about 2005. Amber Boats Ltd was incorporated on 18th December 2002. Tom Smith from Evesham Marina (sadly deceased in November 2016) wrote about Amber Boats on the Canal World forum in May 2007:

Amber Boats was started in 2002 by a guy called Paul Geary and he was funded by a UK investor. One of my companies was approached by Geary, who had heard that we were looking for 20-30 new boats for our own fleet. One of our other companies, Heritage Boat Builders, who have been building boats for over 20 years could not build them as their order books were too full. We then agreed that Amber could build our boats. The designs that Geary had were terrible and so the MD of Heritage went over to Poland and showed them how we wanted the boats built.

Amber began by commissioning the construction of narrowboats in Gdansk, Poland, which is famous for its amber. The company then moved to their own factory in Tczew. In May 2005 Amber Boats SP z.o.o. purchased 2 hectares of land in the former Makop Lines Plant in Malbork, near Gdansk. They planned to build a new factory and move all production there. I am not entirely clear about the relationship between Amber Boats Ltd and Amber Boats PL z.o.o..

Smok was built by Amber Boats PL z.o.o. in late 2005 or 2006 in the new factory, which I believe was at Rakowiec 11, 82-200 Malbork. She was commissioned privately by a British-Polish customer, Andrzej Miczyk. Tom Smith’s son Steve confirmed to me that she was a one off, and no following Amber or Heritage models were based on her.

Whilst he was having Smok built, Andrzej Miczyk decided to buy into the company and became a partner in Amber Boats. Paul Geary confirmed on the Canal World forum that in September 2005 Andrzej Miczyk was a 20% Shareholder. Geary held 40% and his friend Trevor (Trevor Morley I think) held 40%. Geary stated that after a falling out Trevor wanted to sell his share in Amber Boats and offered it to Tom Smith and Malcolm Burge of Narrowcraft.

Tom Smith wrote:

Up until the beginning of 2006, we had taken over 90% of Amber’s production and our own demand was coming to an end.

Then things became rather complicated. I won’t attempt to unravel the story here, but eventually Amber Boats was taken over by Geary’s investors. Tom Smith wrote:

They told me the whole story and as a result, I became a Director and shareholder of Amber Boats PL z.o.o.. We then set up a new UK company to handle the sales side of the business, which is Amber Boats (UK) Limited, based at Evesham Marina, of which I am Managing Director and the two other investors are Directors.

Companies House records show that Amber Boats (UK) Ltd was incorporated on 15th Aug 2006. Amber Boats PL zoo held 100% of its shares.

Amber Boats (UK) Ltd sold their Polish built boats from Evesham Marina and Sawley Marina.

Tom Smith wrote in 2007:

We have purchased the factory in Poland and employ more than 90 staff. We are also planning a new Factory on or own site to increase our fit out unit in Poland.

In the Evesham Journal on 22 Aug 2007 Noel Creary, the sales manager for Amber Boats, wrote:

Our factory in Malbork is able to call upon the combination of steelwork skills of the famous Gdansk shipyards and the craftsmanship of the region’s yacht building industries, Europe’s largest. We employ a dedicated workforce of over 100 men and women from administration, designers, quality controllers, welders, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and engineers who work on around 12 boats simultaneously. This provides economies of scale which we can pass on to our customers in the form of competitive prices. This combination allows us to be a lot cheaper, typically £20,000 – £30,000 cheaper.

Amber were winners of the IWA Lionel Munk Trophy in 2008. One of Amber’s boats, Paris, was feature in Canal Boat magazine, in the January 2009 issue. Boating Business reported on 31st March 2011 that Amber had ceased trading:

Amber, which operated out of Evesham Marina, was a Polish based company supplying narrow and wide beam craft, writes Harry Arnold. No customers have lost money and the operation of Evesham Marina and its own boatbuilding range Heritage Boats is not affected. The operation of the actual factory is also not affected and it’s hoped that Evesham Marina will continue the supply of Polish boats marketed under its own Heritage name.

In the meantime, Andrzej Miczyk and Smok had cruised some of the Polish waterways including the Elblag canal with its unique inclined planes. After that he shipped Smok to England and cruised many English waterways including York, Manchester, the Huddersfield Narrow canal, Weaver river, Stratford, and Severn, before selling Smok on.

Andrzej Miczyk’s resigned as a director on 10th Sept 2011. Amber’s website was redirected to Heritage Boats. Amber was dissolved on 15th Oct 2013.

Records passed to us by the previous owner tell us that Smok changed hands several times before we bought her. The first we are aware of is Mr Naylor and Ms Burrows (purchase date unknown). In December 2014 she was sold to Mr Tucker and Miss Stenner. In May 2016 she was sold to Mr and Mrs Wells, and they sold Smok to us in May 2017.