Zodiac Inflatable Boats


I like boats but I have always thought that a conventional rigid hulled version was somewhat limiting. The practical reality of an inflatable boat means that it can easily be moved from one location to another and stored away from the water when not in use – thus saving a killing on mooring fees.

There are certain iconic products that through familiarity, usually based on exceptional built quality or performance, become the noun that defines the object. Hoover, Durex and Zodiac. A heritage brand.

Mrs W. spent many summers on Spain’s Costa del Sol as a teenager and when describing an inflatable boat she uses the term “Zodiac”. The boat owners she knew had their Zodiacs equipped with Mercury or Johnson outboards for use as ski boats, fun day boats or as tenders to larger vessels.


It will come as no surprise that these air filled and thermobonded tube-gunwaled boats can trace their origins to the airships of French company, Zodiac Aerospace founded in 1896. In the 1930s, Zodiac engineer, Pierre Debroutelle, developed early prototype inflatable boats for the use of the French ”Aéronavale” – the aviation arm of the French Navy. In 1934 he invented an inflatable kayak and catamaran and in 1937 Aeronavale commissioned Zodiac to produce inflatables pontoons to carry naval ordinance.

Following its development for military use, in the 1950’s French Navy officer and biologist, Alain Bombard, is credited with designing the combination of an outboard engine, a rigid floor and the boat-shaped inflatable. The resulting design was built by Zodiac. Bombard sailed a version across the Atlantic in 1952 and with his friend and fellow naval officer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, it’s excellent performance made the Zodiac the tender of choice. See our previous post on the inspirational Jacques-Yves Cousteau here – Jacques Cousteau

The 1960’s saw a growth in the recreational use of small boats and Zodiac answered this demand partly by increasing their own production and partly by licensing others, such as Humber in the UK, to produce their boats. Further, US culture was exposed to Zodiac inflatables in Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau“ – get your copy by clicking the AMAZON link below the image.


The Undersea World Of JACQUES COUSTEAU 6 DVD Box Set PAL

Increasingly from the early 1970’s the modern rigid inflatable boat (RIB) was a development of the classic – almost unsinkable – inflatable boat, enhanced by the addition of a rigid floor and solid hull – in GRP, steel, wood or aluminum. Adding a transom mounted powerful outboard engine made these craft highly manoeverable and able to cope with the roughest seas.


RIBs became a favourite with the military – Zodiac established a separate division Zodiac Milpro to service this demand – and sea rescue services. Illegal smuggling gangs, intent on landing contraband whilst avoiding detection, in a part of the world I know well, made RIBs their vessel of choice – the authorities using even more military grade versions to thwart this ambition!


Image Credits – with grateful thanks – Zodiac Nautic.

If you like this post please “Like” and share it with your friends and colleagues. We’d really like to hear of your experiences of the products/subjects featured in this post. please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks 


20.07.18 – It’s been announced in Madrid, as part of Spain’s ongoing war on drug smuggling, particularly on the Costa del Sol and Gibraltar, that the Spanish Government is taking steps to ban the private use of RIBs that are longer than 8m or smaller but with a 150kW engine or bigger. Once sanctioned the ban will come into effect after six months.


Brompton Bicycles


I really like to cycle. There’s a “wind in your hair” moment – obviously beneath your safety helmet – when you appreciate the liberty of your pace but also the penny drops that you are actually doing yourself some good. Stamina and a general feeling of wellbeing improve immensely from bike riding.

If you are a City commuter then the idea of riding to work may be somewhat daunting. Aside from the perils of other road users, including the crazy antics of cycle messengers/couriers – who are very time poor – and the inconsideration often shown to pedal power by motorists there are distinct health and wealth benefits. Provided the weather holds, many Cities now have dedicated bike routes offering the cyclists a reasonably direct line between home, through parks and tunnels to emerge close to their work place.

Once you arrive at work – what on earth do you do with your prized bike? You can park it in a designated cycle rack with all manner of heavy “U” locks or chains seeking to prevent theft or why not carry it and place it under your desk!

Yes, armed with an engineering degree from Cambridge University and a somewhat thwarted career in computer science, Andrew Richie’s City Analysist father introduced him to those seeking to commercialize the Bickerton Bike. A patented model of collapseable bike produced entirely from aluminum profiles with no welding and reasonably light.

After extensive modification of the earlier idea to ensure that the dirtiest parts of the bike – primarily the chain – were central to the folded vehicle and named after the Brompton Oratory that could be seen from his flat, in Egerton Gardens, where he developed the first prototypes, James filed his second patent in 1979 for his folding bike. The Patent was granted on the 30th May 1984.

I am very relieved to hear that James Ritchie appears to be in that rare group of perhaps eccentric British inventors, that would logically include James Dyson and Clive Sinclair and Trevor Baylis, that are truely obsessed by their design and live and breath the prospect for their invention. Mr Richie certainly believed in his invention and spent an inordinate amount of time bringing it to market. He readily admits to being a perfectionist for whom all the design and manufacturing details needed to be just right. His belief has proved to be correct.

The Brompton is an iconic and memorable site on the street of London, New York and San Francisco.

His modesty as to his design talents is disarming. He quite rightly notes that he combined the elements of a bicycle that have been around since the Victorian era. He credits Alex Moulton – who we first heard of in relation to his design work on the suspension of Sir Alec Issigonnis’ Mini – see our pervious post here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain  who popularized the smaller wheeled bicycle and without this Mr Richie believes that he would not have conceived the idea of the Brompton.


It appears that a favourite pastime for the legions of fans of the Brompton folding bike – aside from selecting your preferred vehicle from the company’s wide range of options, alternative parts and accessories that may be tailored to your individual needs – is to add a Brooks saddle, perhaps giving the bike a slightly more noble look. We have celebrated the iconic saddles made by Brooks in Smethwick (West Midlands) – please see our earlier post here – Brooks bicycle saddle

The cleaver team at Brompton based at their production facility in West London have devised and recently launched a Brompton bike that is powered by human and battery! See their video here Brompton’s First Electric Bike


Can I interest you in a Brompton? The ever popular M6L model is available in either blue or black – please click on the Amazon link below the image of each bike


BROMPTON M6L 2017 Tempest Blue Folding Bike


BROMPTON M6L 2017 Black Folding Bike

Or perhaps you’d prefer the same look in a lighter Brompton bike – the H6L – please click the link below the image


Brompton H6L Superlight 2017 Folding Bike Black Titanium


The Independent, one of the UK’s more objective newspapers, in June 2018, carried a very well reasoned piece concerning electric bikes – including Brompton’s very own version. Read the piece By David Phelan here Best Electric Bikes

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Image Credits – with grateful thanks Brompton Bicycles and James Richie

Fisherman’s Friend

Even living in a warmer climate, January often brings snivels. The warmer days and colder nights wreak havoc on the sinuses that result in grumpy family members who share beds with snoring partners. So armed with a box of tissues and a sore nose, I head off in search of my particularly favourite low-fi cure for the winter chills – that doesn’t come in a bottle at 40% proof!

Fisherman’s Friend original and iconic lozenges with their comforting haze of menthol and eucalyptus have for many years cleared my stuffed up head and, at a modest 4 calories a lozenge, they are guaranteed not to totally torpedo your post Holidays reduced sugar routine!

A quick barometer of how congested you are: take one pack of Fisherman’s Friend “Original” rip the sealed section to reveal the contents place your nose in the little white bag and breath deeply. If the hairs in your nose don’t tingle, then, my friend, you are seriously congested. Try the same exercise when you are not feeling groggy.

In 1865 in Fleetwood (Lancashire, UK) a pharmacist, James Lofthouse, had the bright idea to develop a tincture of liquorice, menthol and eucalyptus liquid to clear the pipes of North Sea fisherman based in the town’s famous fishing port. The bottles containing Mr Lofthouse’s remedy proved hazardous in high seas so a lozenge version was developed top deliver the same relief.

By the late 1960’s the bucket and spade tourists visiting Blackpool and Fleetwood increased demand for the family’s lozenges so a van was used to deliver to other retailers in the region. By the early 1970’s a converted tram-shed becomes a new bas for packaging the lozenges. 1974 saw the first exports of Fisherman’s Friends to are Belgium and Norway.

1974 also saw some brand extension with the addition of a delicious Aniseed version of the now well known lozenge. A sugar free version arrived in 1979.

By 2000 the Fisherman’s Friend factory – which is still in Fleetwood – has expanded to 600,000 sq ft. from its start in 1980 of only 34,700 sq ft.

The growth of the business is largely credited to Doreen Lofthouse, who married into the family, saw the potential for the brand which it was reported in 2009 was worth over £165m with a turnover of £33.5million. The size and shape of the 1974 Aniseed version were determined by dimensions of the buttons of Doreen’s dress!

Staggeringly, it is recorded that by 2014 Fisherman’s Friend, a  family business to this day, is now producing over 5 billion lozenges a year and exporting to 120 countries (with three Queen’s Awards to prove it) with 97% of Fleetwood’s production being exported with Germany and Norway being huge markets. There are now a total of 15 flavours of Fisherman’s Friend available but are not all obtainable in the UK.

Doreen has registered Fisherman’s Friend as a trademark and a logo. The black and red packaging reflects back to an era when Doreen’s Mother in Law prepared hand typed packets of the lozenges. It now carries the image of a real trawler called “the Cevic” – numbered FD241 – which was sadly lost in 1991.

Now is the time to stock up with the original and iconic Fisherman’s Friend – please click this AMAZON link


Lofthouse’s Fisherman’s Friend Original Extra Strong 25g – Pack of 24 [Misc.]