Amphibious vehicles were not as uncommon back in the day as they are now, when we’ve reconciled with the idea that, no matter what motivational books tell us, we can’t have the best of both worlds. They still exist today, like the Sealander we discussed last week, but their appeal is limited to a very specific type of client for whom monetary concerns are nonexistent.
In the early ‘60s, Creighton Caravans, a maker of campers, trailers and mobile homes near Nelson Lancashire, came up with the Creighton Gull, an amphibious camper that would deliver just that, “the best of both worlds.” Prices ranged from £440 to £875 ($611 to $1,215 at the current exchange rate, but $5,900 to $10,800 in today’s money), depending on the size and number of berths included. Still, it was on the affordable side.
Stanley Creighton, who designed the CaraBoat, knew there was a market for this kind of vehicle, and the number of inquiries he received confirmed that. Still, demand dwindled after a couple of years, and he went out of business.
The CaraBoat used a 6.5 hp outboard engine for propulsion on the water, and boasted an easy launch, as long as you had your waders on and you pushed it. The interior was basic but complete: you had a lounge slash dinette that could accommodate up to four people, a small kitchen, and perhaps a bathroom, though one is not shown in videos at the time. More importantly, you had the freedom to ditch the car and wander off on the canals for as long as you wanted, before having to come back to retrieve said vehicle, which could be a small one like the Triumph 2000 shown in the video.
Creighton’s business folded, but the idea sprung deep roots. In the ‘70s, naval architect John Askham created his own version of the CaraBoat, first with waterjet drive and an internal Lombardini 4-stroke engine, and then an outboard engine. Under 100 such vehicles were produced that decade, according to reports online, and the nearly double price tag must have had something to do with it. These two being small businesses, exact records are impossible to come by, but one thing is clear: there’s a CaraBoat club in the UK, with members exchanging information on recovered examples, how to restore and maintain them, and schedules for planned meetings on England’s canals.
CaraBoat’s campers are now bigger, with sleeping for four, and well-defined and equipped living areas, faster speeds thanks to dual outboard engines, a roof for tanning, an extendable platform that serves as a sundeck, solar panels, large water tanks (gray, dark and fresh), and plenty of storage to go sailing for longer stretches. You can still have tea in solitude, like the two Brits in the Creighton Gull video did, but you can also host a party of six in plenty of comfort, like you would on your own, tiny yacht. Which also drives on land.