About us

Who are Bywater Canal Holidays?

Bywater Holidays was established in 2002 by Stephen Rees-Jones to introduce the canals to those who had never before considered them an option.

In 2006, Stephen’s daughter, Hanna, and her partner, John, with the help of ex-hotelboat operator and good friend, Dave Dare, set up Bywater Hotelboat Cruises. Dave’s boat Rose served as motor for three seasons and was joined by newly commissioned butty, Karnataka for 2008, and eventually replaced by a new motor, Kerala for 2010. John and Hanna ran the company successfully for ten years, until they decided to settle down with their two children for a less nomadic lifestyle. They sold the boats to Rosie Cannon and Brian Skelton, who, with their son, Rufus, worked alongside Hanna and John for the 2017 season, to learn all about running a hotel boating business.

Rosie and Brian met at university in Kent, where they became friends and Brian offered to babysit Rosie’s son, Alex. Chatting long into the night after Alex finally went to sleep, the friendship deepened into something more and they married in 1992. Last year they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by setting off together on a new adventure.

They had often wished they could live on a narrowboat, but when considering the possibility in Oxford in 1995, seven year old Alex looked into the canal a bit too closely and had to be fished out! That and the imminent arrival of Rufus, meant the boat idea was shelved. Many years later, with both children grown up, the dream was revived when they saw the beautiful traditional pair, Kerala and Karnataka, up for sale. A few nervous years passed whilst they got their house in order and sold it, always expecting to be pipped at the post in the purchase of the business, but luck was with them and the boats became theirs, just in time for the 2017 season.

Leaving their jobs as teacher (Rosie), computer programmer (Brian) and tour guide (Rufus), they jumped in at the deep end (once or twice into the canal!) and worked a full season under the expert guidance of the previous owners. They learnt a lot, very quickly, and the 2018 season sees them coming back for more, learning about the rhythms of the cut and those who love the canals, and welcoming more guests into the charming way of life they have chosen.