Roving Canal Traders Association

roving canal traders

The Roving Canal Traders Association is the collective voice of roving canal traders. It aims to give advice to old, new & would-be traders, and holds frequent events giving increased opportunities to all floating traders.

A different floating trader - every one a 'character of the cut' - will be presented in each edition of this magazine.

For more information on the RCTA, or to join, please see Website

Pete and Jules - the Hippie Boat

featured roving canal trader

Pete and Jules - The Hippie Boat

We are husband and wife team Pete and Jules and we live aboard NB Molly with our dogs Polly, Milly and young Eric. We continuously cruise the river and canal network, setting up our extensive outdoor display of Fair Trade Festival Style Clothing, Bags, Accessories, Incense and other ethically sourced merchandise at Events, Festivals and various towpath locations.

our story

pete and julesWe moved onto our first narrowboat in June 2009 after 2 years living on wild & wonderful Anglesey. Initially, we both took a year out in order to fully embrace our plan to cruise here, there and everywhere, but by the end of that year, we had both fallen completely in love with the cut, the people on the cut and boat life, so I took on various freelance drama coaching jobs and Pete became a boat husband!

​Three and a half years later, we realised that all good things come to an end and if we wanted to stay living afloat, then plans needed to be thought out and made, so we sold the boat and returned to our house with the sole purpose of making improvements and selling it. One new kitchen, bathroom and loft conversion later we did just that, waved goodbye to the house that we had actually only lived in for 3 of the 9 years it was ours and bought our next boat.

And so the next chapter of our boat life began: Pete set himself up in business with a friend and I continued freelancing. But, we hardly saw each other and our cruising pattern was of course restricted by having to be within a reasonably commutable distance of work. So, we went back to the drawing board and began to investigate the possibility of becoming roving traders.

In May 2015, we took a Summer out and cruised from the Kennet & Avon to Manchester and back on a 'Reccy' – we met roving traders, we went to festivals and we looked for a Pete & Jules style gap in the market!

the hippie boat

By December 1st 2015, The Hippie Boat was a reality, we were officially licenced traders, we had joined the RCTA and booked our first season of markets, events & festivals – eek!!​ We left our mooring at Radcot in March 2016, armed with abundant enthusiasm and lots of lovely fair trade stock – our trading journey had begun in earnest and we were finally, truly free spirits. We travelled over 1000 miles in our boat in that first year, from London, to Cheshire and Wales, returning to the K&A for our final market of the year, the Christmas market in Bradford-On-Avon.

It was shortly after this, whilst walking the doggies beside the Caen Hill Flight one frosty morning, that we made the decision to look for another boat; the stock kept on board was in desperate need of a room of its own as Pete could no longer stretch his legs out – not so much of a problem for me at 5’2″, but it had become an equal test negotiating the piled up bags and boxes, stacked pretty much everywhere there was a space. So in March 2017, we parted company with the first Hippie Boat, Tkal Kah O Nel and moved onboard our current boat. Molly already had a suitable layout, having two bedrooms. With a few tweaks to the accommodation and the addition of another side hatch, enabling us to trade from both sides of the boat, we embarked on our second year of trading, with the luxury of a large and accessible stock room and comfortable living quarters that work perfectly for the crew.

but why the hippie boat?

Both of us have always embraced the hippie culture, but Pete was lucky enough to experience some of the best of the festivals of the 1970’s before they became more commercialised and mainstream such as Glastonbury, Knebworth, The Elephant Fayre, Womad, Glastonbury Greenfields, Blackbush and Stonehenge. One of these was the Watchfield Free Festival in 1975, which replaced the Windsor Free Festival, where you could get a free meal in return for helping to serve food & wash up and watch bands such as 'Gong' and 'Hawkwind'. Supposed to last for 9 days, it was eventually wound up 16 days later as nobody wanted it to end - well, except for the locals and the police!!!


My own festival initiation and first proper Hippie gathering was at age 14, when I and my friend persuaded my friend's very liberal mum to drive us to the Stonehenge festival and my friend's mum waited in the car for us until we were ready to leave as the sun rose! “

building our own brand

In March 2020 we went to India with the intention of sourcing stock. We had reached a point where we wanted to directly connect with and create relationships with supply partners. The style of clothes & bags that the Hippie Boat sells are made in India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet and we had been buying wholesale, since we started up in 2015 from small UK Fair Trade registered companies, all of whom have their own supply partners.

However, lots of other small UK businesses selling festival and ethnic style clothing, also buy from these companies and due to the fair trade & handmade nature of the items, popular lines sell out quickly and we couldn’t always source more when we wanted them. We knew that the choice of clothing available in India would be huge, enabling us to diversify and work directly with small manufacturers and suppliers ourselves.

It was a very successful trip and we are really happy and excited to have formed ongoing and mutually beneficial relationships as well as friendships with with small family run manufacturing businesses & sole traders who share our ethics. These are based in Goa, Pushkar and Delhi. It is definitely a good feeling to be able to put a face to the products that we have sourced, to know that everything is handmade to order, that we have paid a fair price to the people doing the hard work and also know that we can take some active responsibility, in a small way, for the human and environmental cost of clothing by choosing cleaner and longer lasting fabrics such as Organic Cotton, rayon, hemp, bamboo and recycled sari fabrics.

We do still buy stock from the UK wholesale partners that we started out with, but we are also developing more and more of our own lines of clothing, working with designers and expert pattern cutters (mainly via WhatsApp) and we now have our own ‘Hippie Boat - Free Spirited Fashion since 2016’ label and have registered our trademark.

The Hippie Boat

hippie boat badge and logoPlease visit our Website, and follow our Facebook page or Instagram account for up to date location information. If we are not going to be in your area in the near future, we are always very happy to post out to you on Wednesday or Thursday of each week.

We look forward to providing you with a customer focussed shopping experience
Jules & Pete

hippie boat badge and logoPlease visit our Website, and follow our Facebook page or Instagram account for up to date location information. If we are not going to be in your area in the near future, we are always very happy to post out to you on Wednesday or Thursday of each week.

We look forward to providing you with a customer focussed shopping experience
Jules & Pete

previously featured traders

Brian Greaves - floating blacksmith      Lorraine Stevenson - the mad hatter

Caledonia     

Lesley & Rob Pearson     Shiam Wilcox - Fern Floating Fine Art

Sam Keay - gangplank gins     Fiona Lewis - Fi's Fabulous Floating Emporium

Peri Pigott the narrowboat weaver    kte louise evans - josie moons floating bazaarChris Hicks, Chilligibbon's Stringed Things    wayne sadler, barge inn booze

buy online from a roving trader

  • GillyFlower - the Narrowboat Weaver (Peri)
    Individual and unique handwoven textiles made from a mixture of re-claimed and new wools. 
    To buy online visit Peri's Facebook
  • Floating Dolly Lady (Joanne & Steve)
    floating dolly lady
    Amazing range of metal birds as well as Russian Dolls.
    Buy online by going to Facebook
  • Bird Box & Jenny Wren (Andrea)
    Host of loving handmade items such as knitwear alongside other gifts such as Bags, Scarves, Rugs, Hats, Jewellery and handmade wooden items.
    For mail order go to Facebook
  • Canal Art by Julie
    Canal Art by JulieHand painted canal ware and items of canalia such as tea towels, model boats etc.
    Please visit website
  • Stitch on the Water (Colin & Gillian)
    Making a variety of embroidered gifts including cushions for children and adults, Bags, hand tied keyrings, embroidered earrings, cot quilts etc.
    Please see Facebook
  • Last Night in Limehouse (Zoe)
    Hand painted leather dog collars byZoe Marsden
    Individually hand painted luxury dog collars (predominantly for sight-hounds)
    Please visit Etsy shop
  • Paw Prints Afloat (Doggie Boat & Tim Clarke Photography)
    All manner of doggie essentials: leads, collars, bandannas, portable water bottles & collapsible bowls, plus toys & healthy treats.
  • Visit Website to buy online
  • Gangplank (Sam)
    Cafe/bar. Creator & seller of foraged fruit spirits (Gangplank Gins) cordials and preserves.
    Visit Website
  • Julie Weir Art
    Wildlife Artist who paints with Watercolours & Acrylic inks. Also Online Watercolour School.
    Visit Website
  • Fern Floating Fine Art (Shiam Wilcox)
    Fern floating art
    Flora & Fauna Artist, prints framed or unframed, greetings cards.
    Browse & buy online 
  • Dazzle Paws (Sheena Orton)
    Hand made dog collar by Dazzle Paws
    Dog collars, bandanas and accessories, all lovingly hand made.
    Browse and buy online