Tackling the Thames

Charlie Matheson quit his job and sold his flat in a bid to launch his own sightseeing business in Guernsey back in 2005. Today he owns one of London’s top rated tourist attractions... 

In the beginning

When Charlie Matheson quit his job as an investment manager at Morgan Stanley back in 2005, he knew there was no going back to the City. 

He recalls: “When I was working at Morgan Stanley I decided I no longer wanted to work for anyone else and wanted to run my own show.” 

A Guernsey boy born and bred, Charlie grew up on the island and spent a lot of his spare time spearfishing off the islands of Herm and Jethou. 

It was whilst doing this he noticed the abundance of rare birds, seals and fish that lived on and around the islands and was amazed that not many people knew about it.

This inspired him to launch his first business, Island Rib Voyages, carrying out boat trips for the islands tourists and locals who wanted to see the rare breeds in their natural habitats.

“There were lots of wildlife but there were no boat trips to go and see it, for example there was a group of Atlantic Grey seals on some alcove of rocks about three miles off the coast,” he says.

“I wanted to take people out to see the seals, puffins, razorbills, gannets, all that sort of stuff but I wanted to get them in and out in a sensible amount of time.

“I didn’t want it to be a man and his mobile phone in a boat who took people out in a day which couldn’t be scaled up, I wanted to take people out to see the wildlife and have them back again in under an hour.

“That was the driving force behind it. Not many of the locals even knew about what went on out there so I wanted to make it a tourist attraction and make it available to everyone.”

And that’s how it started. Charlie had a fast boat built which could carry 12 passengers and two crew members and hired a marine biologist to carry out the guided tours and a skipper to man the boat.

The boat was built so that it could get there and back, three miles away, in under an hour. It was just enough time for people to get out there, see it for 35 minutes and then return back to the island.

He added: “Once I’d made the decision to do it and once I thought there was a good opportunity to turn it into a sustainable business, I decided to give it all I had.

“I bought my first flat when I was 25 and had spent two years modernising it. I sold it for a £110,000 profit and moved back in with my parents, this gave me the capital to launch the business.

“I can still remember the first boat we had built. It was a petrol engine Humber boat that I had commercially modified to put bench seats on so it could carry our passengers.

“It wasn’t that robust, we had a fair amount of problems keeping it going, but it did the job. For the cost, especially in comparison to what we have now, it was very very small. It cost around £45,000.”