In 1966 a new holiday hire cruiser was launched. Surrounded by traditional wooden craft emerged Frank Wilds "Caribbean" class of cruiser. Over the next few years smaller and larger versions were launched to match demand.

Despite scepticism from many Frank Wilds’ design was an instant success! High numbers were built to meet demand in Frank's own hirefleet and also for other operators, both on the Norfolk Broads as well as for other UK and European waterways. By his retirement twelve years later over 500 craft had been produced.

Where it all began.....

Frank Wilds, a builder by trade had moved with his family from Coventry to Norfolk where he established a small boatyard on Woods Dyke in Horning. This was also the family home - with everyone originally living and sleeping in a caravan and the boatyard buildings whilst a bungalow was built at the site.

Frank Wilds’ “Caribbean” was launched in 1966. Different in design to anything on hire at the time, and standing out in the hire brochures like a sore thumb!

Designed around comfort, practicality and safety it's single floor level, generous 12ft beam, spacious cabins and galleys, forward steer, aft/quiet engine, blown air heating, power ventilation and fibreglass construction was unique and years ahead of its time.

The single level design allowed easy access off and on plus made mooring easier. It’s forward well allowed some of the party, including pets, elderly or those less agile to sit outside and still enjoy the holiday. Children would be in sight of Mum and Dad whether in the forward saloon or sat in the forward well. The sociable forward steering position gave good, cosy conditions for less brilliant weather and a clear view of the river ahead.

With the success of the Caribbean design the base was moved from Woods Dyke to a new location just behind it. An area of marshland was dug out into a large marina on what is now the Riverside Estate. Frank designed and built a bungalow at the entrance to the marina that was the new family home.

“Wild Fantasy”, one of the original fleet built by Wilds

Gay Crusader”, built for Wilds at Lowestoft returns to the original base at Woods Dyke

The fleet originally consisted of traditional, wooden motor cruisers, some of which the company built themselves at Horning.

The fleet tied up at home in Horning. Ship-shape and Bristol fashion ready to go out on hire

A German Ambassador enjoys the forward well design. 1970s

An early, possibly the first ever Caribbean arrives and is launched at Horning, under Franks close supervision..

With demand increasing, and Horning struggling to be able to match demand a factory at Beccles Road, Loddon was acquired to build the Wilds' craft under the name of Caribbean Cruisers. Such was the demand that a production line was set up and even the window frames were produced in-house!

In addition to their own fleet the company was now also building for many other operators in the UK and abroad plus for some private owners too.

A Caribbean built for Blue Line of France

Of course not everyone was to keen on such a radical, new design. There were many benefits to this new luxury cruiser - generous cabin space with high levels of comfort including modern free standing household type furniture, continuous headroom and floor level, straight sides and late tapering bow design making fitout and comfort incredible. As a disadvantage the handling was not as responsive or pleasureable as more traditional designs, and high cross winds could also make steering fun! This new design was not what many considered to be a boat! These trait's were to earn the design nicknames such as floating caravans, prefabs, bathtubs etc by those less keen on this remarkable new design of boat! The fleet also pioneered warm air central heating - a system that is now considered to be the best form of heating, but was a new luxury back in the '60s.

Frank Wilds retired in 1978.

The hirefleet was sold to the Guinness Group, and changed hands a couple of times, including a stint with Blue Line.

The moulds were bought by Alpha Craft, and clearly influence their designs even today, albeit with radical and more modern superstructures.

in 1987 the Horning base changed hands again and for 1988 appeared as Horning Pleasurecraft, part of the New Horizon/Richardsons group.

Many of the fleet ran on, some were re-furbished, and some were swapped about with the companies other starting points and a wider range of different styles of craft were added to the Horning fleet.

In the early 90‘s a night-time fire broke out causing some craft to be destroyed. Luckily the fire was extinguished before major losses were suffered, a total of around seven craft were lost.

By 2004 about forty of these legendary craft were still in the Horning fleet. Sadly, at the end of 2004 the owners closed the base.

Half the fleet were put up for sale, the other half were transferred to Stalham where the Horning Pleasurecraft name still continues, and a smaller number of these craft continue to offer great value, comfortable boating holidays.

A few craft are still with other hire operators where these legendary craft still provide a comfortable boating holiday.

However, most F.B.Wilds built craft are now with private owners, still giving valiant service and enjoyment, in some cases after forty years!

In 2005 the Horning site became a private mooring basin and a brokerage (boat sales) yard.

The hustle and bustle of holiday turn-arounds at the site was to fall silent, but not for long.

Mid season 2009 Le Boat, a large multi based operator moved into part of the site. Due to the Economic climate and the popularity of UK holidays they brought a lot of craft from their bases in Ireland to run from Horning.

One side of the basin was to remain largely private moorings, with the hirefleet occupying some of the buildings once again, and the brokerage company transferring all its operations to their Potter Heigham site.

Frank Wilds with his legendary “Caribbean” style cruiser

Horning base, September 1975

August 2005

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Frank Wilds had a vision of a low maintenance, single level motor cruiser with modern day comforts, ideal for holidays and designed with families and all age groups in mind.

In 1973 out of Franks’ refusal to sell the mould tools for them to make their own from scratch a company called Bounty Boats launched their own similar design, with all key factors copied from the Caribbean. With the benefit of seven years since Caribbean’s launch this saw a few improved features and a slightly more modern style. This “Buccaneer 37” (often known as Bounty 37) went on to succeed and outsell the Caribbean. Bounty did sell the mould to any fleets wanting them, and this contributed to their success, especially in hirefleets. Bounty became the most successful in their market at that time with a wide range of different designs as well as their highly popular Buccaneer range .... all on a design stemmed from F B Wilds.

After four seasons absence a strong hire presence had returned, and so the history and character of this site lives on in different hands as do most of the boats