James River Float Company Heading in a New Direction

Amherst Co., VA - After five seasons, the James River Float Company will not be making any trips down the James this year.

Bad weather the last two summers were bad for business, making it literally difficult to stay afloat.

Owner Mason Basten says safety on the James was always first for him.

The new venture could improve it for first responders.

On what would have been the third day of business, of the sixth season for the James River Float Company, the sign there comes down.

"Everything counts on a three month window and it's so easy to lose," Basten said.

Basten says they lost to Mother Nature the last two summers. Her cruel game brought dangerously high river levels, and customers as unpredictable as a summer storm.

Some would cancel at the first drop of rain.

"From a business standpoint and a personal standpoint, we've got to do something else," Basten said.

"This boat is one of our prototypes," said business partner Berkley Taylor.

Something else is building jet boats with Taylor with the James River in mind.

"The ability to run in shallow water and just get places other people can't go," Taylor said.

"As river running goes. We're a much more brutal environment. We may not have as many big class five rapids, but we've got miles and miles and miles of shallow, bony ledges," Basten said.

One potential client for the new boats: swift water rescue crews.

Bedford County Fire and Rescue Chief Jack Jones, Jr. says the boats they use come from California, are designed for ocean rescue, and reconfigured.

"This is something from what I understand is really being configured for our part of Virginia," Jones said. "Individuals that really know our service area and they know what we're faced with weather extremes."

Weather extremes put one company out of business, but opened the floodgate of new opportunity.

The new business will be located in the same spot as the float company on River Road.

If you never got to use your float company gift card, Basten says to bring it in for a refund.