The Summer Swan is a narrow boat that works the river, providing ale and wine to the thirsty while avoiding many of the taxes most innkeeps pay. When it moors, a marquee and rough benches are set up and people are invited to sup the ale that is traded and brewed aboard. On fair weather days, the marquee is sometimes dispensed with and the ale flows freely to farmhands and fishermen alike.
This has led to some antagonism with local inns, lords and sheriffs but this is smoothed over by trading small kegs of high-quality and potent pale ale and when it's needed, some coin. Word of the Summer Swan's destinations travel swiftly with travellers and ne'er-do-wells, it is a welcome haven for tinkers, journeymen, gypsies, minstrels and runaways and these folk watch out for the boat and it's captain.
The captain and landlord is a slight, wiry man of indeterminate age and gleaming eyes. He plays chess and fiddle exceptionally well and his genial manner barely hides a tireless enthusiasm for life, high tolerance for his own wares and low tolerance for boredom. He keeps three calico cats that only he can tell apart and these fuss over anyone except the disagreeable, the diseased and those with an air of wrongness about them.
In the stern of the boat is a remarkably lifelike wooden figurehead of a barmaid; buxom, blonde-haired and clad in brown. The captain claims it is his wife and will jokingly tell her to stop nagging to the amusement of his customers. On the rare times he gets drunk (late at night during certain festivals), he talks to the figurehead and even hugs it, weeping softly as if lost to something or someone.
The pale ale he brews is light, refreshing and strong. He keeps small barrels of dark stout and heather ale as well as brown bottles of fiery whiskey, apple brandy, elderflower wine and damson spirit. He doesn't serve food, scarcely having enough to feed himself and his friends. "You want food, you bring it!" is often laughingly shouted by those in the know at those the worse for wear by drinking on an empty stomach.
The Summer Swan will always move on after seven days anywhere, even with ideal conditions for trade and large crowds of customers. Travellers and merchants are aware of the boat's passage and sometimes form spontaneous free markets to the consternation of nearby towns. The question is not if the captain is a smuggler, the question is of what. Yet until now, nobody has found anything that wasn't meant to be there...