Cruising Notes (St Valentines day)

Welcome to the new style cruising notes. Hopefully this is going to make your inboxes a little less full and my life a bit easier.

As you may have realised we don't actually cruise that much during the winter, and this winter we have done very little. We haven't been frozen in to talk of, unlike many boaters, but Judy's mother has been in hospital, and now returned home so we really have not done much else. Laziness may also have something to do with it. Anyway I decided to dig out the old pictures of when we built the boat. Here, in extreme brevity is what happened:

The shell was built in about 3 weeks in Stilton, a town more famous for cheese than narrowboats as there is no water there. Actually Stilton cheese is, and always was, made in Melton Mowbray so the place really is a complete fraud.

The shell just about ready to come out of the shop

Of course transport to our fitting out pitch was the first requirement. The question is how do you move such an article? Try 2 superannuated fork lift trucks! The boat weighed in at about 4 and a half tons at that time.

Now the plan was to sit in our caravan and drink gin and tonic while others fitted out the boat for a pittance. They, on the other hand, wanted to be paid gold bars for rubbish. There was a little acrimony (I'm good at acrimony) and I took the decision that Judy and I would build the boat. After all, how hard could it be?

It took some considerable time to make the shell watertight, a prerequisite to removing as much rust and mill scale as possible. I turned rust red for two days.

What I did know was what I wanted. The shell builders had forgotten to order the windows so we had polythene held on with sticky tape for windows for several weeks. Every window was fitted 3 times before it was right but eventually it was watertight.

The inside was battened, (bits of wood screwed to the bits of the framework) and the ballast (329 concrete kerb edges, about 6 tons) were loaded by Judy and I on a 30C day

And then the inside was spray foamed (our basic insulation) It took 3 full days to cut back the overspray so that work could really get under way.

Next step was the floor. Then the wiring.

This was the boat in one of it's neater moments (mostly it was chaotic and had a layer of sawdust everywhere), You can see the foam, the battens and basic electric runs.

Progress seemed very slow, and it was. I had to work out how to do everything before I could do it. The bath would be trapped by bulkheads and had to be in place before the bulkheads were put in. The lower panelling is also in place in this next picture.

The next picture is mainly for Al, It shows the main 12 volt electric distribution and the 240v control box .

What it does not show is the hi-amperage system (400 amps) nor the electronic systems.

It takes a lot of electronics and a lot of amps to have mains (240v) electrics on a boat using 12v batteries. Total battery capacity is over 1000 amps.

Well it's not my intention to bore you all stiff with every stage of building a narrowboat so we skip on several months to the point where we started living aboard it as it was more comfortable, and warmer than our caravan. This is after all a sketch on the anatomy of a narrowboat, not a how to do it guide on sending people to sleep.

This is looking from the same position as the last internal shot. Basically the kitchen and behind that the dinette.

And this is toward the front of the boat.

And this is of course the bedroom

So we are getting ready to launch, first we have a home too many, so one has to go. We decided it would be the caravan. It was a shame, as you can see it was a hard walled, collapsible caravan and as such fairly unique. We had used it for many holidays, it was like parting with an old friend. It's name was “Claptrap”.

Now this is a reasonable commuting distance

From shell final delivery (It had to go back to the shop twice) to ready to launch was nine months (who said every worthwhile project takes nine months) of seven days a week work or running around buying bits.

So to launch. The boat was lifted and put on a trailer, Moved up to Manchester as that is where the kids lived, and was launched into the Bridgewater canal at a boatyard near Lymm, 150 mile from Stilton.

So finally, after 9 months of work it was time to see if it actually floated, it now weighed in at 14 and a half tons.

It is the home that Judy and I built.

The day we chose to launch was February the 14th, It seemed only right. It had to be memorable.

So remember, the date does not commemorate the massacre of St Valentine in Chicago

It's our boat's birthday.


P.S. Can everybody please respond by sending me an email saying “Happy birthday to The Beech Nuts”. It seems that some people are not getting these notes and of course they don't know that they are not getting them.