Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Time For A Change Of Boat ?

(Posted by Alan)

Well we decided some very considerable time ago now that after having had "Chalice" for a lot of years, that the time was right to start looking for a change for our main cruising boat.

"Sickle" (left) & "Chalice" (right), our existing boats.
Years back, we would never quite thought things would turn out as they have, but over time both of us have increasingly caught the "old boat" bug - I suppose a fairly obvious statement, given that we have owned "Sickle" alongside "Chalice" for a few years now.  I suspect those who don't fully share our passion for old boats might feel that the expense and hard work associated with one historic boat must surely be enough, and that any couple daft enough to consider multiple boats wouldn't deliberately choose to take on another.  All of which, I guess, goes to prove we are driven more by the heart than common sense in such matters.

Simon Wain's "Northwich Remake" "Oberon" ("Sextans" following is an old boat).
A lot of discussion was actually had about "must it be an old boat?" - would for example a nice modern look-alike replica by one of the experts in this field satisfy what we wanted, particularly if accompanied by a nice appropriate engine?  We particularly like the "Grand Union" "remakes" built at Brinklow Boat Services by Steve Priest and Simon Wain, particularly those that replicate Yarwoods built "Northwich" boats, (could this be something to do with already owning an original Yarwoods boat, I wonder!).  Simon Wain has built himself the lovely "Oberon", and it is defintely a head turner.

"Oberon" is just about my favourite new build boat.
To the untrained eye, I guess the sole thing that separates it from the designs on which it is modelled, are beautifully straight sides, with a total absence of large dents in any part of the structure!  Unless massively restored, original working boats are usually full of dents, with wavy sides, where the width of the boat can vary by inches, and often very visibly patched or repaired.
Don't ask us why, it's a personal thing, I guess, but somehow the replicas and remakes, although they capture the lines of the original perfectly, simply don't give quite the same buzz, (to us), as an original, (warts and all).

"Themis" (left) - Example of a boat that had a conversion removed.
So it had, we felt, to be an old boat, and that's where it gets interesting.  Once you start looking, you quickly realise that converted working boats, with a decent pedigree, are few and far between, and that remarkably few ever come on to the open market.  What is certainly true is that working boats with a conversion on are in much less abundant numbers than they once were, because so many that were at some stage given a cabin conversion, have subsequently had them removed - there has been a massive swing towards putting boats back into an unconverted state, with the open hold restored - few of them may now carry anything, but many are now presented as if they theoretically could.

"Aber" - An example of an "under cloth" conversion.
We decided we were not in the game of taking a boat not currently converted, (even if it has ever been), and putting a cabin conversion on - at a stroke that probably rules out over half the ex working boats being put on the market.  Those that do carry a cabin conversion may have one based on a conventional "box" cabin shape, or possibly based on an "under cloth" conversion, where living accommodation is actually placed under structure that replicates the shape of a clothed up working boat, such that it can still be clothed up, and look more like an unconverted boat.  Although an "under cloth" conversion can produce a delightful boat, we decided it was probably not for us.

"Thea" is rare example of a shortened converted boat - not for sale, though!
Another major factor that comes into play is the length of the boat - is it going to be the full original length of somewhere typically just over 70 feet, or can you find a suitable boat that has been shortened at some stage in its life?  We know already from having considered it in the past that if you are going to retain the working boat layout of a traditional engine room forward of a back cabin, that the availble space in the remainder of the boat will be a lot less than in a modern built boat that typically has a compact engine at the rear.  We reckoned that a "Chalice" replacement based on a working boat layout needed to be at least 57 feet long, ("Chalice" is 50 feet).  Such a boat would be ideal for our use, as costs would be less than with a full length boat, and we could hang on to access to the many waterways where a 70 feet boat will not go, because the locks are much shorter, (broadly this means mostly the canals in the North of the system, many of which we covered in "Chalice" this summer).  However the reality is that converted working boats of more than 50 feet current length, but less than full length, exist in only small numbers, and hardly ever come up for sale - it would probably have to be a full length boat, if we were to own it before we were to old to go cruising in it!

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