Thursday, 1 January 2015

Finally! - It's "Flamingo".

Posted by Alan

"Flamingo" - (Formerly GUCCCo "Letchworth)
"Flamingo" first appeared advertised on the Apollo Duck website towards the end of October.  The detail given was scant, (there was not a single internal picture of the main cabin), and the asking price seemed "top end".  However the pedigree of the boat was right, another example of a "Town class" "Large Northwich" motor boat built for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company, by W J Yarwood and Sons, the same builder as "Sickle", and, as it happens in the same year, 1936.  The exterior looked well proportioned - a more attractive boat than some "Town class" conversions, I felt.

Back cabin is darkly decorated, but serviceable
"Flamingo" was not a boat I was familiar with the recent history of - I can't recall ever seeing it, and it was certainly not one that attended the shows and festivals.  However, I knew it had a very interesting history in the final days of regular long distance narrow boat traffics in the 1960s.  It had been acquired by Willow Wren, and worked for them more or less until they ceased operations.  The name "Flamingo" comes from Willow Wren's habit of changing the names of many of the boats they acquired to those with a "bird" theme.  Being a "Town class" boat when built for the GUCCCo, it was originally named "Letchworth", and had their fleet number 153.

Lister HA2 engine - believed to have been fitted in 1960s
As we had been trying to buy a historic boat for well over a year, but without success, Cath and I had already decided that for any boat that came up, we would now try and view all of them, unless there were very obvious reasons why a given boat would be unsuitable.  A conversation with the owner didn't leave me very confident - the boat was clearly a significantly unfinished project at best, and the price really did not seem to reflect this.  None the less we arranged to go and see "Flamingo".

Very open interior - looking rearwards, towards entrance
I think the honest answer is that the first viewing left us with very different feelings!  I saw huge amounts of work required, and likely huge costs, not to mention masses of man hours, to get the boat reasonable.  Cath however, I later found out, as we discussed it away from the owner, saw a boat with huge potential - perhaps in some ways more than others we had tried to buy.  We agreed we would go away and think about things, but I had probably gathered far less information about "Flamingo" than I had on other viewings, because I had already, I think, decided we would be unlikely to be pursuing it.

Very basic kitchen area - almost no storage, currently
We mulled it over for several days, but anyway I did the maths, "Flamingo" was just too expensive, given its condition.  We assumed as it was new to market the owner would not yet be ready to take a much lower offer, and we were not prepared to go anywhere near the full asking price.  I was therefore surprised when he seemed to be indicating he might move on price by quite a lot.

Luxury bathroom - not!  The most devastated area by a long way.
After a lot of heart searching, Cath and I decided to ask to go and see the boat again.  However further discussions then revealed a bigger gap than I thought we had between the sellers expectations, and our own attempts at coming up with the very most we might consider paying.  We were not it seemed close enough, and he had other people planning to view the boat.  We decided to wait until they had done so.

"Large Northwich" front end - bedroom is under the "cloth shaped"part of cabin.
After an agonising period where the vendor was not contactable, (though to be fair he worked shifts, was often abroad, and his mobile regularly didn't work where he was!), we assumed we had once again lost out, and a deal had been struck elsewhere.  However when we did finally establish contact, he had rejected one offer he described as "silly", and nobody else had after all viewed the boat.  It was time for us to take another look, although it was some time before he was available for this.

"Willow Wren" livery - a little faded, but still attractive.
The second viewing convinced me it was at least as large a project as I had felt after the first viewing - in fact it was probably bigger!  Cath, on the other hand, saw just as much eventual potential as she had the first time, and if I looked beyond all the missing walls, damaged linings, and bundles of wires hanging from the ceiling, I could actually see where she was coming from.

An unusual gap in the cabin forward of engine room provide main cabin access.
Another walk around the marina, to contemplate away from the seller, and we decided to take the plunge, provided we could meet half way between the numbers we had both had in mind up until that point.  He could, so a deal was struck.  My personal opinion is  that he would have struggled to get more, but as I have thought that about two previous boats that somebody has actually paid more for, perhaps I just have unrealistic expectations.

Either way, we handed him a wad of cash as a deposit, and started to discuss dates by which he could do a hand over, provided we had the cash ready to transfer.  it looked like we had finally bought another historic boat - a bit down at heels now, but with an interesting history, and the potential to be far, far  more than what we were looking at at the time.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating back story to this eventual purchase, thanks for sharing all your travails and best of luck with the next phase!




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