Keep to the tried and trusted

Published: Monday, 20 December 2021

HAVING been a narrowboat owner for just under 20 years I believe I can speak of them with some authority, writes Anthony Fenton.

During that time I have owned three, the first two second-hand as unable to afford new at the time, but the one now to my specification, which I gathered through many miles of cruising over the entire system.

Weird and wonderful examples

During my search I came across some weird and wonderful examples of narrowboats, many obviously a new builder's idea of what a narrowboat should be that were just not practical and well remember the 'wallpaper' finish of that boat you at the time featured that was at an IWA show that had its tiller bolted on to the deck, and I am told is still at Redhill on the Soar where it was displayed and left to rot but now on the water there as a live-aboard.

And there was another at, if I remember correctly, 60ft, that was more windows than metal well resembling a greenhouse, that would be scorching in summer and exceptionally cold in winter. Then another from a new builder, who I noticed was very tall which must surely be why his boat had such high inside headroom that I could see would be unable to get under bridges.

Tried and trusted

After all the years and miles, even though I designed the layout of the boat myself I kept to the well tried and trusted, but not going for the 'traditional' with such limited space on the stern, and certainly not, to my mind, one with an engine in the middle of the boat.  Where's the sense in that?  How can that be traditional?  All the space was needed for cargo for working boats.  Little wonder the builder of the things down on the Kennet & Avon Canal has gone.

I'm sorry if I upset those so-called 'traditionists', but those silly little portholes they have are not 'traditional' either as there was just the very small boatmans' cabin at the stern and certainly no portholes along the hold. I went in one, and though in the daytime needed a flash-light to examine the interior, it was so dark.

Not traditionists

I expect the owners think themselves traditionists, but they are certainly not, though I can understand someone wanting what is a traditional, 'thumper' of an engine, but not where they usually install it.

As I mentioned I went for the tried and trusted but modern, with a spacious stern deck a layout with a small space at the stern for hanging and drying clothes and radiators powered by a diesel heater, for I'm afraid I have no desire for the mess of a stove in such a small space.

PS. Reading through my epistle, I can see I could well upset someone (that I gather was why another publication rejected it) so will not be surprised at complaints, but everyone to his own.