Dan’s Boating Pages

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“Miss Louisa

My Boat (2000-2004)

Whilst on holiday in April 2000 we were attracted to “Rose”, a 37ft Anglo Welsh craft we had hired back in 1994 that was up for sale at the yard. On return to the base at the end of the week my thoughts moved to buying her and maybe even living on her! The next morning we asked to look onboard and Mrs White (the then base co-owner) asked if we would like to look onboard the other boat for sale “Busmans”, and we took both sets of keys.

We stepped inside “Busmans”, a 47ft 5 berth boat built at Lower Heyford by Black Prince for their then yellow & blue hirefleet in 1981. It was like stepping into a timewarp! Everything was very well maintained but also very original. The brown laminates were complimented by the Black Prince yellow worktops but everything was very solid, and of good quality marine ply. I could immediately see that with a bit of refitting the aft cabin could be re-arranged to incorporate a fixed double in place of the bunks.

Having been interested in Black Prince’s rapid expansion during the ‘80s this seemed to be overshadowing our first thought, and a quick look onboard “Rose” decided our mind I think, by comparison she had far less potential, and her fibreglass cabin top was less ideal than “Busmans” steel top.

The next week we were back and negotiated with Bob White the sale price of £16,000. We were hoping for a little more off but it was clear they were quite attached to the boat, it being his favourite in their hirefleet, Oxfordshire Narrowboats and in their private hands for the last season or two, hence the rather terrible name!

During the following week I returned to organise gas bottles to be purchased, and to take down an inventory and then at the weekend we arrived - Mum, Dad, Grandad, Josh and myself to take her home, a fair distance north to Adlington on the Macclesfield canal. We had five days to do it and cruised most daylight hours. Despite the cold the boat was very warm and ran faultlessly.

The name was removed within seconds of leaving the base & her original title reinstated using a permanent black marker pen!

Leaving Lower Heyford, her home (and birthplace) for many years

Above, below, right: Interior as purchased, April 2007

“Canberra” out on hire in the ‘80s

Nearly home... Bosley Locks

It was an easy decision to rename my boat, and being a Black Prince fan I returned her to her original name of “Canberra” which she had ran all her life as a hirecraft until a couple of years earlier. Within seconds of leaving the base I had peeled off her name stickers, and temporarily written her ‘new’ name on with a big permanent marker!

The 2 cylinder air cooled Lister engine started at first turn of the key and ran quite happily. These engines are notoriously simple, reliable and long serving - ideal for me with limited mechanical knowledge. Now much rarer in narrowboats as their high noise level lost out to quieter water cooled engines as the ‘70s and 80s ran on.

A long list of jobs to do was emerging and I couldn’t wait to get her home and get started!

During my four years of owning Canberra here’s some of the jobs I did:

Canberra was looked very scruffy on purchase and I decided to paint her more traditional private boat colours. I chose International Toplac for it’s superb (though expensive!) qualities & painted her Donegal Green & Rustic Red. She spent most of 2000 in a half finished state.

Layout: The plan above shows the layout as I bought her. During the first winter I ripped most of the rear cabin out and then used the same wood to construct a fixed double bed in place of the bunks to make the layout below. This suited our requirements better and I thought would make her more attractive at point of resale too. Shortly before I sold her we put a washbasin back in the rear cabin, opposite the airing cupboard.

Left: With all the berths removed the original lino is revelead! Everyone keeps their fingers crossed the demolition derby is part of the plan and not just a rush of testosterone!

Right: A few days later and the new bed is complete and the amended layout almost complete.

With no shore power at the marina I decided to leave the lino down but decided that the walls instead would be carpeted! I ordered some green corded carpet from our local carpet shop and armed with a few cans of adhesive stuck this to the wall. It covered the cheap and tatty wallboard and added some much needed colour. I did this at both sides of the rear and front cabins. Around the radiator was good fun. I was pleased with the effect, quite a transformation, and for very few pennies!

Rear doors:
During my years at Anglo Welsh I had learnt the art of scumbling. This is a painted/combed wood effect that used to be used on the traditional boats. The rear, panelled doors were painted a single colour and looked very plain. I ordered some roses and castles transfers to complete the new look and was right chuffed!

New Curtains:
Canberra’s curtains were very plain, white curtains so for 2002 Mum and I scouted for some more colourful replacements. I chose some coloured square fabric which worked well on the small windows and brightened/modernised the internal look. My Mum was a star and made and lined them all for me!

New base plate:
In 2003 Canberra came out of the water for a hull survey. This was needed because of her age to continue comprehensively insuring her. This found that overall she was in good condition for her age but that at the front and rear the base plate was wearing thin. The surveyor recommended overplating just these areas, but a chat with the drydock owner made it clear the cost for doing the whole underneath would be little more, so this is what was decided.

New water tank:
During a cruise in 2002 Canberra had emptied her water-tank into the bilges and it appeared that the tank had rotten underneath. As the tank was located under the front deck access was far from easy! I’d struggled on without water for a season but in 2003 I took her to Kerridge drydock where John, the yard owner cut the floor up, reported the expected news that it was knackered and installed a new, slightly smaller tank.

Canberra in 2001..... and 2002

Removing the bridgebars:
When Canberra was built there was a trend to protect the front cabin roof from damage on bridges by carefree hirers with two steel bars. Hated by many as a hazard when boarding I decided to remove them as they were badly corroded. John at Kerridge dryock chopped them off for me!


....and after


..and after

Painting the registration plate:
The British Waterways registration plate was looking incredibly scruffy. I thought it would be a quick job to remove it and paint it. As ever my time estimates needed multiplying several times as they were so fiddly to paint! Still, once complete they did look better!

Rear Steps:
Canberra’s original aft layout had a central corridor, so the steps were quite gradual. Once I’d changed the layout to include a double berth the steps led you straight to the foot of the bed with no space at the bottom. This was a little awkward so I redesigned to just have one step instead of two, and made new side pieces out of ply which I stained to be a similar colour to the laminates.

New deckboards:
The front deckboards were so badly rotten they were only really held together by their non slip tread covering! So, with visions of someone jumping aboard and going straight through them I made some new replacements. Mainly because of cost I just used 3/4“ ply, using the originals as templates. This was made difficult by the fact they were so badly rotten and not really very complete in many places! Once complete they were quite functional and looked much tidier.

The decision to sell:
In 2004 I decided to sell Canberra. Working long hours and liking to hire on new waterways was making her fast become a very expensive toy! As many of the jobs I had set out to achieve had been completed I decided that it was a good time to sell. I rang Whilton Marina as their website seemed professional and created the impression they were the place to buy, and hopefully therefore sell a boat! I was impressed that their Sales Manager was happy to drive over two hours to value her and with no obligation or pressure. He valued her at £22,000 and was confident this was a fair price.

After carrying out as many of the final tasks I wanted to complete before selling her my Mum, Dad, Josh (the dog) and I spent a busy five days or so moving her to Whilton. It was nice to have one long trip on her, and we were literally cruising every hour of daylight!

As ever she performed faultlessly and once at Whilton we packed up her inventory, gave her a good clean and closed the doors on her for the last time.

A few people had been waiting for her to arrive at the marina, but it was to be a couple of months before she sold, for £21,500. I haven’t seen her since, but was totally made up when someone saw my website and contacted me to tell me she was now moored in Essex, and even sent me some photographs!

New Worktops:
In 2004 I replaced the original bright yellow worktops with more modern roll-edge worktops in speckled cream colour. This updated the look quite dramatically.

New Washbasin:
Refitting the aft cabin a few years earlier had removed the washbasin leaving the sink as the only basin. So I installed a smaller unit in the aft cabin.

New lino:
Removing the bunk beds from Canberra had revealed the original lino. This meant that the aft cabin had a mix of two types of lino which looked a bit poor, and neither were in the best of condition! Not being a huge fan of carpets in boats I decided to employ a fitter to replace with some new, much brighter lino. This broke up the originally very brown interior and worked well!

Canberra cruises through Bosley Locks for the last time

Canberra tied up with all the other boats for sale at Whilton