Thursday, 4 September 2014

Canal Boat

Regular readers (and there are a surprising number of you) will recognise this boat. She’s a Channel Islands 22 belonging to my good friends Dave and Nat. Before they bought her, she lay in Jersey pretty much neglected for several years. She was for sale but no purchaser could be found because she was slow and seemed unable to reach the speed needed to lift the semi displacement hull out of the water above her bow-wave. Over the years the asking price fell and fell. That’s when Dave took a look at her and noticed something that everyone else had missed. At some time in her past an owner had fitted bilge keels to her hull. It’s understandable, in that most Channel Island harbours dry out at low water. Bilge keels means that this boat could take the ground and remain upright without the need to carry and fit ‘legs’ each time. But those bilge keels were the reason why she behaved like a slow displacement motor-vessel rather than a semi-displacement boat capable of a good turn of speed. Dave, bought the boat, removed the bilge keels and then invested 1000 hours of work on her, bringing her to a condition better than you would expect of a new boat. He and Nat now have a luxury vessel with a cruising speed of over 12 knots.

Why am I telling you this? Simply because a few weeks ago, Dave and Nat were cruising North Brittany waters and took time to come up the Rance estuary and into the  canal. For a while they have been considering purchasing a holiday home here – they didn’t find one, but, they did find an eleven metre English narrow boat for sale on the canal in the beautiful village of Evran. Here’s the story.

Several years ago, someone decided to purchase a fleet of English narrow boats and operate a boat hire company here. The venture wasn’t particularly successful and as a result several of these boats were sold to private purchasers – mainly English people who know and love these vessels. Other nationalities probably failed to see the point in buying such a narrow vessel when continental canals are so much wider than English ones.

This particular vessel moved into private ownership and was used by a Guernsey family as a waterside
holiday home for several years but when Dave came past in his boat last week she was for sale, and had been for some time. Dave looked her over but the owner couldn’t start the engine. So Davy took a risk, made a reduced offer to purchase her immediately ‘as seen’. The seller, probably thinking of the lack of interest to date, the coming winter and the costs of insurance, mooring, maintenance and visits, accepted the offer and the deal was done.

Davy came back to the boat this weekend with a
friend who is a car enthusiast. The car, a beautiful 1968 MGB roadster attracted a lot of attention locally and within half a day, Dave and his friend Paul gained additional support and expertise from a local aircraft engineer and another guy who acted as translator. Dave and Paul stayed on the boat two nights and when they left, the engine was fixed and there was a fresh coat of paint on the cabin roof.

The plan now is to bring her down the canal into the tidal estuary and lift her out for a thorough inspection and re-fit over the winter months. She already has a wood burning stove for heating and a fully functioning galley so they’ll be comfortable even in the coldest of winters. Now if I were a gambling man, I’d make a significant bet that by the end of next summer Dave and Nat will be sailing one of the prettiest and most comfortable barges this side of the English Channel.