Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Choosing a builder

When this project started about 2 years ago we were lucky enough to own Oslo, a 70 ft Northwich Trader which was our first boat. bought second hand on which we cut our boating teeth.

It was (is) a very nice boat but a bit on the big side for 2 of us and a small dog when used as holiday boat rather than a live aboard.
We decided therefore to sell Oslo and have a boat built to our own design by an elite builder. Also secretly I fancied a crack at a fit out.

At this stage the only design criteria were:
- Tug with traditional lines, but preferably something a bit different
- Vintage engine, preferably another Gardner
- Traditional type interior with engine room and back cabin.
- Port holes only. Supplementary lighting from side hatches and roof boxes.

(To be continued - bear with me I'm rebuilding the bathroom at home)

After a couple of years boating it became apparent to me that there are a few (less than 10) narrowboat builders that stand above the rest and in conversations with experienced boaters the same names are accepted. Choosing within this group is difficult but whenever I saw a boat that had me going back for further detailed examination, to talk to the owner or just to stand and enjoy looking at it, it usually came from Brinklow Boat Services or David Harris.
(please forgive me for those who I haven't mentioned)

Brinklow were easy to find as they have a website and advertise.
Finding David Harris required a bit more effort as he doesn't advertise or have a website (yet!?..............) and at first I could only find old out of date phone numbers. Eventually I found David Harris via a happy customer on the canal  world discussion forum.

Mindfull of not wanting to be a time waster I made brief visits to both the above builders and, convinced that either could build something special decided on the basis of a build slot which suited my personal circumstances best. It would be Davis Harris.

Worth a mention  whilst I remember:
In the present climate where some long established boatbuilders (and some less reputable ones) have folded the question is often raised about customers loosing money. In both cases above this need not worry a potential customer as the customer buys, and thus owns the materials, and the builder is engaged to build the boat. This reduces the builder's outlay and costs.

Having decided to make a second visit to Dave Harris to discuss my requirements and place a deposit
I was surprised to find my word being good enough and deposit cheque politely turned down.

For a bit of interest here's a few photos of the Dadford's wharf site.
General view.


Boat under repair by Ian Kemp

More old boats

It's a very atmospheric site, like a boat museum merged with a working  dock.
There are three businesses trading at the site:

- David Harris, in the shed.

- John Sanderson, who took over the painting business of Phil Speight  - and maintains his standards.

- Ian Kemp, the boat restorer and occasional builder.
Ian is well known for his restoration work. He always has something interesting on the bank and that's where President goes when work is required.  He has also built some stunning boats. One of my favourites is Gazelle, a copy of the steam tug Antelope shown here:

Next post.
Choosing a boat.

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