For more than 40 years, three generations of the Tuckey family have been moving boats by road – but they’ve had to keep pace with some big changes in the industry since the 1970s
How three generations of the Tuckey family have made big changes to keep pace with the times
Mark Tuckey represents the third generation of Tuckeys who’ve made a business out of moving canal boats by road – but it was a very different world when his grandfather TA (Arthur) Tuckey started transporting boats around 1970.
“It could take a whole day to get a boat onto a lorry,” recalls Mark. They didn’t have a crane in those days, it was all done with winches and blocks – and the vehicle would be a standard recovery truck, not the specialist trailers of today.
Tuckeys were in the right place at the right time – that was when the supply of old ex-working boats for conversion was running out, and companies were starting to produce new purpose-built leisure narrowboats.
Running a business as an agricultural contractor with a small farm in Stockton, Northamptonshire, Arthur Tuckey and his son AB (Barry) Tuckey were used to transporting grain and delivering excavators for work on nearby farms, so they had the right equipment for moving boats – and they were in the right place.
Not only were early leisure boat-builders such as Hancock & Lane and Colecraft local, but several employees of these firms later branched out into their own operations. With what Mark calls a “We’ll have a go at that!” attitude there were several boatbuilders all within a few miles of Tuckeys’ yard by the 1980s, some producing a boat a week – so the transport work quickly added up.
By this time they’d graduated from winches to using a crane, initially working with local crane hire firms. But they’d also worked out that, for the business to pay its way, they really needed to do two typical jobs per day. To fit that into the working day, the crane had to be on time at each end of each trip, and as crane companies found their workload increasing and their cranes getting busier, that could be a problem.
So Tuckeys bought their first crane, capable of lifting 10-12 tons. That may seem modest by today’s standards, but it was adequate for the typical early narrowboat – often a shorter boat, lighter weight construction and usually transported as a shell then fitted out once it was in the water.
But as the industry grew, some boat-builders started fitting out their own shells before launching them – so that meant heavier cranes and bigger