BOAT­ING BUSI­NESS

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

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS BY MARTIN LUDGATE PIC­TURES BY TUCKEYS/MARTIN LUDGATE

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

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