Slim wide­boy

If a widebeam’s too wide, this might be the an­swer

Canal Boat - - Front Page - WORDS ADAM PORTER PIC­TURES ANDY R ANNABLE

If you’ve made the big de­ci­sion to go for a widebeam rather than a nar­row one, then the next thing you have to think about is how wide to go. One school of thought says that if you’re go­ing wide, you might as well go the whole hog and max­imise the in­te­rior space. But it’s not quite that sim­ple. Would you be com­fort­able steer­ing a boat that’s 12ft or more wide? Can it ac­tu­ally go ev­ery­where you want it to? So here’s an al­ter­na­tive view: the Pi­o­neer Slim­line Widebeam. This boat, 60ft long but only nine feet wide, is the brain­child of the team at Nar­row­boats Ltd at

Win­cham Wharf, at the top end of the Trent & Mersey. It means you get a lot of ex­tra space in­side com­pared with a nar­row­boat, but keep things man­age­able on the out­side. And that’s a pretty at­trac­tive com­bi­na­tion.

Wide­beams have a more lim­ited cruis­ing range than nar­row­boats be­cause they clearly can’t fit through nar­row locks, but this boat can go to a few places a wider widebeam can’t. A wider boat wouldn’t ac­tu­ally be able to get to Win­cham Wharf, for ex­am­ple, be­cause any­thing wider than nine feet is un­able to get through the tun­nels at Pre­ston Brook, Barn­ton and Saltersford, or for that mat­ter, the Pre­ston Brook stop lock. This boat can, though, which means it can get to the An­der­ton Lift and the River Weaver.

LAY­OUT AND FIT-OUT

The idea of the Pi­o­neer is an af­ford­able boat, well suited for the live­aboard life. To achieve that, they have come up with a stan­dard de­sign which can be adapted through op­tional changes and ex­tras. “We’re not build­ing a be­spoke boat,” says Liam Furby, “al­though no two built so far have been the same.”

The re­verse lay­out seen here has

proved by far the most pop­u­lar – in fact, Liam says no-one has even asked about the stan­dard lay­out. So there’s a gal­ley at the stern, fol­lowed by a large open-plan sa­loon. Next comes a spa­cious off-cor­ri­dor shower room, with the cabin at the bow. As far as the lay­out is con­cerned, op­tions ex­tend to more than just stan­dard or re­verse – you can ac­tu­ally have an ex­tra room if you want, with the ad­di­tion of a small se­cond bed­room.

The fit-out uses oak below the gun­wales and for the fur­ni­ture. In this boat, the cabin sides have painted pan­els and the ceil­ing is also painted. The floor is solid oak, which is an upgrade on the stan­dard spec. The fit-out style is fairly straight­for­ward, but we no­ticed and liked that the doors, for ex­am­ple, are all pretty solidly built.

EX­TE­RIOR

The Pi­o­neer is buit by Colling­wood, one of the big­gest boat builders in the coun­try. It uses nar­row­boat styling but, thanks to its rel­a­tively small ad­di­tional width, doesn’t look un­gainly in the way some wider boats can do. There are also some lit­tle de­tails to please the eye, such as scrolls on the bow cants and shap­ing to the ends of the rub­bing strakes.

There’s a de­cent-size well deck with a wa­ter tank un­der­neath and a hatch to ac­cess the bow thruster. The nose con­tains a use­ful stor­age locker be­cause the gas locker is at the stern. This means you don’t have to bal­ance on the nose of the boat to lift gas bot­tles in and out, and the locker dou­bles as some­where to perch on the stern deck.

The rear cruiser deck it­self is large and square which, while per­haps not be­ing the most at­trac­tive of shapes, does

max­imise out­side space. This boat has an op­tional pram cover over the stern, so all that room is even more use­able.

There’s a choice of colours, all with coach­lines to add a touch of flair. This boat has a cream roof to help keep it cool in sum­mer. The mushroom vents are all fin­ished in chrome.

There’s one de­sign fea­ture that has more to do with eco­nom­ics than aes­thet­ics. One of the rea­sons for the strong growth in the widebeam mar­ket over re­cent years has been the con­ces­sion that live­aboard boats over a cer­tain size can be bought free of VAT. With VAT at 20 per­cent, that’s a po­ten­tial sav­ing of many thou­sands of pounds.

There’s a for­mula for work­ing out whether a boat is big enough to be classed as a ‘qual­i­fy­ing ship’ and, there­fore, VAT-free. It in­volves work­ing out the gross ton­nage – which isn’t the weight of the boat it­self, but its the­o­ret­i­cal car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity – by us­ing mea­sure­ments of the width of the boat and the depth from the floor to the deck, and it’s the def­i­ni­tion of deck which is im­por­tant here.

Usu­ally, gun­wales are classed as decks be­cause you can walk along them. This boat, though, has nar­rower than usual gun­wales so they can’t be classed as decks, and the mea­sure­ment can be taken to the roof in­stead.

This, in turn, means the boat eas­ily qual­i­fies. Nar­row­boats Ltd and Colling­wood say they’ve had this checked and HMRC is happy. Of course, this con­ces­sion only ap­plies if the boat is to be a live­aboard; you’ll have to sign a dec­la­ra­tion to that ef­fect – and the tax­man has been known to check.

On a prac­ti­cal level, while the gun­wales are nar­row, they’re not so nar­row as to be im­pos­si­ble to walk along. You would need to take ex­tra care, though, es­pe­cially in the wet. An ex­tra up­side, how­ever, is that this de­ci­sion gives you an ex­tra cou­ple of inches of width in­side the cabin. It’s not much, but ev­ery lit­tle helps.

GAL­LEY

The gal­ley is at the stern, which makes per­fect sense in a cruiser like this. Three steps, each with lift­ing treads, bring you down from the stern deck; the rear­most gives ac­cess to the plumb­ing.

The gal­ley is a smart space with grey gran­ite work­tops, a stain­less steel sink with a curved tap and well made oak doors on the units. There’s plenty of stor­age space, and lots of workspace.

Equip­ment in­cludes a Belling four­burner hob and a full-size Belling oven and grill, set at eye level, and with a mi­crowave above. There’s also a 12-volt In­lan­der fridge.

In the oth­er­wise dead cor­ner, and ac­cessed from the sa­loon, there’s a cup­board which has plumb­ing for a wash­ing ma­chine.

The work­top ex­tends to a break­fast bar, so there are a cou­ple of stools. There’s also a set of side doors just here, which would make this a very pleas­ant place to eat.

‘There’s a for­mula for work­ing out whether a boat is big enough to be classed as a qual­i­fy­ing ship and, there­fore, VAT-free’

SA­LOON

It’s when you’re in the sa­loon that the width of this boat re­ally makes it­self felt. It seems re­mark­able that widen­ing the shell by only just over a cou­ple of feet can have such a dra­matic im­pact on the feel­ing of space: it seems much, much wider than a nar­row­boat. Of course, de­sign fea­tures here also help. The painted cabin sides and ceil­ing give a sense of space, as do more than 20 LED down­lighters set into the ceil­ing.

Most of the space is left for free­stand­ing fur­ni­ture and, with this much space, you can af­ford to have proper full sized so­fas. Fixed fur­ni­ture in­cludes a small un­der-gun­wale TV unit on one side of the boat, while on the for­ward bulk­head there’s a large fea­ture fire­place unit which in­cludes a Morso Squir­rel solid fuel stove, plus cup­boards and shelves both sides.

SHOWER ROOM

A de­cently wide cor­ri­dor runs down one side of the boat, and a glazed door leads to the shower room. This is an­other area where the boat’s ex­tra width comes into its own. It might be an off-cor­ri­dor de­sign, but still has as much room as a walk-though would on a nar­row­boat. There’s an 800mm quad­rant shower on one side, while on the other there are full-height cup­boards with glazed doors pro­vid­ing masses of stor­age space. More cup­boards form a lower-height unit, which has gran­ite work­top and a smart large round white basin. There’s also a heated towel rail. The loo is a mac­er­at­ing unit, with the hold­ing tank un­der the bed in the cabin.

CABIN

The cabin also of­fers plenty of space and acres of stor­age. The bed is a fixed is­land dou­ble (a fixed bed that you can walk around both sides is some­thing

nar­row boaters can only dream of!) with a cou­ple of big draw­ers in the end of the base. There are bed­side cab­i­nets both sides, too.

A whole wall of mir­rored wardrobes means there’s plenty of space for clothes, and there are more cup­boards ei­ther side of the doors which lead out to the well deck.

A TV aerial point is pro­vided, so you could have a wall-mounted TV if you wanted.

TECH­NI­CAL

Tech­ni­cally, this boat is fairly straight­for­ward. It’s fit­ted with a Canaline 52hp en­gine, which should be more than big enough for a craft of this size (al­though a 60hp is also avail­able, which you might want to con­sider if you’re plan­ning a lot of river work). This boat has an op­tional bow thruster, a 95kgf model by Crafts­man.

Elec­tri­cal power comes from three 110Ah bat­ter­ies (plus one for the en­gine and an­other for the bow thruster), and a 2.5kW Ster­ling in­verter.

Ac­cess to the en­gine hole is via a size­able deck­board. As it’s a wide boat there’s plenty of room down there, so ser­vic­ing shouldn’t re­quire the sort of con­tor­tions you some­times need in a nar­row­boat en­gine hole. There’s also a smaller sec­tion of deck­board that lifts in­de­pen­dently to give ac­cess to the weed hatch.

In ad­di­tion to the Squir­rel stove, there’s a We­basto diesel boiler and this boat also has an im­mer­sion heater fit­ted to the calori­fier.

ON THE WA­TER

The dif­fer­ence be­tween a boat of 6ft 10in wide and one of 9ft doesn’t sound like much, but we’ve seen that it makes a big dif­fer­ence on the in­side and when you take to the helm you re­alise it also makes a big dif­fer­ence to the ex­panse of roof in front of you as well. How­ever, this is not a dif­fi­cult boat to steer. For one thing, it’s nar­row enough that you can eas­ily have a quick look down the side, to check how much room you’ve got. And you get used to the ad­di­tional width quite quickly. While the first few bridges you ap­proach look im­pos­si­bly small, once you’re go­ing through them, you find there’s re­ally plenty of room.

Han­dling is also sur­pris­ingly good. The bow thruster will un­doubt­edly come in handy from time to time, but we winded eas­ily with­out hav­ing to use it, and I was im­pressed that putting the tiller over and ap­ply­ing some power sent the bow around very smartly.

In gen­eral, the boat goes ex­actly where it’s pointed and re­sponds nice and quickly. It re­ally doesn’t feel any dif­fer­ent from steer­ing a nar­row­boat. Partly that’s

‘Han­dling is supris­ingly good... I was im­pressed that putting the tiller over and ap­ply­ing some power sent the bow around smartly’

be­cause it has a tiller and not a steer­ing wheel as some wide­beams do.

CON­CLU­SION

At first hear­ing, the con­cept of a slim­line widebeam sounds a lit­tle odd – surely the point of a widebeam is to be wide… But, in fact, it makes a lot of sense: it’s a boat that shows its ex­tra width most clearly on the in­side, where the ad­di­tional space is re­mark­able, with­out look­ing too big on the out­side.

This also has ad­van­tages in terms of be­ing less daunting to han­dle than a very wide boat; and if you par­tic­u­larly have con­nec­tions with the top end of the Trent & Mersey, this boat will also ap­peal be­cause of the ad­di­tional ter­ri­tory it gives you ac­cess to (in fact, any boat that opens up the beau­ti­ful River Weaver gets a plus from me!).

One area where this boat re­ally wins is on price. The most ba­sic Pi­o­neer is £ 82,500 ex­clud­ing VAT – al­though Liam Furby says no-one has ever or­dered one with­out any ex­tras at all.

The boat we’ve been look­ing at is £ 90,450 ex­clud­ing VAT, thanks to a long list of ex­tras in­clud­ing the pram cover, gran­ite work­tops in­stead of wood and wooden floors in­stead of car­pet. But don’t be put off by the thought of hav­ing to add ex­tras. Un­like some op­tions lists we’ve seen, the Pi­o­neer ex­tras are very rea­son­ably priced; you won’t find you’ve sud­denly dou­bled the cost.

Go­ing widebeam is a big de­ci­sion; you’ve got to ac­cept that there are parts of the canal net­work you won’t be able to get to. But once that’s said, this is a boat that makes a lot of sense. It’s big but not too big, has a very sen­si­ble lay­out, a de­cent fit-out and is good value for money. That’s a com­bi­na­tion it’s hard to ar­gue with.

Ver­dict: ‘Nicely built and if you want more space it’s worth con­sid­er­ing’

The break­fast bar has a set of side doors right next to it – lovely in good weather

From the sa­loon right through to the gal­ley

Ex­tra in­te­rior width re­ally shows in the sa­loon

More ev­i­dence of the greater width

You can walk around both sides of the bed Width al­lows draw­ers in the end of cross bed

The pro­por­tions look very good

En­gine is 52hp, you might

want larger for rivers

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