ME & MY BOATS

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS BY LIZZIE FAIRCLIFF & PIC­TURES BY LIZZIE FAIRCLIFF AND CHRIS ADDISON

How two young cou­ples res­cued a de­cay­ing boat and spent 20 years fix­ing it up for hol­i­days

Find­ing a boat in their price range seemed an im­pos­si­ble task and the one they found would give even a ‘doer-up­per’ a bad name, but they per­se­vered...

One au­tumn, many moons ago, two young cou­ples em­barked upon the ad­ven­ture of a life­time. Af­ter many small trips on hire boats, the four de­cided the time had come for them to buy their own. They were ready. Their price range was a lit­tle small, to say the least.

Armed with noth­ing but their good(ish) looks and wa­ver­ing charm, they found naught. The boating aris­toc­racy ap­peared to sneer down on them and even the fixer-up­pers smirked at their mea­gre sav­ings. Af­ter ar­du­ous weeks traips­ing around boat­yards and fac­ing ob­sta­cles no man could dream of, the fates turned. Some­one, it seemed, was look­ing down on them.

It was by chance that Paul – the tallest and least charm­ing of the lot – stum­bled upon the ad­vert. The golden light shone down upon a pic­ture of a rather run­down, semi-drowned boat up for sale. It was des­tiny.

The two cou­ples viewed the boat sep­a­rately and de­cided it was the one for them (mainly de­ter­mined by their bud­get lim­i­ta­tions). A sur­vey showed that this was ex­actly the sort of boat that you would find stew­ing in its own filth on the out­skirts of a city, drink­ing up the canal. How­ever, the inches of wa­ter ob­scur­ing the floor and the float­ing mouldy bed did not de­ter them. De­spite the fact the sofa was crawl­ing with more life than any­thing found out­side the boat, they bought it. They knew there was a long road ahead and their strug­gle was far from over.

As des­tiny would have it, this was no or­di­nary gar­den va­ri­ety boat, it was Mi­randa, the first pur­pose-built hire boat by Wyvern Ship­ping. The four knew they had bought a pedi­gree boat. As the sur­veyor noted, it was of a good qual­ity steel that had been treated with an

epoxy-based red ox­ide that had pre­served the hull very well. Orig­i­nally it had a wooden top but this had since been re­placed with steel. It was a boat like no other. Af­ter years of haul­ing around hol­i­day­mak­ers, Mi­randa re­tired. She was look­ing for­ward to years of knit­ting and drink­ing tea, but alas was burned out in Coven­try basin. Ac­cord­ing to le­gend, she was bought by a farmer but left to veg­e­tate and rot in a field for some years, at this point she now known as Sav­ille Row. Her re­tire­ment plans de­stroyed, she with­ered and crum­bled, unloved and un­cared for. Un­til that fate­ful day when she passed into the hands of Paul, Juliet, Hugh and Ber­nadette – the two young cou­ples. And so the boat was re­vived, un­der the great name of Dvbris. The first step was to make the sofa walk the plank. They reached out to some more ex­pe­ri­enced, skilled help – in­stalling a wa­ter tank and a new tiller. They pri­ori­tised jobs. They got the al­ter­na­tor, gas and wa­ter heater up and ready to go. With a Lister SR2 engine and a some­what un­der­sized pro­pel­ler (which re­quired sev­eral days’ no­tice to stop the boat) emer­gency stops were not its strong point.

While clean­ing un­der the floor, Hugh – the tough Welsh one – pulled the sea­cock out, leav­ing a one and a half inch di­am­e­ter hole in the floor. This was con­sid­ered to be a prob­lem. He stuck his foot in the hole while the team drove the boat as fast as its un­der­sized pro­pel­ler would carry them. The same day a very oblig­ing boat­yard fixed it up for them. It was mishaps such as these that led to the fix­ing up of the boat tak­ing more than 20 years.

As their fam­i­lies bloomed, the num­ber of voy­agers in­creased to nine. It was, Hugh thought grumpily in his Welsh lilt, a bit cramped. It was time for an up­grade. The op­er­a­tion in­volved split­ting the boat in two and whack­ing a new chunk in the mid­dle. The boat ended up all orig­i­nal with a new top, new bot­tom, new fit-out and a new engine.

Dvbris was now 68ft and roar­ing to go. The years passed and the time came for the two fam­i­lies to go their sep­a­rate ways. Paul and Juliet had been sav­ing for a Hud­son built boat of their own for years. They were in luck, one of Hud­son’s cus­tomers had just dropped out and they nabbed his spot. Thun­der­field was on its way to be­ing born. The first few months of build­ing

Thun­der­field went smoothly. It was in

‘She with­ered and crum­bled, unloved and un­cared for, un­til that fate­ful day when she passed into the hands of the two young cou­ples’

the win­ter of 2014 that progress slowed. The un­for­tu­nate and un­ex­pected pass­ing of Steve Hud­son closed Glas­cote basin and halted any boat build­ing.

By Fe­bru­ary 2015, how­ever, things were look­ing up for Thun­der­field. Paul and Juliet had sought the help of other boat builders and fi­nally found Stoke Boats at Long­port Wharf to be the cho­sen builders to fin­ish Thun­der­field in the orig­i­nal style. Later that month, Thun­der­field trav­elled not by canal but by land on the back of a lorry to Stoke and the build­ing be­gan again.

One Oc­to­ber Thurs­day, Thun­der­field graced the murky wa­ters of the canal. From there it trav­elled back to Glas­cote Basin to be painted the daz­zling yet tra­di­tional cream, green and red colours by Norton Canes. The two boats, one old and one new, were both set­ting out on an­other ad­ven­ture.

Dvbris had gone from be­ing a barely float­ing shell to a warm lov­ing home for nine. Hugh now en­vi­sions a new fit-out to make it a nice boat for their fam­ily.

Mean­while, Thun­der­field is go!

Thun­der­field emerges from Hud­son’s yard

Paul steers Thun­der­field on the Coven­try

The re­stored Dvbris near Braun­ston

AsThun­der­field is ina tra­di­tional style,ithas ap­pro­pri­ate decorations, both out­side... ...and inside

Thun­der­field­inBirm­ing­ham onits­maid­en­voy­age

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