BOAT TEST: KNIGHTS NARROWBOATS

A 57ft semi-trad which has al­lowed a boat­ing dream to con­tinue – and raises money for char­ity

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS ADAM PORTER PIC­TURES ANDY R ANNABLE

Boat­ing and boat own­ing mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. For some, it’s a hol­i­day for a week or two, for oth­ers it’s a vi­tal es­cape from ev­ery­day life. For oth­ers, their boat is their full-time home. But for Rob Eddon it’s all a bit more pro­found even than that. He used to en­joy boat­ing with his wife, Anne, and they owned their own boat for three years. But she was di­ag­nosed with a rare mus­cle wast­ing con­di­tion, which even­tu­ally be­came so se­vere they had to give up boat­ing. Then, in Fe­bru­ary 2016, she died at the age of just 57.

Rob’s twin daugh­ters were keen for him to get back on the wa­ter – it was just a mat­ter of prov­ing to him­self that he

could sin­gle-hand safely and find­ing the right boat. So he took a sin­gle-hand­ing course, and went to the Crick Boat Show to look at boats.

He found one and bought it at the show – which took a bit of imag­i­na­tion given that it was be­ing shown by Knights Narrowboats in an un­fin­ished con­di­tion. “It just felt right,” he says. And now he’s us­ing the boat as an es­cape and to raise money to help fund re­search into Anne’s ill­ness.

EX­TE­RIOR

If you went to the Crick Show, there’s a good chance you’ll re­mem­ber this boat be­cause it was painted bright pink. Or at least, the bit that was painted was bright pink. But not any more. It needed to be re­painted any­way be­cause it wasn’t fin­ished and Rob has cho­sen a colour scheme of two greys which looks both clas­sic and con­tem­po­rary. Clev­erly, while the main part of the boat has light grey pan­els with a dark bor­der, the colours swap over at the stern. The sign writ­ing is by Andy Rus­sell, ex­e­cuted to his usual high stan­dards.

The name, Ele­shanne, is made up from the ini­tials of Rob’s grand­chil­dren, plus

Anne’s name. Chrome trim com­ple­ments the look, as do the win­dow frames, by Cald­wells. There’s an­other re­minder of Anne with the tiller pin, which is a lovely chrome A.

Ele­shanne is a 57ft semi-trad, on a ColeCraft shell. They’re one of the long­est and best known hull builders with a good rep­u­ta­tion, so, as you might ex­pect, the steel­work looks good. The boat has the recog­nis­able ColeCraft bow which ap­pears both shorter and wider than it ac­tu­ally is, and there’s a nice lift in the lines at the stern. The handrail has a fin­ger-grip on the in­side edge.

The wa­ter tank is in­te­gral to the shell un­der the well deck and the locker in the nose is avail­able for stor­age (and ac­cess to the bow thruster tube) be­cause the gas locker is at the rear on one side of the semi-trad deck. This makes chang­ing gas bot­tles some­what eas­ier be­cause you don’t have to bal­ance on the bow. The locker on the other side is for stor­age.

There are a few other in­ter­est­ing fea­tures about the back deck. Small LED lights by the floor il­lu­mi­nate the deck, while a fire port in the deck board al­lows a fire ex­tin­guisher to be de­ployed with­out lift­ing the board in the un­likely event of some­thing catch­ing alight in the en­gine hole. There’s also a hot air blower to warm your feet while win­ter cruis­ing, run by us­ing ex­cess heat from the en­gine which seems em­i­nently sen­si­ble.

When you lift the deck board there are

‘These have a fear­some rep­u­ta­tion for go­ing on for years and hardly ever get­ting blocked, so it seems a good choice’

LED lights around the edge of the en­gine hole, so you can see what you’re do­ing on gloomy days or dark evenings. It’s proved such a suc­cess that Knights say they plan to make it a stan­dard fea­ture.

LAY­OUT AND FIT-OUT

Al­though Rob bought the boat un­fin­ished (there was lit­tle more in­side than lined walls and the oc­ca­sional bulk­head), the lay­out was al­ready de­cided. For­tu­nately, it was one of the things he liked about the boat.

It’s a re­verse style, with the gal­ley at the stern. Next comes a Pull­man dinette, with the saloon in the cen­tre of the boat. A walk-through shower room fol­lows and the cabin is at the bow. This is a typ­i­cal lay­out for one of Knight’s spec boats (which is what this is, es­sen­tially); it’s a tried and tested for­mula that works well.

The fit-out uses oak com­bined with painted cabin sides. There’s oak ve­neer un­der the paint, so the grain still shows through. The ceil­ing is also painted white which helps give a sense of space. The floor is en­gi­neered oak.

The qual­ity of work­man­ship looks ex­cel­lent, ev­ery­thing fits prop­erly and is well fin­ished.

GAL­LEY

As you’d ex­pect, steps take you down from the semi-trad deck into the gal­ley and there are cup­boards on both sides, in­clud­ing one for the electrics and one for the calori­fier. The steps move to pro­vide ac­cess to the lower sec­tions.

In­side, there are lovely oak block work­tops which look very sub­stan­tial at 40mm thick.

Inset into this there’s a Belfast sink, with a drainer routed into the work­top,

that’s so deep that a nor­mal waste would have been too close to the water­line which has meant in­stalling a Whale Gulper pump, the type you nor­mally see used for show­ers. These have a fear­some rep­u­ta­tion for go­ing on for years and hardly ever get­ting blocked, so it seems like a good choice.

The equip­ment in­cludes a 12-volt Shore­line fridge, and a Dometic slot-in cooker. There’s plenty of stor­age and Rob has also had made a lit­tle rack for stor­ing glasses.

The gal­ley lay­out, with an L-shaped run of units on one side and a shorter

run on the other, means ev­ery­thing is close at hand.

DINETTE

The raised dinette is Pull­man style and con­verts into a guest dou­ble bed. There’s the usual stor­age in the bench seats, but there’s also a wine store in the base. In ad­di­tion, you can ac­cess the bal­last un­der the dinette, just in case it needs any ad­just­ment, per­haps be­cause you’re stor­ing some­thing heavy un­der there.

A side hatch op­po­site is com­plete with glazed in­ner doors to pro­vide ex­tra light even on chilly days. There’s also a smart and very long grey col­umn ra­di­a­tor.

SALOON

The main piece of fur­ni­ture is a large sofa bed. At first, it ap­pears to be L-shaped, but, in fact, the ex­tra piece is a stool which is use­ful for pro­vid­ing a bit of ex­tra seat­ing. A TV unit is tucked un­der the gun­wale and there’s a cup­board un­der­neath.

The stove is in the cen­tre of the boat.

It’s a Morso, but a Swift rather than the Squir­rel we see so of­ten. The differences are few – it has a sin­gle door rather than a sep­a­rate one for the ash pan, and there’s no squir­rel cast on the side. The hearth looks par­tic­u­larly well made, with good air gaps to en­sure the bulk­head be­hind doesn’t get hot, and there’s a dou­ble-in­su­lated flue.

SHOWER ROOM

The shower room is a walk-through with a good sized quad­rant shower at 700x800mm; it’s lined with lam­i­nate board which should be easy to keep clean and won’t leak. Be­side it there

are shelves and a cup­board with ac­cess to the pump.

In the op­po­site cor­ner a unit has an­other at­trac­tive oak work­top and a big round basin. There’s a heated towel rail un­der the gun­wale. The loo is a Thet­ford cas­sette, but it’s the one with a porce­lain bowl rather than plas­tic. Ac­cess to the cas­sette is un­der the bed in the cabin be­yond, and there’s also room for two spares.

CABIN

The main cabin at the bow has an in-line bed, and even though the loo cas­settes take up some of the room un­der­neath there’s still more stor­age avail­able. Here again there’s ac­cess to the bal­last in case ad­just­ment is needed.

At the head of the bed there’s a high-level cup­board and at the foot there’s a full height wardrobe. On the other side of the boat there’s a smaller unit. Steps lead up to the well deck, ac­cessed via glazed doors.

TECH­NI­CAL

Much of the tech­ni­cal equip­ment on this boat is by Crafts­man, a name you might not be fa­mil­iar with. It’s a Dutch com­pany that makes a wide range of boat­ing kit, from en­gines and bow thrusters, through tanks and port­holes, to elec­tron­ics. Their UK dis­trib­u­tor is based, like Knights, at Aque­duct Ma­rina in Cheshire, so per­haps it’s not a sur­pris­ing choice.

Ele­shanne has a 42hp Crafts­man

‘Much of the tech­ni­cal equip­ment is by Crafts­man, a name you might not be fa­mil­iar with. It’s a Dutch com­pany’

en­gine and, as with other pop­u­lar nar­row­boat en­gines, it’s a marinised ver­sion of a Ja­panese unit, in this case a Mit­subishi in­dus­trial en­gine. It should cer­tainly pro­vide plenty of power for a boat this size. The 85kgf bow thruster is also by Crafts­man.

One in­ter­est­ing ad­di­tion is a heat ex­changer on the en­gine, which means the ra­di­a­tors can make use of heat from the en­gine to warm the boat, a re­ally use­ful fea­ture if you’re cruis­ing on colder days.

You might re­mem­ber that there’s a hot air blower on the stern deck, which also pro­vides heat from the en­gine. One con­cern some­times raised about such de­vices is that the en­gine ends up over-cooled and doesn’t run hot enough; how­ever, Knights say they’ve done the maths, checked with the man­u­fac­turer and are sure that the en­gine can cope with this much cool­ing. It cer­tainly makes more sense to make use of the heat, rather than it just warm­ing the canal through skin tanks. For when the en­gine isn’t run­ning, there’s a We­basto diesel boiler to pro­vide heat­ing and hot wa­ter. Elec­tri­cal power comes from four 110Ah do­mes­tic bat­ter­ies, plus one for the en­gine and two for the bow thruster. A TBS 3kW in­verter- charger pro­vides a 240-volt sup­ply.

ON THE WA­TER

As this boat is on a ColeCraft shell the han­dling is as good as you might ex­pect. It re­sponds well to the tiller and goes ex­actly where it’s pointed. We turned with­out hav­ing to use the bow thruster, and ma­noeu­vring in the ma­rina also seemed pre­cise and sure.

At the time of our visit, there was a bit of vi­bra­tion from the en­gine at tick­over, but this could have been due to the fallen leaves in the wa­ter be­cause Rob says it hasn’t hap­pened be­fore or since. Oth­er­wise, the 42hp Crafts­man en­gine seemed per­fectly fine, qui­etly pro­vid­ing all the power you’d need. The semi-trad stern deck means there’s plenty of room for crew, and they have com­fort­able lock­ers to sit on. For the steerer, the tiller is at a nice height and the Morse con­trol is handy.

‘The 42hp Crafts­man en­gine seemed per­fectly fine, qui­etly pro­vid­ing all the power you’d need’

De­sign of gal­ley units’ lay­out means that ev­ery­thing is to hand

GOOD IDEA We like clever ways of stor­ing wine – and glasses

GOOD IDEA Hav­ing a deep sink is very handy

As you might ex­pect, this is a dou­ble bed, too

In a lay­out like this, cen­tre stove works well

The cabin’s been well thought through GOOD IDEA Ac­cess to bal­last un­der the bed

Nice use of oak in the shower room

Yes, we like the an­chor too

We haven’t seen many of these

And that’s the per­fect touch

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