BOAT TEST: SMITHWOOD SEMI-TRAD
Buying an unfinished boat from a new builder at Crick is something of a gamble, but as it turns out this one paid off
A fascinating new-build with unusual ideas snapped up at Crick even before it was completed
It might still be relatively early in the year, but many of us are already thinking about the Crick Boat Show. Some visitors will already have booked their tickets and their mooring space or hotel, and some boat-builders will already know what they’re going to be showing this year.
But there will always be others who leave booking until the last minute and end up having to moor virtually inside Crick Tunnel, and some builders won’t finish their boat until the day before the gates open (believe me, it’s not unusual to see a Workmate, power tools, or paint brushes on the marina side on Friday!).
Taking an unfinished boat to the show might be considered a bit of a gamble.
Would visitors be able to see past the incompleteness and visualise what it could be like? Well here’s a boat we saw slightly unfinished at last year’s show -and it was a gamble that paid off.
It was Smithwood Narrowboats’ first build and the man behind the firm, Chris Smith, had made it in his spare time while holding down a full-time job. To be fair, the boat was 90 percent complete, with just a few fittings missing and some rough edges on show. In spite of that (or perhaps because of it) he sold the boat at the show. Bridget and Steve Poor saw it, liked it, and saw the opportunity to ask for a few changes during the final stage of the build.
In our review of last year’s show we said it would be interesting to see the boat once it was finished -- and here it is.
Wine Not Whine (the name given to the boat by the Poors, for surely obvious reasons) is a 57ft semi-trad, on a shell built by David Reeves of Reeves Boat Builders. He’s one of the well known Reeves shell building family and works with his sons, Wayne and Christopher. As you might expect, the steelwork looks good and feels solidly put together. The
‘The colour scheme is a bold combination of two blues, a bright pale blue in the panels, with a white coachline and dark blue borders’
bow isn’t the Bantock shape which the previous incarnation of Reeves was known for, but is still a pretty shape.
The colour scheme is a bold combination of two blues, a bright pale blue in the panels, with a white coachline and dark blue borders. The sign-writing is a joy, outstandingly executed by Jon Leeson, who is known as the Letter Knight. Unlike some sign-writers who use brushes alone, Jon uses tiny airbrushes for some shading. The end result is far less formal than you see on many narrow boats, and it’s the sort of work that makes you smile every time you see it.
The trim is chrome to provide a contemporary look, and the portholes are double glazed units by Caldwells. Bridget and Steve have taken the wine theme further, by having wine glasses etched onto some of the portholes.
As well as a cratch cover at the bow, there’s a pram hood at the stern. This does nothing for the lines of the boat, either when up or down, but it does make the semi-trad stern more useable.
The gas locker is in the nose, while the well deck has wooden lockers either side, providing somewhere to sit as well as plenty of storage with access via drop-down fronts. At the stern there
are more lockers on either side of the deck.
One feature we particularly liked was the deckboards over the engine, which look like a footpath. That’s not surprising because the non-slip and exceptionally hard wearing finish is a mix of resin and little stones, which is often used for paths and driveways.
LAYOUT AND FIT-OUT
This is a standard layout boat, so the saloon is at the bow. The galley comes next, followed by a Pullman dinette. That’s followed by a walk-though shower room, with the cabin at the stern.
The fit-out uses oak tongue and groove below the gunwales with painted cabin sides above. It’s a popular look that gives a light contemporary interior. There’s more solid oak on the ceiling and the floor, except on the run from the galley to the shower room where sparkly black tiles are used instead.
Chris Smith’s skills as a joiner are on show, with well constructed furniture throughout the boat. The whole fit-out is well finished, and everything fits together properly. Any sign of those rough edges we saw at Crick last year has gone.
Glazed doors lead from the well deck into the saloon, and the couple of steps down into the boat illustrate the level of workmanship on board: three neat little drawers make up the top step. The forward bulkhead is one area where the Poors have altered the boat. They’ve had an extra window either side of the doors, to increase the amount of light coming in, and give better views out.
On one side of the boat there’s a small wood-burning stove with a stainless steel double insulated flue. It hadn’t been fitted when we saw the boat at Crick. The hearth has cubby holes underneath and the surround is an attractive sparkly stone mosaic.
On the opposite side of the boat there’s a built-in unit carrying the TV and audio system, which then extends down the boat and provides a number of useful cupboards. The audio system is a clever Pioneer unit more usually fitted in a car. It has a touch screen, and as well as a radio it can play CDs and DVDs, and can connect by Bluetooth to a phone or MP3 player.
Switches and sockets throughout the boat are of a modern flat metal design,
and many of the sockets have built-in USB charging points.
There’s a large sofa that converts into a bed. The saloon also has a set of glazed side doors -- one of four in the living area -- and one of the features which really appealed to Bridget: she’d previously been opposed to having a boat with portholes, fearing it would be too dark.
The galley units are bought-in, but work very well. There’s an L-shaped run on one side, with a smaller run on the opposite side. This has a very smart four-burner gas hob by Millar. All the corner cupboards have curved doors, which helps guide you through the boat. All the doors are painted cream, to give a light, bright look and a modern feel.
The units provide plenty of storage, including drawers in the kick boards down at floor level. Bridget and Steve also had the space intended for a washing machine changed to drawers instead. A full-sized Belling oven has been mounted at high level and the worktops are black granite with a stainless steel sink and a smart tap.
Another set of glazed side doors helps bring in light, plus there’s a Houdini hatch in the ceiling. All of these have flyscreens for the summer.
There are side doors here, providing views both sides. The dinette itself is Pullman style and unusually converts electrically into a bed – touch a button on a small control pane and the table lowers down to match the height of the bench seats. The table is made from
attractive wood block, and there’s LED mood lighting under the gunwales.
Storage is catered for under the forward bench seat, which has drawers in the end. The other has open shelving and also conceals the holding tank for the loo.
The door between the dinette and shower room slides, disappearing into the wall between the two rooms. It’s a good idea because it gets the door out of the way, although if you’re designing this into your own boat don’t forget that the bulkhead will need to be thicker than usual to accommodate it.
The shower room has a long unit faced with tongue and groove to match the hull sides, with a worktop incorporating a moulded basin with a cupboard underneath. The loo, a Vetus macerating
unit, is alongside; the holding tank is immediately behind so the length of pipe from one to the other is commendably short. A gauge next to the loo indicates how full the tank is.
On the other side of the room there’s a spacious quadrant shower. The room has an attractive combination of large sand-coloured tiles, and much smaller mosaics. The space between the shower cubicle and the cabin side is filled with pull-out storage.
There’s another disappearing door between the shower room and the cabin. The bed is in-line and extends electrically to up to 5ft wide. Just touch a button and the base moves out, with an extra section of mattress to fill the gap. There’s plenty of storage space underneath, including drawers in the base.
Bridget and Steve asked for extra high-level cupboards, so there are some at the head of the bed complete with reading lights beneath. Another cupboard goes across the corner at the foot of the bed. There’s a full height wardrobe here too and another deep cupboard at the top of the steps up to the stern deck.
This one has a radiator inside it for drying wet coats. The steps go sideways, and underneath another cupboard contains the inverter.
It was this set of stairs that first caught Bridget’s eye. The couple had spent the weekend at the Crick show and were about to head for home when they took one last walk along the marina. With the boat moored stern on, Bridget noticed the steps and banister, liked what she saw, and took Steve on board for a look around. The rest, as they say, is history.
Wine Not Whine has a relatively straightforward technical set-up. It’s powered by a Canaline 42hp engine, which should provide plenty of power and comes as standard with a PRM 150 gearbox and twin alternators.
The boat didn’t originally have a bow thruster, but the Poors wanted one so a Vetus unit was retro-fitted. This taught
‘The door between the dinette and shower room slides, disappearing into the wall between the two rooms. It’s a good idea because it gets the door out of the way...’
Chris Smith a valuable lesson: to make such an addition much easier, the tube and a way of getting cables from one end of the boat to the other should be installed at the start.
There are four 110Ah leisure batteries (plus an engine battery and another for the bow thruster). A 240-volt supply comes from a Victron 3kW quattro inverter/charger.
The central heating boiler is a Webasto diesel unit.
ON THE WATER
The semi-trad stern deck has plenty of room for crew to keep the helmsman company, and the lockers each side mean they have somewhere to sit, too. We folded down the pram hood before setting off and this does rather get in the way of the rear slide, making it more difficult to get into the boat.
The engine is powerful and quiet enough, and the handling is excellent. Our route out of the marina involved some tight turns and the boat coped very well; turning around also happened without fuss (and with use of the bow thruster). It responds well to the tiller, and once it’s turning it keeps on going.
At the helm, the tiller is at a nice height, the Morse control is comfortably to hand and the the bow thruster controls are easy to see and reach. In addition, the panel with the rev counter and so on is facing you, on the rear bulkhead of the cabin.
28 COVER STORY
Galley units might be bought-in, rather than built-in, but it still works well
Dinette converts to a bed at the touch of a button
You’ve got to admit the saloon looks pretty good
It’s surprising how many people don’t put a side hatch in the dinette
Woodwork is excellent, as the saloon shows
The inline bed extends electrically
Now how’s that for a loo – pretty neat, we think