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

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

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.

EX­TE­RIOR

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.

SALOON

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.

GAL­LEY

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.

DINETTE

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.

SHOWER ROOM

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.

CABIN

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.

TECH­NI­CAL

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

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