Threpence Ha’penny won the Favourite Boat in Show title at Crick and it’s easy to see why this clever boat is a clear winner
This clever boat was a clear winner and Bourne Boats are the toast of the moment. A top quality shell combines with a fantastic fit-out to create the perfect crowd pleaser
There aren’t any opinion polls before the Crick Boat Show vote for Favourite Boat – and that’s probably just as well because they probably wouldn’t enhance the reputation of pollsters.
For a start, they’d want to factor in the long-held theory that any boat-builder with more than one boat on show is severely damaging their chances of winning, because their vote will be split. And this year’s winner proves that such a theory is nonsense. Bourne Boat Builders, one of only two firms with a pair of narrowboats on show, picked up the title. And what a boat it is – Threpence
Ha’penny is built on a top quality shell, has a very appealing fit-out, includes some quirky individual elements, and is technically interesting with hybrid drive and underfloor heating. As such, we just had to break one of our golden rules – that if a boat-builder has had a boat test published, it’s at least a year before we feature them again Coincidentally, our Crick preview just two months ago was Bourne’s other boat.
Threpence Ha’penny is based on a shell by Tim Tyler and features one of his
very attractive Josher style bows. It really does look the part. There are plenty of other nice steelwork features too, such as recessed panels at the stern, a boatman’ beam across the roof and three pigeon boxes. There are scrolls in the handrails and cants, and the cabin sides look lovely and clean, as you’d expect from a builder of this quality.
The colour scheme teams grey (perhaps reflecting that the owners, Lynn and Steve Brown, both served in the Navy) with maroon. It’s a good combination, looking both traditional and contemporary. All the trim is in chrome and Steve has added a few other impressive shiny features, such as a substantial tunnel light, a roofmounted horn, and a light at the stern for use on rivers. This light is mounted under one of a pair of taff seats.
Decoration includes lively sign-writing by Andy Russell and giant coins in one of the recessed panels making up ‘threpence ha’penny’, with a threpenny bit and two farthings. These coins are cast iron, and were made by Crosslands Foundry in Sheffield. The farthings have the added significance of having a wren on them, significant because Lynn was in the Wrens. She also has a wren tiller pin.
The stern deck itself has lockers both sides, with tailor made cushions. One has an outside tap inside. There’s also deck lighting and a fan that takes excess heat from the engine and blows the warm air onto the steerer’s feet. I suppose it’s the modern equivalent of the back cabin stove.
The well deck at the bow also has storage lockers both sides, fitted with a couple of 240-volt sockets. There’s also access from the deck to the storage locker in the nose; this is a gas-free boat, so all the space normally taken up by a couple of gas bottles is available. A drop-down table is fitted, and has a real threpenny bit and two farthings inlaid into it.
The decking is interesting. Many years ago, Steve’s brother was working near the Anderton Boat Lift when restoration was underway, and he salvaged some wood which was being thrown out. No-one is certain what wood it is, but it’s proved to be extremely hard, so should be very hard wearing.
LAYOUT AND FIT-OUT
This is a reverse layout boat, with the galley at the stern. This is followed by a half dinette and the saloon. Further forward there’s a walk-through shower room, with the cabin at the bow.
The fit-out uses a combination of oak on the hull sides and for all the furniture and trim, and faux leather on the cabin sides. This has become something of a Bourne trademark. It looks contemporary, attractive, and warm. The ceiling has a central feature through the galley and saloon, with LED lights which wash the boat in light. In the more private shower room and cabin the ceiling changes to oak tongue and groove. The woodwork all looks very well done, with plenty of nice curves on show. Everything fits together properly too; it’s a solidly built boat.
The flooring is hard-wearing Amtico, and different finishes are used in different rooms.
Glazed doors lead from the stern deck into the boat, complete with another Bourne feature: blinds enclosed inside the glass, and opened and closed using magnets. Long steps lead down into the galley, and the rear slide is longer than usual so you don’t have to duck to get inside.
There are cupboards each side of the steps. One contains all the electrical equipment such as the inverter, the fuse panel and all the gauges. There’s also room for a Dyson vacuum cleaner. On the other side, there’s the hybrid controller and the calorifier which makes this a good drying cupboard.
In the galley proper, there are sparkly black granite worktops. One on side there’s a one-and-a-half bowl sink, with a milled drainer. On the other there’s a full-height unit containing a Neff slideand-hide cooker (that means the door slides away underneath when it’s open, useful in the confines of a narrowboat), with a microwave above.
This is an all- electric boat, so the worktop on this side includes a flushfitted Neff induction hob, with four rings. There’s an extractor fan above, and a few slim high level cupboards. Other equipment includes a 240-volt Neff fridge and a full size Smeg washing machine.
The units are pleasingly curvy, in fact there’s hardly a sharp corner to be seen anywhere in the galley. And there’s plenty of light too, even though this is an all porthole boat. Natural light comes from a pigeon box in the roof, and there’s also LED lighting at kick board level and under the gunwales in the saloon.
DINETTE AND SALOON
The half-dinette runs across the boat and has a very attractive table with glass inserts and a substantial central pillar. The top flips up when the table isn’t needed. The dinette converts very cleverly into a guest bed. First, the base has to be unlocked so it can be pulled forward. The backrest is made from two hinged boards which form the rest of the bed base, and the additional cushion needed is stored behind. Once it’s a bed, there are even reading lights provided inside the unit.
The rest of the saloon has a couple of chairs, and an under gunwale unit with a cupboard and shelves. There’s a further unit on the bulkhead between the saloon and the shower room, with a flat-screen TV. There’s a hearth with a Lockgate Refleks diesel stove on one side, and a cupboard alongside, but this is no ordinary cupboard, because it contains a pull-out freezer and an extending ironing board.
Lynn was responsible for the interior design of the boat and has chosen an opulent fabric for the blinds over the portholes. They contain magnets to keep them against the cabin sides when lowered.
The doors at either end of the shower room are fitted with stunning fused glass made in a boat-based studio. The designs give a sense of individuality and look great with some light behind them.
The shower room is relatively compact, yet contains everything you need. The quadrant shower cublicle is lined with laminate, but with a mosaic tile feature. The shower head is built into the ceiling, for maximum height. There are cupboards alongside.
There’s a unit with storage, a granite worktop, and a smart white basin with a mirror above that takes up the whole wall. The loo is by Vetus; the holding tank is at the stern, so there’s quite a long run of pipework between the two.
As on Bourne’s other show boat, which we looked at a couple of months ago, this pipework runs under the gunwale. Waste is pumped up to that level, then the natural attitude of the boat means it’s all downhill to the tank. This boat is also fitted with two emptying points, one for use when visiting a marina pump-out machine, the other for use with a self-pump out kit, using a built-in pump.
There’s a towel rail and a grey column radiator.
The cabin is a comfortable and cozy space, perhaps because of the use of wood on the ceiling. The bed is across the boat and makes up very easily. What appears to be a run of cupboards opposite the foot of the bed is in fact a drop-down flap, with the infill section of mattress stored behind. Disguising this flap as doors, complete with handles, is an inspired idea and looks very smart.
The main part of the bed lifts on gas struts to make accessing the storage underneath easily. The bed also has a feature headboard made from oak and glass, with lighting behind.
There are a range of cupboards for storage, including high level cupboards, and tall wardrobes. One is angled across the corner, and has a TV above. Double doors lead to the well deck, with more of the concealed blinds.
This boat is powered by a hybrid system, so there’s a diesel engine and an electric
motor. The engine is a Beta 50 and at first glance you’d hardly notice the addition of the electric motor on one end. There’s really not much to see, only a bit of pierced cowling gives it away. The electric motor gives 10kW of propulsion which is more than enough for most canal conditions; then when the Beta is running, the motor converts itself into a 5kW generator to charge the batteries.
The motor runs off a 48-volt system, so the batteries consist of 24 two-volt cells, amounting to 800Ah at 48 volts. That’s a huge amount of battery storage. The equivalent at 12 volts would be 3200Ah; for comparison, a typical boat would have four 110Ah batteries.
That’s why the boat can be gas-free, there’s more than enough capacity to run domestic electric appliances. The batteries also have a venting and self-watering system. There’s a separate 12-volt circuit for the lighting, with a single buffer battery and a cross-charger. There are a couple of large solar panels on the roof to help with charging.
Steve’s work used to be on fuel systems, so he’s taken measures to keep his fuel free from the dreaded diesel bug. The tank is split in two, for the engine and the heating system. Each has a Fuel Guard filter. In addition, there’s a small pump which can take fuel from either tank, pass it through another filter, and return it.
The heating system on this boat is interesting, too. There’s underfloor heating through pipes set into insulation below the floor. Both the owners and the builders concluded that there wasn’t enough floor area in a narrowboat to provide enough heat on its own (underfloor systems run warm rather than hot), so there are also conventional radiators in the saloon, shower room and cabin.
The boiler is a Webasto and there’s also a heat-exchanger on the engine to make use of excess heat. The system can be switched so either underfloor or radiator systems can be used independently, or they can both be on. As Lynn says she tends to be a cold person so there’s also the Lockgate stove should an extra heat boost be needed.
One unusual feature is an internal CCTV system. There are a couple of tiny cameras set behind holes little bigger than pin pricks, and the owners are able to see what the cameras see remotely.
ON THE WATER
It’s a while since we’ve tested a hybrid system, so we were keen to try out the electric motor. Technology is always advancing, and while some of the early electric motors we tried gave off a high pitched whine, this one is almost silent.
Underway, the loudest sound is water being disturbed by the prop. Electric propulsion also means the prop can be turned very slowly, giving improved control at low speeds. A display shows you what percentage of power you’re using. Control is very easy, using the same Morse control lever as the normal engine.
Steve reckons he’s spending about half of his time using the diesel engine and
half on electric power. It makes sense to use the electric motor through locks; there’s no idling, so no wasting fuel when you’re not moving, plus there are no fumes and, importantly, the helmsman and the lockside crew can hear what the other is saying.
In fact, the ability to hear more is one of the things Lynn and Steve say they’ve noticed most. They followed boats through Crick tunnel while on electric power, and could hear not only their engines but also what their crews were talking about. They’ve also managed to creep up on anglers unnoticed! As you might expect of a Tyler shell, the handling is excellent.
Daniel Payton is the son of founder Wayne
Oak and faux leather provide a warm feel
The cabin is packed with cupboards
Black granite worktops sparkle in the sunlight
Saloon is warmed by diesel stove
The Tyler shell provides excellent handling
Fused glass creates an individual look
Oak and glass form the headboard
Spacious cupboard houses controls
Vital signs are available at a glance
Lynn and Steve Brown with Daniel Payton
Tiller pin tribute to Lynn’s Wrens service