Cruis­ing the wa­ter­ways in style with no sign of Rosie and Jim

De­vel­oper Andy Stakes has di­ver­si­fied into boat build­ing and the re­sult is a blend of tra­di­tional and mod­ern de­sign. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

COM­BIN­ING a love of old build­ings with a pas­sion for con­tem­po­rary de­sign helped to make Andy Stakes a suc­cess­ful prop­erty de­vel­oper.

Now he’s us­ing his sig­na­ture style to make a splash in the world of in­land wa­ter­ways.

Andy, a keen sailor, has di­ver­si­fied into build­ing nar­row­boats whose tra­di­tional “Rosie and Jim” ex­te­rior hides a slick, mod­ern in­te­rior.

The £120,000 ves­sels are more float­ing apart­ments than con­ven­tional live­aboards, where dec­o­ra­tive barge­ware has been ban­ished in favour of a min­i­mal­ist aes­thete en­livened by framed al­bums by Bob Dy­lan, Bruce Spring­steen and The Bea­tles.

The new look at­tracted lot of at­ten­tion at a re­cent boat show.

“This all started when the prop­erty mar­ket be­came dif­fi­cult and I started look­ing for some­thing else to do. I’d been on a few canal boat hol­i­days and thought I could im­prove the fit out. A lot of the nar­row­boats still look the same in­side as they did 25 years ago and I thought there was a mar­ket for peo­ple like me who pre­fer con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors.

“They can be used as sec­ond homes or full-time homes and I use the same ap­proach as I do when de­vel­op­ing houses,” says Andy, whose busi­ness, Ash­wood Nar­row­boats, is based at Ap­per­ley Bridge ma­rina on the canal be­tween Leeds and Brad­ford.

His start­ing point is a steel hull made by Tyler Wil­son in Sh­effield. Andy de­signs the fit out us­ing the same trades­peo­ple he uses on land-based projects. Al­most ev­ery­thing is be­spoke with cladding and cab­i­netry made from bleached oak by lo­cal fur­ni­ture­mak­ers Grove Wood Join­ery and up­hol­stery by Ash­bourne in Ship­ley.

There are, how­ever, a few ma­jor dif­fer­ences be­tween bricks and mor­tar and boats. Weight distri­bu­tion is a key con­sid­er­a­tion.

“It’s amaz­ing how much dif­fer­ence this makes. You have to get the bal­ance right on both sides or the boat will tilt. A lot of boats have free-stand­ing fur­ni­ture that they can move around but mine is all fixed to help the boat stay level. It doesn’t take much to make it lurch,” says Andy.

“I had to take this into ac­count when I put gran­ite work­tops in the kitchen. I had to put paving slabs un­der the floor­ing at the other side to cre­ate bal­ance. That isn’t un­com­mon. A lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise that a boat floats like a cork. It has to be weighed down with bal­last to get it to sink slightly into the water,” says Andy, who also ditched the con­ven­tional open plan lay­out to put doors on the din­ing/sec­ond bed­room for pri­vacy.

The bench seat­ing in this area can be con­verted into two sin­gle beds or one dou­ble and the din­ing ta­ble is stored away un­der the seats. The main bed­room has a fold­away bed and dou­ble mat­tress stored in the wall of cup­boards, while a set­tee lifts to re­veal space for the du­vet and pil­lows.

The de­signer ra­di­a­tors are warmed by a diesel heat­ing sys­tem but there is no diesel or wood burn­ing stove, which Andy feels are a fire risk.

The same hi-tech Sonos sound and Roca light­ing sys­tems he has in his home have proved com­pat­i­ble with the boats and can be con­trolled re­motely via a hand­set or mo­bile phone.

Nig­gles he’s had with hire boats, like catch­ing your­self on door han­dles and sharp cor­ners, have been de­signed out.

All the cor­ners are rounded off and the cup­boards all push open. While most boats have one win­dow hatch, he has two – one ei­ther side so you can al­ways open one out onto the open water when you are moored.

The floor­ing is porce­lain tiles rather than tim­ber or car­pet. It looks great, re­pels damp and is easy to clean.

“I started this process by list­ing the things I didn’t like about most nar­row­boats and try­ing to do away with them,” he says.

The first two boats are Jes­sica Boo and Molly Moo, named af­ter his pet New­found­land dogs, and they act as show homes avail­able to hire by prospec­tive buy­ers. Andy also of­fers RYA In­land Helms­man cour­ses to teach novices how to nav­i­gate and tackle locks and bridges.

“You would be amazed at how many peo­ple de­cide to buy a boat even though they have never been on one. It’s mad­ness but you can see why they get car­ried away with the ro­mance of it.

“They are won­der­ful but the re­al­ity is you really need to know what you are do­ing and you have to ac­cept that they are labour in­ten­sive.”

If you’re think­ing of buy­ing a canal boat as a sec­ond or main home, The Live­aboard Guide by York­shire-based canal dweller Tony Jones is an ex­cel­lent book. It re­veals the highs and lows of liv­ing on the water.

It also in­cludes ev­ery­thing you need to know from find­ing a moor­ing and how to tackle the red tape to run­ning costs.

His rule num­ber one is that you shouldn’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

“There are many mucky jobs on a boat and it is a labour-in­ten­sive ex­is­tence, from emp­ty­ing toi­let waste to weed­ing the prop,” he says.

The Live­aboard Guide is pub­lished by Ad­lard Coles Nau­ti­cal, £14.99.

Ash­wood Nar­row­boats and RYA In­land Helms­man cour­ses, tel: 07969 901383, www.ash­wood­nar­row­boats.

ALL MOD CONS: Al­though the boats look tra­di­tional on the out­side, they are fit­ted out in a mod­ern style. The gran­ite work­tops in the kitchen re­quired the boat to be bal­lasted with paving slabs to keep it level in the wa­ter, top; There are doors for...

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