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.


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.


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.


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.

Spa­cious cup­board houses con­trols

Vi­tal signs are avail­able at a glance

Lynn and Steve Brown with Daniel Pay­ton

The Tyler shell pro­vides ex­cel­lent han­dling

Fused glass cre­ates an in­di­vid­ual look

Oak and glass form the head­board

Black gran­ite work­tops sparkle in the sun­light

Sa­loon is warmed by diesel stove

Oak and faux leather pro­vide a warm feel

The cabin is packed with cup­boards

Daniel Pay­ton is the son of founder Wayne

Tiller pin trib­ute to Lynn’s Wrens ser­vice

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