Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Looks Like The Kitchens Nearly In

Just back from a flying visit to Long Eaton to see what progress the boys have made over the last couple of weeks, and also to meet up with Marion, our pal from way, way, back, who we hadn’t  seen for several years.

All is OK at Trent Lock. The kitchen is almost there though we still await the oven. It’s a SMEV. It’s been delivered once damaged and Pat has had assurances from the chandlery it came from that it is due to be re-delivered any day. Ummmm. We’ll see. She is convinced because the man on the end of the phone was very nice!

That apart, we are very pleased with the kitchen, sorry, galley. The Ikea units have gone in well and the large circular breakfast bar, where we do most of our eating, looks great. John had to make it from two pieces of American Oak, and you would be hard pressed to see the join. Getting to this stage, with the bathroom also partitioned, means we can now visualise the space we have in the saloon. I had been a bit concerned it was going to be a bit small, but I think now I’ve had another look it will be fine.
John gets very emotional on the completion of our breakfast bar.

The American light oak worktop. The wooden trims around the windows have been completed as well.

The Thetford Ceramic loo in situ

John is going to make me a guitar cupboard,  that is going to sit beside the Bubble multi-fuel stove. I had sent him some plans and we firmed them up as well as choosing taps for the basin in the bathroom, in between doughnuts and mice pies. We also took up four packs of ceramic tiles so Mick can start tiling in the kitchen. It’s only a couple of rows, and follows the red theme we will have running through the boat.

Then we drove over to a pub I found in the `Good Beer Guide` and met up with Marion, who had driven over from Leominster, to see us, and we spend a couple of hours, talking about the past, our kids, our aches and pains, and travel.

When we got back home the FM transmitter, I had purchased on line from the USA had arrived, so will try that out tomorrow, which is my official last day with the John Lewis Partnership after 34 years. My boss Helen, and her boss Jon, are both coming in to see me in the morning, but I need to get away after lunch as I have a huge Christmas shop to do at Waitrose across the road, before we leave for our Christmas cottage in Suffolk with my bestest pal John and his family.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Well that was work then

Well that was work then. It would be flippant to say that my 34 years at John Lewis have gone by with a flash, for that is certainly not the case. But the last ten years at Welwyn have certainly flown by and have been the happiest time in my working life.

The last two weeks have been a whirl. Everyday there has been a party or an event. I spent some time with all my leisure pals at the John Lewis country club in Cookham, in Berks, and they bought me a canal on-line mapping system as a leaving gift, which is what I wanted, so the hints I had made didn’t get ignored, and my bestest Partnership pal Colin gave me the Cat tiller pin, he had purchased for me when we met up with him and Stuart, his Partner, at Crick in May.

The previous night had been our branch Christmas Pirate Party - my last one - so the cake they presented me with, seen here, was quite apt.

The Choir I sing with in the branch, the Welwyn Chorus, brought us both a lovely carriage clock to put on the wall as well as “Captain” and “First Mate” wooly hats, and my step-brother Gary went one better with the full Captain’s hat, complete with scambled eggs. I have been very touched with the messages and the many cards and gifts Partners have given me over the last few days. Although it’s my job to give my colleagues a good time, I have been surprised at the level of  affection shown towards me.

But enough of looking back. This blog is about building a narrowboat, so let’s move on and look forward.

Kingfisher are updating their own build blog on their website on a weekly basis, so we are keenly following their progress, between our regular three-weekly visits to Trent Lock. John has been busy with fitting out the kitchen and I hope that when we visit next Wednesday, just before Christmas, it will be almost complete. The boys are also concerning themselves with the bathroom. The loo is in and John has been asking about bowls and taps.

The new ceramic cassette loo has been installed

The shower tray is in

And the galley is taking shape

One of the presents I did get was a plain metal watering can, which I hope to paint the same blue as the boat and then ask Jan to decorate for us. That will be cool.

More news next week, if I fit in a posting before leaving Welwyn Garden City for Suffolk for the Christmas break.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

A good week on the boat front. Our visit yesterday found things very much on target with the boys comfortable with their progress and lots to see and decide on.

The day before I got a text saying we had won a prize in a competition I had entered a few weeks back. This had been on a new TV programme, “UK Boating”, which is on a satellite channel, and it was to win a year’s free marine insurance, which we have won, saving us, I would think, around £350. Luverly jubbly!
Sky 231 Freesat 402

We took up the Siemens hob I had sourced from John Lewis, but it is too big to go where we want. It can be used, but not without redesigning the galley, which both of us are loathe to do, so it.s back to Spinflow, which the boys will get from Midland Chandlers.

Spinflo 9 Hob

We took a new microwave with us, the Sony car stereo, and two Wharfedale 9 Diamond speakers. It has become apparent that I was not going to get the car speakers I wanted. The roof space they are to be mounted in is too shallow. I looked around and Richer Sounds are selling off these Wharfedale speakers at less than half price. Reduced from £100 to £39. And they sound really good for the money, so I am well pleased. Wiring them up to the Sony unit might be a bit challenging, but I am sure Mick will overcome any issues in that department.
Wharfedale Diamond 9 Bookshelf speakers

A walk through the boat found the instrumentation panels in place, and I am well pleased with them. The only thing still to go on this panel is the controller for the solar panels. The water tank is in position and the bedroom, as well as the other fixtures have been laid out with masking tape. This gives us a much better idea of how the different areas of the boat will affect each other, and we are both very happy with what we have designed. It seems to be working well.

The instument panel

There is a fair bit of space in the bedroom area, as we are having a small washine machine in there. The pipework is all done to the rads and the pipework is also in place in the bathroom. At the other end of the boat, John has started to assemble the kitchen. That should all be in when we go back, just before Christmas. The boiler is in as are the ceiling lights, which are just perfect.
Galley area with the large breakfast bar taped out

The bathroom area

The bedroom area

We are going for full LED lighting, and there followed a demo from John and Mick showing Pat the differences between soft and hard lights available. I’ve also got to design a cupboard to put my guitar in, and I haven’t got a clue what that will look like as of yet.

After leaving Trent Lock we drove over to Tamworth to Elite Furnishing, who specialise in making furniture for narrowboats. We had seen a really funky chair on their website, but found out on arrival that the patterns we wanted had been deleted during the summer.

We are ordering a settee/sofa bed from them. We might be able to squeeze a chair in as well into the saloon area, but we are going to wait to see if this is possible once we are on board.

The settee/Sofa bed will have a stripes and dots scheme

After looking through what seemed like every book of fabrics in the shop, Pat finally chose the colour scheme she wanted. It’s dark red. She wanted a burnt orange look, but I don’t want people thinking the boat is part of the Easy Jet family!

It’s a good combination, and Glen from Elite is going to Trent Lock on Tuesday to measure up for it. It’s going to cost us a bit over £1000 but we think it is worth it.

This morning I purchased our TV/DVD – an Avtex 12v combination, that I got from John Lewis, so lots of luverly discount off it. The instructions say it can accept memory sticks with films in a MP4 format, but at the moment that is not my experience. Will have to read the manual through, me thinks.

So, all is well and we are very happy. Let’s hope that continues to be the case.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Engine's In

Our three-weekly visit to Trent Lock to visit the Day brothers and to look at the progress of The Cat’s Whiskers was on Friday last.

It was a grey day – typical November autumnal weather. I don’t think we turned off our car headlights all the way there and back. The boat is now in the boys’ dry dock facility at the Lock, currently breasted up, as there is another boat in which is being painted by its owners.
A lot has happened since we last visited. The shiny new engine (a Beta Marine 43) has been dropped in. The walls have all been spray foamed and the ceiling is up. All along the walls are electrical tails, reflecting the position of the lights and power switches. Ballast is in and we now have a floor to stand on and I was pleased that I have got at least a couple of inches head room when standing up.

Our new nice clean, green 43Hp Beta Marine Engine in place

The stainless steel tank has arrived and, at present, on each side she is sporting one top coat of the very dark blue, we both wanted. It’s been a bit damp to do a lot of painting, but there is plenty of time for that, I guess.

Pat admires the stainless steel watertank
Base floor is in, as is most of the roof and the electrics have been started

The re-designed bookcase

I’ve re-drawn the TVunit/Bookcase to scale, as John needs to know these dimensions soon. The next thing to sort out is the kitchen or galley and I suspect that will be well underway by the time of our next visit. The kitchen is coming from Ikea in Nottingham. We have had to compromise on the oven we want and it will now be a Smev (no, I haven’t of this brand either), but Jandai had one installed, and it looks preferable to the Spinflow one, which most new boats go for. We thought the build quality of the Spinflow was poor.

There are loads of other things to sort out, but generally all is well. Our latest stage payment has gone through and after a chat with the boys and obligatory doughnuts, we met up with Jan Deucher, the sign writer, who also lives at the Lock on a boat.

I have done a lot of background work, looking at her website and choosing the fonts and colour scheme I like for the signage. I had knocked something up in Publisher and Jan thinks what I want will not present any issues. The level of detail of the cat’s face we want on the side of the boat, didn’t seem to faze her at all. She is also doing some work on the “bow flashes”, but I don’t think that is the correct term, so excuse my ignorance. Jan gave us a price, which seems reasonable, and we look forward to seeing her work her magic.

It was all a bit of a flying visit. We stopped off at Sawley Marina for a spot of late lunch, and bought another Nicholsons Guide, and was back in Welwyn Garden by 4.30pm.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Pat & Roger go shopping

David Cameron would be proud of us. For it seems Pat and I are staging a two-person campaign to jump start the country's  high street spending. Yes, the big spend has started as the boys start preparing for the fit-out of the Cat’s Whiskers.

I really wanted, wherever possible, to buy stuff made in the UK, but I think I was more than a little naive to think that was possible.

Shoreline RF88
We started with the fridge/freezer. We needed a 12v one. Well, we didn’t really. We could buy an an ordinary 240v household unit but that was going to mean huge burden on the boats invertor, as this bit of kit is on all day and night, and is working at its hardest in the summer months, when we will be most active on the boat.  I am getting somewhat paranoid about our electrical consumption. I think it will be trend regular readers of our blog will spot as time goes on. So it’s 12v all the way, where possible. Though there was not a lot of choice when we were looking for the fridge freezer, but Pat has selected a Shoreline (picture below).

Next came the request from the boys at Kingfisher about lighting. We had agreed to go with LED, but they needed to know how many positions we wanted and where they should go. Also requested was how we wanted them switched, closely followed by power point requests. On both the power and lighting we have had to make a few compromises, but we are quite happy with what has been agreed.

Siemens EC615PB90E
Pat has sourced the hob she wants through John Lewis. It’s a Siemans. I wanted a Hotpoint but my pals in the electrical department warned me off.

Sony CDX-GT450U
Whole House FM Transmitter
I got the car stereo yesterday. This will be our “entertainment system”. It’s a Sony unit,  that Halfords had on a half-price offer. Not sure about the speakers yet, but probably going to go with two speakers from Pioneer that will be dropped into the roof space. I was going to spend a bit more and go down the Bluetooth route, but  I put a post on the Canal World Forum site and several boaters came back to say Bluetooth is OK, but we would be better off getting an FM transmitter. I have sourced one from the US that runs on 12 volts (picture below).

Avtex TV/DVD Combi
We have also sorted out our TV/DVD unit. Again, it’s 12v and we stock it in John Lewis, though its only available on-line. I get discount wherever it is sourced, so that has saved us a tiny sum. The attraction of the unit, an Avtex (no, I had never heard of them either), is that there is a USB port on the side. This means I can record programmes to either a memory stick or hard drive. I bought a 1Tb drive a while back to put all my CD’s and photo on, and there is loads of space left, so I will rip a load of DVD’s, for those inevitable times when we are in the middle of nowhere and cannot get any reception.

John asked me to start thinking about a bookcase/ TV surround and I have designed one to scale, that Pat thinks is OK, and will give us what we need. I sent it to John and he thinks it will work.  It’s one of the things we will discuss next Friday when we pay our three-weekly visit to Trent Lock to see the boat’s progress. We also hope to meet Jan Deuchar, the sign writer, who lives on a boat, moored at the lock.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Autumn's here - Undercoats on

21 October
It’s been three weeks since I last saw The Cat’s Whiskers and Pat hasn’t seen her since she was just a shell at Narrowboats of Staffordshire, so our expectations were high when we set off up the M1 yesterday morning and did a detour to Kingfisher before going cross-country to the M6 and on to Blackpool for a Country music weekend at Birchwood, near Lytham St Annes (now that’s a posh town) and that was a long opening sentence.
We had the requisite doughnuts on board, a load of new questions to ask the boys and were itching to see her with some colour on and her windows in. We were not disappointed. Two coats of primer and two coats of undercoat have been applied and rubbed down. There is still three coats of top coat to go on and the boys want to finish this part of the operation before the weather gets too cold.
So we saw her in her “underwear”, so to speak, and even in this state, she looked pretty good. The windows and mushroom vents on the roof are in, and the engine arrives at the end of October, closely followed by the chap who will do the spray-foaming inside.
We now turn our attention to where the lights and power points need to be positioned. We are both now convinced that we the only way to go is to use LCD lighting, and we have zoned the boat into four areas. I think we may have gone a little OTT with the power sockets. We have marked 13 on the plans, but we’ll have to see what the boys think. They were worked out on a laptop in our hotel room last night.
I must apologise for the pix on this posting. I took them on my HTC phone, which normally gives me good results, but the three below are a bit washed out.
I want to source British stuff to go into the boat where possible, even if it does work out a little more expensive. We are therefore going for a Bubble wood-burning stove, as opposed to a Morso, or one of the other brand leaders, though our options on other electrical products are limited by the size and space, so it looks like we will have to go with Zanussi or Candy.
We have decided to have off-white walls and a similar ceiling colour with two wooden strips running down the length of the boat on either side. This is where the lights will go as well as the speakers.
I have now dropped the idea of having two waterproof speakers in the cockpit. I think they will be used infrequently, are expensive and are a probable nuisance. I think I’ll just get a good DAB/Internet radio. Roberts make one that you can connect a memory stick too, and play its contents, which will be useful for whatever mood takes me when at the tiller.
Finally, I discovered a couple of weeks ago that there is a brewery in Gloucestershire, called Whittingtons, that brew a beer called “The Cats Whiskers (no apostrophe). The beer and pump clip feature a surly looking cat standing behind a pint of foaming beer. I mailed the brewery and asked if they could send me a good jpeg of the image which they have, with a note saying when the boat is ready for launching, they will send a case of the beer to help in on its way. How cool is that.
John can't wait to apply another four coats of paint!

TCW in dry dock

Nearly ready for the engine and for Jan to work her sign-writing magic

Sunday, 2 October 2011

She Floats! and here is the proof

I couldn't get back in to my previous post to pop these pix on, so doing it now. Also going to try and put a video clip on line.

Up in air and I am just a little nervous
Mick looks on as she dips her stern in the water for the first time

Almost there now - just a few feet to go

Finally launched and John steadies her

Friday, 30 September 2011

She Floats

30 September 2011
The Cat’s Whiskers is afloat – launched yesterday morning in the Erewash Canal on one of the hottest days of the year.

I had a break from my duties at the St Albans Beer Festival and was up at 5am to catch the three trains I needed to get to Long Eaton for 10am. Normally, I would have travelled into London and caught a direct train from St Pancras, but my trusty senior railcard, doesn’t give me that luxury at that time of day.

Carrying my trusty Brompton fold-up bike, I pedalled down the Erewash Canal from the railway station the short distance to Trent Lock, and what a lovely ride. The mist was just clearing from the water and the sun shone brilliantly. Can’t wait to experience this on the water.  Mick picked me up and took me back to where I had started pedalling, to a boatyard they often use for launching in Long Eaton, that has a slipway.

On arrival, everything was in place. The owner (Paul) was prepared, the crane turned up on time and then, 15 minutes later, so did the low loader with the Cat’s Whiskers on the back, now with a coat of holding primer and some stern gear fitted.

The low loader backed into the yard and after some adjustments with the slings up she went. Not as far in the air as I have seen some boats suspended, but still high enough for a small level of concern. Paul from the boatyard backed his slipway trailer underneath and the crane dropped her back down on to it. Then, all Paul had to do was to back her down the slipway, until she floated.

From the nearby bridge, Jan and Dai, from Kingfisher’s last custom build, shouted out to me “Exciting, isn’t it”? I think I felt more relief than excitement. We had waited for this day for nearly a year, and not a day had gone by, when I hadn’t thought about the launch, how it might go, and how she would look in the water.

Mick and John, then tied her to Jandai, becoming effectively a butty,  and she towed us down the cut to Trent Lock, her home for the next six months. It was good to see Jan and Dai again – we seem to keep bumping into them and it was good to have a look at their solar array on the roof of Jandai, now they have had it a month or so. They are mooring at Trent Lock for a while. It was also kind of neat that the last custom-built boat the Kingfisher boys had built, had now helped pull their newest boat.

And that was that. After a chat about real ale and cider, I was back on my bike, up the tow path and wending my way, back south again. Next time we see her, she should be sporting her cruising colours.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Roof on... Now she looks like a boat

Saturday 24 August
Paid my second visit to Narrowboats of Staffordshire yesterday. This was after a very hectic week's holiday when we first travelled over to France for the weekend with Pat's cousin to see their place on the Somme, and then we had three great days in Liverpool, doing the Beatles stuff with Pat's sister Monica, who is over here from Vancouver.
Checked out the new moorings for narrowboats in the Albert Dock, now the Leeds & Liverpool extends right down through the docks to the heart of the city. I fancy we will make that journey sometime in 2013.
This was the first time Pat had seen the boat "in the flesh" and now it really looks like a boat. While I took as many photos as I could she spent the time clambering over the insides, mentally ticking off boxes. It is hard to believe that, in a few months time, it will be our home.
Nigel told me that it more or less finished, apart from some detailing and a coat of primer. We are really pleased with the job they have made, and I particulary like the scrolling on the bow and locker.
Next Thursday she will will make the 40-mile journey over to Trent Lock when the Kingfisher boys take over and start to work their magic.
Which ones the Captain?

Check out the scrolling on the locker cover and front of bow

Does my head look big in this!

Lots of lovely space for Jan to do her sign writing

Stern section
We aim to be there to see her launched.

Friday, 16 September 2011

It has taken several months, but today I finally got my first glimpse of “The Cat’s Whiskers”, albet, just the hull.
I travelled up the M1 and M6 to Stafford, to Narrow Boats of Staffordshire, who are fabricating all the steelwork and there she was. Dave, Nigel and the boys at NBS have the hull almost finished and the roof will go on over the next couple of days. If all goes well, the boat will be ready to be moved in a week or so when it will be dropped into the water, up stream of Kingfisher Narrowboats, and  be towed down to the boatyard for painting and fitting out.

I particularly liked the scrolled detailing on the bow. Dave described it as “Norse Bow”, something of a speciality at NBS. It’s a nice touch.
 The hull looked huge in the workshop, and it was pleasing to be able to get some pictures to satisfy the curiosity of so many friends and colleagues, who have been asking to see some photographic evidence of its existence.

I hope to take Pat and her sister Monica, currently visiting from Canada, to see, what I hope will be the finished steelwork next Friday. We are going to have a few days in Liverpool and coming back down the M6 then, so we’ll pop in I think.
Nigel working on the bow

The View from the stern. Obviously thirsty work, this welding

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Blue is the colour

Saturday 6 August

Just back from 24 hours in and around Nottingham, primarily for a visit to Kingfisher to discuss a few things, and a visit to Narrowboats of Staffordshire, to have a look at the progress of our hull.

Mick and John had told us that there was a 50/50 chance they would not have made a start yet, and that was to be the case.  Work on our shell will probably get under way in the next week or so, and at that point the boys will need to go over and visit, and that’s when we will go and join them there.

The plan has always been to get the boat into the water and down to their dry dock at the beginning of September, and there is no reason to suggest that is not going to be the case.

 We could have gone down to Stafford yesterday, but quite frankly, we couldn’t see the point.

It was a journey well spent though. After tea and doughnuts we spent two hours going over the plans again, especially in relation to the hull, looking at heights and where cut outs have got to be made, for things like my outdoor speakers.

 In the last few weeks we have also purchased two fold-out bikes. I have a Brompton and Pat is riding around on an American Dahon, a very nice bit of kit, but a lot heavier than my Brompton. These have been bought with the boat in mind, and I wanted to see if Mick and John had any ideas about how these could be stored. We didn’t resolve it, but we have some ideas.

 The principle reason for visiting though, was to establish the Cat’s Whiskers colour scheme, so the boys could start ordering the paint and to give Jan, the sign writer, who lives next door to their office on her own boat, an idea of what we wanted and the size of the panels she has to work with.

Coming from a typographical background, I knew exactly what I wanted, but it soon became very clear that what might look good on paper, drawn in Quark or Photoshop, is not guaranteed to look any good on the side of boat.

 The boats main colour will be a midnight blue, with a cream roof and cream coach lining. There will be post office red on the grabrail and above the rudder. (Not sure the technical term for that bit of the boat.)

 We changed our mind on out Celtic cat logo, and I found an image of a cat, upside down, looking through a porthole that we both liked. My son-in law, James, in New Zealand, has embellished it, but it didn’t work  on the boat, though I think we will utilise it on the bow stripes and it will be the logo on our tee shirts, now available, see picture.

 When we got to Trent Lock, “Jandai” had just arrived. She is the last bespoke boat that Kingfisher built and Jan and Dai had brought her in to have a solar array fitted and to have her bottom  blacked.

We visited  them in April up on Leeds and Liverpool at Gargrave, and it was good to see  them both again, looking very tanned, and to pick their brains over a pint opposite at the Navigation Inn.

 Dai is very keen on these solar panels, as are John and Mick, and we will are also keen to see how Jandai gets  on with them, over the remainder of the summer and into the autumn.

After a look around Sawley Marina, down the road, we drove into Nottingham, for a night beside the Castle Marina, close to the city centre, to have a nose around, and to visit a few of the pubs that have a good reputation for their ales and canal connections.

 The bikes were pressed into action and after a visit to “Ye Olde Trip”, by the castle, and “Fellows, Morton and Clayton”, the “Waterfront” and the” Boat House”,  we crashed out in the Premier Inn, overlooking the marina.

 After breakfast and a further bike ride to the end of the canal where it enters the Trent, opposite the cricket  ground and Notts Forest’s ground, we went off to Ikea, to get some ideas. We are definitely getting our kitchen from there, but the worktops might be sourced by John as he has to build our mammoth round breakfast bar idea.

It’s all been a waiting game up to now, but that, hopefully, will all change over the next few weeks.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Crick Effect

Well – that was Crick then! Our intentions from day one of this project was to wait for this annual waterway showcase, before we committed to a boat and builder, but, of course, these things never quite work out the way you had planned them, and our three-day pass at Crick Boat Show was used to scout out and try and resolve a lot of ancillary issues surrounding cookers, paintwork, engines, gadgets and navigational aids. We did clamber over a couple of boats, but that was not so important now we have got the project underway.

I’ve heard it often said that get a few boaters together and you are guaranteed that before long the talk will turn to loos. So it was with us, as we looked at, and raised the lids of every single loo being displayed at the various stands. We chatted to other boaters, either at the bar, or beside us at the stands, and, of course, everybody had their own point of view. However, we are now both convinced “The Cat’s Whiskers” will have a cassette loo on board. It will be a Thetford with a ceramic bowl. We also saw a water filter we liked, though I noticed they were not taking the water out of the canal and filtering it, and then offering it to customers to drink, as they have done in the past.

My pal Colin and his partner Stuart joined us on the Sunday and insisted on buying us “a little something” for the boat, so we now have a very flash-looking tiller pin in the shape of a cat. But apart from hats to keep the rain off our heads on the Saturday, we didn’t spend much. Roger was keen to chat to Aston and Mercia Marina. We have visited both these sites on the Trent and Mersey over the last couple of months. The Beta engine man was very welcoming and Pat was keen to learn more about becoming a British Waterways Volunteer. We went to nearly all the seminars, so we certainly got our money’s worth.

I think it will be next year that we blow the dust off our credit card. We will have been cruising for a few weeks by then and should have an extensive shopping list.

Friday, 13 May 2011

She purrs on paper

John and Mick have sent us through the contract and estimate for "The Cat's Whiskers" and I expect that Pat and I will plough through  all the paperwork this weekend. The deposit has been forwarded to the boys, but the bank is quoting three to five working days to transfer it, so who knows when it will hit their account. Why is it I could go on-line now, order something from the internet, and get it delivered free tomorrow morning, but the bank need almost a week to move money around?
For those interested here is a brief run-down of the boat's spec:
60ft Semi-Trad stern
Taff Seats to stern
Double skin semi-trad
Spray foam insulation
Lined in Oak
Painted cabin sides
Solid Oak trims
Beta 42 engine with twin alternators
Victron 1600 multi invertor
6 x 110 am leisure batteries
Stainless steel water tank
Bow thruster and charger
Chrome windows, and chome mushrooms and ironmongery
Thetford casette loo
Ikea sourced kitchen with circular breakfast bar in oak
Valor Willow solid fuel stove
LED lights in aft steps
Carch cover
Entertainment system including exterior speakers
Roof Box

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Cat's Whiskers nb: The Cat’s Whiskers starts purring

The Cat's Whiskers nb: The Cat’s Whiskers starts purring: "When you make a u-turn in your life, it is rarely a spur of the moment thing. It’s far more likely that a culmination of circumstances wil..."

The Cat’s Whiskers starts purring

When you make a u-turn in your life, it is rarely a spur of the moment thing. It’s far more likely that a culmination of circumstances  will lead you that moment, and so it was with us, who, like so many others of our age, have chosen to retire early, commission a narrowboat, and explore the canal network of Great Britain.
Having done over 30 years with my company, my pension isn’t going to increase significantly now. Both of us are in reasonably good health and most importantly Pat is keen as mustard to start a new life somewhere. I am fortunate to still be on a final salary pension, but the job I do at John Lewis is subtly changing and moving into areas I am not comfortable with.  Both of us loved being on and around the canals and I have spent enough time cruising the network over the last 10 years to appreciate what life on the cut would be all about.
This week we sign contracts to have our first-ever boat built and I will retire around Christmas. It’s been a slow process, but deliberately so. Initially we were looking to buy a boat around two to three years old, and almost landed one in January, but whatever we looked at, there were always going to be compromises, which in some instances were going to be costly. After sitting down one winter’s night with a pencil, pad and calculator, we made the decision to buy new and started planning to visit builders and marinas.
I think we were both concerned whether the budget we had set would stretch to provide us with what we had our hearts set on. One of the first builders we visited was Kingfisher Narrowboats at Trent Lock, to the south of Nottingham at Long Eaton. Run by two brothers, John and Mick Day, they have been building boats for  several years now and we liked the quality of workmanship we saw on their web site.
As we walked back to the car after that first meeting with the boys, I turned to Pat, and said “You know, that felt right”. And, I suppose if I were truthful, all the other builders we saw after that, had to achieve that “feel”. They all built cracking boats, and we got some great ideas and tips from them, but this is going to be a very personal purchase, and it was as important to us to find the right builders as much as their ability to build it for us to budget.
Our deposit will be paid this week and on 1 April 2012 (hope that date is not an omen) we will take ownership of a 60ft, semi-trad, with a reverse layout. The hull will be built by Narrowboats of Staffordshire over the summer, the shell will then be delivered to Kingfisher at the end of August, when they will paint it in their dry dock, and then fit it out over the winter. It will be called “The Cat’s Whiskers”.  We are confident it will be – the name, a homage to the dozens of cats we have owned since we got married.
So the adventure....and the blog begins.