Monday 1 July 2013

Archive Blog

This blog is the archive of our five years of adventures on narrowboat Lucky Duck from looking for a boat to buying, living on, cruising, doing up, and finally selling the boat in July 2013.

We now live on Willow, a converted ex working narrow boat, built by the Severn and Canal Carrying Company in 1935. You can find our new blog here:

Lucky Duck can now be found moored on Midsummer Common, lived on by her lovely new owners Melissa and Quin.

New Adventures for Lucky Duck

Lucky Duck is now officially sold. The money is in my account and the new owners will be taking it on tomorrow, July 2nd 2013, nearly five years after we moved on board on August 1st 2008. At this point I should say a big thank you to Hartford Marina in Huntingdon, who managed the sale of the boat. I wholeheartedly recommend their brokerage services - not only did the boat sell quickly, but the process was stress-free, the service was professional but friendly, and I was kept well informed throughout. A stark contrast to our experience of trying to sell privately earlier this year!

I think it helped to sell the boat locally- out on the canals there are hundreds of similar boats but in this part of the country there are relatively few, so a well priced, sound boat with a recent survey sold quickly. It was only for sale at Hartford for a week before we accepted an offer!

For the moment, the Duck will be moored as a non-residential craft at the Fish and Duck marina at Popes Corner, until her owners' names come up to the top of the waiting list in Cambridge. Then, we may be neighbours! 

We are sad to see our first boat go, but I also feel a sense of relief that we can now fully focus on Willow and all the work we still need to do. 

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Update on Lucky Duck

The brokerage has taken a deposit on the boat, so fingers crossed it will all go through this time!

Friday 17 May 2013

Lucky Duck for Sale Again

Unfortunately we learned last night that the person (whose offer we accepted on the Duck back in late February) has changed his mind about buying the boat for personal reasons. So the Duck is back on the market. Tonight we are moving it out of town and will either take it to a mooring near Littleport and continue to sell privately or to brokerage in Huntingdon, we’ve not yet decided.

Details of the boat are here.

Lucky Duck is a 48ft traditional stern narrowboat first registered in 1986, with a reliable BMC 1.8 engine. It sleeps 2, makes a great live-aboard boat and is well adapted to coping with being away from shore power. Easy to handle and well laid out inside with a traditional ‘saloon forward’ layout, it would be a good starter boat for anyone looking to begin a life afloat, or enjoy some holiday cruising. All systems are in good working order.
Last backed August 2011, BSC until 2017. Hull survey carried out 2013 and available for viewing.

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Tuesday 26 February 2013

Lucky Duck, 48ft trad stern

Our boat, based in Cambridgeshire is for sale 
(Update: July 2013: The boat is sold)

Lucky Duck is a 48ft traditional stern narrowboat first registered in 1986, with a reliable BMC 1.8 engine. It sleeps 2, makes a great live-aboard boat and is well adapted to coping with being away from shore power. Easy to handle and well laid out inside with a traditional 'saloon forward' layout, it would be a good starter boat for anyone looking to begin a life afloat, or enjoy some holiday cruising. All systems are in good working order.

Last backed August 2011, BSC until 2016. Hull surveyed 2013 and available for viewing.

Guide Price: £23,500 ono

Starting at the bows, there is a large storage locker, with water tank below, and an outdoor space, with a vinyl cratch cover. Rolling up the the sides makes this a lovely space to sit outside in the summer. In winter there is plenty of room for fuel storage without resorting to using the roof. The two 19kg gas bottles are also out here. 

Entry into the cabin is through a pair of beautiful unique curved metal framed doors with glass panels. The boat is lined with a combination of T&G and plywood, with polystyrene insulation. It was completely refitted by the previous owner, with new wood floors, in 2006. Moving back through the boat there is a comfy living room, with shelving, a two seater sofa, a fold out table and some fixed seating with storage under. The boat is heated by the Morso Squirrel solid fuel stove, with a back boiler to a radiator in the 

In the kitchen, there is a domestic sized gas oven and four hobs, a very efficient Shoreline 12V fridge freezer, a sink and lots of storage space. All the oak cupboard doors open to reveal sliding drawers, maximising storage and access. There is a wet room with a Morco instantaneous gas water heater (no need to run the engine to get hot water!), a shower, sink, and a Portpotti toilet.

The bedroom again maximises storage space by having a double bed which folds away in seconds on gas struts when not in use. Underneath is a top access wardrobe, lots of deep shelves for storing books and clothes, as well as two chests of drawers, and a step with a lid for even more storage. Part of the space under the bed used to be a desk, and could be easily converted back. Up the step and through the door is the engine room, housing the reliable, skin tank-cooled BMC 1.8 diesel engine, which has been regularly serviced and run. I 2009, we had the engine re-aligned and new skin fittings installed by Fox's boatyard at March. Its relatively short length for this size engine means that it is a nippy boat. 

The battery bank consists of 4 100Ah Elecsol deep cycle semitraction batteries and a dedicated started battery, which are all two years old, but have been well-looked after and continually charged by the 136W solar panel on the roof, which charges the batteries through a top of the range MPPT (maximum power point tracking) regulator. There is also an alternator and a 20A charger which can be used to charge the batteries when connected to a generator or shore power. A 2000W inverter allows you to use mains powered devices when not connected to a shoreline or generator

The boat has a 12V circuit which runs the fluorescent lights, water pumps, fridge and 12V sockets, and a 240V system which runs additional lights, and power sockets. The solar panel means that from March until September, the boat is entirely self sufficient for electricity, This is great for live-aboards, but also means peace of mind if you are leaving the boat for extended periods of time, as you know the batteries will be full when you get back.

We repainted the boat (taken back to bare metal) in 2011, and refreshed in Summer 2012, using Craftmaster Grand Union Blue on the sides and International Atlantic Grey on the roof. We don't know who the boat is built by. Best guess is a Colecraft hull with a bespoke, one off cabin. The roof is double skinned as it seems to have been extended from a cruiser stern to a trad stern at some time in the past, and a new roof put over the whole lot. The hull was blacked in 2011 with two sprayed on coats of International Intertuf.  There is some minor, historic, pitting on the hull which the survey picked up, but this has not advanced  at all in the five years since the previous survey, so are not of concern. All mooring lines would be included in the sale. There is a double skinned chimney.

The boat is ballasted with shingle in the cabin bilge and with moveable paving slabs for adjustment in the bows.


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Sunday 24 February 2013

Willow's History

For us, one of the best things about owning an historic boat is the history behind it, and the cargoes carried and routes used, along with the people who worked the boat. Here's what we know so far after a little research; we're planning on visiting the waterways archives to discover more!

Willow was built by Charles Hill of Bristol, one of eight new motors ordered by Severn and Canal Carrying Company at a cost of £700 each. It was registered at Gloucester (no.533) on 18th February 1935. These eight boats were composite of wrought iron (from Hingley's at Netherton) with elm bottom boards. The hull was welded rather than riveted together, and was one of the first to have this revolutionary construction. They were built to carry the maximum load possible, specified at the full 72' long, and the welded construction, very bluff fore-end and short double curved swim allowed a capacity of 33 tons on a 3'9" draft. The design was not pleasing to all, as Rolt called them "ugly and clumsy". 

A number of additional features distinguished Willow and the other "tree class" motors; the 9hp S-type Petter Semi diesel was located in an engine room at the back of the cabin, with the accommodation between engine and hold. This was very unpopular, for the steerer was subject to all the noise and exhaust smoke, and could not tend the range when travelling. Other features included water ballast tanks under the cabin floor (Willow still retains traces of the in-built tank) along with very pointed sterns, bell-mouthed ventilators, engine exhaust funnel and portholes being very much like those fitted to the seagoing ships that were Charles Hill's normal output. In addition, the tee-stud on the fore-end was sideways and the counter was fitted with two small tee-studs rather than dollies; this was to prevent ropes from high tidal dockside walls such as at Gloucester Docks slipping off. The engines were problematic; although apparently never intended to tow a butty, the 9hp engine was inadequate for a single motor on the fast-flowing Severn (earlier wooden S&CCCo motors had 15hp and 20hp Bolinders) with, for example, Willow once being swept downriver and becoming stuck on Maisemore weir. 

Willow had a very short working life with S&CCCo, being worked by Walter James Tonks and others.Major contracts included carrying chocolate crumb for Cadbury's to Bournville - this contract and Cadbury's presence as a director on the board of S&CCCo secured the construction of the "tree class" boats - along with (reputedly) Typhoo Tea, England's Glory matches, and other cargoes such as timber, wheat, canned goods and metals from the Bristol Channel ports to Birmingham. In the 1940s it was leased to FMC who used it, and 4 others of the tree class, around the Midlands and North-west region, before 1949 when the DIWE relegated them to maintenance craft. Willow (along with Ash) had a crane fitted in the hold and languished in Hayhurst Yard in Northwich, before being bought by Malcolm Braine (along with President, Holland, and Ash) in the late 1970s.

It was advertised for sale, and was sold into private ownership in 1979, despite it being sunk at the time! It was rebottomed in steel in 1980, replacing the elm, and a wooden framed full length cabin added for the owner, who lived aboard since then, with the cabin being recently skinned in steel. It was rebottomed and refooted in steel in 2010 at Langley Mill.


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Friday 22 February 2013

Historic Boat Owners at Last!

I've been teasing our blog readers with a few images of our new old boat for a while, not wanting to tempt fate by revealing which boat we had made an offer on, but now, I can say that our new old boat is the 1935 Severn & Canal Carrying Company motor, Willow.

Today, the boat was surveyed by a specialist in historic boats, and he assured us that the hull, rebottomed three years ago, was in good shape, and that in general, the boat was an excellent buy! So, we are going for it!

The boat is in need of a lot of work on the interior but we are very excited to be embarking on our next adventure! We have started a new blog for Willow, at

We can also show some photographs of the boat now we can say what it is....

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Midsummer Common

Whilst we wait impatiently for Friday's survey of the New Old Boat, and to hear if anyone wants to buy the Duck, it is good to remember that living here, in this city, on the river, on a boat (a boat!), is simply wonderful. And that whatever happens over the next few days and weeks, however stressful it is, we are lucky. Lucky ducks in fact (for now at least!).

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