Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Coming back to life

Newcomers to narrow boating might find it hard to believe that canal cruising boats haven't always been 57ft long steel tubes. In the 1960s many were timber-built, not hastily cabin topped old timber working boats either but slimmed down versions of the oak and mahogany cruisers popular on the Broads.
And the most famous builder was Taylors of Chester whose boatyard we are now moored outside. Taylors is probably one of the oldest surviving complete canalside boatyards in the country and dates back to 1845. Its large canopied roof, supported on iron girders and columns resembles a Victorian railway station and under its shelter the Taylor family built their handsome launches.
But as interest in wooden boats waned so the yard slipped into decline and the big dry dock next door was taken part into British Waterways hands.
Fortunately things should be about to take a turn for the better for the Grade II listed site. Earlier this year it got new owners who have taken on a long lease for the yard and the dry dock from British Waterways and who will be working witb BW to get the whole site back into shape.
The new owners are Pete and Yvette Askey, better known to boaters in the London area as JP Marine. They have moved their narrowboat repair, maintenance, BSC and surveying business up to Chester.
I met them today in my continuing quest for oil for Star's lubricant-thirsty engine and, by a fortunate chance, Pete was just off to drive over to the nearest chandlery for supplies so he brought me back a couple of cans.
As I have discovered there's a serious shortage of boatyards in the area - virtually nothing at all in the ten miles leading into Chester and less than nothing from here to Ellesmere Port. And to judge by the number of moored craft the demand is surely there. So good luck to Pete and Yvette.


Captain Ahab said...

I have a real passion for Taylors Boats - they marry my childhood memories of the Broads with my love of the canals.
Oh - and we hired one in 1971:

Starman said...

I think they're beautiful too - so long as they belong to other people! We owned a 1933 Banham Broads cruiser and it was years of heartache battling to maintain her.

Anonymous said...

Remember 'Maid of Oak' an attempt to build a modern narrowboat in wood. Full of high tech stuff inside but a solid oak hull you either loved or hated. Even the first years maintance seemed a big over the years not one many would want

Anonymous said...

For Anyone wishing to use this dry dock leased by JP Marine UK Ltd- here's some valuable advice: GET A SECOND OPINION AND ENGAGE AN INDEPENDENT SURVEYOR ! I've just had the most appalling experience of my life here

irvin said...

here's s great blog on narrowboat renovation: