Monthly Archives: February 2013



2013-02-28 16.08.38

Today, two 10m lengths of 14mm Hempex (synthetic hemp rope) arrived at work: Willow’s new bow and stern lines (or should that be fore-end and back-end lines?). We’d been advised that this is the best stuff if you want your lines to look authentic but be tough and long-lasting.

Just over two weeks before we go back up to Willow now, and we will have a lot to bring with us next time we go!


Categories: Fitout | 9 Comments

About this blog

Our old blog for Lucky Duck was started in 2008 and documented the process of buying, cruising and living on the boat. I used Blogger from the beginning and got used to its quirks and foibles, the way it does funny things to photos, the way it’s impossible to make satisfactory posts from the iPad, and the way the template I’d chosen limited me. It had begun to look outdated, but knowing that a new boat was on the the horizon for us, I didn’t invest time in a redesign, much as I was itching to.

So, when we went to look at Willow, and decided that we wanted to go for it if the survey came back positive, I set about researching the options. I actually created two blogs, one in WordPress and one in Blogger (I investigated Typepad too, but it costs, so that was out!). I played with them both, looking at the available templates and options for making it a webpage as well as a blog, with “Pages” etc. Although WordPress was less familiar at first, I began to prefer it to Blogger, and then after having tried various different looks, happened upon this template which we are now using. I like it a lot – it feels fresh, fun, and a little bit thrown together and rough round the edges, much like the current state of Willow’s interior, and I though it would suit a fit-out blog well. I also love the wood look background, as it was the quality of the woodwork that had been fitted that really clinched Willow for us.

As you can see, we plan to make this a place to find information about not only Willow but also the “Tree Class” and other Severners, as well as about the Severn and Canal Carrying Company itself. I also have plans to introduce a blogroll, but as there are so many and I don’t want to favouritise, it will consist of just historic boat blogs and those bloggers we have met in person. For a more comprehensive list of all the blogs, we use Nev’s Percy blogroll and Adam’s Briar Rose one, which have most of the regularly updated ones that we enjoy reading.

I hope that you will read, comment on and enjoy this blog as much as you all seem to have enjoyed nbLuckyDuck. I’ve removed comment moderation now, so all you need do is fill your name and email address to enable your comment to be posted. As we are new to this fitting our business, we’d particularly appreciate any comment you have on different ways to do things, and general suggestions and questions.

2013-02-23 14.24.59

google twitter facebook

Categories: Meta | 8 Comments

Willow’s History

A series of prearranged commitments next weekend and the following one mean that we won’t be able to continue work on Willow for what feels like far too long!

So, we’ll spend time planning and researching. We’ve just uploaded what we know about the boat so far to the page linked on the top bar called Willow’s History if you are interested, and over the next few weeks, we’ll populate the rest of the tabs too, and post about it to let you know. We’ve been looking forwards to this aspect of historic boat ownership for ages, and it is wonderful to learn and gather what we can about the boat’s 78 years of history!

Willow’s History

Categories: History | Leave a comment

Fitout Day 3

2013-02-24 11.01.24 2013-02-24 11.01.43

The bathroom- lots of work to remove the old adhesive!

A much shorter day than yesterday, as we had to leave at 5pm to head back to Cambridge.

After a bit of a lay in, we headed over to the delights of the ASDA store a few minutes walk away for a cooked breakfast. As there’s no services on Willow save a solid fuel stove, there’s no way of cooking, so a nice meal cooked by someone else goes a long way! There’s also an excellent Indian restaurant which does two-for-one meals next door to the boatyard; put simply Langley Mill is the perfect place for the job we’re doing, with everything we need very close at hand.

Once pleasantly stuffed with breakfast, we made a start on jobs in the boat. Amy set to the remains of the tile adhesives and grout in the bathroom with my new toy, a Bosch Multi Cutter (although I didn’t pay so much for mine!) which, by the way, is a VERY useful bit of kit, able to cut flush to a surface, sand, detail, and do many other useful jobs.

A couple of the tongue and groove planks in the bathroom that make up the cabin under the metal skin had got wet in the past and warped  badly. I used the multi cutter to shave off any high spots and applied “Light Manual Force” (a wooden mallet and the palm of my hand) to bring them back into approximately the right alignment. They aren’t structural, but because we need the walls to be flat to insulate and panel over, I attached a wooden batten temporarily to bring them back into line. Simon very kindly offered to machine a permanent batten out of oak to match the others, so we’ll be able to fit that later. The damp, by the way, was from a leaking roof hatch which has now been replaced.

Amy also started on using the multitool to skim the edges of the planks where they had warped to bring them back into alignment. Unfortunately the blade was blunted by the very hard remains of the adhesive, so we will be getting a more appropriate blade for this purpose and trying again.

I spent the day finishing off fitting the insulation under the gunwales. Having utterly failed to photograph the process over the past two days, I took a series of photographs today showing the various complexities and challenges of doing this.

2013-02-24 17.47.28


This is what the underside of the gunwales are like, with the original wrought iron gunwales visible as a two-inch lip, and a gap, below the modern steel gunwales over the top.


2013-02-24 17.47.45

The first step was to insert Celotex foil-backed foam insulation into the gap between the old gunwales and the thicker insulation on the sides of the hull. This was trimmed off level with the edge of the old gunwale – avoiding blobs of weld and cast iron distortions with notches and cutouts as needed – using a breadknife. I then filled the gap between the old and new gunwales with expanding foam.


2013-02-24 17.47.58

Then the wooden blocks for hanging cables and pipework from could be glued into place. This is in the bathroom where I used 14″ lengths of wooden batten with short lengths of foam cut to fit the protruding bits of ironwork and weld that joined the new gunwale onto the old. Elsewhere in the boat there will be less lengths of pipework to support so I used two inch blocks at 18 inch intervals.


2013-02-24 17.48.24

The gaps were then filled with other lengths of Celotex cut to fit the gaps roughly


2013-02-24 17.50.26

The edges could then be trimmed roughly to shape with the knife. The next job will be to sand them exactly to match the angle of the grey-painted metal upstand above, which will have another layer of insulation before wooden cappings are used.

The idea is to eliminate as much as possible any areas of bare metal on the inside, so as to avoid condensation wherever possible. The Celotex, with the foil covering, and forms a vapour barrier, and the adhesive I used was gap-filling too and applied liberally, to fill as much as possible any irregularities on the underside of the steel and iron and remove as many gaps and voids as possible to prevent condensation forming.

It was incredibly time consuming, taking the better part of two whole days to fit along the gunwales on both sides of the boat, but it’s good to know that we’ve spent the time getting this bit right; it would have been easy to have fitted one sheet of insulation under the old iron and left a void between that and the new steel, but that would have invited condensation and be really inaccessible to fix or change later.

Simon came over just before we left, and handed over a number of documents, including the Boat Safety Scheme certificate, insurance details (we might try and re-insure with the same people), and other interesting details of the boat’s history, including a copy of an advert for Severn and Canal Carrying Company that dated back to the 1930s and praised the “large fleet of motor-driven craft of the very latest design” (which we’ll scan for the blog later, and then frame and put on the wall!) along with his original receipt from Malcolm  Braine in 1979 when he first bought the boat. It cost him £2250, and was bought as a sunken hull with empty cabin. Malcolm Braine took a 10% deposit, which was “refundable in full if vessel found to be unacceptable after pumping up” and refloating it!

We also saw our friend Dan who’s restoring a BCN Joey boat and wooden tug, and his daughter who, at two and a half, was very interested in the packet of chocolate biscuits I’d bought, and worried about the mud on her shoes on the floor! Very boat proud. She had also been well coached by Dan and loved the engine – “Lister! It go bang bang bang bang!”

We caught the train at 5pm and are now writing this in the waiting room at Ely, waiting for our train back to Cambridge – and a very hot and long shower to scrub off the accumulated dust and muck!

Categories: Fitout | 3 Comments

Fitout Days 1 and 2

2013-02-22 17.23.05


Trevor Whitling, our surveyor, finished the survey yesterday at 1pm, and it was completely positive. The only recommendation was for anodes in the middle part of the boat – the wrought iron and new steel footings and baseplate being dissimilar metals- and for a disused skin fitting to be blanked off. As we had expected, we confirmed with Simon, owner of Willow since 1979, that we were certainly going to go ahead. After a cup of tea, we made a start on this most daunting and large of projects. We didn’t sit down and contemplate it, we cracked on straight away so as not to be too put off!


The very first job was to store all the tools away and organise the space. I’ve heard tales from other people fitting out that moving materials and tools around to get to the piece of boat you want to access can take almost as long as the actual work itself! To try and avoid this, we’ve bought a series of stackable, folding crates, and have resolved to have a sweep around and a tidy up at least once a day. I wonder how long that resolution will last?


The first change that we made to the boat in our ownership was to have a go at insulating under the gunwales. This is a very tricky space, far more so than on a modern boat, because Willow has about 2 inches of the original iron gunwales underneath the new, modern replacements that are very very corrugated and uneven! Although Simon had cut strips of Celotex foil-backed foam insulation, he’d not been able to trim and fit them, and so we started on that job.


In order to support the 12 volt cable loom, the conduit for the 240v cables, hot and cold water pipes (15mm Speedfit) and the 1/2″ copper gas pipe in the very narrow spaces, we popped over to the nearest Travis Perkins – conveniently right next to the boatyard! – and came away with 40′ of 2 inch  by 1 inch planed softwood, to cut into blocks. Amy set to on the compound mitre saw, producing 2 inch by 2 inch by 1 inch wooden blocks from the softwood, and I set about trimming the insulation with a carving knife in two passes – step one was to cut 2 inch wide strips to fit between the wrought iron gunwale and the modern gunwale, and step two was to fit the blocks in every 18 inches with insulation in between.


I didn’t manage to get any photos of the “before”, I’ll try and get some tomorrow.


At the end of Friday, having worked on until 9pm by the light of the 240v floodlight off an extension lead run out from the workshop by the dock, we had successfully insulated and installed blocks down almost all of the right hand side of the boat, apart from a short length in the bedroom right at the back.


Saturday morning saw us up and about at 7:30 – and straight away, we had a decision to make.


Our original plan was to have the kitchen right at the front of the boat, after a 3′ long tiled hallway with storage for coats, hats, wet boots etc. However, the floor of the boat was not fitted level; in the open saloon, there is a 1″ step half way along, where Simon was going to change the flooring from wood to carpet and tiles.


In order for us to install the kitchen at the front, we would have to remove the plywood panels from the floor, and the two bulkheads attached to them, take out the bearers underneath, and use the circular saw to take off an inch thickness to drop the floor down. Oh, and also move around a number of the lovely ribbon-grained oak panels so they were able to be seen, and were not languishing behind kitchen cupboards.


So we decided to put the kitchen in a different place! You can’t do that in a house….


Now, the plan is to still have the 3′ hallway right by the front doors, but from there back have a 27 foot open saloon and dining area, with moveable sofa and table and chairs to adapt the layout, and then a 10 foot u-shaped kitchen before the bathroom. This was where Simon had had the kitchen before, and it meant we wouldn’t have to move any panels, or change the floor. We could even re-use the existing skin fitting, saving the job of drilling new ones through quarter-inch wrought iron plate! The reasons make a lot of sense, and having measured everything out and walked around imagining where cookers and sinks and cupboards will be, we’re certain that this was the best decision.


Simon came over and  gave me some tuition on the oak panels. The tongue and groove of the cabin (which dates back to 1980, and has now been skinned in steel) is covered with ribbon-grained oak plywood, with more oak framings, to give a wonderful effect. The framing is held on with brass pins, and so Simon gave me a lesson on how to remove the framings and the plywood carefully with a hammer and chisel, without damaging the veneer on the plywood below and ruining the whole (very expensive!) sheet. I’m glad to say I managed to remove several framing pieces with only very minor scratches (and, surprisingly for me, no loss of blood from wielding the chisel!) , so I’ll need some more practice.


We did decide to move one of the bulkheads slightly to allow us some more space in the bathroom. Again, you can’t do that in a house! It was a simple matter of unscrewing a few screws and moving the partition wall forwards by 13 and a quarter inches, giving us a 7 foot by 7 foot bathroom, slightly larger than the 7 foot by six foot before, so that we can accommodate a beautiful Victorian wash stand which we acquired from Oxfam and that we want to use to support the sink in the bathroom.


The rest of the day was spent making blocks, trimming and fitting insulation under the gunwales, and sanding old grout and tile adhesive off the bathroom walls. I also had a go at filling in small gaps under the gunwales with expanding foam, which was very messy but has filled in all the gaps along one part of one side. We’ve fitted the insulation as far back as the bathroom on the left hand side, and need to finish that off tomorrow, and finish removing the old adhesive and grout from the walls of the bathroom.

Bed calls! Very long day.

2013-02-23 19.54.50 2013-02-23 19.54.24

Categories: Fitout | 1 Comment

On Dock

This morning, Willow got its first coat of blacking, and it’s looking good! This time, unlike when we bought the Duck, we’re not doing it ourselves, choosing instead to get on with work inside! Once the first coat was on, I donned wellies and took some photos. The shiny blacking is showing up the old dents and wobbly wrought iron nicely!

2013-02-23 14.11.19 2013-02-23 14.17.03 2013-02-23 14.17.42 2013-02-23 14.18.03 2013-02-23 14.20.55 2013-02-23 14.21.36 2013-02-23 14.24.59 2013-02-23 14.22.28

Categories: Maintenance | 1 Comment

Introducing Willow

2013-01-12 13.32.52

Welcome to the blog for the 1935 Severn and Canal Carrying Company motorboat Willow. Clicking on the links above in the top bar will bring up historical information about Willow’s career with S&CCCo, and the subsequent use as a maintenance boat and as a liveaboard residence for 30 years. Other information about S&CCCo will be added shortly, along with information on our future plans for the boat.

Willow’s interior has been removed almost completely for recent rebottoming works, and so is being refitted. At 72′ long, this is a massive project that we’ve just embarked upon. Forthcoming posts will show some interesting photographs of the boat in drydock, and  others will show the start of the fit out.

Categories: Fitout, History | 8 Comments

Our next adventure

In 2008, we bought our first narrowboat. Lucky Duck was 48ft long, and we enjoyed four and a half years living afloat on it, learning about the world of the inland waterways, their history and the boats which were built for them. You can read the archive of our adventures here. Then, we got the historic narrow boat bug and so it was that in February 2013, we bought Willow, a 1935 ex-Severn and Canal Carrying Co. motor with a sound hull but a fit-out in need of completion. We’ve come a long way but there’s still a lot to do!

Amy & James (& ship’s cats Lyra and Thea)

Categories: Background Information | 6 Comments

Welcome to our new blog

First test post!

Categories: Meta | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at