Solving the Mystery of Lucky Duck

Our old boat, Lucky Duck was always something of a mystery. The builder was listed as Unknown in all the documentation we had for the boat, and we didn’t know anything about the history of the boat prior to 2004 when it was bought in a neglected state by John, from whom we bought it in 2008. Various respected and knowledgeable people of the boating world had looked at it and scratched their heads. But now the mystery is solved!

2011-02-24 17.07.37

Last week, I was contacted by Esther W, who had done a bit of detective work, searching for Elaine or Marie Louise, the boat which her father rebuilt in the 1980s, and which she had many happy memories of boating on throughout her childhood. A magnifying glass had revealed the BW index number on an old photo, and from there she’d been able to look up the most recent name of the boat. This led her to coming across our old blog, and to getting in touch with us to see if we knew its current location. As it’s moored two boats down from us on the Common we were able to meet them there last week (the current owners were both at work).

She has now sent me some photos from the 80s and asked her dad for more information about the boat and its history, which they are happy for me to reproduce here, to tell the Duck’s story.

Elaine was built in 1980 at Brierley Hill, on the Dudley No.1 canal (possibly by Delph Marine). She was originally 30ft long, with a cruiser stern. Then, in 1984, Esther’s father Anthony bought her as a family holiday boat. He was an engineer who worked for a boat builder’s himself, and he wanted something a little more traditional, so he embarked upon a major remodeling of the boat. First, he replaced the foreend, giving it wide rubbing strakes (we’ve never seen a fore end quite like it), to deflect the boat if it should hit anything. This photo, taken in Chester, shows the boat part way through the transformation, with the original stern but a new bow.


He also added the curved front doors, reclaimed from a house. The boat had no canopy in those days so the doors were on show all the time. By far the biggest job however was the addition of a new stern. Anthony extended the cabin to give it a traditional stern, and put a lid over the whole boat, with rounded corners above the bow doors. He added portholes and the side hatch


Painted a beautiful dark green and with all the brasses shiny (that was one of Esther’s jobs as a girl), the boat was admired all around the canals. They took it on many holidays and maintained it immaculately. Here are a few shots from family holidays:

1457669_10152304950891008_8621402448788244989_n 1978855_10152304951131008_4115175038270925260_n 10450751_10152304950471008_1290343017969089327_n 10711103_10152304950361008_7122797276746715514_n 1520602_10152304950806008_4195750044858802510_n 10393956_10152304950621008_902310909181362083_n 10702039_10152304950281008_7835535900057366405_n 1780835_10152304950671008_4426729708608626990_n

Their family kept it at Calf Heath and owned it until 1990 when it was sold on, and they lost track of it.

We are indebted to Esther for getting in touch and sharing the story of her family and the boat we know as Lucky Duck. It certainly is a one off -a very different and special boat, and it continues to bring joy (and adventure) to people thirty four years on. We had a brilliant five years living on it despite all our misadventures, and we’re happy that it’s still in Cambridge being lived on, and having been given a new lease of life by the new owners. As it’s such a distinctive boat, I wonder if we’ll bale able to piece together what happened to it between 1990 and 2004?

Categories: History | 6 Comments

Post navigation

6 thoughts on “Solving the Mystery of Lucky Duck

  1. How nice to hear that you got quite some information about the boats live before you got it. Hope you can also find out what happened in the missing 14 years.
    And I bet Esther was happy to find out about the boats “afterlife”. By the way, love the picture with the dog sitting like a human 😉

  2. Very nice.
    For a moment I did think that was a dog on the roof while going over Pontycysllte – I was going to report them to the RSPCA ….

  3. Wow, this is fantastic! Its brilliant to hear about previous ‘lives’ of our boats. I recently found my family’s boat from when I was a kid in the early 80’s, and it still had my mum’s signwriting on it. Bit spooky, but emotional too.

  4. This is great thanks for sharing with everyone will try and get some more photos to you especially of her original form as ‘elaine’ before any work was done on her. Glad you like the story a big part of our lives reborn always knew she was a special boat Esther & family xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: