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Corinna - Our Narrowboat

Corinna at Fotheringey on the River Nene We have a 47 foot Narrowboat called Corinna. We have done all the fitting out ourselves based on a bare steel hull with engine bought from David Piper Boatbuilders at Redbull Basin, a few miles North of Stoke-on-Trent. We make a lot of use of her and log up about 400 hours of engine time each year on the Thames and the Canal network. We have been to Chester and down the Kennet and Avon Canal to Bath and Bristol, as well as up into Wales on the Llangollen canal and have visited the Peak, Maclesfield, Leek and Caldon canals as well as the circle down to London and back up the Thames. There are still 1500 miles of open canals in the UK and there are still plenty in the North which we have not managed to reach even by "Weekending" at either end of the Holidays to make distance.

The fitting out was great fun and a very pleasant change to get back to working with ones hands when one is normally pushing paper. We kept a log of what we did and it took about 1500 hours - the professionals would expect to take about 1000 hours for a boat of our size. We, as you would expect, prepared a plan for the project - not to the extent of a PERT but with fairly comprehensive lists of activities, estimated times, interactions etc. which turned out to be fairly accurate. She was ordered in September 1986 and went in the water at the May Bank Holiday in 1987. We were really starting absolutely from scratch, the first weekend was spent in painting all the inside with three coats of black bitumen to stop it rusting - it was to be nearly two years before the last of it disappeared from sight. We spent 12 weekends, about half of them long, commuting up to the boatyard to do the most important tasks before we left - hatches and doors fitted, paving slabs as ballast in the bottom, the batons on the cabin sides and roof with enough of the pine tongue and grove cladding to get the first bulkheads in place.

We left with most of the big materials to finish on board. We had no bed made, that was a task for the journey and she was so full we had to sleep in line down the middle for the first week until the bed was fitted. That first trip took us on up into Wales to the Llangollen then back to home working as we traveled. One of the early decisions was not to have gas, too much risk of explosions, and to have a big Inverter giving 240 volts from a separate 24 volt alternator and battery pack so we could use all normal power tools. By the time we got back she was up to undercoat over the outside and the back end was completed to the extent of floors and a built in cross bed giving a generous 6 ft 4 inches by 4 ft 6 inches - enough for two and the cat.

The main fitting out was completed over the next two years - at that time I was working at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory where the pace was always slow so I would get up at 4, walk across the road to where she is moored, and do a couple of hours before going into work and of course we worked whilst traveling at the weekends and longer holidays. Doing it oneself one could take the time over the small things - matching the grain both sides of the cabin and on the panel doors. We had spent hours going through all the sheets at the boatyard picking the best patterns and matching sheets before we left.

The layout is fairly standard house style from David Piper: Engine room, cross bed at the back, toilet and shower, wet cupboard, twin side doors with storage built into all the step, kitchen with domestic fridge then a large open plan lounge with a Squirrel wood/coal burning stove heating two radiators. We have a longer than usual front well to sit with coal and wood storage under the seats and space to store a couple of folding bikes under the deck. The lounge has a convertible settee - which puts off most visitors from staying - and a fitted bookcase with adjustable shelves on the proper inset brass tracks. The outside doors have all been scumbled by us and have the classic roses and castles decoration. The only thing we did not do was the sign writing or painting the rose and castles which we wanted in the house style - Pauline has done water cans for the roof and the coal hod herself.

We still make considerable use of Corinna and have done some 15,000 miles. We are still on the same paintwork on the sides, only the roof, decks and of course the wooden hatches have been repainted. She comes out every two years to have the bottom blacked with comastic - bitumastic resin finish.

Our longest trip was when we went via Stratford, Gloucester and Sharpness to join up with the owners club for a big "ring" taking us from Red Bull down the tidal Trent, up the tidal Ouse to York and Ripon - the furthest North part of the connected system, onto the Aire and Calder up as far as the start of the Rochdale, up to Huddisfield then back over the Leeds and Liverpool to Manchester before returning home. The complete trip came close to 1200 miles and took 3 months. It written up as The Northern Ring.

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Revised: 9th July, 2020