The image below encapsulates that moment of transition between a working waterway and waterways as amenity, however in the context of this post, it’s the narrow boat conversion I’m looking at, and more specifically the retention of the butty-style stern…

Today’s post was prompted by an e-mail from National Historic Ships giving the result of their annual photography competition. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at a selection of stunning images of deliciously and meticulously restored craft, and the images got me thinking as I cycled home from work, about restoration and authenticity. I found myself asking the “What If?” question – “What if I had access to funds? What would  I do to the boat?”

Now, you might have thought that the ‘What If?’ question would lead me to thinking about an unfettered and pretty blissful spending spree at the local chandlery, but it didn’t. It got me thinking about TOTAL restoration, and asking the following question: “Would I, strip back the boat to it’s essence, re-create a BCN day boat… and then perhaps go in search of a tug to haul her?”

And the answer that came back, surprisingly strongly, was a resounding NO WAY!

In fact, rather reassuringly, my musings as I peddled against the bluster of autumnal wind and dancing leaves, re-affirmed what we’re already trying to do with our Eileen on a tiny budget; namely, getting to know her, respecting and enjoying her and celebrating her history and (importantly) her evolution over the last 100+ years.

I believe there’s an awful lot to be said for gradual immersion and the accumulation of knowledge and experience that comes from living with the boat over time. As we use her and work her and as that practical experience is supplemented by knowledge drawn from books and conversations and from any historic images found,  so the journey we’re taking together is enriched… and the decisions we make about her renovation becomes more informed.

The images below are an example of the kind a tangential research that adds to our knowledge and appreciation of our old boat. They show an early conversion to a motor that kept the ‘butty-style’ stern, just as was done on Eileen.

The elum and ‘butty-style’ stern retained in this early motorisation…


Fred Cave of Leicester was a pioneer, having his butty Amy converted in 1918. She was fitted with a Gardner engine, with a large fly wheel. The unit developed 10-12 horse power. (information drawn from pg. 158 of Narrow Boats by Tom Chaplin)



3 thoughts on “Yep, it’s renovation….

  1. Wonderful photos, I’ve just read a book about the ‘Idle Women’ – Maiden’s Trip, great hearing about how the canals were used back in the day.


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