Eileen, on the Long Pound nr. Wormleighton, South Oxford Canal 2012 (Print by Nick Holt)

As you may know I’m trying to build up as full a picture of our boat’s history as possible, and over the last month or so I’ve been working on several new leads, however they’re proving illusive and nothing is nailed down as yet.

So, I thought I’d return to the introductory paragraphs and add the following quote:

Introduction to Old Boat, Inland – the Story of a Boat

A man falls in love with an old 1930s sailing yacht down on her luck, sitting in a field somewhere with weeds growing through the planks. He puts it on a low-loader, drives it to a boatyard and asks the boatbuilder to restore the apple of his eye to her original glory. The boatbuilder starts by replacing the leaky old deck, discovers the mast is rotten too, so he makes another to the same template in similar timber – ‘replacing like with like’ in the solid jargon of the boatbuilder. He has new sails cut. Then he starts on the planking of the hull, removing and replacing one at a time. All the while, he is tossing bits of the old boat onto a pile nearby. Another boatbuilder takes a look at the pile of old wood and decides the first man was a bit hasty; the wood’s not that bad at all. So he starts using it to build a second version to exactly the same design. Eventually, both boats are complete and looking great, all new paint, varnished wood and gleaming bronze. Our customer returns to collect his boat and when he arrives, he hears the story of the two yachts. The question then is: which one is his boat. Or to put it another way, does a thing’s identity live in its design and purpose or in its physical substance? If you want a very long conversation with a man restoring a boat, I recommend you tell him the story of Theseus’s Ship. The answer lies within our own bodies, which nearly entirely regenerate every decade or so. Very little of you or me is ‘original’ so clearly identity lies in design rather than substance. So it is with […boats…] which were also refitted regularly, each time losing original fabric, constantly regenerating themselves… p. 248-49 Circle Line by Steffan Meyric Hughes

I should make clear from the outset that our intentions for the old boat may not meet with the full approval of some purists, bacause what we’re planning to do is empathically and unapologetically not a restoration project, after all full restoration would involve stripping out the engine, ripping off much of the steelwork above the gunnels and purchasing a tug – or a horse!

No, what we envisage is much more a renovation project; one that both ensures the boat’s survival and, working from as detailed an understanding of her history and use(s) as possible, allows us to peel back the layers and reveal aspects of her tantalising story.

Above all else we’re aiming to have fun creating a family boat that’s respectful of tradition but not in an inflexible or dogmatic way.

The story of the old boat reflects the changes that have taken place on the inland waterways over the last century.

She had what might be charitably called a mongrel existence, marked by a utilitarian flexibility of use that probably explains her longevity. Whilst the majority of iron day boats had a modest, hard working life around the canalside collieries and foundries of the BCN, and then were unceremoniously cut up; a few, like 18686, enjoyed new leases of life, and were used over the decades by a number of owners, for a variety of purposes.

In the old boat’s case she evolved from horse drawn single-ended cabin boat to converted motor in the 1960’s; from converted motor to camping boat, to a base for Canalware Supplies in the 1970’s;  to a powered, then unpowered houseboat in the 1980’s; to a ‘re-born’ working motor in the 1990’s and back to a houseboat on the noughties, before again becoming a pleasure boat as she entered the 21st century.

This – Old Boat, Inland – is her story. […]


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