I love reading about other people’s historic boats, delving into their past histories and following their adventures, trials and tribulations today, so it seemed only fair to reciprocate and offer up some of my burblings for posterity.

I hope you enjoy the site and if you have any information on Enceladus’s history or any questions please do get in touch.


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Despite having a deep love for and interest in our canal heritage, anyone who knows me will be aware that for many years I wasn’t exactly a fan of the whole roses and castles thing. My boat décor has tended towards the contemporary but on seeing Enceladus’s back cabin for the first time, I am afraid I did a conversion worthy of St Paul.

Built by Andy Cox and decorated by Phil Speight, it is simply my favourite space. It also set me off down the road of collecting….not with a purist’s drive for total authenticity (which I do admire but it’s not me), but with the magpie spirit of the old boatmen. If I like it and think I can find a place for it, I get it. So I spend way too much time on the web, on Ebay and Etsy, in antique shops, bric a bric stalls etc being seduced by shiny things. I do seem to have a terrible weakness for rosettes, swingers, and plumes…


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Colours of the cut

You can’t knock any win in life so my recent raffle triumph at the HNBC AGM is not to be sneezed at – especially as I was about the 8th name out of the hat and the prize I really wanted was still on the table! As Edward Paget Tomlinson’s Colours of the Cut is one of my favourite reads, imagine my thrill at bagging a set of 16 COTC postcards! I’ve been reviewing them and will certainly get them framed and put up on Enceladus somewhere – but such a shame that three of my favourite liveries (not counting my ‘two blues’ GUCCC one) weren’t included: SE Barlow, Salt Union and Leonard Leigh. Of course, if I scooped a £50million EuroMillions win, I could have a fleet of many colours…

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Old one, new one

Well, that was interesting…when we popped out in Henry the other weekend, a fellow boater mistook his ‘working boat that’s shrunk in the wash’ lines for those of an icebreaker. Another commented that we were a bit early for the Ellesmere Port gathering. Being taken for an ex-working boat (and icebreaker now!) has happened before but not since we took on Enceladus, who is all too often assumed to be a new ‘work in progress’ project, presumably on account of the cabin and its red oxide sides. We’ve had ‘So when will you have her finished?’ a couple of times! So we now have the rather splendid irony of the 2005 pastiche being badged as an ‘historic’ and the 1935 original branded as a modern replica. But you don’t really want to go into it on the towpath..way too much risk of coming over as a bit of a knob.

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Aesthetic dilemma

Now I know this is a very first world problem but kitting out your historic boat sympathetically brings its challenges. Like no Nespresso machine. Yes, we’ve eschewed mains power on the go, opting to keep everything 12v, which means that I’m oscillating between my cafetière, my stove top Bialetti, and – in moments of weakness when 12v seems like a silly affectation – the space in the engine room that would fit an adequately-sized Victron. I’m being ridiculous of course, I can exist without my wretched Nespresso for a few days (I must, therefore I can. And repeat).

To be honest, a very simple fitout and set-up is perfectly fine, we don’t want for anything and there’s a congruity of function and form, nothing’s overblown. Of course, ensuring we hit no discordant notes sometimes throws up taxing questions, such as ‘what shall we do for a loo roll holder?’ Cocooned in our vintage vibe ablutions area, this is no place for chrome or plastic or, whisper it, bamboo. (What is this fascination with bamboo? I worry for the pandas). No, this is the place for the most bizarre bit of upcycling since my kitchen roll holder (oh yes, there’ll be another post along on that). Allow me to present my Andrex aggregator, the antique shoe last!

A size nine I think

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Now you see them…

Not surprisingly we were a tad overwhelmed at our first viewing of Enceladus so it wasn’t till a subsequent visit that the style, ingenuity and practicality of our front steps really struck me. The previous owner had opted for quite a tight galley layout, preferring to place the fridge and plenty of storage under the tug deck. Fair enough, but how then to have steps that would allow easy ingress/egress at the same time as having no steps so as not to impede free access to the wine..er, I mean the milk.

Ta-da! The ‘now you see them, now you don’t steps’. In the ‘out’ position, good chunky steps with a built in coal bucket; in the ‘in’ position, some pretty decoration and a free run to the stores. Love it.


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More of the rebirth

I found another stash of images of Enceladus’s rebirth at Industry Narrowboats. Unfortunately the quality is lousy as these are just snaps of lowish-res colour print outs but better than nowt and at least this way they are committed to an online archive.

This wasn’t really the end of the steelwork story though as when Enceladus was taken to Brinklow for completion, Simon & co put in a huge effort to correct some issues and finesse some of the finer authentic Northwich detail. Cracking job all round, really.

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Less a club, more a cult

When I became a greyhound owner I unwittingly became part of a cult. It’s not so very different now I’m in the historic boat club. We have our unwritten rules – so you always stop to admire other people’s greys/boats and are effusive in your appreciation, while always convincing yourself that no grey/boat can possibly equal your own. There’s the arcane language, so with greys we ‘derp’ and ‘roach’ and with boats we’re all bluetops and bed ‘oles, good roads and greasy ockers. Birds of a houndie or boaty feather flock together, so there is nothing remotely weird about accosting a complete stranger for a fuss (of dog) or nosey (of engine room). Plus we have a propensity to feel just a teensy weensy bit smug at having such cool dogs/boats…oh, is that just me then? 

And then there’s the most dangerous commonality of all….which of course I’ve discovered too late….greys and historic boats are addictive. Ruinously so. I have a terrible track record with greys, having rehomed 15 over the past 14 years. I just need to be shown one with a sob story and it’s in the back of the car. This does not bode well….not well at all. The Braunston show stirred feelings for full length unconverted motors…the HNBC newsletters should come with a health warning as there’s always at least one ‘I want it’ advert in there…so called friends incite you to outrageous fleet expansionist behaviour by playing down restoration costs and telling you to carpe diem…future vendors will surely know my weakness and try to exploit it. The only positive is that grey ownership keeps the piggy bank echoingly empty, because if I could, I fear I would…

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A hire calling

A cracking homage to Black Prince Narrowboats

Seeing this the other day got me thinking as to whether the distinctive boats of the 70s and 80s will ever become classics, in the same way that Ford Populars and Austin Allegros and their ilk are fast becoming, judging by the prices they command these days. I’ve always hankered after what we can see in the photo, taking the king of hire boats, the wonderful Harborough Marine with its sweeping, brook no nonsense bow, and crocodile snappy louvre windows; and restoring it to hire trim, though I’d stop short at insisting on the old dump through toilet. I once had a terrible trauma in the WC dept, of which I cannot speak for fear of reopening deep psychological wounds…

Although we hired with Harborough-hulled Weltonfield in the main, their scheme was quite ‘privateer’, a low key olive and contrasting green. Buddug’s late 70s/early 80s Black Prince look (described affectionately as the yellow peril back in the pre-PC days) would probably be my preferred livery too, as it was such a familiar and indeed instantly recognisable part of the canal landscape when I was young. I’d want the actual ‘Black Prince in his suit of armour’ logo on it too.

No more BP Owners Site…tragic

I was going to nip off and study the Black Prince Owners Club website but it’s no longer there…Tragic! Maybe I can comfort myself with a skip through one of my favourite web pages –


It’s interesting how my personal canal history differs from fellow historic owners, many of whom have direct experience of days when carrying was alive and…if not exactly well, still going after a fashion. Not just as observers but who gave carrying a go themselves or ran trip or hostel boats or who just dragged their boats up unfeasibly knackered canals to help save them and prove a point. My introduction came later, and my world was coloured with Morgan Giles and Gordon’s Pleasure Cruisers and Concoform Marine, whose ‘Weed’ boats were legendarily speedy. There was Black Prince, Anglo-Welsh (in their hideous brown phase), Alvechurch, English County Cruisers, Countrywide Cruises, Dartline, Clubline, Swanline, and, of course, Wyvern Shipping, who straddle both the last days of carrying and the birth of leisure boating – and who are still going strong today. So many more names, some still with us, many sadly gone to the great hire boat in the sky. But they will always be part of my history.

Hogging the tiller even then

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I’m a mug


That they’ve survived this long is a mystery

Now this was just a bit of fun…I’m a big fan of the green Penguin books – crime and mystery, no highbrow purple ones, ta – and as Penguin came into being in 1935, the same year as Enceladus, I had a couple of these made up. The only mystery is how they’re still with us – the mug death rate on boats is quite high…drowning mostly…That said, we do tend to keep these for ‘inside tea’, deploying our rufty-tufty Stanley thermos-style mugs for ‘cruising coffee’. They have variously survived the ‘elbow knock’, the ‘rope lasso’, the ‘windlass swipe’, and other inadvertent assassination attempts but they’re okay…a bit dented but okay.

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A (little) room to improve

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the attractions of Enceladus was that it was ‘ready to go’. All the hard work and big bills had been taken care of, and the insurance survey Tom Keeling undertook for us merely underlined our good fortune in finding such a cracking example of a historic boat.

But that’s not to see we haven’t made a few changes. Living with a boat for a bit, even if it is just for weekends, high days and holidays, gives you a feeling for what doesn’t quite work or what could be done to make something better or more usable or more comfortable.

Room for 3.5 hounds

So what have we done? Okay, well this might result in my ex-communication from historic boat circles but one of our first tasks was to do something about the weedhatch. I know, I know, what true ex-working boat has one of those! But in my defence, Keith and the former owner had obviously taken advantage of the new counter and popped one in. Only trouble was, they didn’t add a deck hatch and access to it through the back step/coal box was nigh on impossible for all but the slimmest of amoebas. So we sorted a deck hatch. Sorry. Karma will probably give me a showstopping bladeful on the BCN Challenge and you can all point your shunting hooks and laugh derisorily at me then.

Maybe I should put a doormat over it

The second change – and another laden with expulsion potential – was that we swapped the range in the saloon for a Refleks oil stove. Don’t get me wrong, I love ranges and black the back cabin Epping solicitously but this was a real big old cast iron behemoth (in the style of a Belle portable and bought, I understand, at great expense) that took its time getting up to temperature; so much so that it would just be getting there when we’d need to let it out to go home. As we like cruising in the cooler months, this was starting to niggle a bit (that’s a euphemism for Andy moaning on about it) so we bit the bullet and opted for a Refleks. Curiously, within a week of that decision being taken, Andy was removing the unfeasibly heavy range chimney and the chain he was holding it by came off in his hand and the chimney plunged into the waters of the Old Union, lost and unlamented. Hey-ho, maybe Fate was telling us this was an okay change to make. The other consideration was that the range hearth was BIG – the new installation has given us back nearly a foot of floor space and in a 48ft boat, that is priceless. You can fit another half a greyhound in. We tried the Refleks out over the New Year and it ran faultlessly and toastily for three days on the bounce. As the range had been a previous source of some marital tension, this was a good result. (NB. It’s a 24″ model, just somehow seems bigger and it is in my garage looking for a new home)

Not as statuesque as the range but decidedly more efficacious

The last bit of the works puzzle – for now at least – was to finish off the bathroom. From what I gather (judging by the washing machine, microwave and shoreline only set-up) Enceladus was ‘rebirthed’ as a plugged in liveaboard somewhere for one single male. I know it was one single male because there was no door to the bathroom (which contains a loo and a shower, no basin) and no door or curtain on the shower. Now, how do I put this delicately? Andy and I are pretty relaxed about sharing a bathroom at home but we both felt that here it might just be nicer all round if there was a little bit of additional privacy for those ‘comfort’ moments in life. So we added a door to the list. Then we thought that it was also a good opportunity to tidy up some of the extraneous pipework that had been installed, because the owners had originally opted for a sea-cock as well as a cack tank; and having rationalised the gubbins, to hide it away behind some paneling. And while we were at it, to make use of the extra space now created and fit a much larger cack tank. Isn’t it amazing how these lists grow?


So there, we have invested a few pennies of our own for once, in just a few minor improvements. More pennies will be needed later in the year as the subject of painting, inside and out, hoves into view, but we won’t worry about that just now, we’re going to enjoy the novelty of a bathroom door.

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