Getting on top of things

One of the results of my binge-reading the HNBC newsletter – membership got me online access to all past newsletters, so whoosh, there went my weekend – was that I became acutely conscious that there was a sort of right way to do things vis a vis one’s bits and pieces on the cabin top, so your cans, mop, boat hook, handbowl etc. I say sort of because as has been pointed out to me on various occasions, if you actually study the pictorial evidence of working boats through the ages, there are some clear standard practices but there’s a fair bit of freestyling going on too!

The thermos mug is an essential addition

I’m a slight paradox in that I am not an out and out OCD purist where everything has to be 100% correct, but I do like to do things as properly as I can, or at least make a decent fist of tradition without absolute slavish devotion. Which is why I make Andy polish the brass before we go out lest we look like a Rodney…

Not knowing about cabin top decoration, I was very fortunate that in the first HNBC newsletter I received there was an article from Beryl McDowall offering up some useful pointers on just this subject. The lovely Dave Moore also pitched in with a few tips and rather crucially made all the things we were lacking!

Trying hard to not let the side down

I suspect my cabin top layout is not absolutely traditional but it’s close and it’s what I’m happy with. Let’s hope it doesn’t offend the purists too much.

  • So we have a 3 gallon and a 2 gallon can ahead of the chimney, where I know traditionally on a motor most would have only had the one 2 gallon can, with multiple cans being reserved for the butty roof.
  • I have a handbowl too, which I place upside down ahead of the slide currently but that’s only because I’m not sure where it should go…ahead of the cans maybe?
  • My mop runs up over the pouring handles of both cans, and the carrying handles rest on top.
  • I fix the chimney to the cabin top ring (to the rear of the chimney) with a chimney chain and add onto the chain a couple of rosettes.
  • I attach the cabin strings to the ring, squeezing them under the Northwich handrail
  • I have a couple of chimney strings too but tend to drape these over the can handles.
  • My boat hook is laid on the right hand side of the cabin top, the evil hook bit pointing towards the bow but resting on a figure of eight cotton mat. I understand that the boatmen used to have the hook bit pointing to the stern so they wouldn’t damage the paintwork when lifting it. I don’t know whether the mat is a modern addition that has just crept in?
  • On top of the pigeon box I will usually put a terret and plume, choosing from a collection that is expanding at a stupid rate.

Four hours later, I’m ready to go!



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2 Responses to Getting on top of things

  1. Sarah says:

    Boat hook?!?!
    I do like the idea of having the cabin shaft hook end to hand though – although I have never seen it anywhere else – from a weight and control point of view as well as a scratchy scrapey one. Might try it – until someone points and laughs…


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