Shop front in the summer

Friday, 19 December 2014

Christmas boating holiday anyone?

FREE Christmas boating holiday anyone?

We have a 47ft, 4 berth boat at Maestermyn that needs to be moved to Norbury Junction.

For more details email

Regards David

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The weeks are flying by... It will soon be Christmas.

This time next week we will be closing our doors until Saturday 27th December. It's the first time that we have closed for five days over Christmas, but we have decided that this year we will enjoy a well earned rest. Our Christmas and New Year opening hours can be found on our website here

We usually have a boom in boat sales early in the New Year, but these last few weeks have seen us virtually wiped out of stock. We currently only have five boats For Sale; all of which can be viewed on our website here, so if you have got a boat please contact us as we urgently need more stock!

We have got a couple of hire boats out at the moment - it's lovely and cosy on them at this time of the year with the gas fired central heating ticking over and the solid fuel stove roaring away in the saloon.

Jack Frost has been around on a few mornings this week, which subsequently meant that we had a bit of cat ice down the arm yesterday morning. Although saying that we haven't seen any serious drop in temperature to make the main line of the canal to freeze - although saying that, the Shropshire Union is one of the last canals to freeze as it has a steady flow of water from Barnhurst Sewage Treatment Works in Wolverhampton to the south to Ellesmere Port in the North. This makes for some interesting steering up the flights of locks at Audlem, Adderley and Tyrley! I hope that we don't have a winter like 2010 where we were breaking a foot (and more) of ice just to get the boats in and out of the docks.

Lee has finished giving Pandora her make-over in our company colours and Trevor has sign written her. Here she is on the dry dock following pressure washing and her first coat of blacking applied.

She will be available to hire from February - full details are available here

Until next time...

Best regards, David.

Norbury News December 2014

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Lee has finished painting Still Dreaming, which is the share owned boat that he has been painting for the last four weeks. It was a big job. The paint hadn't been applied to a very good standard and certainly not keyed between coats so we decided to bare-metal the whole cabin before applying any paint. Mick has fitted her back up - that's putting the windows back in and all the fittings and we have today got her out of the painting dock and she has gone into the dry dock for blacking. Here's what she looks like.

And here is a close up of the sign writing.

We've now put our new hire boat into the painting dock, that's Pandora - so wait to see her transformation.

Until next week.

Regards, David.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

What you doing?

People often say to me at this time of year "I bet your job has gone quiet now?" and I reckon that lots of people think the same thing, I can honestly say that yes certain parts of our business go quiet, take the tearoom for example, we reduce the opening hours in the week as there are not so many folk about, but come the weekend it can be just as manic as in the summer, the shop is obviously quieter too, but dont forget that we have a great Ebay shop that keeps the girls busy, we are just about to also launch our own new online shop too, this will have over 20,000 items of chandlery in it, and available for next day dispatch, David is working hard on that to try and get it done by Christmas, however our web designers are slowing the process down a little so it might be in the new year now, but what doesn't slow down is the engineering work and painting, not only do we try and concentrate on refurbishing our hire fleet we also carry on with private work and this winter sees Mick doing a partial refit on a boat as well fitting a new bow thruster and several upgrades, I will get some photos as it progresses, Lee is in the final stages of painting a shared owned boat which David will post some pictures of this weekend, Bernard and Fred have just finished a plating job on the dock, that was a big job! Bernard is now in the 'thick of it' on the fleet winterising them in readiness for the arctic like conditions that have been forecast. That pretty much leaves me, and I don't sit around with nothing to do, I work on promoting the company, advertising, putting deals together, quotes for work, ordering stock, answering the phones, however according to the rest of the staff here I don't do much!


Sunday, 16 November 2014

It's been another busy week here at Norbury.

The plating work on Sphynx is coming along well. We docked her last Sunday, Mick pressure washed her off and then Bernard and Fred have been cutting plates and tacking them in position. It's been like something out a comedy sketch listening to them this week, but I must admit that I do miss them when they aren't around! Anyway, all the plates are now on and one side is continuously welded. Just the other side to weld up now and the stern gear and rudder gear to finish fitting. We'll then give her a couple coats of Bitumen and will flood the dock.

Lee has been battling on with the preparation of Still Dreaming for painting. I must admit that I think it may be the most difficult boat that we have ever painted. She had endless layers of paint, of which the adhesion was very poor. He also run into difficulty with the filler mentioned last week, but I think we have now over come this and he is now at the stage of apply primer and hopefully later in the week some colour will be added. Here she is bare metalled and with a coat of rust inhibitor applied.

And here she is with her first coat of primer on.

We've also been busy on another regular customers boat. This involved removing a porthole and a window and fitting a new porthole. We managed this; between showers, and here's the result.

We've also completed the sales on Silver Swallow, Silver Dew and Pickles.

Until next time.

Best regards, David.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Firstly please accept my apologies for the lack of recent blogs.

We are now past the end of "the season" and getting ready for winter mode! The hire boats have gone quiet although saying that Summer Wine and Ember are out at the moment and Quince and Phoebe are out later in the week. We've still got a steady flow of customers who are taking the dayboats out no matter what the weather is like. The yard certainly is not quiet. We have just finished painting Armadillo which also included replacing all the portholes with new double glazed units, modifying porthole liners, engine service, docking and blacking and; to finish the job off, a new cratch cover. She's looking very smart and the artwork sets the whole job off. I think you'd agree...

We have now got one of our shared owned boats in for a full repaint. Here's a picture of Still Dreaming when we first put her in the paint dock last week.

We've run in to a few problems, all of which can be over come. The handrails have been "built up" when the boat was new as the owners at the time weren't happy with it, but when this was done the steel used to build the handrail up was just stitch welded on, rather than being continuously welded and then filler was used to fill the remainder of the gap shown here.

We've got a busy week ahead, but more of that next time!

Best regards, David

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Grit blasting and apply two-pack epoxy

Last week saw us docking a boat for grit blasting and subsequently applying a two pack epoxy rather than the more usual pressure washing and applying a bitumen based product or Comastic.

We blank the dock out for a week to carry out the works as there is plenty of cleaning up to do once the job is complete. Basically we dock the boat on a Sunday and pressure wash it, then on the Monday morning our grit blaster arrives who removes all the coatings off of the boat from the rubbing guard down to the base plate. The following day we apply one coat of two pack and a subsequent coat the day after. We then give it plenty of time to dry before re floating the boat. A week also allows us time to complete any other jobs that the customer has requested or we find following letting the water out of the dock.

After docking the boat last Sunday it soon became evident why the customer was experiencing water ingress through his stern tube. The propeller shaft was well worn, although the boat had only done 900 hours! The type of stern gear that was fitted isn't really suitable for the dirty water of the canals, so after a discussion it was decided to remove it and replace it with conventional stern gear (ie. with a packing gland). It was also necessary to fit a new propeller as the shaft size would be different and whilst we were at it we upgraded the coupling (between the gearbox and propeller shaft) from a standard R&D coupling to a Centraflex. Here's a few pictures as the work progressed...

 Original stern gear removed and replacement shaft in place. 
Centre tube and weld in boss sat on the skeg ready for fitting.

 Bernard welding in the new boss.
 New propeller fitted.

The boat is blacked, counter bands repainted,
new stern gear fitted and ready to be re floated.

For a quote, please contact Simon or myself by email or call 01785 284292.

Best regards, David.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Boom in boat sales begins

Boaters and would-be boaters seem to be more optimistic than for several years and, although there are still lots of boats up for sale, there seem to be more buyers entering the market.

Norbury Wharf, reports “phenomenal sales during the last few weeks,” and manager David Ray says they have almost sold out of boats.

He added: “Although there are still many existing boaters who have decided to sell, we are now seeing more people who are trading up to a better boat and a lot more new families deciding that they want to own a boat. There is also an increase in the numbers buying a boat in order to live on it.”

He feels the upsurge is something more than the impact of a lovely spring with a promise of a sunny summer. “You get the feeling that the many buyers now visiting us here on the Shropshire Union have decided the time is right to spend money they have not been willing to spend in recent years.

“Some are judging, probably correctly, that prices for used boats are now probably as good value as they are ever going to be.”

The boom in boat sales may also be linked to Norbury's policy of advising sellers on how best to present their boats before they are seen by the buying public.

“It is important that the broker has as much history of the boat as possible which will allow the broker to do a comprehensive write up,” said David.

“The boat should have all personal possessions removed and have a full inventory. It helps to have the boat clean, beds made up and feeling homely, with cushions on sofas, stove blacked, windows clean. The outside should be clean too with only the essential equipment left on the roof. It helps to have the cabin paintwork clean and maybe polished. If the boat has been docked and blacked it provides evidence that the boat has been well cared for.

“Whilst the boat is on brokerage owners are encouraged to continue to visit to keep the boat clean, tidy and well ventilated especially during the winter months. Potential purchasers will be looking for: dry cabin bilges, clean engine bilges with no oil or antifreeze evident, well kept, absence of leaks from vents and windows.

“Too much clutter makes them feel it can never be their boat, and they want to know they can impose their own style on the vessel if they decide to buy.

“It is basic advice really but you would be surprised how many scruffy, dirty and clearly unloved boats you can find at brokerages and even on sale privately.”

Once an offer has been accepted, expect the purchaser to commission an independent marine surveyor to carry out at least a non-destructive hull survey and if any items are picked up on the purchasers will probably come back with a reduced offer.

Norbury is still in search of boats to sell.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

We've given the boat on the dry dock this week a bit of tlc. Firstly he stem post was split - that's the very front of the boat. I imagine this damage has been caused by impact with a number of cills in locks. It had been repaired previously. So Bernard set to with welder in hand and patched it up and completed the job by bending and welding a piece of 2 inch rubbing guard up the front of it. I must say that he made a very neat job, but unfortunately I didn't have time to get back over to the dock and get another picture from the same angle before the lads flooded the dry dock, but here is the before shot!

It was also necessary to replace the propeller shaft as the keen eye will spot that the end of it has rotted off. I would hazard a guess that some one fitted a steel nut which has rotted off and subsequently the end of the stainless steel shaft has decayed some what. 

To remove the propeller it is necessary to disconnect the propshaft in the engine space. For those of you that know Bernard will know that he isn't the smallest person and it still amazes me how he manages to squeeze in to spaces as big as this...

That's it from me today.

Best regards,


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Narrowboat Avenger

We sell somewhere between 50 and 80 boats a year, depending on the market at the time. The majority of these boats are what we class as conventional narrowboats. By this I mean with flat bottoms, a modern diesel engine and living accommodation. These boats usually come in three classes as shown below:

Cruiser stern - large rear deck with the engine below.

Semi traditional stern - similiar to a cruiser stern but with cabin sides that extend to give more protection.

Traditional stern -  Small rear deck with the engine enclosed within the cabin.

On rare occasions we get specialist boats in that some may class as tugs. These boats aren't everyones cup of tea as they usually have a traditional boatmans cabin at the back (similar to that on the traditional working narrowboat) followed by an engine room where a traditional type engine stands to be admired followed by the main living cabin and a long deck on the front, either raised to the level of the gunwhales or lowered to form a well deck. We have one such boat for sale at the moment. Her name is Avenger and she is 60 feet in length. We have had her on the dock this week for pressure washing and blacking and we have also put some paint on the counter bands.

As you can see from the picture above she does require painting to tidy her exterior up, but the shape of her hull is just delightful. She has a long swim at both front and back which makes her glide effortlessly through the water.

She is powered by an amazing Kelvin K2 engine which design dates from the 1930s. These engines were originally fitted to fishing boats and are unique as you start them on petrol and once the ignition chambers are warm you change them over to diesel. Below is a video of the Kelvin fitted in the narrowboat Owl.

They sound just superb when they are ticking over with a maximum rpm of just 750!

She has a boatmans cabin at the rear, followed by the engine room and basically a blank canvas in the forward cabin to fit out as required.

She is available for viewing daily between 8.30am and 5pm here at Norbury. Further details can be found on our website



Monday, 25 August 2014

It's been typical bank holiday weather today. Rain, rain and more rain...Which has given us time to catch up on some work and reflect on a busy weekend.

We had three dayboats out on Friday morning, six hire boats in the afternoon and finally the trip boat in the evening. Saturday was very similar with three dayboats out in the morning, seven hire boats and the holiday cottage in the afternoon and the trip boat in the evening. Yesterday was busy also with the trip boat running four 1-hour long trips throughout the day. Full details of all the trips that The Shropshire Star can offer can be found here.

Our main season is nearly over, so I suspect this week will be the last week that we have all the boats out, but nows the time to grab a bargain if you are thinking of hiring a boat. Our hire boat discounts can be found here. There's even a ten berth boat for a week at £500!!!!

Have a good week.



Sunday, 17 August 2014

Well what a busy weekend that turned out to be...

Friday saw us turning round five boats and Saturday saw us turning round six boats plus the holiday cottage. Ofcourse we have also had three day boats out each day and the trip boat was out Friday and Saturday evening on her normal Fish and Chip cruise and she has been out today doing 1-hour long public trips. That's kept us all busy!

The weather has been changeable too, one minute the suns out and the next it is raining. As I write the heavens have opened, but no doubt by the time I post this blog the sun will be out, although it is also quite windy.

Best regards,


Sunday, 10 August 2014

It's been a busy weekend here at Norbury. All three dayboats have been out over the weekend and we turned 5 boats round on Friday and 6 boats and the holiday cottage on Saturday. That kept everyone busy!

Lee has finished painting Caernarfon and Trevor has put the finishing touches to her. Here's a few photographs that Simon took earlier in the week once she emerged from the paint dock.

And he has started on the next which he has taken back to bare metal. In this photograph the first coat of primer is being applied to the cabin side.

Best regards,


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Why is it?

Why is it that we seem to get torential rain mainly on turnaround days? It was rainy yesterday and today it hasnt let us down as its pretty much rained on and off all day long; Its not really a great start to a holiday, and it aint so great for the poor guys and gals turning the boats around!

This last week and the next week are the busiest two weeks of the year, we have had all of the hire fleet out, and three day boats every day, and not to mention the usual fish and chip suppers on board the Shropshire Star, plus a couple of charters, throw in a few pump outs, plenty of diesel sales, a shop full of folks, the usual goings on in the dry dock and wet dock, a few breakdowns, staff away on holiday and it all makes for a busy time of the year, which has made the week fly by nicely!

As I mentioned the whole fleet is out, and the docks have been busy, but Lee our painter has just finished painting one of our residents boats, its been a mammoth task for both him and our sign writer, the boat is a seventy foot ex hotel butty so it is a long old boat and a lot of area to cover, but they have made a great job, photos to follow!

We are getting some interesting boats in on brokerage, the latest one is a 60ft Josher style tug, long bow deck with a fore cabin, back cabin and the most beautiful Kelvin K2 diesel engine in its own engine room, the boat is in need of a full make over but the engine does run superbly and once the boat is completed it will be a stunning boat, priced at a very sensible £29,999 or nearest offer, the engine alone would be worth about 15K! see our website for more details, they will be posted next week!


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Fish and chips anyone?

I did offer this a couple of weeks ago, but as it happened we did fill all the seats by the Friday, I am doing the same for this Friday, that is offering the seats at a really good price of £20.00 for the two seats including fish and chips of course, these might book up as they did do last time so if you are interested in a nice three hour evening cruise with fish and chips thrown in then call us as soon as you can, just quote me and the blog to get the discount..

Sunday, 20 July 2014

It's been a busy weekend at Norbury this weekend. Yesterday wasn't one of the best days for turning the hire fleet around because of the torrential rain that Ange explained in her blog yesterday.

Today has been the complete opposite... The sun has been shining all day, it's been glorious, but I must admit that the heat is a little too intense to be working in. I have been close to ditching the steel toe cap boots and black shirt!

The Shropshire Star has been operating one hour long public trips today starting at 11am, 12.30pm, 2pm and 3.30pm. All three day boats have been out today and all returned in one piece.

There's been a number of old boats through over the weekend. They are all heading down to Audlem for the annual Tranport Festival which is held there. More details can be found here. I'll be heading down there towards the end of the week to enter into the festivities with my own boat.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

soaking wet

well as the title suggests we have had an awful lot of rain here at norbury today.
we had 3 day boats out this morning, they all turned up late....obviously watching the weather. it dried up a little bit around 10.30 and they all returned on time and without issues.
we also had 3 hire boats return back to us this morning, all had a great time, no issues other than the weather was too
we have turned 2 boats around today....summer wine and princess and we have also seen out python, phoebe, phantom, ember and wharf cottage.
the weather has been absolutely horrendous. denise has been on holiday this week which has left sylvia in the tea room, jess, mrs handbag and mandy cleaning. i had to go out and give a hand yesterday with all the washing and today with stripping and making beds. customers have been watching the weather and we have booked 3 boats for today this week so we have had a very busy day along with wharf cottage.
i have cleaned the shropshire star this morning as it has returned from a fish and chip cruise last night, ready for a 3 hour cruise at 3 pm, return at 6 pm then mandy has cleaned it and it has gone out this evening at 7 pm for the fish and chip cruise.
mick (handbag) has turned all the boats around today, bernard has done all the engineering and peter has done all the internal checks on the boats and wharf cottage.
when i left the boat this morning i realised that i had left my hooded jacket at work yesterday, i borrowed marks jacket to keep my back dry and put a carrier bag on my i was the laughing stock when i arived at work....i was dry....but i don't know why i bothered with the hood later, it was so muggy, my hair was soaking wet....phil decided he was going to towel dry it, i asked him not to do it as i didn't have a brush, he decided to style me with a comb....pmsl, my hand soon shot through my hair.
all in all we have had very, very busy day here at norbury today....until next time....byeeeeeeeeee ange.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Cheap Dry dock offer!

We have a slot available on our dry dock for the 23rd July for blacking and we are offering a 15% discount for the first person to ring up and book the slot, so if you were having a 57 foot boat blacked using International Intertuff then the saving would be £100, to take advantage of this call either Simon or David now on 01785 284292, dont forget that this is a one off offer and its first come first served!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who contacted us regarding moving a boat from Burton to Norbury, which has now been organised.

Regards, David Ray

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Free boating holiday

FREE boating holiday anyone? we have a 70ft boat in Burton on Trent that needs to be moved next week up to Norbury Junction. For more details email

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Fish'n'chip cruise offer not to be missed

Its not very often we have any seats left on our popular fish 'n' chip cruise but this Saturday we do have a few seats left, so we are offering them for the amazing price of £20.00 for two people, the normal price is £50.00 for two so £20.00 is a bargain, there is only a few seats left so be quick, give us a call to book your place.


Monday, 30 June 2014

Today has seen Oddnydod emerge from the paint dock, unfortunaetly she wasn't outside long before we put her into the dry dock to have her bottom pressure washed and blacked. That will finish the job off nicely although we have still got a few engineering jobs left to do. I was too busy moving boats around earlier and dealing with customers to get some pictures, but below are some that I took on Friday which give you the jist. Trevor has been busy signwritting and my pictures were taken before he did his amazing shadowing. I'll post a few more pictures later in the week.

We had Just Sublime on the dry dock this morning for a pre purchase survey. All has been reported as in good condition, so that's another boat that we have sold! 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Well what a weekend that was...

I must firstly apologise for the lack of blogs of the weekend, but I am afraid that our time was taken up with keeping on top of things here at Norbury.

We have sent all three day boats out on both Saturday and Sunday, all of which have had a most enjoyable time due to the brilliant weather that we have been experiencing.

The trip boat has worked hard this weekend too. She was out on Fish and Chip cruises on both Friday night and Saturday and had a full day of Public trips yesterday.

We have had a 50ft cruiser stern narrowboat arrive For Sale. Full details below.

Whimbrel is a 50 foot all steel cruiser stern narrowboat that was built by Peter Nicholls Steel Boats in 1985. She is powered by a reliable 1.5 BMC diesel engine which is located under the large rear deck. Her layout from the rear comprises of three bunks, shower compartment, toilet compartment with wash hand basin opposite, fully fitted galley complete gas cooker and 12v fridge, forward of this is the L shaped seating that converts into a double berth and finally a large open saloon with free standing furniture and Morso Squirrel solid fuel stove. Whimbrel was docked and blacked in February 2013 when she also had two new anodes fitted. BSC to 09/2015 and CRT license to 04/2015. 


  Regards, David

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Getting afloat - Part 11

Peter Underwood looks what turns ordinary people into boaters.

Now where are you going to take your new boat?
Now you have your boat, how can you get the best out of ownership? You are not a hirer rushing around a 'ring' any more so how should you plan your boating. We take a look at some of the boating events throughout the year and what a new boater might get out of them.

EVERY boater has their own favourite canal or stretch of waterway. You will hear people raving about the Thames and arguing about the best section. Other rate the Kennet and Avon, the Shropshire Union, the Grand Union and the Llangollen. The northern waters, especially around Skipton, have many fans and there are even those boaters happiest on the urban backwaters of the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

Of course, if you moor in the South East it will be next to impossible to reach the Leeds and Liverpool and return in the couple of weeks you can take as a holiday.

The way to get over this is to change your base of operations every year or two, once you have comfortably explored an area and feel ready for something new.

When we lived in Lancashire and owned holiday boats we tried to moor around a two hour drive from the house – a reasonable journey on a Friday evening to start a weekend break on the boat.

That meant we could explore the Yorkshire Ouse, with weekends tied in the wonderful city of York, or exploring Ripon with it's attractive cathedral.

After an epic two week holiday that brought us south on the tidal Ouse and onto the eastern canals at Selby, through Leeds and around the Leeds and Liverpool to Cheshire, we established another base that allowed us to explore the Shropshire Union, with weekend breaks in Chester, the Trent and Mersey and the Bridgewater.

The Victorian Incline Plane at Foxton is the real fascination.
It is easy to visualise how this once slid boats down the hill in 12 minutes?

 Another move to a Stafford base gave another set of canals, and tying our boat in central Birmingham enabled a completely different experience. Eventually of course you may have to travel further than a couple of hours drive from home, but that could be a decade in the future.

When you want to make longer trips you can always link a two week holiday with several weekends, perhaps making a long initial trip and then hopping the boat back to base over several weekends.

It may be inevitable – and we were certainly guilty as novice holiday boaters – that you will try to go too far, too fast, in that initial burst of enthusiasm. With the benefit of hindsight I would advise against travelling 12 or even 14 hour days, non-stop, to an ambitious fixed schedule.

Not only will you return needing a holiday you will also miss some of the things that help people fall in love with the waterways.

Give yourself time to stop and explore the areas through which canals and rivers pass. Not only will you find some great little pubs and eating places, you will begin to understand the history of the waterways and how they have changed, and been changed by, the towns and villages of our country.

The museum at Ellesmere Port gives a real insight into the world
of working boats, from the engines upwards.
There are so many examples I can only mention a few that impressed me. In Skipton, you will find an historic town dominated by it's castle overlooking the market street. A stroll along the Springs Branch of the canal will take you to the back of the castle where limestone was mined and loaded into boats through long chutes. You have to wonder whether the castle would have survived if the landowner hadn't been able to make money by exporting the limestone in his back yard.

The Skipton bonus is several great pubs serving the local Copper Dragon beer and fish and chip restaurants only surpassed in Hull and possibly Whitby.

At the other end of the country you see a very different aspect of Stratford-Upon-Avon if you walk the towpath – this is not Tudor Stratford that brings foreign tourists in their millions, but industrial Stratford, built to serve the industries that provided work and prosperity before tourism became central to the town's economy.

The Shropshire Union and the Llangollen canals are some of the most popular in the country, with wonderful scenery and some great canal architecture, but stop and explore and they get even better.

Brewood has a great old-style butcher who makes his own faggots. At Norbury you can see the start of the now derelict Newport and Shrewsbury canal. A walk into Market Drayton will take you to the home of gingerbread. There is a former nuclear bunker to visit a bit north of the lovely village of Audlem and a mile or so from the canal at Nantwich you will find a Cheshire market town well worth a few hours to explore.

Many of the excellent guides will give you an insight into what is just beyond the towpath, so invest in those that cover the area you are planning to explore and I would suggest buying Ordnance Survey maps as well to enable you to check out what may be behind the hill.

Our waterways take us through the heart of Britain and enable us to explore its nature, its history, its commerce and meet the people who make the communities bordering the water so interesting.

Take a drink in the pub or eat in a restaurant and you will find you are also part of interest of that place. People will want to know what boating is like, where you are heading, how long you have been doing it and probably whether it is cold in winter.

Landmark places
Around the waterways there are some landmark places that most boaters aim to visit at some time. I suspect my list may miss places others would have but this is essentially a personal thing and influenced by taste.

Some are great feats of canal engineering, others places of interest from the days when the waterways were places of work and some simply places where you can gain a greater understanding of the system.

Lets start with those feats of engineering. Top of my list is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
on the Llangollen, the most famous aqueduct in Britain as it's the longest and highest. It's a World Heritage Site.

The Anderton Boat Lift, which links the Trent and Mersey with the River Weaver at Northwich, Cheshire claims to be the first successful boat lift in the world. The experience of travelling 15 metres up or down in the large tanks is one to be savoured.
The Barton Swing Bridge on the Bridgewater Canal heading north from Manchester, is another tank, this time the only swinging aqueduct in the world. It carries the Bridgewater across the Manchester Ship Canal. The aqueduct regularly swings open to let large ships pass underneath.

Then there are the lock flights. The Bingley Five Rise and three rise on the Leeds and Liverpool canal are impressive to travel through, wide locks that raise the canal over 18 metres in five giant steps.

My fascination for the Caen Hill Locks at Devizes, Wiltshire, on the Kennet and Avon comes from having seen them more than three decades ago when they were disused and more in grass than in water, with the beams climbing a grassy hillside. I can only marvel at the persistence that got them working once more.

The double staircase of narrow locks at Foxton Locks, Leicestershire are unique but for me the Victorian inclined plain, off to one side is the real fascination. It is easy to visualise how this once slid boats down the hill in 12 minutes and I remain hopeful of seeing it restored.

Others on my list include the newest canal in the country, the new section cut across the front of the Liver Building in Liverpool to give canal vessels access to the restored docks.

Limehouse Docks in the East End of London, now restored as a destination for boaters and a route out onto the Thames, has echoes of wartime bravery by working boatmen.

Glasson dock, on the Lancaster Canal is another of those unusual places where the inland waterways link with the sea and the cries of sea-birds and rattle of rigging give a taste of a different watery world.

Finally canals are about industry and along with the wonderful museums at Ellesmere Port, Gloucester Dock and Stoke Bruerne which help us understand canals I would add the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley where the reality of a working boat dock in the industrial Midlands is brought to life.

The Black Country Living Museum in Dudley where the reality of
a working boat dock in the industrial Midlands is brought to life.

Get a grip on how canals used to be and you will start to enjoy and understand the gaunt and crumbling mills you pass as you boat through Burnley and Blackburn and the gaping wastelands of Tipton or Walsall where the pits, power stations and metal works have been pulled down.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


It’s been a seriously hot day today, and I have Man Flu, typical! It was very busy on Monday, Quite quiet yesterday and steady today, which I am glad about as this man flu is horrible; it slows you down and makes you feel very tiered.

The usual stuff has gone on over the last few days, three day boats out on Monday and Tuesday, funnily none today, but MR HB and Peter has floated a brokerage boat off the dock that has been blacked and then they docked Axbridge, that is the new to us hire boat that finally turned up a few weeks ago, she will be in the dock for a week and a bit so we can not only get the bottom blacked also we can get the top sides looking a bit better as she is out on hire next month; Bernard wondered in late today after a hospital appointment and started work straight away on a Vetus engine that didn’t want to run properly, it turned out to be a dirty relay, while he was at it he did replace the exhaust flexi pipe that had broken, but it hadn’t been fitted correctly in the first place, hence it had broken; Mick took advantage of this great weather hand has managed to get the moorings grass all strimmed, weeds pulled and everything dosed in weed killer, all in all not a bad day, apart from my Man Flu!


Sunday, 15 June 2014

As Simon mentioned earlier in the week, The Shropshire Star has been on the dock for her bi-annual survey which is carried out by a surveyor from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Passenger trip boats (carrying more than 12 people) are regulated by this government body and operate on much stricter terms than most narrowboats. When we docked her at the beginning of the week, I had a look round her and noted a few bits and pieces that needed doing to her. One of our anodes had fell off (we didn't put it on I hasten to add), the bottom rudder bearing required placing and the skeg support bar was missing. Bernard duly set about putting these few things right. The surveyor arrived on Wednesday lunchtime and passed her with flying colours!

We see a lot of customers who are looking at buying boats and immediately dismiss older boats as they think the steel work will be worn. Well the trip boat just goes to prove the opposite! She was built by Les Allen of Oldbury in the late 60s, early 70s and she has had no plating work carried out apart from reinstating the chine angle on the two rear corners (where the sides meet the bottom). The ultra-sonic readings show that she has very little (if any) wear to her "British Steel" built hull. I know that older boats aren't to everybody's taste, but I am just saying that they shouldn't be dismissed.

It's been quite a busy week and this weekend has been no different. Friday saw us sending out three dayboats along with three hire boats, Saturday saw us sending out three dayboats again along with five hire boats. Once again today we have sent out three dayboats, one hire boat and the trip boat has been operating 1-hour long public trips today, captained by Will and crewed by Mike.

The tea room has been busy and has been ably manned by Sylvia and Denise, whilst myself and Ange have been in the office, seeing customers, answering phones and generally wondering where the day has gone to!

We had one of the brokerage boats on the dock for a survey this morning, following which we docked a private boat for pressure washing and blacking which meant Peter descended into the bottom of the dock for a couple of hours with the pressure washer to wash her off.

Lee has been busy preparing Oddnydod for painting. Her paintwork wasn't in the best shape and had suffered from some years of deterioration. Here's a couple of pictures of her when she came in...

And here's how she looks at the moment...

Boat sales seem to have gone ballistic over the last month or so, with another one being sold today! I have had one come in over the weekend which I will be advertising on our website tomorrow - so do keep your eyes peeled, but we do need more stock! Our Brokerage service is excellent. The contract is for a six month period during which time the moorings are free and we only charge 5% + VAT (terms apply). We also buy boats for cash. So, if you are looking at upgrading or need to part with your boat we can help you out! Please give Simon or me a call on 01785 284292 to discuss your options or alternatively drop us an email

That's everything to report for today. Have a good week!

Best regards, David.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Lovely day, all day, at last!

I was away all last week and enjoyed some lovely days with lovely weather, but according to everyone back home its been pants, well I thought they might have been exaggerating a little, but on Monday I realised that they probably hadn't, just as the thunder storm hit and rain like the world was about to end, the skies got darker and darker until they burst, and it did the same thing yesterday! WOW what rain we had! It didn't cause us any problems, I did feel sorry for the day boaters who got a good drenching, but to day has been wall to wall sunshine.

Its been a really busy week so far, the phone has not stopped ringing, I will go to sleep tonight with it ringing in my ears, We only had the one day boat go out today but there was plenty of other things going on around the wharf, the wharf it self has been very busy with passing boats requiring services, we have our trip boat on our dock at the moment for its usual MCA survey that is carried out every couple of years, that passed with flying colours, good job really as its out tomorrow night with the Norbury WI aboard, Peter has done a grand job of blacking it and painting the tunnel bands, while Bernard had a couple of small welding jobs to do, as the sun has been out all day Mr Hand bag came in and has spent the day making the moorings look loved again, you can imagine how tall the grass was getting, and the tea room has been manned by Sylvia who has been kept on her toes with a steady stream of customers all day long, ahhh the sun brings everyone out.

Lets see what tomorrow brings.

Regards Simon

Sunday, 8 June 2014

It's been a busy week here at Norbury with the usual coming and goings of dayboats and hire boats.

Lee has finished painting Arwen Evenstar and we have had her on the drydock for blacking and a few welding jobs. Trevor has been hard at work sign writing her whilst she has been on the dry dock too. Here's a few pictures of her transformation over the last few weeks.

Our Fish and Chip cruises are proving to be popular again this year. We have run one for the last few weeks. We have got the boat on the dock this week so haven't planned one for this coming weekend, but they will be operating after then and throughout the summer. Details of our current Wowcher deals can be found here. We are also running an offer on our Sunday 1-hour long public trips here. And not to leave the dayboats out we are running an offer here and here!

Regards, David

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Yesterday saw the arrival of a pair of swans that had nested locally and brought their young up on to the canal. Unfortunately when they left the lake where their nest was situated they left the seventh member of their family behind. Eddie; one of the locals, rounded up the cygnet and drove round until he found the rest of the family and plopped it back into the canal. The whole family have been swimming around the basin today. It's a great location for them because they get plenty of food from people on the boats and visitors to the area.

Sorry for the short post today, but I need to go and swap a boat in the painting dock.

More on that tomorrow!

Best regards, David.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The flock return

Well as the title suggests we have had a busy couple of days here at Norbury....just for a change....ha ha. All the boats that went out last Friday, Saturday and Monday have all returned and some have even turned around and gone out again, not with the same crew on I might
We had 6 boats back yesterday and Pippin and Sphinx both went out again, and 5 return this morning with Ember and Phantom going back out, Phantom is out for 4 weeks ;-)
We had 2 day boats out this morning which Peter showed out and both returned without any issues and a great day had by all.
The tea room has ticked over nicely today with Denise and Sylvia and the help of our newest member of staff Zoey. Zoey is only 16 and has done really well, we are proud to have her in our team.
Bernard has been doing engine services and being a general change there....he even made me walk down the gunwales to get off Ember as he had the deck boards up, charming!!!!
Peter has been doing the internal checks on the hire fleet and did the show rounds on the boats going out.
When he was turning the boats round yesterday he decided to give the roof on Sphinx a good clean with a broom and suds. I went onto the boat to give it a final check I could hear a scratching on the roof, I walked out the front door to see what was going on and got a face full of suds....lovely, I had already had a shower that morning and didn't need another one thanks.
We had the Shropshire star trip boat go out last night with a fish and chip supper, there were 25 people aboard who all had a great time with Will as skipper and Sandra as crew.
Joyce has been doing her usual Ebay listings and sales. She bought some lunch with her yesterday, chicken salad. She came down to the kitchen at lunchtime and searched the fridge for her lunch. I heard her asking where it was and I had to skulk away as I saw it in there, someone asked for a chicken salad and I sold it....sorry Joyce.
Mrs Handbag has been cleaning the boats today and we have both been cracking on with all the washing that needs doing in the laundry. Surprinsingly, for information purposes only of course we have washed 84 towels, 11 double duvet covers, 20 single duvet covers, 11 double sheets, 20 single sheets, 84 pillow cases, 10 bath mats, 7 shower curtains, 10 rubber bath mats and 18 tea towels and the same again for tomorrow.
David has been looking for new computers for the 3 of us....yay
Well that's all from me for today, until next time, byeeeeee ange. 


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Not a normal Wednesday

Its quite possibly the busiest week of the year for the hire industry on the canals, We certainly have every hire boat out on hire, including the day boats, and I know that most of the other hire companies are fully booked too, now on a Wednesday we are usually stacked out with work, customers and the phone doesn't stop ringing but today has been unusually quiet, it could easily have been the other way though with breakdowns and boats everywhere, It does bemuse me somewhat, as I said most of the hire companies have their fleets out yet the canal has an eerie quietness to it, we haven't seen many boats around today at all, the wharf has been quiet and the visitor moorings have been empty, so where are all of the boats?

Although its been quiet today we have had three day boats go out first thing, one did book on line lase last night however, we haven't docked a boat because the one that is currently in the dock is waiting for parts to arrive for its bow thruster and it was scheduled to be in all week as it was being grit blasted and painted in a two pack epoxy paint system, the weather hasn't done us any favours either today and I reckon that has kept people away too, there is no rest for the wicked though and Lee has cracked on with the tug that he was painting and at around four o'clock he announced that he was finished, and what a smart job he has made of that, just a nit of sign writing to be done and that one will come out looking like a new boat.

Im off to battle with the rain, so until tomorrow

Saturday, 24 May 2014

very busy

hi all, we have had 4 boats return to us this morning and all had a great time. three of them have turned round along with wharf cottage which is now out for the week and they have also booked a day boat, we do reduced rates on day boats for cottage residents.
well we had phoenix, phantom, princess and ember return today, all but  phantom have turned round and we have also seen phoebe, python and summer wine on their way, hopefully for a nice sunny this space.
well we had 2 day boats out first thing that peter duly showed out, both returned on time and despite the rain had a great day.
denise and mrs handbag have done the cleaning on the boats today and what a sterling job they have done, my biggest bug bear here with the hire fleet is the amount of washing we have to do at the end of the turnround....mmmm...
sylvia and trudy have been working in the tea room today which has been quite busy, especially early on when everyone could smell the breakfasts cooking.
mr hb as he is now known (doesn't like the hand bag label) has been doing turning the boats round and peter has been doing the internal checks on the boats and wharf cottage. bernard has been a general nuisance and engineering the hire fleet.
i do wish that the boats could be better placed when they are returned to us....i got stuck on the tiller  arm of pacific today, so low, almost knocked myself into the canal....pmsl
well thats all from me for today, til next time....byeeee ange.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Getting Afloat - Part 9

Peter Underwood looks what turns ordinary people into boaters
And now for the extras – only some of them optional.

Licences, insurance, breakdowns, mooring fees, maintenance they are all part of the cost of running a boat. Here's what it will all cost you to own a boat as well as a look at the equipment you really need – as opposed to what you might like to have – and the cost of key items. 

We'll also suggest how to order your priority buys and how to get the best bargains as well as looking at buying online versus buying in a chandlers.

Everyone wants to dip into your wallet!

COSTS on the waterways usually vary with the size of your vessel and many are unavoidable, but you need to know how much a boat is going to drain out of your wallet each year.

To make life simple I have based all the costs quoted on a second-hand, 60ft, steel narrowboat, in reasonably good condition, moored in a Midlands marina, used for leisure and worth around £45,000. If the vessel you are thinking about is different you will need to check the costs out for yourself. You will find marina charges and licences usually vary on size, whilst insurers are more likely to look at location and value.

In many ways the obligatory licence or registration of your boat for the waters on which you plan to use it is fairly straightforward. Most inland waterways in this country are operated either by the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways) or the Environment Agency. Hopes that the two would be merged in the next couple of years have now been abandoned – although it remains an ambition.

The Trust offers two types of licences for private boats, the one most people buy is the Canal and River licence which covers all the canals plus the CRT rivers, the Severn, Trent and Yorkshire Ouse. That will cost our hypothetical boat owner £925.97 next year after several years of price rises well above inflation, although there is a promise to limit rises to the Consumer Prices Index in the coming years. 

The second type is a Rivers Only licence which drops the cost to £555.58 for our boat but you are limited to using it on the CRT rivers. This option is mostly used in London by boats moored on the River Lea who then buy a top-up licence when they want to use the canals.

The Environment Agency charges according to which of their river systems you are moored upon. Our boat would pay £627.12 to use the Thames and £825.26 to cruise the Anglian waterways.

Boaters who look to travel extensively across the UK system will often opt to buy a Gold licence that gives access to the waters of both organisations. This costs £1,234, so it's good value if you are a long distance cruiser.

There are, small scale bodies who control parts of the system. The Bridgewater Canal remains separate and has it's own fees and parts of the River Cam are locally controlled with some expensive and slightly odd charges, especially for visitors. You can even moor in the Fens, on the waters controlled by the Middle Level Commissioners around March which link the River Nene with the Great Ouse, and not pay a registration fee or a licence. The downside is that the Fen drains are not the most scenic part of the world and moorings are very limited. You will, of course, have to buy a licence as soon as you leave the drains.

Insurance is also obligatory in the sense that most navigation authorities won't sell you a licence without it. Comprehensive insurance will give you the cover you need and insurers are somewhat coy about quoting on hypothetical boats. Simone Spinks Group Communications Manager for Towergate Insurance, told me: “It’s hard to quote an exact figure as there are so many variables, but, as a very roughballpark figure; cover for fire, theft, accidental damage, sinking, storm and flood, Legal Protection and £3,000,000 third party cover, there would be a range between £195 for someone new to boating and £150 for someone who has boating experience and 5 years no claims bonus.

“For a top tier policy it includes all of the above plus protected no claims discount and an element of recovery and rescue if you break down, the range would be between £250 for a new boater and £200 if 5 years no claims bonus had been earned.”

Like cars, even the best boats are known to break down and there is another form of insurance that may appeal if you are a newcomer to boating with little mechanical expertise. River Canal Rescue provides a form of breakdown insurance that costs £155 a year for the silver level of cover for which you get a call-out service and cover of up to £1,000 on the cost and the labour in fitting certain new parts.

If you have enough experience to spot the likely cause of a problem there are plenty of experienced engineers at boatyards and even on boats around the system. Expect to pay around £60 for a call-out, which may include the first hour's work. Then hourly rates are usually around £40-50 an hour, more in the South-East.

The sums are easy, you just have to make a judgement about how likely your boat is to break down, and how often.

The other big cost is mooring your boat and it is fair to say a lot of boaters are finding this the biggest drain on their resources, especially in the posh marinas that have been springing up around the system in recent years.

Mooring our boat at ABC's Alvechurch marina on the Birmingham and Worcester canal next year would cost £2,760 if paid in advance. At Mercia marina on the Trent and Mersey the same length of boat costs £2,600 a year.

In the BWML marinas, owned by CRT, prices vary according to locality. Mooring our hypothetical boat at Sawley on a non-residential mooring will cost £2,700 but at their Packet Boat marina in West London it rises to £3,888.

Unless you have bought a traditional working boat, Buckby cans 
and mops are certainly optional extras.
Those sort of costs are putting many boaters off and I met several holiday boat owners this year who only pay to moor in the winter months and move their vessel between towpath moorings in the summer.  That is a cost saving measure only made possible because most marinas have spare berths and it may well be significant that one marina near Stafford is offering a year's mooring for any length of boat for under £1,000.

There are also owners of holiday boats who appear to think a mooring is unnecessary, even though the CRT rules say that if you don't have a home mooring you must declare that you are a continuous cruiser. I have met London-based boat owners who leave their boats on 14-day visitor moorings but travel out of the city to move them a few more miles every fortnight.

CRT are currently putting in place controversial new mooring limitations and fines (they call them overstaying charges) in the South East and they may make life more difficult for those trying to economise on marina charges.

Personally, I would be looking to make a deal with strapped marina owners, although you won't get much change out of those in popular spots who can still charge what the market will bear.

Without any of the running costs of the boat itself, our 60ft pride and joy is already costing us just under £4,000 a year in recurring fees for licence, mooring and insurance.

Maintaining your investment
Once you have spent tens of thousands of pounds it would be short-sighted if you didn't make every effort to keep your boat in tip-top condition (although a surprising number don't) and that means a regular service, every 100 engine hours or so and at least once a year. The cost of a service depends on who you listen to with marinas quoting any thing between £70 and £200 for a normal service on a normal engine – so shop around but make sure the service includes checking items such as the engine mountings, hose clips and other bits likely to work loose or wear.

Some will be able to change oil and filters themselves which reduces costs to consumables, around £40-50 at retail prices.

Bear in mind that the more you travel the more you need to service your engine and it could be a twice a year job if you are boating for long periods.

The outside of the boat needs some TLC and regular washing costs nothing but will keep that paintwork looking good for longer. Eventually, of course, it will get tired and a full repaint of our 60ft boat could easily eat up anything between £5,000 and £10,000. Repaint once every ten years and that adds £500 to £1,000 a year to running costs.

Every couple of years you need to have the boat out of the water and the bottom re-coated with blacking. On our boat budget for around £600 plus a fee for craning it out or using a dry-dock and probably another £150 or so for new anodes. Probably not a lot of change out of another £1,000.

Then there is the major consumable – diesel. The average engine uses around a litre an hour. As a holiday boater the Inland Revenue expect you to declare a 60 per cent propulsion (paid for at the full VAT rate and 40 per cent domestic (paid for at the reduced rate). On current cheapest prices this would mean 100 litres of diesel costing around £120, although it could be as high as £`150 in some boatyards.

A week of cruising for eight hours a day will use around 50 litres or, say £75. Use your boat for ten weeks a year, including weekends and that is £750 in diesel costs.

 Some extras are certainly a matter of taste, but for some people
a floating hutch on a small butty is an essential extra.

Bits and pieces
Owning a boat is all very well but it is difficult to use it without certain other pieces of kit. If you are buying second-hand try to ensure that the previous owner is including in the sale key items like mooring lines, mooring pins, chains and hooks, long and short shafts and a gangplank. You do sometimes find such things removed.

A quick online checks shows prices vary considerably but a set of three lines, bow, stern and centre, along with two mooring pins and two chains or hooks, a long and a short shaft and a gangplank will set you back over £200 and these are things you probably shouldn't go boating without.

A set of three lines, bow, stern and centre, along with two mooring pins
and two chains or hooks, a long and a short shaft and a gangplank will set you back over £200.

I'll probably get wrong for saying life jackets are optional and we never wear them on the canals. However, we do own life jackets, at around £80-90 each and use them on rivers. Life rings can be bought for around the £25.

On rivers, of course, you also need an anchor, another £70 or so plus chain and rope.
The other item I would regard as essential is a set of guides for the waterways you are travelling. Say a set of five Pearsons or three Nicholsons to begin with, another £50 or so.

That makes around £4-500 if you buy new. You can save a bit online and even more if you can pick up second hand equipment on sites like E-bay – as long as you make sure the things you buy are actually fit for use.

Total costs
Put it all together and over a ten year period you may end up paying out £5,000 to £6,000 a year on top of your original investment.

I suspect only those boat owners to whom money is no object will actually spend all that. Most of us find ways to save money, learning how to do our own service and breakdowns, is a good start, keeping the paintwork washed and polished helps it last much longer and you might well be tempted to black the hull every three years rather than two.

Buying second-hand helps keep prices down, but do be careful of quality online.
You could probably half that figure by doing much of the work yourself and, of course, a major expense like a repaint can be put off until you can't look at your boat with pride any longer.

However, if you begin boat ownership by realising that the price of the boat is just the start, then it won't all come as a nasty shock later.