Progress on all fronts

The good folk at MGM have been working flat out and there is progress on all fronts.

In the galley, we see the work surface going into position. The clamps are holding it in place while the glue dries:


The lacquer is being applied to the walls in the saloon:


The brass windows and portholes are in place throughout:


The bathroom is also well on its way to completion.

For those interested in such matters, we have opted for a cassette toilet, rather than a pump-out tank. We had a pump-out on our previous boat, then changed to cassette and much preferred it. Although emptying cassettes is not exactly pleasant, lying on top of a tank full of excreta is an even less agreeable thought, and if you get iced in it can be a real pain not being able to reach a pump-out station.

The toilet is ceramic:


And the shower is better than anything we’ve had in any of our houses!


Here are some views of the back bedroom. The blue calorifier on the left will end up in the engine compartment.


The electrics cupboard has been fitted:


And here is a view down into the bedroom from the back deck:


And finally… a teaser! Here you see Froth’s bows poking out from the boathouse. If you look closely, you will notice the beginnings of the exterior paint job. This has in fact come on a lot, but we are going to save the photos for a ‘big reveal’ in a later post. It just would not be right to show an unfinished job. Suffice to say it is going to look amazing!


Feel the power!

We’ve been promising a post about the engine, and here it comes! But, first things first, today’s visit showed a lot of carpentry under way and the arrival of a few bits and pieces. Delivery of some of our fittings has been delayed by the problems at Calais. Those events are having such a knock-on effect across the country. But the windows are here. They are the large type with the small opening window at the top. On our previous boat, the catches that held the small windows in place never fitted properly. These look very snug. Martin (holding the window here) tells us that the window maker continuously improves his design. We do like working with real craftspeople.


The portholes have also been delivered, but they are still in their bubble wrap:


We have opted for an ‘Algodon’ surface for the kitchen and bathroom. It’s very hard-wearing, nice and bright, and, we are assured, will not show smears and dirt. It is an acrylic surface made by Avonite. Here is the product page on their website. And here is a photo of a piece for Froth:
IMG_0941And so, we turn to the thing without which we would be going nowhere! This is the Vetus Marine M4.45 engine:


It’s a keel-cooled, 4 cylinder diesel engine delivering 42 horsepower, along with twin 110A alternators. The installation comes as a package that includes a 55 kgf bow thruster kit, propellor, stern gear, dry exhaust, sine wave inverter (3000W, 12V-230V, 50Hz), battery charger for 3 battery banks, starter battery, control panel, and all relevant connectors, hoses, etc. The bore is 3 5/64″ x 3 3/32″ and the capacity is 1758 cm³. Full tech spec is here. The engine is so quiet that its  compartment does not need sound insulation.

We can’t wait to get this started and to feel the power!

What’s cooking?

Today’s visit to the boatyard revealed progress mainly in the kitchen.


The cupboard directly ahead will house, in descending order: the wifi modem, the oven, and the washing machine. The oven has arrived:


It is big enough to cook a turkey at Christmas!

The various cupboards to the side will give plenty of storage. We were called in mainly to make a decision about the one nearest the saloon (at the near end in the picture).


Access to this will be from the saloon side, we decided, giving Louise a crafting cupboard.

The saloon area looks big, but it will soon fill up.


To the right of the door will be the solid fuel stove, and to the left the television cupboard. This (we decided today) will join onto a narrow cupboard running back to the covered radiator, which will be located near where the workbench stands in the picture.

Finally, the shower tray is in:


It’s full size, and looking good!

Once again, the boat is taking shape all the time. It has a lovely feel when you’ve been aboard for a few minutes. Martin is hard at work on the carpentry and there will probably be quite a few more posts like this one before the look of the finished interior begins to appear.

Well, well, well deck!

The well deck on most narrowboats looks like the one in these pictures from our previous boat (under construction):


BoathAs you can see, there are some quite steep steps leading up to the deck. This is because the water tank is under the deck itself.

‘Froth’ is quite different: the water tank is located around the edges of the well deck area, thus forming some bench style seating. This clever arrangement allows us to walk straight through, with no steps, giving us a kind of ‘conservatory’. We will have a removable table in the middle, a glass panel at the front, and a transparent plastic cratch cover which allows views all round, This will be a really lovely space for sitting out and dining and watching the water.

The rectangular hole at the front is the access panel for the bow thrusters. There is no bow storage beyond that, so the gas bottles and other things one might normally find in the bow area will be located in special cupboards on the stern deck.

IMG_4156 IMG_4157 IMG_4158

The solar panels arrived this week:


and the plumbing has been installed:


But the most exciting thing is that the room dividers (bulkheads) are now in place. Here is a video walkthrough:

The American White Ash is already starting to look beautiful:



Rosie seems to be settling in!





Bye Bye Battleship!

jul10-5It’s hard to describe the feeling of boarding Froth now, but this picture conveys something of the impression. As we stood in the bow well deck, in what will be our ‘conservatory’, we got that sensation of being on the canal. The still waters, the views of nature all around, the calm.

Part of the reason for the increased sense of atmosphere is that the boat’s battleship grey has now been replaced by a cream undercoat, giving it a much more homely feel:


Added to this, the interior has been fully boarded out with its backing boards, and is now ready for the American White Ash boards that will cover walls and ceiling. We even have the first bulkhead room divider, that separates the kitchen from bedroom 1:


The wires hanging down are the ones for the wifi. This picture gives a sense of the nice grain of the wood:


It is amazing how much wood goes into a narrowboat! Here are some of the Ash panels for Froth being moved into the workroom:


The panels stacked behind Mark are all ours too:


And there is yet more white ash in another shed, planks this time, also destined for our boat:


Given all this interior preparation, we have been hard at work this week trying to choose fabrics, tiles and flooring. We have had to decide on: upholstery on the seat in the cratch (bow well deck) area; tiles around the fire; curtains in the living room; blinds on the kitchen window and stern portholes; working surface in the kitchen and bathroom. We will also have to decide on flooring at some point, and have begun looking at catalogues but not reached a decision yet.

Anyway, we tried various combinations of tiles and fabrics and surfaces. We were helped by a visit to Whalin Upholstery in Pinxton, who specialise in narrowboat furnishings:


There we found a nice curtain fabric for the saloon:


That will blend well with the ‘Sable’ covers for the seat in the cratch, and helped us to decide on brown and cream tiles around the fireplace. We had already decided on ‘grape’ (purplish) blinds for the kitchen and portholes, and have a green and white colour scheme for the tiles. We also have a working surface that picks up white, green and purple in subtle ways. So, it is all coming together!

It was an exciting visit yesterday. The boat is already starting to feel like home.

Lined Sailaway

A “lined sailaway” is a boat which is spray-foamed and board-lined internally, and has an engine fitted, so could in theory be sailed away. Froth has reached that point, although the engine has not yet been turned over. She has, however, been moved into the shed for the next phase of work.


IMG_4048This shot illustrates the lining, with the various layers clearly visible:


And here is the interior of the lined sailaway:


We were excited to discover that painting has already begun, with primer on the sides and non-slip paint on the gunwale and the roof. Mark and Rachel have spent most of the week doing prep for the painting – filling where necessary and generally ensuring the sides are smooth. All this in the searing hot temperatures that they’ve endured inside the boat shed this week.



We explored all over the boat…

IMG_4042…and at one point Louise stepped on what looked like a solid deck, which turned out to be just cardboard!

She put her foot through but fortunately wasn’t hurt.


Finally, we inspected the engine, a Vetus marine diesel. Much more detail on that in a future post, but for now we will comment that it is extremely clean!

Notice Nick Thorpe’s mark in the engine compartment. Looks like Froth is his 89th boat.

Foam and mushrooms

Another week, and more progress! The boat has been spray-foamed and boarded internally. The ‘mushroom’ air vents have been inserted into the roof, along with the two wifi dome aerials which are located either side of the second mushroom back from the front. These deliver 6dBi of wifi signal and will select either the broadband in a marina or the 3G/4G signal when out and about.  And here is the boarding being loaded. This is just the backing chipboard. The American ash panels will be fitted later when everything else is ready.

 Spray foaming is the only part of the job that MGM subcontract. Here is the spray foamer’s van:
  This is the interior after everything was coated in foam:
   The spray foamer then had to shave off all the unwanted foam:

  The foam, of course, is our insulation. The most common question we get asked about living on a narrowboat is: isn’t it cold in winter? Well, once the central heating and the solid fuel stove are running, it gets too hot in winter! That is largely due to the spray foam insulation, which means that the boat retains heat really well. Many is the snowy night when we have had to open windows and side hatch to keep the boat at an even temperature. It’s really lovely to be so warm and yet so close to nature.

One week on…


This is an interior shot of Froth with ballast and floor boards in place. Ballast keeps the boat at the right level in the water. Heavy bricks are used. More adjustments will be made to ballast later on in the fit out process. You’ll notice a lot of dangling wires in the picture too. Mark has been hard at work on ‘first fix’ electrics for locating sockets and lighting.

The week has been taken up with a succession of important decisions. First we had to decide about colours for the exterior paint job  – to our surprise the painting will be done before the windows are put in. The result of this was a rapid discussion between me at home in Leicester and Andy in the departure lounge at Heathrow awaiting a flight to Lisbon.

The next important thing was to get all the roof top systems in place so that Mark can install the cabling before he sprays the interior with insulating foam. This involves 2 Wifi aerials, a TV satellite system and solar panels. The resulting mayhem required lots of phone calls and some rather sexist conversations with men who thought they should be talking to Andy and not his wife! For some reason, the satellite man thinks it is hilarious to refer to ‘dangly ends’ all the time. 

We also made several decisions about the interior layout. It is amazing how, whatever amount of planning you do, the reality is always different. So, we shaved a foot off the kitchen to make a bigger living room, and moved the washing machine from the back room to the kitchen. The last move created more space for Andy’s music workstation.

Anyway, here is Froth at rest:


Froth in the water!

What a day!!! Froth on the Daydream is now in the water at the MGM Boatyard in Thurmaston Leicester. To get there she had to be transported from Nick Thorpe’s steelyard in Hixon, Staffordshire. The boat weighs 13 tons of solid steel. What follows is a picture story of the day, with videos and stills taken by ourselves and family members. From Friday June 12th 2015 our boating life has really begun.

So, at Nick Thorpe’s steelyard, the three elements were assembled: boat, crane, lorry.

The first task was to get the boat out of the shed. This was done using metal rollers and pushing from behind with a forklift (which broke down at one point!). Here she comes:

Next, sleeves were wrapped around the boat so that the crane could lift it onto the lorry. Here is the complete set-up:

Then (OMG!) the boat had to be lifted up, twisted around above the building height, and dropped onto the lorry.

Rosie watched it all keenly, having previously made friends with every single man in the place!


So, here is a collection of still pictures of this stage of the operation. A view of the inside of the boat:


Froth leaves the steelyard shed:


That lift and twist moment:


The crane, complete with wind monitors on the top:


Nick Thorpe’s monogrammed rudder. He does this on all his boats:


The next stage was the two hour drive to MGM Boats. We set off later, having spent some time congratulating Nick Thorpe and his team. They had worked fantastically hard, staying up until midnight the previous night to get it all done for us. They have also built us a beautiful boat. Apparently it is the most detailed job they have ever done.

So…on to the MGM boatyard, where Martin, Mark, Rachel and the rest of the crew were waiting for us:

Here she is arriving. The tiny little lane you can see at 0.05″, with Martin standing in the entrance, is the way down to the boatyard. Yes – we were wondering how they were going to get the boat and the crane down there too!

This gives you an idea of what happened when they tried!


After much hacking back of overgrown trees (apparently this was a job which needed to be done anyway) and very skilful driving, they got through.

Now Froth could be loaded onto the crane again:


She had to be lifted over a fence to be deposited in the water the other side. Also, the boat that was moored there had to move out of the way:





And here it is: the moment Froth on the Daydream hits the water for the first time:


And floating by herself:

Rosie wonders what all the fuss is about!


So, finally we were able to step on board. Louise was first:


Then Cap’n Andy:


The final task was to tow and punt the boat round the spit of land, out onto the main canal and back into the boatyard on the other side ready for the fit-out.




We made it! The end to an utterly memorable and exhilarating day. It’s going to be a few months now before Froth moves again. By then she will be completely fitted out, newly painted and ready to take up her mooring place in Market Harborough. For now, we are just going to dream of boats all night!