Great progress

We visited Nick Thorpe’s steelyard today to find great progress with the construction of Froth. The side panels and roof are on! The boat now looks like a boat, and the main remaining tasks are cutting the windows and doors and other detailed features. Here are several photographs and videos to illustrate the fabulous work they have been doing.

First: a pan shot along the side of the boat as it looks today. 

The sides were laid out on the floor, then lifted into position with a forklift before being welded together.

[Click pictures for larger images]




two sides


Frames were put in place all the way down the hull ready for the roof.


Here is the roof, laid out on the floor…


…and in position, being measured to ensure consistent dimensions all the length of the boat.


Here are a couple of shots of the finished article. Notice how the sides lean inwards, allowing you to walk down the outside gunwale without being pushed into the water by the boat.



And finally, here some videos shot during our visit this morning. First, a walk along the boat, noting the markings which show where the rooms will be.

And here is a shot of the bows.

We were also very keen to have a curly upright bar either side of the cratch area, so that we have something to hold onto when getting on and off the boat. Also, it looks stylish! Nick drew this in chalk on the side of the boat.

We have agreed June 12th as ‘craning in’ day, when Froth will be driven on a low loader the 60 miles or so to the MGM boatyard, then lowered into the water for the first time. Expect lots more videos and a major update then!

Taking Shape.

Too much work meant that we couldn’t make it over to the boat yard today. However Wendy (Nick’s wife I think) emailed some photos over to us.

A & L Base 2





steel 3


She’d still sink, but Froth is definitely starting to look like a narrow boat!


Wendy has just sent more photos. This is how Froth looks at the close of business on Friday 15th May:


Amazing progress for just over a weeks work 🙂

Steel yourselves…

Today we walked the length of our new boat for the first time:
black and whitesteel
This 67ft sheet of steel will soon become the floor of our new home. Admittedly it wont float very well at the moment, but after years of planning and dreaming our 3rd boat will soon be a reality. To say we are a bit excited doesn’t quite cover how we feel right now!
A&L(a)    IMG_3803 steelshed

Today we went to Hixon in Staffordshire to Nick Thorpe’s boat builders. Nick and his team of 3 craftsmen build 12 hulls a year and will be doing all of the steel work for us.
It is quite common to have the steel work done in Poland or China, imported as a kit and then just welded together in the UK. And whilst this is a cheaper option, we feel proud to be supporting this small British company.
nicksign nick

They are just finishing off this boat, our base plate is laid out beside her, all ready for them to start the work tomorrow:
boatshed3 IMG_3802

Here are some of the templates that will be used to mark out the steel sheets:
To get to this point in our build we have had to make several irreversible decisions regarding the internal layout because Nick has to know where to put the windows! Here are the final plans:


We are having a rectangular windows in the living area and 15″ portholes in the bedrooms and bathroom. There will be a hatch on either side of the boat. This is a bit unusual, most boats only have a single hatch. But we want to be able to have one side open to the water no matter which way we are facing. There is nothing better than having a swan pop his head through to see if there is any breakfast! I also have another motive. Eventually I’d like to become a ‘towpath trader’ and sell my craft work to passersby. As turning places for a 67ft boat are limited, I’ll need a hatch on both sides so I can open my shop.

Our work permitting, we hope to pop back to see how Nick is progressing at the end of next week. It is hard to believe that ‘Froth’ will be ready for stage 2 of the build in 3/4 weeks time!

Written by Louise – I take full responsibility for the spelling and grammar issues 🙂

Union Wharf, Market Harborough.

Written by Andy – Edited by Louise!

We’ve been giving a lot of thought as to where our new boat will be moored and we’ve considered lots of options. Our favourite was a new marina being build at North Kilworth, but there was a strong possibility that it wouldn’t be ready in time for us. However last week Andy spotted that The River and Canals trust had put a mooring up for auction at Union Wharf, Market Harborough.
We really like Market Harborough having lived there for a couple of months whilst our boat Faustroll was being painted. Union Wharf is ideally situated, with the town on the doorstep and a mainline railway station with in easy reach, which is good for Andy travelling to work at the university.
The auction is for a 3 year lease and we’ve put in a bid for the mooring. Here are the details. The auction finishes tomorrow and we’ve got our fingers crossed

The Market Harborough Arm connects to the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union canal and offers some lovely rural cruising to the outskirts of Leicester, or all the fun of Foxton locks if we fancy a hard day’s work! In 1950, the basin at Market Harborough was the location for the very first National Festival and Rally of Boats, organised by the Inland Waterways Association. This was the event that kick-started the modern revival of the canals.

We went to visit our (likely) future mooring. This is a view of Union Wharf looking across to the reception/hire boat area:

Union Wharf view to reception.The next view is looking across to the Waterfront restaurant. We anticipate some good meals therein!

viewtorestaurantHere is a view along the line of moorings. The orange buoy marks Mooring No. 9, our future location:

mooringsAnd here is a view along the pontoon at Mooring No. 9:

mooring9 Finally, we’d like to introduce latest addition to the crew – Rosie is a 9 week old Cavachon. Andy has her in a carry bag because her vaccinations aren’t complete for another 3 weeks, so she’s not allowed contact with any other dogs. She attracted a lot of attention as we walked around!Andy and Rosie

Of course when I added ‘edited by Louise’ it should really say “Mucked about with by Louise”. All grammar and spelling mistakes are obviously mine!

Boat Planning

It was a beautifully sunny, yet cold and frosty, morning on the canal today. Frosty Boat   We were here to visit MGM Boats in order to develop our plans. The boatyard looked lovely in the frosty sunshine. IMG_0167   We have spent a lot of time over the past month planning out rooms, thinking about space, finding pictures of styles we like, and even coming up with a new name for the boat! We arrived armed with drawings. plans It was encouraging to discover that Martin at MGM had reached almost exactly the same decisions as ourselves. Planning a narrowboat is all about finding ways to save space. Our concept for the back study-bedroom did exactly that, saving roughly three feet when compared with our first attempt. This space will be put to good use further down the boat, particularly in the kitchen.

So, the boat will be 67′, which is close to the maximum length for a narrowboat. The stern will be done in a typical MGM style, with a large cruiser deck so that people can gather, and central steps down into the cabin. This will look something like one of their previous boats, called ‘Snail’s Pace’. The first three photographs here give a good idea.

Once inside, the first room will be Andrew’s study bedroom, containing a music studio space and a double bed, along with a wardrobe and washing machine. From there you pass through a walk-through bathroom, in which the corridor switches sides so that boat is nicely balanced. The next room is a double bedroom with large wardrobe at the foot of the bed. After that comes the kitchen, with an external hatch opposite the sink, and wine and vegetable coolers sunk into the floor. Beyond that is the saloon, with the solid fuel stove to the left side of the doors out, and the TV stand to the right. This also has a hatch, a loose-leaf table, and a crafting cupboard for Louise. The front doors open into the ‘conservatory’ well deck area, which has banquette seating arranged around a removable table. This will be a wonderful space for sitting out, dining, admiring the view, etc. It has a solid steel roof and a transparent removable cover for maximum view all around. The water tank is cleverly built into the seating. Beyond that is the hatch containing the bow-thrusters. The roof will have solar panels, a TV antenna system (operated from inside the boat), a wifi antenna (also connected to a box inside the boat), the chimney for the stove and the usual plank, pole and mop (does anybody ever actually use the mop?). The colour scheme will be green (similar to Faustroll) and cream with some red. As these plans develop, we will start posting more detailed diagrams and photographs here. Andrew

Froth on the Daydream: a little history

Andrew writes…

2015! A new year and a new life awaits Louise and I, as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of our brand new narrowboat. It will be a 67′ live-aboard, to be built by MGM Boats, Leicester. Construction of the hull will begin in March and the boat should be ready by September/October.

This co-written blog (intermittent entries from each of us) will document all aspects of our life aboard. We have called it ‘Froth on the Daydream’ after the wonderful novel by Boris Vian in its translation by the late Stanley Chapman, who was a dear friend and the UK’s leading pataphysician. Vian’s free-wheeling writing is full of delightful surprises which seem to sum up the allure of our chosen lifestyle. ‘Froth on the Daydream’ is also the top contender for the name of the new boat, although we will reserve judgment until we set foot upon it: a boat should not be named until it actually exists.

At the moment we are living in a house, as we have done since 2007. All this time, we have thought of ourselves as boaters, despite being landlocked, and so we cannot wait to get back to the water. The call of the canals has been powerful and, now we are in a position to do so, we will eventually sell the house once we have moved aboard.

Our first boat was called ‘Mamta’. This was a 45′ cruiser stern narrowboat moored at Trinity Marina on the Ashby Canal near Hinckley. It was a lovely little boat – great for pootling up and down the canal at weekends. Living aboard was more difficult, however, because the space was so limited.

mamta1 mamta2 mamta3

We therefore decided to upgrade to a new 57′ boat. This was ‘Faustroll’, a trad stern narrowboat build by Les Wilson, which we eventually moored at Wigram’s Turn Marina at the junction of the Oxford and Grand Union canals.

nb Faustroll navigating Hawkesbury Junction.
nb Faustroll navigating Hawkesbury Junction.

Pataphysical readers will of course recognise the name of the boat: Alfred Jarry’s contradictory combination of ‘Faust’ and ‘troll’ to create the great pataphysician Dr Faustroll. (For those who have no idea what this all means, see wikipedia or, indeed, buy my book!).

All the coach painting and decorations were done by the legendary Phil Speight. The boat was decorated with yellow spirals (the pataphysical emblem).


The one on the side echoed the portholes. It’s a clever effect.2

The name panel included a gargoyle from the Collège de ‘Pataphysique journal.


nb Faustroll was a great live-aboard boat, and we cruised the Midlands canals very happily for a number of years. This time afloat was period of great creativity, stimulated by the slow pace of life, the glories of the natural surroundings, and the nomadic lifestyle. Here are some internal shots, the second showing Peter Warden’s painting of Looe Island:

6 7

It was during these years that Louise made her first leather roses and founded The English Leather Rose Co. Ltd. which is now a successful business selling large numbers of roses around the world. keepsakeleatherr1

‘Roses and castles’ is the folk art tradition of the canals, so it seems very appropriate that the first leather roses should have been made afloat.

I wrote The Digital Musician while aboard Faustroll, keeping pace with Simon Emmerson (who was also writing a book at the time) through a joint blog.

But, all good things must come to an end, as someone once said. Changes to my job obliged us first to buy a flat and then to sell ‘Faustroll’. It was a sad day when we said goodbye to our boat, but at the time we were very focused on the future and so did not spend too much time missing the canal life. Since then our daydreams have formed themselves more and more into the image of a narrowboat. This new boat is, then, the froth on the daydream that we have been dreaming for seven years!