Monday, 26 September 2016

Mauve at First Sight!

Moored behind the cinema in Hebden Bridge
I officially took possession of "Mary" on the morning of Saturday 17th September, having viewed her once and once only the previous Saturday.

From hearing about a boat in the pub on the Friday night to owning the boat took barely 7 days.

Mary's previous owner was waiting to emigrate to Portugal, and needed to liberate some funds quickly. Although Mary had been advertised on Apollo Duck - the website for many online boat sales, there had been time-wasters, delays and frustration. So I trucked up, first thing on the Saturday morning, offered the asking price, put down a £5K deposit and the boat was taken off the market.

A Little History

Mary was built in the early 1980's by the Northamptonshire boatbuilders Hancock and Lane. The 70's were the heyday for building narrowboats, coming to an end in the early 1980's  - as this testimony from an old H&L employee suggests.

I worked for Hancock and Lane in the 70's the began about 1970 and produced a large number of boats and commercial craft they are best known for the Norseman style boat. They also built a smaller boat with a raised front deck called Marlin these were mostly 30 feet in length.

I worked for them from 1972 through to the end which I believe to be 1984 I was made redundant twice. At the finish there were only four of us left and at one time they had at least 8 teams of 3 men building boats and employed 60 men many other companies have been borne out of this skilled labour force.

 It is true that the boats were a little dumpy however many of these craft are still in use on the canals giving testimony to there build quality they were in there time considered by many to be at the forefront of the industry.

I would regularly work 70 hrs a week to keep up with demand, starting at 6 am and finishing at 6 pm, 5 days a week and then doing a Saturday morning for good measure. The early starters were summoned at 8am for a trip to Willerby to the cafe for cooked breakfast on the firm. 

I am still boatbuilding I was only 19 when I started work That's enough from an old boatbuilder. 

Getting the Old Girl Going Again!

The first thing to do was to get the batteries charged, fuel in the tank and the engine running. The old batteries were in poor condition - so I bought a new starter battery from Halfords in Stockport, some tools and some jump-leads and some other essentials.
Fabi studies from her course notes as we prepare the boat for departure

The first weekend was not terribly productive, but I did manage to get the new 70A high-output alternator fitted that I bought from Ebay for £65.

The engine bay and a top view of the BMC1500 with the shiny new alternator top left.

An extra spar across the rear door replaces where the fabricated steps used to be fitted. Less than convenient access

The initial bleeding through of the diesel to the injector pump took a lot longer that I anticipated, as I failed to spot the secret fuel cut-off stop cock underneath the rear deck board. It was dusk on Sunday before I discovered it and it was getting time to commence the long drive back to Surrey.

Fabi and Adam enjoying the Sunday afternoon sunshine

I returned the following Friday with my nephew Adam and his girlfriend Fabi.  Adam and I soon made light work of bleeding the air out of the injector pump - and we soon had the engine running. Diesels are fairly bomb-proof and reliable - provided that you have a good starter battery, and the injector pump is working.  The BMC1500 was a popular workhorse for this size of boat, and remains so, being reliable, cheap spares and easy to fix.

Cruising slowly west out of our mooring.

So with the engine running, and without further delay, we cast off and headed west into the centre of Hebden Bridge, aiming for a pub lunch at Stubbings Wharf.

On the To Do List.....

Mary has been modified over the years, as many vessels are updated with each new refit.  The original steps down into the stern cabin have been removed, and reinstating them will be one of my first jobs of the winter.

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