We went to Shropshire Union Cruisers at Norbury Junction in 1965. David was to work on the maintenance and running of the hire fleet as his main job and to develop the boatbuilding side as and when possible. Shropshire Union Cruisers Ltd were a forward thinking family run company, run by John and Jenny Stothert. They ran an up to date fleet of newly built timber hire boats. We were delighted to work for them as it encompassed both David’s cabinet making skills and his canal boating hobby. I had been trained as a shorthand typist and bookkeeper and as there was work for both of us, it was ideal.
on Mow Cop. We’d only been there a few months when the old gentleman living in the cottage died and we managed to buythe cottage and land, mainly on the bottom canal. Over the next few years David built boats by day and the bungalow by night, but by October 1975 we moved in fully. We’d had a lot of vandalism problems originally – the local kids had been used to having the basin to themselves and objected to us being there by demolishing in the evening what David had spent all day building but eventually we came to terms with this, although camping out in the workshop was sometimes necessary!
The built in water tanks developed from the idea of a self-draining for’d well. The area for’d was ideal for tankage and with a coating of water tank paint and a decent hatch for accessibility, this proved an instant success.
Rudders were a problem. The common design meant you had to reach through the weed hatch and undo two bolts to dissemble the rudder. This was quite a regular thing, but with the slipway we were able to introduce the removable rudder – a design still in use and a vast improvement.
In 1979, BW came up with the dreaded “standards” for hire boat construction. These were implemented in 1982. At this time it was not a consideration for private boats, but we all know what happened! David was very involved with the “nuts and bolts” of the Hire Bo at Standards, which were formulated from both practical building experience, and from the hiring experience of many APCO fellow members (our trade association the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators). Later, when it became necessary to have front ventilation, most builders simply fitted brass vents to the doors. We tried various methods, until the current design was developed, giving a neater and less obtrusive (and less draughty) solution, with great success.
Quite a few boats built in the 1970’s had built in cool boxes under the kitchen sink unit. Until around 1979 a few boats had gas fridges, but they caused tremendous problems and had to be regularly turned upside down to get rid of air locks. 12v fridges robbed the batteries too severely. It became apparent that some modernisation of the generating of electricity in these new up-to-date boats was necessary and the introduction of this and an extra domestic battery, together with the lower use of electricity in the Engel fridge range solved all the problems.
We continued to implement new ideas, having our own family boat to try out more radical changes and space saving ideas. Traditional boats with side doors and cross double beds, giving more comfort and width for the double berth, really caught on, together with solid fuel fires with back boilers to supply radiators, as the bigger boats became more popular. Yorkshire Dales Hire Cruisers amalgamated eventually with Rugby Bo at builders and they obviously took over their own boat building and we went into more private boat building, mostly complete boats. We built a few boats, in the later years, for Arlen Bo ats, a small hire firm on the Lancaster Canal .
These were built as shells and fitted out up there. The fleet is still in existence and are smart little boats. We also built the White Nancy restaurant boat, run from Bollington Wharf and a couple of trip boats.
Simon and Tim came into the business with us, although all three of our sons were very involved in the yard from a very early age, particularly with bottom-blacking and serving diesel.
Maybe we were lucky to have been in at the beginning of the modern boat building developments, at a time when David’s talent for recognising a potential design could be put to use. To a certain extent, demand allowed us to “choose” our customers, in the nicest possible way. If David didn’t think an idea or layout would work, he would say so and he would rather lose the order than build a boat that he though would be lacking in re-sale value, or that we couldn’t be proud of. Only one or two got through the net, in his less vigilant moods! We have had some super customers, many of whom we are still in contact with and made many friends in the process.
To summarise thirty three years of boatbuilding in one article is not an easy thing to do and leaves many tales untold but hopefully it explains some of our different and unique ways of tackling the problems as they cropped up. Any questions? Please feel free to ask!
You are welcome to contact the club for advice on any aspect of your Piper boat - some Piper-specific spares are still available.
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