We would like to give a massive thanks to all the owners who
took part either with or without their boats and to all the
public who took the time to visit us over the weekend.
- Boat Line Up -
Kahu Kura - 60ft wide-beam owned by Mr & Mrs Jones
Kabouter - 55ft Dutch style barged owned by Mr & Mrs Mossman
Lazy Days - 55ft Dutch style barged owned by Mr & Mrs Edwards
Josephine - 55ft Dutch style barge owned by Mr Appleyard
Pilgrim - 77L Dutch style barge owned by Mr & Mrs Bee
Gillian B - 65L Dutch style barge owned by Mr & Mrs Bennett
Providence - 60ft Dutch style barge owned by Mr & Mrs Crew
Havelok - 57N Dutch style barge owned by Mr & Mrs Littlewood
Manuka - 57N Dutch style barge owned by Mr Clifford & Ms Drabble
Dea Latis - 49M Dutch style barge owned by Mr & Mrs Kerr
Lautrec - 49M Dutch style barge owned by Mr & Mrs Walker
- Havelok -
A 57ft x 12ft 6" Dutch style barge completed in July for Mr &
Mrs Littlewood from Derbyshire
- Kahu Kura-
A 60ft x 12ft 6" wide-beam completed in August for Mr & Mrs
Jones from Dorset
- Providence -
A 60ft x 13ft Dutch style barge completed in September for Mr &
Mrs Crew from Buckinghamshire
- Dea Latis -
A 49M Dutch style barge completed in September fro Mr & Mrs Kerr
and just launched in time for our Henley event.
In fit out and almost complete we have Alphi a 49M for Mr Webb &
Ms Hall from Berkshire and
a 55N for Mr & Mrs Head from West Sussex.
In steelworks is a 49M for Mr & Mrs Clark from Cheshire and a
65ft x 14ft DB for Mr & Mrs Carr from Hampshire.
This year we saw the departure of quite a few boats from the
Lucie a 60ft DB
Safran a 55N
Kororareka a 65ft DB
Blue Belle a 49M
Wanderlust a 65ft DB
- From France -
& Andrea have spent 6 weeks on board Monchique this summer (on &
off) cruising the Canal du Midi, the ports of the Etang du Thau
& across to Aigues-Morts.
Navigating the Herault River where they moored outside the
restaurants by the harbour entrance before popping out onto the
Med and spending time in Vias where there are free moorings,
water & electric and a short walk to the beach, shops &
restaurants. Monchique will be wintering in Capestang this year.
Still in France, one our relatively recently arrived crew Stuart & Tina
Barlow on DB Kororareka are still catching up with French
opening hours, finding they arrive a day too early or late
"Great we now have the car so its off sightseeing to Chateau
Fontainbleu while the sun shines. It looks fabulous on the
outside but our 'lucky streak' continues, its Tuesday..."
- Staff News -
Paul Gibson our paint sprayer got married to Lesley last month
and Richard Smith one of our joiners will be getting married to
Donna next month so congratulations & best wishes to them both.
"The wonderful day I met Prince Charles, never thought I'd
shake the hand of royalty what more
can you say BRILL" - this was our signwriter Len Dean's facebook
entry on the day he met
HRH Prince Charles. Len had done the signwriting on the
narrowboat Lindsay at Etruria Museum,
Stoke-on-Trent, a former working boat.
Lindsay was built in 1959 in Northwich for use as a carrying
narrowboat, paired with butty KEPPEL. She is believed to be the
last motor driven narrowboat built by the British Waterways
Board (now British Waterways) (now Canal and River Trust) as a
carrying vessel in the North West Division. When carrying
ceased, she was used as a camping boat and then for maintenance
purposes by British Waterways. She was sold in 2011 to the
Etruria Group Volunteers to support Etruria Industrial Museum
here in Stoke on Trent. She's been restored to her former glory.
Prince Charles boarded her for a trip on the canal.
The owners club was set up by a group of owners in 1982. It's an
informal club which provides contact for owners past and
present. The club has changed over the years and at the time it
was formed there were a large number of David Piper boats at the
old yard at Red Bull, where as well as building complete
individual boats, we also built shells to various stages. Thus
friendships and little "self-help" groups were formed with the
result being lots of informal get togethers, cruises and general
putting the world to rights. We no longer have this hub of
moorers and narrowboats are spread all over the system, not to
mention the new wide beams. The club still exists, providing a
quarterly magazine with news of members and their boats, old and
new. It has its own website complete with a forum. There are a
two annual dinners, one in early December actually in the form
of a Christmas lunch and the other one on the weekend before
Easter is an evening dinner. These events still take place
relatively local to the place where all the boats were built and
all members and their friends are welcome. We don't get the
large numbers attending as we used to when most people were
moored or fitting out locally but they're a pleasant way to meet
up and catch up. Many ex owners, who may have retired from
boating, like to keep in touch and say they enjoy their
We have contributions to our owners articles feature from
Richard and Sue Broom who are currently in Holland on board
DB Lucie, Jerry and Diana Saville on Board
DB Safran in France and David and Wendy Dalton
who are also enjoying France on board DB Blue Belle
Thanks for sharing them with us were always pleased to hear
- Some News of Safran -
The dream was to meander through stunning rural France at a snail's
pace, stopping at bars and brasseries regularly, lending a hand
to the lock-keeper and watching the sun set from the rear deck.
Some of that has yet come true
the story begins the day the Thames floods started in
January. That was the day Safran was launched in Caversham. The
next few months gave us little chance to test out the barge.
Most of the time the Thames was on 'yellow boards', or worse.
So our trip down the Thames to Teddington was when we really
got to know her. There were a few bumps and bruises along the
way. Henley Bridge is a pig. Entering Shepperton Marina is like
trying to thread a needle underwater. Finally we met up with
Chris Date, our pilot, on a beautiful Sunday evening. We had a
good to marginal forecast for the Channel and were (sort of)
confident that going down the Thames in the middle of the night
There were a few anxious moments in the first (unlit) ten
miles when Chris appeared to mutter, "which way do we go here?"
But before long we were passing under familiar well lit bridges
with the ebb tide. We had a sailing friend aboard to share the
burden of a non-stop voyage of up to 24 hours. I was given the
honour of steering under Tower Bridge and I then remember
nothing until Tilbury after I crashed out for several hours.
The latest forecast was now looking a bit less favourable
with fog forecast, followed by strengthening winds which would
take us beyond our insurance limit. We would make a decision at
North Foreland. The thought of spending endless days in
Folkestone (a town of pubs, fish and chip shops and nothing
else) or Dover (same as Folkestone but with a castle) filled us
with dread and probably skewed the decision.
We went to the edge of the shipping lanes and got the latest
forecast. Winds would pick up 'later' and fog would be patchy.
We were only 4-5 hours from Calais. So we went for it.
Dover Strait is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the
world we saw five ships in the whole crossing! We were tied up
in Calais marina before dark, our only mishap being when an
incompetent fat French sailor managed to scrape his spinnaker
pole on our bow while trying to get through the lifting bridge
in a hurry. It had taken us a total of 19 hours from Teddington.
The Thames had become a familiar, if sometimes fickle, friend
over the previous six months. Now we faced the cavernous jaws of
the huge Calais sea-lock which would take us into the unknown
world of huge peniches and massive locks.
Our plan was to take two months to get to Paris. What we had
not realised was that we would spend all that time on commercial
waterways. We would have to wait until next year for the slow
meander down rural canals. Nord and Picardy is not for whimps!
In addition we began to realise that my distant A Level in
Physics and Diana's brief spell at the Rutherford Nuclear
facility were the only preparation we had for sorting out
wattage, water leaks and waste oil.
Our first serious blip was only a few days into France. We
had enjoyed a restful weekend in the marina at Arques when
WHAM!, we entered the devil's inferno - Fontinelles lock, a
monster 13 metres deep and as big as a football pitch. We blew
the fuse on the bow-thruster!
After that we discovered the most important attribute of all
barge owners resourcefulness. The search for replacement fuses
took us to a Volvo Truck graveyard, several Feu Vert outlets and
an obscure electrical distributor. I bought 23 spares, just in
case we needed them.
We did find some peace and quiet on the Lys a little used
canal that has virtually no commercial traffic on the lower
reaches. St Venant was the closest we came to the rural idyll,
moored alongside a cottage where the ancient owner had lived for
Over the next few weeks we got to know the great city of
Lille by staying at what we called Warm Breeches (Wambrechies),
the beautiful St Quentin Canal (and its awesome tunnel), the
stunning 'royal' city of Compiegne and eventually the greatest
city in the world Paris. However, technical problems along the
way stretched our faith in our ability to cope.
At different times our steering went a bit wonky, the drive
shaft became detached from the gearbox and our depth gauge
registered a constant zero. Our chart-plotter never worked. Most
important of all we could not get the black tank pump to
work!! There have been low moments when we looked at each other
and wondered whether it was all worth it. One thing we told
ourselves often was that we made the right decision to buy a new
boat with a warranty. ANY second hand boat is bound to have dark
secrets, however good the survey. David and Simon have both made
visits to us at short notice to sort us out - that has been a
major source of reassurance.
Paris has been a calming influence (and a cheap one in the
Arsenal, compared to any other lodging in the city) and we are
now on the Upper Seine heading for a winter mooring on the Yonne.
The urban sprawl of Paris disappears quickly and gives way to
lovely scenery. We plan to travel slowly, stopping at moorings
recommended by the DBA or friends we have made en route.
We have been on a steep learning curve and we under-estimated
how much we would have had to learn about the mechanical and
electrical systems. We hope that what we now know (and the
elimination of teething problems) will make Season 2 on Safran
closer to the romantic dream we had four years ago.
- Blue Belle Goes To France -
We left Teddington Lock at midnight on the ebb tide. Looking ahead all
we saw was a murky darkness. We had no idea where the river was
going. There were no lights, no houses on the river with lights
on. Just darkness. At that point we were glad we had Chris of
Charlie Delta Marine on board as he had a young pair of eyes and
knowledge of the river based on his many trips over the years.
He knew which way the river turned, and so we chugged gently
downstream over Richmond Half Tide Weir and around the even
darker banks of Kew Gardens until at last we came upon bridges
all lit up, and street lights pointing our way to the sea.
We called up London Port Control to let them know we were
passing through London, but we need not have bothered as we saw
no boats and no people. It was eerie. As we passed The Houses of
Parliament and under Westminster Bridge we remembered the famous
lines of William Wordsworth.
The River glideth at his own sweet will Dear God! the very
houses seem asleep And all that mighty heart is lying still.
At 2am we passed under Tower Bridge, the last bridge in
London. The tide was flowing fast now and we reached Woolwich
Reach and the Thames Barrier very quickly. At this point we went
below for an hours sleep, and then awoke to relieve Chris for a
few hours. Dawn was breaking now, and the Thames Estuary looked
desolate in the half light and wide expanses of mud and
abandoned wharves. About 5am we passed out in to the estuary
proper. We had seen just two boats; cruise liners making their
way upstream on the now flooding tide. At this point we could
have diverted to the Medway and waited for the next change of
tide, but we carried on heading for the inside passage around
North Foreland. It became quite choppy with wind and against
tide rounding the point but it soon died away and we headed out
to sea to avoid The Goodwin Sands and steered a course up
channel to allow the tide to carry us down hopefully to Calais
Harbour Entrance. We had Force 3 winds and a light sea. We could
see France in the distance and almost smell the Moules Frites.
At 6pm we radioed Calais Port Control for permission to enter
but were asked to wait a while until two ferries had come and
gone. And then we rushed in and tied up to a mooring buoy
outside the entrance to Calais Marina to wait the tide coming up
high enough to cross the sill of the lock into the inner
We had arrived.
For the past three months we have been exploring Belgium and
Northern France. Blue Belle has been a delight to cruise in. She
steers well and straight and has attracted admirers everywhere
we have been. The wider beam makes such a huge difference that
looking at a plan would never show, and gives a feeling of
spaciousness which we love. The fixed height wheelhouse allows
much bigger windows and is the place where we live all the time,
with a view on all the action coming and going
along the waterways. With the thermally broke windows we no
longer have to wipe condensation off the frames every morning
and with a washing machine, 2200 litres of water and 1200AH of
batteries, and solar panels we are very self-sufficient and able
to linger in the beautiful spots we find everywhere in France.
- Holland Just Happened!-
In the first instance Holland was never part of the plan. But, acting
on advice from Joe and Anne (EssDeeAy), we scrapped plans for
France and struck out for Holland, via Belgium instead. This
turned out to be a good move.
France is still on the cards of course but, since arriving in
Holland, we've kind of taken to the place and, it is also
important to say (because Ivan and Vinciane on Tula will
probably be reading this) that Belgium is equally impressive
In good company!.. Why Belgium and Holland?
Well, because we haven't yet tackled the waterways of France, it
is hard to draw comparisons but it is safe to say we have truly
enjoyed our time in Belgium and Holland.
In May 2013 we had Lucie shipped by truck to Nieuwpoort in
Belgium (we used CPL) from the T&K and that all went smoothly
enough. The day job timetable meant that we couldn't hang around
waiting to cross the English Channel on Lucie under her own
steam. So, a couple of days after leaving the T&K, we were back
in the water in Belgium and ready to head off in the general
direction of Holland.
We're now based in Monnickendam (about 20 minutes by bus from
Amsterdam) but our route from Nieuwpoort took us via Bruges,
Ghent, Antwerp and several stops in Holland before, acting on
advice from Ivan and Vinciane, we travelled up the wonderfully
picturesque River Vecht towards Holland's huge inland lake, the
Markermeer. We crossed the Markermeer for Monnickendam - a three
hour trip across open water in fabulous weather hardly a
ripple. All in all, the trip from Nieuwpoort to Monnickendam was
a fabulous journey that was made so much easier with the
navigational advice we got from Ivan, Vinciane, Joe and Anne
(AKA the Lucie Support Team).
The Marina at Muiden, last stop before the open water and
In boating terms things just work in both Belgium and
Holland. And, although people told us that berths would be at a
premium during the summer holidays
especially in Holland, we always managed to find interesting
places to stop on our way to Monnickendam. Apart from our stops
on the River Vecht, there was always water and electricity
available on berths. The harbourmasters we met on the way were
nothing if not helpful and
friendly. Indeed, we've found the people generally in Holland
and Belgium to be most welcoming and generous. And, of course,
the people in Holland and Belgium speak English perfectly well.
Indeed trying to speak Dutch doesn't always work because the
people here almost always reply in English!
There aren't so many locks in Belgium or Holland but plenty of
bridges. All the bridges and locks are contactable usually on
the VHF radio or on the telephone. In both countries everything
is very well organized. The food is good, the beer is cold there
are always well-stocked shops within easy reach. Depending on
where you are, short delays are inevitable but we were never
held up for long. Other river and canal users are courteous and
apart from one near scrape with a commercial barge and its irate
captain (our fault), everyone we have met was friendly.
The Rhine Canal in Holland was interesting. We got to mix it
with some huge commercial barges and sometimes we encountered
two or more barges lashed together all of them moving along at
a fair pace and some of them being pushed by a tug. We found the
AIS system really useful. It allowed us to 'see around the
bends' and find out what commercial barges were heading our way
and, importantly, how big they were and how fast they were
moving. This gave us a chance to prepare ourselves because, if
you are not watching, the biggest commercial barges always seem
to come roaring around the next bend in the river or canal! How
come you never meet them on long straight bits of the river or
canal?! Not everyone agrees with us but I truly value the AIS.
One thing that is most useful about the AIS is that it will tell
you exactly how long it will be before boats coming towards you
or boats creeping up behind behind you will be coming into view.
Note: pleasure craft below a certain size are not required to
have AIS installed.
Monnickendam is delightful. A small historic town with a
beautiful town centre good restaurants, nice cafes and small
boutique shops. There are several marinas here all vying for
our business. We're at Marina Monnickendam where the staff could
not be more helpful. Most of the boats here are modern sailing
boats but there are quite a few 'brown boats' (old Dutch
sailing) barges here. Not a Piper Boat in sight yet! The centre
of Monnickendam is jam packed with historic sailing ships and
that only add to Monnickendam's charm. On a warm day there's no
finer place to sit with a cold beer in your hand.
Folding bikes are a must. There are cycle paths everywhere in
Holland and Belgium. We no longer have a car and so cycling to
the shops has become the norm. I'm not sure how we'll feel about
the journey to the Dutch equivalent of the Co-op in January!
Marinas here in Holland and Belgium charge far less and offer
much more than comparable marinas in the UK. There is a much
higher level of service here. They also don't charge the
astronomic river license fees we experienced on the Thames. In
short, a lot more bangs for bucks over here.
Where next? Well, we're spoiled for choice. We're lazy sailors.
We usually only cruise for between 3 and 4 hours a day and then
we take a couple of days off to recover. We potter along at very
low revs because, even if the countryside in Holland and Belgium
is largely flat, there is much to see. The small towns in both
Holland and Belgium are hidden treasures. We're thinking about
tackling the north of Holland next year but then we might go
back to Belgium. Maybe France the year after? Who cares? It's
So, in conclusion, whilst a great many people start in France,
I'm pleased we followed the good advice and came over here to
Holland via Belgium to start with. Belgium and Holland has much
to offer and, for novices like us, it was a truly good place to
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