Tony & Pat Collins
I joined P&O Bulk Shipping Ltd straight from school in 1973 as a cadet, and after gaining my 2nd Mate's "Ticket" continued with them on their gas, tanker and bulk fleets until 1985. My wife, Pat, sailed with me for five years, signing on articles as librarian, secretary etc, but also completing her Steering Certificate during that time. Pat "signed off" in 1982 when she fell pregnant with our daughter, but thoroughly enjoyed the five years tramping the oceans. In 1985, I changed employer, becoming a Sea Fisheries Officer with the Scottish Government, rising to Master Mariner, and eventually into senior management at headquarters in Edinburgh. In 2011, I got the opportunity of an excellent early-retirement package, which I jumped at. Our boating career started in 1979 when we had our first holiday on "the cut" (the old boatmen's name for the canal system). We have holidayed most years since then, waiting for the opportunity allowing us to have our own boat. This happened in 2012, and we started looking for a suitable boat/builder. "Paws 4 Thought" was launched on 8th April 2014. She is a 60ft semi-trad narrowboat, built on a Tyler/Wilson shell, and fitted out to our own spec by Top Notch Boat Company of Cradley Heath. She has permanent berths for two, but we can sleep four at a push. We have retained our house in Scotland, but hope to explore as much of the canal system as we can, living aboard for 8-10 months per year. Although our base is at Fazeley (near Tamworth), we expect to be out and about most of the time. We have a blog of our adventures (including a real-time tracker). We are also happy to have other members join us for short trips. For website address and contact details please see members' directory.
Paws 4 Thought
Tony & Pat Collins
Walter Thomas
I started serving 7 years as a Shipwright apprentice in 1945 at Bristol. My first foray into the world of boats was a 26ft Norwegian built and war damaged ships lifeboat, which was bummed from my employer and converted in partnership with a draughtsman apprentice. We built a fore-deck and coach-roof and, as my wage was only around 15/- a week, I must confess that most of the timber and fittings were either bummed or purloined. OOPS! Hope the statute of limitations has expired. We were racking our brains as to how we could acquire an engine, when it all became irrelevant. I was informed I would be completing my indentures and, subsequently, my National Service on one of Elders and Fyffes “skinboats” and my partner in crime became a £10 Pom, so we sold the aptly named “Scrounger” for the princely sum of £20. After 3 voyages and a falling out with the Mate, I was given a pier-head jump on a British Tanker Company vessel and stayed for 32 years as a Chippie and then as a C.P.O under the general purpose scheme. After retiring and nearly 30 years of testing my late Wife's patience with a multitude of hobbies, I decided to build a boat. As the clinker and copper rivet method that I was familiar with wasn't possible single handed, I purchased plans from Selway-Fisher, lofted them in my sitting room, roofed part of my drive, welded up a building cradle with castors and went ahead. The Barbara Anne now has spars, a suit of sails and basic electrics. I am now slowly fitting out the small cabin. A small outboard is the next purchase. At 83 I have also progressed from eccentric neighbour to man of achievement, still reasonably sane and occasionally sober. Regards Walter (or more often John.)
Please send YOUR contribution to us for inclusion here. Anything which may be of interest to other members will be welcomed. For example: career details, anecdotes, current boat details (with photo if available), comments and opinions on the contents of the website etc. Email Clive Edwards at:
Brian Long
This is “Arabesque” at Charfleet, just off Stangate Creek. My wife Denise and I raft-up regularly with some friends most weekends. I sail mostly single-handed as Denise is not the best heavy weather sailor, although she kept her calm in a 41knot south-westerly a couple of years ago, coming home from the east coast where we go for 3 weeks every year - Ipswich, Deben, Burnham. I also love night sailing and sail to Ramsgate through the night and have done Dunkirk twice through the night. We love Dunkirk, and now I am on a 2.5 day week, finishing Wednesday 12.noon, I am hoping to get to Boulogne, a trip my mate Peter has done many times. In the past, as part of the commitment to other sea farers, I have assisted Thames Coastguard. Once, in response to a pan-pan when a yachtsman called up to say he thought he was sinking as smoke and water was filling his boat off the Clacton coast, I called the Coast guard to say I had experienced the same not so long ago. They put me in touch on channel 68 and I talked him through to check his exhaust connection. Sure enough it had failed, filling his boat with water and steam. He was relieved and the coast guard thanked me, as he was happy to continue to Shotley. I got a second call early evening. as I was on my way out to Charfleet, when a mayday went out as a gin palace had lost all engine and was being blow onto the Forts in the River Medway. I was first boat there and had to move quickly as I draw 1.70mts Fin keel. I managed to throw him a line and towed him back to our fuel pontoon at Gillingham. Well that’s about my sail, been sailing for 45yrs now so I am an oldie - 62 this year.
Bryan Dillon
The following was received from Bryan on 30th August 2015: “I have just returned from Punta Arenas in Southern Chile where a group of local businessmen are trying to purchase from the Chilean Navy the former Iron Sailing Vessel now hulked “ The County of Peebles” in order to restore her. I was able to locate for them the original plans and original certificate of registration. At the moment they are still in negotiations with the Chilean Navy to be allowed to purchase the Peebles. They plan to build a pier around the hulks with a dry dock in the middle, so that the Peebles and the other two hulks have the dry dock built around them and then rebuild to Cutty Sark Standards.” This looks like a fascinating project which, hopefully, we will be able to follow through to completion.
Stephen Hill
Please find attached a picture of Clearwing, my Mirage 26, which I have owned for just over two years now. I sail mainly around the Thames Estuary but have been to Calais and was hoping to do that again this year until the lockdown started. Still, gives me time to work on bits at home ready for when we can get to our boats. May 2020
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WaterWatch Project
Supporting the RNLI ‘Respect the Water’ Campaign
Click on a name to view a member’s contribution:
My current boat is the EMMA LUCIE Profile 33 twin engine Volvo Penta 42 hp diesels 1.1 Ltrs per Nm, one of the second batch built by Maidboats of the Thames 1988. I joined the Training Ship INDEFATIGABLE at the age of fifteen and left for sea at sixteen to sign on my first ship WAYFARER of T&J Harrison of Liverpool. Did a while with that company and then various others as A.B and lamptrimmer, twenty years in all. Only have ICC & CEVNI, VHF certs in RYA but studied a bit and have no problem taking my boat up the East Coast, France, Belgium, Channel Islands. Used to sail as well but can't handle that now owing to health problems, now seventy five and retired but studied Bookbinding at college and still take on commissions including logbooks when required have just done No 105.
John Hayward
Greg Moger
I keep Malindi, a Profile Pursuit 34 1980, in Gloucester and cruise both upriver and the Bristol Channel, I still work as relief Master on the large passenger vessel MV Conway Castle and the ex Dunkirk fomer Thames passenger vessel MV Queen Boadicea 2.
Conway Castle”
Roger Francis
I own a narrow boat on the Mon and Brec Canal, and she is berthed about 3 miles from Brecon. As the canal is not connected to the sea, nor to the rest of the network, we have no involvement with the Coast Guard, nor indeed the rescue services, of which I am well aware, having spent 21 years as a Trinity House Deep Sea Pilot! Our narrow boat was formerly in the hire fleet of Cambrian Cruisers. She was built in 1988 and we started hiring her for our holiday cruises in 1990. Around about 1994 she was rebuilt and, as we were the principal hirers of the boat called “Angharad”, we were allowed to suggest the layout best suited to us. There was a carpenter working at Cambrian who was a craftsman. He was one of the carpenters that restored the woodwork of Windsor Castle, after the fire. He rebuilt “Angharad” in teak and oak to a very high standard, and so we asked to be considered when the boat came out of the fleet. This happened in 1997, and we became proud owners of the boat. Length wise she is 40 feet, which is an ideal size for the twists and turns of the Mon and Brec, where the max is around 55 feet. John Greenland, the carpenter, has since modified the interior to form a double bunk in the after part of the cabin and a pull out settee at the forward end, to make a second occasional double. She has Ebersbacher central heating, as well as a log burning stove. The bathroom has a pretty powerful shower and the toilet is a Sealand drop through type, with a tank that is capable of running for over a week before pump out. I do most of my own maintenance and painting as you would expect, and especially as I am now Chairman of the Mon and Brec Canals’ Trust, and it would not do to let the side of the MN down! I have attached a photo of her, taken for a calendar about three years ago.
This my barge “PEKE”, she is 22 metres x4.05 x 1.2m. Originally a sailing barge built in 1917 now powered by a130 hp Perkins. Based in Burgundy.
David Warren
On November 28th 2014 this truck finished up in the canal at Pont Royal. My boat is just visible through the bridge ( the blue one) at its winter mooring. I was summoned by VNF on the afternoon of the 28th to be there on Monday to move the boat out of the pound so that it could be drained to recover the truck’s load. After driving 500 miles on Sunday I found it was not possible to move the boat as the pound below the next lock was empty so I said that my boat could rest on the bottom and the other owners agreed. This is what happened despite the local manger insisting all boats were moved, she did this whilst sitting in an office 50 miles away. All is now OK but some of the load was Champagne the bulk of which disappeared over the weekend!
Truck Crash