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Darren Aldridge 67ft

PUBLISHED: 13:20 18 May 2012 | UPDATED: 08:36 01 July 2013

Darren Aldridge 67ft

Back in 1887 Archie Hunter held the FA Cup above his head as captain of the victorious Aston Villa team. Archie is one of the great figures in the club’s early history – and in 1998 was also officially listed as one of the Football League’s 100 Legendary players. But as well as being celebrated in the annuals of football history, Archie’s name is celebrated in a rather less likely fashion – on the side of a narrowboat owned by his great great grand-daughter Victoria Garfield.Narrowboat Archie is a 67ft semi-trad boat fitted out by Darren Aldridge Boats as a live-aboard for Victoria and is based at Clifton Cruisers the hire company which she and her parents operate on the North Oxford Canal at Clifton upon Dunsmore near Rugby.Darren Aldridge has been fitting out narrowboats for some 15 years, working first for Colecraft and then setting up on his own three years ago. Archie is his eighth boat.It is very much a bespoke design, drawing on some ideas from previous craft but with Victoria bringing many of her own thoughts and lessons learned from her previous boat – built up from a sailaway – to the process.She wanted a boat that combined a traditional exterior look with a bright, modern and uncluttered interior – it’s a pretty common wish these days but executed in a highly individual fashion in Archie.DESIGN & EXTERIORThe hull is a Jonathan Wilson josher-style design with a long, low front deck, riveted hull sides and low gunwales. Victoria was insistent on having a boat that sat low in the water and to achieve the look Archie carries more than double the usual weight of ballast – in fact its finished weight is a sizeable 22 tonnes.Though the hull has a classically elegant look, that’s where tradition stops. The paintwork, which has been done to a very high standard throughout, is in dark blue with light blue panels edged in cream and is sharp and modern; all the exterior hull fittings are in gleaming chrome and the windows are edged in cream. The result is a striking looking craft.The basic interior configuration is conventional, with a front saloon, then dinette, galley, utility-cum-office area, bathroom and rear cabin leading out into the semi-trad stern.FRONT DECKThe front deck is completely open with no side lockers or cratch. The front locker is used for stowage of spare ropes and so on as the gas bottles are stowed at the rear of the boat under one of the semi-trad side seats where they are easier to lift (hefting bottles in and out of hire craft has taught the family that the front locker is not the easiest place to lift a hefty bottle into).SALOONFirst indications of Archie’s individual style come as you enter the saloon from the front deck. One bi-fold and one conventional three quarter glazed door create an extra-wide entrance. From here two full width, open tread curving steps lead down into the saloon.With the entrance opened out like this, there is an immediate feeling of width and space to the room. Latch the doors back open and you get a panoramic view forwards along the cut while travelling along. In the words of those home improvement programmes, it is a design that ‘brings the outside in’.Interior fit-out is entirely in beech; the roof is lined in narrow tongue and vee-groove solid beech with regularly placed curved cross braces that have neat stop chamfered edges. Sides are in beech-veneered ply between solid beech frames, the familiar honey coloured solid wood contrasting with a lighter shade of beech used on the veneered linings.The saloon itself has been furnished in a deliberately minimalist way, as has the whole boat. Furniture is restricted to a pair of beech frame armchairs; there is a shapely but slim wall unit for books and DVDs with a glass-fronted display cabinet in its centre and the flat-screen TV is hung on a wall bracket.DVD player, sound system and speakers are hidden under the front steps to keep their bulk out of the living area. It’s a neat solution though changing the DVD is a hands and knees job.A stainless finish Lock Gate oil fired stove sits on the port side at the front of the room – Victoria opting for oil heating rather than a more labour intensive and messier coal or wood stove. Central heating is fitted throughout the boat and discreet skirting level fin-rads have been chosen, heated from a Hurricane unit.DINETTEBeyond the saloon a convertible dinette sits on a raised plinth on the port side but in another piece of individual styling, the table is glass-topped with an etched koi carp design.It’s a good looking idea, well executed and effective – the glass top helps maintain the light and airy feel of the interior. Since glass isn’t strong enough to sleep on, extra baseboards are stowed under the floor to use when the dinette is converted to a bed. Additional stowage is also provided under the seats of the unit.GALLEYThe galley on Archie is large and well equipped to suit its live-aboard role. An L-shaped unit on the port side and smaller starboard unit sit either side a central corridor and the whole area is filled with natural light from a side window, large opening roof light and starboard side opening hatch.On the port side, an impressively large single piece of granite holds an inset sink and provides the main work surface. There are a range of floor cupboards with frosted glass doors, a neatly built-in wine rack and small wall cupboard.Over on the starboard side is found the free-standing gas cooker with granite worktop either side and fridge. A microwave is mounted overhead in a purpose-made unit. Main food stowage is in a pull out larder cupboard.Detailing throughout the galley is excellent, with chromed cupboard hinges, smart stainless door handles and thoughtful fittings like a pull-out rubbish bin system.UTILITY AREABeyond the galley is a small but versatile area intended to be both utility room and office. On the port side is a beech worktop with washing machine underneath and space for a dishwasher alongside. Above are sizeable wall cupboards.Across the way a curved worktop below a porthole window can be used as a computer desk and also brings the central corridor back to the side of the boat to pass the bathroom.BATHROOMThis boat never seems cramped or short of space and nowhere is this more evident than in the bathroom. It isn’t overly big and yet there is room for a large shower, good size basin and a standard toilet.The beech fit-out continues into the bathroom, though most of the walls are fully tiled and the floor is laid with slightly sparkly quartz tiles. The basin is a modern washbowl style that sits on a beech vanity cupboard, again with frosted glass doors.Taps are wall mounted with a separate central spout. Above the basin is a glass fronted cabinet. The large shower cubicle, with a bi-fold door extends across the rear of the bathroom.Between basin and shower is the Sanimarin toilet and a towel rail radiator which is heated from the hot water system and so is independent of the boat’s central heating system.Again, there is a lot of good detailing evident – including, for example, special catches which hold the base of the venetian window blind back against the side wall.CABINBeyond the bathroom a door leads into the rear cabin. Here there is a lengthways double bed with an over-bed cupboard at its head. Beyond the bed is a deceptively spacious wardrobe – its hanging rail extends beyond the cabin into the electrical cupboard area by the steps leading to the rear deck.A shelf with mirror over and drawers alongside serves as a simple dressing table.From the rear of the cabin steps lead out toward the rear deck: extra stowage space has been incorporated into them and a laundry box built into the corner.TECHNICALFew surprises here in the boat’s configuration. Engine is the ubiquitous Beta Marine 43 and drives through a Centaflex cushion drive. Access via the semi-trad floor demands lifting a couple of hefty deck plates – not hard but a bit awkward in the confined space. The Hurricane diesel central heating boiler is installed under the port side and the boat batteries – four leisure and one starter – opposite to starboard.The generally excellent impressions created by the rest of the boat were somewhat marred here by very untidy under-deck wiring. (To be fair, Darren Aldridge had it all tidied up the next day.)Electrical system is based around a sizeable 2000w, 100 amp Victron Multi inverter/charger and there is a landline connection for mains voltage with manual switching between the two.Engine control lever is on the port side rear and there is a comprehensive instrument and switch panel below. Gas cylinders, as mentioned earlier, are under the starboard side seat.ON THE WATERArchie had only been finished a matter of days before our arrival and our trip down the cut was something of a shakedown cruise.Two issues did become apparent as a result – a resonant singing at certain engine revs from the prop and a surprisingly heavy tiller. Again, a call from Darren later confirmed that the noise had been cured by slight adjustment to the engine alignment and the tiller action by removal of a pair of track suit trousers that had wound themselves around the prop!These points aside, Archie was a pleasant craft to be aboard on a crisp winter’s day: the semi-trad rear provided plenty of space for socialising while cruising and, even though the engine underfoot was not linked to a hospital silencer a well sound-damped engine bay ensured that its noise was not at all intrusive.And, if the weather got too cold one could retreat to the warm saloon and gaze out at the cut through that panoramic front aspect.CONCLUSIONArchie is a highly individual and very good looking boat that is also very practical – as we said earlier, there seems to be no shortage of space or feeling of being cramped anywhere on board.The one or two loose ends we noted were probably down to Victoria’s eagerness to get on board her new home and ours to test it had leaving the builder little time for final ‘snagging’.The real significance of the boat is that it illustrates just what can be achieved when a skilled boatbuilder and a creatively minded customer work closely together.Victoria had a very clear idea of what she wanted from her boat and was also prepared to do the legwork to track down exactly the right sort offixtures and fittings to match her vision. Darren Aldridge, in turn, was prepared to work with her to help develop and perfect those ideas. The result is a Cup Winner of a boat.Length: 67ft 0inBeam: 6ft 10inDraught: 2ft 4inSteelwork: 10:6:4Weight 22 tons approx.Engine: Beta Marine 43Electrical: 12v DC, 220v AC via Victron Multi 2kW inverter/charger & landline Darren Aldridge Boats,11 Forum Drive,Rugby CV21 1NTTel: 01788 570049 Price: £ 95,000 inc VATwww.darrenaldridgeboats.co.uk

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