Boat test: quiet cruising
- Credit: Archant
Is it electric, ask towpath walkers as a soundproofed Beta provides a beautifully peaceful power plant on this 60ft semi-trad
Having a new boat built is undoubtedly exciting – but it’s also a challenge. There are hundreds of decisions to be made, and many of them have knock-on effects. And there’s pressure to get things right, first time. Some people understandably find the whole experience a bit stressful.
But not Nigel May. He enjoyed every moment of his boat build -- and got very involved. He loves researching products and finding new solutions to problems, and put his skills to good use on the boat being built for him and his wife, Jane.
Their boat was being built by Russ Hubble Boats, but Nigel’s choices are everywhere – from the paintwork to the cupboard door handles, the lights to the Morse control.
The couple have also been boating for many years, so used their experience to design a boat that will suit their needs in the future.
Anasazi II is a 60ft boat, built on a shell by ColeCraft. As you might expect from one of the big name shell builders, the steelwork looks good, with smooth sides and crisp corners. The boat has one of ColeCraft’s typical bows, which looks quite sharply pointed. The handrails have a useful finger grip all the way along. There are a few other features to the steelwork which Nigel specially asked for. There are extra T-studs on the gunwales just behind the cratch and extra dollies at the stern, to give him more options when he’s mooring up. They should help in those all-too-common situations when the mooring rings or bollards are just the wrong distance apart for your length of boat.
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This is a cruiser stern – not something Nigel originally wanted, but he was persuaded by Jane that a boat with a large rear deck would be much more sociable. There’s plenty of seating, with an arc of lockers at the stern providing somewhere very pleasant to sit, plus a gas locker either side of the central door down into the boat, all of which are fitted with cushions. One of the gas lockers houses the bottle currently in use, while the spare sits in the other. It’s a sensible place for them, both because the galley is at the stern, and because changing a bottle is far easier on the rear deck than having to balance on the nose of the boat. The rear doors are split, stable style, so the top half can open fully, above the lockers.
The engine boards are covered in Tek-Dek, a composite material which looks like teak decking. In this case, it’s in a grey finish which looks very attractive and suits the boat’s colour scheme.
The whole of the cruiser stern deck is covered by a large and elaborate pram hood. These hoods do very little for the lines of any boat, but they do make the space into a kind of indoor-outdoor area, and are very practical.
Because the gas is at the stern, the locker in the nose is available for storage. There’s the usual lifting hatch at the top, but there’s also access through double doors from the well deck. This deck also has storage lockers both sides, again with cushions.
The windows and portholes are thermal break frames by Wesley, in a black finish. The couple have gone for arch-topped Dutch barge style windows for the galley and saloon, as they wanted the deepest windows possible. In my view, they work better from the inside than the outside, where the frames cut through the coachlines.
The colour scheme is a classic dark blue, with pale blue panels at the stern, white coachlines, and red handrails. Nigel wanted to make sure the paintwork was as tough and long-lasting as possible, so sought the advice of a friend who works in the paint industry. He recommended a relatively new paint by International, the Perfection Pro. It’s a two pack system, which apparently took the builders rather longer to apply than their usual choice. The finish looks good, although of course only time will tell whether it really is longer lasting.
Layout and fitout
This is a reverse layout boat with the galley at the stern. The dinette and saloon comes next, followed by a walk-through shower room. The cabin is at the bow.
The fitout uses oak for the hull and cabin sides, and the significant amount of furniture on board. I didn’t count them, but easily believe it when I’m told there are 53 cupboard doors on board. The quality of the joinery is something we’re admired before on Russ Hubble boats, and this one is no exception. Everything is well made and fits perfectly. Every screw head is covered with an oak plug; there are apparently 400 of them in the ceiling – which you can’t even see because it’s painted. That’s what you call attention to detail. The floor is hard wearing Karndean.
Three steps bring you down from the stern deck into the galley. All three have lifting treads for storage, but the bottom step also contains a fan heater. This runs off the central heating system just like any other radiator, but also comes on when the water in the calorifier is up to temperature. There are cupboards each side of the steps. One is a coat cupboard, while the one opposite is the electrical cupboard, with the calorifier in the bottom half. All the attractive door handles throughout the boat were researched online and sourced from China. As there are lots of doors, there are also a lot of these handles.
The galley proper has a range of interesting storage solutions. There’s a pull-out larder unit, while the cupboard above it is filled with drawers to make the best use of the space. The kitchen units have more drawers in the kick space, and there’s more storage in the floor. Panels lift up on gas struts to reveal space for veg and wine (it’s cool down there, close to the base plate). One of the cupboards contains waste and recycling bins.
The worktops are made of Corian, and include a moulded sink. Appliances include a 240 volt fridge, a washing machine, a Thetford oven set at eye level with a microwave above, and a Thetford four burner hob.
Dinette and saloon
A half height bulkhead separates the galley and the saloon – but it’s wide enough to provide storage for the boat’s many tables. Panels lift out of the top of the unit, and it’s carpeted inside so the table tops don’t get scratched. There’s a choice of a large table or two small ones (which can be used individually or together), and there’s also an oval one which is intended for use on the rear deck, but would work just as well inside.
The dinette itself is upholstered in leather. It has storage in the base, and converts easily into a double bed; the base pulls out and the backrest follows it into the horizontal position.
On the opposite side of the boat is a remarkably long unit, under the gunwales. It contains a number of cupboards, a couple of them glazed, to house among other things the satellite tv box and other gubbins. The central section is deeper, and has been designed to fit an impressive Bose sound bar. The large flat screen tv is mounted on the cabin side above.
The hearth contains a Lockgate Refleks diesel stove, chosen both for its looks and the fact that it doesn’t need coal or wood. The boat has a separate diesel tank for heating, supplying both this stove and the central heating.
Between the hearth and the door through to the shower room is a full height unit. The upper door has a mirror on the front.
There is LED mood lighting under the gunwales. It has a remote control, and the colour can be changed at the touch of a button. There are also individually switched wall lights, which Nigel sourced from Italy.
The shower is a good sized 800mm quadrant, and is lined with sparkly laminate. Between the shower and the side of the boat is a cupboard and some deep shelves.
The basin unit has storage underneath, with a Corian worktop and basin. There’s also a high level cupboard.
The loo is a cassette, and Nigel found a Dometic model which doesn’t have the tall back panel usually seen. The toilet has been positioned against a low bulkhead, so the cassette can be taken out in the shower room, rather than in the cabin behind.
There’s a towel rail, and the lights have double switches, so they can be turned on and off from either the saloon or the cabin.
The cabin is a fairly uncomplicated space. The bed goes across the boat; a section of the base pulls out to form the infill, and a mattress section flips over. There are also drawers in the end of the bed base, with longer term storage at the far end.
There are a couple of bedside cabinets, and some high level units. The bedside lights look exactly the same as the ones in the saloon – but they don’t have integral switches; instead there are easy to reach switches under the gunwale.
There are a couple of large wardrobes either side of the door to the well deck, and there’s a tv mounted on a bracket in the corner.
This boat is powered by the Super Silent version of the familiar Beta 43 – which means it’s enclosed in a soundproof box. The stern glad is a self lubricating one, so you don’t need to turn the greaser after each trip. The bow thruster is a Vetus 75kgf.
There are six 160Ah domestic batteries, and the boat has a 24 volt system rather than 12 volt. A 240 volt supply comes from Victron 3kw inverter. There’s also a Dometic TravelPower, which is an engine driven generator, which will be needed to run the washing machine.
There are two 100 watt flexible solar panels on the roof to help with charging. They’re controlled by a Victron MPPT 75/10 controller, to maximise the power they put into the batteries.
The central heating comes from a Kabola KB20 diesel boiler. It has the latest Blue Flame technology, and claims to be the cleanest and most efficient boiler of its type on the market.
On the water
The soundproof box round the Beta 43 in this boat works very well: it’s a very quiet boat, with perhaps the most noticeable noise coming from the fan which draws extra air into the engine hole to keep it cool. Nigel and Jane say they’ve been asked several times by towpath walkers whether it’s an electric boat, so quiet is it.
Nigel is particularly proud of the Morse control he’s found. He was keen to reduce the number of switches needed, so this one controls the bow thruster as well as the engine. The knob on the top can be twisted to give a burst of bow thruster. It’s a good idea – and as these Morse controls are readily available (they’re used a lot on yachts, apparently) it’s a bit of a surprise that we haven’t seen one before.
The handling of the boat is fine, as you might expect from a ColeCraft shell. It responds well to the tiller, and turns nicely -- we had to wind twice during our test.
The stern deck is a very sociable space when cruising. There’s plenty of space for crew, and they have multiple options of where to sit.
It’s clear from speaking to the owners that they thoroughly enjoyed the build of this boat. Nigel particularly was in his element researching products and finding exactly the right thing. And this feeling seems to have transferred to the boat itself, because everything is very harmonious; it feels like a boat full of joy.
The total price of this boat, including all the things the owners have added themselves, is around £170,000. That’s clearly a lot of money, but this is a boat which has the combination of a good shell and a top quality fitout, with some great joinery on show. It’s also worth pointing out that boat builders are all reporting big increases in the cost of components recently, so more and more boats are coming in at this sort of price.
What this boat also shows is that proper collaboration between a builder and an owner can add a great deal to a build, and that’s something money can’t buy. So if you enjoy your build rather than letting it stress you out, the results could just be even better than you hoped.
Jane and Nigel May followed one of the classic routes to boat ownership. Nigel has been sailing since he was a child, and had his first boating holiday at the age of nineteen. Jane wasn’t into sailing, so they concentrated on the hire boat holidays instead. From there the couple eventually bought into a boat share scheme.
They bought their own boat in 2010, second hand, having downsized their house. It was a 55ft trad, which was sold while they planned this boat as its replacement. The couple of years they spent without a boat proved how much they needed one!
Jane has retired from work as a civil servant. Nigel works as a merchandising manager for a big brand of sailing clothing. He’s planning to retire in a few years, so the couple can spend even more time on their boat.
Russ Hubble Boats
Russ Hubble Boats is one of the smaller boat building firms on the waterways, as Russ and his wife, Clare, do pretty much everything themselves.
The firm has been going some seventeen years. It started when Russ was fitting out a boat for himself -- but someone offered to buy it. Since then he’s had a regular stream of orders. The quality of Russ’s joinery is what attracts many customers. “People used to like open spaces in their boats”, he says, “but now I seem to be building more and more furniture”. Clare spends a lot of her time with a brush in her hand. She paints the outsides of the boat, and varnishes the insides.
The firm has fitted out a variety of boats over the years, including wide beams and narrowbeam Dutch barges. This boat is their nineteenth.
Russ Hubble Boats
Debdale Wharf Marina, Debdale Lane, Kibworth, Leicestershire LE8 0XA
07989 306176. www.russhubbleboats.co.uk
Beam: 6ft 10in
Shell: ColeCraftTel: 01926 814018 www.colecraft.co.uk
Engine: Beta 43 Super Silent www.betamarine.co.uk
Inverter: Victron 3k www.victronenergy.com
Bow Thruster: Vetus 75kgf. www.vetus.com
Morse control: Teleflex marine CH2800 www.force4.co.uk £279.95
Wall lights: Jacob www.quickmarinelighting.com £83 each
Cupboard door handles: www.etsystudio.com £4 each
Stove: Lockgate Refleks www.lockgate.com £650
Boiler: Kabola KB20 www.kuranda.co.uk £4891.20
Total Price: £170,000
Dimensions for plan:
Cabin: 9ft 6in
Shower room: 5ft 9in
Saloon and dinette: 17ft 5in
Galley: 10ft 8in