Aqualine Manhatten 60ft
Aqualine Manhatten 60ft
Historically, narrowboat building has been something of a cottage industry so when someone comes along who wants to take a mansion-size approach, eyebrows are raised and questions asked.
That is precisely what happened when the newly formed New Boat Company announced its intention to go for an ‘off-the-peg' rather than the traditional bespoke approach to boat building. Despite proving the doubters wrong with the success of this venture, when the company then said it planned an additional new range of boats which, though designed in Britain, would be built in Poland and would cost pretty much the price of a bespoke boat, the cynics said this really was a step too far. However, the resulting Aqualine Manhattan range has now been seen at several boat shows and we have been impressed with its standards of fit and finish. The real test, though, is out on the water away from the crowds.
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DESIGN AND EXTERIOR
Having said that New Boat build off-the-peg rather than bespoke boats, the Aqualine Manhattan can be tailored just like a car via a range of extra cost options. To begin with, it comes in two lengths, the 60ft of Cloud 9 or a 57-footer as well as with optional trad or semi-trad sterns rather than the standard cruiser rear of Cloud 9.
There are is also a range of paint combinations and designs beyond the standard single colour plus coachline, as well as electrical system upgrades, a bow thruster option and interior options and choices that include different woods and soft furnishings, as well as a collapsible dinette for extra berths. In fact, though, Cloud 9, aside from its stylish and unusual �495 paint finish, a �700 bed extension and a flat-screen TV and DVD (�1500) is a standard spec boat.
Cloud 9 creates a very favourable first impression. The two-tone blue paint is auto-standard spray-coated polyurethane; even and free from any flaws, while the brass windows, portholes and hull fittings add to the smart look.
The hull itself is a credit to its Gdansk builders. It is a simple but good-looking design with decorative ends to the bodysides. Glass is a mixture of two windows and two portholes each side, with a starboard side hatch in the galley area and a third window opposite it on the port side. The steelwork is smooth with tidy welding and noticeably free from any rippling. There two full length rubbing strakes along each side. A folding brass step at each end of the bodysides helps access to the roof and the roof handrails have lips to aid grip. Decks, gunwales and roof are also sensibly non-slip finished.
The front deck area is entirely open with rubber-treads on the wooden lidded side lockers and the cross-locker at the front. The gas bottles are stowed in a locker in front of the deck. The large cruiser rear deck features a good looking wooden wrap-around seat and control post holding throttle, dials and switchgear. The internal layout, understandably, shows no surprises with the short, open front deck leading into an open-plan saloon, galley, shower room, cabin and out to the rear deck.
A word of caution before going on: the canny folk at New Boat know how to ‘dress' a boat for shows and pictures so as you admire the interior of Cloud 9 in these photos do remember that those armchair seats, the stylish stools and the carefully laid galley are very much not a part of the boat you'll buy.
All the same, step in through the half glazed front doors and you'll undoubtedly be impressed - we were. From the front of the boat there is a view right through past the split galley to the rear steps of the craft which accentuates its length and also adds to an overall feeling of space and size.
The Manhattan boats come with a choice of ash or oak interior and Cloud 9 has the lighter ash trim, accentuating the airy feel of the interior provided by the large rectangular windows. Ash veneer ply panelling is set into solid ash trim on the body sides with solid ash tongue and groove for the roof lining and 20mm hardwood flooring.
The saloon, remember, comes furniture-free but does have various fitted items. A neat under-gunwale cabinet holds the flat screen tv and has space around it for DVDs and books, while a clever flip-out shelf under this tucks the DVD player out of the way until used. There's a decent size shelved corner cupboard to the starboard of the step and a Morso solid fuel stove to the left (these will swap side on future boats) - though the main room heating comes from two central heating radiators with the useful added touch of thermostatic valves. There's good attention to detail, like the led lights in the risers of the front steps (and under-gunwale along the corridor) and the quality of the joinery is very evident - every line is even, every joint millimetre perfect.
Kitchens sell houses - and probably narrowboats too for New Boat has lavished time and money on creating a stylish galley for Cloud 9. Each side of the boat has an L-shaped unit with a 45 degree angled end to create a diagonal walkway through the galley area. Work surfaces are in granite with matching granite up-stands behind and the surface of the starboard peninsula element extends forwards of the cabinets to form a two-seater breakfast bar.
The starboard side unit houses the New World oven, grill and four ring gas hob, all in matched aluminium finish. A metal splash-back provides protection behinds the hob.
To one side of the cooker is a three drawer unit and then a corner cupboard with one of those ingenious ‘magic corner' swing-away-and-pull-out interior fittings to give full access to the hard to reach corner area. The full-size stainless steel sink is set into the port side work-top which also has drainage grooves. There are cupboards under the sink and also a smaller cupboard in the diagonal end of the unit. The return wall at the back of the galley has a Lec fridge under the work surface and wall storage cupboards with smart, smoked glass doors.
It all looks good and again, little details impress - for example the under gunwale space behind each unit has been used to create neat slide-out wine racks and towel rails. The serious cruiser might note the absence of a built-in microwave and wish for a little more storage. A washing machine is on the options list, though, being installed into a re-designed space aft of the cabin.
The Manhattan eschews a full-width bathroom in favour of the added flexibility of a permanently open corridor through from the rear of the boat. It's a sensible choice for an off-the-peg boat but does restrict space inside the shower room. All the same the bathroom is a fashionable and functional design, evidence that New Boat's attention to design detail even extends to the ‘smallest room'. Panelling is in ash again, but with diagonal tongue and grooving for the upper body side and using dark wood trim instead of the light ash elsewhere in the boat, which makes a smart contrast to the white ceramic of basin, toilet and shower. A good-looking vanity unit with smoked green glass top and glass doored cabinets holds a round basin and alongside it a Vetus electric macerator pump-out toilet. The wall behind the vanity unit is a full size mirror, which cleverly makes the room feel larger than it really is, and which is illuminated by pelmet lighting above.
The full sized quadrant shower sits tidily in the opposite corner and the small space between it and the side of the boat is cleverly filled with built-in shelving and cupboard stowage. A towel rail radiator, again with thermostatic control, completes the room fittings and the floor is tiled. As elsewhere in the boat, the room shows off a keen eye for modern design allied to high standards of build and finish.
The same is true of the cabin, which, like the shower room, features diagonal t&g panelling above the gunwale line in its all-ash trim out. Small details like aluminium cabinet door handles matching those in galley and bathroom and co-ordinated with the aluminium curtain rails and swtches give a ‘finished' and professional look. And the hardwood trim round the porthole windows is a piece of joinery work not every boat-builder would attempt. The layout of the cabin is conventional, with the bed running lengthways along the port side. It has been designed so that occupants can sleep either way round, having a reading lamp provided each end.
There's good stowage space - a wardrobe with clothes rail and trouser hangers at each end of the bed together with two large and two smaller over-bed cupboards that all feature good quality catches and stays. Under the bed are two deep drawers on roll-out fittings. The floor is carpeted and there is another thermostatically controlled rad. The optional bed extension gives some ten inches extra width by the usual system of pulling out the bed base and dropping in an extra mattress. Unfortunately the extended bed interferes with the operation of the bedroom door so that has to go and the cabin loses its privacy, a somewhat surprising design weakness in a boat so well thought through.
Access to the potentially busy big cruiser deck has been made sensibly safe and easy. There are wide and rubber treaded steps with a brushed aluminium hand rail and, like the front steps, safety lighting in their risers.
ON THE WATER
As you'd expect Cloud 9 offers few surprises out on the water. It's more than adequately powered for cruising and can be steered and manoeuvred with ease - though a bow thrusters is an option the boat performs perfectly well without one. Engine noise can be another problem with cruiser layouts but thick rubberised ply decking adequately mutes the sound levels though there is no additional sound deadening.
Let's start by kicking one notion right into touch. Just because these narrowboats are built abroad doesn't mean they are in any way cheapskate or shoddy. Absolutely the opposite, in fact. The quality of fit and finish evident in Cloud 9 is beyond reproach. And, in truth, that's only to be expected since Gdansk is a city with a long tradition of shipbuilding.
Cloud 9 actually feels like a manufactured rather than a hand-built boat - a circumstance which has its good and bad aspects. Some may miss the individuality and craftsman's touch of a bespoke boat but others will happily sacrifice the sometimes variable results of a custom build in favour of consistent quality and a year's warranty. But build quality is only one aspect of the boat: design is a vital element in an off-the-shelf craft and here, too, Cloud 9 scores heavily. It really is a smartly thought through boat with lots of well considered details.
At a price nudging towards �80,000 the Aqualine Manhattan is right up there with a good number of bespoke boats and for many buyers choosing which route to go down will be tough. Will it be individual character and personalised design or decision-free, turn-the-key-and-go boating? One thing is for sure, the bar has been raised and the Manhattan sets tough standards for the others to match.
Length: 60ft 0in
Beam: 6ft 10in
Fuel tank: 55gal (250 l)
Water tank: 110gal (500 l)
Engine: Isuzu 42
Electrical: 12v DC, 240v AC via Victron 1200W inverter
2 colour paint �495
Bed extension �700
Flat screen tv+DVD �1500
New Boat Company
Worcs WR9 7DU
Tel: 01905 771018
Price: �74,950Price as tested �77,64