Prestige Narrowboats 69ft
Prestige Naroboats 69ft
PRESTIGE NARROWBOATS 69ft
Something different. That’s the golden rule when it comes to choosing boats to test. It ought to be easy but too often these days the next new boat that edges into the frame turns out to be yet another 57ft, reverse layout semi-trad.
Surely there must be something else out there? Well, there is this month at least. Penciali Ar Y DÃ…Âµr (we’ll explain the name in a minute) does have a rear galleyed reverse layout but that apart, it’s 69ft 4in rather than 57ft long, has a large cruiser deck which, unusually these days, is covered by a pram-style canopy.The result is a boat that – though quite conventionally laid out inside – is actually quite different to the norm. Those extra twelve feet of length have opened up some real possibilities.
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Penciali was commissioned by Elly and Russ Reeve as a ‘get away from it all’ craft for holidays and breaks with friends. They’ve holidayed on the canals but it is the first boat they have owned. Canal Boat’s Welsh speaking readers will have spotted that Ar Y DÃ…Âµr means “on the water” – but ‘Penciali’? That’s actually an amalgam of the names of Elly’s parents who were Welsh farmers.
With their surname there was only one shell that the Reeves could choose for their new boat and that was, of course, from Graham Reeves but for the fitting out they turned to a new company, Prestige Narrowboats, a spin-off from a high quality cabinet making specialists and only their second narrowboat commission.
EXTERIOR AND LAYOUT
Penciali cuts an impressive dash on the water. Unlike some full-length narrowboats it doesn’t look awkwardly long; the length of its gleaming black cabin sides cleverly broken up by cream rectangles. The shell is the usual high quality Reeves built with some sensible detailing such as finger-grips for the roof rails, hand holds on the cabin sides to aid access to both front and rear decks and a practical seat around the back of the cruiser rear. Entry to the boat from the rear deck is through a large single door and hatch on the port side, locked by a ‘proper’ key-operated shoot-bolt rather than the traditional hasp and staple.
But the most noticeable feature of the exterior is, of course, the canopy. Purists will doubtless ‘tut, tut’ at such a thing and there’s no denying that it doesn’t sit easily with a narrowboat’s long, low lines but it does turn the big rear deck into a useful extra all-weather space – just as a cratch cover would up front. The owners’ dogs also sleep out there when they are on board.
Tailor-made by Wilsons of Kinver, who also supplied interior furnishings for the craft, it was a snug fit and particularly well thought out: the side panels could be rolled up and secured for easy access on and off the boat when cruising with the main roof up while the roof itself could be dropped back in seconds to fold pram style onto the rear guard rail, or removed completely.
The interior of the boat is, as we said, in a conventional reverse-layout pattern. Steps from the rear deck lead into the galley, following which is a convertible Pullman style dinette to port, then a long open plan saloon which includes a bed-settee that can provide two more berths, before reaching the cross bathroom and, finally, the master cabin before exiting onto a relatively short front deck where there is locker-top seating.
The interior fit-out is in European oak, using veneered ply panels and solid oak frames and trims. Prestige specialise in high quality fitted furniture for kitchens and domestic interiors, and wants its boatfitting to reflect the same skills and techniques. For example, the cabin sides are ‘twice-lined’ as it were; they are first lined in a base layer of 9mm ply over the insulation onto which is fitted the surface panels.
These latter panels are built up and ‘framed’ in oak in the workshop for accuracy where they are also lacquer-varnished each side to remove any danger of warping or of unseen damage from dampness behind the panel.
They are then loose fitted (but not glued) to each other in the boat by biscuit joints and the whole held top and bottom by oak mouldings. These, in turn, can be removed by ‘secret screws’ should access behind the panels ever be needed. This type of invisible fixing is something Prestige prides itself on, pointing to an almost total absence of visible screws (even those behind wooden plugs) around the interior.
The floor is also in oak while the ceilings are in white-painted tongue and groove oak. The windows are Worcester Marine S-type which fit to the shell by a clip system and need no potentially rust creating screw holes. Wooden venetian blinds are fitted throughtout the interior, running in tidy and stylish oak sliders to hold them against the cabin sides.
Stepping down from the rear deck one enters a very striking and stylish galley whose gleaming grey granite surfaces are artistically complemented by the owners’ bright red accessories. It doesn’t take long to appreciate that the extra length of the boat as well as good detail planning means there’s space for everything in the galley without any crowding and without it feeling un-necessarily large.
There’s storage everywhere – starting with under the steps. Continuing along the port side a shallow wall cupboard and drawer, topped by granite lead into the main work area where there’s a domestic 240v fridge and large single stainless sink with three-way (hot/cold/filtered) tap before the granite surface opens out into a large curved section in which is a very handsome circular three-burner Baumatic hob with a Baumatic oven below and a large curved door cupboard.
On the starboard side a slim granite ledge runs forwards from the top of the steps. Above this at the side of the steps is the main electrical cupboard and below it cupboard doors conceal a Candy Aquamatic washing machine. Moving on forwards there is a shallow under-gunwale cupboard before the granite surface steps out over a unit of three wide drawers – with soft-close mechanisms, like all drawers on the boat. Cupboard and drawer handles throughout are in handmade pewter.
SALOON & DINETTE
The Pullman style dinette, with its handsome black leather upholstery, sits beside the side hatch and immediately ahead of the main galley – the backrest of its rear seat lifting out to access galley stopcocks and gas check points.We’ve seen a few boats that have attempted to provide even more versatility to the dinette than simply the usual dining table cum guest bed, but Penciali’s is one of the easiest and smartest yet. The backrest and seat frame of the forward bench are made as a single unit which can be lifted up, turned around and replaced on the base box, thereby switching the seat from being a rear-facing dining bench into a saloon-facing extra sofa in seconds.
The saloon is the sort of space you can only enjoy in a full-length narrowboat. It’s massive. There’s plenty of space for a pair of Wilsons reclining Commodore armchairs and beyond these is a two-seater sofa on the port side and facing the starboard side hatch. All are, again, upholstered in black leather.The sofa folds out to become the boat’s second guest berth and brass rails across the ceiling allow each to be curtained off as temporary ‘cabins’.
The large areas of the saloon show off the quality of Prestige’s joinery, which is some of the very best we’ve seen with razor-edge joints and carefully matched grains in the panels. It’s not a fussy saloon, though – there are no bookshelves or display cabinets, for example just a large double-cupboard that is the ‘nerve centre’ for the saloon, holding the hi-fi, dvd and satellite tv kit as well as books and maps. The tv is linked to a self-seeking satellite dish on the boat roof and the tv/dvd plays out through a surround sound system comprising seven roof mounted speakers and a large sub-woofer built into one of the dinette seat bases.
With the emphasis on tv and dvd based entertainment, the tv itself is understandably large and even though it swings as flat as possible against the cabin side it still feels somewhat obtrusive.Finally, the saloon – as the rest of the boat – has simple white radiators rather than boxed-in types or ‘designer’ shapes. That, apparently, was the owners’ wish, as was the use of smart but plain white switches and sockets.
The cross-bathroom marks a complete change of pace and style. The cabin-side panelling is painted white to match the ceiling and the floor covered in a pebble-effect ???? vinyl flooring. The bulkhead at either end of the room are here are nice and solid, not single skin affairs and, as a result, the doors are solid and substantial too, with ‘proper’ hinges, quality handles and key operated mortise type locks.
At the rear of the bathroom a circular washbowl sits on a curved granite top, with a large vanity cupboard below. A rotating glass and chrome storage rack is a good looking finishing touch. Toilet is a Vetus pump-out, with the holding tank under the front of the main bed. A lift-out panel behind the toilet provides access to the shower plumbing for any maintenance.
The shower is an 800 x 800 mm unit with a bi-fold door. It fits the most shower into the least space by sourcing a 600mm wide side panel to match the 800 front section and completing the area up to the cabinside with a shaped solid infill panel.Finally, the bathroom has two compact but useful under gunwale store cupboards either side of the towerl rail radiator.
Here again one sees the evidence of what those extra feet and inches can bring to a boat. The cabin is generously proportioned and, once more, puts those inches to good use with practical planning and good attention to detail.The bed sits along the length of the boat and does not extend from its four feet width. It is quite high mounted, allowing space for two rows of storage drawers underneath which run the full width of the bed. There are four in total; plus a front pair of dummy drawer fronts, behind which is the waste tank.
Ahead of the bed is a full-height double wardrobe and ahead of that again is a near full-height single cupboard that runs down to the top of the front step. Both cupboards have lift-out floors to trim the ballast and gain access to the water pump.
Opposite the wardrobes is a dressing table with three drawers and a pair of cupboards beside and above the step. Another storage cupboard sits on top of the dressing table and, in a further bit of detailing, its floor can be popped out to join in to the lower cupboards and give still more full-length hanging storage.
The final bit of useful storage is under the step that leads up and through the three-quarter glazed front doors onto the deck.
It should go without saying that Penciali’s engine bay is as well turned out as the rest of the boat – but oak battery covers and mounting panels to carry the cables, pipework and engine ancillaries; now that is something.The craft is conventionally engineered. The power unit is an Isuzu 42(??) with twin alternators; 50 amp engine side and 80 amp leisure side units. Under the oak covers are five leisure batteries and a starter battery and there are two more up front for the Vetus 75kgf bow thruster.
A 3000w Victron Phoenix Multiplus inverter/charger takes care of AC demands when cruising and when connected to a landline supply a Victron Isolation Transformer provides ultimate protection against the risks of galvanic corrosion.
ON THE WATER
The downside of a big boat comes on the water where the extra length can make things tricky, especially on a breezy day like the one we had. But, though it did catch the wind, Penciali proved quite docile to handle and we could ease it out onto the cut through the narrow opening from its home in the smart new Swanley Bridge Marina without recourse to the bow thrusters – just as well, perhaps, as these are somewhat inconveniently located on the bulkhead at the front of the rear deck and a familiar problem of managing the spread-apart tiller, throttle and thrusters switches on a big cruiser stern was apparent once again, as it always is.
We enjoyed a longer the usual cruise through a couple of Llangollen locks before turning – just – at a winding hole barely inches longer than the boat. The thrusters did come into their own when reversing back into our narrow mooring slot but otherwise the boat was as well behaved and enjoyable as any 57 footer.
Penciali costs £119,000. Now that’s not cheap, especially as it is not overly equipped with costly technical items like an AC alternator or gen-set. What you’re paying for – and certainly do get – is a very high quality fit out where the attention to detail at every level is absolutely first-rate.
Whether we are looking at simple practical features like the easy-access panels to access pumps, ballast, stop valves and so on or the fine quality of the joinery and finishes you really can’t fail to be impressed. We certainly were.
LENGTH 69ft 4inBEAM 6ft 10inSHELL Graham Reeves Tel: 01926 815581STERN STYLE CruiserFIT-OUT OakENGINE Isuzu 42 Tel: 01666 500843 ELECTRICS 50 & 80 amp altermators, 3000w Victron Phoenix Multiplus Victron isolation transformerCANOPY Wilsons of Kinver Tel: 01384 872983 WINDOWS Worcester Marine Tel: 01905 358800COOKER Baumatic Tel: 0118 9336 900 Prestige NarrowboatsThe Hangar WorkshopsPainsbrook LaneHadnallShrewsbury SY4 4BBPENCIALI AR Y DÃ…Â´R £119,000 Tel: 01939 210735 www.prestigenarrowboats.co.uk