Walker Service 57ft





Some people spend years hiring boats or living with secondhand ones until they take the plunge and opt for a purpose designed bespoke boat. Others simply plunge right in at the deep end. Terry and Elaine Longstreth are of the second school – apart from a one-day helmsman’s course, Terry hadn’t even steered a narrowboat until taking delivery of their 57ft custom built semi-trad Nancy Evans, intended as the couple’s live-aboard home.Being novices, they were going to be very much in the hands of their boatbuilder and Terry adopted a shrewd strategy to find a good one. “I asked around to find who was the most picky and difficult surveyor in the area, then I asked him who he would recommend.”This led him to Chris Walker and his small Walker Services boat fitting company at Aynho, close to Aynho Wharf on the Oxford Canal. Chris is a relative newcomer to the business. Coming from a joinery background, he began by fitting out his own boat, then doing some for other people and finally taking the plunge into full time business a year ago. He currently builds three to four boats a year, all of them custom designedTerry and Elaine had some conventional canal boat requirements: they wanted a craft capable of cruising the entire network and fully equipped with live-aboard facilities and the electrical systems to operate them reliably. And they also wanted space for Elaine’s piano!

DESIGN & EXTERIORNancy Evans – the boat is named after Terry’s grandmother – is built on a Graham Reeves shell with porthole windows throughout, two portside hatches and two Houdini hatches in the roof.The couple have a pair of Pekinese dogs and the rear deck is edged by steel balusters and an iroko top rail cum seat to help prevent them going overboard: hinged sections either side provide access on and off the boat.It’s a handsome looking craft: the distinctive two-tone blue paintwork and some clever 3D-look stained glass effect decoration around the name (echoing the glasswork of an interior door) have been executed to a high standard by Aynho Dock Services. Gold anodised windows and brass fittings complete the modern, clean cut exterior that the couple were looking for.The layout is conventional, with a short front deck enclosed by a cratch cover leading into the saloon, then through to the galley, bathroom – which has a bath rather than shower, rear cabin with cross double bed and out to the semi-trad rear deck.FRONT DECKThe short, four feet long front deck is fitted with a cratch and cover, and is set out as a useful extension to the boat’s living space. Windows in the roll-up cover as well as the cratch itself make it a potential sun-trap, too. In addition, the cover can be removed and the front panels lifted out. The cratch frame itself is in solid ash to match the rest of the fit-out and lockers each side provide seating either side of a fold down table.Gas bottles are stowed in the locker ahead of the deck and a secondary oil tank installed up front as well to feed the diesel Lock Gate stove in the saloon.The twin doors that lead into the saloon are divided two-thirds/one-third in stable-door style as a further dog security measure.SALOONTerry and Elaine wanted a clean, uncluttered interior for their boat and that is what they have got. The lining-out is in ash veneer with solid ash trim and the flooring is in a beech laminate. It’s not a fussy fit-out but the joinery work is well executed throughout.First impressions of the saloon are of a bright, airy space: the light woodwork, glass doors and roof hatch make up for any loss of natural light through choosing portholes rather than conventional windows.A pair of comfortable looking leather armchairs face the gleaming Lock Gate stove, with a small glass coffee table between them, the piano stands beyond and just a few small ornaments are on display as well as a clock – about the only surviving item from their former life on land.No TV and dvd player then, or hi-fi? Yes all three in fact, but tucked away in one of the cupboards that flank the steps down into the saloon. The cupboard opposite holds books, dvds and the like. (In fact the tidy-minded couple are to have the door of the TV cupboard split so that only the TV section is open when viewing.) Other stowage is provided under the steps.Tucking the television away doesn’t mean it’s unused – quite the opposite, for the boat has a Caro Oyster satellite seeking aerial fitted for optimising TV and satellite mobile phone reception.Elaine’s piano was safely installed after the fit-out was complete, the only problem it caused being its weight which meant that the boat had to be specially ballasted to compensate.GALLEYThe galley is fully equipped for live-aboard needs and stylishly laid out, too. Its beech block-work tops, backed by distinctive tiles from the V&A Museum Collection, are either side of a central walkway in a shallow S-curve design. This adds visual interest to the layout and steers one safely past the corner of the piano. Facing one at the far end is a full height unit holding a stack of microwave, Country Leisure Midi oven and grill and Bosch fridge.Like the saloon, it gets plenty of natural light thanks to a second Houdini hatch plus starboard side doors. These, sensibly, have fold-back glazed inner doors as well.A Belfast style sink is mounted directly under the side doors and can be covered by a lift-out piece of matching beech block worktop when not needed. There’s a cupboard under the sink but the rest of the worktop on this side is left cupboard-free to form a small breakfast bar.On the port side the four-burner Spinflo gas hob is cleverly located at an angle in the widest section of worktop, maximising the available length of working space.There are two storage cupboards under the work top, with a washer/drier and fridge between them. At the rear end of the worktop is a clever slide-out ironing board. A small cupboard above completes kitchen storage. A door with a feature stained glass panel – echoed, as we said, in the name panel outside – closes off the saloon and galley from the bedroom and cabin at the rear of the boat.BATHROOMOne of Elaine’s chief requirements for the fit-out was to have a bath and sure enough there is indeed a compact cross bath in the bathroom. A surprise, though, is that there’s no shower option, even if only for emergency use when the water tank level is low (or one of the dogs has rolled in something unmentionable!).At seven feet long, it’s a generously sized bathroom – and a very smart looking one too; beautifully tiled and featuring a handsome granite topped vanity unit with a large, oval basin inset and storage cupboards under. The toilet is a Thetford cassette unit – the couple opting for this rather than a pump-out because of the relative scarcity of pump-out facilities near their present home mooring on the Oxford Canal. (A spare cass ette unit is stowed on-board.)CABINAs we said earlier, the cabin of Nancy Evans has a cross-double rather than ‘in-line’ bed. T erry and Elaine opted to trade the minor inconvenience of having to put the bed out at night (minor because they r ecko n it takes them less than a minute) against the plus point of allowing them a five-feet wide bed with comfortable, full-width mattress.Above the bed head is a full width unit arched over the porthole window and housing a pa ir of stowage cupboards. Opposite, at the foot of the bed is another side hatch with glazed inner doors. This is som e thing of an unusual design feature in a cabin where privacy is important but Chris reckons it’s a sensible consideration given how warm a boat cabin can be in summer.Aside from the overbed cupboards, there’s only a single wardrobe in the cabin – clearly the Longstreths won’t be dressing for dinner too often on their boat as there really isn’t a whole lot of hanging space. The steps leading out of the room to the rear deck, all have in-built stowage though and there is more storage sp ace under the bed.TECHNICALPowering Nancy Evans is the familiar Beta Greenline 43 engine with PRM 150 gearbox, a Centaflex anti-vibration coupling and large hospital style silencer. On the forward bulkhead is a Webasto 5.2kw diesel central heating unit.It’s an immaculately clean and tidy installation; all the electrical cables are hidden in flexible conduit and clipped neatly round the perimeter of the engine room, leaving no straggly wires or pipework.Plenty of thought has been given to the on-board electrical systems for this live-aboard boat. There are six 160Ah Squadron AGM (absorbed glass mat) sealed-for-life leisure batteries mounted under the port side rear deck and wired to provide 24v DC for domestic lighting, pumps and so on. They are charged by a 100amp engine alternator and a separate 100Ah 12v engine start battery is located at the rear of the engine bay and charged by a second, 45amp alternator. The battery terminals are all properly protected by covers or lidsA large, 3kW Victron Phoenix Multi inverter charger provides AC supplies to the domestic ring main and water heater and there is a landline connection. The system is controlled by a Phoenix Multi Control and BMW 501 battery monitor.Final elements in the electrical systems are the four Sunmate flexible solar panels on the boat roof. These feed via an Aeca solar regulator and on the bright sunny day of our test were providing a useful 1.1 to 1.3 amps of charge.ON THE WATERWe spent half of our test distance ice-breaking on the frozen canal but having winded and returned through clear water the response and manoeuvrability of Nancy Evans were clear. It’s a light and easy to handle boat which responds readily to the tiller.Being newcomers to narrowboating, Terry and Elaine were considering a bow thruster for the boat but Chris Walker persuaded them to have the tube and wiring installed but leave the real expense until they had become more familiar with the boat. Time should prove that the boat handles well without one.It was also extremely quiet; the hospital silencer proving very effective since there was no other additional sound-proofing to the engine bay.CONCLUSIONCosting around £96,000, Nancy Evans is certainly not a cheap boat but the price does reflect expensive items such as the AGM batteries (nearly £1,000 alone) and the attention to detail. And when it comes to judging the boat, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. Viewed element by element it is quite a straightforward boat that has few real surprises – barring the piano in the saloon, that is.However every aspect has been very well executed, from the quality paint job to the neat and tidy engine room installation. We particularly liked the curves of the galley design and the handsomely tiled and fitted bathroom.Overall, it is a well planned, good looking and well executed boat – another example of quality work from a small builder.Length: 57ft 0inBeam: 6ft 10inDraught: 2ft 4inSteelwork: 10:6:4Weight 14.5 tons approxEngine: Beta Marine 43Electrical: 24v DC, 220v AC via Victron Multi 3kW inverter/charger& landline + solar panelsWalker Services,Station Yard,Station Road,Aynho, Banbury,Oxon OX17 3BPTel: 01869 345291Price: £96,000 inc VAT 

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