Wharf House Boats 60ft






Put a meticulous boatbuilder together with an equally meticulous customer and what do you get? The answer is a handsomely crafted boat that caught the eye of the crowds at the Crick Show in 2005 and gained their vote as the show’s best new boat. This was the second time in three years that Phill Abbott’s Wharf House Narrowboats had won this prestigious award so we decided to take a closer look at just what are the secrets of his crowd pleasing skills. According to Annie’s co-owner, Steve Poulston, the quality of Phill’s joinery work and attention to detail were what attracted him to the Braunston based builder – and made him prepared to join a three-year waiting list. Steve and fellow owner, Ian James, put that time to good effect with a great deal of pre-planning on what they required in their new boat.

DESIGN AND LAYOUTThere is no doubt that Annie is an exceptionally attractive looking boat. Its near-black, deep midnight blue paintwork, with cream and red detailing, counter-pointed by those gleaming brass portholes looks sophisticated and striking. The only downside will be frequent work with the mop and bucket to maintain the look (anyone who has owned a black car will know how it shows every spot of dirt).But there is more to Annie’s exterior appeal than a smart paint job. The G & J Reeves shell was closely specified by owners Steve and Ian. It has a deliberately low gunwale line to give the boat the effect of sitting low in the water – a styling tweak that also makes the craft appear longer than its 59ft 6in.The tumblehome of the resultant deeper bodysides has been increased to negate any sense of boxiness with its greater inward curvature and, because this slightly compromises interior space, an inch has been taken off the gunwales at either side to put that width back into the boat.The attention to detail continues at the stern where the hull sides curve in gently as they near the stern to create a more gentle sweeping finish to the rear end than the usual abrupt semi-circle. As a finishing touch, the semi-trad rear features recessed side panels carrying the boat’s name and number. At the other end of the boat, handsome Josher style bows complete a look that manages to be traditional without being staid.Annie was designed to be a boat suitable for both cruising and socialising – hence the semi-trad stern and a relatively long front deck. The interior layout is quite conventional, with a front saloon running through to a dinette, galley, shower room-toilet and rear main cabin.COCKPIT

The most noticeable feature of the six feet long cockpit is that it is devoid of side lockers. Given the usefulness of somewhere to stow ropes or dirty, wet items it’s maybe an odd choice but the owners preferred to have the extra floor space and to use fold up chairs rather than locker lid seating when sitting out.The cratch cover sides can be rolled up or the entire cover removed. The cratch board itself is glazed and hinged to allow access to the front locker which holds the boat’s gas cylinders. A 175 gallon water tank sits under the deck.


SALOON & DINETTEThis single step leads down into a saloon whose fashionable, modern feel contrasts with the boat’s traditional exterior. The interior is lined throughout in ash, a wood whose pale tones and interesting grain patterns are proving increasingly popular with boatbuilders. Its lightness of colour is ideal for a boat like Annie with portholes rather than larger windows.There’s certainly no hint of gloominess about Annie’s interior. As well as the portholes, natural light floods in through a pair of side hatches in the dinette and galley, three-quarter glass doors from the cockpit with glass panels each side of them and finally an openable pigeon box.First impressions are of a minimalist saloon furnished by just a pair of stylish black leather swivel armchairs with matching footstools on the boarded floor. Rich blue porthole curtains with tie backs and brass rails, gleaming brass portholes and elegant wall lamps all contribute to an atmosphere that’s more executive lounge than cosy snug.A multi-fuel stove with a tiled surround sits to one side of the cockpit doors. Facing it is a shelving unit which carries the television and hi-fi as well as bookshelves. This, a small drawer under the stove and the small under-step cubby box are the limit of stowage in the saloon area. To be fair, though, the saloon area is not large – just ten feet long – and could easily become cluttered if over-furnished.Phill’s classy joinery is very evident. Screw heads are carefully plugged and gentle curves replace sharp corners wherever possible – as on the step and the shelf unit return.Particular attention has also been paid to the interior lighting. The downlighters are complemented by the softer wall lights, while under each gunwale is a row of LED lights – ideal to create after-dark mood lighting. Speakers for the boat’s sound system run the centre of the roof and can be controlled in sectors so you can listen to music up front while others sleep in peace in the back cabin!A half-height partition with an elegantly curved corner separates the lounge from the dinette. This dinette was central to the boat’s design: Steve wanted a table to work or eat at while watching the world go by through the side hatch. In fact the dinette is raised six inches to put the seats and table at hatch level so diners get the best view out.This area again shows Wharf House craftmanship at its best. The table is beautifully figured and inlaid, and it is supported on a delicate looking (but remarkably rigid) lyre-shaped leg. The rear seat back of the dinette cleverly incorporates a wine rack. Finally, instead of the commonly seen lift-out perspex hatch inner window, Annie has a neat bi-fold device that clips back against the side. The dinette converts in the usual way to form a decent 6ft 3in long double bed when needed and there is also good storage space for bedding and more under each seat. Opposite the table, though, is photographer David Oakes’ pet hate – a white off-the-peg double radiator. It’s under a shelf but would look less stark behind a simple cover.GALLEYThe gangway cuts diagonally through from the dinette into a comprehensively equipped galley with units under beech work surfaces on either side of the boat. On the starboard side a circular stainless steel sink and matching drainer sit under the side hatch. The mixer tap, incidentally, can supply filtered water as well as hot and cold. Underneath the worktop are storage cupboards including a shallow one in the diagonal end of the unit. The return cross-wall houses a matching brushed stainless steel stack of appliances: Siemens dishwasher, Vanette gas oven and Panasonic microwave.On the opposite side is a four-burner Vanette gas hob with free-standing washing machine and fridge concealed behind cupboard doors. In a neat use of space, a shallow cupboard sits in the dinette partition below the wine rack, though overall one might again question the somewhat limited storage in the galley.SHOWER-ROOM & CABINThe bathroom runs the full width of the boat, giving optimum space for users at the expense of occasional access restrictions through the boat. The front and rear doors are at each side of the room and there is slight tightness at shoulder height because of the inward slope of the bodysides. However using roller blinds rather than curtains on the portholes and finger-holes rather than handles on the doors keeps the gangway as clear as possible.The bathroom, in keeping with the rest of the boat, is a stylish affair – and beautifully made, too. Typical is the curved-front, semi-circular corner vanity unit holding the oval basin while the simple wood moulding above the tiling has far from simple curved corner detailing.The walk-in shower is larger than seen in most narrowboats, the reason being that it is entirely custom-made. The tray is epoxy-coated ply with non-slip mosaic tiles and the glass door and panels were cut to size by a specialist supplier. The shower’s extractor fan is built into its downlighter and the exit disguised in a vent.Toilet is a Lee Sanitation vacuum-cassette unit with a ceramic bowl and there is a towel rail radiator to complete the facilities.The bedroom carries on the clean simplicity of the rest of the boat. The double bed runs lengthways and can be pulled out an extra six inches to increase its width. The calorifier and toilet cassette unit are stored under the bed but there is still plenty of storage space, albeit accessed via lift-off front panels rather than perhaps more useful pull-out drawers. An over-bed cabinet with built-under reading light and smallish wardrobe either side of the rear exit steps complete bedroom stowage.Neat space-saving half-steps lead steeply up from the bedroom to the rear deck area. Unclipping the steps also gives access to a tall broom and fishing rod cupboard on the starboard side, above which is a useful cubby hole for guide books, cameras and such like.The semi-trad rear end provides plenty of socialising space, with a couple of perching places either side as well as the button seats at the rear.ON THE WATERThe relatively large capacity engine ensures that Annie has good pulling power and flexibility which will prove particularly useful on wider waterways or coping with any cross currents or strong winds. With its easy, low revs pull and large hospital silencer, it is also a quiet and relaxing boat on the move.The engine’s strong torque allows the boat to stop and reverse well – add in the hydraulic bow thrusters which can be run indefinitely (though unlike their electric equivalent, their performance is engine-speed dependent) and you have a highly manoeuvrable craft.CONCLUSIONIt’s easy to see why Annie won the votes of the spectators at Crick. It is a handsome looking boat that sits well in the water – a classic looking but not rigidly traditionalist craft. Inside it has a style that fits with modern tastes: the light woodwork and spare fittings giving it that popular minimalist, ‘loft living’ feel.Perhaps it’s too minimalist for some and perhaps, too, one could question the relative lack of locker and stowage space but it’s a cruising and socialising boat not a live-aboard. And one thing that can’t be questioned is the quality of the finished boat: it’s first rate. A worthy number one, indeed.Length: 59ft 6inBeam: 6ft 10inDraught: 2ft 6inWeight: 20 tonnesFuel tank: 60gal (272 l)Water tank: 175gal (795 l)Engine: Isuzu 55Steelwork: 10:6:4Electrical: 24v DC, 240v AC via Victron Phoenix 3000/70 power management inverter Wharf House NarrowboatsBottom Lock,Dark Lane,Braunston,NorthantsNN11 7HJ Price: £95,000 (£101,000 inc extras fitted by owners)www.wharfhouse.co.uk

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