Woodworks Boat Fitting 65ft




With so many narrowboats being built as live-aboards, it’s easy to forget that for some owners boating remains first and foremost a recreational activity. That’s very much true for Yvonne and Michael Neville and their boat Imperial Dream. The 65 ft craft is, in Michael’s words ‘a party boat’. It has been designed to enjoy with family and friends, whether that’s on a simple day out or a week-long cruise. To that end, it is ultra-flexible in layout, able to sleep up to six people in three ‘cabins’, having two on-board showers and toilets, and bags of storage space (including some very clever wine racking!).Imperial Dream was fitted out by the small but well regarded Newark firm of Woodworks Boat Fitting. Andrew Hooke’s concern started out as an adjunct to R&D Fabrications, who built the shell for this boat, and one of his early fit-outs was the Tuesday Night Club’s Earnest which regularly features in these pages. The company has been going it alone now for some years and builds some three or four boats a year.

DESIGN AND EXTERIORImperial Dream is a striking looking boat: its deep blue topsides, edged with red and gold, and brass windows and portholes give it an elegant style reminiscent of a steam-age railway carriage.The hull itself has simple but effective lines with neat, tidy welds and no evidence of rippling at joins. The hand finished paintwork is to a very good standard, with all lines cleanly edged. Anti-slip ‘footprints’ run the length of the roof each side. Brass exterior fittings – including no less than four side steps each side – are a nice finishing touch.The window layout, with portholes forwards each side and windows to the rear is a clue to the boat’s relatively unusual interior layout. This, as we said, has been developed to reflect its role as a party boat and central to that is the large, 12ft cruiser style rear deck. From here we move forwards into a rear saloon with its loose furniture, including a sofa-bed, to one side of which is tucked the secondary toilet.Next comes the dinette, again convertible to accommodation, then a centre gangway runs forward through a galley, shower room and finally a forward lounge which converts to a double bedded cabin, out into the forward deck area and cratch.REAR DECKTo reflect the natural flow of the boat we will reverse our usual stem to stern style and start our review from the rear. Here, the deck, its floor covered by the owner in a practical but somewhat out of keeping grass effect matting, will easily hold a social group of three or four without inconveniencing the steerer.A smart sapele handrail provides an elegant finishing touch and a very sensible safety feature are the rail extensions each side which quickly and easily slot in between the rail ends and boat sides when underway to close the gangway gaps.Engine controls are mounted on a port side post whilst the instrument panel is on the port side of the doors into the cabin. A mini tv screen links to a camera in the bow to provide the helmsman with a view of what is ahead – more an entertaining gimmick than a serious necessity perhaps?SALOONThree steps lead down into the saloon, passing the port-side electrical systems locker and the side wall of the rear toilet room to the starboard.The entrance to the toilet is on its forward wall from the lounge. It is a compact, space-efficient layout with a pump-out toilet and a fold down basin above.Like the rest of the boat, the saloon is lined in oak, with veneered ply panelling and solid oak frames. Flooring is also in oak. Furniture is set along the port side while on the starboard is a slim set of gunwale height cupboards with an inset coal-effect gas fire and a flat screen tv on the wall above.Quality of the joinery work is immediately apparent: the joint lines are razor sharp, the finish smooth everyone and veneers nicely matched for grain and tone.At 16 feet long, it is quite a sizeable lounges but still does feel somewhat crowded with its two large armchairs and a sofa-bed. However it is a versatile room with its own toilet facilities and a full width curtain by the dinette that can divide it off from the rest of the boat.DINETTEThe dinette table is set under a large window on the port side and boasts one of the boat’s most stylish touches in its handsome lyre-shaped divider wall.It also shows off yet another element of designed-in versatility: clipped under the starboard gunwale are extension pieces to the seats and table so that it can comfortably accommodate the six adults that the craft is able to sleep.There is good storage space provided under the aft bench seat whilst under the forward seat is a nifty slide out freezer box.Between the dinette and the galley on the port side a sliding door opens to reveal a cleverly packaged in secondary shower-room.GALLEY The galley, as you’d expect in a boat intended for socialising, is large, well equipped and airy. It features a sizeable rectangular window each side, as well as a large Houdini hatch and side doors to starboard, opposite the shower room. Above these, the roof is scooped away to improve access and increase light. (A hinged hatch cover locks down over the roof opening when required.)The hatch is more for light than access, with steep steps-cum-shelves down into the boat – one of which incorporates a nifty little nook in which is tucked a CD player.The galley units are set either side of the centre, tiled gangway and and, again, quality-built in oak with granite worktops; the starboard unit is slightly cut back to widen access into the dinette and the granite top above it nicely curved in another of the many careful detail touches.Equipment includes SMEV oven and grill, microwave, large four-burner gas hob and built under fridge and washing machine. There are plenty of shelves and drawers provided but main food storage is a large and practical full-height pull-out larder unit.BATHROOMThe owners’ quest for versatility has maybe gone a step too far in the design of the boat’s main bathroom. This has been created as two separate rooms either side of the central corridor, with toilet and basin to one side and shower room to the other.Either can be used separately or the doors can be latched across the corridor to create a full-width bathroom. It’s a good idea in principal but the execution proves somewhat fiddly to use and also creates a rather narrow central corridor that must be something of a pinch point when the boat is busy.FRONT CABINForwards of the bathroom is a large and, again, versatile front cabin which has built-in sofas either side for daytime use that can become a single berth each side at night or convert into full width double bedded accommodation.Immediately in front of the bathroom is an attractive, built-in oak dressing table, set underneath a starboard side porthole – this being edged with an elegant ten sided oak trim, a distinctive piece of the Woodworks ‘house style’.Opposite the dressing table is the boat’s second side hatch, once more featuring a cutaway roof for improved access and this time with three regular steps (with built-in drawers) up to it.This hatch is also intended to provide access via the side of the boat to the front deck should the through route to the front doors be blocked by a couple of late sleepers-in on the double bed!The double bed conversion is done by the usual method of pullling out a frame from under a seat and using the sofa backrest as the mattress. The problems with this arrangement are well known: there’s nowhere to stand to get a square-on pull of the frame (a rather tight fit, too, on this boat) and the bed itself will also be fiddly to make up. On the plus side, you do end up with a full-width king-size bed.Finally, we can’t leave the cabin without mentioning one of the cleverest bits of storage on the boat – the underfloor wine cupboards. Lift the oak hatches and you’ll discover neat rows of wine bottles lying there.FRONT DECKA pair of half-glazed sapele front doors lead out onto a relatively short deck, with side lockers and a front locker giving access to the bow thrusters.The deck normally has a full cratch with side covers that can locked in a semi-folded positon for improved headroom but this was removed at the time of testing for modifications.ON THE WATERThe short wide stretch of River Trent from Imperial Dream’s base at Shardlow Marina to the Trent & Mersey Canal gave us the chance to extend the boat and the 50hp Nanni diesel proved well capable of driving the sizeable, 65ft craft.We did note that the tiller felt heavier than expected though the owner felt this might be explained by his having hit an underwater object recently. Once on the canal, the combination of a strong, responsive engine and efficient electric bow thrusters ensured that manoeuvreing was never a problem.CONCLUSIONThere’s no doubt that Imperial Dream is a remarkably versatile boat, being able to sleep up to six adults and with the undeniable benefit of having two toilets and two showers. It also boasts a superb amount of stowage space – something often seriously in short supply on a narrowboat.We were very impressed with the Woodworks build quality, too – the detail joinery work is first class.Such versatility and quality doesn’t come cheap: Imperial Dream came in at around £114,000 overall.Our only reservation is that, to an outside observer, the boat feels too much of a Jack of all trades. The layout of the master cabin and route through to the front deck are a compromise and the bathroom design also felt awkward and cramped. But the owners are aware of the compromises they’ve made and very happy that its versatility has made it a hit with family and friends.Overall, Imperial Dream is a boat that is beautifully made, clever and different – proof a smart designer can do a lot within that narrow shape.Length: 65ft 0inBeam: 6ft 10inDraught: 25inFuel tank: 45gal (200 l)Water tank: 116gal 530l)Engine: Nanni diesel 50hpSteelwork: 10:6:4Electrical: 12v DC, 240v AC via 3.5kW Travel Power, Victron Multi 1600 inverter Woodworks Boat FittingUnit 72, Road BBoughton Industrial EstateNew OllertonNewarkNotts NG22 9LD Price: £114,000www.boat-fitting.co.uk

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