Thursday, September 17, 2015

Middle Earth

Bill Towndrow - Guest Blogger
Stopping in Barlasten, which featured the Wedgewood Museum and showroom, the girls went off to the museum while Bill and I went to the pub to quench our thirst after a long day of boating. Soon after we sat down a couple with a beautiful “long-haired” greyhound came in and sat down with a couple of pints. Bill went up to the dog who was so friendly (The Pub had a clearly written rule welcoming “Well Behaved Dogs”), and this dog immediately nuzzled into him to be patted. I also went up and chatted with the people, but Bill was there for a while discussing dogs, boats and other canal items as he discovered these folks were also on a boat.

Following a delicious meal of burgers, Rabbit stew and gnocchi, we wandered back to the boat. Bill started telling Margaret about a “Really Nice” boat named “Gandolf”  back a ways that he wanted her to see, and while Regis and I went back to the boat, they went walking to see this boat.

It turned out that  “Gandolf” was owned by the Greyhound and his friendly family. Bill loves chatting with people about their boats and when he and Margaret explained how much they loved the boat they got invited inside for a tour. The rest of this Blog is being done by a “Guest Blogger” Bill Towndrow as he describes this beautiful craft.

Bills New Friend
Start with a bare hull, in this case a “traditional” design which means that starting from aft, there is a low headroom cabin fitted with a small coal fired cook stove surrounded by pine cabinetry making use of every cubic inch for function. The stove is important, not only can you cook and bake with it, it keeps the boatman as s/he steers, warm during inclement weather. This is a traditional boatman’s cabin and in days when these were workboats, whole families were raised in this space only a few feet long.

Forward of this is the engine room. The engine is much like ours, perhaps a little more powerful.

(Although we heard, and glimpsed, some beautiful vintage 2 cylinders put-putting away as they passed.) The difference, as the lady of the boat said was her favourite part, is that this engine is in it’s own compartment.  You pass by the engine as you pass forward to the main cabin. Above you is a small two sided skylight called a pigeon box, and two wide doors on the side to allow venting of engine heat when the radiated heat was not wanted.  Whether this heat was directed on board or vented to the outside, the heat first dried the laundry hanging around the space. If you spend a week or two in a small floating space, an area to dry towels and basic laundry items is much appreciated. Also, there would be no pleasure servicing our engine, located under the plates where the tiller is located. This engine is low down but fully accessible, just like an engine room on the largest sea-going ship. And like its larger sea-going sisters, it has a long propeller shaft and hence the reason for the rear cabin being less than 6’ high.
Where in England is this?

Also, decorating all these spaces, the lady of the boat painted traditional castles and roses, all beautifully executed.

But it gets better…  Moving forward from the engine compartment you enter a galley and saloon that is bright, spacious and airy.  Every piece of wood, real wood, not laminate panels, was crafted and fitted by the man of the boat with help from her ladyship. All painted in cream, with the area below the gunnels paneled in varnished pine, it felt like a cozy palace. I know that’s an oxymoron but it felt warm and inviting as well as spacious. Fitted with a new technology diesel cooktop and stove, a diesel space heater, a dining table for 4 that still allowed someone by, wooden floors and even a well-equipped spice rack.  Oh, and before I forget, two very comfy armchairs and ottoman. This is a space you can live in.

And the traditional paintings of castles, etc, definitely took on a Tolkien-like fantasy as the artist herself, this lady of the boat, expressed her artistic license. The dragon “Smaug” even graced the inside of the forward saloon doors. Outside, on the bow, was “Gandalf” in Middle Earth script, in case you missed his name painted on the side.

You can have your glamorous, “bespoke”, boat. Give me this hand crafted, personalized work of design and art. When you enter a space and immediately relax, it is a compliment to the craftsmen - this husband and wife team who bought the bare hull, spent 2 weeks camping on it bringing it home, then spent 3 years creating what is truly unique, truly individual.

And the “port” of registry – Splatt Bridge, (love the British place names) where they keep their house, Middle Earth. So the question is: is Splatt Bridge a portal to Middle Earth? Because while she convinced me Splatt Bridge is real in our world, she never claimed Middle Earth was.

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