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About Beeston Castle Print E-mail
Written by Mike Wilcox   
Thursday, 27 March 2008

NB Beeston Castle

Rear Panel
Rear Panel
Beeston Castle is a semi-traditional style narrowboat launched in September 2005, and travels the inland waterways system in central England. She is jointly owned by a group of 12 families, so gets plenty of use which is matched by a thorough maintenance schedule.

Share Management

The boat is managed by OwnerShips , who are the largest company in the business of building and managing shared narrowboats in the UK. They are also usually responsible for selling shares as and when they come available (but not always, as the owners are free to sell shares any way they wish), so the current situation can be found at this page.

Note that Beeston Castle is officially a Pet-Free boat, and has been designated as such since her build was conceived. The first owner's meeting (after 3 months of use) also unofficially designated her as a Smoking-Free boat - all smoker have voluntarily agreed that the outside is a better place for smoking.

The Boat 

Advertised Layout
Advertised Layout
With a length of 58’, Beeston Castle provides living accommodation for up to six people, although 4 people is perhaps more comfortable. This length also means that she is capable of cruising the entire British inland waterway system - including rivers, canals, and the drainage canals of the Fens. She would need to be transported by road to visit some of the disconnected Scottish and Welsh canals or the Norfolk Broads, as she isn't really capable of coastal waters. Fitted with the appropriate anchor, she can handle the tidal parts of the Thames  and Trent rivers, but she hasn't yet travelled those waters either. I'm not so sure she's really setup for the Severn though - there are too many inlets & outlets too close to the waterline.

The front deck and bow provide seating and storage, plus a large water tank. Hydraulic bow thrusters are fitted to assist manoeuvring - a great boon for windy days, or when winding the boat. The owners have considered, and rejected, fitting a cratch to the foredeck.

Full-height and -width glass doors open from the front deck into the main lounge and dinette, and help make the interior feel bright and airy. The choice of wood for the interior - ash and maple - help with this feel. The lounge is furnished with a sofa bed and equipped with TV, DVD, CD player and radio. The TV can receive analogue terrestrial signals, or make use of an auto-seeking satellite dish mounted on top of the cabin.

Further aft is an L-shaped dinette, with a removable table. The dinette can be converted into a double bed. 

Between the lounge and dinette is a wood-burning stove, which can be used to augment the central heating. In fact, this can generate such heat that there is no need to use the central heating at all, for all but the coldest winter days.

At night, the sofa can be pulled out into a double bed across the boat, while the dinette can be converted into a double bed along the boat, providing accommodation for guests. Full length dividing curtains provide privacy to both areas, and pull-out storage is provided for guests under the work top dividing the galley and dinette.

Galley
Galley
The U-shaped galley is equipped with a gas hob, eye-level oven and separate grill, a microwave and fridge. There is also a freezer under the dinette seat.

The original fitout of the boat included a mains-powered dishwasher, and a decent-specification generator to run it. However, the dishwasher has never really been used (due to faults with the generator, faults with the dishwasher, and the requirement to run the engine at least at 1200 RPM throughout the wash cycle), so this has now been removed.

There is a wide houdini hatch opposite the galley, which adds to the light & ventilation in the centre of the boat. During inclement weather, the hatch can be filled with a perspex cover.

The main bathroom is fitted with the usual hand-baisin and toilet (pump-out variety), and a large corner bath (well, large for a narrowboat) - considerably better provisioned than any hireboat we've seen. The corner-bath makes having a shower useful for the taller people among us.

The master cabin provides space for a permanently made-up 4'-wide double. For the larger owners, the fact the bed can be extended in width (by 1') each night is a boon; for the smaller owners, this extra mattress infill is often consigned to the boot of the car for the week.

The cabin also has a second TV, storage space, and an ensuite toilet. 

Finally, there are steps up to the rear cockpit. As Beestie has a semi-trad layout, there is room for a couple of people to sit on seats built on top of the gas locker and the storage for mooring and locking equipment.

Power for all this comes from the engine compartment underneath the rear cockpit. In here includes a relatively quiet Nanni diesel engine (although it isn't cocooned, as originally targetted) and a Webasto diesel boiler to provide water heating when the engine isn't running. The engine also acts as source of the hydraulic power to drive the bow-thruster.

After the earlier removal of the faulty generator setup, the engine is equipped with alternators to power 2 banks of batteries. One bank (of 1) provides the power to start the engine. The more substantial bank (of 4 batteries, amounting to 200 AH of power) provides the house power, and can feed into a high-capacity inverter (to provide 240V power).

The 240V system can also be fed by a shoreline, although this will not currently charge the batteries. 

Rules of the Scheme

The rules of the standard OwnerShips scheme allow each owner to book 3 weeks per year up-front, using a rotating priority scheme to determine who chooses the weeks first.

There is a set of rules allowing a small group of "special-shares" to have priority booking over the weeks during school holidays, in return for paying a 25% premium on their maintenance fees (meaning a reduction of up to 8% for each of the non-special owners).

This means that 36 weeks of the year are pre-booked, and 2 weeks are assigned for maintenance purposes - and the boats do get well-maintained!

The remaining weeks in the year can be booked according to a "last-minute" booking scheme, which operates with the opposite priority to the main booking scheme. It is possible to get extra weeks or weekends using this mechanism, as not every owner wants to be out in the off-season.

The owners have an annual meeting to determine the next year's operations, including deciding where the boat is to be moored.

Operations

When in use, the boat is captained and crewed by one of the owning families, perhaps with friends press-ganged into assistance under the guise of a "break". However, the maintenance tasks are managed by Ownerships, and scheduled into either the changeover day that occurs between owners, or in a block of "winter" maintenance.

Mooring

Stockton Top Marina
Stockton Top Marina
For her initial period, Beastie has been moored at Stockton Top Marina in Warwickshire,  which is the default starting base for all Ownerships' boats. This marina can get very cramped when a lot of boats are present, and not moving in one of the winter weeks. Obviously it becomes a busy place on the Friday changeover days (especially when you factor in the Kate Boats hirebase operations too).

Based here has put Beeston Castle close to the major junctions at Napton and Braunston, which has meant a great choice of routes. She has seen a lot of the Grand Union and Oxford canals, including trips to Oxford (and the Thames), Milton Keynes, Rugby, Coventry, Tamworth, Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford. She has made trips toward Leicester too, without quite reaching any major towns.

Just add water...
Just add water...
Great Haywood Marina
Great Haywood Marina

For the next year, she's moving toward the North-West to Great Haywood, and is likely to sample the delights of the Trent & Mersey and Staffordshire & Worcester canals.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 27 March 2008 )
 
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