Home Sweet Home

As things move on a-pace in Biddulph, the home of our builder, Piper Boats, our attention has moved to finding a home for Anticus to moor.

Our criteria is really that she should be no great distance from our house in Twickenham, which is on the Thames (the town that is, not our house ! I hasten to add the film Brewsters Millions was not based on me in any way, shape or form). We are not planning to live full time on board, indeed Nicola still has a year before she can retire (she has told me to emphasise EARLY retirement).

So the lower non-tidal Thames seemed to fit geographically. The first decision was un-serviced options moored to a bank or eyott (island, for those who don’t speak Thames)!, or a marina with the bells and whistles of electricity, water, security, and of course far greater fees.

After perusing the ‘wild mooring’ options we eventually decided on selling a kidney or two and opted for the marina option. There are a couple within 20 mins of our house that could take Anticus, Shepperton and Penton Hook.

Quite honestly there was little to choose between the two marinas. One had a yacht / social club – doesn’t really float our boat (sorry about that!:) Both had a decent chandlery. Neither had a crane that could take our Piper. Penton Hook was about 15% more in fees, but has reciprocal access to all MDL marinas. And the final clincher, especially as far as Nicola was concerned – from our potential mooring at Shepperton, we saw a pair of Kingfishers in the bushes 30 yds away!

So, as someone once told me, BOAT means Bring On Another Thousand. Well in this case it was around 6 BOATs worth, but we are booked into Shepperton for 12 months.

brand new moorings


Home Sweet Home

It’s not a cabriolet then?

Hello reader, I’ve just had a few photos in from Andrea at Pipers.

Very exciting that the boat looks like a boat now, and that the wheelhouse is being positioned.

By the way, I can here you asking why is it a boat and not a ship? Well, it appears that it is to do with size. A boat is small enough to be carried on a ship, but not vice versa ! Don’t even ask what that makes a dinghy !!!! 🙂


Bashing the courses at Bisham

Last year both Nicola and I did barge handling courses at Bisham Abbey – in fact I enjoyed it so much I did it twice, gaining my ICC and CEVNI qualifications aboard their barge Le Coq.

le coq

Le Coq – training Barge at Bisham Abbey

A couple of weeks ago I added to my nautical CV with a Diesel maintenance course and a VHF course, also taken at Bisham.

This really is a first class facility on the Thames and a perfect environment with knowledgeable, patient instructors. Highly recommended.

Things are moving on


The first visit to Pipers after I’d sent them some cash couldn’t come quick enough. And, true to form, I arrived in the Stoke area about an hour and a half before I was due to meet Andrea!  Unfortunately Nicola couldn’t make it as she was looking after her poorly Mother, so there was added pressure on me as I was choosing the interior of our boat!

When I pulled into the yard I was greeted with the sight of a big boys IKEA flat-pack.

I then became acutely aware of 2 things:

Firstly, I was now the proud owner of a few tons of flat steel. And, secondly, before me was my boat!!

Inside the metal shop, things were already progressing with the keel already laid.



Does size matter?

Well the answer is quite obviously, Yes!

My first thoughts were big is best. More space. More room for gadgets. Just, more!  However the flip size of more size and more stuff, is more expense. Not only in the build, around £10k per metre, but also in running costs, heating costs, mooring fees, furnishings etc etc.

So we had to get our thoughts in order and decide how we would determine which size was best for us. And the answer was there really, the boat was for us, Thats me, Nicola and Alfie the Border Terrier. As much as we are expecting guests, family and friends, old and new, the majority of the time the boat will be enjoyed by just us three amigos. So one cabin, with optional sleeping space. Easy to handle (by me and Nicola, with Alfie having little to offer here)!

Piper, our preferred builders offer a couple of styles in a number of lengths and a wide and not quite so wide beam. The two styles are a raised aft deck, with cabin underneath this (the ‘L’, and a deck level aft deck opening from the wheelhouse, with cabin up at the pointy end (the M). After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and um-ing and ah-ing we eventually decided on the ‘M’. A few of our reasons were not wanting to be isolated while steering the boat – the wheelhouse opening onto the rear deck seems to suit this, and ease of access to the rear deck for Alfie and also whilst carrying food and drinks (us, that is, not Alfie)!

As mentioned it would be just the two of us + hound, so single cabin was the preferred route. Ease of use was important – neither of us felt the need to learn a whole new Master Mariner skill set. Having had a couple of visits to the wonderful Piper weekend at Henley in September we had been on a few different Piper Barges and spoken at length to there owners, we decided that 49ft would be just about right.

Simon Piper developed the 49M model to be the ideal boat to cruise the inland waterways of France – just where we wanted to be. I wouldn’t go against Mary Berry when she recommends a Victoria Sandwich recipe, so why would I try to second guess Simon Piper when he points us towards a Piper 49M?

Why pay Piper?

Neither of us have any meaningful experience with boats, nor are very handy in the DIY department. So, the relatively easy first decision of new or old was reached quickly.

Once we’d come to the decision to splash (sorry!) out on a new build we then started the search for a builder.

To be honest, I’m not sure whether to be surprised or not, but, we didn’t have a lot to choose from in the UK. We wanted a UK build as our plan was to cruise the Thames for a season or two – more of that later. Some of those we found on line no longer existed. One or two didn’t respond to emails.

We narrowed it down to a couple of builders, both producing a similar product at a similar price. Piper’s though, invited us to a weekend at Henley on Thames, about half an hour from home. Here they had around a dozen or so barges, brought their by their owners, and moored up alongside a marquee. Prospective owners could swarm over the assembled Piper barges, chat to their owners, speak to Pipers staff, and have a beer and a sandwich.

pipers henley

Piper barges ready for inspection at Henley-upon-Thames


A great idea. It really made us think that if Pipers were being this open – and, by the way, we were allowed unfettered access to the owners and their thoughts on their barges and the builder – then they just might be producing a fine product.

We were sold!

Now we just needed to decide which model !