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The ftwo photographs  above are of our first narrowboat Blesslea. She was bought originally as 'Rambling Rose' (BW 68944)and renamed by us. Under her paint work we found another name 'Hayford Heron'.

She was a 45ft Fernnie hull with an air cooled, very noisy Lister engine. The fit out was very basic and the decision was taken for Phil to do a complete refit.

After many happy outings Blesslea was sold and the money invested in a brand new 58ft. tug style empty steel shell built to our own spec. We named our second boat Blesslea II. She is pictured in the heading above.


Blesslea II in her original livery - moored at Saul Junction

The shell for Blesslea II (BW46433) was built by Charles Cox of Dudley..


Philip and a friend Dick Dampier sailed the empty shell with just the engine fitted,down to Saul Junction on the Gloucester Sharpness canal where Philip set about the complete fit out. Initially Blesslea II was fitted with a 1800cc British Leyland engine that Philip found in a scrap yard. At first it was thought the engine was of scarp value only. However with a re-bore, new pistons, bearings etc. Philip re-built the engine and fully marinised it with a PRM hydraulic gearbox.

                                                




Quite early on Beta Marine introduced the BD3 engine, a very powerful marinised Fordson tractor engine, slow revving, specifically designed for the central engine room.
It was a modern engine but with the appearance of the traditional, with lots of brass to clean!
Phil fell for this hook line an sinker. With the BL engine sold to a hire boat company for £2000 we were able to purchase the BD3. The photo shows the BD3 located in the engine room of Blesslea II. The manufacturers, Beta Marine fitted the engine for me in return for using me and the boat for demonstration purposes, it suited Beta as their factory was located nearby to our moorings.



The real work then started for me to fit out the shell. The doors and roof lights (pigeon boxes) were fabricated at home and taken to Dudley to fit so I had to make sure everything fitted first time in order to ensure the shell was secure, much to my relief  they did!
                                                                            
Click thumbnail picture for a larger image

The photos show Blesslea II in primer ready for the launch on the 30th June 1989. The steelwork was by Charles Cox of Dudley. The woodwork and fitting out was by Phil.

The plan for the fit out was to provide modern comfortable  facilities forward of the engine room consisting of a saloon with woodburning stove. A galley with a full size cooker, fridge freezer, secondary hot water system (the main source of hot water provided by the engine via a calorifier). The drinking water supplied from a 200 gallon stainless steel tank under the front deck. The galley fitted out with storage cupboards.

Work in progress - galley - saloon - bedroom

The bedroom in the style of a four poster which enabled Phil to use his other interest of woodturning. A double bed with under above and below lockers. A bathroom with a small bath with shower over, vanity unit and a pump out loo.

A few shots of the finished interior of the saloon .
Apologies for the poor quality photos!

To the rear of the engine room was the fulfilment of Phil’s ambition which was to fit out a traditional boatman's cabin as near to the original style as possible. Here he had to learn new skills. The art of scumbling , that is creating a wood grain effect using combs and brushes. He also had to learn the art of the traditional Roses and Castle designs with which the old boat folk decorated their living cabins. Sonia learnt to make the traditional rag rugs.

The finished interior of the traditional Boatman’s Cabin


Having sold Blesslea II we embarked on our next project, Blesslea III The shell was fabricated by Jim Sparks of Alexander Boat Builders at Stourport on Severn. This was the first order Jim had when he set up on his own having been in the business working for others for many years. Blesslea III was 90% fitted out by Droitwich Boats at Hanbury Wharf.

A small boat this time 46ft. and fitted with a bow thruster. We called her our ‘Geriatric Boat’ intended to take us into our old age. Sadly after a few years use, Sonia had a bad fall on a badly managed BW pontoon, causing hip problems that developed into the need of a hip replacement, putting pay to boating activities. So reluctantly Blesslea III was sold. Recently we heard from the current and third owner telling us how delighted they are with the boat.


Blesslea II went to the National IWA Rally at Wakefield where Phil was awarded the runners up prize for the Best Fit out by a non professional Boat Builder, the winner was a professional cabinet maker, who had recently retired so we had stiff opposition!Whilst at the rally we were approached by the local TV Station who wanted to do a news item from our front deck. Blesslea was used in two TV programmes. First by BBC Schools, a programme entitled 'Water Goes to Ground' , teaching children how we rely on the rainfall and how we use it. The second was an ITV Travel Log programme about the Severn Vale. Blesslea II was sold without her name. She was renamed by her new owners as Suant (BW Reg 46433)


Blesslea II in her changed livery. Hand painted by Phil…except for the sign writing! Moored overnight on the Staffs & Worcs. Near Wolverhampton.

The colours were carried on by he new owners.

The Launch Of Blesslea III at Hanbury Wharf on the Worcs & B’ham Canal

The Birth Of Blesslea III

Click thumbnail picture for a larger image

Top of the Bratch

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Footnote: Received from Mark Bennett the current owner of Blesslea III 13th July 2013:

Just completed the Warwick ring. On our way up the Hillmorton locks near Rugby, 11th July 2013 we were passing a boat when a man started shouting at us saying 'I know that boat'. I recognised his boat from pictures on your website and we pulled over and walked back to say hello. It was Pam and Ian Jackson the owners of SAUNT (Formerly Blesslea II) who have lived on board for 16 years since buying 'Blesslea II' from you.
I didn't have much time as they were working through the locks which were quite busy but they certainly remember you and are obviously very proud of SAUNT.

We now keep Blesslea III at Calcutt marina on the Grand Union and four years on still think she's one of the best boats around.



Moored below Kiddeminster Church

The  next photo is of Blesslea III
our third and final boat

Sonia at the helm of our first boat Blesslea .  On the River Trent
It looks like it was raining……….it usually was!!