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CypherSD

Semi-trad hire boat recommendations (West Midlands or N. Wales)

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First time poster here, planning a canal holiday from the States (May 2020). We have been on narrowboats a couple of times before, most recently did the Four Counties + Caldon. This time we would like to return and stay a bit longer (3 weeks), taking our time puttering around. We are thinking of roughly the same area, maybe going down the Llangollen, up to Chester, or down the Anderton boat lift. Honestly though, we just want a location that has a few options, depending on how much we want to cruise per day (laid back is the key for this trip). But we wanted to try a slightly different boat this time, hoping for a semi-trad with some seating. It's kind of hard to search for such a thing and was wondering if anyone here has any tips/ideas. Requirements are:

 

1. Room for 3 adults - 1 bed for my wife and I and a dedicated berth for my adult daughter (don't want to stick her on the dinette for 3 weeks)

2. Semi-trad with room for two passengers to sit in the stern while someone else drives (boats? Tiilers? Pilots? not sure what the proper word is)

 

Would also be nice to try:

 

3. Reverse layout, or something other than the common singles/bathroom/double/galley/dinette layout

4. Pullman dinette (I think I prefer L shaped, but would like to try this)

5. Some lounge space in addition to the dinette

 

Looking for something starting at 52', but not much larger than 65'. While budget is hardly unlimited (I wish!), I would be willing to pay a bit more for a nicer boat,  also looking for a reputable hire company. Looking at early to mid May for the trip. I know Andersen boats has some semi-trads that would work, but they don't have availability for our dates. It seems like the one place hire boat companies neglect to show is the one place you spend most of your time! Any pointers greatly appreciated. I did search the forums a bit, but didn't see anything on this topic.

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9 hours ago, CypherSD said:

First time poster here, planning a canal holiday from the States (May 2020). We have been on narrowboats a couple of times before, most recently did the Four Counties + Caldon. This time we would like to return and stay a bit longer (3 weeks), taking our time puttering around. We are thinking of roughly the same area, maybe going down the Llangollen, up to Chester, or down the Anderton boat lift. Honestly though, we just want a location that has a few options, depending on how much we want to cruise per day (laid back is the key for this trip). But we wanted to try a slightly different boat this time, hoping for a semi-trad with some seating. It's kind of hard to search for such a thing and was wondering if anyone here has any tips/ideas. Requirements are:

 

1. Room for 3 adults - 1 bed for my wife and I and a dedicated berth for my adult daughter (don't want to stick her on the dinette for 3 weeks)

2. Semi-trad with room for two passengers to sit in the stern while someone else drives (boats? Tiilers? Pilots? not sure what the proper word is)

 

Would also be nice to try:

 

3. Reverse layout, or something other than the common singles/bathroom/double/galley/dinette layout

4. Pullman dinette (I think I prefer L shaped, but would like to try this)

5. Some lounge space in addition to the dinette

 

Looking for something starting at 52', but not much larger than 65'. While budget is hardly unlimited (I wish!), I would be willing to pay a bit more for a nicer boat,  also looking for a reputable hire company. Looking at early to mid May for the trip. I know Andersen boats has some semi-trads that would work, but they don't have availability for our dates. It seems like the one place hire boat companies neglect to show is the one place you spend most of your time! Any pointers greatly appreciated. I did search the forums a bit, but didn't see anything on this topic.

Combining all those features may prove difficult and such a boat will be upwards of 60’.

 

Probably the most likely looking boats to fit the above amongst the big hire fleets are those of Anglo-Welsh who favour semi-trad sterns more than others and have boats that combine the features you list albeit not reverse layout. I don’t think reverse layout plus dinette and lounge is a combination you’ll find at all. It isn’t logical. Have a look at their Heritage fleet online.

 

Anglo-Welsh have many bases including one at Trevor which is immediately north of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.

 

Someone may come along and point you in the direction of small hirer who has a boat to suit your requirements but I’m doubtful. Hire boats tend to follow the patterns they do for good reason.

 

JP

Edited by Captain Pegg

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Most semi trads are not the most comfortable of boats in the back end, a cruiser stern would be a better bet for your needs. There are some semi trads such as Napton that are better than others but still, a cruiser stern is a better idea.

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48 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Most semi trads are not the most comfortable of boats in the back end, a cruiser stern would be a better bet for your needs. There are some semi trads such as Napton that are better than others but still, a cruiser stern is a better idea.

Not if someone actually wants to sit down next to the steerer it won’t be. I’m taking it they have hired cruiser sterns before and want to try a semi-trad. The issue of comfort of the seat maybe isn’t a show stopper for a three week hire.

 

For the benefit of the OP the issue is the shape of the seat back which being the side of the boat slopes forward in relation to the back of the person sat on the seat which results in an unnatural seating position.
 

JP

Edited by Captain Pegg

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The Anglo-Welsh "Constellation" class boats are very luxurious (comfy armchairs not uncomfortable bench seats in the living area) and have a semi-trad stern with seats, available from most of their bases. We hired "Hydra" from Tardebigge last year and liked it enough to be hiring "Aries" from Wooten Wawen this year.

Edited by IanD

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Based on all you have said re boat and places you want to go, I would suggest the you look at Anglo Welsh from their Bunbury base.  We hired a semi trad from there before we had our own boat.

 

BTW, one "steers" a narrowboat!

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In the UK there is a public holiday Monday 25 May 2020 and the schools are closed for that week. Hire prices seem to go up in that week and availability goes down.

 

As has been said, Napton Narrowboats run from Autherley junction which is a taxi ride from Wolverhampton railway station. Their Elite fleet have an open rear desk with seating, is has no sides to shield the wind, but maybe more comfortable and no sides to concentrate any engine noise.

 http://www.napton-marina.co.uk/index.php

 

A few miles from there is Countrywide cruisers which have semi-trad sterns 

https://www.countrywide-cruisers.co.uk

 

 

  • Greenie 1

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Also consider Chas Hardern on the Shropshire Union. Their base is very well placed for all the routes you mention, and he has a couple of 60 foot semi trads https://www.chashardern.co.uk/narrowboat_shadowfax.htm

 

Small family run business with very good service, although I think it's fair to say that while their boats are well equipped with good quality fit out, they are at the more basic end of the hire market with very competitive prices. 

 

 

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My ten cents worth-

many years ago we hired a semi-trad from Teddsley and found the rear seating very uncomfortable. However, if we sat on the top (with our feet on the seats) it was bearable - with the advantage that we got a better view of the scenery. I think Napton NBs arrangement covers both aspects very well.  At least they do when we come across their boats out on hire.

 

The advantage of a boat from Chas: Hardern is that you have an oportunity to vist at least Chester and the waterways museum. Some other routes may be very pleasant with lots of scenery  - but often nothing on which to focus.

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Unjustified criticism of semi trad sterns - you just need to get the engineering right. I have a semi trad stern a foot longer than standard but with no fixed seats. There are two stools / boxes for steerer and first mate at the rear with a short vertical back - I can sit there all day. We use folding seats for any passengers which are comfortable. We can also sit 4 at a table on the deck. The semi trad stern provides shelter from wind and a bit of privacy.

 

Keep looking.

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Wow, thanks for all the great replies! Anglo Welsh looks very interesting, with plenty of boats to choose from (but not many of the new Heritage class yet). I had looked at Andersen, but oddly the only availability they had was starting May 25, the Monday of the school holiday, which is a bit late for us (though not entirely ruled out). I will look at Napton and Chas Hardern as well. Also, thanks for the comments on comfort level, and yes, as surmised, we have been on cruiser sterns before, but we had trouble with seated passengers blocking the full swing of the tiller, or blocking the space to disembark. I guess what we really want is reasonably comfortable seating for two passengers, without being in the way of boat operations.

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13 hours ago, mrsmelly said:

Most semi trads are not the most comfortable of boats in the back end, a cruiser stern would be a better bet for your needs. There are some semi trads such as Napton that are better than others but still, a cruiser stern is a better idea.

As a semi owner I would echo these views. I got mine foe additional dog security so are quite happy with what I chose but sitting in the cockpit, forget it. 

  • Greenie 1

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1 minute ago, Slim said:

As a semi owner I would echo these views. I got mine foe additional dog security so are quite happy with what I chose but sitting in the cockpit, forget it. 

We bought our semi quite simply as we hadnt owned one before. Its not possible to make an informed decision on favourite stern unless you own them all for a while to find out. Ours is fine but we never sit on the seats. With a cruiser a couple of free standing seats facing backwards against rear of cabin is good and out of the way of the steerer. My preference is still cruiser, semi then trad which I disliked but had to have one as that particular builder only did Trads and I wanted one. It takes all kinds, some people even have pram hoods and to quote a top politician " I would rather be dead in a ditch " than have a pram cover.

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On our semi-trad shareboats, the dog (the one in my avatar and his predecessor) made full use of tne seat whilst cruising. We called it "the cuthound seat". 

 

Semi-trads offer better looks and protection from the elements compared to cruisers, but are not comfortable for sitting on.

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15 hours ago, CypherSD said:

Wow, thanks for all the great replies! Anglo Welsh looks very interesting, with plenty of boats to choose from (but not many of the new Heritage class yet). I had looked at Andersen, but oddly the only availability they had was starting May 25, the Monday of the school holiday, which is a bit late for us (though not entirely ruled out). I will look at Napton and Chas Hardern as well. Also, thanks for the comments on comfort level, and yes, as surmised, we have been on cruiser sterns before, but we had trouble with seated passengers blocking the full swing of the tiller, or blocking the space to disembark. I guess what we really want is reasonably comfortable seating for two passengers, without being in the way of boat operations.

Norbury Wharf on the Shropie have Trad, semi trad &  cruiser style boats for hire. Might have something to suit you.   https://www.norburywharfltd.co.uk/narrow-boat-hire/

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We got a semi as it looks better than cruiser and we thought a trad is too limiting with space. They aren't great for comfort as the back panel leans in behind you (certainly does on ours). Our previous ABC boat was more comfortable, but then it stuck out at the back and caught on tunnels occasionally!

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16 hours ago, CypherSD said:

Wow, thanks for all the great replies! Anglo Welsh looks very interesting, with plenty of boats to choose from (but not many of the new Heritage class yet). I had looked at Andersen, but oddly the only availability they had was starting May 25, the Monday of the school holiday, which is a bit late for us (though not entirely ruled out). I will look at Napton and Chas Hardern as well. Also, thanks for the comments on comfort level, and yes, as surmised, we have been on cruiser sterns before, but we had trouble with seated passengers blocking the full swing of the tiller, or blocking the space to disembark. I guess what we really want is reasonably comfortable seating for two passengers, without being in the way of boat operations.

The Anglo-Welsh Heritage class look to prioritise style and looks over comfort (hence choosing the Constellation class twice), of course opinions may differ on this if you really value things like a "traditional" sink ?

 

(the new Admiral class next year are identical to the Constellations but only two 4-berth boats so far and you're paying more for the flashy paint job...)

 

I'd agree that the Napton boats like the "Elite" class with the open/railed/seated "semi-trad" stern are an excellent compromise for seating, we also hired one of these in the past and were happy with it. Of course when it's raining and windy you can't hide from this inside the rear doors like with a more conventional "semi-trad", and don't think this won't happen just because you're hiring in the English summer.

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We hired a semi trad in the past from Countrywide Cruisers at Brewood on the Shroppie.  Can't remember which one of their boats it was.

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