CAPABLE - 61622


These were the voyages of the Narrowboat Capable, her indefinite mission to explore strange new backwaters, to boldy go where working boats had gone before............................

Capable ascends Gauxholme Locks
UPDATE......September 2004

Some 25 years ago when the youthful and newly-married owners of CAPABLE wandered the derelict reaches of the Huddersfield and Rochdale Canals, there seemed little prospect that navigation would ever be possible over these dizzy Pennine summits. This year we achieved that dream and made the grand tour of Standedge, Huddersfield and Rochdale as a grand finale to boat ownership.

These two canals were often believed impossible to restore, and it has happened against the odds - but sadly, the boat traffic that is possible is too small to realise the full potential of regeneration that was the dream and vision of so many. No commercial enterprise could survive on the traffic that reaches the summit lengths, and few boats appear to navigate any other part of either waterway. In our recent trip at the height of the Summer holiday we encountered just 5 boats moving between Todmorden and Manchester. The economics of the Standedge tug system must be utterly unsustainable, so get up there while you can!

CAPABLE was dry-docked on the TITANIC at Anderton in late August 2003. A full hull survey indicated that the counter was desperately thin, but that the general condition of the hull was fairly good considering her age. Accordingly, plans were made for replacement of the plate during the Autumn, but this was frustrated by the difficulty of finding someone willing to do the job. Finally, Mick Sievewright at Middlewich took on the job and performed brilliantly during February/March 2004. A new counter from 8mm plate that was in stock has also solved the perennial problem of rear-end ballast. She now starts and stops when commanded, whatever the state of the fuel tanks!

During Spring 2003, a start was made on rubbing down the cabin sides ready for painting - a process that culminated in repainting over two weekends in early July. She looked splendid, despite the fact that the job was not actually completed. Unfortunately, the green border was not applied in time for our major cruise to the Black Country. However, the job is back in hand and she was in the paint shed having the bow painted and sign-written in early May 2004. A coat of paint was applied to the cratch stand last winter, and a new plank made to replace the rotted remains of the 18 year-old original. Work continued to finish painting the cabin sides during June and the remainder of the hull during July, the job being finished the weekend before departure for Standedge Tunnel and the Rochdale canal.

NARROWBOATS are a uniquely British style of boat - they were designed in the 18th century to fit the narrow locks of the new canals of the Industrial Revolution. The maximum gauge on a 'narrow' canal in Britain is 72 feet by 6 feet 10 inches. These dimensions were dictated by the smaller, and therefore cheaper structures which were required. The pioneers soon discovered that longer boats were more efficient for a given beam. Later canals were built to wider dimensions which allowed narrowboats to work through in pairs, or wider boats to work singly. Despite their length and use, they are NEVER called longboats or barges. At first, such boats were horse-drawn, but from the 1850's steam, and then from the 1920's diesel engines took over. Early pleasure boats were often converted from old commercial craft by building a cabin over the open, box-like cargo space. The style was copied by modern boatbuilders, despite the continuing popularity of small cruisers of wooden or GRP construction. In Bancroft Basin

On Chirk Aqueduct

CAPABLE, a steel-hulled narrowboat, 55 feet long with a wood and GRP cabin top, was built by Rugby Boatbuilders in 1976. She is powered by a Lister SR3 diesel engine. For six years she worked as a hire boat under the name of STYX for the hire fleet at Hillmorton on the Oxford Canal, and offered berths for 8 or 10 people. She was purchased by DCS Ltd. and renamed in December 1982, moving to Long Buckby on the Grand Union Canal, and undergoing considerable internal modification for her new role. After six more years in 1988 she moved north to Anderton on the Trent and Mersey Canal under the family ownership of a former director (JW) of DCS Ltd.

1997 was a traumatic year, since CAPABLE achieved majority in the year of the Boat Safety Scheme. Both the Waterways and the Insurers needed convincing that she was fit to carry on. Repairs included new bottom plates, fitted at Wrenbury. We had hoped to celebrate her twenty-first birthday in a little more style...........

Now, after 20 years of ownership, major repairs have been necessary (see above). Also, the trusty Lister SR3 is beginning to sound a little less happy, but what can you expect after pushing us along the canal for over 7000 miles in 22 years? In all that time the only problem encountered while under way was a nearly-blocked fuel filter, that didn't actually cause a breakdown, only a bit of hiccupping when pushed. As our family has grown up and moved on, we do not use her as we did and the justification for the expense of repairs and maintenance is diminishing. The waterways are changing too, busier and more commercial (and that does not mean transport-orientated) with more focus on property management than canal maintenance in its traditional form. Acordingly we have made the decision to leave the water and sell CAPABLE. Farewell, and long may she prosper under new management.

Captain's Log, Bar-date 28th August 2004

  • 1983 - Leicester, Northampton, Stratford-On-Avon, Froghall, Kidsgrove.
  • 1984 - Oxford, Foxton, Tamworth, Ashby, Fradley, Stourbridge, Birmingham, Kingswood, Hatton, Braunston.
  • 1985 - Blisworth, Wendover Arm, Limehouse, Hertford, Bishop's Stortford.
  • 1986 - Hatton, Stratford-On-Avon, Knowle, Garrison, Fazely, Braunston.
  • 1987 - Hatton, Birmingham, Titford Pools, Stourport, Worcester, Kingswood, Hatton, Braunston, Leicester.
  • 1988 - Braunston, Tamworth, Fradley, Haywood, Market Drayton, Middlewich, Anderton, Castlefield IWA Rally.
  • 1989 - Barbridge, Autherley, Haywood, Kidsgrove, Middlewich, Hurleston, Llangollen.
  • 1990 - Barbridge, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Manchester, Marple, Kidsgrove, Middlewich, Bunbury.
  • 1991 - Preston Brook, Wigan, Adlington, Burscough, Wigan, Anderton, Kidsgrove, Fradley, Fazeley, Tame Valley, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Market Drayton, Middlewich.
  • 1992 - Middlewich, Nantwich, Middlewich, Wigan, Skipton, Rodley, Castleford, Rodley, Skipton, Wigan, Preston Brook.
  • 1993 - Middlewich, Market Drayton, Wolverhampton, Farmer's Bridge, Digbeth, Garrison, Fazeley, Braunston, Foxton, Leicester, Langley Mill, Fradley, Ashby, Braunston, Foxton, Leicester, Barrow-On-Soar, Burton-On-Trent, Kidsgrove, Middlewich.
  • 1994 - Barbridge, Ellesmere Port, Hurleston, Chirk, Llangollen, Hurleston, Ellesmere Port, Barbridge, Middlewich.
  • 1995 - Kidsgrove, Froghall, Leek, Middlewich, Preston Brook, Wigan, Tarleton, Wigan, Preston Brook.
  • 1996 - Barbridge, Autherley, Stourport, Tewkesbury, Stratford-On-Avon, Kingswood, Alvechurch, Birmingham, Dudley, Hawne, Dudley, Stourbridge, Autherley, Barbridge, Middlewich.
  • 1997 - Middlewich, Barbridge, Beeston and return, Kidsgrove, Etruria, Haywood, Autherley, Barbridge, Middlewich, Anderton, Middlewich, Barbridge, Hurleston, Ellesmere, Trevor and return, Anderton, Barbridge, Wrenbury (again).
  • 1998 - Wrenbury, Barbridge, Middlewich, Anderton, Lymm, Anderton, Kidsgrove, Marple, Ashton, Marple, Whaley Bridge, Kidsgrove, Anderton, Middlewich, Barbridge, Chester and return.
  • 1999 - Middlewich, Barbridge, Audlem and return. Kidsgrove, Fradley, Hawkesbury, Braunston, Cosgrove, Gayton Junction, Knowle, Camp Hill, Ashted, Aston, Perry Barr, Ryder's Green, Wolverhampton, Barbridge, Anderton, Lymm, Runcorn, Anderton, Broken Cross, Anderton.
  • 2000 - Middlewich, Anderton, Preston Brook, Worsley, Wigan, Burnley, Skipton and return; Middlewich, Malkins Bank and return; Barbridge, Whitchurch and return.
  • 2001 - Middlewich, Barbridge, Aldersley, Horseley Fields, Pelsall, Anglesey, Tame Valley, Farmer's Bridge, Worcester, Stourport, Great Haywood, Etruria, Endon, Etruria, Anderton.
  • 2002 - Middlewich, Thurlwood & return; Barbridge, Hurleston, Welsh Frankton, Queen's Head & return, Middlewich, Beeston Wharf & return.
  • 2003 - Middlewich, Harecastle, Fradley, Fazeley, Salford Junction, Garrison, Ashted, Farmer's Bridge, Hockley Port, Tipton, Black Country Museum, Brades, Netherton, Stourton, Autherley, Barbridge, Middlewich, Anderton.
  • 2004 - Preston Brook, Castlefield, Ducie Street, Dukinfield, Huddersfield, Cooper Bridge, Sowerby Bridge, Rochdale, Castlefield, Preston Brook, Anderton.
  • 7515 miles + 5414 locks

    The bar is now closed.

    Our thanks to all our friends and relations who made these voyages possible and so enjoyable.

    LINKS: British Waterways