Story of a London Boatyard

With the bridge in place, and Landlord’s site works nearing completion, the story of the revival of the Lots Ait Boatyard can begin in earnest.

Where to begin? There are so many different and challenging tasks ahead, but so much opportunity out there to create a living business, one that serves it’s community, provides needed services, jobs, and facilities and, yes, a reasonable living for a hardworking owner/manager.

I read that if you start with a vision clearly in your head, then, with focus and perseverance, it will surely happen – well, here goes!

I see a workshop on a Saturday morning – there are several groups of friends working on projects in the space sharing area. A strip-planked runabout is taking shape in one corner, and, in another, an old GP14 sailing dinghy is being stripped and repainted. Music is playing. The coffee is on. A small pile of machined sapele is waiting to be turned into the cabin of an Edwardian riverboat. Friends chat. A mechanical engineer is helping to bed in an engine and align its propeller shaft. Others are discussing how to size and source an electric motor and battery package for a small day-boat. It’s buzzy, positive and creative. Projects are getting completed and everyone is happy to be involved

Monday morning, high tide, the slipway is being prepared to pull out a 40′ narrowboat for survey and replacement of anodes and propeller. It is floated onto the slipway trolley, and the winch grinds into action, pulling it out onto the slipway ready for the work to be done. With any luck, she will be back in the water on the high tide tomorrow, work completed, ready to cruise.

In the tidal dock, a Tjalk barge is moored, waiting for restoration work to be completed inside. A modern bathroom and kitchen will be fitted, and woodwork and planking restored throughout. New insulation will protect the owners from the cold, damp winters familiar to the liveaboard boaters of the past.

After work, people will gather in front of the fire in the mess room, or out on the patio overlooking the Thames and Kew Palace beyond, for a chat and a coffee, or perhaps a glass of something stronger. Views will be exchanged, problems solved, friends made, lives improved……

So, like I said, where to start?

Utilities,water, electric, waste water, phone, are connected across the bridge. Electricity circuits need to be installed round the workshop and outside onto the hardstand. The mess room, toilets and shower need to be installed over in the southwest corner. Water, sewage and phone connections need to be made, and utility contracts arranged.

Machine tools have to be purchased and moved on to the island. They are too big to carry across the bridge. A workboat will have to be hired or acquired to move this cargo and future shipments of materials and supplies. I have purchased a planer/thicknesser, which sits in storage in a factory in Sussex.

The slipway is covered in mud, and the contractors have pushed one of the railway tracks out of alignment with their big caterpillar machines. A trolley will have to be designed and built to enable boats to be winched in for service or storage on the hard stand. The Slip will have to be cleaned and fixed, with trolley and winch installed.

We have built a website, and done some press releases, but, as the economy bounces along what is hopefully the bottom, will the customers be there. Will we be able to get insurance, finance, permits and approvals for all the work that has to be done.

And, when we have built it, will they come?

I have a story to write about this project, its challenges, victories, and its outcome. I don’t yet know where it will lead, but the journey will, I think, be amazing, and I hope you will join me on  it.

Next time ……….. the slipway trolley!

Slipway? what slipway? This is, literally, the railhead.










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2 Responses to Story of a London Boatyard

  1. boat repair says:

    Hey there, your thread is good about painting the wooden boat. I also got a crack on the bottom of my boat. So I want to repair it. Please suggest me some views.

    • John says:

      Option 1 – remove damaged planks and replace planks and any other damaged bits. Option 2, if the crack is hairline and has not damaged frames, then repair insitu with epoxy.

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