Colin Stewart on Tickin’ Along:
In June 2019, I started to look for a narrowboat builder after selling my cruiser, which had been on the Thames. I’d done quite a lot of research to come up with a spec of what I wanted. I ended up visiting five builders. So why did I settle for Swan? Well, some builders wouldn’t even consider what I wanted, but Swan were prepared to listen to my ideas and give their opinions. I also felt they had a lot of enthusiasm and were very likeable. I feel it’s very important that you get on with the builder. Another thing I liked was the payment structure as you hear horror stories of companies going bust and customers having nothing to show for their money.
So what did I want? A 57ft reverse layout with a cruiser stern. The best electrical system I could afford - past experience had shown me this was very important, and I love gadgets! I submitted my spec to Swan but told them that I was open to their ideas. For work reasons, I didn’t want the boat completed until the end of May 2020, and it was agreed the build would start in February. Anyone guess what happened next? Yep - a pandemic! It was May when the shell was finally delivered to Swan and the fit-out started.
The next time I saw the boat was in June, when the painting and first fix were well under way. I’d still not made my mind up about whether I wanted a dinette or a breakfast bar. After much discussion with Ian, and lots of looking at a tape measure, I settled on a breakfast bar.
My next visit was two days before launch! I should have mentioned I live in Southampton, so it was quite a journey during the pandemic. However, throughout the build, Ian had sent me progress photos and we’d spoken many times on the phone.
I was somewhat nervous as I walked into the workshop. But wow! There she was, better than I’d ever imagined. I had a good look around the boat and struggled to find any major problems.
Launch day came with a mix of nerves and excitement, but all went smoothly. Before long I had to move the boat from the launch site to its new mooring - in full view of the Swan team and many onlookers. And this was the first time I’d driven a narrowboat! Mission accomplished and she was on her mooring, suffering no more than a minor scrape to the blacking. Ian and Gary returned a few days later to adjust some doors and fit a new sender to the fuel gauge. And she was ready for her maiden voyage.
So here are the best bits - in no particular order: the paintwork and sign-writing are stunning; the electrical system of lithium batteries, 1Kw solar, and a comprehensive management system have deliver beyond what I expected; the Refleks diesel stove is like a work of art - easy to light, clean and efficient; the security system is very impressive; the remote-controlled bow thruster makes single-handed cruising easier; and the fit-out is top quality.
The boat gets a lot of comments out on the cut and makes me feel very proud to own it. A year on, I doubt there’s anything I’d change.