Albion: Before, During, and After

Yes! After a teeny tiny three months of DIY, OPDIFY (Other People Do It For You) and TABFDIYBILST (Taking A Break From DIY Because It’s Like Super Tiring), Albion is finally finished! In the way that only a boat can be finished, which is not at all, ever.

There’s still a million things we need or want to do but installing new solar panels, refitting the entire kitchen, getting new reclaimed wood counter tops and floors, and generally tidying up the boatman’s cabin will all have to wait until we’re able to Bring Out Another Thousand.

Still, everything we initially set out to do is done and we now have a proper bedroom, a freshly painted and decorated living room, and a completely new bathroom. Which doesn’t sound like a lot of work now but it WAS.


The Bedroom

Although we had a bedroom in the back cabin, it had a fold-down bed that we didn’t think was very practical for the two of us on a daily basis. Not wanting to waste the huge space under the tug deck, we decided to turn it into a little bedroom den. And when I say ‘we’, I mean our amazing builder Robbie did it. (Although Ed has just reminded me that we did do the varnishing. So that fresh woodsy vibe you see is allllll us).


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The Living Room/Kitchen

The living room was already pretty nice so all we had to do was paint it white, decorate it, and install a sofa.

This took about three weeks. We painted it nine times. Nine layers of paint that still peel off at the lightest brush of a limb. As I mentioned before, never buy cheap B&Q paint.


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The Bathroom

The bathroom was the hardest room in the whole boat (and that’s counting the living room and its B&Q anti-paint). First of all, apart from building the bedroom from scratch, this was the only room that we completely ripped out and started again. It hadn’t been touched for about 20 years and needed new EVERYTHING.

Second of all, there was no sink and no space for a sink. We had all manner of problems with the sink and where to put it, at one point considering fold-down caravan style options or just having to brush our teeth in the shower. Eventually we decided to chop the top off the existing cupboard and turn it into a plinth. This involved gently coaxing our builder into drilling a new waste hole in the side of the boat. I can guarantee you, there is no more unpleasant aural sensation for a boat owner than hearing a drill go through your boat’s hull.

…Apart from the ‘uh oh’ that came afterwards. (Luckily it was just because our tough tug hull had snapped the drill bit, rather than because we were, you know, sinking).

Third of all, we had to rip out part of the kitchen just to get into the walls to fit the new shower.

Fourth of all, we chose the most beautiful but most impractical boat tiles ever. Not only were they so thick and huge that they were nearly impossible to cut, they were so heavy we had to put concrete blocks under the bedroom floor just to stop us capsizing.

Look how pretty though!

Look how pretty though!

Fifth of all: sanding.

Just so much sanding. Endless hours of sanding. I have new muscles just from sanding. There was dust in places dust oughtn’t to be. I once lost Ed in a cloud of dust.

The problem was the traditional scumble varnish that was all over the walls. We quite like it in the living room but we wanted the bathroom to feel fresh, bright and clean. This meant we had to sand all the scumble off. Five million years later, it was ready to varnish, tile, and decorate.


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During (of which there are many, many pictures because it took us so long to during the hell out of this bathroom):

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The kitchen taking one for the team.


Fitting the new shower tray. 

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Et voila! It is done. For now.

N.B. A foreword to anyone coming to visit our boat: There is blood in the varnish, sweat in the grout and there are tears in the wall paint. We will not accept anything other than effusive and adulating praise for all our handiwork. We are especially unreceptive to comments such as “Missed a bit!” or “Oops that’s a bit wonky!” This is the best boat interior renovation you have ever seen and will ever see in your lifetime and all of the lifetimes following. Trust me. I have a new axe.



17 thoughts on “Albion: Before, During, and After

  1. Look how lovely it looks now. Worth all the blood, sweat and tears. I for one was very impressed when I visited. Well done carla and ed. Lots of, love Debbie xxxx

      • Just found your blog after googling “narrowboat refit”! We’re about to leave dry land too and are gathering as much experience as we can from people in the know (that’s you!) So… were you experienced diyers before starting?! How did you find the Other People? Any tips from one now seasoned boater to another would be fantastic!

      • Ah congratulations on your new boat! I’m not very knowledgable at all but will try to help! I am an absolutely unexperienced DIYer but Ed is pretty handy so he was able to do a lot of things himself like the tiling and building shelves and the like. All the big jobs were done by our builder though (like fitting the shower, the sink, the bedroom etc), we did not want to tackle any plumbing ourselves just in case. We found our builder because his workshop is attached to the brokers where we bought our boat. We just mentioned that we were after getting some building work done and our brokers recommended him. He is very wonderful (His name is Robert Gudgeon at Stowe Hill Wharf). He also happened to know the man who had done all the electrics on our boat previously so it was the same guy who did our solar panels too (that’s Matt at Old Friends Canal Services). So it was a bit of a Stowe Hill family job. Everyone there is lovely and I would highly recommend them all. Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with!

  2. Hi! I managed to message you from other halve’s account last time – clever gal that I am. Thanks SO much for you advice – your boat looks beautiful and I love you blog! Really made me feel even more enthused about moving into the boating world. How long have you been cruising – lots of experience as a boater? I’m totally thrilled by being a canal going snail taking my home with me.

      • We’ll be based in Oxford for the majority of the time, but quite keen on pottering around the canals too! Can’t wait – quite prepared for the ups and down, but so excited to have our own little (quite large actually) spot by the tow path. Where are you now – still in London?

      • Oh we just came from Oxford! It’s so lovely there. Do you have a mooring? We found it quite hard to continuously cruise there because the visitor moorings were quite short-term so we spent a lot of time in Kidlington. We’re in Berkhamsted now and slowly heading to London!

        With the spray foam, we only had to do our bedroom because it had previously been storage space under the deck so was just bare metal. The rest of the boat was already insulated. Spray foam is really good though if you’re doing insulation.

      • Excellent tip – thanks. Will certainly consider the sprayfoam… Yes, we’ll be lucky to have a permanent mooring in Oxford through CRT! A little costly, but not too bad. Perhaps we’ll consider continuous cruising in a few years, once we’ve a bit more experience of boat life. Good luck on your journey to London!

        Back to your lovely boatyard people – were they reasonable in terms of cost (a question you should of course ignore if you wish 🙂 )? We want to do some fairly serious renovation, and will need a hand on plumbing and electrics – I can wield a paint brush, but anything that might leak/set fire to things makes me anxious! So we’re trying to find a reputable and reasonable builder – happy to travel for that.

        Sorry to fill you lovely blog post with my inane questions – but nice to find young boater who’s further ahead than me to pester for info 🙂

      • Hiya! Sorry for the delayed reply, we’ve been away!

        Robbie charged us about what we expected and we thought he was really reasonable considering he did such a good job and helped us out with so many different things. There might be some cheaper alternatives out there (I’m not sure as we didn’t look anywhere else!) but we didn’t want to scrimp and end up with bad workmanship. We felt the same way as you so Robbie did all the major building work and plumbing and everything else scary. Here’s the workshop info if you want to contact him:

        No problem at all, I’m happy to help and we like meeting other new boaters too 🙂

  3. Pingback: Albion: One Year Later | A Narrow Escape

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