I looked at a lot of boats online. We like canals more than rivers and many of them are narrow so a narrowboat would suit us very well. Unfortunately new-ish ones are expensive and old ones need a lot of work. Narrowboat-style cruisers are built of steel and steel rusts. Boats old enough to be cheap enough are going to need patching or even completely re-plating.
So we looked at GRP cruisers. Many of them are built as river cruisers capable of going down estuaries and even out to sea. Accordingly they are wide and deep and no use at all on a narrow canal. Small cruisers are available but often short as well as narrow, intended really for day trips or occasional overnight stays.
Eventually we found Coralita a 40 year old GRP cruiser built for canals. She is 8m long 2.01m wide and has a very unusual layout. Most boats have a cockpit about two thirds of the way back, or right at the back. Traditional looking narrowboats just have a rear deck and a tiller. Coralita has a front cockpit with a sliding roof. Normal cruiser cockpits are too high for canal bridges and tunnels, Coralita has a low roofline and with the cockpit up front you can cruise with the roof shut during bad weather. Though they view through ancient Perspex isn’t great.
Coralita was for sale at Pershore on the river Avon, so we bought her are brought her back to the Great Ouse via the Avon, Stratford Canal, Oxford Canal, Grand Union Canal, River Nene, Middle Level (fens) and on to the Ouse near Denver. It took 16 days and we spent a lot of time debating improvements (read on…)