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A Road Trip to Bickerstaffe Boats

We'd only been back from holiday a couple of weeks when Kev from Bickerstaffe Boats contacted us and asked if we'd like to take a look at the three boats he had waiting for his customers to launch.

Bickerstaffe Boats were one of the only boat builders we missed at the Crick Boat Show just a couple of months ago. In the run up to the show we'd made appointments with dozens of boat builders, so on the days we were there we didn't have much time in-between our appointments to check out any of the other exhibitors.

'Goldilocks' and 'The Last Derbyshire Miner'

We'd spoken with Kev a few times and were already connected on Twitter when we finally visited them in July. "Watch for the big wind turbine and you'll know you're here" he said as part of his directions. Sure enough, there's this blooming great big wind turbine as you approach, along with the coolest looking cafe and play area for dogs.

Tucked away at the back of a huge shipping container park on the outskirts of Kirby, near Liverpool, is Bickerstaffe Boats. It's easy to miss, as we found out when we drove straight past it. It doesn't look like a place you'd imagine boat building to be going on. For a start, it's nowhere near water, never mind the canal, although there are plenty of seagulls flying around, and I heard actual gunshots! (nothing sinister I'm told).

Cheeky selfie with Shaun and Kev in deep discussion in the background.

Kev had asked us to take a look at his boats and film a vlog with our honest opinions. Now, I wouldn't let two strangers on my boats with an open invitation to say what they want about them, but Kev trusted us. We'd already done some research before our visit, and we knew full well that Bickerstaffe was different. No bespoke orders here. No choice of colours, add-ons, upgrades, or swatches of fabric to choose from. You buy what you see. Full stop.

Given that Shaun and I had a list of 'must haves', I didn't really think we'd be leaving wanting one of these boats. The first one we boarded was an Aintree 57 foot cruiser shell. The paintwork was lovely, but inside it didn't do much for me. The colour was wrong (for me), it seemed dark, too closed in. The saloon had an L-shaped dinette, despite already having a Pullman style dinette by the galley. The bed was a small double. Not enough room for the two of us who like to spread out (and Shaun's a kicker!). Apart from the Pullman Dinette and a side hatch, I didn't like it, and if I don't like something, I'll say I don't.

He's a Bickerstaffe. I'm not that sure... yet.

We jumped across on to the next boat, Goldilocks. This is the one we would have seen at the Crick show. At first it looked very similar to the first boat we'd seen. This one was a Burscough shell which had a very attractive square stern, but apart from that, this boat felt different. I can't explain why because the layout was pretty much identical to the other boat, but this one felt better. The colours were neutral, softer on my over-sensitive autistic eyes. Some of the finishing touches made such a difference to the feel of the boat. It just felt better.

We sat down at the dinette and started recording our vlog. We didn't want to upset Kev, but at that point we didn't think Bickerstaffe was really for us. We liked the boat, but we didn't love it. There was just too much missing from our list of must-haves. The bed extension, a decent TV, solar panels, and this damn L-shaped dinette. The boat itself was lovely. It was comfortable, extremely well made, a quality fit-out, the time and workmanship was obviously visible, and we felt at home. Based on all this we recorded our honest vlog.

Feeling at home aboard narrowboat 'Goldilocks'.

We didn't show Kev what we'd recorded, or tell him what we'd said. He found out at the same time you did, by watching the vlog when it went live on YouTube. We were a bit nervous about what he'd think, but he loved it! It actually made him think a little about trying to add some new things to his boats to make them suit the owner better. Result!

No spoilers, but this wasn't the last time we'd be visiting Bickerstaffe boats!

You can watch the vlog by Clicking Here

See you next time!

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