Boat Building

In the mid-1960s the firm attempted what appears to have been an extraordinary venture into boat-building[1].

Under the guidance of a Mr. Bell, who was had a keen interest in boats, they built two small steel hulled cabin cruisers; the first 29ft. long and the second 36ft. Both had 6ft. 10in. beams, to allow them to ply the local waterways and canals. The boat’s design was apparently a joint venture between the firm and the future owners, Mr. Jim Vincent of Loughborough and Mr. Derek Hurst[2], who were members of the local Soar Boating Club. The steel superstructure was welded to the 3/16in. thick steel hull using a steel channel with wooden inserts, which were left exposed to allow the roof and sides panels to be attached. Placing the engine in the rear compartment with a steel bulkhead separating it from the living quarters was meant to reduce the risk of fire and eliminate both noise and fumes from both the cabins and cockpit. It also allowed more headroom, by removing the need for a long propeller shaft[3].

The intention was that the firm would only be responsible for constructing the hull and superstructure, leaving the owners to arrange the final fitting out. If successful, the firm was planning on targeting both private owners and cruise hire market. However, it appears that the venture did not progress beyond the first two or maybe three boats. It is believed that the two prototypes proved excessively expensive to build, mainly due to being designed “on the fly”, resulting in a significant number of ‘in-flight’ designs modifications.

 

Kishdedu being prepared for unloading, Loughborough Echo, 9 June 1966 (Photograph courtesy of The Loughborough Echo)

The first boat was launched from Mr. Harris’ boatyard on the Grand Union River Soar navigation at Syston, in June 1966[4]. When launched, its hull was covered in pitch epoxy resin providing a tough, flexible and waterproof coating. The boat, named Kishdedu[5], plied the local waterways for several years, before being bought by Mr. Harris. In 2011 it resided at the boatyard, albeit in a poor state of repair. Whilst there was no sign of the original central wheelhouse, the hull is unmistakable. The boat displays the hallmarks of being built by a company that had no boat building inheritance.

 

Kishdedu at Mr Harris’, Old Junction Boatyard, Syston, 11 March 2011
Kishdedu at Mr Harris’, Old Junction Boatyard, Syston, 11 March 2011

The second boat, known as the Cadooku or Kadoku and owned by Mr. Jim Vincent, was launched a few weeks later from Loughborough Wharf, adjacent to what is now the Travelodge hotel; on the corner of Derby Road and Bridge Street. The 36ft. long boat was lowered into the water using a British Waterways waterborne crane[6]. The only known photograph of the boat appeared in the Loughborough Echo, following its launch[7]. Mr. Harris remembers it being blue with a white top, again with a central wheelhouse. It apparently had significantly improved lines, compared with the first, which indicates that the firm was obviously going through a rapid learning curve.

 

Cadooku or Kadoku at Loughborough Wharf,, Loughborough Echo, 23 June 1967 (Courtesy of The Loughborough Echo)

A third boat was also planned, intended for marketing to both cruise hire companies and private customers[8], although it never came to be realised.

 

References:

  1. The Loughborough Echo, 9th June 1966.
  2. Who reputedly ran an office equipment business on London Road, Leicester.
  3. The Loughborough Echo, 23rd June 1966.
  4. The Loughborough Echo, 9th June 1966.
  5. Mr Harris of Old Junction Boatyard Meadow Lane, Syston, Leicester.
  6. The Loughborough Echo, 23rd June 1966.
  7. Ibid. 
  8. Ibid.