Thursday, 25 February 2010

Lindy Helen - 1971

Lindy Helen - 1971
Llangollen Canal

Among the many "pre narrowboats" cruisers we hired, one stands out.  I am referring to the Lindy Helen which was hired from Llangollen, Trevor or somewhere near the top of the Langollen Canal from a man named Mr Smout. It's strange that I remember his name but can't remember the hire base. Why am I thinking Maestermyn Cruisers? But maybe that was a later trip. I have a feeling that Mr Smout was stout - an unkind rhyme which stuck in my adolescent mind!

 Lindy Helen - Promotional Postcard circa 1970

The thing about Lindy Helen was her unusual carvel construction, made out of mahogany with the planks held together with some sort of brass rivets. As you may have gathered, I like wood - real wood, and in particular I am a sucker for varnished hardwood. In Lindy Helen I found acres of highly glossed hardwood and I spent a very happy week staring at the woodwork as I fell asleep.

  Lindy Helen emerges from a tunnel

If you are going to build a wooden cruiser, this is pretty much how it should look - a period classic! It is a narrower version of the classic 1950's Broads Cruisers, about whaich I am also very enthusiastic.

However, all was not well with the good ship LH. Sure, she carries us all the way down to the Shropshire Union and back again, but somewhere along the way we must have hit a rock which set off a vibration. I say a vibration like it was the sort of tremor we saw in the puddle scene in Jurassic Park. What I actually mean is the whole boat shuddered on the way back and in the absence of a weedhatch (how did we manage without?) we had no way of telling what the problem was.

Crossing Chirk Aqueduct

I guess that this followed our problem with the bent propshaft on Halcyon the previous year, so it was probably attributed to the same thing. In the event, Mr Smout encouraged one of his staff to take an early bath in the canal only to discover that there were only two blades on our propeller!

Crossing Pont Aqueduct and the Vale of Llangollen

Looking back we seem to have been very hard on our boats, or maybe the craft were flimsy, or the canals were shallow and poorly maintained, or maybe a bit of all three. Whatever the reason, we returned yet another boat to it's owner in a broken down state and scuttled off with out tails between our legs.

It's a good job that the boatyards didnt maintain a blacklist of hirers, or Capt Ahab Snr would most certainly have been close to the top of it!

Update October 2014:

Lindy Helen up for sale.

Lindy Helan has been fully restored and is looking for a new owner. Here are some photos of her in 2014 - almost 50 years after we hired her.

For more details follow this link.


Ann said...

Is it just me, or does the Lindy Helen appear to have a rather chirpy smiling face?
Keep on telling us about the good old days, its fascinating!!


Captain Ahab said...

Now you mention it, it does look a bit like a chirpy Guinea Pig!

taylor said...

I love the pictures of Lindy Helen, I'm the owner of this boat and thought you might be interested to hear that she is alive and well and is moored in notting hill, London.
You can see more of her on
Any chance of getting copies of the photos / postcard? Olaf

Captain Ahab said...

The photos are conversions from a bunch of old transparencies and what you see on the blog is as good as they get - feel free to copy them off and use them as you like.
I have such strong memories of Lindy Helen and I can still picture all those rivets inside holding the hull together. I am reall glad to see that she is not only alove but restored to a better codition than when I knew her nearly 40 years ago. I have seen a Lindy Helen lookalike somewhere on the system but I have no idea where. I will keep my eyes open.
If you need a copy of an image with higher resolution let me have your e-mail address and I will send them to you. I promise I wont publish it on the net!

Joseph B said...

Hi. I have found your weblog rather belatedly.

I researched Mr Smout's firm some years ago, when I was looking into the history of the horse-drawn trip boats at Llangollen. As far as I recall, Mr Smout ran these baoats and also a hire fleet that linked with another hire boat base - one-way trips could be taken. Its possible that these were operated from Trevor by this stage, but I recall being told they were from Llangollen.

Joseph Boughey
Canal historian
Author, British Canals: The Standard History

stephenson said...

I purchased lindy helen from holidays afloat market drayton in 1976.she served us well for over 20 years.we had her restored in 2002 by a german boat builder.we then moved her to london where my son henry lived on her for a short time.he decided canal boat living was not for him after being shot whilst on board by some idiot in a n adjacent high rise.

Captain Ahab said...

Stephenson - its a small world. I mus say that I am very fond of the small fleet of Taylors cruisers - a nice blend of canal boat and broads cruiser (where I come from). Its good to see her still afloat.

Unknown said...

Lindy Helen is now looking for a new owner, Know anyone who will love here like we did?

Andrew Tidy said...

If I was in the market for a wooden boat - this would be it!

Fiona Slee said...

Andy, Lindy Helen spotted at Stoke Ferry, River Wissey today. She is looking good and will post a pic on my blog tomorrow. What a lovely boat and an interesting history. Fiona

Andrew Tidy said...

If I was to be tempted away from a steel boat Lindy Helen would be my boat of choice!