In the 1980s Zulu Warrior belonged to the Royal Navy as one of two narrowboats based at Uxbridge on the Grand Union. They were basically hire boats, available for Navy personnel attached to the nearby “Stone Frigate” HMS Warrior, otherwise known as Northwood HQ near Rickmansworth. The staff at Uxbridge Boat Centre still remember having Zulu based there.
Amongst the paperwork which I inherited are the old hire boat inventory, handling manual and some of the log books. I never found the actual “brochure” for hiring Zulu, but I do have a glossy A4 leaflet with the details of the other boat, purpose built for the job in 1975, as opposed to Zulu’s history as a former hire boat.
This sparkling new all steel boat was called Viking Warrior, and was apparently 50ft with 8 berths. From the faded photos it isn’t clear whether Viking was a cruiser or trad stern and I have no other information about her. Searching Jim Shead’s boat listing for Viking Warrior came up with only one GRP boat which couldn’t possibly be the original, so for the last two years I have assumed that she no longer exists.
This weekend look what I found, on its mooring just above Bridge 28 at Lapworth on the Stratford on Avon Canal. Viking Warrior, all very shiny, and a traditional stern but remarkably similar bows and window pattern to the photo in my brochure. Could this really be the long lost partner for Zulu? Searching Jim Shead’s boat list by the index number comes up with Viking Warrier (sic) which of course is why I couldn’t find her in my original search, and the index number 60553 could well be from the 1980s but isn’t exactly datable as it is from the era where all existing boats were handed a sequential number regardless of their actual age. The length is given at 45 feet, but there again Zulu was sold to me as 7 feet longer than she is in the real world.
I hope to do some more research so if you know anything about these two boats it would be really great to hear from you. I would especially like to see old photographs of Zulu. Meanwhile I have been reminded (Thanks Brian – see comments) about an article Royal Navy Narrowboats on Grannybuttons.com published shortly after I bought Zulu – indeed published because I bought Zulu. There is already a wealth of detail about Viking Warrior contributed by Noel Durkin, and mentions Dick Pryce-Jones as being in charge of the naval narrowboat project and apparently still has his own narrowboat, nb Juniper, at Upware. So if either of you read this, or anyone else with more information, I would love to hear from you.
Although Zulu and Viking have long since been decomissioned from the Navy, there are still at least two Royal Navy narrowboats, so you never know who you may meet in the next bridge hole. The most recent, the Warneford VC, was added in March 2009 as covered by http://www.hmforces.co.uk/news/articles/608-royal-navy-launches-new-vessel-a-narrowboat and will be based at Hilperton on the K&A and I believe at least one more, the Emma is based in the Midlands. These boats are, like Zulu, used for recreational and occasional team building exercises.