Our 2A stage payment took a while to get through to Stillwater, my bank put it back into my account before finally paying it through. When I asked them about it they said that they were checking the transaction for fraud (!). That September our share in NB Winding Down finally sold, leaving us without means of getting on the water until our new boat was completed.
Our RYA helmsman course with bearBOATING gave us a much needed fix in October, a weekend course that took us into Leeds and back from Apperley Bridge. Well worth it as we both learned new tricks and I gained confidence at the helm.
We took a detour on our way home to visit Sofabed Barn so that we could check out colours for our planned sofa on the boat and see what one of their sprung mattresses would be like. Michael had reserved his last mattress of this type for us and would keep it until we knew when our boat would be ready.
Once my Christmas shows had opened we hired an Anglo Welsh boat from Wootten Wawen for a few days. A chilly break but worth it to be back out on the water and go back over the things we’d learnt on our helmsman course. We got a very good deal from them and really enjoyed the South Stratford Canal, just what was needed after the mayhem of work.
Every now and then we’d give Richard a phone call. Kevin had taken far longer to recover from his heart operation than had been expected and progress at the yard was slow. Our boat hadn’t come on any since we’d been to visit in August, our new mental delivery date was now slipping past Easter.
In January 2014 we talked with Kevin, there still had been no progress on our boat as they were working hard to get a boat that we’d seen in build at Betton Wharf completed. Mick by now was chomping at the bit to get a boat. I was in a situation of not knowing whether to take on work or turn it down for the months to come.
Over the next few weeks we decided to start looking at second hand boats, so that we could set out on our year afloat. A second hand boat had to fulfill certain criteria. It had to be as close a layout as possible to the boat we were having built, be within a certain budget and be a boat that we hopefully could increase the value of so by the time we came to sell it we’d have lost little or no money. A try before you build boat. But the main rule was that the clock for our year of cruising would not start until we moved onto our newly built boat.
By April 2014 we had bought NB Lillyanne, affectionately known to us as Lillian. She was a bit longer than originally wanted and needed a few adjustments. These we got done whilst we finished work and packed up the house to rent out. On 9th June 2014 we pushed out of Crick Marina and started off on our journey on the waterways. Even though this had kept us busy every now and then we would try to contact Stillwater. We got their answerphone time and time again, emails remained unanswered. Nothing. Zilch.
In November 2014 we had a hire car for a few days, so decided to visit the workshop in Ripley, we still hadn’t heard a word from Stillwater since January.
The shed where our hull had been was now being run by another company. There were no boats out the front. We asked a couple of people about Stillwater and they said that there were still narrowboats in the main workshop. This however was all locked up. We tried to find someone from the units to ask, but offices were empty. We drove round the back to where Richard had shown us where boats came in and out of the workshop. Here out the back were two boat shells, primed with window apertures, no spray foam or engines. Was one of these our boat? A quick look around and the positioning of the windows confirmed that neither was ours. Was she in the workshop behind locked doors?
The letter Richard had given us the previous year telling us about restructuring had the phone number of their accountants on it. So we called them, after a while we had a phone call back. They had no idea where Richard or Kevin were and they were owned money.
What to do? We sat for a while in case anybody happened to show their faces. In the end after an hour of silence we gave up and headed home. What should we do next? We really didn’t know.
Advent Sunday came along with a Facebook message from a lady who’d also been having a boat built by Stillwater Narrowboats. This is when we found out that several people had been recently notified by Richard that due to the company going into liquidation, they should come and collect their boats. We’d not had one of these calls, why hadn’t we had one? We already suspected we knew the answer.
Nichola had managed to gather names of other clients of Stillwater and managed to track people down. Some people had received a shell but paid further stage payments, receiving no work for those monies. An ex-employee had made contact as he’d not been happy with how things had been run. An Action Group was formed, a couple of conference calls were held between us all before Christmas to see what might be done followed by a get together in Tamworth in the new year.
A suggestion was to file a case on the Action Fraud website. I can’t remember how many people were in the Action Group now, but at least five sets of owners filled out the forms. A time line was collated to assist the police.
Towards the end of January CR&S Leisure filed to be struck off at Companies House as they had ceased trading. We as creditors should have been notified of their intention to voluntarily dissolve the company, so we objected to it. This was followed by our last communication from Stillwater/CR&S Leisure.
“As you have previously been made fully aware of the company, CR&S Leisure has ceased to trade.” That was the first we’d heard of it from them.
At the beginning of February as we worked our way up Apsley Lock on the Grand Union I had a phone call from a Detective Constable at Derbyshire Police. The case had been passed onto him and he was trying to get statements from all those in the Action Group. Our cruising plans meant that he could come out to visit us himself rather than us calling in at a nearby station. A date and location was arranged to meet up.
On the 26th March 2015 DC Jones joined us on board Lillian. He first listened to our story and then we decided that it should be me who gave a Witness Statement, my memory is that bit better than Micks. With the handy list of dates we’d complied for the action group I was able to make a detailed statement. This took getting on for three hours.
When we brought out copies of the photographs that Richard had sent to us, a smile crossed DC Jones’ face. He said thank you. These photos proved it was fraud. We’d been asked for money, we’d asked for proof, it was given, we paid, we have nothing for it!
There were more investigations to do before he’d be able to put a file to the CPS. More statements , more research and an interview with Kevin and Richard. He and his Sargent would have a look around the Ripley site, he thought that there was a slim possibility that our hull might still exist, somewhere.
Meanwhile back in 2019. 6th April
Yesterday afternoon She got a headache. It was so bad Tom had to cook and she didn’t do even one stitch of knitting. It must have been bad. I stayed close all night.
This morning I got an hour and a half to see how many friends I could find. This also meant that I could use the toilet in amongst the friendly cover. Yes it is still there, even though a lady thought it had gone.
Tom went to get the newspaper whilst we stayed put. She doesn’t like moving when her head is like this, She says it complains, but I can’t hear anything.
Today they had planned on moving the outside to Stanley Ferry. But that would take quite a few hours. Instead they moved the outside up a bit and we went back to where we’d been about a week ago. They span it around and then tied it up. Five and a half hours to find friends. Brilliant!
1 lock, 1.06 miles, 1 wind, 1 newspaper, 1 toe eating duck, 2 outsides, 7 hours, 5 friends, 1 higher than the other, 1 congratulations to Duncan (at last!).
5 years + 1 day of being boat owners!