A master narrowboat builder has celebrated the completion of his 60th commission, having started out as a 12-year-old Saturday worker for the company for which he still works and honing his trade as a young apprentice.

Chris Brown had always had a love of boats and first started his relationship with Warwick-based canal barge company, Kate Boats, when he was just a boy, helping out on Saturdays.

He left the company temporarily when he was a teen to pursue an apprenticeship in carpentry, which gave him all the skills and craftsmanship needed to return to the company once it was completed and start a regular trade building boats for them.

Chris built his first narrowboat after his apprenticeship in 1991 – a vessel named Kate Elizabeth, that is 65-feet long and sleeps six to eight people. Some 22 years later, Chris, now 40, completed his 60th vessel just this summer, creating a boat named Georgina, measuring in at 70-feet and made to meet a particularly high specification, bearing two onboard televisions, two power showers and central heating. Chris led a team of master boat builders on constructing Georgina – dubbed Chris’s diamond jubilee boat – and said it was an enjoyably challenging task to make her to such high spec.

“Georgina really is a lovely boat and it was a pleasure to build. There was a team of four of us working on her,” he explained. “We start with a steel shell painted in primer and with the windows cut out and then build it up layer by layer, lining out with veneered wood, doing all the electrics and plumbing, the construction of the bulkheads and finally the hand-painting. We aim to complete a project like this within 17 to 20 weeks.”

The owner of Kate Boats, Cheryl Howes, said that Chris’s skills as a carpenter and his subsequently developed skills in specialist boat building have been integral to the success of the company over the years. She told the Leamington Observer, “Chris has been a huge asset to the team and it is largely thanks to his skills that we currently have a fleet of 26 operational boats ready for hire.”