Wilderness Beaver Boat 23 SDL

The illustration below, and the accompanying text, is reproduced from an article that originally appeared in the magazine Canal & Riverboat - January 1991.
(Note - The magazine is now known as Canals & Rivers)

Wherever you cruise throughout the entire inland waterway system you are bound to come across the range of boats manufactured by a company based in Wiltshire who aim to provide stylish boating together with convenient transportation. Wilderness Boats, under the management of lan Graham at Corsham, have for a number of years now been producing a range of craft which fit this description to the letter. Regular appearances at inland waterway events and, in particular, trail boat rallies make these boats very recognisable and it was when we heard of a new one - the Beaver with an extra special something – that we thought it was well worth while investigating further. The boat had been trailed from Corsham to Pyrford Marina on the River Wey and it was at the excellent moorings located here that we made our first encounter with the Beaver SDL 23. Companies who produce a range of boats on occasion make slight improvements here and there where they feel they are necessary, but on this occasion lan Graham has radically changed the appearance of his new Beaver by strengthening it and using a Yamaha F9.9 A electric start outboard motor. Outwardly the Beaver SDL retains the familiar appearance of previous boats in this class. This has proved to be a successful style and maintained its popularity. The use of quality reinforced glass fibre in two tone pastel shades made the boat certainly stand out at her moorings. On boarding the boat at the stern the cockpit is well protected by a safety rail which can also be used for seating and proved exceptionally spacious. Lockers on either side are an integral part of the flooring but also contain the gas cylinders on one side. Double doors open up into the very roomy interior. It is most deceptive that a boat of only 23ft or so in length can provide such full head- roomed accommodation in the form of a very attractively laid out cabin. The forward saloon itself has two dining tables which can convert at night to form two single berths, but during the day the tables can be stowed away to provide fully cushioned all round seating. As an optional extra a double berth centre is available.

The rear cabin comprises two single berths and once again double berth conversion is available if required. The berths are over 6ft 4in in length so can cater for some of the tallest of inland waterway boaters without the hunched up appearance. The two cabins have access to a central toilet and washing facilities, the toilet being a Portapotti but there is a sink as an integral part of an extended vanitory unit on the inside of the door, while opposite there is a hand held shower. A 30 gallon water tank can provide ample water supply from a pressurised hot/cold water system. The hot water is heated by a Paloma heater in the galley fixed to the bulkhead. The saloon we felt was particularly striking because it was so light and airy. Panoramic windows are a main feature and this combines with excellent ventilation from alloy hopper windows with black anodised frames. Something very noteworthy. Ventilation as well comes from a central roof located skylight. Prospective boaters often feel that on smaller craft the galley itself seems to be very much of a second thought. However this is not the case on the Beaver where every available space is used to the full, comprising fridge, oven and hob combined with an attractively laid out sink with drainer and incorporating light woodwork panelling. It provides a very suitable galley format. Doors of cupboards were done away with which increased the spaciousness. Heating is in the form of a catalytic heater situated in the galley and providing ample warmth throughout the interior. So having carefully examined the interior of the boat and I must admit, duly impressed with the decision to build this new style Beaver, we decided to take the craft out for a trial run down the river Wey itself. and passed through Pyrford Lock. The Yamaha electric start engine works particularly well and provided easy manoeuvrability. With the tiller steering as an integral part of the engine the boat swam exceptionally well through the water and proved exceptionally stable. We can soon appreciate how these boats and their individualistic style can become so popular with the inland waterway fraternity. This is the first time I have really examined one in close detail and I was quite prepared to expect one or two Items which I felt might be a little below par. However this was not the case at all and I was thrilled to have the opportunity of taking this new style of Beaver out and put her through her paces. Of course one of the most important aspects of such a craft is that it can be easily trailed and a special trailer has been created for the super- deluxe for an additional £2,190 and we were able to watch the boat being hauled from the water onto its trailer. This was ease personified! Like many other Inland waterway craft this boat has a number of extras which are entirely up to the discretion of the purchaser, but for an additional £775 they include a sun roof, a bow safety rail. rubbing strakes, the double bed conversion, louvre door wardrobe, a cooker hob and glass cover, an uprated stereo system, padded upholstery, outside locker security, a 70 A/H battery and Gaslow safety gauge

The engine is an addition of £1,780. The boat is without a doubt the most impressive Beaver ever built and done so in particularly to comply with British Waterways Safety Standards which become effective next year. Special interiors are produced entirely to the customers' choice and prices have been held for a further six months. Long has Wilderness Boats maintained a high level of exposure on our canals and rivers and by introducing the new Beaver SDL 23 this exposure will continue for many years more.

The test review above is from the magazine Canal & Riverboat (January 1991).
Remember, prices are also 1991 prices as the article has been reproduced verbatim.

Ian Graham, designer of the original Wilderness Beaver boat is available for boat refits and improvements, servicing, repairs and brokerage sales. Tel. 01380 870077 or go to to his website.

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Wilderness Boats are now back in production with a new company; known as Wilderness Trailboats. The new Beaver boat was reviewed in Waterways World - October 2008.