“You’re using the wrong oil in your engine”

That’s what Matt said to me the other day. It met with a rather indignant response from me as I replied that no I was not. I was using 15/40 mineral oil which is what I have been told to use by an expert on engines when I went on an engine maintenance course a few years ago.

“Yes, you’re using 15/40”, he said, “but its the wrong grade. You have API (American Petroleum Index) CF and it should be API CC. It’s to do with the additives in the oil. If you put the wrong type of oil in your engine it will cause glazing to the moving parts. And just to be on the safe side I looked up your engine and it needs 15/40 API CC mineral oil.”

Typical Matt. Matter of fact and accurate. I stood corrected. And enlightened in matters of oil and grades. Who knew!

This exchange took place between Matt in my engine bay and me two doors and several meters away in my back cabin. I decided that since he was a captive audience it was an ideal opportunity to interview him about Aynho Wharf and how he came to own it.

Matt Varney, owner of Aynho Wharf

How long have you worked at Aynho Wharf?

“Since i was about 22 on and off. (so 24 years give or take).”

The ‘on and off’ Matt refers to includes a couple of years with Kings Ground as their Head Engineer, a bit of travelling, a sabbatical where he worked as a plumber and then falling back into boats at Aynho. In the years he has been involved with Aynho he as seen several owners come and go. And worked for most of them before buying it in October 2018.

Matt continues; “I was an engineer and a fabricator before I started on boats – I am now a fabricator, engineer, painter, tiler, plumber, electrician, and more … you soon realise you have to be a jack of all trades, otherwise you have to end up employing a million different trades to do an hours worth of work per job which doesn’t work. I like to think I have perfected as near as damn it most of those skills. People are paying for your professionalism so you can’t do a half assed job and hope to get away with it.”

Do you do work away from the yard?

“I’d like to do more outside work but the yard has this way of holding me here. I know there are customers who can’t move their boats, and if there’s an emergency I will do what I can. I’ll come to you but you might have to wait.”

“I always say though that you’re better off bringing the boat to the yard as it’ll cost less and it’ll get done quicker!”

Who do you have working with you?

“We have Simon who is self employed, an apprentice Sylver who is at college one day a week doing his training, and then three ladies; Sarah, Tsai and Lynn who work in the shop. And Nik my partner who does all the paperwork.”

How has lockdown affected you?

Matt explains that four of the staff live on boats in and near Aynho Wharf which has meant that they have been able to keep the shop and the yard open.

“We have reduced shop hours to just 4 hours a day and we now offer 30 minute slots to people for looking at the shop which can be booked by phone a couple of days in advance. We reduced workshop hours too for 2 or 3 weeks but to be honest we have too much waiting to come in.”

What do you do in the yard?

“We do everything you’d expect a boat yard to do apart from major steel work. We can do minor fabrications, modifications and bits and bobs, but no major over plating or anything like that. We do woodwork, some of which we outsource to Martin who I used to work with at Kings Ground. Any bits of woodwork which we cant manage ourselves, he steps in and does for us.”

I asked Matt if there was any unusual requests from customers for their boats that stood out over the years. It seemed there was!

“You probably shouldn’t put this story! …”

“Not much phases me and we were always doing things that nobody had ever done before so it wasn’t strange when a customer asked for some eyes to be welded into the steel of his boat for hanging a hammock indoors. 

He was also into video editing – he wanted to be able to plug the monitor in different places in the boat. This was in the late 90s and computers were different with large tower units and monitors and the like, so I had to get all these cables to link it all up all and build it into the boat and you could unscrew the monitor at one end and plug it into the bedroom at the other …  so it involved a lot of wiring to make this work up and down the boat.

It was only when a couple of years later that someone else was working on the boat – which involved digging around in the wardrobe – a large sex toy fell onto his head! It transpired that the eyes for a hammock was actually for a sex swing, and the computer paraphernalia was for editing porn videos! 

Honestly, at no point in the whole time I was working on it, did it cross my mind that this was the purpose of his requests!”

“I hope that what we do speaks for itself.”

“Generally the feedback from customers since we have taken over the wharf has been really positive. It’s been good overall and the response has been good – I think the moorers are happy to have someone who could fix their boats.”

How can customers get hold of you if they want work doing on their boat?

Contact Matt directly on 07940 398108

Call the yard on 01869 338483

Email Matt on matt@msvnarrowboats.co.uk

Email the yard on info@aynhowharf.co.uk

You can also find them on Facebook by searching for Aynho Wharf

Website is coming soon.

Some words from his customers…

“Matt and his team are professional and reliable. I feel safe asking them to look after my boat, knowing they will be honest and do what is needed, never taking advantage and charging for what is uncessary. And on top of that, the way they have responded to Dave’s and my need over the past three months has been kindness itself. They deserve every success.”


“He’s a damn fine boat engineer who knows what he’s talking about!”


“He’s a lovely guy and always happy to talk things through on the phone.”


”I am always impressed with the way that he simplifies things where they have been over complicated by layers and layers of ‘fixes’ over the years. He has given my old Perkins engine a huge mechanical hug and made it run so smoothly!“


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  1. Another great blog

  2. Fiona Larcombe says:

    Glad you did “put this story” – made me smile! Your posts are a window into a world I wouldn’t normally enter (I mean the boats rather than the amateur pornography, although that is also beyond my experience). Thank you!

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