Tag Archives: Whilton Marina

The Long Journey Home – Part 5

The Long Journey Home – Part 5

Monday 4 June 2018

The Heat is On

The Long Journey Home – Part 5 saw the morning start as overcast. We had slept well and awoke early to make a start on the next part of our trip – the drive to Banbury. We had visited Banbury twice before but by car, on our trips up to Whilton Marina, to see our narrowboat. Banbury is famous for its cakes and the cross of children’s nursery rhyme fame. We were determined to find the Cross this time, if not try a cake.

Best Laid Plans

We planned to pass through the four locks and moor up just outside the town centre. This was a shortish journey so would hopefully keep the overheating problem at bay and allow us to visit the town, before making a further short trip to just beyond.

Long Journey Hone - Part 5 - Working the Lock image
Working the Lock
Long Journey Home - Part 5 - View from a Lock image
View from a Lock

The best laid plans…

Mu had mastered the locks and I was mastering manoeuvring through them so the four were passed with ease and alone. We only saw two or three other narrowboats pass the other way, even though it was perfect weather for boating. We were looking for somewhere to moor, just outside the town (the canal runs through the middle of it), passing the odd permanently moored boat when the temperature gauge moved upwards, from its normally solid position by quite a few degrees. Pulling over onto the canal-side banking, just behind another boat and killed the engine – it has a kill switch. Cool!

I Need to Moor!

Mu walked on, only to find we were still quite a way out of the town and better mooring was to be had further on (it’s all about the quality of the mooring). It turned out the boat next to us was moored against armcote on good solid mooring. We were not. We were on shallow mud banks which took about 15 minutes to free from. Much revving of the overheating engine (the expansion tank now full of water again after loosing it all, somewhere?) was required, which didn’t help.

Finally free, we crawled on, between moored narrowboats, meeting one coming the other way and having to take evasive action. Desperate to stop but forced into the bushes on the starboard side by the slow, oncoming boat, we finally decided to cut a dash across to moor promptly shouting

“Sorry, we’re overheating!”

They didn’t seem pleased, just wanting to get past. If you’re impatient, why come on a canal?

A Chandlery, A Chandlery. My Kingdom…

We were fortunate this time to moor up to armcote and 14 day moorings (gold dust this near to a town).

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Out of the Window image
Out of the Window

So, engine bay board up, scalding hot water reservoir cap off, cool life-giving water in and a disaster averted. We were moored ‘inches’ (technical term) away from Sovereign Wharf with Chandlery; an idyllic-looking little setup, pristinely painted but only open weekends and now Fridays! It was Monday! Never mind, a couple of hundred yards further on and you’re in the centre of Banbury; well, The Castle Quays Indoor Shopping Centre, next to the famous Tooley’s Boatyard. Here we would obtain the lifeblood of Mirrless; 15 W40 oil. And some stern gland grease.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Sovereign Wharf image
Sovereign Wharf

The centre part of this canal has a lift bridge followed by a lock to leave Banbury, so we walked to check them out as we would be passing this way in a few hour’s time. Crossing the lift bridge to Tooley’s Boatyard, we were confronted by the sign ‘Open Tuesday to Sunday – not open Mondays’! Aargh! Instead, we retired for tea and scones at Cafe Red, on the canal front, across from the closed boatyard. At least that was open.

We looked around Banbury, briefly. We still couldn’t find the Cross, then decided to ring the marina to address the overheating issue.

To the Rescue

The engine was supplied by Key Diesels, as used by the River Canal Rescue (RCR), with Whilton Marina fitting it. A call to Whilton, then a call to RCR resulted in an RCR Marine Engineer winging his way (by car, not narrowboat or it would have taken weeks!) to evaluate the situation. The enforced wait meant we could relax on the good mooring and buy some paint for the name (more later), some frosting for the bathroom window and a slimline (narrow) bin. Plus maybe a couple of other items…

Bob arrived after a couple of hours along with his van buddy (a dog) and after some time poking around in the innards of the engine bay, puzzling at the skin tank setup (don’t ask – Mirrless is keel cooled), he found the issue. The offending item was the Bowman water reservoir end cap. It had a hole in it but being rubber, it held water until the temperature and pressure rose and opened a split and dumped water into the bilge, emptying the reservoir. Thus overheating.

“I don’t think I’ve got one on the van but I’ll check. We might have to get one sent over tomorrow”.

He removed the old one (it was actually a Beta Marine engine part and the split was where a previous union clip had been). Off he went to the van. We waited. He returned.

Lucky Day

“It must be your lucky day”.

He held in his hand, a part. Back in the engine bay – it fitted! Against all odds, the replacement fitted. Bill connected it all up, the engine ran and no water leaked. It was fixed!

A celebratory cup of tea and biscuits, the engine running and not overheating. It doesn’t get any better…

Our problem had been found and fixed, so we could be on our way the next day. Bill had done good and the 2 months complimentary support had proved its weight in gold.

Liquid Engineering

We ate on the boat and then set off to visit Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn but upon arriving, found it was closed due to a private function – is Banbury permanently closed on a Monday?

Ah, well. Their loss was The Old Auctioneer‘s gain. Stowford Press and a nice Caledonian Brewery IPA on draught. Afterwards we wandered the streets and found the Cross! And the amazing statue of the lady riding a cock horse. It was a good night.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - The Cross image
The Cross

Still hungry because the ship’s biscuits hadn’t filled us up, we searched for a chip shop. There are no traditional Fish & Chip Shop’s in Banbury town so, we eventually found Paw Paw; a Chinese restaurant which made delicious Egg Fried Rice and Chips & Curry Sauce – recommended.

Banbury is a nice town.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Fyne Lady image
Fyne Lady

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 5.

The Long Journey Home - Part 4
The Long Journey Home - Part 3
The Long Journey Home - Part 2
The Long Journey Home - Part 1

The Long Journey Home – Part 2

The Long Journey Home – Part 2

Friday 1 June 2018

The Folly at Bottom Lock

The Long Journey Home – Part 2 saw us awake to a misty morning that cleared quickly then walk into Braunston, a mile hike to find a shop for vegetables and fruit (to fight off scurvy) and the lure of a bakery. A shiny golden Hovis sign proved a false prophet as the place had closed down ages ago and was now a house. A supermarket materialised (small, local) where we picked up supplies and then walked back, down to the canal.

Cast off, not castaway

We cast off, professionally. A kind of side launch and set off on our journey, after making basic checks (and ringing Whilton Marina to discuss the engine water holding tank – always willing to help. Can’t praise them highly enough).

No locks for this journey but a twisting and winding part of the canal. I thought canals were straight! Some are but many follow the contours of the land. This one certainly did – it was like a snake! The combination of contour-following canal, boats moored on bends, oncoming boats, a decidedly under-powered, small, outboard speedboat that owed more than a nod to Gerry Anderson, undergrowth and the concentration required not to crash, it was a challenging stretch. I only managed to bounce, buoy to buoy off one moored boat so I was pleased 🙂

The Snake

One thing of note was a grass snake swimming in the canal, just past a duck. I had no idea they could swim but apparently, they are very good swimmers (noted on a local information board). It’s the first time I have seen a grass snake in the wild.

The Bottom Lock

Long Journey Home - Part 2 - View of the Day 2 image

We continued on to just before Napton Bottom Lock. We were in two minds whether or not to push on through but there were 9 locks. In the end, we decided to just moor just around the corner from the bridge, before the lock. It was a beautiful afternoon and a beautiful location. I used my British Waterways Board key to access a water point to fill some bottles with water. We walked 5 of the locks before tea and then went to The Folly Inn, where there was local cider on draught and a beautifully refreshing bitter called Shagweaver from North Cotswold Brewery. It couldn’t have been better. We sat out in the garden watching sheep & lambs eat their supper before walking to the edge of the village, then back to Mirrless to watch the sun set.

Long Journey Home - Part 2 - The Folly at Napton image

Thanks once again to The Rock of Gibraltar pub for the Wifi for the upload (and phone charge).

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 2.

The Long Journey Home - Part 1
rp – peace and narrowboats

The Long Journey Home – Part 1

The Long Journey Home – Part 1

Thursday 31 May 2018

Baptism of Fire

It was always going to be a trek, so in The long journey home – Part 1 we set off. We left Whilton Marina at 12:40 with two members of the Whilton Marina sales team on board to help us manoeuvre backwards off the pontoon and turn in the marina, to exit under the marina bridge onto the Grand Union Canal. We chickened out on attempting this ourselves in honour of the other resident’s boats – we wanted to leave them intact.

Lock 13

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - Lock 13 - our first lock image
The First One!

We turned left under the marina bridge (well, the Whilton Marina sales team member did) straight up to Lock 13 of the Buckby Lock Flight (Whilton Lock). A mere 100 yards. I jumped off with one of the team to watch how the locks were operated (mu was already there), whilst the other member brought Mirrless into the lock.

“So, how do you operate a lock then? You don’t open the gate paddles first, do you?”.

“I don’t know. I haven’t actually operated a lock before”.

🙂

The boat was in the lock with another narrowboat (this conserves water in a double width lock). Their hand was doing all the work.

“We need the Windlass” (thats the lock handle you use to open the lock – no Windlass, no lock access).

“It’s on the boat!” Which was now sitting at the bottom of a deep lock, waiting to be filled.

Too Many Cooks

By now, we had now been joined by another Whilton Marina sales team member; Adrian so, the sight of 5 people on a boat, stood around while one person operated the lock must have looked bad. It was all taken in good jest once the lock buddy understood we were novices, we were being shown how to helm the boat, this was our maiden voyage, and we were 2 minutes in and out first lock, ever!

Once through, the Whilton Marina sales team left but not before taking a photo of us, off on our journey.

At this point, I had got back on the boat and was actually driving the boat. This was good as this would be my role for the foreseeable future. Mu seemed to have got the hang of the locks straight off. If only the same applied to my helming the craft…

We went up 6 locks with the couple in the other narrowboat and both learned a lot in a short time. This is where they left us and mu operated the 7th lock on her own. We carried on, past Norton Junction and on to the Braunston Tunnel.

The Bowels of the Canal

Pulling into the side (meaning the bushes and shallows) to prepare for the tunnel of doom (sorry Ben), another boat drove straight past and in. I was being overly cautious in case a boat was already coming through. It turns out that this pinhole of a tunnel was wide enough for two narrowboats to pass. The tunnel was wide enough for two narrowboats to pass? I turned on the headlight (it literally is a car headlight) and followed the boat that had slipped in.

Into the dark, dripping bowels of the canal system. It was a long bowel section. Neither was it straight. It looked like it had been resected several times (from the little you could see of it in the dark). It must have been at least 45 minutes to travel through the 2042 yard long tunnel and it wasn’t without incident. The dark, the dripping water, the cool aspect were fine, it was the clanging off the brickwork sides and bouncing off a boat half way through that came at speed.

“So sorry”.

“It’s OK, it’s a contact sport”

Eventually the green light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t hallucination, it was actually the way out. Made it!

Out, in the glorious sunshine we pushed on a little further to moor up, just outside the tunnel, at Top Lock No. 6. for a well-earned cup of tea.

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - View of the Day 1 image
Out of the Window

Refreshed, we decided to push on further and pass through another 6 locks; the last four mu had to fill and operate alone so by the end, she and I were exhausted.

The Boathouse

We moored up in Braunston, outside The Boathouse Marston’s pub, across the canal. We enjoyed well-earned pints, sitting outside looking across at Mirrless but then the rain started, so we decided to adjourn inside and listened to Northern Soul in an empty pub, with no-one but the cleaners.

The rain came to nothing but lightening and thunder behind the clouds carried on for a while, drifted into the far distance and then fizzled out. We put up the funnel on the chimney and covered it with a metal waste paper bin, making it look like a very strange wizard (we’d lost it’s natty little tin cap in one of several incidents with bushes.

The great thing was, the Wifi from The Boathouse extended across the canal to Mirrless 🙂

Long Journey Home - Part 1 - Mirrless outside The Boathouse image
Mirrless at Braunston

Thanks to all at Whilton Marina; Fred, Harvey, Adrian, John and Nigel to name a few, for their excellent support.

Thanks to The Rock of Gibraltar pub for the Wifi for the upload.

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 1.

rp – peace and narrowboats

The Long Road to Mirrless – Part 3

The Long Road to Mirrless – Part 3

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Wednesday, we were refreshed and made our own breakfast from a combination of Tesco and Budgens (it was hardly dining on mince and pieces of quince but it was pleasantly passable). Frugal was to be the order of the day. And the subsequent ones to come.

The narrowboat was to be ready today, surely? Again, the day played out similarly to before; have to vacate by 12:00 Noon (should that be High Noon?), call marina at 10:30, they need to get an update, resources dwindle further (let’s be honest, there were no resources), start to approach witzend (again!).

The Long Road

Mu decided that the only way to approach this was to walk to Whilton Marina and ask to stay on the boat. We would throw ourselves on their mercy or in the marina.

Road to Mirrless - Part 3 - The Walk image
The Walk

Mu and I had planned to walk to Whilton, it was 2.9 miles and following the canal towpath was a lot better than following the main road. A long path rather than a long road to Mirrless. We set off, in full sun once again, it took an hour (or maybe just over) and we passed through some of the most beautiful countryside there is.

Upon arriving at the marina, announcing we were purchasing narrowboat Mirrless, room-less, penny-less, energy-less, breathless and every other kind of less, Fred; a marina sales person said he would see if we could stay aboard. Just before he left to walk down, from the office to the marina workshop (a walk he would make many times), he gave us vouchers to go and get a hot drink and a sandwich on Whilton Marina. We sat outside the cafe, victuals reviving our flagging spirits, waiting for news of narrowboat Mirrless’ progress in respect to sleeping aboard, rather than sleeping outside.

Road to Mirrless - Part 3 - Whilton Marina Cafe image
A great cafe

The Good News

After a bit of time had passed, across came a colleague of Fred

“You two look like you could do with some good news”. We could.

“The boat isn’t ready quite yet, there are still some things to be done and a Boat Safety Scheme certificate hasn’t been signed off as yet. We can’t let you stay on board but we have booked two nights at The Crossroads hotel, at the marina’s expense. We’ll drive you there when you’re ready, there’s no rush and we aim to have the boat ready by Friday”.

A delay to moving on board but for the right reasons – our issues melted away…

We were chauffeured by VW Transporter to the hotel (the one we had vacated earlier this morning 🙂 ) We decided to enjoy our forced holiday.

A relieving day

The Long Road to Mirrless - Part 2
The Long Road to Mirrless - Part 1
rp – peace and narrowboats

The Long Road to Mirrless – Part 1

The Long Road to Mirrless – Part 1

Monday 21 May 2018

Monday, the engine was going in after the stern gland assembly, of course. But of course, you all knew that. We had the chance of a lift from my brother-in-law to Northamptonshire, rather than incurring the expense (and hassle) of a hire car. He was travelling ‘up North’ and a short detour to Whilton Marina was doable.

A Lift

We travelled, at speed; A303, A34, A5. What you have to realise is that for years now, the vehicles we have owned either couldn’t or weren’t allowed to go above 50mph – Land Rover Defender CSW (50mph if it could make it), Land Rover Defender HT (50mph, Commercial vehicle limit), VW Transporter (50mph, Commercial vehicle limit). The run up to Whilton for us was like being in The Gumball Rally! It took about half the time it took us previously 🙂 I must add, no rules were broken in the writing of this blog post.

At The Marina

Long Road to Mirrless - Part 1 - marina image
Mirrless – across from the Wet Dock

Brilliant sunshine, went through the narrowboat detail, paid for it (ouch), saw the boat; the stern gland assembly was in and looking shiny & new, we were told in detail, how the engine bay had been modified to update it to take shiny reconditioned one. However, the engine in all its glory was by the side of the boat. It wasn’t in yet. “Going in next!” shouted an engineer. Basically it will have all new running gear from start to finish. We got a lift to the hotel we had booked; the Heart of England.

We sat out in the garden, drinks in hand (Marstons Pedigree – it was a Marstons pub), relaxing but little knowing the canal was but inches away from us, down a bank, behind the garden. We found that out the next morning.

Long Road to Mirrless - Part 1 - Easter Island
Have we strayed too far?

 

A Relaxing Day.

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

 

Working Hard

Working Hard

It’s so close now, we can almost taste the salt air canal water!

Greeted on Instagram, on the way home from work tonight, with a photo of our soon to be narrowboat being worked upon in the marina at Whilton.

The annual leave is booked, the room’s full of junk, sorry essentials ready to take aboard and we can’t wait. Seeing someone down in the engine bay suddenly makes it seem a lot more real. The only problem is, that will be me in the engine bay, very soon. The difference will be that I won’t have a clue what I’m doing 🙂

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

Looking Back Along the Narrowboat

Looking back from the deck to the stern

Looking Back (crop) image

A photogrpah taken stood looking from the tug deck, along the roof, to the stern in Whilton Marina. This is the opposite view to an earlier photo so you get to see the boat from both ends. It turned out to be a beautiful day but bitterly cold.

 

Work to do

The roof needs a sanding & coat of paint and the mushroom vents need a polish. I’m hoping once the engine’s running and the batteries are charged, the headlight is going to work.

Why do I get the feeling this is going to be like painting the Forth bridge?

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

 

Finding a Narrowboat Pt 2 – All Aboard

Follows on from Finding a Narrowboat Pt 1 – Second Hand

All Aboard

So, with all the previous worry out of the way, we descended the steps into Whilton Marina to view ‘the purchase’.

At this point, it should be mentioned that we had only seen the boat once before and when viewing others. Would it look like we remembered? Was it that we had seen it through rose-tinted glasses before? Ourlegs were weak and swaying. “Oh no, that was the pontoon leading out onto the water”. Phew! The narrowboat? It was how we remembered it, it was perfect.

Long and sleek in the water, light and airy inside, not a hint of damp. Entering via the Bow onto the Tug deck, keys in hand (with one of those floaty devices as a key ring from when you inevitable drop them in the drink), we were opening the door to our new home. I couldn’t get in! The door was a bit stiff so wiggled the key and pushed the door and we’re in – hurray!

Light and Airy

The thing that hits you is that this narrowboat is so light and airy. Traditional is good but but it can be dark and depressing. This is the boat for us, we think she’ll scrub up very nicely.

We spent a good hour looking into cupboards, poking into spaces, measuring lengths and tapping things to ensure they were solid (they were). All was good. It seemed a pity to have to give the key back at the end but we reluctantly did and made our way back to the car, looking over our shoulders, down into the marina, at where our boat stood. Our boat!

On the way back we stopped at Banbury.

Under The Bridge image
Under the Bridge – Banbury

We parked by the canal (where else) and walked along its towpath and stopped to look at narrowboat names and their colour schemes and configurations. It’s called gongoozling; the watching of canals and narrowboats and their peoples by people who don’t have a boat. Technically then, we weren’t gongoozling. A black cat

Towpath Cat image
Towpath Cat

appeared out of nowhere, onto the towpath, in front of us. It was cute and affectionate. It obviously knew we were in the process of purchasing a narrowboat. I could tell.

 

Banbury is the home of Tooley’s Boatyard

Tooley's Historic Boatyard image
Tooley’s Historic Boatyard

which houses an 86’ dry dock and a 200 year old working forge. It’s right next door to the Banbury Museum which houses hands-on canal-related stuff like how a lock works and the great little Cafe Red; good coffee, great food, nice people and it overlooks the canal

The Dancing Duck image
The Dancing Duck

we waved at a passing boat 🙂

 

A Short-lived Fix

On the drive back home, we passed over canal bridges and shouted as we saw narrowboats but as we left Northampton and dropped back down into the county of Wiltshire, the canals seemed far away, as if we’d put them aside. The fix is short-lived at this stage of proceedings. We would have to be content with memories and magazines, until the next time.

rp – peace and narrowboats

Finding a Narrowboat Pt 1 – Second Hand

Second Hand

The narrowboat we’re buying is a second hand one. It’s an old one but this is in keeping with the ethos of why we want to liveaboard and off-grid. We like to think of it as a form of recycling, re-purposing. The budget also had a hand in the choice. OK It was mainly the budget.

Skills

Bringing this 1991 narrowboat up to the expectations of our liveaboard dream is a challenge, not least because of the fundamental lack of skills I possess in mechanics and carpentry. I put shelves up once. They fell down. For gardening they say you require green fingers. I have collector’s fingers. I can collect things; comics, Books, pottery, magazines, bits & pieces (I have many bits & pieces). Over the years I have become very adept at collecting things, and more importantly, not letting them go. The trouble is, when you are planning to move into a 57 foot long, 7 foot wide tube, collecting things is not a skill to brag about. I will learn new skills though, have no fear. The first thing I have to learn is letting …

I have already learned a whole host of new things in the very short time, regarding narrowboats since deciding to purchase one. But, where do I start? The most important thing I have learned is that if you are buying a second hand narrowboat (or indeed, any type of vessel intended to float in water) – commission a survey!

Get a Survey

The survey is worth its weight in gold, ours literally was the weight of a gold ingot. It was so long! We thought there would be some things pointed out; the paint works is a bit scratched, the engine needs a service, things of that nature. Oh no. No no no. The document created by the marine surveyor we commissioned was a tome, a weighty tome. It was a thing of beauty. The problem was we wanted a short list of fixable items, not the War and Peace of narrowboat failings. It turns out that we did want the War and Peace version because the very thorough and detailed survey carried out by Craig Allen of Craig Allen Marine became the blueprint for bringing our narrowboat up to the expectations of our liveaboard dream.

We opened the PDF to a nice nautical logo, business-looking font and some kind words about our Holy Grail. It then started to list, in logical order, section by section, the short comings of said Grail. If Arthur had read this, he wouldn’t have bothered about searching for the grail. Had we chosen poorly? It looked like we had. I didn’t know a boat could have so many things that could be fixed on it. At first glance, it seemed as though there was for to fix than boat – a floating aggregation of broken pieces. We were starting to hyperventilate and a black storm cloud was starting to come in off the ocean and we hadn’t even driven in her yet! But, wait. We went back through from start to finish, section by section, the night was still young (good job it was!). Upon logical review, the items started to change from impending disasters into fixable items by a competent boat-fixing person – what are you looking at me for? I collect things, remember?

Waiting

For a number of nights we clung to the vague hope that the Marina brokering the sale would somehow (against all odds) be true to their word and ‘fix any BSS-related issues and get her ready to sail away’. To be fair, most of the issues were BSS-related so we took some comfort from this. I mean, I could polish the brass mushrooms on top of the boat so that would be one less thing, wouldn’t it? Those nights before we could get up to Northampton to ‘discuss’ the survey on the Sunday were some of the longest we have ever experienced. We just saw our deposit, cost for lifting the boat out of the water for the survey and the survey fee, floating like jetsam (or is that flotsam?) down the canal of lost dreams.

When Sunday Comes

Sunday finally came, we were up early (we must have been worried) and we made our way to Whilton in Northamptonshire, stopping off at the Solstice Services at Avebury in Wiltshire (we hadn’t actually got very far by this point but that early in the morning, you need sustenance of some sort early on). There was some trepidation here as last time we had made this same journey to view narrowboats in general, I had left my camera bag at said services, only realising once we were up in Northamptonshire that I didn’t have my trusty bag and new camera with me. Thankfully, that tail of woe ended happily in that the lovely people at Costa had looked after it for me until our return back that way. If we had set off back at that point, we may never have seen the narrowboat we were traveling up to hopefully purchase.

Another little point that was preying on our minds at this point was ‘Winter Stoppages’. “What are Winter Stoppages?” I hear you cry. Well, in winter, the Canal & River Trust carryout routine and required maintenance on the canal network. His means that sections of the canal are closed for periods of time. This means that when trying to get our narrowboat ‘home’, in addition to moving through cold and ice, we could potentially get stuck, in the middle of nowhere for swathes of time.

I may as well detail at this point, we haven’t actually driven a narrowboat before or been on a trip on one but we have stood on several and pretended. This seemed pertinent to the above discussion.

‘I’m on my Way’

The drive up to Northampton from Wiltshire (by car, I cannot yet comment on by narrowboat) is a beautiful one and it managed to assuage some of the anxiety that would have otherwise built. However, upon arriving at Whilton Marina (missing the turning once again. Another skill I need to develop’ better mapping skills. Perhaps that should be charting skills) we were both as nervous as if going into court. We needn’t have been. The people at Whilton Marina greeted us once through the door.

“where here regarding our narrowboat”.

“Oh, yes. Come on in. We have a copy of the survey here and have hi-lighted the relevant points. There’s a lot to do!”.

“Ye-s, we thought so as well”.

“Not to worry, it’s all covered in the price agreed as it is one of our boats. All the items are BSS issues so it will all get done”.

This was no courtroom; it was an ante chamber of some hitherto unknown heaven. The anxiety and worry of the previous days slipped, we both had beaming smiles and it was at this point we knew we were buying a narrowboat. But it didn’t stop there.

It Takes Time

“It will take some time to address the issues obviously what with Christmas and the Winter Stoppages. You will be unable to move the boat and it would be unfair of us to expect you to so the earliest it would be ready is end February, maybe end April if we needed to address the hull in detail”.

If she needed a new hull, they would provide one! Re-Blacking, engine fully addressed (a replacement one if deemed necessary)! etc. etc. The only thing they didn’t mention was the polishing of the brass mushrooms but hey! I can do that! This turned out to be one of the greatest days of our lives; issues will be addressed, timing is perfect and we got to go and spend time on ‘our’ narrowboat.

Continues in Finding a Narrowboat Pt 2 – All Aboard

rp – peace and narrowboats

How Did We Get to This Point?

porthole I image
Porthole

The Moment

There was a moment, I can’t remember when it was but there was definitely a moment. All the doubts, nay saying, mental calculations, business of everyday life, it all just melted away. Something had changed. Some subtle makeup in my psyche had shifted (to Port? To Starboard?). The desire had always been there, it had to have been. The thoughts of just buying a narrowboat and moving to live on it and all it entails does not just arrive like a whim, or if they do, they quickly flitter away, like dandelion thistledown. There must have been a seed planted many years ago. What had changed was the time – the time was right.

The Point

Once the moment had been met, that point in time reached, it proved to be a tipping point, a headlong fall into making it happen; how where, what, when. We both knew it was right, it had the feeling of when we first met, in the ‘80’s. The world was ahead of us, the fog had lifted and we could see a future. It would be back to a simpler way of life, back to basics, back to a future.

The Search

We had to search for a boat. We didn’t know how much a narrowboat cost or where you bought one from (presumably some canal place). At this point we only knew they were long and thin and floated. That’s what we wanted. One thing you can be sure of in today’s world is that if you have a need, Messrs Search Engine and Internet will be able to fulfill it

Search: Narrowboats
Return: About 2, 850,000 results

The next few weeks were filled with searching, cross-referencing, wishful thinking, pragmatism, loads more wishful thinking. A little more wishful thinking. The problem is, we humans love to dream and our dreams get in the way of practical things like budget, or lack thereof. However, this was the new us we were approaching this from a new angle.

Initially, the only way is up; you find something, but you need this extra item, then a couple of further capabilities, and then some must haves and then sprinkles on top! We resisted the temptation (or should I say temptations as there were many of them). Mu had seen a narrowboat and liked it, I also liked it but it was a little way a way and there was a marina local to us which had narrowboats for sale. So initially, we went and saw three, of varying type, fit out and price range. It was our first time aboard a narrowboat (when I say we’re new to narrowboating, I mean I can barely recall seeing one in the past, let alone stand on the stern of one or heaven forbid, actually going for a ride on one!) and it was magical. We were given keys to wander at our leisure, it was like I was a Captain or something. We learned a lot in that half an hour;’ what we liked, what we didn’t, what we thought would work, and what might not but most of all, we learned we wanted to live aboard a narrowboat.

We had to see more, as that’s what everyone advises. It would be folly just buy the first one you see. We went to a marina, it was pouring with rain, it was lunchtime, they couldn’t show us onto any boats that were for sale at the present time, we should visit a marina like Whilton Marina. ‘They have a much larger range of narrowboats for sale and they will give you the key and let you just view the boats on your own’ (that wasn’t going to happen here) but that was what we wanted to do! Maybe I looked dodgy and they thought I might run off with it – all 19 tons of steel narrowboat. There were no moorings at this time either. We did get some good advice however, about the size of narrowboat we should be looking for, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Forearmed and forewarned, we decided to visit Whilton Marina. ‘Where was it?’ – deepest, darkest Northampton.

The Find

At Whilton Marina in Northampton, we looked at four Narrowboats. We got to stepaboard and go over every inch of narrowboats we had narrowed down to our price range i.e. not a lot. Three had beautiful wooden interiors, one reminiscent of a baby Golden Hind. They had stoves, port holes, cratch covers, locker storage. In fact, a whole host of things. Traditional narrowboat fare. But it was the fourth boat, the one we had poured over on the website time and time again that stood out. Why? Because it was light and airy. Traditional can mean old fashioned; as in a ‘it looks like a flat with fitted kitchen and comfy chairs’, not an old working boat aesthetic, which is cool. This one had lots of windows which, bearing in mind a narrowboat is basically a metal tube, sealed at both ends, by metal, it can be dark and dingy and uninviting. It also had a tug deck at the front (fore) and was low and sleek in the water (which could of course meant it was cool looking or taking on water). From entering forward, right through to exiting aft, this was the one.

rp – peace and narrowboats