A couple who decided to prioritise buying a boat and upped their mortgage to achieve their dream
They’d spent years saving up for a boat but it was still a long way off... until an alternative idea came to mind
Colin and I were spending a couple of thousand pounds every year on narrowboat holidays, and every time there was a sunny weekend we would tell ourselves, ‘When we get our own boat, and the weather is like this, we can just pop down to it for the weekend’.
We were saving up and putting a little away each month in the hope that when we retired we would be able to buy a boat. Meanwhile, we loved going to Crick and other boat shows to daydream.
Our options were suddenly opened early in 2011, when we bumped into old friends we hadn’t seen in years at a party. Making polite small talk, I happened to ask what their plans were for the summer. Steve informed me that they were going cruising on their new narrowboat. The conversation quickly turned from idle chit-chat to serious boat business. How long was it? Trad or cruiser stern? Cassette or pump-out? Reverse or traditional layout? And finally, the big question: How could they afford it?
As soon as the idea of increasing our house mortgage was suggested, the possibility of owning our own boat was suddenly brought forward by a decade. We had already saved up enough for a substantial deposit and by the end of the following week, having checked with the building society how much we could borrow, we had a budget. We could now afford to buy a reasonable secondhand boat. In the previous eight years we had been together, we had hired several boats from different companies, and we knew what we wanted. A 60-footer, traditional layout, cruiser stern and a pump-out loo.
Colin narrowed our search down to six secondhand boats, all within a two-hour
drive of our home in Northwood, Middlesex. We set out at the weekend, cross-country to look at the shortlist. We looked at several perfectly acceptable boats over the two days, but none felt ‘right’.
Whilton Marina in Northamptonshire had a few more than advertised on the website, so we had fun looking at and rejecting a few. Then we climbed on board RosellaII. We opened the stern door, which led directly into the cabin, and I saw a shelf by the bed perfectly placed for my morning cup of tea. And then, walking past the bathroom into the galley, I spied a perfectly placed wine rack. This was our boat. Colin checked out all the man stuff about engines, electricity, batteries and the like, while I investigated cupboards, storage and soft furnishings.
We put in an offer which was accepted and a few weeks later we made our first voyage up through Buckby Locks and Braunston Tunnel. My parents had regularly hired from Concoform Marina at Weedon, in the Seventies when I was a child and this stretch of the canal was familiar to me. We now cruise this section of the Grand Union regularly and it always feels like home. Since buying
Rosellall (Rosie for short) we have been as far afield as Llangollen, Nottingham and Bristol, and this summer we reached Stratford-UponAvon. In the summer of 2017, the plan is to cruise to Peterborough.
Most weekends we cruise, while we undertake our longer cruises in the summer holidays and at Easter we travel through London to the Lee and Stort Navigations. The highlight of which is the cake shop at Sawbridgeworth. As we are continuous cruisers, we have to move regularly around the system, which is fantastic as we see new places all the time, but we also relish revisiting tried and tested haunts.
For example, we love the community feel at The Wharf in Fenny Compton, and the huge servings of delicious home-cooked food at The Rowbarge Inn at Woolhampton. Another regular stop is the canalside shop by The Folly at Napton on the Oxford, where we buy local honey and buffalo cheese – made particularly thrilling by the fact that you can see the buffalos in the fields by the shop.
Since we have had Rosella ll, we have fitted a multi-fuel Squirrel stove, which gets regular use on cold winter cruises, a TV/DVD player and two new diesel heaters. I have repainted the roof, bought a top box, replaced the saggy captain’s chairs with a comfy sofa bed and hung new matching curtains.
Last year we moved on to the boat full time for seven months as a trial run for our retirement. I loved being able to have breakfast watching the ducks and morning light on the water, and strolling
‘I saw a shelf by the bed, perfect for my morning cup of tea, and in the galley, a perfectly-placed wine rack. This was our boat!’
along the towpath after work. I did, however, miss having a washing machine and dishwasher. The plan is to retire in five years and cruise the whole system.
Luckily for me, as a child my father taught me to steer. I say luckily, because I don’t think as an adult I would have been able to learn. I see so many women struggling with creaky paddles and heavy lock gates because they are too nervous to steer.
I love watching Colin leaping about the locks, while I sit on the deck slaving over the ‘hot tiller’. I have steered and negotiated locks single-handed, while Colin has been away, and the sense of achievement I get as a middle-aged woman being able to do so is huge.
I am very proud of myself. I do think that more women should challenge themselves and learn to steer.
Unusually, Colin had also enjoyed canal boat holidays growing up in the Sixties and was comfortable around all things canal-related.
When we meet new boaters I think it is important to be friendly and helpful rather than rude and critical because the more the canal is used, the better it will be for everyone, as new investment has to follow. Overall, Colin and I just love the alternate universe that is offered by the canal system in the UK and feel privileged to be part of it.
Withfriends Alex and Clive, regular visitors on Rosella
Moored up in Bath AtKingsLangleyontheGrandUnion
Another favourite haunt for DeborahandColin,theRiverLee