If you’ve had a life-long boat­ing his­tory, how would a new hus­band with dry feet feel about an old love af­fair?

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS & PIC­TURES BY SARAH JURY

Just how would a new hus­band with dry feet feel about an old boat­ing love af­fair?

Imust con­fess, I used to be a na­tur­ist boater. My first ex­po­sure to the canals was full on, full frontal... but I was only six months old at the time, an ex­citable gur­gling baby join­ing my par­ents in those early hire days of the late 1960s, so I guess we can over­look the nu­dity.

I was more ap­pro­pri­ately clothed for all the child­hood canal hol­i­days that fol­lowed – good job, given my dad’s propen­sity for go­ing out at Easter – but I’m sure that all those days spent on the back deck of our (mostly) Har­bor­ough Marine built hire boats breath­ing in the fumes of the trusty Lis­ter thee-pot be­neath me pen­e­trated the cloth­ing to get un­der my skin and into my blood.

So when I met my hus­band, I had no hes­i­ta­tion in in­tro­duc­ing him to the canals, merely ner­vous about how he would re­act as I re­ally wanted to con­tinue my nar­row­boat­ing love af­fair with the other love of my life. His ex­cite­ment over that in­au­gu­ral week­end mir­rored that of a hy­per tod­dler, jump­ing up and down, bur­bling, laugh­ing like a loon – re­sult! Cue much re­lief and the seeds of a new plan, to be­come ac­tual boat own­ers. It needed a few more hire hol­i­days to con­sol­i­date that plan, but in 2002 we com­mis­sioned a new build trad-style 57-footer from Mid­land Canal Cen­tre.

We called it Ar­ca­dia, in homage to an old Wel­ton­field Nar­row­boats hire boat we had taken out as a fam­ily, al­though it was sub­se­quently rechris­tened Grey­hound when we found our­selves the adopters of five re­tired rac­ers a few years later.

We loved ev­ery minute we spent aboard her – she was smart but not flash, very trusty and true, and we cov­ered about 70 per­cent of the sys­tem in her with­out a mo­ment’s worry. We learned to step over the dogs, who would ar­range them­selves in a deco­rous pile on the floor – when they were not hog­ging the fixed dou­ble that is. When we walked them down the tow­path, we could have been mil­lion­aires if we’d had a pound for ev­ery time some­one said ‘“you’ve got your hands full”. They caused us the odd heart in mouth

mo­ment, too... cor­rec­tion, quite a few heart in mouth mo­ments, ac­tu­ally. The Great Marple Es­cape, One of our Hounds is Miss­ing, and the Fast and the Fu­ri­ous Gypsy all had a filmic qual­ity to them, and we can laugh at them now from the se­cu­rity of the present. For ten years we cruised ev­ery­where, with Grey­hound as our per­fect hol­i­day home afloat and our grey­hounds as our per­fect com­pan­ions. And then Henry came into our lives. We weren’t look­ing for an­other boat, but I liked to keep my fin­ger on the pulse as it were, and I was a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to sales web­sites. And surf­ing one Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, I saw Henry ad­ver­tised and I guess it was the marine equiv­a­lent of love at first sight. We ar­ranged to see him on Fri­day, we put the of­fer in on Satur­day morn­ing and it was ac­cepted on Satur­day af­ter­noon. It was of­fi­cial, we were a two-boat fam­ily.

Thank­fully, be­cause Henry needed a com­plete re­fit, some­thing that we were go­ing to stage over sev­eral years, we didn’t need to make any im­me­di­ate de­ci­sions about Grey­hound. We had twinges of guilt, that some­how we’d been un­faith­ful to her; but as Henry came to­gether, guilt was rather heart­lessly shoved into the wings by a grow­ing thrill at Henry’s trans­for­ma­tion (see Canal

Boat, Feb 2014 for the full re­view). As Henry neared com­ple­tion, we took the de­ci­sion to sell Grey­hound, and on a poignant farewell trip to the bro­kers at Crick, our beau­ti­ful grey­hound tiller pin came adrift and plopped into the cut – as fate­ful signs go, that was pretty de­fin­i­tive.

And so life be­gan with Hen­ryH. And a more dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence you couldn’t imag­ine. Forty feet, in­stead of 57. A vin­tage thumper in­stead of a whis­perquiet Beta. A 33ft draft as op­posed to 26ft. Not to men­tion its shrunken work­ing boat ap­pear­ance which, as we were to dis­cover, would lead to an­other ‘if we had a quid for’ ques­tion: “What’s un­der the front then?”. Surprise, surprise, more grey­hounds, al­though these days we only cruise with two, rather than five.

And cruise we do, as Henry is very much a ‘go­ing’ boat, al­though age is now en­cour­ag­ing us to make him more of a ‘stop­ping’ boat too. Al­though we’ve only had him on ac­tive ser­vice since Easter 2014, we’re fast catch­ing up on

Ence­ladus­ful­filledtheurge­forahis­toric boat

Early­boat­in­gontheThames De­spite need­ing a com­plete re­fit, Henry was love at first sight

Grey­hound­be­tweenEastMar­to­nandBank Newtonon­theLeeds&Liver­pool

bit later – and with Still on the Thames but a clothes on!

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