How do you buy a nar­row­boat and spend five days a week ren­o­vat­ing it while on ma­ter­nity leave, without let­ting on to your hus­band? Katy-Felic­ity But­ler-Brown tells us how it was done...

Canal Boat - - Contents -

You’ve just had your first child, you’re on ma­ter­nity leave, and you’re think­ing of a way to sur­prise your hus­band. Would you thing of buy­ing a nar­row­boat? That’s what Katy-Felic­ity did!

My hus­band James has al­ways had a pas­sion for the canals. For many years he has been a vol­un­teer with Wa­ter­way Re­cov­ery Group. He has al­ways had an am­bi­tion to one day own his own nar­row­boat and cruise the canal net­work he has helped to re­store.

Back in Oc­to­ber 2016, while vis­it­ing my par­ents’ boat on the River Nene, I got chat­ting to the cou­ple who owned a 1980s 36ft Springer nar­row­boat moored be­hind

my par­ents’ boat. They said they were think­ing of sell­ing it, my ears pricked up and I en­quired upon the price they were think­ing of. The price was to my lik­ing so a plan was formed.

It was very much a case of right place, right time of my life as I was preg­nant with our first child. So I agreed to buy and paid my de­posit, to take full own­er­ship in the New Year. This was all to be kept a big se­cret so that I could sur­prise James.

On Jan­uary 26, 2017 I gave birth to our beau­ti­ful daugh­ter, Joules. A month later I took full own­er­ship of the nar­row­boat. I told James I had a sur­prise for him but didn’t let on what.

My par­ents had al­ready of­fered to help ren­o­vate the boat to suit our needs and taste. So as soon as James had left for work early in the morn­ing I got up, got our daugh­ter ready, col­lected my par­ents and drove the 52 miles to the boat to spend the day work­ing on it.

Then drove home and to have din­ner ready for when James re­turned from work. It’s amaz­ing the jobs that can be done whilst breast­feed­ing a new­born at the same time. All re­search needed was done dur­ing night feeds.

We spent just over four months, five days a week, work­ing on the boat. The first job was to get the boat out of the wa­ter: luck­ily the boat club we are at has its own cra­dle on a slip, so we booked use of that. As soon as it was on the slip, we jet-washed the hull and pre­pared it ready for black­ing. We then started work on the inside; we took off all of the soft fur­nish­ings in­clud­ing the old mat­tress – it must have been a rather funny sight watch­ing two adults wres­tle to get the mat­tress along the nar­row cor­ri­dor and out of the back doors. The dark var­nished wood walls weren’t to my taste, so we pre­pared them and painted them mag­no­lia. One of the front hop­per win­dows leaked so Dad took it out, which re­vealed all the dif­fer­ent colours the boat had been in its life­time.

We then moved on to sand and paint the out­side. She was red, yel­low and blue; I’d de­cided on green and cream with Cad­bury pur­ple de­tails (Cad­bury pur­ple was our wed­ding colour theme so is special to us). I knew all along I wanted to re­name the boat; I wanted to name her af­ter our daugh­ter, Joules.

Af­ter the paint­ing was done, I painstak­ingly ap­plied the vinyl name graphic and stood back to ad­mire it with tears rolling down my face, so proud of what we had achieved.

Once she was back in the wa­ter the

We were work­ing to a tight sched­ule as I orig­i­nally wanted to re­veal it to James at the be­gin­ning of May for his birth­day. Un­for­tu­nately due to bad weather and a teething baby we were de­layed so it was de­cided that the big re­veal would be on Fa­ther’s Day.

work on the inside re­ally started, new tiles were put around the fire, new sparkle fleck work­tops fit­ted and the bath­room changed around to ac­com­mo­date a cas­sette toi­let in­stead of a Porta Potti. Mum and I made com­pletely new sofa cush­ions and cur­tains, stor­ing them all in my par­ents’ loft so that James didn’t see them. I also fit­ted two cas­sette caravan blinds, one to the bath­room port­hole and one to the bed­room port­hole to make it as dark as pos­si­ble.

We were work­ing to a tight sched­ule as I orig­i­nally wanted to re­veal it to James at the be­gin­ning of May for his birth­day. Un­for­tu­nately due to bad weather and a teething baby, we were de­layed so it was de­cided that the big re­veal would be on Fa­ther’s Day.

By this time James was start­ing to be­come sus­pi­cious, but I kept drop­ping hints that I was train­ing to be­come a hot air bal­loon pi­lot to try to throw him off the scent.

My par­ents and I had made a plan to get James down to the boat; my dad was go­ing to ask him to help with some­thing on my par­ents’ boat.

Fa­ther’s Day ar­rived so we all went down to the boat to ‘help’ dad with their boat. Once it was re­vealed, all freshly painted and proudly dis­play­ing out daugh­ter’s name, James stood speech­less un­til mut­ter­ing: “I knew it, I knew it all along that you weren’t learn­ing to fly a hot air bal­loon.” Once he’d got over the shock he was very happy that we’d made one of his dreams come true. Like all things there are al­ways lit­tle jobs to do and main­te­nance to keep up, (we all know BOAT stands for Bring Out An­other Thou­sand) but James is en­joy­ing get­ting stuck in.

All in all, not a bad way to spend my ma­ter­nity leave.

Next year we plan on cruis­ing to Lon­don in time for Lit­tle Venice Canal­way Cav­al­cade, this is some­where James has al­ways wanted to take a nar­row­boat: an­other dream we can hope­fully tick off.

Out of the wa­ter and the over­haul jour­ney be­gins

The gal­ley be­fore work started

Mul­ti­ple lay­ers of old paint to rub down

Katy-Felic­ity and Joules out on the river

Bright and airy feel to new look

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