Column: Geriatrics Afloat

Judie Surridge column
Judie Surridge column

Hornby couple who decided to sell up shop and pursue their hobby of exploring the English and Welsh waterways

The dream would not go away. After our week’s narrowboat hire in Cheshire we were more determined than ever to own our own boat.

Lancaster Canal.

Lancaster Canal.

We totted up the pennies and put a maximum price on what we were prepared to pay. What naïve fools we were...we could buy a small tatty wreck for our money if we were lucky, so we had a rethink and upped the amount.

Armed with what we thought was a realistic price we bought all the relevant boating magazines and poured over beguiling photos of beautiful craft. All were the right size and had exactly what we wanted – except naturally the price!

Back to the drawing board. In the meantime a boating friend had warned of the difficulty of getting a mooring in the area we wanted and we should apply for one right away so we would have an immediate berth for when we realised our dream.

We were astounded when we were offered a mooring in the place we had requested within a week, and as John said, “We’ll have to buy a boat now or we’ll be wasting money on the mooring.”

Sound logic! So our efforts redoubled and our search area became ever wider – and our budget ever higher... we were lucky.

It was the end of the boating season (we didn’t even know there was a boating season) and craft were being offered at reasonable prices – or so the salesmen said!

We fell in love with a 57’ narrowboat, used for hire for three years and in very good condition.

We found out later that all hire boats are built to withstand all that idiots can throw at them, ideal for us we thought.

The boat was 10’ longer than we had planned for.

The salesman was very clever, he showed us the longer one first, lots of “oohs and aahs” in delight.

Then he took us aboard a 45 footer and smiled smugly. He was absolutely right, having seen the larger boat we were smitten and the deed was done. He mentioned a slight snag after we had signed our savings away on the dotted line.

The boat was booked out for the whole of the next season and not available till the following October.

We had a few days aboard before the season started to see whether we and the boat were suited. It would have been easier if the wind had eased as were approaching our first swingbridge.

Theory easy. Just moor up, open bridge, drive boat through, close bridge. Wind said different. It took three hours for two complete novices to manoeuvre through that wretched bridge.

After that it was plain sailing – almost! Can’t wait for the autumn.