A Dream Come True

That was the Year, that was!

Our Extended Family and significant others aboard cruise ship Norwegian Escape heading to our destination wedding on St Thomas US VI, January 2017.
Our Extended Family and significant others aboard cruise ship Norwegian Escape heading to our destination wedding on St Thomas US VI, January 2017.
Clockwise from front-centre: Me, Enza, Sascha (Charlie’s partner), my son Charlie, Amir (Harriet’s partner), Enza’s eldest Matthew, my daughter Harriet, Michelle (Matthew’s partner), Stephanie (Adamo’s partner); selfie by Enza’s youngest Adamo

2017 turned out to be really BIG for us. The planets continued their positive influence having already aligned in our favour with our moving in together the previous July (finally after 13 years, never ones for rushing things) and marrying in the Caribbean in January.

Realizing some equity in the house I was in a position to fulfill a long-held dream of owning my own narrowboat. And a search that started back in April with a cold call at JD Boats concluded in November when we took possession of Derwent class member Kodran.

I’d got a couple of second hand boats in mind when I called in at Gailey Wharf, initially seeking a management group to look after our boat when we were back home in Toronto. If we could rent it when we were not using it ourselves and possibly cover our fixed costs, bonus! But that would require a layout more suited to a hire boat.
What we’d seen so far in our price range was definitely a compromise.

One-stop shopping

Not only were JD Boats interested in our rental proposition but they also had a hire boat coming off fleet at the end of the 2017 season.

If I called back when the boss was in, I could go over details. Of course I couldn’t believe our continued good fortune! Someone was certainly watching over us and guiding events.

Helping Mom stage narrowboat Hermod (Kodran’s Derwent class brother) for a lock: Fradley, Trent and Mersey canal

The boat in question was the same class as Hermod, who we’d rented in August 2016 from Gailey. And his layout was just what we were looking for. A small securing deposit was paid, with the rest of the deposit due after a successful survey. This was scheduled for August, after which Kodran was destined to become part of the family.

Moving In

We took possession of Kodran on November 8th after a small hiccup with transferring the balance of funds but once we were aboard he immediately felt like home.

The weather was suitably Autumnal and with no Shoreline connection as yet, we relied on engine power to keep the batteries alive and the boat heater going! But what a mistake I made by buying a 13.5 tog duvet! Far too warm and unnecessary for an English Fall (a full Winter test will wait until we’re back in February but by then our own Ontario winter will be in full swing so we’ll likely find Gailey Wharf positively balmy). For my non-european audience the Tog scale rates the insulation properties of a fabric(!).

Walk before you run

Cruising solo: narrowboat Kodran is allowed to drift unpiloted out of Robaston Lock, Penkridge - Staffs and Worcester canal
Kodran, still in Viking Afloat livery, is allowed to drift out of Robaston Lock on a tight leash! Penkridge, Staffs and Worcester canal

I took Kodran out alone for the first few days while Enza organized a Santa Claus Parade back home, and cruised the northern leg of the Staffs and Worcester, deserted save for the occasional fellow singleton. Locks though are a real challenge when you’re cruising by yourself. More than once I had to catch myself from rushing around the damp, leaf-covered stone edges: an accident out here could be fatal.

I soon got into a sensible stride (regretting not bringing sturdy boots!) and mastered the centre rope and various lock-side mooring posts to restrain Kodran: preventing him from bucking forward against the gates while climbing the lock and keeping him upfront away from gushing leaks (and the all-important cill!) when descending.

New dog, old tricks

There were a few learnings aside from taking extra care:

  • a set of steps would be useful for climbing onto the roof to access lock ladders when ascending a lock;
  • water proof gloves for handling wet ropes (I dropped the centre line in the canal on multiple occasions!);
  • a Windlass holster to free up hands, especially when climbing slimy ladders;
  • a Thermos cup or flask (drinks get cold quickly);
  • a cupholder!
  • a flashlight, because it gets dark early in England in November
What Living Aboard is all about: a frosty start on the last day of cruising solo – Robaston Lock, Staffs and Worcester canal

…and on the canal, I MEAN DARK!

That struck me when returning from my first solo trip I was held up from reaching home base by a malfunctioning lock. I moored up around 2:30 and reheated spaghetti sauce. By 4 it was dark but I still decided to set out for a canal side pub I’d passed less than a mile back. When I stepped out, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face! The brilliance of the stars overhead was awesome but the noise of the nearby M6 assured me I wasn’t alone.

I hesitantly took to the towpath guided only by the light from my iPhone. But progress was slow, and thanks to the mud, not very assured. I was soon slipping enough to come to my senses and I returned to Kodran, resigned to a book and more wine. But a wonderful frosty dawn the following day made it all worthwhile. Within an hour I was back at Gailey feeling very smug with my first solo cruise in our new narrowboat!