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  • Writer's pictureDarren Ashworth

The day I bought a boat

After a month of procrastination, internet searching, and researching, I finally put an offer in on a narrowboat called Jenny B, and it was accepted.

Jenny B is a 54 1/2' narrowboat made by Colecraft in 1991. She is all steel with a wooden finished fitout, that whilst functional and livable, has become a little tired.

Pretty soon after the survey was arranged, where she would be taken out of the water and given a full inspection.

The survey came back and whilst there were a few areas, such as the boiler needed servicing, batteries needed securing etc. that would have failed a safety inspection. However, these were areas I was planning to revamp and refurbish anyway, so after a minor spot of negotiation the sale proceeded.

After being advised boat sales usually take ages, I then relaxed and started to plan the logistics of getting her from down by Coventry, to where I planned to moor her in South Birmingham. I also needed to arrange a mooring!

One day shortly after, I was called and asked by the agent to send over the money, another step

nearer I thought, but then shock! The sale would proceed the following day and I would be in possession!

This also meant I was then liable for the £20 a night visitor mooring fee I would start to incur.

So, whilst the Christmas joy filled my heart as I traveled up to my relatives in the North of England to drop presents off (it being just over a week till Christmas), it was now filled with the joy of being the owner of my new home afloat.

My mind also exploded with the amount of planning and preparing I had to do in a little over 24 hours, and I was now 3 hours from home.

However, all went well and I was back home and ready the following morning to do an emergency "moving into new home" shop, you know the one where you buy extra cleaning products, stock up your supply of emergency "last forever" food.

Having no idea what life aboard a narrowboat would be like, I tried to pack everything, or at least as much as I thought would cover all the bad things that might happen.

A classic case of mind making the pressure worse by worry about the unknown.

The place was an hour away, it closed early, being a winter day, and I barely made it down there in time, but we did, thanks to my Dad driving me all the way, helping find some cables I needed from shops and getting slightly lost around Leamington.

The darkness was not far away and so I paid for a night at the marina and decided to set off the following day. I also wanted to check the diesel was full and at this point had no idea where I could "dib" the tank, there was no visible cap, only a long filler pipe that wasn't straight.

Steve, the kindly port guardian, taught me some basics about the boat and set me off in the right direction. I excitedly set off, then decided to practice stopping and mooring whilst there was a clear canal and towpath.

All went well, and my confidence was a little boosted, I set off with the wintery sun at my back, my breath visible and wrapped up nice and warm.

The next few hours seemed to go by in a wonderful haze, here I was, drinking tea, chugging along listening to Christmas songs on the radio, and the peace of nature enrobed me. I felt like I was in heaven. Plus I was still on the major high that comes with anything big and new in your life, new car, new house, this was both.

At this point, however, I was still working. I had given up my highly paid IT job a few months before and was working at the Airport as a laborer to pay the bills till I found a place to live. My wife and I had also separated during this time.

The work was hard, but fun, and involved being around jet engines and planes all day, but also at night. I was on a 1;15 pm to 2:00 am shift that lasted four days, then had four off. The day the sale went through was my last day off, I was now on a canal boat heading up the Grand Union canal, with no possible way of getting to work. So I phoned up and told them the truth. Initially it was believed but over the course of the next seven days, and especially as it meant I skipped the Christmas day shift, they seemed to believe it less and less.

But, the phone call now over, I continued chugging up the Grand Union canal and made great progress, coming to a stop in the middle of nowhere, but by a road bridge.

I phoned home, to let them know I was safe and to ask them if they could kindly help and bring me a USB charger.

Dad to the rescue again.

The following day I set off around 9 am and stopped at a water point. I then found out how useless I was at reversing!

An hour later I hit my first locks and felt so wonderfully at ease, as if I were finally where I was meant to be, doing what I was meant to be doing. The sound of rushing water, and the wildlife around me as I steered my new home up this watery motorway, it was all just so perfect.

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