On January 12th, it will be a year since we first saw Willow, so we thought it would be nice to reflect on these last twelve months with our (not so new now) old boat. I’ve looked back through my photo albums and chosen a special photo from each month. Most of them are related to Willow, but not all, we did get up to some other exciting things last year that weren’t about our new boat, although even those other things did tend to involve other boats of various varieties!
The month began unpromisingly. We’d hoped that we’d have an old boat by now, and although plans were afoot to purchase a converted Grand Union boat, Bournemouth, realistically our finances wouldn’t have stretched that far. Then we went to the midlands to meet with some boaty friends and everything changed. We’d cadged a lift from Milton Keynes up to Alvecote with Dan and he mentioned that Willow, the historic ex Severn and Canal narrowboat moored next to his up at Langley Mill was still for sale, and for a price that made us think about it more seriously than we had when we’d first heard about it the summer before. That evening, sitting eating our dinner at the Wetherspoons in MK, waiting for our bus back to Cambridge we realised that buying Willow and fitting it out ourselves actually made surprisingly good financial sense. So we called up Simon, the seller, and arranged to look at the boat the very next weekend. There was no need for deliberation. We both looked at each other excitedly whilst Simon was out our earshot, and said “Let’s do it!”. Our offer was accepted there and then. We announced it on our old blog.
Willow on the first day we saw it, a mostly blank canvas and a big project ahead!
then the waiting began. We wanted to get a survey done, mostly for the insurance but also to make sure the hull was as sound as we believed it was, but were beset with setbacks. There was a boat without a bottom in the only dry dock the right side of a long stoppage on the Erewash, and work couldn’t continue with it due to bad weather and various other things. We spent the time visiting the boat but holding back from actually doing anything to it at all despite the fact that we were itching to get going, and planning, planning planning.
Here we are in the pub, with a scale drawing of the boat laid out, not even fitting on the table!
Eventually, towards the end of February, the survey went ahead, Willow passed with flying colours, the funds were transferred, and we were finally the owners of our longed for historic boat!
And so began several tiring weeks where we spent all weekend, pretty much every weekend, up at Langley Mill getting the basic services in. It was very busy, leaving work on the Friday night, getting straight onto the first of several trains to Langley Mill, and only returning late on Sunday night so we could go to work first thing on Monday morning. We camped out on the boat, subsisting on Asda breakfasts, IKEA meatballs and two for one curries at the local Indian restaurant, as well as simple cooking on a camping stove. Every single time we went to Langley Mill, it snowed! During this time, Simon, the previous owner, was very helpful, sorting us out with wood, coal and lifts as well as giving us a whole host of components he’d bought for or taken out from the boat when the bottom was done. He even kindly made us some additional bits and pieces from oak he had in his workshop. Eventually we had a couple of LED lights, a rudimentary kitchen and running cold water. We were ready to leave the boatyard and set off for home!
The voyage home took ten days. Compared to our trip back on Lucky Duck back in 2008, it was surprisingly uneventful. A potential issue with a stoppage on the Nene vanished as we approached, and there was no long wait for the right tidal condition at Salter’s Lode, as we’d thought there might be. The engine behaved itself all the way. It was a very cold but enjoyable trip marred only by my skin reacting to the sudden exposure to 14hour days in the sunlight which required a trip to the emergency doctors in Peterborough. Stern hauling the boat for a mile beyond Stanground lock was possibly the lowest point, but the sense of achievement when we finally moored up at Whittlesey that night was enormous.
Crossing the Trent (photo P. Sladen)
By May, we had moved off Lucky Duck, work was continuing apace on Willow and we’d hoped that we’d no longer have a fleet of boats- that the Duck would be in someone else’s hands. But alas, it was not to be. The sale fell through, leaving us with one mooring for two boats, and a problem! We decided to take it for one last cruise, to brokerage at Hartford Marina, who turned a bad situation into a good one by finding us a buyer within a week of it having gone onto the market. However, it wasn’t until June that all the paperwork was done and we said our final good bye to the boat which had been our home for nearly five years.
The Duck on brokerage at Hartford.
With the Duck gone, we were able to focus our attention on Willow, getting on with turning a boat into a home. At this point we still had to rely on using the showers at the boathouse, and cooking on by camping stove, but we allowed ourselves some weekends off doing fun things like joining the Indigo Dreamers for an adventurous trip back from Gravesend in a convoy of narrowboats.
Going under the QEII bridge.
July-December will be up tomorrow!