Our dream

We decided we wanted a narrow boat, that bit was certain and simple.  What came next is exciting yes, but we had no idea how much it would affect everyone in the household, and by that I mean it not only had an impact on Chris and myself but Amy and Joanne, our daughters, too.

 Having had many holidays on the canals and thoroughly enjoyed them we gradually fell in love with the idea of owning our own boat.  Chris and I reached a point in or lives where our two daughters, Amy and Joanne, were in their 20s and both courting two good lads.  We suddenly found the hectic lifestyle of ferrying kids around and basing our lives around them was slowly diminishing.  Mum and Dads taxis had become redundant as the girls each had their own mode of transport, their own cars, and we found ourselves alone in the evenings more and more.  The house devoid of the usual noise and activity of a young family we started to take stock of our own lifestyle and what we wanted to do for the first time since the girls were born.

We realised that as the girls were off doing their own thing and creating careers for themselves we now had more time for ourselves.  At the time both girls were thinking about finding a place of their own with their partners so we realised the big 4 bedroomed house we lived in was suddenly going to be far too big for just the two of us to rattle round in.

Bored one afternoon and with time on our hands Chris and I decided to go for a walk and ended up gongoozling at the staircase locks in Chester.  For some reason we both felt compelled to help the boaters work the locks and after a pleasant few hours working them and talking to the boat owners we both looked at each other and without any word said the seed of our dream became firmly planted.

So started our journey and why I'm put this missive together in the hope one day it might be of some small help to those who choose to follow the same path we are.  If it helps in some way then I will be happy, if not at least it might help if you cannot sleep, reading this should do the trick :-)

If you are considering buying a boat and living on it, while its nice to have your own dream come true, stop for a moment, to consider what impact that might have on the rest of your family, we did not at first but soon after moving home it became obvious the change was going to affect the girls as well as us much more than we thought. 

We put the house on the market to release the equity in it to fund the boat.  We decided to downsize as we would not be in the house much once AmyJo was finished.  Good idea?  Well for us yes, but we didn't take into account the girls were still with us and moved into a nice bungalow but half the floor area of the old home.  We soon realised things were a bit cramped as we still had loads of things we could not find places for as well as smaller rooms.  Moving from two en suite bathrooms and a downstairs loo to one bathroom and one other loo is proving to be interesting, especially with 3 females getting ready to go out to work.  As the only male in the house I tend to loose out in the get in there first stakes so timing is critical.

Next we quickly realised having fitted wardrobes in the old house was nice, but now we found ourselves with nothing. No wardrobes at all, these we had to source and purchase, eating into our budget (lesson one) 

Then there is the getting to work issue.  In the old house we were two miles from Chester centre with an easy back road route into town.  The girls work in town and Chris a few miles out of town in Farndon.  Amy could take the park and ride bus that stopped a 100 yards from the door but this is not available here, we obviously did not take that into account when we were searching for properties ( lesson two).  From the new house both girls now have further to drive and Chris's journey has doubled adding to the petrol bills, not good considering the price of petrol these days.  One saving grace is I am now closer to my work and have an easy ride through country lanes and over the canal to and from work, I often stop on the canal bridge and take in the sight of the cut.

We then notified the insurance companies of our move and because we are in another post code all car and house insurance premiums have gone up adding to our outgoings, We were convinced our outgoings would drop as we are in a smaller property, not so (lesson three).

All that said we would still do the same again if it means we end up with AmyJo on the cut and, though they occasionally whinge, the girls are OK and are happy with the new home, in fact its probably making them more determined to find their own place (one can live in hope).

We settled in the new home and signed  the contract to have AmyJo built but how did we arrive at our choice of boat builder and design - gongoozling, then more gongoozling.

Well that and subscribing to all the canal boat magazines, scouring them for ideas as the months passed.  Chris and I had our dream for several years and had not actually done much about putting it into action thinking we would do it when we both retired.  A series of events finally triggered us to do sooner rather than later, through no small part of certain well known bloggers Al and Del on Derwent6 (www.derwent6.blogspot.com) who were a great help to us, I'll explain shortly.

Like most prospective buyers we had no idea what we wanted so avidly read the magazines taking in all the new terminology and seeing all the new boat reviews.  It was whilst doing this we spotted the advert for the Crick boat show and resolved to go and see what all the fuss was about. We thought at least we would get to see some ideas for AmyJo.

That was in 2010, we visited Crick and were amazed at how popular the event was.  We took the two days to peruse the boats and stalls.  We talked to the boat builders and came away awash with ideas, promising to go again, and over the following months the design ideas started to formulate into AmyJo.  We decided as we would eventually live aboard we would go for a traditional stern and had narrowed down our builders to 3,  Briadbar, Fernwood and Heartwood boats.  We resolved to look at each in more detail at the following year's Crick show.  It was during this time AmyJo's name came to us by accident as until then we had no ideas for a name.  Chris was cooking dinner, I was watching TV and the girls were arguing over which hair colour to use on Amy.  At some point in loud voice Chris called from the kitchen "Amy, Jo, dinners ready".  Both Chris and I, at the same time as the two girls, had that Eureka moment that one gets when an idea so strong hits you like a brick.  "That's it!" we all replied in unison.  "Lets call the boat AmyJo!"  and so the name came to us and has stuck ever since.

A year passed and Crick came round again.  This time we decided we would choose our builder and talk to some of the owners of the boats built by them.  We concentrated on the 3 and were impressed by all of them but one was beginning to gain our attention, Ferwoods.  This is where Del and Al come into the story.  Their boat, Derwent6, was built by Alexander boats and fitted out by Fernwood.

We were invited to have a look at Derwent6 moored on the cut and spent several hours chatting about our plans and asking all sorts of questions.  Such a lovely couple are Del and Al, they gave us so much to think about and recommended taking look at their hull builder Alexander Boats which we did and again were impressed with the workmanship.  

More months passed by until one day I read Derwent6's blog and discovered they were headed to Wrenbury not far from where we live.  I cheekily asked them if we could visit and they accepted my request.  We spent a lovely afternoon with them chatting and flooding them with questions. Del suddenly popped a question to us.  "Why are you waiting until you retire?" he asked  to which I replied we could not afford it but would downsize the house to pay for it when I retire.  His reply was to be the trigger we needed to get moving and place the order and the reason I am typing this.  "Well why not do that now, you can enjoy the boat before you retire, see if you like it and if its not for you, you can sell it and you will not have lost everything".  "It will make no difference if you downsize now or later so why not? Whats stopping you?" he added.

Well its the first time I've ever known Chris to be speechless, she sat there open mouthed as to reply with the realisation dawning in her eyes, not uttering a sound.  It took a several minutes before she replied "You know what, you are right why not indeed".  After that we have not looked back and are now well on the way to AmyJo becoming a reality.  Del and Al did us a great favour that day and got our Ar^%es in gear to get on with it and make the move now rather than wait.  For that we are eternally grateful for their advise. 

From then on after visiting Fernoods and Alexander boats our choice was made.  The design was well on its way to taking shape and  on 14th Feb 2012, we signed the contract and paid our first build instalment with Fernwood.

In 2013 and we had been in the bungalow nearly two years.  We grew to love the place and got used the the smaller space, just as well as we intended to spent a lot of time on AmyJo.  The girls are still with us but now they will take over the bungalow whilst we live on AmyJo so all has worked out just fine.  

AmyJo's build was completed and she was launched at Crick Marina in November 2013.  We commuted to her at weekends until July when we made the 3 week trip up to AmyJo's new home at Tattenhall Marina on the Shropshire union canal.

Once settled we returned to the house but after 4 days we yearned to be back aboard AmyJo so much we move back aboard and have been living the dream ever since.

1 comment:

nb Riverside Escape said...

Hi Steve & Chris
The last time we met was on the Macclesfield Canal and we joined you for coffee before you left for a dingy weekend
We had our Fernwood boat then NB Riverside Escape, which we sold last year and we are now on our New Narrowboat NB Riverside
We’ve been reading your blog and it looks like you are still enjoying life on the cut and we are pleased Smudge is on the road to recovery
We’ve heard sadly on the grapevine that Fernwood has gone bust after the sad and early death of Andy who we met again at this years Crick Show, we are not certain of the facts but were told by another Fernwood owner
We are after some advice please
We are currently moored at the Shady Oak pub on our way to Ellsmere Port, new territory to us and would like advice on moorings
Is there a quite safe mooring in Chester, we’ve been told the moorings near Tefords Wharf are OK?
Are the Zoo moorings at bridge 134 safe to leave the boat to visit the Zoo for a day
We’ve heard mixed reports on the Museum but we plan to go are there any decent moorings for the night there or what would you recommend
Thanks in anticipation if a text is easier my number is 07970 705188
Steve & Denise