A new story begins
No sooner has Liberty sold than a new boat has arrived, but this time almost literally on our doorstep. Or moorstep, if you will.
Liz and I always knew that when Liberty went to a new owner we'd want (read 'need') something to replace her; if the year living afloat in France taught us nothing else, it was that we both enjoy messing about in boats.
However, dear readers and blog followers, you will almost certainly know by now that we were finding the long drive(s) to Liberty, moored in various parts of France over the last five years, somewhat tiring. Yes, we did think about bringing her to England, but frustratingly the depth of our mooring isn't sufficient to accomodate Liberty's 1.2m draft, and with having our own mooring at the bottom of the garden why would we want to then have to rent another one somewhere else?
So, our plan was to find something with a draft shallow enough to moor at our place, and no longer than 32-foot (seven metres), the length of our mooring. We also wanted something with character, something a bit out-of-the-ordinary. And not a liveaboard; although the full network of the British canals and rivers beckons, our property needs serious renovation, and we won't have time for lengthy holidays, not for a long while.
No, what we wanted, we decided, was something like an Edwardian Gentleman's launch - small, pretty, made of wood with an internal engine, and looking a bit like a garden party afloat. And we found one. Somehow she just popped up on our computer screen one day, at a price that was not only attractive but hard to believe.
She was called 'Violette', and the advert claimed she was originally a circa-1911 vessel, built in Norfolk by Brooke & Co., with receipts showing extensive work in 2013 that saw the boat almost totally rebuilt (see previous blog). A quick email to the broker in Norfolk and we found out a whole lot more details, none of which put us off.
With Liz at work and unable to join me I had to drive up to the brokers in Stalham and inspect the boat alone. Violette, I discovered, was on a trailer in a large warehouse. I poked and prodded, took photographs and notes, had an extended chat with the broker, and basically did everything except sign on the dotted line; first I needed to report back to Liz.
To cut this saga short, we decided she was definitely the boat for us and we bought her. Then, unfortunately, I had to return to France for an extended period to drive guests from a hotel boat around Champagne - I say 'unfortunately' because I so wanted to be back here in England to arrange for the boat's delivery. However, that had to wait until last week when Violette was loaded onto a trailer by a boat haulage company and safely delivered to us three hours later.
On a gorgeous autumn day she was slowly backed into the water at Walton Bridge on the Thames, and secured to the slipway quayside so that Liz and I could see how much water would come in. We knew it would - the boat has been out of the water for a while and the planks had shrunk a bit, as they do when they're allowed to dry out. But the automatic bilge pump was coping fine, the engine started first time, and after half an hour of static burbling there seemed to be nothing to stop us heading home.
Liz said to me, 'Stop your static burbling and let's go!'
We eased our way out and headed south on the Thames, our single-cylinder diesel engine going 'pom-pom-pom-pom' as we cruised along in ideal conditions, reaching Sunbury Lock half an hour later. We went through with three other boats, and in another twenty minutes were approaching our own mooring for the first time. Liz tied us up, I switched off the engine, and we just sat there and smiled at each other. A swan came along and poked its head over the side to have a look, and to see if we'd arrived with food on board.
A bottle of bubbly was opened and we celebrated our new boat. Now instead of a five-hour or more drive we can walk to our boat in ten seconds. She is, as someone noted, ideal for tootling up and down the Thames, and that we should be wearing striped blazers, straw boater hats and drinking Pimm's. Sounds good to me.
As I mentioned in the last blog, she will soon be renamed Sunberry, once our registration for using her on the river has been processed. I think another bottle of bubbly will be required then too.
There's some superstition around changing a boat's name; it's supposed to be unlucky, which we hope it won't prove to be. To get around this apparently one is supposed to find a a virgin to pee in the bilge. Friends of ours in New Zealand told us about this myth when they were considering a name-change for their boat. They'd looked at each other and said, 'Where on earth are we going to find a virgin?', at which point their eleven-year-old son said enthusiastically, 'I'll do it!'