It's that time of year again. For boaters it's a time of hibernation, at least in this part of the world (the UK) with boats tucked up and in some cases covered with tarpaulins. Thoughts of lazy days afloat on rivers or canals are equally squirrelled away.
For some perhaps it's a time to look forward to next spring and summer, and the prospect of buying a boat, maybe for the first time. This was exactly the mode we were in back in 2013 - looking forward to selling up and moving to France to live on a boat for a year. I still recall the nervous excitement.
As you know if you've been following these blogs, that journey came full circle during 2018 when we spent our last days on Liberty before taking her back to where we originally got her from, the central-eastern inland port of Saint-Jean-de-Losne.
In September she went to her new owner, and we wish him well for the future.
Are we sad that we had to part company with Liberty? Yes and no. She served us well over the last five years and we have many pleasurable memories (in between those of terror and anxiety) of cruising, and equally fond memories of the people we met and the places we experienced along the way. The year we spent on board Liberty as our home was magical, even if we didn't know what we were doing, and the subsequent summer seasons when we cruised through various other parts of France have also been fun, though with less time available to spend on board it became increasingly obvious that we weren't getting full value out of her.
Which brings me to the point about buying a boat in 2019, if that is indeed on your New Year's resolution list. At time of writing we face huge uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for those owning boats (or wanting to buy) in France but who reside in the UK. I have no sound advice to offer, other than 'wait and see', which I suspect a lot of people are doing, and which is probably why our boat sold to a Frenchman rather than a Brit.
But the other point I would make is that you should choose a boat that is 'fit for purpose'. If you've read or listened to Against the Current you'll know that Liberty was perfect for what we wanted, but nothing like what we originally expected to buy. With all the hindsight now at our disposal we would perhaps approach such a purchase differently, but hindsight isn't always available, and we had none back in 2013.
Now we have bought our next boat, Sunberry, and although totally unlike our boat in France she is very much fit for purpose, well, ours at least. She is currently bobbing on her mooring at the bottom of the garden, but we managed to squeeze in about three short trips on the Thames before winter set in, so we have had a taste of what's to come next season.
We face different challenges with Sunberry; she is wooden rather than steel, only about seven metres' long instead of 11.4, is over 100 years old rather than 25, has a tiny 8hp engine rather than a huge and robust 110hp four-cylinder, and is a day boat only, with no sleeping, cooking or bathroom options. But for what we want to do - burble about on the Thames on day trips - she seems ideal.
Our New Year's resolution (well, one of many) is to keep her in good condition, improve her where possible, and use her as often as we can. It will be a real treat to just walk to the bottom of the garden and hop aboard, rather than have to plan a whole day's trip and book the Eurotunnel or ferries to reach our boat. Equally, if the worst fears of Brexit come to fruition it will be a relief not to have to join enormously long queues of traffic at Dover or Folkestone.
If you're planning a boating adventure in 2019, whether here or in Europe, I wish you bonne chance. Meanwhile, best wishes for the festive season from both of us.