When you make a u-turn in your life, it is rarely a spur of the moment thing. It’s far more likely that a culmination of circumstances will lead you that moment, and so it was with us, who, like so many others of our age, have chosen to retire early, commission a narrowboat, and explore the canal network of Great Britain.
Having done over 30 years with my company, my pension isn’t going to increase significantly now. Both of us are in reasonably good health and most importantly Pat is keen as mustard to start a new life somewhere. I am fortunate to still be on a final salary pension, but the job I do at John Lewis is subtly changing and moving into areas I am not comfortable with. Both of us loved being on and around the canals and I have spent enough time cruising the network over the last 10 years to appreciate what life on the cut would be all about.
This week we sign contracts to have our first-ever boat built and I will retire around Christmas. It’s been a slow process, but deliberately so. Initially we were looking to buy a boat around two to three years old, and almost landed one in January, but whatever we looked at, there were always going to be compromises, which in some instances were going to be costly. After sitting down one winter’s night with a pencil, pad and calculator, we made the decision to buy new and started planning to visit builders and marinas.
I think we were both concerned whether the budget we had set would stretch to provide us with what we had our hearts set on. One of the first builders we visited was Kingfisher Narrowboats at Trent Lock, to the south of Nottingham at Long Eaton. Run by two brothers, John and Mick Day, they have been building boats for several years now and we liked the quality of workmanship we saw on their web site.
As we walked back to the car after that first meeting with the boys, I turned to Pat, and said “You know, that felt right”. And, I suppose if I were truthful, all the other builders we saw after that, had to achieve that “feel”. They all built cracking boats, and we got some great ideas and tips from them, but this is going to be a very personal purchase, and it was as important to us to find the right builders as much as their ability to build it for us to budget.
Our deposit will be paid this week and on 1 April 2012 (hope that date is not an omen) we will take ownership of a 60ft, semi-trad, with a reverse layout. The hull will be built by Narrowboats of Staffordshire over the summer, the shell will then be delivered to Kingfisher at the end of August, when they will paint it in their dry dock, and then fit it out over the winter. It will be called “The Cat’s Whiskers”. We are confident it will be – the name, a homage to the dozens of cats we have owned since we got married.
So the adventure....and the blog begins.