How it all came about!!
Where to start, where to start?
So, its 1977, I’m 19 and in the venture scouts. Off we go on a 2 week narrowboat trip from Stenson on the Trent & Mersey canal to Llangollen & return. I fell in love with canal boating there and then!
One of the guys on the trip brought along some tapes of the ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ radio series, they were great, little did I know then where this was all going to go.
So, years pass, I go on many narrowboat holidays with family and or friends, for weekends, weeks and fortnights, whatever and whenever I could. It gets to the late 90’s and I take the first step towards ownership and buy a share in the then ‘Challenger Norfolk’ syndicate, a Norton Canes 70ft traditional narrowboat, Lister engine and all. This is great, but I can’t get enough time on the boat, so a couple or so years later I buy a second share to give me a lot more time and flexibility. This works.
After a while, it dawns on me that the running costs for my 1/6 share are quite high and pretty much in the ballpark of the running costs for my own boat. This, coupled with me becoming a little disappointed at the attitude of one or two of the other owners, leads me to sell the shares, use some of the equity in the house, and NB ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ comes into being.
A 60ft trad style narrowboat, Price Fallows shell, fitted out by Northern Marine Services in Lymm on the Bridgewater canal. Great guys to work with, built me what I wanted and only argued when I came up with something ridiculous!
‘Life’ was handed over to me in April 2005 and of we went on many great canal adventures, one or two are blogged here: Tim’s Boating Adventures
Ok, we’re getting close now.
In 2010 my canal adventures extended to attending 2010 IWA rally at Beale Park on the River Thames near Pangbourne. Me being me, I volunteered to help out at the rally as one of the harbour masters, gives one a reason to be there. Anyway, on one of the days, the good lady (now my wife), Penny, goes wandering up to the rally site (I was on harbour master duties), upon her return she tells me that we have an appointment to see a boat, I didn’t think too much of this, she likes looking at boats, actually, so do I! So, that afternoon (I think) we both go up to the rally site and she leads me to one of the most fantastic looking boats I’ve ever seen. Yes, you’ve guessed, it was a Piper replica Dutch barge, in fact, it wasn’t just one, there we’re two of them. It being six plus years ago I can’t remember their names.
Just to briefly change the subject, this was the first time we’d adventured this far South on ‘Life’ and we both fell in love with the Thames, it took a bit of getting used to, but we kept coming back. I grew up in Maidenhead, my Father took me fishing there, I’ve taken my own children fishing there. It was really great to see the river from the other side, so to speak.
Right, where were we?
Ah, admiring my first Piper. Well, we duly took a look at both of them, and WOW! It was a different world, stunning from the outside and equally stunning on the inside. I wanted one.
So, there came plan number one, Penny humoured me and initially went along with the idea to sell up (the house and ‘Life’) and live on a Piper. Fuelled with much enthusiasm for this idea I / we started looking into the realities of such a plan, and to my extreme disappointment, it fairly soon became obvious that to do this, and continue working, was not practical.
So there you may think the story ends, well, I thought that too, but, five years later while we were on a trip back from Odiham to Cropredy having attended the Magna Carta 800 years boat rally there, (we both volunteer as crew on the John Pinkerton trip boat there too, so it had been an ambition to take our own boat there) there was a moment!
I can’t remember exactly where, but we were on ‘Life’ somewhere on the Thames, Windsor maybe, but I can’t be certain. I’ve no idea what put it into my head, but it suddenly occurred to me that we might be able to retire, and of course do what everyone does and downsize in house and upsize in boat!
So I verbalised this thought to Penny, she is the cautious one of the team, but didn’t dismiss the plan, just made sure that when we got home (we still had a week of the trip to go) we investigated everything fully, pensions, costs, all sorts of stuff, must be the project manager in her!
So, I worked on all sorts of costing spreadsheets and a project plan, she did her best to find any shortfalls, but there didn’t seem to be any!! What was there to stop us? Well, nothing.
So, I’m not one to beat about the bush, in a matter of days we were in touch with Piper and were off to view some of their barges who’s owners were happy to show them off to us, all fairly local on the Thames. Many thanks to Calliope, Providence and Eadlin, all who took their time to let us crawl over their pride & joys. Piper hold an ‘event’ at Henley each year, we were unable to attend as we were off to Dubrovnik for a break, but there was always next year!
We also attended the Dutch Barge Association rally at Bisham Abbey (on foot). We saw more Piper’s and other barges, attended some presentations on barge type stuff and got to meet many barge owners, a pretty friendly bunch, how on Earth will I fit in?
At the end of August, we went up to Biddulph to the Piper factory, to look at what they had in production and to meet with Simon Piper to discuss what we wanted. An interesting experience, we drove up wanting a Piper 60M, we drove home not knowing what we wanted!! Simon really made us think about our reasons for wanting what we did, and made us consider other options. He introduced us to Happy Chance, a piper 49M with a guest cabin option, we decided to humour him and go take a look. After a second visit to Happy Chance, we’d decided that this was the one for us, for a whole lot of reasons and within a few days we’d sent Piper a deposit on a build slot for delivery in February 2017.
I suddenly realise that I’m learning the wrong language (I’ve been learning Spanish for 4 years and am just starting to get to grips with it). I need to learn French, so I’m booked onto the next term’s ‘French for beginners’ at college, with luck I can get 3 or 4 years in and be where I was with Spanish!!
Something that I never ever thought would happen, then happened! My pride and joy of some ten and a half years ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ was put on the market with ABNB at Crick and subsequently sold to the first people to see it. A lovely couple, Sue and Lyndon. I was pleased that the boat was going to people who would continue to appreciate and look after it.
I would also like to have a ‘coastal ICC’ This is a sort of qualification to skipper barges in Europe, I don’t really need this level, but I’m going to get it anyway. So, I pass my RYA day skipper, this i all about collision regulations, navigation, safety and all sorts of interesting boaty stuff. I will also need to pass a ‘CEVNI’ test, I’ll do this next year. And a boat handling test. I can do this at Bisham Abbey (an RYA training centre) and I’ll wait until we have ‘Deep Thought’ as it will be best to learn on the boat that I’ll be in control of.
So we were now pretty committed to the plan and I was now boatless!!
Barge ‘Deep Thought’ is born, and should you be interested we intend to spend out first 2 cruising seasons on the Thames, with maybe, excursions to the Medway and, or, the Norfolk Broads. After this (and our retirement) we will cross the channel (yes, the English one) and take a look at what the European inland waterways have offer (quite a lot it seems). Let’s hope the exit from the EU doesn’t present us with too many additional challenges.
Tim & Penny Cadle