August - (2)
As that week progresses, we look at dozens of boats and discover, depressingly
enough, that magazine photos do a world of wonder for the tired, dilapidated and
sometimes derelict condition of many of these vessels. What we thought we wanted,
we could barely bring ourselves to walk into. Then we found a broker who had a
better class of boats, but double the price we had planned on paying - we loved
many of the new and shiny interiors but still none of them had the right layout
or 'magic' for us. There seemed to be a problem with all of the new boats we looked
at - no fixed double bed or a 'walk-through' bathroom with no doors. Uh-uh, nope.
Then we saw a beauty - lovely new exterior paint job (burgundy, not red but we
could handle it) and a clean, attractive interior with a bathroom that did not
need retiling or renovation. It was not double our budget, but a lot more than
we had planned on. Still, we could afford it so we put an offer in. Had we really
found the new Oo-La-La? It seemed so to us and we were excited.
But we had a nagging feeling that perhaps not every boat had been seen, especially
the non-narrowboats called Broads Cruisers. A week in the Norfolk Broads was already
planned so we made sure that our deposit was refundable upon our return if for
some reason we felt that this would be a more suitable style of boat.
The Broads Cruiser is a radically different boat from the traditional English
narrowboat. Usually made of fiberglass (GRP) construction, wider of beam, about
11-13 feet with 2-3 levels with wheel steering, many have sliding roofs. The narrowboats
are steel construction, only about 8-9 feet wide, single level throughout and
mostly all have tiller steering. Driving a Broads Cruiser tends to be like steering
a car while a narrowboat is quite different with the controls all at the back
of the boat. A narrowboat is cozy and purpose built for full time living aboard.
Broads Cruisers tend to be strictly holiday boats. Rob was tempted by their higher
speed and maritime appearance. I didn't want to relive the sailboat experience,
I wanted a boat that was as much home as boat. Most of the Cruisers were old,
20 years old or more, and rejects of hire boat companies. The narrowboats we were
looking at were all 10 years old or younger and privately owned. No aging fiberglass
to restore. Thus we leaned towards a narrowboat but were ready for any surprises.
We got one, but not what we expected.
With a couple of days left before for our trip to Reedham in Norfolk, we decided
to visit the remaining marinas that we had neglected. Just for fun of course.
The boats were unremarkable and we felt even more confident of our new choice.
As we left the last marina, the sun was setting and the hills rolling in front
of us. This area is known as the "Heart of England" and truly deserves
the name, it is just south east of Birmingham, lovely green hills everywhere and
canals and bridges abound. As Rob sped back to our hotel, I spot one major marina
in Braunston that we had not visited. I was still insatiably looking at boats,
Rob was slightly more reluctant to break his driving reverie. We agreed to make
a quick last, final stop and then put our minds to rest that we had the best.
By now we understand the drill - walk in, look at the flysheets, pick the ones
that meet your criteria and request the keys. We did just that, and managed to
scrounge up only one that met all of our needs and desires. When we first started
looking, we would have dozens of information sheets in our hands.
The marina is large and we find our way to the boat. I immediately notice that
the exterior paint job is mostly fire engine red (good). But exteriors don't mean
as much as what's under that roof. As Rob opens the door, we see that the curtains
are all drawn and the interior is very dark. It is bright and sunny outside so
our eyes take a little time to adjust. As they do, I hear Rob exclaim "I
think we just found the new Oo-La-La." Inwardly I groan as the complications
arise, but I am excited. Slowly I take in the ribbon mahogany and oak paneling,
the expansive (for a narrowboat) interior with glass fronted fitted cabinets below
the wainscoting, instead of the standard carpeting. The interior fitout is outstanding
and pristine. And the exterior is red. I agree with Rob and we scurry back to
the brokerage office and make our new, and final, deal. To our surprise (and the
broker's as well) we find out the boat was not yet listed for sale and the flysheets
put out prematurely at the very moment we walked into the door. It seemed a sign,
the boat was meant for us.
With more confidence than before, we headed for Norfolk, two deposits on two
boats. Possibly more complications to follow if (God forbid) we found yet a third
that we liked in Norfolk but we put that out of our minds as a week of true vacation
NEXT MONTH : We close on the new Oo-La-La and start cruising.
.....on to September 2001