Friday 13 May 2011

Sickle it is, then!

2010 was not a classic year for us, certainly in boating terms.  Early in the year, I had taken a bad spill from a bicycle, smashed my pelvis in three places, and had an enforced hospital stay as a result.  It was some time before I could climb on to, (or in to), a boat, let alone jump on and off, and work locks.

We did manage to start building up the boating a bit, and by late may actually tackled the Thames through London for the first time.  By the summer we also tackled a trip up the Lee and Stort, again repeating the Thames from Limehouse, but then felt we could leave CHALICE unmaintained no longer, and much of the summer was spent painting her.

Our hopes of making up with a trip in the October half term ended when my Mum fell ill, and sadly Mum passed away just before the New Year.

So we were fairly determined to make 2011 different, unless circumstances overtook us. (I managed to get cataract surgery out of the way at a time I couldn't really be boating!).

So nothing, even the search for our new boat, was going to stop us doing our planned ambitious Easter trip.

SICKLE up for sale
Just before then though, SICKLE appeared for sale on "Apollo Duck", a site used by many to advertise boats privately.  This was completely unexpected, but the price seemed high, and we had already decided we didn't want to go the "second boat" approach, hadn't we ?

So we set off on our big Easter outing, (trip reports here, in the CHALICE blog.  ).

SICKLE's back cabin.
However, 3 weeks later SICKLE was still advertised "for sale", the price now rather less.

It couldn't hurt to go and view her could it ?  Once we had shoe-horned ourselves through those small back doors, and intrusive controls, into that tiny cabin, then we would convince ourself it was madness, would we not ?

Of course, I guess we knew the risks involved (!), and we both came away absolutely loving the boat, but still seriously doubting our sanity if we were to make an offer.

But at the same time, something rather momentous happened.  What appeared to be a phone call from a close friend, someone actually in my class throughout secondary school, proved not to be what it seemed.  It was actually his sister, who had the difficult task of telling me that Mike had had a massive coronary just two days earlier, and had died about a day later.  I had been out drinking with him just before we went boating at Easter - he was just back from a stay in France with his sister.  This news came as the latest in a long line of people that Cath or I knew, many about our age, who had died unexpectedly within the last few months.  In once case it was my former senior manager, seven years my junior.

SICKLE's bed hole.
We had talked increasingly after each of these events about how, if you don't just go and get on with it, you may have things in your life you always badly intended to do, but never managed, because events overtook you, and circumstances would then rule them out.  Mike's untimely death was the final straw, and we both decided to throw caution to the wind, and make an offer on SICKLE.

We quickly reached an agreement with the seller, and went up the next weekend to hand over a deposit, and finalise the deal.  We then went through some very fraught moments, that I'll not bore you with, trying to release the cash in time, (why do banks make you jump through hoops, and pay more money to access what is yours !).  We went through a few more anxious days where the money was paid, but we still had no boat, (I had a further hospital appointment in connection with checking out some eye problems), but a week after we had finalised the deal, we were ready to go and collect our new boat.

I last steered a heavily draughted boat in the 1970s, and have not used separate speed and gear wheel controls since.  Cath had no relevant experience of working old boats at all.  Would we make complete idiots of ourselves within the first few miles ?  We were about to find out!

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