After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.
Our first hire boat in 1979, was a wooden conversion from Autrant Boat Services based at Slapton, just south of Leighton Buzzard. Boy were we green! There was a good half hour lecture for all hirers setting out that afternoon, after which we were shown the ropes and how to go through a lock. The instructor left after 20mins and we continued to zig-zag up the Grand Union, much to everyone’s glee, including ours! That was just the beginning, after which we were totally hooked and more or less went every year for the next thirty years, covering most of the major navigations from Bristol to Ripon.
In 2005, I came into my inheritance and was in a position to be able to buy my own boat. I scoured the internet and came up with a possible boat in Chester. I contacted an old friend, who owned a narrow boat on the Wey Navigation, who put me off after my description of the Chesterboat, but said that there was a very good boat up for sale on his moorings and was I interested, as it also came with a mooring. As most of you will know, moorings are as rare as hen’s teeth, so I took up his offer to put me in touch with the owner. And the rest is history, as they say.
NB "Stronghold". This is her, photographed as she was when up for sale. Things have changed a little since, as she is now a cruising boat, but more about that later. The name came from the first owner, Alan Strong, who had a business fitting out boats and he had this one fitted out for his own personal use, so the interior decor had a lot of attention to detail, with all brass fittings and hardwood lipping to all the woodwork.