Follow the ongoing travels and adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the Canals of the UK and Europe aboard their narrow boat 'Oo-La-La', read the monthly account of their travels and view photos documenting those travels. Follow the adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the canals of England and Europe aboard their narrow boat OO-LA-LA
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Travelogue: England - 2001

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.

* *
Oo-La-La Interior Oo-La-La aft * * *

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 beckons.

NEXT MONTH : We close on the new Oo-La-La and start cruising.

.....on to September 2001


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