On the 4th April 2012, exactly 140 days after I’d signed on the dotted line the previous November, we finally took full possession of Eileen.
Jim and Vi had found an excellent 14 day mooring on the North Oxford, between Bridge 90 and the Braunston Turn and it was there we found Eileen moored tight to the bank.
I felt a huge sense of responsibility in taking ownership that freezing early Spring afternoon. Our great experiment in family boating was about to become a reality and despite my faith in the project, and all the money we’d already committed to Eileen’s renovation, neither Claire nor I had any real idea if our venture would work out at all.
So many questions filled my head, despite the daft proud grin across my face:
Would our ‘city kids’ born and brought up in North London thrive in this watery new world?
How would we all cope in the tight confines of a narrowboat?
Would there be impossible frictions, or would there be traction?
Would Claire, Molly, Joe and Fin each, in their own way, follow me and fall (just a little) in love with the Cut?
The Boys, probably exhausted by the journey from London, the loading up of the boat, the walk to the pub for supper and the whole adventure go the ‘watery house’, fell asleep faster than I’d dared hope, and in the dying light of the day Claire and I found ourselves free to stand on the back deck and raise a glass to the future and our first night aboard our very own boat.
With the tight timescale in the weeks preceding Eileen being brought down from Great Haywood I’d been unable to get up to the boat to put guard rails around the stove in the Long Cabin, and so that first night we decided against setting a fire to warm our first night aboard. Though sensible, and really the only safe option with young children potentially wandering about in the dark during the night, it proved a fateful decision as the night was perishing freezing!!!
By 6.00am next morning (after a difficult and broken night of unsettled children needing reassurance) our breath was forming tortured shapes in the freezing air of the cabin.
We huddled in as many layers of clothing as we’d thought to bring along, the odd duvet too, and vaguely hoped the meagre wet warmth of the Calor Gas camping cooker might take the chill off. Mugs of coffee, sliced of toast, layers of bedding, and our own body heat eventually thawed us, colour slowly returned to the kids faces, and they began to talk again…
Our first adventure aboard? Freezing the kids half to death! To ‘warm’ them up a bit more I hit upon the idea of getting them outside and active. We rugged them up in still more layers and went exploring. Not far, just down the towpath to the double ‘M’ bridge at Brauston Turn.
A hard late frost glistened in the shadows not yet touched by the rising sunshine. A pure bright light made everything seem sharp focused. It was a magical morning and, despite mumbles and grumbles the kids were fine, happy, hooked on this boaty adventure and I felt very chuffed indeed!