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Narrowboat Berengaria Goes Back to Her Birth Family!

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Wed Aug 31, 2016 at 2:06pm

This is a true story written by the new (and old) owners of a narrowboat that we have just sold called Berengaria. You'll need to get your handkies out and make yourself a cuppa, as its an emotional read!

the-story-of-narrowboat-berengaria

"In 1989 our parents, Charles and Ronnie Bootle, set off on a 12 year adventure on their custom built narrowboat 'Berengaria'. With her sliding sunroof and a folding monkey motorbike stowed on the specially adapted stern she was quite distinctive. They spent three summers traveling every navigable waterway they could in England; like footpaths, if they are not used they could be closed and my father was determined to explore them all. Pretty canals and rivers, or less tempting inner-city backwaters, they did them all. Then in the Spring of 1993 they put her on low-loader and shipped her over to Holland, where she was lifted into the water just outside Rotterdam. There, along with another couple, Jim and Doreen Hardy and their narrowboat 'Kindly Light', they began to explore the Dutch waterways.

It swiftly became apparent that no-one had ever done this before, as wherever they travelled they were greeted by newspapers, magazines etc, fascinated by these colourful 'narrow' boats. We take them for granted over here, but they are curiosity particular to Britain.

dutch-magazine-article-picture

 Here you can see some photos from a Dutch magazine of the time 'Water Kampion'

bird-engaraving-on-narrowboat-berengaria

 

Each spring for the next eight years they would leave their home in Buckden, Cambridgeshire and spend six months in Europe; first through Holland, then into Belgium and France and back to Holland. In the winter they would travel around the country showing films of edited highlights of their trip and talking about their adventures to various clubs. They finally brought Berengaria home in the autumn of 2000. She was moored in the midlands at Welford Marina for the family to share. Unfortunately, less than a year later, whilst taking our first holiday on her, our father died suddenly and my mother could not bear to set foot on her again. She said that my brother and I were welcome to keep her if we could afford the upkeep, but we both had young families and other expenses and unfortunately had to let her go when an eager buyer was found unexpectedly.

Our families are both grown up now, but like us have fond memories of Berengaria. For the next nine years my mother would receive a card from her new owners, Jo and Roger Durell, but we lost track of her when they eventually sold her on. Until 1st May this year................ Our son Tom was talking about her to his grandmother when they decided to google the name.....and found her up for sale once more at Whilton Marina! The next day four of us leapt in the car and found her; and what an experience that was. We assumed that after fifteen years she would have been updated and stripped of her original fixtures and fittings, maybe even had her name changed. But no, it was all there, looking like we had stepped off her all those years ago, locked the door and 'parked' her for all this time. There were all the hand engraved windows, depicting, herons, kingfishers and the like, engraved on my hands and knees on the workshop floor 27 years ago.

There were the rope fenders my brother knotted. There was the stained the glass mirror, the brass plaques from the various canals and festivals my parents visited. There was my father's old tool kit in the cupboard. There were their mugs hanging on the same hooks in the galley. Pretty emotional I can tell you!

She is looking a little tired now, but nothing that can't be fixed. And fix it we will! Mum has very generously arranged to buy her back for the family once more. It will be down to us and her three grandchildren (now all grown up with partners of their own) to look after all her restoration, repairs and running costs, but with the next generation mucking in as well, we believe we can make a go of it. Work to repair the larger issues was undertaken by the excellent team at Whilton Marina and she was issued with her Boat Safety Certificate at the end of July 2016. The first job once we had the keys was to clean her up and sort the contents out - and that was amazing. We found loads of stuff belonging to our parents, including Mums old manual of step by step instructions on how to use the boat and its contents and where everything was stowed. Much of it still in exactly the same places fifteen years later! Her second owners, the Durells, have very generously gifted some more of her old contents, and are as pleased as punch that she has been returned to us all. Three weekends of work on Berengaria by the whole family and she is finally ready to move down the country to her new moorings in Newbury. We would have loved to have left her at Whilton Marina, as the location is perfect for exploring the canal network, but, so that we can all work on her restoration, we really need her moored somewhere between us here in Gloucestershire and my brother in Maidstone.

restoring-narrowboat-berengaria

Love you Mum and can't thank you enough for your generous gift to us all"

We'd like to thank Amanda Cale and Geoffrey Bootle for sharing their fantastic story with us, and wish their whole family many happy adventures aboard their beloved canal boat Berengeria!

If you have a narrowboat story to share with us, we'd love to hear from you, contact us here

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1 Comment

Ronnie bootle | Fri Sep 2, 2016 at 12:53pm
And another coincidence! This Sept 2016 issue of Waterways World. We are astonished to see on the front cover of the supplement attached too the front of the mag a photo of Berengaria moored on the Thames. She was a few weeks old then and it was 27 years ago. we were on our way to the National thru London on to the River Lea. What ever next?

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