A year ago tonight, I was alone in the house, taking down the Christmas decorations, because I was heartily sick of them, and thinking that something had to change. I didn't quite know what, or how much, but having a boat of my own was a big part of it.
So, mid afternoon, whilst staring at the mantelpiece, I thought, I know, I'll go and look on Apollo Duck and see if Battersea is still for sale. Not that I could have afforded it, mind, but just to inspire me with what might be possible. As it happened, Battersea wasn't listed, but Aber was (though not by name) and Bicester, and Hawkesbury (which I already knew about)... and Bristol.
I went to see Bristol, and to be honest, I did fall in love, although I knew from the start that it would be a big restoration project, with (given that it had had a full length cabin since 1980) a great many hidden unknowns. But it was a boat that had been, and could be, lived on; it was a home, and it was lovely, as were its owners who were incredibly hospitable, and patient, while I dithered. But its price was more than I could afford, and to be honest, given that I was looking for a serious restoration project, much more than I ought to have been prepared to pay. But I couldn't let the idea go.
I was still dithering when we went to Braunston in June, taking Warrior up to be our base for the rally. We got there a week in advance and secured a splendid mooring spot by the Admiral Nelson, and a day or two after we arrived, Jim spotted a josher coming through the locks. It was Petrel, and he went to chat with its owner. I don't know what I was doing to have missed this momentous encounter, probably cleaning the toilet or something. But anyway, miss it I did. It turned out that Petrel wasn't there for the rally, but was just passing through. What we didn't know was that it had recently towed Chertsey from Oldbury to Dimmingsdale; what we had forgotten was that there had recently been some speculation about this boat, and what would happen to it now that its owner, who had been ill for a number of years, had recently died. All of this was unknown to us when Jim mentioned that he knew someone who was desperate to get their hands on a big Woolwich. I don't know exactly what Petrel's owner said to that, only that he knew of one that might be for sale, so Jim gave him our number, and thought little more of it, as we got swept up with meeting MIchell and Bill from America, and getting a ride in the parade, as well as meeting up with lots of the people we were finally starting to get to know. I even stood next to one of Bristol's owners, and murmured that I was still interested, if the price could ever be right.
Then after the rally, Jim set off to take Warrior to Cowroast, where we had very generously been lent a mooring for the month, and I got into the car and drove home. And on the way home, liberated from anyone else's opinion, pessimism, cynicism or plain good sense, I decided what I would do. I would arrange to borrow some money; the amount that I could afford and was prepared to pay for Bristol. Once the loan was arranged, I'd make them a cash offer. If they said no, which I still thought was likely, then nothing lost; I just wouldn't go through with the loan. So I went ahead and arranged to mortgage myself to the eyeballs.
Then, one evening in early July, the phone rang, and by chance, I answered it. On the other end was a softly spoken man with a northern accent who introduced himself as Dave. He was arranging the sale of Chertsey on behalf of the executors, and had been told that I might be interested. I gleaned what information I could, and to be very fair, I have to say that Dave undersold the boat somewhat. He was arranging a viewing day for people who had expressed an interest, prior to advertising it. Of course I wanted to go, although at this stage I thought it would be for research purposes, and that it might help to persuade Jim that Bristol wasn't such a bad bet.
Well, I was very, very wrong. As soon as we got to Dimmingsdale it was clear that Chertsey was a very good boat indeed. Thanks to my foresight (!) in amassing vast quantities of debt, we were able to make an offer there and then. I was too nervous to do it myself, so I got Jim to do it. After a couple of nailbiting days (during which, providentially, we sold Helyn, thus giving us a cash deposit) Dave rang and told me that the offer had been accepted.
Thus, thanks to a combination of recklessness, bloody-mindedness and wild, wild chance, I got my big Woolwich, and a good one too.
A number of other things have to happen now before I can get hold the cash to begin the restoration, but hopefully the wheels are turning, and things will happen in 2010.... which is why, although I am not in any way abandoning Warrior the boat, this seemed like a good time to wind up Warrior the blog. Project blogs are far more interesting that cruising ones, and nbWarrior started out as exactly that, as we set about transforming a boat with potential into our perfect boat. Of course I'll still write about our Warrior cruises - we are thinking of the BCN for next summer, and a lot more besides, as I really, really mean, this time to try and post every day.
But I wanted to do Chertsey justice by starting a new blog, (on a new account, with a new photo upload allowance!) to chart the restoration in all its ups and downs, and to organise it properly with tags and things right from the start, and also to make it a bit more of a historic boat-centred blog.
So this, as we say ferewell to 2009, is the final post proper on nbWarrior - and the first post of the new blog, Chertsey130. Thanks for coming on the journey with me so far, and let's see where the future will take us.