Horace Walpole coined the word ‘serendipity’ back in 1754. Defined as a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise” it’s the perfect word to describe our Enceladus purchase. Cheers, Horace.
You see, we weren’t looking to buy a historic boat. Actually, let me rephrase that, as I was always poking my nose around at what might be available in that spirit of ‘well I’m never going to find the thing that says ‘buy me now’ so it’s quite safe to look’…and dream..and hope. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we weren’t on the serious acquisition trail with a large suitcase of used tenners in tow.
Being a regular dipper-into of boating blogs, I was well aware of the travails of both purchase and ownership of historic craft. But the itch was there, an itch that always got more intense when I poured over Edward Paget Tomlinson’s Colours of the Cut, or watched Narrowboat and Narrowboat Afloat (irrespective of the merits of that TV-driven ‘restoration’), or passed a coal boat (especially Southern Cross, which is always so beautifully turned out by Ryan), or remembered my first meeting with the ram-raiding bows of an empty big Woolwich under the A45 bridge in Braunston. Funny how quickly you can reverse when you put your mind to it.
But the last thing I expected when Andy and I went out to dinner one evening in the autumn of 2015 was to be presented with a gold-plated chance to scratch that itch. Don’t ask why we were looking at the Whilton website on my iPad over dinner but we were…and then my eyes did that cartoon-esque eyes-popping-out-of-the-head thing when I saw Enceladus listed. I had to check again but no, there it was, a 1935 small Northwich for sale. And a shortened one too, with a tug deck, and a cabin that looked like it might given comfortable refuge to humans and greyhounds alike. I don’t have a problem peeing in a bucket but the greyhounds are quite fussy…
There wasn’t much more information given and to be honest, this seemed like a classic ‘too good to be true’ thing. I suspect I was a bit distracted through dinner, nails poised over the itch, but I had to know more. Was this precisely what it seemed or was it just a Siren, luring me in to bankruptcy and divorce? I will forever be grateful to the blogs of Alan and Cath Fincher () and Sarah Hale () because between them they told me enough that this might just have been the most serendipitous find in the history of serendipitous finds.
Of course we would have to verify everything for ourselves but it augured well – the restoration had been entrusted to Industry Narrowboats and Brinklow Boat Services, and they don’t come much better. When we visited for the first time, we screwed on serious heads and scrutinised everything very carefully looking for faults, problems and inconsistencies in the broker’s and owner’s patter…no, we didn’t, that’s a complete fib, we climbed on board and giggled like three year olds and all dispassionate objectivity went out the window (or should that be Northwich porthole) as we tried out the bed ‘ole for size. When we started the Lister and I realised that it drowned out anything Andy was saying, I was ready to sign there and then…but first we did get a sensible, properly qualified chap to tell us it was all as it should be, and that was it, deal done.
I had the pleasure of meeting both Alan, Cath and Sarah last year and told them of their unwitting role in our latest boating chapter. I was very grateful to them that autumn and having had the pleasure of ownership now for a while I am even more thankful today, and happy to go on record as such. Thanks all! Flippin’ expensive dinner though…
My extra thanks to Alan, Cath and Sarah for their permission to reproduce their photographs too – this wouldn’t have been half as much fun without them.