naomhòg, the prayer boat

naomhòg, the prayer boat

My love of narrow-boating started over a decade ago when, in choosing our first canal journey, I thought a circular route sounded more fun than a linear one. Little did I know that this would entail managing the dreaded Tardebigge flight of locks. Richard (my long suffering husband) and I were regularly up at dawn to ensure we’d complete the task and get the hire boat back on time! But I loved it, and remember driving back home thinking 30mph was way too fast. One day I decreed we would return and explore a slower pace of life.

In the intervening years the dream never left me. Gradually I felt God’s guidance drawing me towards a boating ministry, specifically a prayer boat. In October 2020, a six month rental enabled us to experience boating throughout the winter, which did not deter me. Richard, though supportive of my new found passion, does like to return home occasionally. The lawn still needs mowing and it’s not quite so comfortable being 6ft 3” on a narrowboat!

naomhog, the prayer boat

After a further rental in October 2021 went a little pear shaped due to engine trouble, I decided to contact the nearest boat broker to where we were moored up. A 43ft narrowboat had literally just arrived in the marina, with no written particulars, but we were welcome to come and look. They say buying a boat is like buying a house – you just know when you have found the right one. I walked onto Naomhòg and it was love at first sight!

The celtic name means ‘Little Neave/Saint’ or ‘Holy Little One’ and she ticked all the boxes, although I did rather want a bath on board, having enjoyed one on our previous boat. Instead we had a fixed rosehead that Richard could not even fit under. Thankfully that was relatively easy to change. Our sale completed, 1st December saw us in the snow on a six hour journey moving Naomhòg to the stricken boat housing our belongings. By now it was in a boatyard; we could only gain access from the water and with no operable electrics we needed to get there in daylight. As Naomhòg was unfurnished there was not so much as a warming cup of tea or extra layers of clothing to be had. It was a race against time which of course is counter productive to the notion of being on a narrowboat!

Since then we have been predominantly in a marina, living on and off the boat and using shoreline power. 1st April saw us become continuous cruisers and we made the rookie error of leaving the marina without switching the diesel pipe on. We managed to get down a flight of locks before we ran out of fuel but it wasn’t until the Canal Rescue service were in sight that we realised our error. The engineer very kindly spent a couple of hours talking us through the workings of the engine so his time was not wasted and it was very valuable to us.

Then we discovered our two year old leisure batteries were flat, one even bowed out of shape! That resulted in us sitting at Fenny Compton for a week whilst M J Craft, Marine engineer specialists (aka Martin) sorted us out. It was what I call a 'God-instance' that he was working on the boat moored next to ours. Initially we had asked him to look at our engine as it was cutting out whilst idling at locks. Already I sense owning a boat will be full of surprises, not all pleasant and quite a few, expensive!

However, to date, I love it. My mum died a couple of years ago and I have used the money she left me to purchase Naomhòg. I’m looking forward to working out exactly what God’s idea of a ‘Prayer Boat’ means. Already we have had friends on the boat for day trips, for 'rest and recuperation' and a couple of them have borrowed the boat for a week or more whilst we have returned home. I love talking to the people on their boats or those walking along the towpath. Hearing their stories is a privilege.

Mary and Richard Haines in marina

It is not necessarily an easy option living the canal way of life but we have appreciated the wonderful community spirit and there is such a breadth and depth to life on the Cut and surrounding areas.

I am not naive, I realise it won’t all be rosy but it’s an adventure and an opportunity to do something new and see parts of Britain that to date we have never seen. I started a blog previously which I have continued. The husband of the lady who commissioned our boat in 2007 came across it and sent me a picture of Naomhòg whilst under construction, coincidentally with a wooden cross perched on its roof, proof enough for me that God has been involved in our venture from the beginning.

If you see us on the Cut, the kettle is always ready to boil – and there’s usually a secret stash of crisps and crunchies which Richard manages to secrete on board when I’m not looking!

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About Mary Haines

Mary and her husband Richard now live full time on their 43ft narrowboat Naomhog. Their plan is to travel the waterways March-November and they want to be a 'Listening boat'. "We want to encourage people to tell us their stories because we feel we have time to listen. In this fast paced world listening is not necessarily much valued and is in short supply!"