sovereign lady

simply linda - telling tales from the towpath

sovereign lady

You may recall last time I told a tale from the towpath, I spoke about ‘Sovereign Lady’ – a very special boat that I hope to see afloat by next summer. She will be a beauty. I will make sure of that. And she will be very special, of that I am determined. Folk will look and admire, but most importantly, they will see how very much loved she is – not only by those who operate her; those who holiday aboard her; and those who tell her story, but also by those who pass her both ashore and afloat. Which brings me now to share with you a very sad tale…..a very, very sad tale.

As the weather has got better, more and more boaters have been out and about. Some have been working hard to ‘spruce up’ their pride-and-joys ready for a lovely long season swanning about on the waterways. Others have been tenderly repairing the havoc and damage cause by the long hard winter we’ve just left. But as I cruise along the cut, I can’t help but notice the horribly high number of boats that look as though they’ve seen no such tender loving care since the day they were first bought!

I won’t name and shame, but some canals seem to have an unusually high number of boats looking battered and bruised. Many show clear signs of long term neglect, not just a few months or even a year or two. Chipped and dirty, where once there was pristine paintwork; well blackened bottoms; and proudly portrayed signs of ownership. These craft were once as regal in stature as ‘Sovereign Lady’ is in name. They shone with brasses; gleamed with polishes; and carried their owners carefully along the cut. Now they languish in despair and disrepair - unloved; uncared about; and undoubtedly unhappy.

I’m sure you can all think of a few examples you’ve seen on your travels. It is beyond me why people pay so much money – for in their day these beautiful vessels would not have been cheap – to acquire the boats, only to leave them to go to wreck and ruin. I’m not talking just elderly craft either. Boats of only a few years age can be seen showing signs of neglect. It’s sad, so very sad.

boat stripped of paint

Fortunately, the time for renaissance has come. Less wasteful persons are seeing the potential of these neglected souls and beginning to breathe new life into their hearts. Renovation and restoration projects abound and I have every confidence these saviours of saddened superstructures will love their soon-to-be beautiful boats as much as I cherish - the as yet unbuilt – Sovereign Lady (has anyone noticed I keep mentioning Sovereign Lady?)

Perusing the internet recently I came across a Facebook site – Narrowboat and Cruiser Projects – which has been set up by ‘restoration enthusiasts’. Jeff Round (admin.) has recently taken care and control of a narrowboat, which is much in need of some TLC. He aims to bring this elderly lady back to her former glory in the coming months…or it may be years, depending on how things go!

Adam Brown’s ‘Dream Catcher’ is also a recent acquisition. She needs a good bath and the funghi removing from her GPR superstructure, so he tells me and then she’ll be gleaming and dazzling Gongoozlers again. I understand that work on her interior is progressing satisfactorily and Adam is counting the days until he can cruise her with the pride she deserves. Both ‘Dream Catcher’ and Jeff’s boat have been sadly neglected in recent years, but both are now looking forward to long and loving relationships with the respective new ‘man’ in their lives.

My ‘girls’ are spoilt in comparison with Jeff and Adam’s recent acquisitions. They have ‘new clothes’ on a regular basis and are scrupulously cleaned by their ‘man servant’ (aka RYA Inland Waterways Instructor, Paul Wilson) before and after every outing they have, but it wasn’t always the case. When we ‘adopted’ them a couple of years ago, both were beginning to look tired and worn. Replacement engines, new leisure batteries, central heating burners, radiators to name but a few of the parts that have been replaced – and our Dolly Mixture is only just coming into her fifth year!

‘Sovereign Lady’ (just in case you think I’ve forgotten her…) will have absolute TLC from day one. She is going to be a very special boat with a very special role in the wider community. Soon everyone will hear about her, because I have a plan……

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About Linda Wilson

Linda Wilson is an RYA helmsman, and co-owner of Water Babies narrowboat hire company. She is deeply involved in canal restoration, and has a project on the go which will benefit people with disabilities. Linda has a wealth of stories to tell.