On the morning of 21st December 1999, the shortest day of the year, I was at Glasson Dock, near Lancaster, to watch NB Bream lifted out of the water and onto the back of a lorry. I was about to begin my life afloat.
The first part of the process went well. The boat was guided into the hoist then lifted out of the water, and very slowly driven a short distance before being lowered onto an extended trailer. She was strapped down, with all potentially loose items removed and stowed inside, and we were soon ready to go.
In final pre-departure checks a problem was spotted with the electrics on the trailer. The indicator lights were not working on one side. It wasn’t the bulb, for which the driver had spares, and eventually a call out was made for a technician from base, in Liverpool. By the time it was fixed we had lost a good part of the day. It was mid-afternoon and the light was already starting to fade. The length of the load meant that local police were in attendance to be sure that everything went to plan as the lorry slowly made its way down the twisting lanes towards the M6.
Or police escort left us as we joined the motorway at Junction 33, and for a brief moment it all felt good. Kayty and I sped off ahead to do a few jobs, there was no point following the load at 40mph, we knew they had the best part of a two hour journey to our destination at Monton on the Bridgewater Canal. Unfortunately a call came through that Greater Manchester Police did not want a long slow load on their motorway during the evening rush hour and had pulled the lorry at Charnock Richard services.
After speaking with the haulier I spoke to the crane driver, who was already in situ – the boat was meant to have been back in the water by now. He gave up and went home, and there was talk that the load might need to go back to the depot for the night as the driver was running out of hours. We waited around until about 6:30pm when the haulier phoned me and said they could be released and there was time to get her lifted in if the crane could be brought back.
I forget exactly what bribe was offered, but he did come back and we finally all assembled in the rain at Monton around 8pm. GMP traffic officers had escorted the load the final couple of miles from the M602 and were now holding the traffic so that the lift could be done safely.
It’s a very odd place to lift a boat in, but apparently well used because of its proximity to a road. The process was scarily fast, all over and done with inside 5 minutes. I was convinced that she was going to slide out of the cradle at one point as she swung over the water, but thankfully not. Before I had even had time to set foot on board the police, the lorry and the crane had all disappeared into the night, as had a small group of hardy passers-by.
By the time I’d dropped Kayty back home in Cheshire and returned to the boat it was nearly 11pm. The one thing I’d forgotten to leave out was a torch and in those days phones didn’t have lights so couldn’t find my way around to turn the electrics on. I climbed into the back cabin and spent the night on the floor.
Sadly I don’t have photos from that day to hand. Kayty took some, which she gave to me a few years ago but I can’t lay my hands on them. I had borrowed my Dad’s video camera and shot various parts of the day including the lift our and lift in, but have no idea what happened to the tape. Thanks to Stephen Harral who let me take copies of the file photos from when the boat was being marketed.