I’ll never forget the day… I became a fulltime boater

MBY reader David Lodge recalls the day he sold his house and became a fulltime boater

When my father was diagnosed with dementia five years ago countless healthcare professionals all gave me the same advice.

They all said one of the best ways to deal with the failing memory is to work at rebuilding and recreating old memories.

My father was always fond of boating and when I was little we’d spend many a happy weekend cruising up and down the canal.

When I was a teenager I’d even lived on our Norseman 38 for a while as a fulltime boater; I remember the winter was pretty harsh!

Then I spent a further three years based at Thorne, on the South Yorkshire Canal, where I’d occasionally venture off for long weekends or the odd two-week trip, before finally moving the boat to Farndon on the River Trent.

In total, I had the Norseman for ten years, selling only to upgrade when the opportunity arose to buy a wide beam barge, and I leapt at the chance for something bigger.

It took three days to move everything from one boat to another, but finally I was in. Summer evenings were spent painting, varnishing and socialising with friends on board, and my father was always there to help out.

Bricks and mortar

As I got older, reality kicked in briefly. House prices were rising and it was time to sell up and get on that property ladder! The barge sold and I joined the rest of the world in brick houses.

David Lodge

Cheoy Lee 47 Trawler owner David Lodge

Things stayed this way for many years, I got married, and occupied myself with the garden, cars and even motorhomes, but nothing made me quite as happy as being on a boat.

My father, now 84, would always enjoy being on the boat next to me.

Bobbing along on the water makes him happy, much as it does me. It’s a calm, peaceful way of life that is hard to come by nowadays.

So when we got the diagnosis I knew what had to be done. It was only going to get worse with time so we had to act quickly.

Every time I spoke to him about being on the boat his eyes lit up with the memory. It had been 14 years since I’d last been on one, but in February last year I put the house on the market and went looking for my next boat.

I found one quite quickly online called Praise The Lord, a Cheoy Lee 47 Trawler based in the north west (pictured above).

The next part was trickier. I had to convince my wife, who had never been on a boat before, unless you count a ferry, that we should visit this boat, with a view to buying it and living on board it pretty much full time. Suffice to say it was not an easy conversation to have.

Love at first sight

Thankfully the moment we stepped on board, both of us fell in love with her. The layout was very spacious and the only work that needed doing was cosmetic and wouldn’t prove too much of a challenge.

We could both see ourselves being very happy on board and I’m extremely grateful to my wife for her optimistic and open-minded attitude to the purchase!

I took dad to view her after we had made the purchase and he couldn’t stop smiling. His excitement was that of a small child as all the boating memories started to come back to him.

The more time we spend on the boat with him, the more comes back to him. As soon as Praise The Lord is ready we will spend 90% of our time afloat, with my dad.

Our time is so precious and this is the way we want to spend it – building new memories and remembering old ones. Maybe one day I might just buy another house… but I doubt it!

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