The following day dawned reasonably warm and sunny and Misterton was ready to return to Goole, before we finally left the dry dock we had one more visitor in the shape of Alan Pratt and his wife. Alan and his team had been selected for the task of bringing our home down the coast. Alan spoke loudly giving off an air of no nonsense, and immediately he did a thorough inspection of the boat, accompanied by the boat builder.

‘She needs an extra bollard at the front,’ he barked to the boat builder, ‘we’ll need that to tie the rope on with securely, there should be one there anyway.’

The boat builder disappeared into the back of the boat and returned with a bollard, ‘it’s here all ready to put on.’

I was impressed at the speed of movement he managed to get from the Yorkshire team. Something I had never managed, but clearly we were all in the presence of a man who had spent his life working out on the coast and rivers on boats of all shapes and sizes. He knew what he was talking about and easily commanded respect from all around him. There is something about experience that always tops  the pecking order regardless of the field, so in truth I was not surprised that Alan Pratt got a faster service than I. I was after all beginning to slip into the category of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing; I was beginning to talk in boat language but with no substance behind it. The trouble was a as a trained drama person my talk sounded convincing and I needed to ensure my ability to bluff did not get me into trouble.  

Simon was talking to Alan’s wife, and she was filling him with tales of her life on the water with her husband, as well as recounting one or two near misses, including one where she fell off the boat between the boat and the mooring, but luckily was able to get out before the boat crushed her. I decided not to listen to anymore till after we’d moved on board, but made a mental note to avoid falling between the boat and the mooring if at all possible.

The tug boat man was satisfied that the boat would be sea worthy for bringing down the coast, and said he would let us know when the conditions were right to come and collect our home, and they went on their way. That then left Simon and I on Misterton getting her ready to take back to Goole. We were being accompanied by John, the boat builders’ son, and it did look like we had a good day for it.

It all started slowly as is the way of the water but exciting none the less. The dry dock sluices were opened and Misterton slowly started to float again, she was back on the water and all the holes were secure. The gates were opened and then three men helped Simon to turn her by hand in a canal where she was just able to turn. The full 75 foot of her was just a little less than the width of the water at its widest point and it took a few attempts. In typical useful girl fashion I had out both the video camera and my digital camera to film and photograph capturing the moment. It was quite a task and I was more than a little impressed at the amount of muscle power being used to manually turn a 60 tonne steel boat whilst taking every care to ensure the boat didn’t get hit (in my head I couldn’t help thinking it wouldn’t hurt Misterton much is she did gently bash against a bank, but that probably proves my little knowledge theory.)

Finally Misterton was turned and facing the right direction, the next hurdle was getting the man to sell us some diesel so had enough to get back to Goole with. After some moaning and groaning that he didn’t usually work on a Tuesday morning (he hadn’t been open all weekend) he relented when Simon suggested he might buy as much as £200 worth of diesel, in this   situation money talked and grumbling greatly the man agreed to sell us the much needed fuel.  Misterton  needed to be reversed to the fuel pump, never easy in a boat, John struggled a little with the steering and in the end Simon  helped by offering to take over  the wheel. This had slightly unnerved John as he was coming along as the expert and it was Simon who had resolved the tricky moment when we were moments away from a fuel pump explosion, I had known where our fire extinguishers were so I had not been too worried about our safety, but wasn’t so sure about the grumpy salesman who was looking more and more alarmed as Mistertons hull was on track for collision.

We were ready for the off – nearly. There was then an agreement about who was coming with us on the journey, post the fuel pump situation John looked apprehensive about joining our merry crew,  a few words in his ear from his father and John remained onboard looking like he’d lost fifty pounds and found one.   On the opposite end of the scale Simon and I looked like we’d found £50 with a few extra noughts on the end. Simon happily took the wheel and John provided vocal support, I returned to my role as chief cameraman.

As we left Stanilands marina there were a number of small fibre glass boats moored to the right hand side for us to pass. A gust of wind took the front of Misterton and urged her to use her might to plough through a dozen boats in one go, five hundred points for each boat the wind seemed to be shouting. I assured myself we had good insurance, John’s face was turning a whiter shade of pale and Simon looked happy as a sand boy and ever the professional as he twirled the wheel around with speed moving the front of the boat away from the small ones and defying the shouts of the wind. I was majorly impressed; he had missed wiping out half the marina by a few centimetres as well as averting a major fuel fire, my husband was turning into the superhero of the waterways before my eyes.

Not much further on our journey we passed the mooring we had brought Misterton on, and a nostalgic moment recalling the first days of rust scraping lasted merely seconds as we approached a small tunnel, there was no way of seeing to the end, but John shouted it looked clear so we carried on, as we came through we saw a man looking mildly alarmed on the other side.

‘I couldn’t see anything, it was a total black hole and then you appeared,’ he shouted, ‘that’s one big boat you have there.’

We all nodded our agreement and smiled at him, it was only later on when Simon pointed out to me how scary that must have been for the narrow boat man I felt mildly guilty, we had blown our horn but it was slightly pathetic and I’m not convinced it would have travelled through the tunnel.

A little further along and we came to our first lock so I got to show off my newly honed rope throwing skills, I had explained to John I had a certificate of competence but he had not seemed to register my words. AS I threw the rope I was praying everyone was on my side, someone was listening as under Johns steely stare I managed to get the loop around the bollard first time.

‘Thats impressive,’ he said, and inside I felt like I’d won a gold medal.

Shortly after the first lock the weather changed and the heavens opened, although Misterton has a wheel house, to get under the low bridges between Stanilands and Goole this had to be taken down, so as the journey continued everyone got wet. Simon suggested I might want to sit downstairs in the dry, and he did not need to ask twice. I went below and read my chick lit, occasionally rearing my head in the rain to bring coffee and toasted bagels to the men, I was loosing my feminist friends all over the place today, but my comfort had won over any ideals.

Towards the end of the journey the rain let off, and I took over the wheel. For Valentines that year Simon had brought me a great little book called ‘It’s your boat too,’ written for women by a woman an d encouraging all women to be co-captains and not just the first mate. I was keen to keep this status and thought a turn at the wheel was a good thing to do to prove my worth. I had only handled Misterton once before, and at that time she had had chain steering and was really difficult to steer. Recalling John’s wariness at her handling even now I took the wheel and tried not to show fear. To my delight she was responding much better than she had previously, and although you turn and then wait 30 seconds for the response with slow methodical steering she went quite well. I don’t really have anything to compare her too in terms of boat steering, so John’s wariness, although I was to realise in later months was for very good reasons, to me she was a delight. I felt confident and proud to be controlling our home.

As we approached Goole I felt it was only right to let Simon take over again for the home stretch (nothing to do with the rain honest), and I stood at the bow as she glided back to her old mooring, for the last time on this waterway for some time.

It was a strange feeling to think we were never going to come here again to work on Misterton, she was ready, the tug was booked, our mooring was found and the next part of the Misterton adventure was about  to begin.