Me and my boats: we’ve joined the community

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel - Credit: Archant

Among the crowds at Crick Boat Show will be Marc and Isobel, excited new liveaboards and possibly the keenest canal converts you’ll meet

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel - Credit: Archant

I live with my partner Isobel and we have a boat based in Shipley West Yorkshire called Moonshadow.

I started to get involved in boats at the age of 16 where I was on a dinner break from college and I mentioned to my friend Tom (who was involved in a boat project through school) that the boats had funny namse from there, Tom asked me to come down the boat project Dream Achievers based in Shipley to give it a go to see if I enjoyed it. I said that I would go down once to see what it was all about – well that once turned into a lifestyle change.

I started to volunteer every week where I did all sorts of activities from cleaning a towpath to helping out the local trip boat called Apollo where I eventually was put on a National Community Boats Association course to learn my Community Crew Course.

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel - Credit: Archant

This was a big achievement for me as I was low in confidence when I left school and the boats and the waterways helped me build this back up by interacting with the public.

I met many mentors along the way to gaining my CCC from Howard Tomlinson who was a volunteer himself at the project to Trevor Roberts and Mark Friar who was the main men down at Shipley who looked after all the boats and projects. With this community down at Shipley, I felt like I was part of a society that loved the waterways and had a goal to keep them going in the local area and to introduce it to the younger generation.

All this gave me a massive passion about the local waterways to the point where I could not see myself moving anywhere else. I still a volunteer now and I have progressed to a Certificate in Community Boat Management trainer

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel - Credit: Archant

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In 2013 I met my partner Isobel who, I have got to admit, took some convincing to look at living on a narrowboat but I was lucky enough to have this community around me and was invited to live on Howard’s boat for a week.

Although the adventure was filled with ups and downs from burning food in the oven to running out of gas and water we really enjoyed the week we had on Blow It, the boat I was made fun of when I was 16 .

This made me and Isobel look at trying to get a boat to live on. We stared to look at local marines but nothing took our fancy until I was advised to look further afield and Moonshadow popped up.

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel

Me and my boats: Marc and Isobel - Credit: Archant

This seemed too good to be true so I invited Howard and Isobel to look at the boat at Kettering. It was a very good price and just what we were looking for.

After a boat survey was done and a bank loan secured, the boat was ours.

We found out during the purchase that the previous owner had not been going through a good time so we did not haggle out of respect and since the deal was so good, we went for it. This was a massive moment of my life so much so that I moved out of my mum and dad’s in Menston, West Yorkshire straight away – the day the money was handed over.

I took time off work to start the journey to God’s own county – Yorkshire, the new home of Moonshadow.

Ane week after buying the boat I set off with my best friend Tom as crew this was the biggest trip me and Tom had ever done.

Tom had completed trips on rivers but not me. Plus I’d just spent £30,000 and was heading for unfamiliar waters. Very scary but very exciting times.

The trip up north did not go without its problems – from the immersion tank blowing up to trying to find a safe place to moor at night.

They were very long days but was always nice to get to a new place. Howard came and helped us on the tidal section of the river Trent as I was terrified about this section but he got us into locks like a master with no problems.

Once we got to Leeds I stopped for a week as the boating community that I was involved in Shipley had moved there so we had a week-long party in Leeds to celebrate our first boat.

After this week I took the boat to Shipley to settle down and restart a normal life. At this point I had a new job and a new boat so things were looking up.

Since moving to Shipley we go once a year to Skipton Waterways Festival. This was another big moment as I regularly attended when I volunteered down in Shipley.

Here I meet with other boaters and find out more information on how to improve our boat. We also take part in a light parade, which is always fun, dressing the boat up in light to parade through centre of Skipton.

Although I know it is not normal for a young couple to live on a boat, this is the best decision that we have ever made.

It is not all roses and we get asked the same questions time and time again like, ‘Is it cold on a boat in winter?’ we would not change it for the world.

I would recommend anyone to just give it a go, it will open your eyes to a different way of living.