The first of these was Mary Cassells' On Wet Foundations, and this is what I said about it in my review: "I enjoyed this memoir very much. It was funny and entertaining, and as a fellow old barge owner, I could relate to so many of the author's experiences when she and her husband were converting their Colibri into a home - I felt a real kinship with them. The only downsides for me were some lack of continuity (just for example, what happened when the gearbox went?) and the number of errors in both punctuation and the use of French and Dutch words."
Apart from the mistakes, it was a lovely read, especially as I was doing my own faring on the French canals, so it was special to read about their travels as they cruised along the Meuse and the Canal de Bourgogne. Well recommended if you can forgive and overlook the errors.
Another book I've read and absolutely loved is Hart Massey's Travels with 'Lionel'. This is the first of a two book series and I've been wanting to read them for ages, but they're only available second hand now and for a long time, Amazon wouldn't deliver them here. However, it just so happened that Lionel, the boat in the books, is the original name for a barge that I have spent some happy times on this year in the company of our friends Jackie and Noel who owned it until very recently. Jackie came across a poster for the cover when she was cleaning out a cupboard and that inspired her (and several others, including me) to get hold of it.
Travels with 'Lionel' was written in the '80s and is the product of a good writer whose language might be considered a little outdated now, but I enjoyed it immensely. His humour is so dry, it might be mistaken as complaining by some, but I laughed till I cried, felt every frustration and pain the brave sixty somethings encountered and developed huge admiration for Massey's wife, Melodie as well as great affection for their dalmation, Joss. The illustrations in the book are gorgeous too and the memoir takes the reader from Southern France to Groningen in the north of the Netherlands. I'm looking forward to reading the second book now, "The Leaky Iron Boat".
Then, while I'm on the subject of Jackie and Noel, I'd really like to mention her wonderful sailing memoir, This is It. Some time ago, I wrote about her first memoir, Of Foreign Build, which I adored and which was about the couple's circumnavigation of the world on Mariah II. Well, a couple of years later, after some land-time, they got the call of the gulls again, and they flew off to California to buy another boat.
This Is It was named after Michael Jackson's song and was 'the one' they chose for sailing down firstly to Ecuador and then on to Easter Island (the most remote island in the world) before heading back across the Pacific to Australia. It's an amazing adventure, during which they trekked through Ecuador and did some teaching in Peru before enduring mind numbing fear in the storms of the south Pacific. I found it a really riveting book and well worth reading, especially if you love sailing and travel. I am no sailor and never will be, but I loved the excitement of exploring new places and the wonderful friendships they forged with people on their travels.
Lastly, and I don't know if I've mentioned this one before, is a book that is pretty much the opposite of This Is It: Roger Distill's Life With Our Feet Under Water is a charming meander through the English canal system on a narrowboat, Kantara to be precise. In the book you quite literally follow their daily diary from purchasing and moving on board, to dealing with all the teething problems of the boats mechanical issues to cruising the cut through rain, flood and (occasionally) sunshine. Roger's humour is lovely and I came to really enjoy the many and varied quotes he peppers the book with. A gentle read - not one to get your heart rate sky high like Jackie's - but it is a vivid account of life on England's very special waterways.
So there, some very diverse boat and barge books to read. If you choose to buy them, I hope you enjoy them all as much as I did.