Meet the boats at our Easter Boat Gathering: The North's story...
Histories don’t come much more chequered than that of narrowboat The North, and she’s played a major role in the history of current owners John and Mavis Blunn. The couple are together today thanks to The North and cannot imagine life without her.
The North started life in 1925 as a 70 feet long butty (a boat without a motor) but in 1937 was cut down to 44 feet and given a motor, and a new name. After working as a tug for two decades she was converted into a leisure boat complete with another new name – Lion. And that’s when she first came into Mavis’ life. In 1961 Mavis and her then husband enjoyed many trips before selling her on. Her new owner changed the boat again – this time inserting steel panels to convert her back to her original length.
A series of owners had the boat in their care, including an RAF serviceman who lived on her for a while. She travelled all over the canal system and earned a place in the National Register of Historic Vessels. Then, in 2010, she came back to Mavis, when her daughter Lucy bought her as a home. The following year brought another name change, once again becoming The North.
Meanwhile a romantic relationship was developing, which was to have The North at its heart!
Boating had long been a passion for John Blunn, which he shared with friends Mavis and her family. He had spent his whole life on the canals, working on commercial boats in the midlands, and for British Waterways, until his retirement in 1994. Many holidays were taken afloat, as John says: “The ‘cut’ is in our blood!” Mavis is equally passionate about the waterways, working on canal restoration projects and running a leisure boat hire company with her previous husband.
Both Mavis and John had lost their partners and while John was refurbishing The North, ready for Lucy to live on, he and Mavis found their friendship getting stronger. So, when Lucy moved to New Zealand, they committed to look after The North, and each other, and married in 2014.
The couple live in Wheaton Aston, Staffordshire, close to where The North is moored and when they are not on the boat they are looking after it. John does all the maintenance work and keeps its six berth capacity, complete with bath and shower, ready for its many visitors. It’s hard work but John says he’s used to it, he loves it, he’s done it all his life.
For them the boat represents an escape: “We love our home”, says John “and we love our boat. It gets us away from the four walls. When you’re on the water you cannot help but relax. People’s attitude changes, everyone become much more laid back. It’s a stress-free mode of travel – I’ve never experienced ‘canal rage’!”
They’re regulars at many boating rallies and have never missed an Easter Boat Gathering in all its 40 years. The couple have made hundreds of friends from around the country and they’re looking forward to catching up with some at this year’s gathering. Mavis is delighted that more people are now enjoying the benefits of spending time on the water, she explains: “You can see so much of the countryside from the canal, things that other people miss. We’re so lucky to have The North. She keeps us active and keeps us involved in a wonderful community - we would not part with her for the world.”
The North brought Mavis and John together and she’s ensuring they enjoy a happy life - together!
Last date edited: 21 March 2018