From inflatable dinghy to Dutch barge
Reviewer: Graeme Marsh
ISN’T it Cold in the Winter? is an autobiographical account of life on the water for author Karen Wiles, her family, and their cat Bosun. Written in an informal and conversational tone, it is an honest, open and impassioned journey from first dinghy Matilda through to their current Dutch barge Edith.
Wiles’s book runs the full gamut of emotions, at times frustrated, angry, happy, grieving, urgent, and always honest in the many challenges she has encountered, from ill health through to the loss of their first cat, and the reality of life on board in close confines with a teenager.
It dispels any misapprehensions that potential boaters may have about the dream of life on the waterways and touches on how it can easily become isolated, and how things often taken for granted get a lot harder when living afloat. To her credit, the author does this with an admirable resilience and optimism that speaks a lot about the mindset that a happy life living aboard requires.
She talks of her own experience of a cancer diagnosis and recovery with remarkable brevity and stoicism, dedicating far more words to an encounter with a dog that left her cat badly injured.
Boaters will find plenty of familiar moments here, from tripping electrics by turning the toaster on at the same time as the washing machine, collisions with hire boats, and the sinking feeling you get when you see your planned mooring spot already full, knowing the next one is another two hours down river.
In among the simple stories of daily river life there are some valuable experiences, which could save the future boat owner time and money. Tips on electrics, insights into volunteering, and basic boat-buying decisions, through to navigation of the Kennet & Avon and Gloucester & Sharpness canals, as well as the River Thames, will be of interest to anyone looking to cruise the UK network.
One area the book is let down is by the low quality reproduction of its images (black and white), however, that doesn’t detract from what is a refreshingly honest account of life aboard continuously cruising, the highs, lows, and many moments that make it such an adventure.
Oh and in case you are wondering… no, it doesn’t get cold in the winter.
Isn’t it Cold in the Winter? (softback, 213 pages) is also available on the Apple iBooks store for £4.99, this edition including colour photos.