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A Life Aboard the River Dart


Ginny Ware interviews ex-landlubbers, Nigel & Marianne Bartram


I


t’s been a steep learning curve for the newest recruits to Dartmouth’s live-aboard boating community, but Nigel and Marianne Bartram say they wouldn’t move ashore again if you paid them. Since their 68-year-old, 47- foot long converted fishing boat, Treshnish, became their home in October the couple have endured Force 9 gales, an exploding gas canister, broken bones, a sunken tender and have even been pecked by a crow snagged in their fishing line, but they say the joys of living on the River Dart far outweigh the calamities they have suffered. ‘We have had more injuries in the last six months than our whole lives put together but when you see a seal or a dolphin bobbing by, you think this is what it’s all about,’ Marianne, 60, said. ‘We have received so much kindness from everybody on the river and so much help from the Dart Harbour Authority, it’s been amazing. If you are humble enough to admit you don’t know what you are doing and are not arrogant, you get all the help you want. ‘We are the kind of people who find life mostly amusing anyway and there’s plenty to laugh about here. We spend our time between being delighted, terrified and humiliated. Moving on to a boat has been much tougher than we thought it would be and I love it and hate it in equal measures. ‘Sometimes I have yearned for a thatched cottage with a log fire, Aga and a garden with pond but


when I’m


ashore I gaze longingly across the water at Treshnish and I can’t wait to get back on board. ‘She’s a classic boat and I love the fact she is all brass, mahogany and oak. She’s very solid and I just love everything about her. ‘You couldn’t pay me a million pounds to move back ashore now.’ The couple have no boating experience but decided to take the


“We have had more injuries in the last six months than our whole lives put together but when you see a seal or a dolphin bobbing by, you think this is what it’s all about”


plunge and live on a boat when Nigel, a former IT consultant, retired. ‘We had a three bedroom house in Torquay and I thought I’m not going to be able to run it on a pension,’ Nigel, 65, said. ‘We wanted to sell up and downsize a bit and we thought about a live aboard boat or a one bed flat. We wanted an adventure so it was a no-brainer.


‘I happened to see in some magazine or other the advert for Treshnish and we came to see it on a lovely, sunny August day and thought it was lovely. We didn’t think about Force 9 gales. It has been a lot harder than we imagined. It’s been very hard, physical work and we are both fitter and physically stronger than we


were eight months ago. ‘An old wooden boat takes all your strength and all your money, but we do love it.’ Marianne has borne the majority of the physical injuries, suffering two broken ribs after tripping over a mooring line and falling onto a bollard and another broken bone after a heavy container of water Nigel flung from the dinghy to Treshnish fell on her foot. A speeding yacht caused such a big wake that Marianne fell down the companionway stairs and knocked out a tooth.


Nigel has also received his share of misfortune, drifting out to sea after forgetting to pull in the dinghy mooring rope so that it snagged around the propeller. He had the presence of mind to row over to a nearby yacht and cling on to its boarding steps until local fellow live-aboard and shipwright, Guy Cottam, came past in his dinghy and offered him a tow.


There was also the incident with the crow. Marianne explained: ‘I stupidly left our fishing rod on deck with bait attached. I was woken in the early hours by a scampering sound. I could hear the heavy bottom fishing weight being pulled around and realised a bird had been snagged by the hooks. ‘Nigel went onto the deck and found a large black crow had been caught by the wing and, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but as he was


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