We figured that a manufacturer of large barges would be located near the water. But, as we discovered, that’s not always the case. Piper Boats, the builder of our barge Wanderlust, is situated on a hill in North Staffordshire in the English Midlands. Any boat that Piper builds needs to be loaded onto a truck, transported over road to water, craned off, and launched.
Launching a barge is a multiple step process. The move starts with bringing the barge out of the workshop to a hardstand in the lot. Days later a large crane was brought in and Wanderlust was lifted onto a waiting truck. Soon our barge, 65 feet long and 35 tonnes, was heading south to the Thames on the back of a truck.
From Piper’s plant it was a slow and careful 150-mile drive to the water. The route starts on narrow crowded roads through urban Stoke-on-Trent, joins the busy motorway network, and then splits off onto the side roads to reach the Thames & Kennet Marina on River Thames. Often barges are transported at night avoiding the bulk of the English traffic. For Wanderlust the journey started near the afternoon rush. Indeed, we learned later that there was a radio report of a large barge clogging traffic on the M6, the motorway that heads south from Stoke. Sorry about that.
Work rules forced the truck driver to overnight at a motorway rest area. The next day the driver completed the journey meeting the Environmental Agency crane at Thames & Kennet first thing in the morning. A short time later Wanderlust was in the water. Thankfully she floated.