Xenia is an old Greek tradition of hospitality toward strangers. It is also a small town in Ohio, USA where Charles and Pam used to live. It struck us as a good and appropriate name for the boat which we decided to have built in 2008.
Xenia is a 60ft long widebeam canal boat. At 11ft she is wider than conventional narrowboats which means that we are not able to access the whole english canal network but we do have a lot of extra living space.
After a couple of years of visiting boat shows, talking to boat builders and looking round other people’s boats, we came up with the design which we thought would best suit our needs and on Nov 14th 2007 paid a deposit to Colecraft Engineering in Long Itchington for a build slot in June 2008.
June came and went! Finally on August 26th Gary Cole called to confirm that the build had started and from then on we made weekly visits to review progress and to make all those in-build decisions that hadn’t been thought through at the design stage. We thought we would be onboard for Christmas, but that came and went too!
Xenia was transported by road down to Oxford Cruisers at Eynsham. This was the only dock north of Abingdon large enough to take her – lock closures excluded all other options to the south – but we had to bring a big enough crane with us to hoist her into the Thames. On Feb 4th 2009 she arrived and was craned in by AB Tuckey. An exciting moment to see her lowered into the water but our digital camera died and Tuckey had forgotten to bring the boat keys. We had the last laugh though, when two days later Mrs Tuckey called to say that the cheque I had written had stayed in his pocket whilst going through the wash. Could I write another one!
Once the keys had been fetched from Warwickshire we fuelled up, watered up and generally inspected and made ready but decided to wait until the following day to make our maiden voyage down to our moorings at Abingdon Marina.
We arrived early on Feb 5th 2009 to find a good 6 inches of snow covering the boat. We were keen to get going and not get stuck in Eynsham, possibly for weeks, and so decided to brave the weather. However, we first had to fix the gas leak that hit Charles in the face as he opened the bow doors. The river was flowing quite strongly and only 1 lockkeeper was on duty. With hindsight these were difficult conditions in which to make a maiden voyage in a boat which had not even had a river trial! But the snowbound scenery all around was glorious, a pity about the dead camera, and we finally made it to Abingdon as it was getting dark at 5 pm.
The next year was spent in Abingdon finishing the interior, painting and furnishing and making plenty of impromptu river trips in between. Our first extended two week trip in May 2009 was down the Kennet and Avon to Great Bedwyn and back, which proved harder work than we had expected.
In April 2010 we moved to the Thames and Kennet Marina in Caversham so that we could explore the Thames from Pangbourne to Marlow on weekend trips. More work on the boat and more learning about what can be done without when space is at a premium.
So by April 2011 we were ready to live aboard permanently and travel. We planned to do as much of the English network of rivers and canals as we could over the next couple of years and we then had it in mind to move Xenia onto the French waterways and to travel throughout Europe.
After 3 more winters, spent respectively on the Thames at Caversham, the Bridgewater Canal at Worsley and the River Nene at Northampton, we realised our ambition of going to France in April 2014.
In our first year on the Continent we travelled from Nieuwpoort in Belgium to Burgundy in France and spent our first winter in the little port at Vermenton on the River Cure, which adjoins the Canal du Nivernais and the River Yonne a little South of Auxerre.
During our second season in France we travelled south from Vermenton, down the Rivers Saone and Rhone, onto the Canal du Midi and Le Garonne and on Nov 1st 2015 moored up for the winter in Carcassonne.
In 2016 we decided to spend the whole year cruising in the south west of France on the Midi and Garonne Canals and the Rivers Baise, Lot, and Tarn, before returning to Carcassonne for a second winter.
After the best part of three cruising seasons in the south we came back up the Rhone in August 2017 retracing our steps to Auxerre in Burgundy for the winter of 2017-2018.