Ginger Geezer

The Searchlight on the Thames

The Searchlight on the Thames near Chertsey.

This photo was culled from a book called HOUSE BOATS, Living on the Water Around the World. From floating palaces to humble dwellings... a glowing tribute to a growing lifestyle. By Mark Gabor.

Not quite sure what Mark does, aside from a few comments over or under the photographs which are all taken by one John Blaustein, but for which Mark gets his name written five times as large as John’s. (This must mean something, but what?)

Under this picture of the Searchlight, Mark Gabor says: “Typical retired launch boat, now fully converted for living. It is moored along the Thames in the area of Chertsey.”

Vivian and the Tube on the towpath

The only thing right about this snippet is the location of the boat. It is not typical... typical? How many World War One Submarine Chasers were there? And how many Submarine Chasers made it past the 1914-1919 war, much less all the way to the 1980’s? And how many helped rescue the stranded Allied forces from the embattled beaches of Europe in the Second World War? Typical, my butt. I’ll ignore the word ‘launch’. As for it being fully converted for living, uh - well. Sort of. We certainly did live on it. Silky’s ‘cage’ was in the bum end. That’s her window on the stern. She also got the two windows port and starboard. You see all those boxes piled on the deck which are actually tea chests? You see that bicycle? You see that cooker through the open door? The boxes are there because Vivian has just moved on but hasn’t unpacked. The bicycle is his only transportation - aside from a constant cab, that is. And the cooker went over the side on a glorious Thanksgiving Day. 1977? 1978? Maybe even 1979. I thought Vivian ought to have an American Thanksgiving so I went out into the world looking for a turkey. I found only one and so only one could I chose from. It weighed thirty pounds. A thirty pound turkey for two? Why not? I wheel-barrowed it home. See the towpath under the trees? That’s where I kept the wheelbarrow. It was fairly easy getting the bird into the cooker, but come time to get it back out - oh plut. Vivian resorted to hammering the oven door off, tilting the entire cooker forward, and then we both beat the hell out of it. The turkey came out all righty, but the cooker went right over the side of the boat and sunk into the waters of the River Thames. Eventually, so did the Searchlight, but that was years later - and by then we were living on the Old Profanity in the heart of the city of Bristol.

About the book I found this photo in. I met Vivian in 1977. He was moving onto the Searchlight at just this time. I went with him. (It was some blind date .) And then I returned to California to pack and such and come back to Vivian. But while there, I went to a great big brand new bookstore just opened in Marin County... no reason, just to be going to a bookstore. And there on the shelves was HOUSE BOATS and inside HOUSE BOATS was this very picture of my new home. It had to have been taken no more than a few weeks before I saw the boat. Maybe less. I bought the book. I still have it.

I took a photo very like this photo not too long after. In my photo, everything is exactly the same save for one thing. Vivian is in that open door, backwards and bent over, mooning the world. Maybe we should have used my photo?

Barry Wentzell came along a little while later and took this photo.

This is neither of those photos. This is a sweet pic of the muddy Tube and her doting Dad.

Vivian designed our bed. Ki made it. Literally.

Back Again . . .

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