A man spotted his ‘dream house’ abroad then spent six weeks sailing 850-miles home through four countries at the helm — of a 110ft BARGE.
Rick and Helen Wakeham, who have a three-year-old son Billy and another child on the way, fell in love with the 85-year-old barge after it was advertised online.
But the 150-tonne dream home was in Holland and Rick faced a £10,000 dash across two seas to pick up the five-bedroomed barge the ‘Nostra Volta’ – before his new baby arrived.
Rick, 49, said: ”We found the perfect barge, but it happened to be in the north of Holland. She’s much bigger than usual – 36 metres long – and very pretty.
”The difficulty was getting it back. I drove up to Holland and had to put the truck in the hold to steer the barge home.
”It was an exhausting trip and we had to deal with bad weather and high winds.
”All the time I was thinking about Helen. The baby is due in October and I would have been a bit stuck if she had suffered any problems.”
Rick, who previously lived on a converted fishing trawler in Bristol Harbour, jumped in his truck with a team of willing shipmates and headed across Europe to get the barge.
He navigated the giant barge down 300-miles of the Dutch canal system, before snaking through Belgium’s slim waterways.
Rick then passed France, stopping to honour fallen British Second World War troops at Dunkirk, before crossing from Calais to Dover.
The vessel then inched around the British coastline, heading to Land’s End before Rick sailed the barge up to its new home in Bristol Harbour.
Rick said: ”We saw some quite beautiful sites during the trip, sailing past some stunning countryside and beaches in Holland.
”We spent two days travelling through Belgium, where, because the barge is so big, there was just an inch gap either side of us.
”When we got to Dunkirk, France, we could see the beaches and stopped for a minute’s silence as it was just after the anniversary of the operation.
”We then crossed to Dover and travelled around the coast about 20 miles offshore.”
Rick, who charters trips on famous Bristol ship Tangaroa for a living, arrived into Bristol Harbour more than a month after departing to show his delighted family their new home.
They have now moved their belongings into the barge and are looking forward to welcoming home their new baby.
Rick added: ”We will love living it and I can’t wait to bring our family up here. I know some people don’t even like stepping foot on boats, but they should try it.
”It really is a good life.”