Staying A float
Truck & Driver|February 2021
After a busy 2019 shifting boats all over Europe, Ashley Peden had his world turned upside down when coronavirus struck, but he got going again with a trip to Norway which ended with some wonderful news from home
Ashley Peden

In June 2020, Covid-19 had a lot to answer for. I had been incredibly busy shifting boats right up to the Monday night Boris Johnson announced the lockdown in March. The next day I managed to get one boat off the trailer and another back on and get it home - where it sat for weeks in the yard. I have a few trailers I can use for transporting boats so it didn’t cause any problem, not that there was a lot of movement in that game.

As a company we had to furlough staff, cutting back to only a couple of us. I kept one lad motoring as best I could hauling general goods that were still deemed as essential. I did a bit of driving and in between times helped my dad put up the loft in the workshop we had been talking about for five years since we put this massive shed up! On our general haulage side we move seed barley, wheat, spuds etc. for the agricultural sector and thankfully that work had to continue.

We also do farm machinery and sewerage equipment which is also classed as essential work. I was determined to keep going as best we could. All being said it could have been a lot worse, but it wasn’t exactly efficient, transporting stuff one way with a lot of empty running.

With flats we can double bank them, to save on shipping costs from Ireland, but it still wasn’t what you’d classify as being profitable. We covered our costs, thankfully the price of diesel and the shipping companies’ fuel surcharges were down so we managed.

In mid-May things were starting to open up, and with the wonderful weather there were folks looking to move boats again. On Thursday 21 May after over eight weeks we finally got the yacht I loaded back in March off one of the trailers. Plus I was now rushing to arrange another trip to Norway for a good customer of mine.

Norway time

With all the nonsense happening around us, my wife was stuck at home a lot, and she has a lot on her plate with a brother and mother dependant on her. We thought about her coming with me to Norway, but the risk of being away from the rest of her family was too much, however she managed to accompany me for a quick trip to England.

We had a simple drop in Northants the day after the bank holiday, and reloaded another boat from Hythe that afternoon.

By this time the ferry companies had cut the number of crossings down to the absolute minimum, so we chose to head out via the Irish Ferries crossing from Dublin to Holyhead. She was astounded by the kindness from the company to the drivers. Getting a meal, a goody bag each, and we went off to the cabin so we could stay socially distanced from others!

An easy drive down to Rothwell's truck stop followed the ferry crossing, with little traffic. Being a driver had been a pleasure those weeks!

The Tuesday went well, and once reloaded we’re heading north again, parking in Keele as I encounter a roadworks tailback on the M6 at 9 pm. Don’t the muppets who race up past the queue and push in at the last minute realise they are the problem and if everyone filtered in sooner the tailback wouldn’t be as bad?

We dropped the boat off at Heysham to do a local job with a curtain sider which we shipped back to Ireland unaccompanied before picking up the boat and heading for Cairnryan.

Truckhaven

Another load of thanks should be sent to the staff of Truckhaven, where lorry drivers could actually sit down inside for a meal. They even let Sarah and I sit at the one table! I like Truckhaven, friendly people, nice clean facilities and good food.

After crossing that evening on the P&O to Larne, I decide to send one of my other lads to deliver the boat on the Thursday so I can get caught up on paperwork before I load for Norway on the Friday.

So I’m back in the yard on Friday, my truck is getting a service and a check, along with a wash of the whole outfit before I head up to load. The factory called to say leave it a bit later, they found an oil leak at the engine so pulled it out of the boat to sort a leaking pipe; rather do it in the factory than in a Norwegian Fjord in a few weeks!

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