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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Travels of ‘Joanie M’ – Life as a Continuous Cruiser 30 May 2013

The spring cartridge to repair our toilet didn’t arrive on the Tuesday so I went back to the Post Office the next day after visiting the Gloster Regimental Museum on the Quay. From the comments written on the envelope it appeared that a dyslexic postman had first delivered it to the Debenhams store opposite.

As it was late afternoon I decided to fit it the next day. I split the toilet in half, just remembering to shut the water off and first cleaned the rubber seal for the ball that the effluent passes through, not the most pleasant of jobs, and then reassembled it all with the new spring. It now wouldn’t work! The only difference between the new and old cartridges was the colour so I rang Leesan to find I had been sent one for a 500 series toilet rather than for a 5000 series! So another wait.

Presenting myself at the Post Office again on the Monday, no parcel again. So much for First Class Post. To give plenty of timne we decided to head back to Saul Junction and fill the diesel and, due to the continuing cold weather, buy some more coal – actually Multiheat – and hope the spring would be there on the Wednesday, which it was and was duly fitted.

Gloucester Docks was playing host to the Tall Ships that weekend with a number of restrictions on boat movements, which coupled with the tide times, would mean a late arrival at Tewkesbury or trying to find a mooring on the river so we decided to leave ion Thursday. What an awful day! Wet with a strong wind blowing in our faces all the way upriver. It was so cold we had to put our gloves on!

It was even windier the next day so we stayed put in Tewkesbury walking around the town and the Abbey.

Fortunately Saturday dawned bright and sunny and we made our way upstream, threading ourselves through sailing boats, rowers and canoeists to moor that night in utter seclusion at Comberton Quay, sitting out on the grass with a glass of Boddingtons! What a difference a day makes. Sunday was even hotter, and easier as the volunteers were out doing most of the locks for us. Unfortunately many boats were out too and most of the best moorings were full. We eventually stopped at Chadbury Lock with an Anglo Welsh boat on the other side waiting for an engineer to replace a broken gear change cable. This lock is completely inaccessible by boat and we all watched as the engineer parked some 1/2 mile away and walked to the lock in a great sweep to avoid a drainage ditch that separated him from us.

The next day, the Bank Holiday saw us a Evesham. walking into town we were lucky to watch a performance of the local Morris Dancers in the square. Disappointing though was the absence of any local greengrocer. We had hoped to buy some local asparagus and with Evesham being the centre of the growing region, what better place. Some chance as there is no greengrocer and doesn’t appear to have been for several years.

And then the rain came down again. We braved it the first day but with levels rising we played safe and stopped at Bidford. Still no grocer but a Budgens displaying locally grown produce.

2013 05 26 Newsletter – From Nervous Anticipation To Confident Cruising

Living on a Narrowboat News 26th May 2013

Let me tell you a story. It’s a horror story. The main characters are my bank, my laptop, an unknown individual of debatable parentage and I.

About a month ago I told you that I had my identity stolen. My new laptop was hacked, I was locked out of my email account, this site, the site that hosts this site, T Mobile, and my bank. The hacker changed the contact address and phone number on my bank account. As a result I had to close my bank account and open another. This process took three weeks due to one cock up or another. During this three week period my employer couldn’t pay me and I had no means of paying my regular monthly standing orders or direct debits.

As part of the bank’s verification process, the hacker had to establish that he was me. He did this by uploading a copy of my own passport to the the bank. The laptop was brand new. By a process of elimination I guessed that the hack could have only come from within the new laptop. I did some research and discovered stories of laptops which had malicious code added to them before they reached the stores which sold them. The store which sold me mine was PC World.

I took the laptop back to them. They assured me that their machine couldn’t have been infected but offered to do a factory reset for me if I would pay them £50. I didn’t feel as though I had the choice. I use a laptop for four or five hours every day, my old laptop has slowed down so much that I can almost make a cup of coffee between typing words and seeing them appear on the screen and the inconvenience was driving me mad.

Once I had the repaired laptop back on the boat, I started the laborious process of downloading all of the applications I use on a regular basis; Microsoft Office, Open Office (because Microsoft appear unable to develop a document editing application which can convert a document to a PDF with links which actually work), Adobe Photoshop, Picasa, and half a dozen other large downloads.

Of course being on a boat and connecting to the web via a dongle, the downloads took an age, and they also resulted in me running out of data. Three offer the best roving internet connectivity in the UK, but they also offer the poorest and most frustrating experience when it comes to topping up.

If you go over your monthly allowance and if you insist on carrying on using your dongle, they charge you 10p per megabyte. Adobe Photoshop at 600mb would have cost me £60 to download. I didn’t discover this until I had been able to log into my account which involved retrieving a password which they don’t tell you when you set the dongle up. In order to determine the password you need to tell them the sim serial number. The sim is in the dongle which, in my case, is on the boat roof.

In the end, to keep myself online until my next month’s allowance kicked in, I had to buy a PAYG sim and use that as an interim measure.

Finally back online, and with a huge backlog of work on the site, my first job was to secure my identity and access to all of the sites I use. I upgraded my antivirus software and I also bought an application which generated complex passwords, encrypted them and password protected the passwords in secure vault online.

Finally my life was back to normal and I was safe… or so I thought.

I checked my bank account on Sunday. I check it most days because I reconcile it with an accounts package, mainly so that I can record my boat expenses for Living on a Narrowboat: The Real Cost of a Life AfloatI noticed that £500 had been withdrawn in Bristol. Sally and I live on the boat in Warwickshire, 100 miles from Bristol. Neither of us have been there for years.

I called Mastercard’s lost or stolen credit card hotline immediately. I told them that neither of us had lost our cards but that there had been an unauthorised withdrawal from the account. Both Sally’s card and my card were stopped immediately. I told them that I wanted the account frozen as well as putting the block on the cards.

The next day, Monday, I called Mastercard as soon as their phone lines opened at 9.00am. As part of the never ending automated service before I could talk to a living person, I was given the opportunity to hear my current account balance. The balance was now a further £500 lower than it should have been.

When I was finally put through to him, the customer services guy told me that another £500 had been withdrawn from the same Bristol cashpoint machine that morning, twelve hours after I had telephone their emergency hotline to put a block on the account.

The operator told me that when I telephoned the day before I had asked for a block to be put on my card and Sally’s card, but not on the third card holder. He read me the name on the card. I was stunned. The identity of the third card holder was a mystery to me.  I certainly hadn’t arranged for them to have a card.

After a little digging Mr. Customer Services told me that they had received a telephone call the week before. The caller had correctly answered all of my security questions, including an eight digit security number only known to Sally and I which isn’t written anywhere. The caller requested an additional card for the account to be sent to the account address – which the hacker had changed to an address in Bristol.

One of Mastercard’s security measures is to send an email to the account holder (me) in the event of the contact details being changed. The hacker anticipated this, hacked my Gmail account and set up a filter to delete all emails from Mastercard before they arrived in my inbox. Consequently I wasn’t aware that a change had been made.

Mr. Customer Services informed me that they will have to investigate the case before considering refunding the fraudulent withdrawals. In the meantime, yet again I have no bank account (and no money to put in one anyway), yet again I’m forced to use a laptop only slightly more advanced than the abacus and yet again I’ve had to send away my new laptop to try to get the malicious code removed.

I haven’t taken the laptop to PC World this time. I have no faith in them. I’ve taken it to a computer expert who will be able to resolve the issue. However, I’m sure that he’s going to charge me about £1,000.000 an hour for his services so it’s questionable whether I would be better off having the laptop fixed or just throwing it off a very high building and buying another… not that I now have any spare cash to buy it with.

I could take the laptop back to PC World and demand a new machine. However, I would have to prove that there was something wrong with it but I don’t know how to do that if the fault is a very well hidden key logger. Once upon a time I would have relished the opportunity to make a very big fuss inside the store. These days though I’m not so keen on going for a ride with the boys in blue. I want a quiet life. That’s why I live on a narrowboat.

Update 22nd May 2013: Fantastic news! I received a letter from Mastercard today. They said “We have already refunded your account with the unauthorised transactions”. It’s wonderful news. The refund has allowed me to have some scheduled work done on James that needs to done before I go on holiday on 1st June. I can relax a little now.

Update 23rd May 2013: When I spoke to Mastercard on Monday after they reassured me that the account was safe to use and that there was no way that anyone could access it to make changes including, frustratingly, myself, I agreed that they could reinstate both Sally’s card and my own. Reinstating the cards, I was assured, would be done at the click of a button.

Imagine my surprise then when Sally called me from the checkout queue at Tesco in Southam where she was waiting with a full trolly’s worth of bagged food to tell me that the card had been declined. She was understandably very unhappy. I called Mastercard and as I waited in the automated queue checked my account balance. The second surprise of the day was that the £1,000 that Mastercard had promised to put into my account wasn’t there.

When I queried this with the operator, I was told that they hadn’t put the money back in my account and simply sent me the wrong letter! They then admitted to a second mistake. They hadn’t reinstated Sally’s card after they promised they would. They corrected one of the errors by reinstating the card but told me that I would have to wait until they had concluded the investigation before there was any chance of getting my money back.

Update 24th May 2013: Mastercard called this afternoon. They have listened to the recording of the phone call I made when I reported the first unauthorised transaction and when I repeatedly asked the operator to ensure that the account was frozen. They agree that there was no doubt that the account suspension request was made so they have transferred the second unauthorised withdrawal back into my account.

Mastercard are going to investigate further before they decide whether to refund me for the first unauthorised withdrawal. Even though they sent me a letter advising me that the money was already back in the account, I think that I’ll be very lucky to get the money back. I’ve lost the money as a result of a sophisticated hack. I couldn’t have done any more to protect myself.

As a result of the hack, I’ve lost £500 from my bank account, I’ve spent dozens of hours reinstalling software, setting up new passwords, securing this site and taking and delivering my hacked laptop to and from PC World. As a result of the second attack, I’ve taken the laptop to a private software expert who has taken the hard drive out, given it a very thorough going over and then reinstalled the operating system. I’m reasonably (but not totally) confident that he’s cured the problem. However, he’s charged me £200 for the pleasure.

The work isn’t over yet. Sally will be picking up the laptop this evening when she finishes work. When I get my grubby little hands on it, I need to spend a further four our five hours installing my applications for a third time.

I’m so pleased that I live in an age where we have so much technology to make our lives easier.

A Case Study – Our Nige Takes Forty Winks

Nigel Buttery (Our Nige on the forum) is in his mid fifties, a registered care assistant and was, until very recently, an unhappy home owner. Like many visitors to this site, Nige wanted a boat of his own to live on. Unlike most, he’s seized the bull by the horns, sold his house, found a mooring where he can live on board and spent an exciting week taking his boat to its new home.

Our Nige has also taken the opportunity available to all site visitors to blog about his narrowboat experience. He’s written some very entertaining posts. Here’s his case study. There’s a chronological list of his blog entries at the bottom of the post.

 Crick Show

It’s the end of May bank holiday and a long weekend when many narrowboat enthusiasts head for Crick and the biggest of the inland waterways boat shows. Crick is renowned for it’s poor weather so the continuous sunshine yesterday and day has been a very welcome bonus.

I’ll be there tomorrow (Monday 27th May) to help bring the Calcutt Boats stand back to the marina and to do a little shopping. Sally and I have been compiling our boating shopping list for the last couple of months.  We’ll be looking at truncheon Fenders, front and rear button fenders, a BW style life jacket or two, some ceiling lights, a suitcase generator, rubber matting for the rear deck, and chrome mushroom vents and tiller. We can’t afford everything on the list but, with the discounts available on the last day of the show, we’ll be able to buy more than we could anywhere else. I’ll let you know how successful we were in next Sunday’s newsletter.

Ashby Canal Map

Next Sunday Sally and I are going on holiday. We’re taking James out for the first proper cruise since I moved on board three years ago. It’s taken me this long to be able to afford the repairs, additions and modifications to allow us to cruise confidently and comfortably. I’ll be updating the site each day as we cruise, very slowly, up to the end of the Ashby canal. We’re both very excited.

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.

 

Crick Show

Not much more to report.

 

We are visiting the Crick show on Sunday, to see more boats and hopefully get more ideas for the “fit out”.

If any of you are there, look out for us – we’ll have our Ginger Cockerpoo pup with us, she loves going on boats already, including going up ladder and down into shells at the builders!

Please say hello to us!

She’s been clipped since this pic!

Our Nige; B****y Technology, steaming ears and high blood pressure.

Sodding narrowboats are supposed to be relaxing well not when you’re trying to link your stupid blog posts with the even more stupid b****y facebook account and you’ve gone through it 177 times checking you’ve done what you’re supposed to and then finding out you missed a bit. Agggghhhhhhh SSSSSSSuuuuuuggg gaarrr. Then it still won’t link up and every time you manage your posts you click on the damn “needs authorization” link and press the bogsnorkelling “Authorise” button and it just goes back to telling you to stokfestering “needs authirisation” again and shows you the “press this” widget thingy again which is another piece of dampseaweed infested techno bable along with all the other ISDKS and APIS and none words that they make up instead of using words idiots like me can understand and it makes me hair fall out and me teeth itch and me nose run and if it carries on I may have to end it all by throwing myself willy nilly under a fast moving kayak and cause untold trauma to the unsuspecting paddler.

Ooh I feel so much better now. Anyway the gist of what I’m trying to get at is do any of you nice people out there know how I’m supposed to authorise my posts so the link appears on my FB home page. Others are doing it so obviously I’m not quite pressing the right buttons or I am pressing the right buttons but not necessarily in the right order, as someone once said.

Many thanks

Techno Bable Barry the enlightened one. hehehe

2013 05 19 Newsletter – Keeping Dry On The Cut

Living on a Narrowboat News 19th May 2013

I try not to upset people when I write the weekly newsletters. After all, living on a narrowboat is supposed to be a stress free alternative to living in a bricks and mortar home. I don’t always succeed though. I upset at least one couple with the account of my cruise back from Braunston to Calcutt two weeks ago. I met a brand new wide beam hotel boat heading towards Braunston which required some interesting maneuvering to pass it on a section of canal with boats moored along one side.

As a result of the account, a post was made on the forum complaining about my attitude towards wide beam boat owners in general and the owners of the Wessex Rose in particular. I’ve responded to the post but, just for clarification, please let me say that I have nothing against wide beams or their owners. However, wide beams do cause the same kind of holdups on the narrow canals that caravans and RV’s do on narrow country roads. They need to cruise with care at narrow passing places, of which there are many, at bends and at bridge holes. Because of this, they tend to create a tailback of slightly frustrated narrowboat owners.

So, if you are a narrowboat owner and I’ve offended you, I apologise. I try to ensure that the site is as friendly as possible for all visitors, and not just for narrowboat owners and enthusiasts. While we’re on the subject of wide beams, meet Rob…

There’s A New Blogger On The Site

Two months ago I added a new section to the forum to allow boat owners and those in the process of buying a boat to write about their experiences. The new blog sections is slowly gaining momentum. There are now half a dozen bloggers posting in this section. There are some fascinating posts in the new section now. There’s the full range of experience from long term liveaboard and continuous cruiser Peter Earley (Pearley on the forum) to the latest blogger, aspiring boat owner Rob.

Rob and his wife Manda are in the process of selling up and moving to a life on the water. Rob likes the idea of a wide beam because of the additional space it offers. Manda is quite happy with a narrowboat. Rob has added his first post to the blog section to introduce himself and to ask for advice from those who have advice to give. Can you help him out?

Keeping Dry On The Cut

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I love my job. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t really know what I’m going to do. I can be working on the grounds trying to keep all 110 acres both tidy and attractive for our 250+ moorers, instructing holiday hirers on the correct operation of their temporary floating homes, delivering engines to or collecting engines from boatyards up and down the country, releasing sheep trapped in brambles or boggy ground, emptying bins and clearing blockages in our sewage system (I don’t enjoy that very much) and, one of my favourite jobs, moving boats around the marina.

Our slipway is always very busy. Nearly every day we pull a boat out of the water for blacking or repairs. The boats need to be brought from their moorings before the work is done and returned once the work has been completed. Every year we black out own fleet of hire boats which involves taking them from the wharf, down through Calcutt Middle and Bottom locks and into Locks marina to the slipway and then back up the locks to the wharf once the work has been done. I’m actually paid for taking boats on short cruises and I love it.

There are ten online moorings at Calcutt; five below the Calcutt flight and five above it. On Tuesday I had to take a boat from the wharf to one of the online moorings above the lock flight and next to the reservoir. It’s usually moored with the bow pointing down stream so it had to be returned to the mooring as it was found.

In calm conditions it’s possible to come out of the top lock, use the winding hole to turn the boat 180 degrees and reverse it 100m to its mooring. Tuesday was quite windy so the alternative to reversing the narrowboat in a strong cross wind was to take it half a mile to Napton junction where I could turn around and then cruise back to the mooring pointing in the right direction. Not only was Tuesday windy, it was also very wet.

By the time I reached Napton junction I was soaked and just a little bit fed up until I looked at my experience from a different angle.

It’s spring and the canal was beautiful. There was new life everywhere. The hawthorn lining one side of the bank were in full and beautiful bloom, bowing over the few remaining daffodils. I passed a mallard with five chicks followed a little further on by a pair of swans with week old signets. The rain glistened on the vivid green foliage framing my view of acres of water and hundreds of birds on Napton reservoir. What’s more, I was cruising and I was being paid to do it.

I really enjoyed the short cruise back to the mooring. The rain enhanced rather than spoiled my experience. If I had been wearing decent waterproofs I could have happily cruised all day.

Not many boaters cruise in the rain. I think it’s usually because of the unpleasant sensation of standing immobile in wet and increasingly cold and uncomfortable clothing. I’ve spent many years as a keen hill walker and at a different stage of my life as a keen angler. I’ve had more than my fair share of uncomfortable days in wet clothing. I’ve tried a huge variety of waterproofs from low tech oilskins to the latest breathable fabrics.

Oilskins are completely waterproof. You can stand all day in the heaviest rain without getting wet… until you generate some body heat. When I wore my oilskins as I remained stationary for hours at a time on board a boat when I was fishing offshore, the oilskins worked perfectly. However, if I was fishing from the shore constantly moving as I retreated before the incoming tide, the oilskins were very unpleasant to wear. I was frequently soaked by the sweat retained by the none breathable waterproofs.

In later years I often loaded up a 75 litre rucksack and disappeared into the Scottish Highlands for a week at a time to enjoy some much needed solitude. I had a little more money to spend on waterproof clothing than I did in my youth so I invested in the best waterproof and breathable clothing that I could find. I was never completely happy with any of it.

Scotland is often a very wet place to walk and even the best breathable waterproofs struggled to keep the rain out. Oilskins weren’t an option because walking all day long carrying a 40 – 50lb pack would have resulted in torrents of sweat running down the insides of waterproofs.

x trapper jacketNow my passion is boating and it’s the style of boating that involves standing very still on the back of a boat for hours on end. The situation is ideal for oilskins so I’ve just invested in the best oilskins I could find. I’ve bought heavy duty oilskins favoured by trawlermen. They are a Guy Cotten X Trapper jacket and a pair of heavy duty bib & brace trousers. I can now enjoy cruising the canals of rainy England in comfort. The downside is that they won’t be practical for lock work. Sally will have to do that. I haven’t told her yet.

 Reducing Unnecessary Expenditure – Do You Really Need A Car?

I gave my car away last week. It’s gone to my ex wife so that she can put the proceeds of the sale towards university fees for our children. I am now without a car of my own since I passed my driving test in 1977 which, incidentally, was when my boat was built. In the last 36 years on the road I’ve always had a car. In recent years I had a Toyota Previa for five years (for the children) followed by a Nissan Pathfinder for another five years (for showing off) before my last car a Seat Altea 2.0 TDI FR (for no particular reason).

I loved the car. After a decade of big cars, the Seat was a pleasant and nippy change. It was comfortable to drive, was fast, good to look at and totally unnecessary.

In the last 12 months the car has cost me £1,900. I owned the car so the costs where for tax, insurance, repairs and maintenance and fuel. I suspect that if I had kept the car for another year, the annual cost would have been far higher. The brake pads needed replacing, all four tyres where on their way out and the car, only six years old, wasn’t keen on starting in the mornings.

Before I decided to get rid of my car, I had to think seriously whether I needed one. Sally has a car. It’s a very reliable Honda Civic. Sally works shifts so our days off don’t always coincide. When we’re off together, we go out together so we can use her car. When she’s working and I’m off, like today, I won’t have access to a car but I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.

I don’t particularly enjoy going to the shops. I love the feeling of peace and tranquility that living on a narrowboat affords me. I’m now more used to the company of pigeons that people and I much prefer life this way. I don’t actually need to go to the shops very often. With the technology available to me, I can ask the shops to come to me.

I do a great deal of shopping online. I’m a big fan of Amazon. I can buy just about anything I need from. Their system is excellent; products are easy to find, are accurately rated and with predictable or zero delivery fees. If I can’t find anything on Amazon, I can usually find it on eBay. My experience with eBay is almost as good as it is with Amazon.

I actually enjoy food shopping, but I don’t really need to visit the stores. When I do physically walk down the isles, I’m a prolific impulse buyer. I fall for the supermarket’s product placement tricks all the time. It’s far safer for me to do my grocery shopping online.

Whenever I make a decision about the boat or my lifestyle these days it’s always with my goal in mind. My goal is for Sally and I to cruise full time. I don’t think that we are many years away from achieving our goal. Will we want the hassle of dragging a car or two along with us on our travels when we go? I don’t think so.

A car is convenient but it’s not a necessity. I don’t know how many of the 2,000 plus genuine continuous cruisers own vehicles but I know that there are hundreds, maybe thousands who manage without. The genuine continuous cruisers are the few lucky narrowboat owners who don’t need to work or who are able to work from their boat wherever they are on the system. The genuine continuous cruisers enjoy a progressive and constant journey throughout the network. They have overcome the logistics of restocking on board food and medicinal supplies, laundry requirements and postal collections. If they need a car, which they don’t very often, they simply hire one. I intend to join the happy few. Getting rid of my car and reducing my outgoings is another step closer.

Please, Take A Seat

Captains chairsSite user Susan emailed me. She has a couple of leather captain’s chairs for sale. I don’t know anything about them other than that. If you would like a couple for your boat, or if you would like to pretend you’re on a boat while you’re sitting in your lounge, please get in touch with Susan directly.

New Forum Section

I’ve added the newsletter archive to the forum. You can find it here. Every week when I send out the newsletter, I’ll also post it on the forum. You’ll have all of the newsletters listed by date in one handy section, and you’ll be able to comment on the content in a place where others can respond. You can also use this section to ask for topics to be included in the newsletter. If there’s a subject you don’t think I’ve covered in enough detail, or at all, elsewhere on the site, please use this section to suggest its addition.

Comprehensive Site Article Listing

There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.

Popular Forum Posts

There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.

  • Winter Stoppages 2013/2014 – The Trust carry out essential scheduled repairs during the quieter, cooler months. Here’s their planned stoppages for the coming winter.
  • A New Narrowboat Dog – Alan recently moved on board his own floating home. He loved his new boat but something was missing. Now he has a new best friend and he’s in love, although his new best friend has proven a bit of a challenge.
  • Electric Boats – What do they cost to run? Why would you want one? There’s a huge amount of information for you here if you’ve ever considered an alternative to a diesel narrowboat engine.
  • Pram Covers – “Pram cover” is the term for a cover over the rear deck, usually on a cruiser stern narrowboat. Here are the pros and cons.
  • The difference between cruising on canalas and rivers – This is a very popular thread for very good reason. It’s packed with advice if you’re new to river cruising.
  • Checklists – What do you need to check before you set off on a cruise? There’s some very detailed information including a very useful post by fellow Calcutt moorer Graham who has issues with his mobility after an RTA many years ago.
  • Television Aerials – If you can’t live without your Corrie, you’ll need a decent aerial for your boat.
  • My New Life – I urge you to read this forum thread. If you dream of living on your own narrowboat one day, reading this post, written by a new liveaboard boater, may well prove the catalyst you need. It’s essential reading for any aspiring narrowboat owner.
  • Narrowboat Ownership – How do you prove that the person offering a narrowboat for sale is the real owner?
  • Tips For Continuous Cruisers – He’s making a bit of a habit of it; Pearley’s back with some great cruising tips
  • The Llangollen Canal – One of the country’s most beautiful canals discussed
  • Deliveries to your boat – Excellent information from regular forum contributor Pearley
  • Mobile Broadband – All you need to know about internet connectivity on board
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that fellow boaters can steal your internet data allowance?
  • Boat Planning & Design – Is there any free software available to hel you plan your dream boat?
  • A Narrowboat Checklist – What checks do you need to carry out before you set out on a cruise?
  • Tunnels – How do you navigate them? Who has priority?
  • Windows Or Portholes – Round or square, which is best? Is it just a matter of personal preference?
  • Day To Day Questions About Narrowboat Life – How can “newbies” find out the answers to questions about day to day life on a narrowboat? The answer is simple. Find out by reading this post.
  • Beds – The pros and cons of fixed doubles and cross beds. You need to read this if you are taller or slightly wider than average.
  • Flushing Out a Toilet Waste Tank – Emptying your pumpout toilet holding tank isn’t just a case of sucking out your unmentionables. You also need to flush water through the tank to remove the built up solids. Here’s how to do it.
  • Narrowboat Knots – Do you know your bowline from your buntline hitch, your cleat hitch from your clove hitch or your poacher’s knot from your square knot? No? It’s about time you did!
  • Free Narrowboat Heating – Is there any such thing? Read this post to find out
  • Narrowboat Furniture – Not everyone wants fitted furniture on their boat. Here are a few ideas if you want to add your own.
  • Weight on a narrowboat – How many people can you carry on a narrowboat, and how much luggage can they bring with them?
  • Narrowboat Finance – A Canadian hoping to move to the UK, buy a boat and cruise the network.
  • Internet Data Theft – Did you know that you can have your boat’s broadband allowance stolen? Here’s what you can do to prevent the theft.
  • Problems Powering An Inverter With A Generator – Why didn’t it work and what’s the solution?
  • Diesel Costs – You need it to run your boat and maybe your heating system. How much can you expect to pay for it?
  • Stove Top Fans – Are they worth the money?
  • Mooring Pins and Piling Hooks – What are they and when do you use them?
  • Water Pump Problems – What to do if your water pump appear to have a life of its own
  • Fuel Contamination – How do you know if you’ve water in your diesel… and what do you do about it when you have?
  • Anchors – What’s the best size and weight anchor for narrowboats on tidal rivers
  • Single Handed Boating for Ladies – Can a lady on her own pass safely through locks?
  • Different Types of Mooring – What’s the difference between residential and leisure moorings? How long can you stay on your boat with each type?
  • Which Ropes To Use? – There are so many different types available. Are the more expensive ones worth using or is it just a case of money for old rope?
  • Windows – Why do narrowboat owners tolerate condensation? Why don’t they have modern uPVC windows fitted?
  • Best Ex Hire Boats – Are you considering buying an ex hire boat to live on? Should you? Here’s some important information for you.
  • Liveaboard Conclusions – Mel Davies has been doing  plenty of research into her hoped for lifestyle afloat. Here are the conclusions she’s reached and comments from a few existing liveaboard narrowboat owners.
  • Handling Floodwaters – How safe is a river mooring during and after heavy rain? Can you stay on a river when the level rises? What can you do to minimise danger?
  • Narrowboat steel thickness – How thick is your boat’s steel? How long does it last?
  • Retro fitting a solid fuel stove – Where’s the best place to put your stove and what’s involved in fitting it?
  • Converting from a cassette toilet to a pump out – A pump out toilet is far more convenient to use than a toilet with a portable cassette but how easy are they to retro fit in a narrowboat?
  • Gas free boating – If you don’t fancy heaving unwieldy gas bottles into a difficult to reach bow locker, a gas free boat might be the solution
  • Winter on the cut – Are you able to cruise all year on your boat or should you find a mooring for the winter?
  • Transporting your boat – Sometimes you may want or need to take your narrowboat by road rather than cruise along the canal. Here’s an idea of the cost
  • Bike types and preferences – If you don’t have a car parked near your boat, you’ll probably want a bike, but which type of bike is best?
  • Towing a butty – I’ve upset someone. I didn’t mean to. Wainbody wanted to know the best way of towing an unpowered second narrowboat (butty). I came across as patronising when I replied. It was unintentional but to make amends I thought I would ask anyone with boat handling experience to reply to his thread with some constructive advice. If you can help him, please reply to the post.
  • The best flooring for a narrowboat pets –  What’s the best way to protect your floor from a dirty doggy?
  • The best time of the year to buy a boat – Is there a deal to be done by buying a boat in the winter?
  • The best length for a liveaboard narrowboat – What’s the best length to buy? What are the pros and cons of different length boats
  • ONE tip to offer a potential narrowboat owner – If you are already a narrowboat owner, you can share your experience. If you haven’t bought one yet, you need to read this thread.
  • Powering your computer on a narrowboat – Can you power your computer/laptop from the boat’s 12v supply or do you need mains power?
  • Must-have gadgets and necessities – The most useful/useless gadgets for life on a narrowboat
  • Choosing a stove for your boat – Are domestic solid fuel stoves as good as the ones designed specifically for boats? Which is the best one to buy?
  • Diesel heating for boats – How important is a solid fuel stove on a liveaboard narrowboat? Is a diesel heating system OK as a primary heat source?
  • Computers on boats – Can a computer be powered from your boat’s 12v system or does it need to be plugged into the mains
  • Receiving post on your boat – How does the postman find you when you’re cruising? How do you apply for a driving license, a TV license or a bank statement when you have no official address?
  • Bikes on board – Many boat owners do not have cars so they rely on bikes to get them to the shops (or the pub). Some use bikes to collect their cars after a day’s cruising. There’s a huge selection of bikes to choose from. Which are the best for your boat? To tell you the truth, I don’t know the answer. Can you point forum member Ainslo in the right direction?
  • VAT on narrowboat sales – Does the price of your narrowboat contain a VAT element? Can the VAT be reclaimed?
  • Internet access – How do you connect to the internet when you live on a boat?
  • Living off property rental income – Do you have a property that you indend to let while you cruise the waterways? Read this before you work out your budget.
  • How to find a narrowboat to live on – Here’s an article about choosing a liveaboard narrowboat, and a question about finding a narrowboat with a steering wheel.
  • Vertigo – How to deal with walking over lock gates if you’re frightened of heights.
  • Long term narrowboat hire – If you aren’t ready to buy a narrowboat yet, what are your chances of hiring a narrowboat for more than a few weeks?
  • Residential moorings and single handed boating – How do you handle a narrowboat on your own? What do you do about a mooring if you live on board and only want a mooring for part of the year
  • Too tall for a narrowboat? – Is a narrowboat suitable for you if you are above average height?
  • Dealing with condensation – Do all narrowboats suffer from damp? What can you do about it?
  • Solar panels – More information about portable and fixed solar panels
  • Heating systems – Hurricane and Mikuni heating systems discussed

Useful Links

Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.

 

Life change – Selling up to live on a Wide Beam

Hi there,

Let me introduce ourselves to you;

I’m Rob, I work as a teacher/outdoor education instuctor in a special school for “naughty boys” (I’m not allowed to say that, so please don’t quote me!) it’s officially classified as SEBD, basically boys who for whatever reason have had no boundaries put in place!  I was originally trained as a musician and worked professionally for several years.

I met my wife – Manda at music college in the late 70’s, so it’s 30 years marriage this year and time for a life style change with our new puppy Molly.  The boys have more or less left home, so there’s no excuse not to fulfill our wishes!

We have always loved walking/cycling by canals over the years and are not averse to popping into canal side pubs for the odd pint or two.

So, I now need to explain the need for a wide beam; Manda would be fine with a 6’10” but I’m not sure I could cope!  I worry that family and friends would not want to visit/stay due to the intimate nature of the vessel, also I have plans to earn part of my living on board so room is needed for that. We will also need space for the odd impromptu music session with friends old and new.

This evening we visited our second boat builder, Jeremy Greenwood, wow! his craftsmanship and ideas are superb, he has almost convinced me about a 6 footer! he also showed us a hybrid wide beam/dutch barge shell he’s about to start, now that’s got some room for a band! but unfortunately beyond our finances and it maybe a little too big for British waterways.  We came away very impressed by Tristar Boats.

Perhaps anyone reading this could help us with advice on choice of size of boat, please feel free to email me rob@cycle-life.co.uk – I’m new to “blogging” so not sure if you can post here?

We’re off to Crick in 10 days time, to try to finalise our choice of boat but maybe a weekend aboard a narrow boat with my son and his girlfriend would inform our decision?

It’s so refreshing to meet so many friendly/genuine people, can’t wait to move onto a boat!

Will keep posting as we progress

BTW, we visited A to Z boats last weekend and were equally impressed by Laurie’s boats, there’s going to be a lot of hard decisions heading our way.

Any advice and tips are welcome.

 

 

Steppin’ Out; the epiblog part 1

Hi to all and everyone who followed our progress. This has been an amazing journey for me and my crew. Some journeys aren’t just about the mileage involved sometimes it’s the inter-dimensional space time continuum transponders too. A time to just not think about anything other than the event happening to you right now. Nine days we had of that with the first four or five taking up so much of our focus and concentration purely because we hadn’t got much of a clue what we were doing. The rest of the world didn’t exist so for a short time no worries at all apart from where the next tap is? Or how the hell am I supposed to manoeuvre the damn thing into there then?

I have now had a few days back in something resembling the real world to look and think about what I’ve done by taking on a new life and this epiblog which was only going to be one post looks like it might turn into a couple more. If you get bored feel free to find another channel. Some of my old friends will sort of slip out of my life a little and some new ones will appear. This will happen over the next few months and years. This is a healthy way for lives to progress as some times we’re reticent to make changes or let them happen. Life is about moving forward and not just sitting where it’s comfy. We all have the option to choose which ever suits us. I feel I’ve made the right choice for me even though some of the people I know have looked at me strangely and really can’t see why I’ve swapped a house for a boat. They really are baffled.

Day one of this trip seems so far away yet it’s only just over a fortnight since we travelled to Lymm and picked up Forty Winks. We stalked a guy into Manchester as we were travelling at just his walking speed when he joined us walking up the towpath. A few times I felt like offering him a lift but chickened out. This was the only day we had the pram hood up and it was the only day it actually rained most of the time. I do agree with Paul though that it’s much better and much easier to travel with it down and out the way. It was because of Paul’s advice that we took it down the following morning as we were ready to set off.

The night before when we had arrived at Castlefield was a frightening experience for a real novice boater as I had to try and manoeuvre into a mooring knowing nothing, well very little anyway.

overnight at Castlfield

overnight at Castlfield

I wonder whether I would have been better taking a boat handling course before embarking on this journey. It would have made it easier but would it have been such an experience and challenge. I do feel as though we achieved something on a personal level. Myself certainly and Steve agreed it had helped sort out some of his mid life choices too. Who would have thought Manchester could be so therapeutic. We could declare it another spar town.

People said I was brave doing this and I suppose I thought I was a bit too but I’ve just read Mary’s post and at 86 my admiration, respect and good wishes go out to her and puts my exploit into perspective. Life is to be lived. If this is what you fancy don’t wait about humming and ahing about it. Choose life in all its fullness while it’s still here. I’ve had a week in the marina as I write this bit and I can’t remember feeling as relaxed, content and peaceful as this for a long long while, if ever. Sitting with a cup of coffee on the back of my boat in a morning is just a wonderful experience and just about equalled by sitting on the back of the boat with a glass of malt whisky of an evening. I feel so lucky and blessed it brings a tear to my eye, but not admitting to that in public. Even though I can hear the A38 in the background the feeling of peace and wonder has knocked years off me I feel. I feel alive again. I just hope it will continue and I don’t get bored of it in another month.

Boredom was something we didn’t see in the journey through Manchester. It was a blur of so many new experiences, sights, sounds and smells that the rest of the world didn’t exist and on top of that swapping stories with Les and Heather our new companions through the locks was a great way to start the week.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A Canadian couple, Les was 71 and had recovered from cancer a few years ago and had more recently suffered a heart attack. They had done one weeks narrowboating before but that was about 13 years ago. So a little like Mary they were taking life by the scruff of the neck and giving it a good shake. I know it isn’t everyone in the boating world but there are a lot of nice people on boats which does restore your faith somewhat in human nature. The Rochdale canal is not the ideal place to start learning how to use and negotiate locks but we don’t always get the ideal places to start learning anything. The first lock didn’t want to fill up and after about forty minutes the guy behind us came up to see what the problem was. Which was the last 1/4 inch of water or even less. The BW workers at the side said the water level in the pounds was down a bit and this was the problem as they normally flow over the top of the gates and equalise the levels that way. The guy behind suggested we push gently with both boats and see if we could just open the gates enough to let some water through which we were able to do. Can’t say I was happy as I didn’t want to damage the gates or anything but here didn’t seem much alternative and it was the same with some of the gates later on but the Rochdale canal was the only time we had this problem thankfully. The rest of the locks weren’t as bad but there are places where there isn’t any towpath and one of the boats has to pick up the lockers to take them to the next one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile waiting for the locks to be prepared I found it difficult at times to keep the boat straight and ready to enter as the pounds weren’t wide and even though you’re between high buildings the wind was whistling down in places and pushing us where it wanted. Now I see the use of the barge pole or at least one use of it. I learned quite a bit about the steerage problems and a little about how to line up but using reverse while much needed at times didn’t always make sense to me. It was with some relief that we made it to the last of the Rochdale locks which is actually beneath a building and felt a bit strange as there were concrete columns for you to rest against or the boat anyway. Steve asked me afterwards if I’d seen the signs near the lock. These threatened prosecution for anyone  caught indulging in lewd behaviour. There might have been CCTV there as well. Don’t know if this had anything to do with having passed or being in the GAY part of Manchester. I did notice a bar with G.A.Y. in huge letters as it’s name. A subtle little touch I thought and would the understatement be missed by some.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Out of the lock and a very tight right turn followed by a very sharp left turn with a bridge and a boat half way through, oh bugger, but a bit of reverse and thankfully a little bit of room on the canal at this point and we cruised on for a few hundred yards and moored up for lunch in front of some very nice looking flats at Piccadilly Village. Heather and Les had been recommended to overnight there but as it was only one o’clock we thought that maybe we could get through the rest of the locks that day so after lunch we set off again. After we had negotiated another three locks and this section while prettier than Manchester wasn’t exactly wonderful we passed another boat going down who said to Heather that after the next three or four locks then there were no safe moorings till the last lock. We took this on board and did another couple and met another boat who’s crew said the same thing so we found a sheltered spot in front of a stone wall near the Velodrome and moored up for the night. People were jogging down the towpath so we thought maybe this isn’t such a bad area and there wasn’t much litter and no bottles strewn about.

After eating a hearty meal, of I remember not what it was, Les and Heather came round and they offered us some very nice and well appreciated Port. None of us are very young and after a hard and long day we drew stumps early and went to bed. No disturbances in the night. I never heard a thing. I was totally bushed.

 

Travels of Joanie M. Life as a Continuous Cruiser 13 May 2013

We arrived in Gloucester off the River Severn on 9 April seeing a pair of Dunlins, a Kingfisher and our first Swallows on the way. Both of us glad to be here as rivers are not our favourite thing. We have been here by boat before, in 1991. Not much has changed around the docks but there is now no commercial activity other than the docks at Sharpness.

We moved straight through the docks and Llanthony Lift Bridge – still operated by a keeper as are all the bridges on the G & S – and moored on the ‘shopping moorings’ outside the new Sainsburys store. After a big shop – Jeannette likes it when she can take the trolley right to the boat – we moved up a hundred yards to moor on the old quayside using the mooring rings provided, at least 18 inches diameter! And there we stayed for 5 or 6 days until I foolishly let the generator run out of diesel!

The Gloucester & Sharpess is only 16 miles long with two diesel sellers about halfway along. Just before we left John & Brenda on their narrowboat Beejay whom we have met several times before, arrived. Promising to return asap we moved down to Saul Junction and then moored so I could bleed the generator diesel feed. A pain as I have to remove so much stuff from the engine/utility room to get at it. Duly sorted we motored on to Sharpness itself for the night. The river here is wide with plenty of sandbanks at low tide.

Back to Rea Bridge where John & Brenda were now moored for a long chat over coffee & biscuits. Also a convenient place to moor for a hire car to return to Godmanchester for Js eye hospital appointment and to collect our prescriptions. Found that my solar controller had shut down and after a lot of checking decided that one pair of panels – we have 2 pairs wired in series & parallel to a MPPT controller – was at fault. These are some 5 years older than the other pair and when I moved their location I noticed that the cables were annealed so I shall rewire them when I can get some suitable cable. For the moment they are disconnected.

There is a Tescos half a mile or so from Rea Bridge and there was 25% off wine so whilst we had the car we took advantage and stocked up. With the weather reasonably fine I rubbed down one side of the boat gunwhales, primed, undercoated and gloss painted them to cover up the rigours of winter cruising through narrow locks. After a few days we moved to Sellars Bridge, filled the water tank and came back to Rea to repeat the care and attention on the other side. I’ll now spend the next few weeks paranoid about the paintwork. The sides of the G & S are all piled but, being a ship canal, the piling can be above the gunwhales in some places so it is one of those times I will leave the fenders down while cruising.

One of the wonders of the Severn is the bore and the weekend of 27 and 28 April promised a decent one so on the Sunday we walked the short distance to the river and walked along the path to find somewhere that afforded a good view. It was about 25 minutes late but at about 11 am we could here this roaring noise followed by a wave some 2 or 3 feet high. Behind it came the tide which seemed to just fill the previously empty river within a few minutes.

The end of April saw us moving back down the canal to Saul Junction. Did an oil and filter change on the generator here but I’ll have to keep the old oil until we get back to Gloucester where there is a HWRC so I can get rid of it. I know some boaters just leave it alongside the rubbish bins but why should I rely on the CRT to dispose of it. After the service we walked along the route of the old Stroudwater Canal towards the river before having a drink at the Ship Inn.

We moored at Sharpness overnight again and walked over the headland to the docks. 20 years ago when we visited I was able to walk over the tidal gates but the docks have now been sold or leased to a private company and the tidal lock is now fenced off. Never the less, the views down the river to the nuclear power stations and the two Severn Bridges are fantastic. Likewise, when walking back the view upriver was some 4 or 5 miles. There used to be a railway bridge across the Severn here but all that remains is the tower that supported the swinging portion. The bridge was the scene of a disaster in 1960 when two fuel tankers missed the lock entrance in thick fog and struck the bridge with several lives lost.

The canal and river here are only separated by a stone wall and a bit of river bank. To prevent erosion, a number of barges have been beached here over the years and are commemorated by a number of plaques along the foreshore between Sharpness and Purton.

On our return back up the canal we stopped at Saul Marina to top up the diesel tanks and buy some coal. Why is it that all marinas seem to have their service pontoons in the most inaccessible part and why does the wind always get up just as you are manoeuvring your boat? Coming back out requires a sharp and tight turn into the canal resulting in a chunk of my nice new paint being removed.

Back to Rea Bridge again and to Enterprise to get a car for us to go to Caterham for the funeral of a friend. These things always make one maudling so we took the opportunity of the car to visit my sister whom we hadn’t seen for about 2 years.

We are back in Gloucester now, looking at returning up river towards the end of the week. First we need to wait for a new part for the toilet to arrive. Something has broken so when you flush the pedal no longer returns. Should be at the Post Office on Wednesday so I’ll keep you posted of how it goes.

Regards
Pete

Detailed narrowboat running costs for March 2013

Oh boy, oh boy oh boy! The expenses keep on coming. I’m determined to get James in a suitable condition for long term cruising after the boat’s spent over a decade of decline stuck on a marina mooring. There’s been a huge amount to do. Sometimes I think I might have been better off spending more on a better boat. But then I look around me and know that I spent my money on the right boat. I just wish that the spending would slow down a bit.

Electricity: Each mooring has a 230v electrical supply which is charged at 20p per unit and topped up cards available from our reception.  I generally buy 3 x £10 electricity cards at a time. Two purchases this month so the solar panels (see below) aren’t contributing much so far – £60

Gas: I bought two 13kg cylinders this month, one at the beginning and one at the end of March – £45.90

Coal: The need for constant heat continues. My stove has been on continually now for six months. I bought ten bags of Pureheat briquettes on 7th March and then another ten on 30th March – £215.60

Mooring: Mooring costs £2,300 a year – £191.66

Maintenance & Repairs: The upgrade continues. I think we’ve broken the back of it now but it’s been such an expensive month.

Solar panels – Tim Davis installed his popular 300w system with MPPT controller on 8th March. I think that the sun has come out twice since then. Still, while the panels basked in the not so warm sunshine, they generated a maximum of 17 amps. I assume that we’re going to get one or two cloudless days this year and that the cloudy days are going to be slightly warmer than the weather we’ve “enjoyed” so far this year. So far the additional power produced by the panels hasn’t had any impact on my electricity costs. Time will tell £995

New flooring – For the last three years I’ve put up with very tired and wafer thin beige carpet. It didn’t look very atractive, nor was it practical with dirty dog paws and the inevitable but rare accident. We’ve had Colonia light oak laminate flooring planks fitted. We’re delighted with the result. The boat looks newer, fresher and far more welcoming.

Unfortunately the fitting hasn’t been completed. The fitter discovered that a section of the original ply floor was rotten. The area is in the centre of the boat undearneath the roof and side hatches. During James decade of neglect, the old wooden hatches decayed and allowed water to pool on the floor beneath.

There’s a section about the size of a dustbin lid which needs replacing. The rotten wood can’t be cut out and replaced with new because there arem’t any bearers underneath the damaged section to support the new ply. I think that a new section of flooring is going to have to be laid on top of the old and a feature made out of it so that the repaired section doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb – £640

Inverter – I’ve spent very little time away from the marina and away from the every so convenient mains power that I can plug into via my shore line. Each trip out has been without the ability to run my laptop, television or other 230v appliances. I’ve just had a Sterling 1600w pure sine wave inverter fitted. An inverter takes the DC 12v power stored in the boat’s leisure battery bank and converts it into AC 230v power so that you can run mains appliances while you’re off your mooring. I currently have one 110amp starter battery and two 135amp leisure batteries. So that the inverter has enough power to draw from for a reasonable length of time, I need to increase the leisure battery bank to 4 x 135amp. I’ll do that next month – £360.69

Fire extinguishers and blanket – My Boat Safety test is due in April. No that’s not quite true. James hasn’t had a boat safety test since it came into the marina in 1997. I don’t know what issues there are going to be yet, but I know that I have to upgrade the 230v ring main and replace the sub standard fire extinguisher and add a fire blanket. I’ve bought three 1kg powder extinguishers and a fire blanket for the galley – £56.59

Floormat – I bought a polycarbonte wafer thin transparent floormat to protect the new flooring from abrasion by the castors on my office chair. I know from past experience how quickly flooring can be damaged from constant back and forth rolling – £31.94

New Batteries – When I moved onto James the botat had just one starter and one leisure battery. I doubled the domestic battery bank at the time to two 135amp, but it wasn’t really enough. Now I have my solar panels producing a decent amount of free electricity, I need somewhere to put it. I’ve now doubled the domestic bank again to four 135 batteries. At the same time I’ve replaced my 110am starter battery which wasn’t holding a charge. £233.70

Carbon Monoxide Alarm – It’s literally a life saver. Carbon monoxide is produced by the solid fuel stove. If the stove’s not shut or working correctly, the odourless and tasteless gas can leak into the boat and kill you. The cost of the alarm is a very small price to pay to ensure that you don’t die in your sleep £26.31

Maxigrab Magnet – Most boaters like to throw things of value into the water now and then. I’m no exception. Providing the item of value in question is steel, it can be retrieved using a strong magnet and a length of cord. My new magnet is tiny but it can lift 50lbs, more than enough to retrieve my folding bike or windlasses and mooring pins and chains. – £25.99

Bolt Cutters, mole grips and fenders – The bolt cutters and mole grips are to aid removing debris from around the propeller. There’s always a chance of picking up debris as your boat ploughs through shallow canals. The bolt croppers are very handy for cutting stubborn wire. I also needed to replace a couple of work truncheon fenders.

Maintenance and repairs total – £2,370.22

Our technology needed upgrading this month too.

Laptop – My old laptop had beco,me virtually unusable. The cursor had developed a mind of its own and jumped about the page like a spring lamb. The resulting correction of incorrectly inserted text took as long as the initial typing. Given that I spend a minimum of four hours each day typing, the problem was driving me mad. It’s my birthday next week so Sally bought me a new one. It has a gazillion magabyte hard drive and more memory than I can shake a stick at. I love it. – £500

Printer – I suppose we don’t really need a printer, but it makes life so much easier. It’s an all in one WiFi printer, copier, scanner and fax machine (do people still use fax machines?). It’s the Epson WF-2530 and was a bargain at £59.99

Total technology expenses – £559.99

Other expenses for March…

Of course, the boat expenditure is only a part of the cost of life on the boat. Here’s what we spent on our day to day expenses in March.

Internet: I’m still using the excellent 15GB per month mobile broadband service from Three – £19.80

Telephone (Mobile): Sally and I both have mobiles on contract and Sally has an iPad, also on contract. If you’ve been reading the weekly newsletters recently you’ll know that I had my online identity stolen this month. I had to close my bank account which meant that the direct debit for T Mobile failed. T Mobile have agreed to defer payment until next month.

Laundery: Calcutt Boats as two washing machines and a dryer for moorers’ use. We only use the washing machines. Sally hangs the damp washing inside the boat. It’s dry within 24 hours. The washing machines take tokens which we buy at reception. Each token costs £1 and keeps the washing machines going for 45 minutes. – £30 (Does everything need to be so clean Sally?)

Groceries: We eat well but not extravagantly. The total includes £27.96 for wine – £314.43

Eating out: We enjoy a coffee in a cafe and the occasional meal out. Two treats in March. We went to The Boat House in Braunston twice for a meal. It’s on the Grand Union close to Braunston junction. They have a permanent two main meals for the price of one deal on. Sadly it doesn’t include the sweets – £48.80

Entertainment:Two books downloaded for my Kindle this month plus my first paperback purchase since I bought my Kindle in December 2010. It’s The Water Road by Paul Gogarty. It’s an excellent read but it isn’t available digitally. Sally bought a book too and then we had the additional unexpected expense of a Lovefilm monthly subscription that we cancelled three month ago. According to Amazon we didn’t cancel the subscription, we simply took a three month “holiday”. They won’t give us our money back. We also bought some cheap DVDs from Blockbuster  £36.75

Car: Just fuel for the car this month – £72.56

This is an example of the monthly expenses detailed in my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. If you’re seriously considering buying a narrowboat to live on it’s an essential read. Some of the costs listed in this article are optional. You may be able to live on less than we do, but many of the costs that apply to us will also apply to you too.  Many potential boat owners mistakenly think that a narrowboat floating home is a low cost alternative to bricks and mortar. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please read the guide before you make a very expensive mistake.

 

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