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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Composting Toilets

The information below has been kindly provided by liveaboard narrowboat owner Allan Cazely. It’s additional information on the subject which many narrowboat owners are obsessed with. I wrote briefly about the subject in this post several years ago.

Composting v Other Types of Toilet

I have read a couple of issues regarding fitting out of a wide beam boat. One issue took on board the always popular subject of toilets.  In this case a Composting Toilet was chosen I would like to expand on Composting Toilets, as I have had one, (Self Installed), on my boat since it met the water over 8-years ago. They are not as attractive and simple as one would be led to believe!  They are excellent when you learn about them.  In the first couple of years, I struggled with my Canadian “Envirolet” and nearly decided on changing it for something else.  However, today, I wouldn’t change it to a different type of toilet, as it is so flexible and to date, never so overfull that it cannot be used.  From this angle, it beats all other toilet methods –

Holding Tanks – Gravity Type Toilet

Holding tanks have to be emptied as soon as they are full, The “Dump Through” type that depends on gravity, where the bowl sits over one end of the tank in the loo, whilst the other end is usually under the double bed, is quite popular. However, when the tank is full, the bowl will not empty and your loo cannot be used until the tank is emptied.

Vacu-Flush Electric Toilets

If you have a Vacu-Flush type of toilet, it is possible to carry on using it when the tank indicator shows full, overfilling the holding tank.  This has shed loads of problems, if this happens.  The effluent then goes up the vent pipe, as it can only go in that direction, and then the effluent then exits through the fine gauze, (That stops the flies getting in).  This then becomes blocked and the tank will pressurise!

In severe cases, the tank can split and the boat ends up floating in effluent. This is a rare occurrence but can happen. If the tank is pressurised, there is then the problem of emptying the tank.  As soon as one takes the screw caps tops off the discharge pipe, (Or the water flush a smaller pipe outlet), the effluent shoots into the air just like a burst main water pipe.  I have experienced this syndrome with my friend’s boat on the last pump out. The fountain of effluent lasted about 4-minutes and was quite spectacular! I was covered in the stuff and as soon as possible I had a bath and a complete replacement of everything I was wearing, plus washing my hair about 3- times, before I felt clean again.  The old clothes went straight into the washing machine for; first a rinse and spin, then a full wash program.

Cassette Toilets Types

Cassette types of toilet need to be emptied about every 3 or 4 days. With extra cassettes, visits to the sani-stations can be extended
So now you have to decide on your preference of loo types.

Composting Types of Toilet

Envirolet Composting ToiletThese are invariably an “All-in One” Unit, usually free standing, like the Cassette types. There are basically 2 types of composting loos put into boats. The earlier types had one holding area for solids and liquid and depended on the liquids evaporating, leaving the solids to decompose.

In the UK, the relative humidity is too high and evaporation fails to take place.  In almost all cases, this is the cause of ongoing problems that cannot be solved. People try and heat the casing to encourage evaporation, but it is rarely successful.  This is my personal experience with my Envirolet. (This had a 220-vac heating element). This needs my engine to be run all day long to cope with the energy used – OK if you are hooked up to a land supply – Still expensive to run though!

In the last few years, modified composting toilets have appeared on the market.  These have 2-compatrtments, one for the solids, and one for the fluid effluent. This is usually successful in this Country and doesn’t need additional (Expensive) energy. These toilets are still simple and uncomplicated. The only difference being that the bowl is so designed that urine is filtered in a funnel into a removable tank.  Urine is sterile and can easily be disposed of, almost anywhere.  In the case of my “Envirolet”, I modified an existing removable bowl and modified it to separate the liquid and solids.

The solids stay in my toilet, as before, and the “Rake” and “Spreader” bar handles are used just the same.  I was able to use a flexible polythene pipe, of suitable diameter, to pass through the front of the box, into a 5-litre substantial canister and this is easily emptied. It can be screw topped and put one side for later disposal (Sani-station or suitable field).

Since making this modification to my boat, I have found my toilet easy to maintain and easy to empty.  All the solids are dry and friable with absolutely no unpleasant aromas.  Now that I have learned from experience, any fly infestation, (Yes, it does happen in hot weather sometimes), Can be dealt with easily and quickly.

If one wants a summary and personal opinion, I would think that a composting toilet is more popular with male boaters, than female boaters.  The main reason being that one can see the solids at the point of use, when the bowl flap is opened and some females would not like the thought of emptying the composted, dry mass.  I need to “Service” my boat about three time per year.  This suits me fine. I do empty my fluid waste probably on a weekly basis. That’s simple and quick. My toilet doesn’t cost me any emptying costs, unlike pump-outs, either.

It has the convenience of only emptying the solids 3 or 4 times a year and unlike cassette types, I do not have to find a Sani-station either The later types of 2-part composting toilets start at around £500 upwards.

2014 02 23 Newsletter – Living Life In The Slow Lane

Time has flown again. It only seems like five minutes ago that I landed in Manila, dreading meeting Sally’s relatives, hoping that I could get on with them and hoping that we could communicate given that their native tongue is Llongo with a smattering of English, not the more widely spoken Tagalog which I thought they used, and given that I use a smattering of English with an awful lot of gibberish.

All of a sudden I’m back in Manila after two and a half wonderful weeks in a farming community on the lower slopes of an active and very impressive volcano. Towards the end of my last beer soaked evening I was fielding a barrage of questions about typical wages in the UK. Two of the guys present were about my age, the others were sons in their early twenties who don’t earn anything at all even though they sometimes spend whole days helping their fathers. One of the fathers works as a lorry driver during the sugar cane harvesting season earning up to £4 on a lucrative but very tiring eighteen hour day. Typically he’s lucky to earn just half of that but he sometimes earns nothing at all after a whole in a queue of lorries trying and failing to reach the front and an opportunity to transport a load of sugar cane for local Chinese land owner.

Sugar cane worker MoritoThe other wage earner present was fifty year old Morito, an illiterate sugar cane worker with hands like granite, a body like a twenty something Olympic athlete and a fondness for San Miguel, although he can’t ever afford to buy it himself. It’s way over his budget at 30p for a 330ml bottle. Morito earns £1.50 on a good day working from dawn to dusk, sometimes in forty degree heat, always wrapped in cloth from head to toe as protection against razor sharp sugar cane leaves.

They were all literally speechless when I told them a range of hourly and daily rates for a selection of undemanding occupations. They were even more shocked when I told them the cost of living in the UK. In their village, the total cost of utilities each month is usually about £5. They don’t need heating, they cook and heat water using bamboo found on the forested mountain slopes and their water comes directly from mountain streams. The only utility they pay for is electricity which is the smallest fraction of the cost of the national grid supply in the UK.

I pointed out that the gas I use on the boat for cooking and for heating water for bathing cost £27 every twenty days (this produced a laugh from the group who bathe in ice cold mountain water all year round), the coal needed to stop the boat and the people inside it from freezing costs over £100 a month and the electricity used to supplement the heat from the coal and to provide power for all of our electrical gadgets costs at least £40 a month (another laugh, not at the cost of the electricity, that was more of a gasp, but at the thought of paying good money for gadgets which cost even more money to run and which could easily be managed without).

We talked about income tax, council tax, car tax, inheritance tax, fuel tax and general living and breathing tax, none of which they pay. We talked about the boat’s license, mooring fees, boat safety scheme fees, maintenance costs and food costs.

I told them that Sally and I spend at lest £80 each week for food, including at least £10 a week for feeding and caring for two dogs.  They considered this amount ludicrous given that a 50kg sack of rice costing £27 often feeds a family of four for at least a month. They sometimes add eggs from their own hens, sometimes chicken, again from their own stock, vegetables they grow themselves and a huge variety of fruit from neighbours or local producers at little or no cost.

They couldn’t believe the amount of money we spend looking after dogs. “Why do you pay for dog food?, they asked. “Why don’t you feed them your leftovers?” I told them that they have special dog food because our human food isn’t good for them. “Why don’t you eat food which IS good for them so you can feed them what you don’t eat? they asked. I couldn’t answer that one. I decided not to tell them that we buy ridiculously expensive dental sticks to keep our dogs’ teeth white and healthy.

Their dog Kim is fed nothing but scraps. The bits the family discard at meal times, small amounts of crusty rice, chicken skin and bones and fruit and vegetable skin, are all thrown into an old washing up bowl at the end of each meal and given to Kim. The dog, like its owners, is slim but not thin and has shiny white teeth.

We discussed what we spend on leisure activities and what we spend on clothes. The family spend very little on either. The default outfit for both men and women is a low quality tee shirt, pair of shorts and flip flops. A good evening out for them is wandering over to a friend’s or relative’s house in the village where they sit and talk. A pleasant day out is a picnic by the river four miles from the house.

The conclusion we came to was that, even though the villagers in Ara-al have what many people in the west would consider a very low standard of living, generally they have a better quality of life. Most live in close proximity to their loving and supportive extended families. The geographically close family is something neither Sally nor I can reproduce in the UK. Both of our families are many thousands of miles away. The lesson we can learn is to use our money more wisely.

As a result of our visit here in general and in particular both the detailed account we’ve kept of our expenditure and the not so drunken conversation I had with the guys about life in the Philippines, Sally and I have decided that we both spend money far too easily on things which we don’t need. We both agree that by reducing unnecessary expenditure, we can spend more time actually enjoying life now rather than working towards a life which we hope to enjoy at some indefinable time in the future.

To quote site subscriber and virtual friend Trevor Ingram from an email he sent me yesterday on the subject, “On their death bed, nobody says that they wish that they had worked longer or harder.”

I’ve mentioned before that I talk to and hear about many, many boaters and potential boaters who spend uncountable hours working in jobs they don’t really enjoy saving for a future life of quiet relaxation to find that they wear themselves out physically or mentally before they get there. I don’t think I’ve mentioned enough how many people I know have decided to opt out of the rat race, against the well meaning but misguided advice offered by all of their none boating friends and family, and successfully adapted to a mainly stress free and thoroughly enjoyable life on the water while the advice offerers continue to race on life’s hamster wheel.

Our main objective when we get back is to work out how we can work much less, or not at all in the near future. Our goal is to cruise the network during the warmer months, then escape to the Philippines for the coldest part of the year. There are many liveaboards who do the same. Much as I enjoy living on the boat all year round – I genuinely do – given the choice sitting in a warm boat watching the fire’s flickering flames, or sitting on a sun kissed terrace listening to the sound of a babbling brook as I sip an ice cold beer, I know which one has the edge.

Philippines Blog

As I’ve mentioned above, we’re back in Manila thinking about the return from a month in a tropical paradise to the temperate paradise at the marina. The three day stopover in a chaotic city of ten million isn’t my favourite part of the holiday, but it is still very interesting.

Sally spent much of her young life in Manila. The area where we are now staying has changed considerably since she was a teenager. The once clean streets are now hidden beneath rubbish and families of beggars sleeping rough wherever they can. She’s reluctant to walk the streets during the day but until last night she’s refused to leave the hotel at  night at all.

We have Sally’s sister Corazon and brother in law Gill staying with us. Sally’s treated them to three days in Manila, their first trip off the island, first flight, first stay in a hotel and first encounter in a lift (very amusing). Last night their twenty four year old son, Paul, came to see Sally and I and his parents. He finished work at 5pm yesterday then travelled for five hours to the centre of the city and our hotel.

Paul hadn’t eaten since midday so Sally decided to brave the mean streets so we could find something for Paul and for us to eat. We couldn’t persuade her to go far, and I could see why she was bothered. Prostitutes of every size and shape were out in force.

The first to catch my eye was a beautiful lady with long black hair framing a pretty face with a beautiful smile. She wore a low cut crop top to emphasise her womanly assets. Beneath the crop top she wore cutaway trousers to expose her rather remarkable legs.

Her legs legs were withered and deformed, more resembling dead, misshapen mottled brown and white tree branches than human limbs. She patrolled her patch by using her flip flop protected hands to swing her torso forward in powerful lunges as she surveyed the dozens of predominantly fat and balding, unattractive middle aged European men cruising the dark and noisy streets. We left her at the entrance to a McDonald’s restaurant discussing rates with a skinny buck toothed guy in his early sixties.

McDonald’s isn’t my favourite place in the UK to eat. It’s no better in the Philippines. The staff are slightly more attractive, but the service and the quality of food is pretty much the same. The big difference here in Manila is the respectful quiet level of conversation in a late night city centre fast food outlet. A level of conversation which is undoubtedly a result of the gun, pepper spray and baton carrying security guard standing at the entrance.

He wouldn’t tolerate any unruly behavior inside the restaurant, but he didn’t mind the prostitutes.

One walked by our table. The legs caught my eye first. I followed the beautifully shaped limbs an impossible distance up to a belt like mini skirt, passed a table flat exposed and rather cute waist, over the partially exposed and jauntily thrusting young breasts to a rather more prominent than expected Adam’s apple, and a totally unexpected rather square jaw with a bluish haze which no amount of cleverly applied makeup could mask.

The transsexual call girl/man/person left the restaurant to stand on the street corner with a transvestite  who looked like a lorry driver called Bill on a drunken walk home after a heavy night at a local social club fancy dress party. Both hookers were receiving a fair bit of attention, not all of it in jest.

We sidestepped our way back to the hotel around the more conventional prostitutes who thrust various body parts at me while completely ignoring my four Filipino escorts, two of whom were male. I guess, to them, I was just another desperate middle aged Englishman hoping for a little gratification from a lady too pretty to either afford or seduce back in the UK.

I suppose I should have added that last bit to the holiday blog but the surreal experience has left me a little confused, so it’s here instead. Part and week three of the blog is here. If you’ve missed them, here’s the first part and second part of my Philippine experience.

Building An Aluminium Narrowboat

I’ve published the first four parts of Brian Colling’s Sea Otter narrowboat build blog. You won’t be surprised to hear that I was in a bit of a rush when I published parts three and four. Consequently, part three was a duplicate of part two. Thank you if you were one of the frustrated newsletter readers who pointed out the error. I have added the correct content now to the third installment and also added parts five and six. In case you missed the earlier build blog posts, I’ve listed them below…

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

 

Helpful Hints

Another tip for you from Michele Chapman. Watch out though, if you follow this tip the next step is to search the boat for an ice skate or something similar for a little DIY tooth extraction Castaway style.

“Last year on our way home from London, I got toothache with many miles to go before I could get back to my own dentist and the pain unbearable I had to do a bit of home treatment. I dipped my toothbrush in turmeric and applied it around the tooth and gum. After a couple of hours the inflammation reduced and the pain was not so bad. I repeated this treatment every four hours and my toothache vanished. Touch wood I have had no pain since, some nine months ago. Worked out a lot cheaper than a visit to the dentist. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory.”

Here’s a cooking tip for you from Jacky Melling…

l have a tip you probably know about, how to save gas.  As you know it’s expensive, and if you live in the middle of nowhere like us, it’s a pain to get in the car drive to the marina or wherever, to buy it, carry it down a muddy towpath, lift up the front box which is really stiff with no handle, and change it. If we are organised we get one from Mark, off star class carrying who passes every four weeks with gas coal and diesel. We always try to use the working boats to help them and keep the traditional boats going.

Anyway, today I cooked a chicken nearly for free. I have a cast iron pot with a heavy lid. l sealed the chicken on both sides, added a bed of onions, water salt, pepper and mixed herbs and left it on top of the wood burner for three hours. If you want crispy skin, stick it in the oven to brown, but it tastes the same and you save  two hours of gas.

Don’t let Michelle and Jacky do all the hard work. If you are a boat owner, or if you have useful tips for boat owners, please email me with them here.

Suggestions Please!

I’ve been writing regular newsletters for a couple of years now. During the first year they were every two weeks or so. To be honest, the frequency was a bit hit and miss. My New Year’s resolution, and one that I’m delighted to say that I’ve kept, was to send out a newsletter every Sunday, rain or shine. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over three years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • 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.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
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.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.

vaccines Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

A Month In Paradise Part Three

Continued from part two

I consider myself pretty fit. I work a forty five hour week doing a physically demanding job without any problem at all. In fact, I enjoy the challenge and relish the exercise. I have more stamina than most people half my age and just about everyone the same age as me.

Secretly, I was looking to showing off a little. The day had come to lay some gravel. The Filippinos aren’t terribly impressed with their usual experience of the English work ethic. Nor am I to be honest.

We had a mob of relatives descending on us for a long weekend; two of Sally’s sisters, their husbands and their collective six boys, all in their late teens or early twenties. Nine males to move the best part of fifteen tonnes of gravel by hand.

We started late. Syrel, Gill’s eldest son, has a sugar cane truck of his own. It’s more robust than Gill’s but like all the trucks on the road here, it’s old and needs a considerable amount of TLC.

Syrel collected the gravel from the supplier then crawled back to Ara-al at walking pace, with stops every couple of miles to top up the water in the leaking radiator. They arrived with both load and truck intact at 10am.

Like most of the areas of housing around here, Ara-al has a main street running then a network of lanes running off it like veins in a leaf. The truck was too wide to negotiate the lane at the end of the fifty metre rough mud path leading down to the house, so Syrel had to park in the main street two hundred metres away.
Week 3.0

The work crew were waiting when the truck arrived. They weren’t dressed quite as I expected a group preparing for a day’s hard physical labour to dress. They all looked as they were off for a day’s quiet relaxation on the beach. All wore thin tee shirts, lightweight shorts and flip flops.

The original plan had been to fill empty rice sacks with 25kg on the back of the truck and lower the sacks onto waiting shoulders for the long trek to the house.

Unfortunately Syrel had a full day’s sugar cane transporting ahead of him so we had to offload the gravel as soon as possible. Our only tools were two spades and a rake. An hour and a half later, the gravel was in an enormous pile in the road, Syrel had left to begin his working day, and the nine men were sprawled next to the gravel, dripping with sweat in the already sweltering heat, contemplating the mountain of stone to be moved.

The group had spent too long sitting down as far as I was concerned, so I hefted a sack onto my shoulder and strode briskly down the first alley towards the house.

By the time I had reached the house after stepping on, over and around tree roots and boulders, stepped down a series of high, muscle stretching concrete steps and thrown the neck chaffing sack thankfully to the ground, I was seeing stars and breathing like a steam train. The rest of the sweat free, totally relaxed looking group emptied their sacks, smiled knowingly at me and skipped back up the hill to Gravel Mountain.

By the time I had picked up my fifth load, my neck was red raw and my legs were shaking so much I thought they were going to give way. I staggered and slipped down the final steep stretch to the house with the sack cradled across my stomach to prevent any further damage to my sunburned and chaffed neck. I couldn’t carry on. I threw the sack down in disgust before walking dejectedly back to the house where a cool drink and shade were waiting.

Twenty eight year old Sannie picked up my discarded sack, in addition to his own and trotted the rest of the way to the house. He was wearing just one flip flop. The strap had broken on the other during the frantic gravel offloading. There weren’t any others available so he spent the rest of the day moving at least fifty loads wearing just one.

Just when I was feeling completely inadequate, Sally’s forty eight year old sister Cora, realising that the crew were now a man short, arrived to lend a hand. She looked as though she was ready for bed wearing a black tee shirt, pretty pink checked cotton bottoms and feet bare apart from gold nail polish.

One of her sons carefully lifted a 25kg gravel sack into the air and gently placed it on his mother’s head. Without any sign of either strain or discomfort she followed the rest of the men down the alley.

I didn’t expect to see her again but five minutes later she was back for more. After her 20th trip, having walked a total of 4,000 metres with 55lb balanced on her head, Cora still looked as cool and untroubled as ever. She stopped at about 4pm, not because she was unable to continue, but because she had food to cook.

I was reduced to keeping the guys, and Cora, supplied with full sacks. Sally held the bags open, I filled them with gravel until 6pm when we couldn’t see what we were doing.

We had put a couple of cases of beer on ice for the evening but everyone was too tired to drink it. By 8pm everyone was in “bed”. Bed for all of our guests was the bare tiled floor in the lounge. No one had a change of clothes or any nightwear, The only bedding was a rolled towel for a pillow.

I forced myself out of bed at 7am ready to help with the rest of the gravel moving. I was too late. The rest of the crew were waiting for dawn at 6am. Half of the remaining gravel had already been moved. All of it had been transferred in time for breakfast at 8am.

My ego has been severely bruised. Actually, not so much bruised as publicly beaten to within an inch of its life. Even though I didn’t do any of the heavy lifting, I was tired and aching. The rest of the guys, each having carried getting on for a hundred loads down a steep and uneven hill, looked fresh as daisies. I think I need to spend more time in the gym.

The Other Side Of The Coin

The people are as beautiful as the landscape, the temperature’s a very acceptable year round thirty degrees and the cost of living is very low. It’s no surprise that many foreigners choose to retire here, but there are some aspects of life, especially in this very rural community, which I don’t think I would ever get used to.

I don’t understand why so many people have dogs here. Most appear to be loosely attached to families but very few are cared for as pets or even acknowledged. They bark incessantly throughout the day and, even more annoyingly, at night too.

Because the dogs aren’t cared for by their owners, they mess wherever they please. Wherever they please tends to be exactly where I want to walk. The inconvenience of the mess the dogs make reminds me of the many miles of aimless street walking I did as a teenager in the mid seventies near my home on the outskirts of Birkenhead. I spent much of my time hopping on one foot as I tried to remove a sticky, smelly mess from the sole of a shoe.

Not only do they cause a mess, but they are also a menace to passing traffic. It’s not unusual to see them laying in the sun in the middle of a busy street, or walking suddenly into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Even during my limited time here I’ve been on a couple of tricycles which have had to swerve or brake suddenly to avoid hitting one.

I’ve seen many dogs in the village which have been hit, accidents which have resulted in broken limbs. The breaks aren’t treated. The dogs are left to fend for themselves. The breaks heal but often at odd angles.

People here aren’t cruel, they just don’t pamper the dogs they own like we do in the UK. They can’t afford to. When Sally and I visited Bacolod last week, we shopped in the enormous SM superstore. It’s at least as large as the largest English Tesco store in the UK. There were just a few square feet dedicated to pet supplies. We bought a bone shaped hide chew for Kim, the family’s mongrel. It cost 78 pesos, just over £1. Most people work in agriculture in Ara-al. The average daily agricultural daily wage is just 110 pesos.

Very few dogs are cared for here, but I like to think that we’ve made Kim’s life a little more pleasant. He used to sleep on the bare concrete outside the house at night. Now he has his own basket and blanket under the kitchen table. He’s responded very well to affection from Sally and I. The family have begun to acknowledge him too.

I was sitting inside typing on my laptop a few days ago. I glanced out of the window to rest my eyes. I noticed Gill sauntering around the garden, admiring the plants. Kim was laying on his back in the sunshine. Gill smiled, bent down towards the dog and with an outstretched hand gave Kim’s testicles a friendly tweak before continuing his leisurely garden patrol. I don’t think he’s quite got the hang of showing the dog affection yet.

Week 3.1

I’ve not visited any other area of the Philippines but this part of the country, anywhere away from the larger centres of population, is staggeringly beautiful. When I wake in the morning I can see the frequently mist shrouded forested slopes of a now dormant volcano. Flowers of every shade and hue adorn the roadsides. Trees bowed under the weight of delicious fruit grow everywhere I look. It’s all very, very pretty… apart from the litter.

Most people here don’t pay tax. Because they don’t pay tax, the government doesn’t have much money to pay for essential public services. There is no refuse collection service out here in the country.

Household waste is either burned or discarded. A couple of times here I’ve noticed members of the family using plastic bags to help light the fires they cook with. The fire isn’t terribly well ventilated so whoever is in the kitchen has to breathe the toxic fumes. One of the boys, Hilson, has a permanent cough. He tends the fires used for both cooking and water heating for hours each day. I’m sure the poisonous fumes have either caused or contributed towards his cough.

The house and the garden here are kept spotlessly clean. Two of the boys and Sally’s sister spend hours each days sweeping and polishing but they have nowhere to put their plastic waste. It’s often thrown out of sight onto the mud bank which borders the stream at the bottom of the garden or on some waste ground just outside the garden’s front gate.

The earthen path which leads from the house to the nearest street is littered with plastic bags, crisp packets and discarded sweet wrappers. The paths and roadsides around the village are all similarly littered. Everyone discards litter. I have watched many shoppers in nearby La Carlota finish a drink or take the last cigarette out of a pack, then drop the container carelessly on the ground.

When I was returning from a morning in the sugar cane fields we ran out of petrol. Daryl purchased some from a roadside stall a couple of miles away. It was sold in 1.5l coke bottles (I had spent the previous two weeks thinking they were selling Cherry Coke). He emptied the bottle’s contents in the bike’s tank then casually tossed the empty plastic bottle in the ditch where it lay beside many other plastic bottles, bags and wrappers.

The litter is all the more noticeable because of the beautiful countryside it spoils but what can people do until the government provides somewhere to put it all?

The noise here drives me mad too. I don’t mind the cockerels so much. It’s a sound I don’t find too unpleasant. I would rather not listen to them competing with each other from most of the many gardens within earshot for much of the day, but it’s something I am used to now.

I don’t really enjoy the continual dog barking and wining, again from just about every garden within earshot, but I don’t find it as irritating as the music.

The music drives me mad. Everyone has a sound system of some description. The default listening volume is full blast, regardless of the time of day, the type of music they’re playing, their proximity to other properties, or whether those other property owners are playing music already.

Yesterday our next door neighbour treated us to a selection of Tom Jones’ greatest hits, played at full, ground shaking volume, from 6.15am. He has varied tastes though, so he never bores us with his annoying habit. This morning showing his appreciation for country and western music. At the same time, it’s 7am as I write this, Sally’s sister’s boys are playing a delightful selection of club classics, again at furniture shaking volume, while the neighbour on the other side is sticking with her favourite Japanese wailing.

Oh, how I long for the peace and quiet of the marina were the loudest sound in the honking of the occasional Canada goose.

Just one final moan; I get ever so slightly depressed by the monotony of meal times. I know it’s my fault. I come from the wealthy West where a huge variety of foods are available at every supermarket.

Our hosts can’t afford fancy food. They can’t actually afford much food at all. Of course, Sally and I are helping out with the cost of the food while we’re here, but they don’t take liberties. Quite the reverse. The main ingredient in any meal is rice. To this they’ll add a minuscule helping of whatever meat, chicken or fish is being served.

There’s no difference between a meal eaten in the morning, at mid day or in the evening. The leftovers from one meal are simply carried over to the next. Take last night for example: we had rice of course, served with cabbage mixed with minced pork and whole grilled fish which looked and tasted like large sardines. Not all of it was eaten last night so breakfast this morning was rice, and the rest of the cabbage and sardines. All of the sardines and cabbage was eaten for breakfast, but some of the rice was left. The remaining rice will be served for lunch with a chicken casserole. Not all of the chicken will be eaten mid day, so we’ll have that this evening.

I crave the variety we enjoy in England. I enjoy toast smeared with honey for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch time and a full cooked meal in the evening. I know my affluent English eating habits are unnecessary but they’re enjoyable and a part of me looks forward to the beginning of March when I can return to them.

A Riverside Picnic

Sally painted such a vivid picture of idyllic location and relaxation when she described family picnics to the river. She talked about how the family loaded a couple of cases of beer, a suckling pig and themselves onto the back of Gill’s sugar cane truck, set up camp on the bank of the gently flowing river and sipped ice cold beer as they relaxed with feet dipped in the cool crystal clear water.

The reality was every bit as wonderful as Sally’s description. The only ingredient missing was the lechon, the suckling pig. At over £50 for a small one we decided that it was an unnecessary extravagance.

After all day Friday and early Saturday morning spent gravel moving and then the rest of Saturday spent trying to use the ancient computers in the internet café, I was ready for Sunday’s picnic.

Sally hired a cook for the day. Sally and her sisters cook perfectly well but this lady regularly caters for parties and weddings. Her food was considered a cut above the rest, she came with a full set of industrial sized pots and pans and her fee was a very reasonable 200 pesos (£2.70). We provided the ingredients from a list she provided, she did the cooking.

Twenty of us, including the cook, loaded the picnic food and beer onto the back of the truck plus, mystifyingly, a pressure washer, two spades and twenty empty rice sacks.

Week 3.2

We chugged downhill for five miles before turning off the main road onto a dirt track. The truck reversed half a mile down the narrow road squeezing past roadside houses and scraping under low hanging branches before parking close to the river bank.

Week 3.3

The river swells to ten times its volume during the rainy season. In mid February there was just a gentle flow through the centre of the riverbed but enough to wade thigh deep in places. Much of the river flowed under the shade of fifty feet high bamboo stands, ferns and trees very similar to English willow.

The food was carried into the shade under some riverside palms and the cases of San Miguel dropped lowered on to the rive bed where the fast flowing water quickly cooled it. Within half an hour the beer was chilled and served with plates of lightly spiced chicken and fragrant rice.
After we finished our desert, halved sweet mangos eaten straight from the skin with a spoon, I settled down for an afternoon’s quiet relaxation. Relaxation isn’t something which the Filipinos generally, and this family in particular, do very well.

The pressure washer was fired up. Half of the men gave the truck a spring clean while the rest began loading brick sized water rounded stones collected from the river bed onto the back of the truck.

When they had finished collecting about half a tonne of rocks, they took the spades and empty rice sacks to the riverbed where they filled them with another half tonne of coarse sand.

Week 3.4
The sand and rocks are for a new raised flower beds for the house. The same material has already been used to effectively terrace the rear of the property which used to slope steeply down to the stream at the bottom of the garden.

Week 3.5

While the men were working, so were the women. Some used the washing up bowls we had brought with us to wash the dirty picnic cutlery and crockery in the river, some took dirty clothes they had brought with them down to the water to wash, most, at some stage in the afternoon, produced bottles of shampoo and bars of soap to thoroughly wash themselves and their children.

Just sitting watching and sipping cold beer from the shade of a riverside palm was enough to tire me out but, after showing my lack of stamina moving gravel, I didn’t want to fail again. I opened another beer and prepared to endure another couple hours of relentless relaxation.
Week 3.6

Week 3.7

DIY Shopping

I don’t like shopping at the best of times, so when the shopping trip involves four hours travelling on and in a selection of worn out buses, tricycles and taxis, I can honestly say that I’m not enjoying myself as much as I would like while I’m on holiday.

The nearest decent DIY store is in Bacolod, thirty miles to the north of La Carlota where we go for our food shopping. Bacolod is also where we would need to go for any reasonable medical attention. It’s a sobering thought given the lip service which is paid to personal and vehicle safety out here in the sticks.

The number of motorbikes and motorised tricycles in the rural districts outnumber cars and buses. Four wheeled vehicle drivers are usually, but not always, more responsible than those with two or three, especially after dark.

Driving or being driven at night is not for the faint hearted.
Vehicles travel at speed, often almost bumper to pumper, and often without some or all of their lights either working or turned on. We enjoyed a particularly interesting journey last night.

We went to Bacolod for the second consecutive day. The previous day we intended to find an effective solution to the internet connectivity problems at the house. Sally was determined to get her sister online so that she could keep in touch with her via email email and/or Skype. The modem we bought the previous week hadn’t worked at all. We then discovered that the local village school used a USB dongle which worked very well.

On Tuesday we made the four hour round trip to buy the dongle and to have lunch at one of the mall restaurants. A meal for four of us including a soft drink each, barbecued chicken served with a soy sauce, lime and chilli dip, unlimited rice and a peculiar desert which comprised of vividly coloured jelly beans, ice cream and tapioca served on a bed of crushed ice, which was much, much better than it sounds, cost us the princely sum of £10.73 in one of the better restaurants in the poshest shopping mall on the island.

On the subject of prices, four hour’s travel for four people didn’t cost us much either. The half hour tricycle ride from the village into La Carlota cost us 27p each, the hour and a half bus journey from La Carlota to Bacolod 43p each and a twenty minute taxi ride for four in a brand new air conditioned Honda Civic just 75p.

The interesting part of the journey was when we reached the bus terminus in La Carlota just after dark, about half past six. There are two types of tricycles plying their trade in the town; there are the smaller ones which just operate around the town and which can take five or six people at a push, and the larger ten to twelve people capacity vehicles which operate within a ten to fifteen mile radius of La Carlota. Regardless of capacity, they are powered by a an old and knackered bike of no more than 150cc.

The one which stopped for us already had eight people on board plus all of their shopping. We waved the driver away because we didn’t think he could take us and our shopping. I forgot to mention what else we bought in addition to the dongle.

The truck Gill uses to collect sugar cane isn’t entirely legal. It has neither driver nor passenger seats. There’s just a couple of planks supported by two old upturned boxes. The truck was also short of a horn. I’m lead to believe that the DIY seating is legal, but the missing horn is not.

Sally decided that the truck should have both. Gill new where to get them.

After enjoying the air conditioned walkways and fancy façades of the SM shopping mall, briefly immersed ourselves in the noise and fumes of the automotive district in overcrowded down town Bacolod.

Walking through the doorway to their trade counter was like stepping back fifty years in time. Wrinkled elderly clerks sat at island workstations like oversized school desks equipped with ancient typewriters and mountainous piles of yellowed receipts and folded invoices.

Gill asked about the seats he believed they stocked. An assistant showed us half a dozen they had stored behind the counter. None were in particularly good condition. He stopped us as we turned to leave and beckoned us to follow him through a doorway into the back of a shop.

He led us through an Aladin’s cave of automotive parts, along corridors and up steps to a higher floor and then another, and another until we reached a cavernous room high above the ant-like activity in the street below.

The space was completely filled with second hand car seats, literally hundreds and hundreds of them from every make of car imaginable. After a long and heated debate Sally and Gill decided not to buy one of the seats which they thought was 2,100 pesos, just over £28. The salesman told them they were mistaken. The price was for two seats, not one.

PCS_1273

They carried both of the seats back through the warehouse and down to the trade counter on the ground floor where they paid for them in cash. I thought that the bulky seats would then be put to one side pending collection by Gill or one of the extended family when they were next in the area with a vehicle. Gill and Sally had other ideas.

We hailed a passing taxi to take the four of us plus our car seats to the bus station. The taxi driver didn’t look the least surprised when we produced the chairs. He found a couple of short lengths of frayed rope which he used to loosely secure his flapping boot before lurching into the chaotic traffic at the normal breakneck speed.

The bus driver didn’t blink an eye either but he did charge us £1 to take each of the chairs with us on our hour and a half journey.

I thought we would really be in trouble when we reached the bus station in La Carlota. The tricycle drivers stop operating at dusk. They stop then because the trade normally dries up rather than because of the danger of trying to negotiate uneven road surfaces without lights, so we were lucky to find one.

Unfortunately we weren’t luck enough to find an empty one. There were already seven people plus their shopping on board. Remember that this is a 150cc motor bike with a sidecar which has all kinds of seats, shelves and platforms welded to it.

The driver managed to find space for the four of us and then enlisted help from the other passengers to recline the seats as far as possible and then lift them upside down onto the roof where they were secured with bits of twine in a not entirely secure looking fashion.

I ride on an overloaded tricycle in the dark is an experience which will stay with me for a long, long time.

Turning lights on in the dark is either considered as something which only wimps do, or as a complete waste of time. Not only did our driver resist the temptation to light up his route, and alert other vehicles to his presence, he also felt the need to wear his sunglasses to protect his eyes from the flies which peppered our unprotected faces like hail.

Effective vision is always handy on roads frequented by other unlit vehicles and pedestrians and essential to spot the numerous bone jarring potholes in the poorly maintained roads. Our driver’s tactic was to keep to the wrong side of the road where he thought the road quality was better, swerving out of the way of oncoming equally hard to see tricycles and occasional monstrous sugar cane lorries at the very last moment.

We survived the journey. I don’t know how, but we reached the village after the usual hour, covered in dead flies and an icy sweat, but otherwise unharmed. Another day in paradise.

 Continued in part four.

Narrowboat Builders?

We would like some suggestions, as to who to go to, to get quotes for a live-aboard new build. It may well turn out to be a “sailaway + bits fitted” for us to finish ourselves but we want the basics to be right for us and we don’t think we need/can afford a complete “bespoke” build.
We have already visited;

Wharf House narrowboats – very impressed
Tristar (Jeremy Greenwood)
Nottingham Boats

While I’m managing to post this, maybe you can advise on the relative costs of buying a secondhand boat and getting it altered/sorted to suit us?

Ta

Rob

Building An Aluminium Narrowboat – Part 6

Continued from part 5

7th of April 2011.

Another week has flown by and I visit Sea Otter Boats again.  The engine has just been unpacked from its crate.

Engine 1
I suspect that I pushed the amiable repartee which had developed between us over the last few months to a perilous new level when I told Paul  (in a very serious manner and with a very straight face) “I’m sure I ordered a red one”.

The big round bit of the engine between the two nearest mounting brackets, and with a black box on top, is the 240V “intercalated generator”, designed to produce 4.5KW, when the engine is running.

Engine 2

Those two mushroom-shaped handles at the top left of the photograph are for the oil removal pumps, one for the engine oil, and one for the gearbox oil, the latter being an optional extra.

The circular thing at bottom right is a standard Sea Otter fitment, similar to a “Python Drive”.  I’m told it will take up a certain amount of misalignment between engine and drive-shaft, and a rubbery bit within reduces vibration.

There’s a funny thing about this engine.  You would think, looking at the photographs of it that the two mounting brackets, on the SAME SIDE of the engine, are in line with one another.   But they aren’t, despite the fact that they ARE shown to be in line on the diagram that came with the engine.  The distance between the rearmost pair (nearest the drive shaft) is several mm’s greater than the distance between the two front ones (nearest the alternators).

This may not seem important……until engine fitting time, when the bit of the engine block, nearest to the rear mounts, catches on the inside of the aluminium box-section engine bearers, and doesn’t allow the rear mounts to sit squarely on the bearers.  Emergency modifications needed to be carried out, hence the two cut-outs on the bearers shown in the photograph of the engine bay below.
Engine bay
14th of April 2011.

A framework for the airing cupboard has been constructed, and a chrome radiator is fitted to the right of the calorifier.  That will be one warm airing cupboard.

Calorifier cupboard
A full height “wardrobe-type” door will be fitted later.

This will be difficult to photograph (and also to extract!) once the kitchen work-surface is fitted.  It is a neat sliding unit on the left-hand-side of the top shelf, constructed by Nigel around a “B & Q” cutlery tray.  (Ignore the coiled up gas-pipe!)  There is a similar one, but smaller, on the right-hand-side of the same shelf.  The utilisation of both means that there is no inaccessible place on that top shelf.

Another sliding unit
This is a very neat cutlery drawer beautifully constructed by Nigel and fitted BEHIND the right-hand-side kitchen cupboard door.

Cutlery drawaer
A neatly fitted towel-rail in the bathroom.

Electric towel rail
14th of April 2011.

I’m not visiting my boat-builders today, but nevertheless, I’ve just paid £334.00 EXTRA !

And that’s just to comply with new regulations !

My reader may remember that I bought my Morso Squirrel HS-022 stove in February 2011, along with the fitting kit, from Midland Chandlers, Preston Brook branch.  But, subsequently, in March 2011, a new British Standard came into effect pertaining to the fitting of solid fuel stoves in canal boats (BS 8511:2010). This means the fitting kit I bought is not now suitable.  In fact, neither should I even be locating my new stove where planned.  Probably the most common place for a stove on a narrowboat, between the bow steps and the hull, is NOT now recommended under the new code of practice !

Well, there’s nothing I can do about that at this stage in the building of the boat.  But we’ll do our best to follow the other guide-lines regarding the fitting.  The biggest change as far as I can see is that the roof collar and chimney must be double-skinned, additionally the roof-collar must be insulated, and the chimney must be 2 feet tall when moored and in use.

So I ring Midland Chandlers to ask if they’ll take the originally-purchased (and unused) fitting kit back, credit me for it all, and supply me with a new one which complies with the regulations.   Well……up ‘till now they’ve always been very helpful…..and …..today…… was no exception !  “Certainly”, they said.

So this is what I paid £334.00 EXTRA for:-
Morso flue kit
There is good news too.  This is a “genuine” kit is supplied by Morso, and it appears to be very good quality.   I know how hot a flue pipe gets on a boat, and how close “things” can get to it.  In this kit the entire flue-pipe is double-skinned and insulated, which goes beyond the recommendations.  Money well spent ?  Well, as I understand it, these new regulations are advisory only, but in the case of a fire caused by a new stove installation after March 2011, a subsequent insurance claim may be prejudiced if the recommendations have not been followed.   So perhaps…. yes.

5th of May 2011.

The fibreglass granite-effect kitchen work-surface is made “in-house” in a very tidy but rather smelly work-shop.  THE WHOLE TOP shown here is moulded in one piece, and that includes the moulded sink and drainer.  So, no joins whatsoever.  There is a choice of colour, my wife chose the mottled brown.
Kitchen work suface
Only the splash-backs are constructed and fitted separately.  I ventured into the smelliest place in the factory to see them under construction:-

Splash-backs

The same applies to the top for the bathroom vanity unit.

Bathroom cupboard

The water pump and accumulator are now neatly installed under the TV cabinet in lounge.
Pump & accumulator
The brushed satin twin sockets which are now being fitted show obvious finger marks and stains.  I don’t like them, for mostly that reason, and ask for chrome ones to be fitted instead.  The chrome ones will also better match the window-frames and exposed water-pipes.  I don’t suppose they were too happy about that, but they didn’t show it, and they’re replaced on my next visit.

 17th of May 2011.

The engine is finally installed, along with much of the wiring:-
Engine installed
Externally the propeller shaft and skeg are being aligned:-

Lining up prop
Meanwhile, in the electrics cupboard the power controller is installed, along with the 3KW inverter:-

Power controller &  Inverter (right)
The power controller decides automatically from where the 240v power comes to supply mains to the internal sockets and equipment.  If shore-power is available, it’ll automatically use that.  If not, then the generated power from the engine will be used if available. If neither of those is available (and presuming the inverter is switched on) it will utilise the charge from the battery bank to power that inverter.

My boat is due to be shown at the Crick Boat Show in ten days time.  The pressure is on.  The lads are confident that it will be finished to their usual very high standard in time for Crick, but there’s a lot to do…..minor things…….like painting and sign-writing and installation of stove and lights and consumer units and throttle and control panels and batteries and cupboards and doors and carpet and windows and side-hatch and rubbing strake and rear seats and settees and …………

My next report will tell you if it was completed in time for Crick.

Continued in part 7

Building An Aluminium Narrowboat – Part 5

Continued from part 4

2nd of March 2011.

I normally call at Sea Otter Boats weekly but it has been almost 2 weeks since my last visit (because of the intervening Birmingham boat show) and the internal layout is well under way.

Lounge to dinette
The 240v Dimplex fan heater that I supplied has been neatly fitted into the forward facing panel to provide fast heating of the lounge when plugged into the mains, very useful for that first hour when arriving to the boat on a cold winter’s day and before the stove is fired up.

Dinette 2

The main frame of the dinette has been raised by 7 inches since I last saw it, and access to all under-seat storage areas are now provided for by both doors AND removable top panels

kitchen
The main kitchen cupboards are under construction, and my tin-store is clearly visible under the central area of the kitchen unit base.  I need to tell you that here, there was a misunderstanding!  When I requested this storage compartment I presumed that Nigel & the team would construct it so that the tins would be laid on their side, so that the labels could be read….but no, it was constructed in order to take vertically stored tins !  (Paul tried to explain their reasoning for this by claiming that there are no labels on the tins from the very cheapo supermarket that they all shop in at Chesterfield !)  But everyone did agree that the additional height needed for vertically stored tins did raise the work surfaces to an unacceptably high level.  The base needs to be lowered, and I’ll be more careful with the descriptions of my requests in future.

You may just be wondering how my tin-store will accessed when the cupboards are fully laden ?……more later.

The gas pipe has appeared.  This has been run under the gunnels, and can be accessed with ease, as per boat safety regulations.  The fridge will be positioned with its back to the unused portion of that dinette seat back, on the right of the photograph, and the cooker will stand opposite it.

9th of March 2011.

More work has been carried out in the dinette.  The least obvious is the installation of the dual rubbish bin, which has been fitted with great care & attention to detail, under the seating nearest the kitchen.
Bin openBin closed
I am very impressed with the way the contours of the wooden bin front exactly matches those of the dinette base unit.  Also, the storage spaces around the sides of the bin are accessible either by the fold-down side-flap shown, or by the removable under-seat panels.  I don’t like wasted space.

Moving along the boat I see that the hole for the shower door has been cut out of the panel, and the piping installed.  The trace-heating is visible once again.  The shower pump is to be situated under the nearby vanity unit.

Shower
Arriving in the bedroom I see that the construction of the bed is well under way.

Bed
This bed is 4 feet wide, which we think is the widest possible if the corridor is still to be useable.  My last boat had a slightly narrower bed, perhaps 3 feet 9 inches wide, but it was extendable by about 6 inches, which did make a big difference.  We’ve decided we can sleep with 3 inches less width, and without the hassle of extending the bed.  Actually, pulling the mattress out by just a couple of inches at bedtime will make a big difference with very little effort.

There will be two large drawers under the bed.

As I leave Nigel is fitting the overhead cupboard :-
Cupboard over bed-head
On another subject, Sea Otter do not fit TV aerials, because everyone wants something different, and many are subsequently updated, possibly leaving holes in the roof which need filling.  The aerial hole in my previous boat leaked, and you’ll know by now my views on drilling holes in a boat roof unless absolutely necessary.  My soon-to-be-purchased “LOG” aerial will be mounted utilising an aluminium tube soon to be welded to the front bulkhead.

16th of March 2011.

Back again, and the radiators & associated pipe-work have been fitted.

Radiators installed
The 22mm chrome pipes will be exposed both as an attractive feature and additional heat distributors.  All the radiators & pipes will have to be removed again prior to the fitting of the carpet.

Another preview of the kitchen cupboard configuration.

Sliding basket
I sourced two sliding baskets from a firm called “Scotts of Stow”, part number 107 4748 @ £79.90 for two, and Sea Otter fitted them for me, one on either side of the bottom shelf of the main kitchen cupboard, above my tin-store, which has been lowered since my last visit !  The baskets can be slid across towards the centre of the cupboard to access all that is held within.  There will be a similar arrangement for the top shelf in that same cupboard, not yet fitted.  Both systems will help to maximise the use of the space available, and avoid “dead corners”.

 24th of March 2011.

Nigel has fitted an extremely neat bi-folding door to the front of the corridor wardrobe, between the bedroom at the stern and the bathroom door.  Without realising this, when fully folded in the open position, it will double up as a very effective privacy screen between the main bedroom and the rest of the boat.

Bi-folding door

Another neat addition, my B&Q sourced sliding unit meticulously installed in the kitchen, next to where the fridge is to be.

Kitchen sliding unit

And useful storage provided under the dinette floor.

Dinette storage

29th of March 2011.

The Cassette loo has been fitted, and the vanity unit is under construction :-

Cassette loo

And the calorifier is tried for size :-

Calorifier

It is temporarily supported by a wooden frame at the height from the floor as recommended in the manual, to allow for space to replace the internally fitted immersion heater element if necessary.

My Nanni engine is due next week, and the electrician will be back on the job, so lots to look forward to in April as the completion of the boat proceeds.

Continued in part 6

A Case Study Of Liveaboard Narrowboat Victoria Plum

Here’s a story with a happy ending. Don Wilkinson was made redundant at the tender age of fifty three (my age). Since then he’s spent seventeen years cruising the canal and river network on his own boat. He’s still cruising and still enjoying every minute of it.

Who are you? (and your significant other and, of course, your dog if you have one)

I am a 70year old male Don Wilkinson. No significant other or pets. ie Single handed boater.

Tell me a little about yourself and why you decided to live a life afloat

I had a 4 day holiday on an Anglo Welsh hire boat about 30years ago and loved it. Set my stall out to leave work at 55, buy a
boat and live on it cruising the canals. Luckily I got made redundant at age 53 and have been happy ever since.

What is your boat called and why did you decide on that name?

DSCF2132

My boat is called “Victoria Plum” and I also push a small 13ft butty called Victoria Plum`s Garage. Initially the garage held a
Vespa scooter and sidecar. For the last few years it has held an electric mobility scooter plus junk I don`t want in the boat. The     name was on the second hand boat I had 10 happy years on. Rather than pay a signwriter to put the name on I invested in a pair of cast aluminium nameplates. When I got my new boat 7 years ago I transferred the nameplates.

Do you have a permanent mooring?

I have a permanent mooring at Viking marina in Goole (East Yorkshire) right at the Eastern end of the Aire & Calder canal. This is my 3rd marina, previously at Blue Water Marina for 10 years and Stanilands Marina for 5 years. Both located on the  Stainforth and Keadby canal in Thorne South Yorkshire. I moved marinas only to find a cheaper mooring and save money. ( I     am Yorkshire man with a reputation to uphold.)

What is your boat style and length

My boat is 57 feet long by 6ft 10″. She is a narrowboat but with a fixed wheelhouse putting my air-draft up to 6ft 6″. This      prevents me transiting the tunnel on the Huddersfield narrow canal as their max height is 6ft 2″. When I asked about putting  45 gall drums of water on the back deck to get the air draft down BW  said I would then be too deep. ( I normally draw 3ft 2″). So far on my travels this has been the only place I could not access although I do often touch bottom while cruising.

How long have you been a narrowboat owner?

17 years

How did you finance your boat?

Luckily by being made redundant the Redundancy pay plus a lump sum payment from my pension enabled me to buy my first  vessel for cash without having to sell my bungalow in Kingston upon Hull. Renting this out has replaced the pension I lost by  leaving work so early. Using all my savings, max out 2 credit cards and selling the old boat financed the new one.

How much time do you spend on your boat each year?

I have slept off the boat about 6 times in 17 years when visiting friends, and changing the tenant in the bungalow.

Are you still working? (If so, what do you do?)

Luckily no.

What do you like least about narrowboat life?

People on “posh” cruisers looking down on me. eg. Last year on the River Thames 4 big cruisers on a visitor mooring with about 30 ft between them. When I approached the owner of the last vessel I asked if he would mind moving closer to the boat ahead of him so that I could moor up astern of him. His answer- I have already washed my hands ready for dinner. When I offered to move it for him he went a funny colour and used language I am not prepared to repeat. I found another mooring.

What do you like most about narrowboat life?

Meeting such lovely people on narrowboats, offering advice or just a chat, helping where needed. Also being able to have a    different view out the window each time I do the washing up!!

If you could change just one thing about your boat, what would it be?

Reduce the draft so I would spend less time rubbing the bottom of the cut.

When you are cruising how do you resupply (How do you get to the supermarket without a car)?

If I can`t moor directly outside or within a couple of hundred yards of a supermarket the mobility scooter comes out. For a big     shop I tow a shopping trolley. Alternatively use the bus pass.

How do you do your washing when you are cruising?

Full sized washer drier on board powered by a Travel Power 240 generator.

What type of toilet do you have on board and are you happy with it?

Vetus macerator toilet “feeding” a massive 24 cubic foot tank under the bed. Needs pumping out usually 3 times a year so
delighted with it. ( It does influence the draft when getting full)

How do you connect to the internet when you are on your boat and are you happy with the service you receive?

A dongle from “3”. On a 4 month voyage to Bath last year there were maybe 6 nights when I got no service. Much better than the television reception!! My mobile is also with 3 which also gives good coverage throughout the country, so yes very happy.

What is your favourite canal or section of canal?

Difficult one to answer. I love most of them. If I have to choose just one it has to be the Llangollen. Second the village of    Willington on the Trent & Mersey canal.

How do you generate electricity when you are cruising and how much do you use?

I have a 45amp & 95 amp alternators feeding a charging system filling 5×120 ah domestic plus a 120ah engine start battery.Also I have a 3.5kw Travel Power which supplies the boat with mains power while the engine is running. Having a 240 volt fridge and 240 volt full size freezer, large microwave, big tv, disc players etc, plus a 240 volt lighting circuit usage is very high.I decided to go the mains route as I use a night time breathing machine due to sleep apnoea so have to use the inverter all night so saved money by buying big equipment 240 volt rather than 12 volt models. With hindsight I should have gone the 12volt route. Night time usage usually about 150amp hours takes about 3 to 4 hours engine running to fill batteries up again.

How warm is your narrowboat in the winter?

At the marina I use electric radiators and are very happy with them. I have a Hurricane diesel heater feeding 6 radiators which I use while cruising. As the heater uses about 10 litres a day to heat the boat and a 25 gallon calorifier it is much cheaper to use electric heating whilst connected to the mains.

What advice can you offer someone considering living on a narrowboat?

Have a holiday on a boat during the early or late part of the year when the weather is cooler. If you enjoy the trip while it`s not bright sunshine then you are going to be delighted when it is. Don`t buy a boat to find cheap accommodation. You have to  enjoy the views and wildlife.

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Are you one of the lucky few who lives the dream on board your own narrowboat full time? Would you like to share your experience with some of the thousands of potential floating home owners who visit this site? If you can spare the time to answer a few simple questions, I would love to hear from you. Just let me know so I can email the questions to you. I’ll create a post like the one above complete with a link back to your own blog or website.

Tony & Jane Robinson.

Just a lovely day.

Good morning to you all and today’s weather looks like being the same as yesterdays, warm, dry and maybe a little bit of sunshine too.

Frosty morn 12 Jan 14 034Yesterday was my first day off of four, I work 12hr shifts 4 days on 4 days off, and lounged in bed till about 7.30, I know I’m an idle person but somedays you need a lie in. Isn’t it nice now it’s beginning to get light by 7am and it’s not dark till 6pm gone, wonderful.

Breakfast consisted of red grapes, natural Greek style yoghurt drizled with local honey given to me by Jamie one of my work mates who keeps his own bees. I have a lot of common tastes but I think this is a breakfast fit for Royalty.

After breakfast I practised a little guitar, Paper Moon, Cheek to Cheek and a couple of my own songs then wandered up to the facilities block with my rubbish and ash bucket with just a couple of T shirts on as it was really warm, especially for the middle of winter. As I got to the top of the steps I turned round and looked out over the marina and again thought how lucky I am to have ended up here with this life style. Maybe I’ll be bored and fed up of it in a couple of years who knows anything for certain but…..

Having deposited the ash and rubbish and walking back listening to the birds, some singing and some just chirping I thought I should learn about the different bird calls so I could tell which birds they were.Frosty morn 12 Jan 14 017 They still sound beautiful even when they are unknown. It was one of those days where I just felt quietly at peace with most of the world and my self too. So much so that with the warm spring like weather that after checking my gearbox for oil leaks, I changed the drain plug washer last week has it had perished and was leaking, putting fresh news paper underneath to see where if there are any more leaks, starting the engine up to charge my batteries I then got the sandpaper out and sanded down the wordwork in the bathroom ready to undercoat. I’m glad there isn’t a lot as after a couple of hours I get fed up and my enthusiasm and attention to detail tend to wear off. I did stop a couple of times but only to take my washing up to the laundry room and then again to change said washing to a drying machine.

The sun kept popping out and everywhere seemed so peaceful and quiet. Even when people are walking about and chatting it still seems so quiet and unintrusive especially when compared to out in the world. One of the other things I notice and love but keep forgetting to mention is the smells. Maybe it’s just me, no I don’t mean it’s me that smells, but the smell when you walk down the pontoons, the mix of water, wood the reeds and other things unkown which lend, to me anyway, a scent that says home. The different smells of the smoke from the chimneys and the one that Frosty morn 12 Jan 14 035brings back memories for me from 40 odd years ago is the smell when opening the pram hood, when returning home, of the canvas and diesel from the engine sat beneath the stern, reminds me of the broads holidays we had when I was “no’buralad”. That’s were my love of boats started. With a broads cruiser and cruisers still hold a lot of charm for me though mainly the real wooden built one’s not the plastic one’s so much but there isn’t the space inside like there is in a narrowboat.

After a couple of cream crackers with cheese slices, the rubber processed cheese type, and a cup of coffee for lunch I checked the news paper under the gearbox and not a dop. However checking again this morning there is one tiny drop on the paper but not from the drain plug and not in enough quantitiy to be really concerned but will keep an eye on it. Finished the sanding and tidied up then changed out of my working clothes and decided a little reading would be in order.

I’ve got back into reading more since I’ve been afloat and don’t have a TV. I know I can watch online but I’m not really a TV fan anyway. I like books that have a spiritual and philosophical type of bent, I like Philip Yancy a good Christian writer but quite unorthodox. I’ve read a few by M Scott Peck who is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist and a very intersting writer he is too and some old things from my hippy days by Kahlil Gibran, Paulo Coelho and things of that ilk. But I also like Spike Milligan and Bill Bryson and I’ve just started getting into Stephen King after I found out he’d written the original book which they made into the film Running Man with Arnie in. There are a few holes in the plot at times but I have to give him his due I find him a really good story teller. I’ve only read a few but once I’ve started one of his they are very hard to put down and whether they are of critical aclaim or not a good story to lose yourself in is the mark of a good writer and I like things with a horror/Science Fiction feel to them as they make you think a bit sometimes.

I had a royal breakfast then a frugal dinner and now it’s time for a common tea of haggis, mashed potatoes and a tin of processed peas absolutely lovely it was even thought the haggis is a tinned variety from Aldi. It isn’t quite as good as a sort of proper one in a bladder but very eatable all the same and I’m afraid I love processed peas. I wouldn’t touch hardly any other green stuff when I was growing up especially cabbage and brussels yuk. My mother must have felt like throttling me at times. Mashed potatoes with salt while cooking then mashed with butter and milk and then whipped up with a fork to make them light and fluffy. Taken with a glass of Morrisons vintage still cider from the box, a cheeky little number.

Frosty morn 12 Jan 14 057A check through my emails and an hour trolling through ebay and things then a glass of Talisker, my favourite whisky, and back to Cell by Stephen King which took me a couple of hours to finish it and then to bed.

Not a very exciting day by everyone’s standards but I really enjoyed it. I stopped here and there on my travels and had a chat with people who’s paths I crossed some I knew and some I didn’t. I watched a moorhen walking down a jetty and looked up at the birds flying above and wondered if that one was an oyster catcher, we have some at the marina, or was it just a gull, I saw a cormorant glide up and perch on top of the electicity pylon in the next field which has a huge 100yd long puddle beneath it. The sun shone at times and we only had one short bout of rain which was quite heavy and coincided with Keith my next boat neighbour cycling home from work. The only rain we had all day caught him. I tried to suggest that maye that was lucky but his reply wasn’t really printable.

Anyway that was yesterday and I’m finishing this as the light is nearly gone today and it’s getting very close to 6 o’clock. The days are drawing out I’m glad to say. Oh and the pictures don’t really match with the post as they were took around Christmas time but it brightens up the post does a few photos.

Take care

Nige.

2014 02 16 Newsletter – First Winter On Board

I’m struggling with my choice of internet café. There are two in La Carlota. One is at the rear of a grocery store. In fact, the internet room doubles as a store room. You have to step over and around stacks of boxes and cases to reach the work stations. The connection is quite slow but the room is fairly easy to concentrate.

The other option is a dedicated internet café with about twenty work stations and a reasonably quick connection to t’internet. The problem is that it’s half the price of option one at 13p per hour rather than 26p per hour and it’s geared up for internet gaming.

The place is constantly full of screaming children, mainly boys. There are two rooms with about ten work stations in each. The boys like to sit as far away from each other as possible, preferably in different rooms, then swap tactical game plans at sufficient volume to drown out the noise created by prepubescent boys who are doing exactly the same thing.

As you can imagine, it’s quite noisy, so concentrating is very difficult.

Digital data safety is also an issue here. I’ve been doing most of the newsletter writing in the comparative peace and quiet at the house. In order to transfer what I’ve written from my laptop to the internet café computer I was using a card reader I’ve had for years to transfer documents on to my camera flash card. I’ve then plugged the card reader into café computer.

Last Saturday my card reader stopped working. It’s been temperamental for a while but finally gave up the ghost. I knew I could pick up another in Bacolod a few days later but I had an immediate issue with transferring content from my laptop to the café workstation.

I decided to use my Kindle as a removable drive as I knew that there was plenty of free space on it. I successfully transferred all of the documents I needed, finished formatting the newsletter, scheduled it to go out at the normal time in the UK, then returned to the house for a relaxing afternoon’s reading on the terrace overlooking the forest behind the house.

I have several hundred books on the Kindle, all that I’ve purchased and read since buying the device three years ago. They had all disappeared. All I was left with was reference to each of the books in the Kindle’s archive.

I didn’t know what had happened to the books or where they had disappeared to but one of the many features of the Kindle I like is the ability to download books wherever you are in the world. The connection at the house was extremely slow but within ten minutes I had my current book back on the Kindle. What’s more it was synced to the last page I had read the night before.

I was still puzzled but didn’t think anything more about the digital disappearance until I connected the Kindle to my laptop later in the day to charge it. My laptop’s anti virus flagged up an worm infection on the Kindle. I now knew what had happened to my precious books.

Fortunately I now have another card reader so my bedtime reading should be safe from now on.

Philippines Blog

I’ve now managed to add some photo’s to the first part of my Philippine experience (and correct some of the more obvious spelling mistakes. Sorry about that) and add part two, also with photo’s.

I hope you don’t mind the deviation from the normal newsletters. It’s so difficult writing about the difficulty of coping with excessive wind and rain when, for me, nothing could be further from the truth.

Never mind, only two weeks to go and I’ll be sharing tales of woe and ineptitude with you as I battle with damp and my depressingly regular issues with even the simplest DIY

First Winter Aboard

I remember my first winter very well. It was a baptism of fire, or rather a baptism of ice with the coldest average temperatures ever recorded in the UK.

Six months previously I had moved on to a boat which leaked like a sieve and which had insulation about as thick as a threadbare shirt. I had to wear two fleece tops and a fleece hat if I moved further than five feet from the stove. I woke up on several mornings to find the temperature in the bedroom just below freezing and frost coating the inside of the engine room just a couple of feet from my head.

The marina was frozen under six inches of ice between the last week of November and the first week of January. Boats with pump out toilets couldn’t empty them and boats with cassette toilets could empty their waste tanks but couldn’t wash them out because the taps were frozen.

This winter has been much different. The temperature has been unusually mild. We normally turn the water supply to our Meadows marina off at the end of November but here we are in the middle of February with an above ground water supply to all piers still working.

The winter hasn’t been cold, but it hasn’t been pleasant either. One worry has replaced another. Boaters don’t have to worry about their boats delicate pipes and pumps suffering damage from freezing water, but they do need to think about the water falling from the heavens in biblical proportions.

The rivers are overflowing, CRT’s resources are stretched to breaking point as they try to minimise water damage and anyone living on a mooring next to what used to be grass is knee deep in liquid mud.

You could be forgiven for thinking that winter on board a boat isn’t an enjoyable experience. The weather can be a bit of a pain, but living afloat beats living on Terra Firma hands down in my book. Most boaters would agree with me. One of them is Nigel Buttery, “Our Nige” on the forum, who is spending his first winter afloat.

Nige has his own blog on the site. He’s just posted some thoughts about his winter experience so far. I’m not entirely sure that he’s telling the truth about one of the most colourful waterways inhabitants, but I agree with everything else he says. His post is here. If you enjoy what he’s written, you can find the rest of his posts here.

Building An Aluminium Narrowboat

Last week I published the first two parts of Brian Colling’s fascinating account of how his Sea Otter narrowboat was built. Here are installments three and four. In case you missed last week’s newsletter,  here are the first two parts. I hope you find them as interesting as I have.

Helpful Hints

Michelle Chapman has done it again. Here’s another useful tip for the frugal boat owners among you.
“Here’s a tip for this week. Oven cleaning, I make up a paste of bicarbonate of soda, then spread the paste on the oven walls and the glass. I usually leave overnight and wipe clean. This paste cuts through even the hardest of  burnt on food.
Bicarb can be bought cheaply enough from Aldi much cheaper in fact than commercial oven cleaners and much friendlier to the canal no harsh chemicals going into the water system.”
Don’t let Michelle do all the hard work. If you are a boat owner, or if you have useful tips for boat owners, please email me with them here.

Suggestions Please!

I’ve been writing regular newsletters for a couple of years now. During the first year they were every two weeks or so. To be honest, the frequency was a bit hit and miss. My New Year’s resolution, and one that I’m delighted to say that I’ve kept, was to send out a newsletter every Sunday, rain or shine. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.

Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.

Newsletter Index

I created the site just over three years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time.  The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far.

26th January 2014

Cold floors, cold air above the floors and cold hull sides. It’s a combination which can cause your bottom half quite a bit of discomfort. Here’s what I do to deal with the problem.

19th January 2014

Weil’s disease – It’s an often talked about and often feared aspect of living, working or playing close to inland waterways but just how dangerous is it and what can you do to keep yourself safe?

12th January 2014

If you’re on a budget maybe a self fit our sailaway is the way to go for you. Here’s the story of a wide beam self fit out to give you inspiration (or put you off completely)

5th January 2014

Planning for the year ahead – Written plans and goals have always been important to me. They help me see into the future. Here’s what we’ve planned for our lovely floating home in 2014.

29th December 2013

The practicality of hosting Christmas afloat – How do you achieve a floating festive event (and do you really want to)?

Liveaboard case study, The Pearl – Tony and Jane Robinson believe in forward planning. They stated their narrowboat fund thirty years before buying their own boat. Now the two retired education workers moor in a marina for the winter then explore the waterways during the warmer months.

22nd December 2013

Narrowboat Storage Space – How much space is there to store your worldly goods on board a narrowboat? Here’s a video walk-through of my own boat James.

15th December 2013

Roses and Castles Canal Art – What is it and why do boaters spend so much money decorating their boats with it?

8th December 2013

Fitting secondary double glazing – Fitting the panels is a simple operation for those with the most basic DIY skills, something which I sadly haven’t developed. As you might expect then, the fitting didn’t go as well as it should.

Narrowboat videos – I launched the Living On A Narrowboat YouTube channel

1st December 2013

Secondary double glazing for your boat – The pros and cons of double glazing on a boat and why secondary double glazing is a much better bet and a fraction of the cost.

Living on a narrowboat vidoes – My first hesitant steps into the world of video production for site content

Can you either live or holiday on a narrowboat if you have a disability? – Here’s what you need to know.

24th November 2013

Winter fuel allowance – Do you qualify for one if you live on a boat?

Case Study – NB Progress. Kim Wainwright recorded her journey on the forum from nervous anticipation to current liveaboard boat owner. Here’s her story.

17th November 2013

Narrowboat central heating – I don’t have any. All that is about to change. Here’s the system I’m going to install and why I’ve chosen it.

10th November 2013

Narrowboat running costs – I compare my own running costs to those of a prominent YouTube video blogger and detail my exact costs for October 2013

3rd November 2013

Popular narrowboat terminology – Hundreds or words or phrases used to describe parts of boats and the waterways they cruise through.

27th October 2013

The wind chill factor – How strong the wind is blowing and which direction it’s coming from can determine how difficult it is to heat your boat. Here’s what you need to know.

Case study – Another couple from down under living the dream on the inland waterways.

20th October 2013Condensation. It’s a common problem on boats. Here are a few suggestions how to keep your boat’s interior dry.

A new organisation for liveaboard boaters

13th October 2013

On demand water heater problems – Discover a common fault with these water heaters and what you can do to resolve the problem.

Know your firewood – Not all timber burns well. Find out which is best and which to avoid.

6th October 2013

Managing your boat’s water supply. You can use your water supply as and when you need it when you live in a house with all mod cons. You can pretty much do the same when you’re on a marina mooring with a water supply just a hose length away. It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re on an online mooring.

Liveaboard case study – A prime example of mooring without a water supply on tap.

29th September 2013

The folly of using unseasoned wood as a fuel – Here’s essential information if you plan to use logs you find to heat your boat for free

Creating lasting memories of your cruises – Slightly off topic, but please bear with me. You’ll have some wonderful adventures as you travel throughout the network. They’ll be adventures worth remembering but will you remember them? I have a very poor memory but instant and total recall of all my cruises is just a click away.

22nd September 2013

A tragedy at Calcutt. Sudden Oak Dieback hits our 1,500 twenty year old oak trees

Forum private messaging – Now you can email other forum users from within the site

15th September 2013

Managing your water supply

An American blogs about his travels

1st September 2013

Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube

All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller

8th September

A disaster – I inadvertently deleted this week’s newsletter and there wasn’t a backup on the server. What a shame. It was all about the damage you can do to your boat if you don’t watch what you’re doing in a lock. You would have loved it!

25th August 2013

Effective fly killers for boats

The downside to living on a narrowboat

Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.

18th August 2013

CART Guide Approval – The waterways’  governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!

Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers

Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous

Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?

11th August 2013

A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles

Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring

4th August 2013

The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?

The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?

28th July 2013

The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.

21st July 2013

Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.

14th July 2013

Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.

7th July 2013

Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.

30th June 2013

Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.

Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.

23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?

Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.

Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.

16th June 2013

The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt

Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours

Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.

9th June 2013

I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.

2nd June 2013

An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list

26th May 2013

Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.

Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story

19th May 2013

My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.

Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.

Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.

12th May 2013

An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network

An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings

5th May 2013

Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold

Meet one of your legless canal side companions

The canal network’s largest floating hotel

28th April 2013

Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.

21st April 2013

The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?

Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop

RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivalent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?

14th April 2013

The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.

7th April 2013

Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article

Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.

31st March 2013

Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.

Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.

24th March 2013

Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.

Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.

Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.

17th March 2013

Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start

Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution

Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013

Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.

11th March 2013

James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring

3rd March 2013

Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test

Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.

Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.

Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013

20th February 2013

The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.

8th January 2013

Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.

Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27? GRP cruiser to a 50? narrowboat

24th December

Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis

I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.

18th December 2012

Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis

Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer

2nd December 2012

Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat

Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer

Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat

21st November 2012

First tests and reviews of the budgeting application

The best aerial for a narrowboat television

6th November 2012

The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application

28th October 2012

An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways

Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else

17th October 2012

I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date

14th October 2012

Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs

Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home

30th September 2012

The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners

18th September 2012

I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.

VAT on narrowboat sales

20th July 2012

Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans

Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson

7th July 2012

Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels

10th June 2012

Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)

27th  May 2012

How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.

Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke

13th May 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and

Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly

29th April 2012

DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports

15th April 2012

Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips

Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all

Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats

 1st April 2012

As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.

18th March 2012

The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments

Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.

4th March 2012

Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat

eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)

Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat

A review of Debdale Wharf marina

22nd January 2012

Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now (April 2013) she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.

8th January 2012

The first four narrowboat case studies published

I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study

Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study

Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study

Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.

2nd February 2011

Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter

1th January 2011 – 1st Newsletter

Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners

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.

  • Aluminium Boats – They don’t rust so why don’t you see more of them on the inland waterways?
  • Ironing Board On Board – How do boaters manage a crease free life?
  • Freezing Water – How to stop your pipes and pumps from freezing in the winter
  • CRT & Continuous Cruising – The Trust and their enforcement of the rules
  • Heat – Advice for the owner of a cold boat
  • GPS Devices and Canal Mapping – Are there any decent ones available for your narrowboat and do you need them anyway?
  • Battery Monitors – Replacing your leisure batteries is one of your more expensive maintenance costs. Here’s some detailed information about a device for looking after your batteries
  • Survey Costs – How much should you pay to have your boat removed from the water for a survey?
  • Battery monitors – Gimmick or essential boating equipment?
  • Engine size and performance – Most engines are suitable for pottering about on the canal but what size engine do you need if you plan to cruise on rivers?
  • A Big Inverter Or A Suitcase Generator – What are the pros and cons of either option?
  • Who Owns Your Boat? – How do you find out if there’s still finance attached to your boat when you buy it.
  • Boat Shares – A low cost alternative to outright narrowboat ownership. Advice from a current share owner
  • Plumbing In A Back Boiler – Advice Offered
  • Inverter Installation – What do you need and can you fit one yourself?
  • Getting Rid Of Space Wasting CD’s & DVD’s – The solution is to digitise your collection. Here’s how to do it.
  • Depreciation – How much does a new narrowboat lose in value as the years go by?
  • The Cost Of Continuous Cruising – How much does the nomadic lifestyle really cost?
  • 12v Narrowboat Washing Machines – Is there any such animal?
  • “Chiggers” – It’s a mite you can pick up from the ever growing population of Canada Geese. Beware!
  • Post & Postal Addresses For Continuous Cruisers – You need an address in order to receive post and open bank accounts, register for doctors and hospitals etc. How do continuous cruisers with no fixed abode manage it.
  • Keeping Cool On A Narrowboat – How to keep people and pets cool in the summer
  • It’s Official: There’s No Need To Pay Mooring Fees – Or so this Daily Mail article claims. You may disagree. I do.
  • Overcrowded Waterways – More and more people are choosing a life afloat. Are the waterways becoming congested?
  • VAT On New Narrowboats – Can you knock 20% off the cost of your new narrowboat?
  • Lock Techniques – How do you handle a narrowboat in a lock on your own?
  • Narrowboat Burglary – Two boats burgled at the same location. Where is it and what can you do to minimise the risk of theft from your own boat wherever you are?
  • Insuring Your Car When You Live On A Boat – A boat owner had his car insurance cancelled when he told them he lives on a narrowboat. How does he approach other insurance companies?
  • Remedies For Sooty Stove Glass – For me, one of the great pleasures of living on a narrowboat is a winter evening in front of a flickering fire. Here’s how you can keep your stove glass clear so you can see the fire in all its glory
  • Visitor Moorings With Shore Power – Sometimes you need to hook up to the mains when you moor for the night. Where can you find these moorings?
  • Steam Power – Are there any steam powered narrowboats on the network?
  • Lightning – Is there a risk of your narrowboat being struck by lightning?
  • Overplating/Replating – What’s the difference between the two and what’s involved in having the work done?
  • The Logistics Of Buying A Boat – A fascinating account from a potential narrowboat owner as he tried to get a boat out of the water so that it can be suryeyed.
  • 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.
CRT (Canal & River Trust) maintain the waterways. Here’s their site.
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.
Find out more about narrowboat central heating costs here.

vaccines Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

A Month In Paradise Part Two

Continued from Part One

Suckling Pig

Sally works at a care home just outside Daventry in Northamptonshire. It’s hard and very demanding work. She works twelve hour shifts on an understaffed floor, providing personal care to both men and women too infirm to look after themselves, often enduring kicks, punches, scratches, slaps, spitting and biting.

She does the work because she cares about the people she’d paid to look after. She doesn’t do it for the money. The pay and the working conditions are poor. Poor, that is, if you are used to the luxurious lifestyle we take for granted in the wealthy west.

Most of Sally’s fellow workers are from Eastern Europe or Asia. Many are from the Philippines. If they can find a job in their home country, they’re lucky to earn one hundred pesos a day or roughly £1.30. Even as a low paid care worker they can expect to earn at least £50 a day in the UK.

Many Filippinos, qualified as nurses and midwives in their home country, come to the UK, often leaving their children with friends or relatives, so they can earn a decent wage and save as much as they can to send back to their family.

The foreign employees at the care homes tend to be far harder working than the majority of couldn’t-care-less English staff. Sally has many firm friends among them, including Filippina Sheila.

Sheila lives in Bago City an hour and a half’s bus ride from here in Ara-al. She’s a fully qualified midwife but she can earn twenty five times as much in the UK as a carer.

Sheila left for her month’s break back home three weeks before Sally and I so when we visited her she was having a party to say goodbye to everyone before she left for floods, icy winds and leaden skies.

Week 2.0
Before we arrived Sally promised that she was going to treat me, and about thirty of her favourite relatives to a Filippino treat, suckling pig, or lechon as it’s known here. That was before she found out that the going price for a decent size pig was 4,000 pesos (£54).

Fortunately Sheila’s family had lechon as the centrepiece for a magnificent feast including half a dozen species of fresh caught vividly coloured local fish and a platter overflowing with soft shell crabs.

Sheila’s home adjoins her parents house on a hundred acre plot of rice, sugar cane and banana they farm between then. Only family members are allowed to live on their land and most of them joined us for lunch. A very quick lunch as it turned out because they were having a quick break before returning to the nearby rice fields.

Week 2.1
Our lunch was quite quick too. We didn’t want to get caught in the rush hour and have to endure and hour and a half journey stuck on an overcrowded bus in stifling heat.

Sally and her sisters had just enough time to admire the flowers growing in Sheila’s mother’s garden. Every time they told the old lady how pretty the flowers were, she either uprooted a plant for them to take away or dug deep into a pocket of her voluminous skirt searching for a pair of enormous kitchen scissors she used to take cuttings.

We left with enough plants to start our own florist. Fortunately the bus which took us back was mostly empty, which was a shame because we are able to see and hear the rather pale young man who was bent double for the entire journey being copiously sick into a bulging plastic bag.

The journey ended before the bag either overflowed or exploded. He staggered off down the street aided by his girlfriend and casually tossed his plastic encased half gallon of vomit into the bus station’s only dustbin as he passed.

What a tidy young man!

Trying And Failing To Explore

I’m not happy this morning. It’s nothing to do with the drunken neighbour who sat in his garden last night, just feet away from where Sally and I were trying to sleep. He spent an hour from 9pm, which is way passed bed time here, slurring at tremendous volume, berating the Gods, his wife, his children, the weather, and his ever diminishing bottle of medicinal alcohol, or whatever it was he was drinking, before finally passing out face down in the mud.

It’s nothing to do with the cockerels either. I think every family within earshot, of which there are many, must keep at least one cockerel. At any one time, night and day, they’re crowing and, boy, do they make a racket.

It’s nothing to do with the incessant dog barking. Although dogs have no value here, every family keeps one or two, sometimes three or more, and they all enjoy a good bark at an unusual sound, often all at the same time. Last night they focussed on the drunk. The more he shouted, the more they barked, and the more the cocks crowed.

It’s nothing to do with the music which is blaring from a dozen different sources at the moment. The house we’re in sits on quite a large plot, as far as local plot sizes are concerned anyway, but there are houses on all sides of the property.

Every house appears to have a music system out of all proportion to their meagre income, and every home owner likes to play their favourite tunes at rock concert volume, sometimes all at the same time. At the moment there’s a particularly unpleasant and strident album of an elderly Japanese lady being stabbed to death with blunt knives playing at full blast  It’s not nice at all.

The reason for my unhappiness is Sally’s reluctance to come with me on a long walk, or to allow me, with good grace, to go on the long walk on my own.

The walk in question is a bit of a hike actually. Last week we walked from the house to the edge of the huge Guintubdan nature park. I loved the tiny part of the park we visited.

One of the few snippets of information I can find about the park or about the volcano which sits at its centre indicates that there are reasonable and publicly accessible trails to the mountain’s summit. I want to walk here. Sally and everyone else she can find to side with her, and there are many, say that it is too dangerous.

I told her that I’m quite used to walking in wild places. She sneered when I told her that those “wild” places are in the Scottish Highlands. She talked about poisonous and constricting snakes, poisonous spiders, innocent looking areas of quicksand, unpredictable thermal pools, occasional lava flows, areas of impenetrable and uncharted jungle and rivers and raging falls liable to flood at a moment’s notice. She asked me how many of these things are there in Scotland.

I had to admit that the Scottish Highlands isn’t renowned for anything like that. I suggested that I could hire a guide. She was adamant that any guide I hired was likely to lead me deep into the jungle and leave me there. I can’t argue with her on that point because I don’t know the country and I don’t know the quality of the guides, but I’m not entirely sure that I believe her.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. I haven’t given up yet but I need to do a great deal more research before I can convince both Sally and myself that a walk through thick rain forest up a still active 4,500 metre high volcano is a sensible thing to do.

Internet Problems

Sally wants to get a working internet connection at the property. She wants/needs to communicate with her sister when she’s back in the UK. At the moment it’s difficult.

We have a Skype to mobile subscription to the Philippines which allows Sally to speak to her sister for 120 minutes each month for just under £8. Unfortunately the mobile phone signal is so poor at the property, her sister has to climb down a series of terraces and hang out over the stream at the bottom of the garden before she has any chance of speaking to Sally.

Corazon told us that an infant school teacher who lives in the village has a working internet connection. We visited her this evening to find out what equipment and service she uses. We sat with her at dusk on her balcony overlooking the village’s main street while she explained what we needed to do.

We have to get hold of a modem to connect to the Globe network, one of the two mobile and broadband service providers in the area. In order to obtain the modem we need to register at the local Globe office at La Carlota. Sadly, because the village, Ara-al, where we want the internet connection is in what they have listed as a “dead” zone, they won’t give us a modem.

We can work around that though. The school teacher has a friend, Ann-Marie, in the hamlet of San Miguel 5km from Ara-al who is registered with Globe. She gave us Ann-Marie’s phone number. She told us to call her and ask her for the name of a friend or relative in the same village who would be prepared to register with Globe on our behalf.

The theory is that Globe will install the modem at their property (we will pay the £100 connection fee). We will then visit their property, unplug the modem and bring it back to the house in Ara-al where, with a bit of luck, we’ll be able to position it high enough to get a signal and connect to the internet.

We visited Ann-Marie the following day on our way into Carlota City. Addresses are very difficult to find around here. People, on the other hand, are very easy to locate. All we needed to do was shout at passers by as we trundled through the village on our overloaded tricycle in order to receive a dozen enthusiastically pointed directions.

Ann-Marie was as welcoming as everyone else around here. Unfortunately she wasn’t entirely successful in removing the caked chicken shit from the the old white plastic patio chairs she insisted we sat on before discussing the details.

There are times when I find not knowing the language very frustrating indeed. This was one of them. Ann-Marie agreed that she would order the modem in her name and ask it to be installed at her house. I didn’t understand how she was going to achieve this given that she was already registered with Globe at her home address and already clearly displaying a Globe modem on top of a thirty foot high pole fixed to the size of her house.

Ann-Marie also confidently informed us that the modem would be installed the following day, without any communication with the company or any knowledge of their installation schedule. I kept quiet and waited to see what would happen.

That was two days ago. Ann-Marie waited in all day for the installer yesterday and has waited in all day today. The only person who can give us a clear indication of the fitting time and date isn’t answering the phone at Globe. We’ve been told that she’s very good at her job, but we’ve also been told that the reason she’s not answering the phone is that she sits in the office all day listening to music on a pair of personal headphones, so she can’t actually hear the phone ringing.

Not only does Ann-Marie have to stay in and wait for the installer, I do too. After we finalised the arrangements with her, and after she had placed the order with Globe, she pointed out she doesn’t have a computer of any kind at her house, which confuses me no end. If she doesn’t have a computer, why does she have a modem and why is she paying a monthly subscription for an internet service?

Anyway, she told us that she doesn’t have a computer and that there will need to be a computer at the property when the installer arrives so that he can test that the service is actually working once he has everything set up.

Sally’s sister has just had a text from Ann-Marie. Apparently she’s been in touch with Globe and they’re definitely going to install the modem. Unfortunately they won’t say when. It could be this afternoon, tomorrow, the next day or next week. They won’t say when but they’ve told her that if she’s out when the installer arrives, she will go to the end of the queue again. How’s that for customer service?

The new plan is for everyone to go about their daily business and just hope that Ann-Marie’s in when the installer calls and that she can keep him talking long enough for us to respond to her SOS call and dash back from wherever we are, collect my laptop and take it to her house hoping that the installer hasn’t reached the stage where he needs to test the connection before we get there.

A Little Gentle Landscaping

The house is set on a reasonable sized plot. There’s a flat earthen area in front and to the right hand side of the property and another earthen terrace just behind and below it.

The fact that these areas are earthen and that the coconut and palm trees surrounding it provide permanent shade is something of a problem. The house is on the lower slopes of a 2,500m mountain which attracts a fair amount of cloud and an equal amount of rain.

The earth is always damp and frequently very wet. Sally has decided to cover the particularly damp areas, all one hundred and thirty two square metres with a couple of inches of ¾” gravel.

We’ve worked out that we need about eight square metres of gravel and found a supplier about thirty miles away from the house. Sally doesn’t trust him though. She says that it would be quite usual for us to order and pay for eight square metres and for the supplier to turn up with just six square metres.

The original suggested solution was for me to be ferried to the supplier by motor bike, pay for the gravel, hope that they could deliver it on the day, measure the gravel as it was loaded to make sure we received the right amount, and argue with them if I felt that they weren’t giving us – hoping that they could understand English – then race back to the house to wait for the delivery.

The logistics were further complicated by the fact that there isn’t really anywhere to tip close to ten tonnes of gravel where it’s not going to cause a major traffic jam.

The closest delivery point is eight hundred metres along a very narrow but very busy access road barely wide enough to accept the truck. There’s a stream at the bottom of a four feet deep ditch either side of the road so unless we could persuade the truck driver to very slowly tip the load while he was moving forward, we would lost half the load down the ditches either side.

The current solution, and one which is far more likely to work, involved asking a family relative with a sugar cane carrying truck robust enough to stand ten tonnes of gravel dropped into it to collect the gravel from the supplier and bring it here along with some willing workers to move it from the truck to the house.

The only access to the house is along a 100m steeply downhill sloping mud path peppered with uneven rocks and protruding roots and then, once through the gate, down steep steps. They’ve tried using a wheelbarrow before. It didn’t last long.

All ten tonnes of gravel needs to shovelled into empty 25kg rice sacks, lifted down from the high truck bed, and carried down the path and steps to where it’s needed, all before the other street’s residents get to upset that the only access to their houses is being blocked by a sugar cane truck.

Fortunately the extended family is large and there are plenty of poorly paid or unemployed strapping males who can be called upon at short notice. Sally’s busy organising the post gravel carrying and laying party. There’s going to be plenty of food and a few cases of San Miguel.

I think we’re all going to need it.

Sugar Cane Harvesting The Easy Way

Sally wanted me to experience a day’s work with Gill. We haven’t seen much of him recently. While the sugar cane is being harvested he has to take every opportunity he can to earn some money.

He generally works very long days but he excelled himself last night. He came back to the house at 3am then left again at 5am to return to the fields. He didn’t sleep. He’ll do that when he gets back to the queue of trucks waiting to be loaded with sugar cane. He just had time to have a quick shower, his first for two days as he didn’t return home at all the day before, he ate some rice cooked by his wife – remember they cook using wood so Corizon had to get a fire going before she could do any cooking – he packed a couple of couple of plastic containers with more fresh cooked rice, then he was off again.

No one knows when he’ll be back again.

The problem is that transporting sugar cane for the big land owners is far more lucrative for the truck drivers than transporting it for the smaller growers. The wealthy landowners have vast swathes of land so it’s economically viable to invest in the best equipment to get the job done quickly.

The harvesting machines, and the tractors which service them, can fill a truck in less than half an hour compared with taking all day to fill a truck if it’s done by hand.

Earlier in the week I went to see how it was done. Gill’s second eldest son, Daryl, escorted me to where the truck was waiting to be loaded. The journey involved the usual tricycle ride into La Carlota, then a jeepney ride 10km out of La Carlota in the opposite direction. I’m sure that the jeepney transported us faster than I could walk, but it was a close thing.

Gill’s truck was fourth in a line of ten. There was a problem with the truck being loaded. The tipping sugar cane trailer had caught on the edge of the

Week 2.2
truck it was filling. Freeing it took an hour. I stayed another hour to watch two more trucks being loaded. The forward thinking truck drivers, and the ones

who could afford to have the work done, had added a vertical steel extension to the sides of their trucks to allow them to carry more sugar cane per load. The extensions allowed them to carry, and earn, an extra 20% per load.

Sally wanted me to spend some time with Gill so I could see just how brutal a day’s work is for the truck drivers. After Sally’s compelling if somewhat vague account of their day’s work I was expecting to see them engaged in continuous, exhausting hard labour. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The life of a sugar cane truck driver is actually quite boring. They spend most of their time waiting. They either wait their turn in a line of up to ten trucks for the tractor pulled tipper trailer to load them with chopped cane or wait most of the day while manual workers laboriously force as much cane as possible into the truck.

While I was there, the truck drivers spent most of the time sitting together in the shade of one of the trucks chatting to pass the time. A motorcycle riding security guard, pump action shotgun slung casually across his chest, stopped by the group to help break the monotony and to cadge a cigarette.

Week 2.3
Waiting in line is a tedious but tranquil way to spend the working day. The land we were on was away from roads, major or minor, so all I could hear was the muted road of the harvester half a mile away, the soothing rustle of the gentle breeze moving the ripe sugar cane and quiet light hearted conversation.

The hard part isn’t the physical aspect of the work itself but the need to spend so much time doing it. If the truck drivers move out of line, they miss their turn so as soon as they receive their load they race off to the processing plant thirty miles away, wait to be unloaded, then race back to the fields to join the line again.

Week 2.4

While the weather is good the harvesting continues night and day. The work only stops if the harvester breaks down or if there’s enough rain to prevent the trucks from driving on to the fields.

Gill has to make the most of the opportunity to earn while the sugar cane is being harvested and while the weather and equipment allow the work to continue.

He doesn’t want to miss his turn in the queue so he stays there rather than returning to the house to eat, sleep or bathe. He has to take water with him for cooking and drinking. Fuel for the fire to cook his food, just plain rice, is wood found wherever he’s working.

He snatches sleep whenever he can between moving his truck slowly towards the head of the waiting line. Tiredness is his constant companion. The temptation is to stay in the waiting, loading, driving, unloading cycle twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

Exhausted truck drivers often have accidents. Tired drivers also don’t check as thoroughly to ensure that the load of cane is secure. The hand cut cane is placed in open backed trucks to maximise the load. If the cane isn’t loaded correctly though, there’s a chance of some of the cane falling from the truck as it travels.

Gill lost some of his load last week. Unfortunately the loss was spotted by a nearby policeman. Gill’s license was confiscated on the spot. He needed to pay a 1,000 peso fine to get it back. If Sally and I hadn’t been here he wouldn’t have been able to pay the fine, so wouldn’t have been able to continue working.

Gill’s work isn’t physically demanding, but it’s exhausting while the season lasts.

After spending half a day with him, I had seen all there was to see and taken all the photo’s I needed. For the first week here I had been used to sitting in the shade. Just a few hours out in the open under a cloudless sky had turned my face, neck and arms an unhealthy pink. I needed to return to the shade.

Daryl gave me a lift back on the back of the family’s ten year old Kymco motorbike. I’m not entirely sure he has a license to drive it. The route back was via farm roads and back streets, taking diversions whenever we saw a blue uniform, and generally keeping a low profile.

We had just completed a particularly interesting section of the journey, over a deeply rutted farm track frequently blocked by trucks being loaded with cane, before pulling on to the main road out of La Carlota where we could ride without fear of being stopped by the police.

The bike spluttered once, then cut out. We had run out of petrol. Daryl heaved the bike onto its stand, pointed to a roadside tree for me to sit under and indicated that he would go back into town to get some fuel.

Nearly every other vehicle on the road here is a tricycle and they will always stop to pick you up if you flag them down, regardless of their ability to seat you in comfort or at all.

Within minutes Daryl was gone leaving me to guard the bike and fend off the locals. Within minutes I was approached by two wiry teenage farm workers wielding razor sharp machetes.

If I had been anywhere in the UK, anywhere at all, I would have been instantly nervous. Actually I would have been instantly terrified. Not here though. As expected, they flashed me smiles every bit as bright as the blades they were carrying, nodded, and carried on their journey.

Daryl was gone for about half an hour. While he was away, at least twenty trucks, cars, tricycles or motorbikes tooted their horns as they passed me to ask if I was OK. Can you imagine that happening in the UK? I can’t.

I love this country.

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