2013 06 30 Newsletter – Braunston Historic Boat Rally

Living on a Narrowboat News 30th June 2013

It’s been a difficult week for several reasons; I’ve made a bit of a boo boo at work, the site has been crashing on a regular basis and last but not least, I’ve been forced to light my fire a few times in the evening because of the chilly “summer” weather.

Last week I told you that I spent half a day mowing a very tidy and aesthetically pleasing footpath around the edge of two of our wildflower meadows. The meadows are registered Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and are two of the richest wild flower meadows in Warwickshire. The additional 1km footpath was very well received by the many dog owning moorers at the marina.

The mown footpath replaced a difficult to find and barely used pathway through waist high wild flowers and grasses and complemented the existing 2km of maintained paths through woodland planted in 1994/5. The trees are now well established and provide a delightful walk under a canopy of  ash, oak, field maple, wild cherry and alder.

The woodland walk leads our happy walkers through a gate and out onto the new footpath through the stunning walk through the meadows. A footpath admire by all… apart from the people who employ me.

The meadows are maintained with the assistance of a grant received from the guardians of the English landscape, Natural England. Under the terms of the agreement, Calcutt Boats aren’t allowed to touch the meadows until the grass has been cut. The cutting normally takes place in late July/early August. Sadly I’m going to have to allow the meadows to return to their natural wild state. There’s an official channel for requesting the addition of the footpath through the meadows but as Natural England have four month to respond to requests to carry out work on SSSI meadows, there will be no more easy walking for dog owning flower lovers this year.

Instead of spending my time ambling through scented meadows when I finish work, I’ve spent much of the last week setting up a new section of the site. I created a new section of sub forums to allow site visiting boat owners to share their intimate knowledge of individual waterways. I created a section for rivers and another for canals. Each section listed all of the rivers and canals by name.

I completed the listing then started to add the extensive cruising notes which I’ve been sent so far. It was a great start to the new cruising guide. I looked forward to sharing the news with you today. Unfortunately, I’ve had to undo everything I’ve added in the last week.

The more sub forums I added, the more often the site crashed until, on Friday, the site crashed about a dozen times for up to half an hour at a time. The site technical support guys and the company which designed the forum both confirmed that the problem was caused by the site running out of memory because of the additional forums I had added. The solution was either to  increase the memory (and increase the already high cost of maintaining the site) or remove the additional forums.

I can’t afford to increase the site maintenance costs any more so I’ve had to remove the new cruising guide section of the forum. So, I’m sorry if you’ve had problems getting on the site in the latter part of last week, and I’m sorry you aren’t going to be able to refer to the cruising guide section when planning your own cruise. I haven’t given up yet. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. I just need to do a little more research into another idea I have before I do any more work on the new section.

Hob Brite Ceramic CleanerAt least I’ve been pleasantly warm in the evenings and early mornings  while I’ve been doing my research.. Sadly the warmth hasn’t been provided by the sun. It’s been decidedly chilly on the boat in the evenings, especially in a strong breeze. James is moored in a beautiful but very exposed part of the marina. A stiff south westerly scours the port side of the boat and finds every gap in the windows and side hatches.

Consequently, in late June and the beginning of summer, I’ve had to light the fire. I don’t mind though. I love the cosy feel of a live fire and I like it even more now that I can see it. I’ve tried all kinds of cleaning products on the stove glass. None of it has worked terribly well for me, but I think I’ve cracked it now.

I read somewhere that Hob Brite ceramic hob cleaner works wonders on stove glass. In the interest of being able to see my fire burning  I’m prepared to give anything a go. I tried it this week and it does a fantastic job. There’s a huge difference between being dimly aware that something’s burning behind a sooty glass plate and having glass so clear that you have to check to make sure that the glass hasn’t actually fallen out. I now have an even better excuse for spending hours sitting in comfort mindlessly watching the flickering flames.

I’m afraid that’s pretty much it for this week. I manage the site in addition to my full time hours at Calcutt Boats. Normally I work 45 Braunston Historic Boat Rallyhours a week. This week it’s 54 hours. I have to work today, Sunday. It’s usually one of my two days off and the day on which I spend four or five hours updating the site and writing the newsletter and its contents. Today I’ve worked on the wharf instead.

We look after four hire boats for the Royal Navy in addition to our own fleet of twelve. They offer the boats at a subsidised rate to RN personnel. Three of the four returned this morning before being sent out with new crews this afternoon. It’s been a beautiful day for boating and a very busy day on the Grand Union.

The 11th Historic Boat Rally was held at Braunston over the weekend with over 80 historic narrowboats on show. The two day event attracts hundreds of enthusiasts. Many of them travel to Braunston by boat for the weekend. Consequently mooring in or close to Braunston or cruising past Braunston marina is very difficult.

I spoke to the owner of a wide beam yesterday afternoon who had cruised from a nearby marina to Braunston junction. There was barely enough room for him to turn around at the junction. Using the stretch of canal between the junction and the Braunston flight was impossible.

As part of the handover with the hire crews, we take them up through Calcutt Top Lock and along the canal for a few hundred metres before jumping off the boat at a spot where the canal narrows and leaving the happy hirers in charge of their temporary floating home. Yesterday was a bit of a challenge for them. They had to contend with a strong breeze, heavy traffic on the canal and plenty of moored boats.

The last crew I took out were complete novices. I had to introduce the concept of steering into the wind and moving along the canal at an angle of 45 degrees as the wind threatened to push them into the reeds or the traffic coming towards us. My usual step off point was hidden behind a moored boat so I had to cruise down to Napton Junction with them where they needed to turn right onto the south Oxford. Their newly acquired skills were tested even further when they had to negotiate the turn while fighting the wind and avoid a boat turning accross our bow.

After the baptism of fire I jumped off onto the towpath and enjoyed a leisurely half mile walk back to Calcutt Boats along a sun drenched towpath. It’s a great time of the year to be messing about on boats but I’ll try to do less of that and more newsletter writing next week.

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.

  • 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.
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.


Useful Information

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Paul Smith

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia wandered Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 35' Dutch motor cruiser. However, the pull of England's muddy ditches proved too much for them. Now they're back where they belong, constantly stuck in mud in a beautiful traditional narrowboat.