Do you like cherries? I don’t. One of our woods is full of wild cherry and there are more of them growing every day. The canal-side wood was planted in 1994. It’s a beautiful shaded area of wild cherry, oak, ash, hemlock, Douglas fir, silver birch and holly. The wood has been allowed to do its own thing for nearly two decades and, beautiful as it is, needed some TLC. The wild cherry growth is prolific. Every established tree was surrounded by a dozen or more saplings ranging in size shoelace thick twigs to fifteen feet high small trees with four inch trunks. They were choking the growth of the other trees around them so they had to go.
I’ve spent much of the last week hiding from the fierce sun cutting the saplings with a pruning saw. I have to use a hand saw as I haven’t been trained to use a chain saw yet. I think the company are a little nervous at the thought of letting me loose with one. I can see their point. I didn’t have a very good track record with machinery – or my own safety – in the first year I was here. I managed to reverse a truck into the canal trying to avoid a moorhen with her two chicks, I blew the engine up on the ride on mower (I still don’t know how that happened), I reversed the ex-army fork lift truck through the double doors of the wharf workshop and I managed to narrowly avoid serious and lasting injury when impaled my left eyeball on a two inch hawthorn.
So in the last week I’ve cut down at least two hundred saplings with my little saw to clear the undergrowth and allow some light into the woods. There’s something immensely satisfying in working on the grounds here over a number of years. As I ride around the site during my working day in my little Nissan Cabstar or as I walk Charlie and Daisy in the evening in can enjoy the fruits of my labour. The 32 18″ tall Leylandaii I planted in 2011 are now head height, the acre island behind my boat, once covered in head high thistle, is now covered by a healthy layer of short cut grass and studded with white poplar, alder, horse chestnut, willow and field maple and the solitary oak, once surrounded by waste high course grass now stands tall and proud on its own verdant corner of the marina.
I love working on the ground but I also enjoy a change of scenery when I work on the wharf every Saturday.
Yesterday was Calcutt Boats’ hire fleet’s first busy day of the season. Schools have closed for the summer so the families are out in force. Eight boats went out so there were eight boats to prepare in the morning and eight groups of holiday hirers to instruct. I love doing the instructions. The hirers are often tired after their journey from home to the marina, but they’re usually delighted to be here in beautiful Warwickshire, on their boat and ready to enjoy a week or two relaxing on the waterways.
Most of the hirers come back from their holiday with smiles on their faces after a restful, enjoyable and memorable break. There are always exceptions and I think the last couple I instructed yesterday were one of them.
He was a happy-g0-lucky guy in his forties, scruffy, laid back and ideally suited for boating. She was a very glamorous (and very attractive) lady of about the same age, dressed more for a cocktail party than a week on a narrowboat. After they loaded their luggage – an overnight bag for him and a never-ending collection of matching suitcases for her – they were ready for their instruction. I don’t know what Mr. Laid Back had told his newly acquired lady friend, but I don’t think he had been entirely truthful about the practicalities of boating.
The first part of the instruction is carried out on the back deck where the hirers are given some general boating advice and then shown the daily checks they need to carry out. The demonstration involves lifting the deck board to show them the engine bay and the location of the greaser and dipstick. From the look on the lady’s face when she saw the engine bay, you’d think she’d just been shown a tank full of raw sewage (That was later on in the instruction). She pulled a face and then moved as far away from the engine bay as possible, which isn’t actually very far on a narrowboat.
Once we’d finished on the back deck, we went inside the boat so that I could show them how the heating, shower, toilet, TV, cooker and electrics worked. She wasn’t exactly thrilled when I showed her the workings of the dump through toilet. She was even less pleased when I pointed out that they would need to consider having the sewage pumped out when the visible level rose close to the bottom of the toilet bowl.
The final straw though was the on board electrics. She had brought a hair dryer with her which would have doubled as a wind machine on a film set, several sets of high power hair straighteners and a number of other unidentifiable but very suspicious looking electrical devices.
I pointed out to her that the inverter on the boat was 1,000w which meant that none of her appliances would work. I had to explain the fact in a number of different ways before the full horror of the situation was clear to her. After a shocked silence she recovered briefly. “OK. It’s a huge inconvenience, but I’m sure there’s a way around it. I’m sure that there must be places along the way where I can plug them in.” I had to point out to her that although the Canal & River Trust are trying their hardest to improve facilities for boaters, they haven’t yet managed to upgrade the facilities to include fully serviced dressing rooms.
Still reeling from the shock of having to spend a week without arrow straight hair, she didn’t seem to understand me when I asked her whether she was going to steer or work the locks. She said that she was going to do neither and that her man would do all the hard work. I told her that, as there were only two of them on the boat and as they weren’t experienced boaters one would have to steer the boat into the locks while the other worked the lock.
She wasn’t happy but decided that steering the boat was the lesser of two evils… until she tried to take the boat into the lock. She told me that the engine was noisy and that the lock was too narrow, too damp and too wet. She also complained that the boat wasn’t working properly because it wouldn’t go where she wanted it to.
After we had sucessfully negotiated the lock and a short stretch of canal I stepped off the boat onto the towpath and left them to their “fun” holiday on the south Oxford. As they zig-zagged their way up the Grand Union towards Napton Junction I heard her asking him to find them a hotel to stay in. I can’t wait to see how they got on with their planned 100 miles and 76 locks return journey to Oxford when they come back next Saturday!
You see plenty of boats with a roof filled with possessions which won’t fit inside the boat. It’s quite normal and doesn’t do the boat any harm, or does it? Regular forum contributer and ex submariner Martin Cowen explains the daners of rooftop storage.
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. I’ve managed to reach the end of 2012. I’ll add the rest next week.
Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners
Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter
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.
Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways. Now, just a year and a half later, she’s had enough. Her boat’s up for sale and she’s living in sunny Spain
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
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.
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.
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
DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports
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
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
Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)
Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels
Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans
Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson
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
The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners
Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs
Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home
I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date
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
The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application
First tests and reviews of the budgeting application
The best aerial for a narrowboat television
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
Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis
Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer
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.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Once more the weather has beaten me into submission. Please forgive me if I found the prospect of sitting with a beer on a grassy sun kissed peninsula more attractive then the inside of my poorly ventilated cabin. The forecast for the week ahead is a little cooler and a fair amount of thundery rain so I should be able to dedicate more time to the site.
See you again next week…
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.
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.
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.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
It sounds like it is going to be a very interesting week for your two hirers. What odds he comes back on his own! Look forward to next weekends report.
I endorse GM’s congrats. You put a huge amount of work into it.
Retired; Somerset/Dorset border when not out and about on Lucy Lowther
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