Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I guess it's winter now

I sort of envy those who are out on the cut at the moment. The weather's quite spectacular, and every day Twitter is full of photos from these hardy folk, showing sunsets and sunrises and mists and frosts, all against a canally background that we don't have here. Nonetheless, we enjoy some lovely sights. 

 The past two mornings have been frosty. This morning, the marina pound was frozen over.
Our concern now is if it's going to get colder, or warmer as the weather forecast suggests. We came back to the boat on Monday, but we have to go back to St Albans again tomorrow. I have a Friday appointment for AAA screening (abdominal aortic aneurism), a routine test offered by the NHS to all men aged 65. We're hoping that it's not going to be so cold that Kantara needs us to stay to keep her warm. Some snow would be good, but it'd have to get the timing right!

While I've been typing this, the sun's been setting.

The Bubble stove's alight, we're cosy and warm, and now it's wine o'clock!

Spring mooring


Hints and tips for life with your feet under water


Aerial view of bow and stern springs...


Sunday, November 27, 2016

A job worth doing - a warning!

The waterproofing fluid arrived late the next day - yesterday - and we applied the necessary second coat this morning. It's drying well, and we should be able to take it back to the boat tomorrow, and refit it. Job done, and we're glad of it.

But we've learned a few lessons from this experience. The cratch cover's ony two years old, but there are marks on it now that look as if they'll never come out. It's a general sort of grubbiness, particularly on the roof of the cover. And this is a disappointment.

Our warning to you, then, is this.

If you have a cratch cover or stern canopy on your boat

  • clean it regularly - mild detergent, preferably a preparation made for this specific purpose, a softish scrubbing brush, and plenty of water for rinsing, a hose being best. 
  • apply waterproofing fluid every 6 months. It's what's recommended by the manufacturers, and by the makers of the covers. Be aware that sunlight reduces the cover's waterproofness over time, not just rain, hail, sleet and snow.
  • do both jobs together once annually

These covers cost upwards of £700, so you want them to last as long as possible, and you probably want them to look good just as long. And though the cleaning and proofing fluids aren't cheap, what you'll spend on them over the life of your cover won't be anything as much as the cost of a new cover.
photo -

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A job worth doing - postscript

So, I left the cratch cover hanging over the airers, almost dry. I went out, and didn't see Grace until later when we met up with the kids at a rather nice Italian restaurant. Part way through the rather nice meal, Grace turned to me and said "I have some bad news."

Of course, one's imagination conjures up all sorts of possibilities in response to that.

"The cover's nowhere close to being waterproofed." She'd tested it before she left the house.

Is that all?

OK, so we're out of proofing fluid, and it'll take a few days for it to be delivered. I could think of worse things. I just had, in fact!

Back at the house at nearly midnight, Grace gets on to Amazon, to order more proofer. Next day delivery is free if we sign up for a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. So we do. We'll catch up with some films and stuff we've missed.

As I type, Grace has discovered that delivery is imminent. So guess what we're going to be doing this afternoon! We're very thankful that the weather's so good today!

Fun, fun, fun!

Friday, November 25, 2016

A job worth doing

And we so wish we'd done it last winter. I'm talking about cleaning and re-proofing the cratch cover. It's only two years old.

At the end of last year, it seemed to be clean inside and out. By the end of October this year, there were light mould spots on the inside, and dirt outside. We bought pukka stuff to do the job with,
and the job didn't take as long as we thought it might. We had to come back to our house to do it. There was nowhere on the marina where we could spread the cover out, so our front drive had to suffice. A lot of dirt washed off, but there are stubborn stains which remain, and that's annoying. So I expect this is a job that need to be done annually if we're to keep the cover clean and in best condition. Renovo recommend re-proofing every six months! That makes me wonder whether we might be able to get a better fluid for the job. I've used Fabsil previously, but can't say I was that impressed.

Anyway, the cover's hanging over three airers in the living-room here in the house, and we'll see how it looks tomorrow, when it should be totally dry. We'll take it back to Kantara then, and re-fit it. We've been lucky that the weather over the boat's been dry. Our well-deck's not really made for getting wet - water would get into the lockers - so we draped a tarpaulin over it, just in case.

We'll probably find ducks have taken up residence underneath!

It's Naomi's 37th birthday today, so we're having a celebratory family meal out tonight. But we're back to the boat tomorrow.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Time flies - with not much on its back

The past week, since Michelle returned home, has gone by really quickly, though we can't actually remember all that we've done. That's due to a blend of boater's time sense and poor memory, I guess! We do seem to have done an inordinate amount of shopping for very few items. But my shopping tour de force was the purchase of a length of hose for the engine air filter. Exciting, huh?
You'd think it'd be easy to find, wouldn't you? But I tried loads of places like Screwfix and Screw DIY, and Steve tried his various sources, too, but to no avail, though one motor factor Steve knows "might be able to get it in in December". My last hope was an engineering supplier in Rugby, but they didn't have any that size. But they did know a man who might! They directed me to Ideal Hose, not far from them, and he had some! Only about five or six metres of it, after which they wouldn't be stocking it any longer. I only wanted a metre and a half, and was impressed when I found he sells it at any length you want, not simply by the metre. I was even more chuffed when he discovered (i) that it wasn't listed in the price-book, and (ii) it wasn't in the stock-book either.

So he had a priceless (literally), non-existant (to all intents and purposes) length of 50mm plastic hose. What could he do with it? He gave it to me. A very satisfactory conclusion to my quest! I took it home and fitted it, with a smile of relief on my face.

I saw Mark the other day, the guy who fitted a new Morse mechanism for us a few weeks back, and I asked him to pay us a return visit. When the RCR mechanic doing our annual engine service started the engine up a few days after Mark had done his work, it was idling too fast. The Morse cable hadn't been fitted properly. Mark looked duly shamefaced, and will be back to put things right.

We want to clean the cratch cover and the taff skirt before the winter sets in - if it hasn't already. There's nowhere on the marina we can spread it out for washing and re-proofing, so we'll take it back to the house and use the front drive. For that, we need two or three days without rain, both in St Albans, and over the boat, since we don't really want her uncovered bow to get too wet. The forecast suggests we can start work on Tuesday morning, and have several days of dry weather. Here's hoping!

"Hints and tips" got a couple of 5-star reviews on Amazon UK recently,

Great book with lots of interesting and useful tips, I learned a lot!
We are currently in the 'research' stage and will hopefully buying our boat early next year.
Although we thought we had done a lot of research already, there was still lots that this book
taught us. It is also really nice to actually hear advise from someone who is already living
aboard. Very helpful book!

and I stumbled upon one for "Life with our feet under water" on Amazon US that I'd not seen before.

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Roger and Grace sound like nice people, with a tolerance for things going wrong (just as well)
and an appreciation of people in general and their chosen lives in particular. Having rented
canal boats a couple of times, I could understand the narrative as Roger discussed recalcitrant
locks and narrow winding holes. This book has inspired me to go and do it all again.

Very gratifying, and it helps me to press on with my next book, "Moving home with our feet under water", which is progressing quite well now. I'm still not even thinking about when it might be published.

It'll be supper-time soon. Earlier, I visited Squ!sito, the local Italian bucher's shop and delicatessen. We'd driven past it so often, and never visited, so today I put that right. It's a super little shop doing a big business. I came away with home-made beef burgers and pork and fresh apple sausages. We'll be trying one of those tonight!

Who could resist those sausages?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sight-seeing, and what sights they were!!

Michelle arrived at the boat around midday on Thursday, after a number of problems and postponements, the latest of which had almost been a total cancellation because of Grace's cold. But the cold was abating quite fast, Grace was well enough to enjoy some days out, and we all enjoyed three days of sight-seeing and games-playing.

We ate at The Moorings in Crick on Thursday, always a good choice, then returned to the boat for chat and games.

On Friday, the clear, blue skies called us out to Baddesley Clinton, a NT house Grace and I know well, but new to Michelle.

Saturday's weather was dull and drizzly, but we drove out to the NT's Canon's Ashby. Michelle had loved Baddesley Clinton, so we reckoned this old house would please, too.

And please, it did! After supper, Michelle drove home. Her stay with us had been a day shorter than anticipated, but a really good time was had by all!

Today, the sun's out again, and the marina's busy. Lovely!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

One to watch!

I have several times now promoted the "Cruising the Cut" vlog 
"a video 'blog by a man who's decided to sell up, quit his job, and buy a narrow boat then go cruising around the wonderful canal network of the UK."
But I've only just recently discovered Gongoozler TV, and this is a great one to watch if you're a would-be narrowboat owner at any part of the journey towards having your own craft.
"Follow my journey as I strive towards living on a narrowboat full-time on the canals of the UK. It's my retirement dream, and whilst not there yet, it's where I'm headed. My blogs and vlogs will follow as I decide on the narrowboat to buy, have the shell built and convert it to my very own live live-aboard. Exploring such wonders as on-board toilets and the best heating systems for use on a narrowboat. I can't afford to get this wrong, so no stone will be left unturned. Its going to be a long journey, so I hope you follow along and get to know who I really am. Buying narrowboat and living in a small space off grid is an emotional journey as well as a financial one. Hopefully one day soon you will be following me as I travel the inland waterways of the UK canal system."

Nick's very personable, relaxed style makes listening very easy. The content is always interesting, and the video production is excellent quality. The vlogs tell his story in a clear, logical manner, and I've found myself really closely involved in it as it has been unravelled over the months - though I've been in catch-up mode for a week or so, and not following in real time yet.

Do give it a try! I think you'll agree it makes very good viewing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Heard that before somewhere?

Grace has a cold. Runny nose, very, very sneezy, couldn't sleep last night, but we are now back on Kantara. She simply doesn't DO colds. She so rarely has one that this one feels much worse to her than it would feel to the veteran of the cold. So she's really fed up at the moment.

Heard that before somewhere?

The really annoying thing is that we've had to cancel Michelle's visit, which was to be from tomorrow till Saturday. She'd already said that she wasn't concerned about catching the cold, since all of her co-workers have one, and she's next in line there. But now, the visit's quite out of the question for Grace's sake.

She started to feel unwell on Sunday as we were setting out from Yelvertoft towards Hitchin to see Said the Maiden in performance. She was at least able to enjoy their stunning hour-long set, but come Monday she had descended into that snuffly, blocked up, coughy condition we all loathe.
photo - Ellie Lucas
And this morning it's freezing. I stepped out onto the pontoon late last night, and found it dangerously slippery. It was more so this morning. The Bubble stove seemed to take longer to heat the boat. The gas-fired Alde had a bit of a fit the other night, so I need to test it today, to try to ascertain if there is some problem to be addressed. We'd like to be able to leave it on, on a low setting, throughout the night. Fingers crossed!

Jess is flying out to Iceland again on Thursday, for a long weekend's solitude in a land she loves. She tweeted this morning that it's warmer there today than it is in the UK. We're hoping it'll warm up again here soon. We'd like to take the cratch cover off and clean it, and to do a bit of protective paint touching-up, too, before winter. Looking back over past Novembers' blog posts, we've had those opportunities in past years. Toes crossed, too!
15th November 2014

10th November 2013

Sales of "Hints and tips for life with your feet under water" got off to a good start this week, but I'm thinking that November was probably not the best time to launch it. I'm a bit green in such matters. I'm sure book publishers know such things, but Kindle are happy for you to publish any time you choose, of course. Maybe spring would have been better, when cruising is more in the minds of those so-inclined.

Friday, November 04, 2016

What a day!

I have a cold. Runny nose, very, very sneezy, couldn't sleep last night, and probably delayed our return to Kantara. I simply don't DO colds. I so rarely have them that this feels much worse to me than it would feel to the veteran of the cold. So I'm really fed up at the moment.

Except that I published my second book on Kindle last night, tweeted about it, made sure Facebook knew about it. And this morning, it was already selling so well that it was right up there with "Life with our feet under water" in the Kindle ratings.

"Hints and tips for life with your feet under water" is a 54-page book full of the numerous hints and tips Grace and I have learned from others since we started our life on Kantara.
"The purpose of this book is to help you increase your enjoyment of your life on a narrowboat. It's a collection of things we've learned, sometimes the hard way, and things we've picked up from others over the past five years. The thrust of our thinking is that, in order to enjoy life on a boat, you need that life to be as simple as possible, and you need to be safe. This book is to help you achieve those things. It’s a book for those who have little experience of boating beyond hiring or borrowing. If there are too many things here you already know, I suggest you're not one of those people!"

I wasn't expecting to write this one. It sort of wrote itself after a couple of fellow tweeps said that they thought there must be loads of small but significant boaty matters for them to learn, but that they didn't know where to find them. There was some anxiety that they might one day suddenly need something - a can of something, say - out in the middle of nowhere, and didn't even know this something existed. This book aims to reduce the chances of that happening.

I started to write a sequel to LWOFUW months ago, but I'm not expecting to complete it for ages. I certainly don't have a deadline for it, though there are kind readers who are encouraging me to get it out quickly. It has a working title of "Moving home with our feet under water". I wonder what that makes people think about the theme.

We were hoping to get back to the boat tomorrow, settle in, restock the fridge and cupboards, then return to Hertfordshire on Sunday to see Said the Maiden perform at Hitchin Folk Club.
photo - Ellie Lucas
We'd return to the house overnight, then drive back to the marina on Monday morning. But it looks now as though we won't be doing it that way. My cold would make me a hazardous passenger, let alone driver. So we're here till Monday. My cold must surely be better by then!