Monday, October 16, 2017

I'm all booked out!

I had to do it, and I'm very glad I did, but now I'm all booked out!

I first conceived the idea of "Life with our feet under water" after about two years of living and travelling on Kantara. This blog had a lot of regular readers, so there was at least some interest in this boaty life of ours. I had to try it. I love writing, I love the sound of my own voice on paper (I'm not too keen on it "live"), and I loved the challenge. What seemed like ages later, I published the book on Kindle, did a bit (or was it a lot?) of promotion, and sat back to see what happened. I was delighted by the result, and despite a few one-star, one-liner reviews (from people, I reckoned, who had clearly not read the sample pages provided on Amazon before buying), it seemed that folk were really enjoying it.

Riding on the euphoria of that, I had to see if a sequel would come equally easily to the pen keyboard, and started to bash my way through that. In truth, though, neither one of them was as easy as I had expected them to be, and it was during a time of writer's block (aka would-be writer's what-the-heck-do-I-do-next?), that I felt compelled to commit to print the collection of bits and pieces of advice we'd picked up over the past few years, and the useful stuff we'd learned from our won experience. This was going to be a much shorter book, and wouldn't take nearly so long to prepare, so I put "working-title, Feet 2" aside, took a break from my bogged-downness, and launched into this fresh, new project.

It was a lot of fun. It was easy, and I was very proud of it. And I called it "Hints and tips for life with your feet under water", which I thought was a clever title, not realizing at the time that its length was rather unruly. It, too, was published on Kindle, and sat proudly next to its big brother on my Amazon Author Page, cheaper and thinner, but just as worthy. And it started to sell, too, though not as well as the other; largely, I thought, because its appeal is to a smaller potential readership; "Hints and tips" is aimed at those who have already embarked on a life which involves a lot of time on a narrowboat, or are currently considering doing so. "Life with our feet under water" is written for those same people, but also for anyone who simply has an interest in canals and boats. And since they don't need canals for readers to appreciate the book, it also sold in several countries where there are none.

In due course, both books got really good reviews in Towpath Talk, for which I was very thankful.

Much encouraged by all of this, I was propelled back to "working-title, Feet 2", I decided on its final title, and was eventually ready to publish "Moving home with our feet under water". I was wanting to release a second edition of  "Life..." (it was at about this time that it occurred to me what stupidly long titles my beloved books had) at the same time. I'd made some small textual changes, and given it a new cover.

But there was still a problem with it.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

That end of the year feeling...

Regular readers will know that this year has been a strange one for us so far, difficult for several reasons, frustrating for many. A lot of our time's been spent waiting for something to happen; not vague, always something specific. Our time out on the cut has been limited to just 36 days, and that's been a great disappointment. The 36 days were very enjoyable, however!

Now here we are in the middle of October with 12 jobs to do ourselves and one waiting for a mechanic to fix. All of the jobs need to be done to make Kantara ready for a much longer time out next year. Or rather, to satisfy us that she's ready. She'll be fully cruiseworthy as soon as the thermostats in the engine have been replaced. But there's no chance that we'll be taking Kantara anywhere now except the 30 metres to the service platform. And back. So it feels at the moment that we've already reached the end of 2017.

But it's autumn, not yet winter. And we've had torrential rain, phenomenal wind, everything that one expects from the season. And more. Today, the weather's positively hot, though the wind has been bad enough to postpone that trip across to the diesel pump.

A visiting boat tried earlier this afternoon, and crashed his stern hard into ours. We rushed out to see what was going on, and he was clearly struggling, though his approach to the problem was all high revs and big movements, and he lacked the experience that brings finesse with it. Having shaken Kantara heavily, he had a go at Emma Jane, too, and didn't miss. Eventually, with a good deal of noise and thrashing water, he high-tailed it out of the marina, and no-one ever found out why he was here in the first place.

It's going to be a very busy, exciting five weeks for Said the Maiden. They've just completed their last set at the Costa del Folk in Portugal, and they're flying home tomorrow.

Then their album promotion tour starts next Saturday.

Grace and I are combining attending five of these venues with some sight-seeing, and we've booked into hotels to give us a day or two either side of each of those gigs for... well, seeing the sights! Imagine Whitby at the end of November! The sea, the sand, hey-ho for the wind and the rain! We'll have a blast! The weather might, too!

I hope this post doesn't make you think I'm feeling down, but I have to admit that this end of year feeling isn't helped by the fact that I have a flipping cold. I haven't had anything worse than a snuffle for years, but I think I picked this one up from Naomi and Jess when we were back at the house last week, and they'd been nurturing it nicely for some time before passing it on! I'm glad to say that Grace is resisting it nicely.

Enough of feeling sorry for myself. I'll finish now before I become really maudlin!


Please note that another update to "Hints and tips..." has been added to the Addendum Blog.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Five on a boat to Oxford - part 9

Saturday was my 66th birthday, and a beautiful day it was, too, as we made our way down to Braunston. Mike was at the tiller for much of the day, making the most of his last opportunity to be skipper. Down to Braunston Turn, and turn right...

and up to the locks. Rather alarmingly, the pound above bottom lock was very low, and NB Wagtail, a hire-boat with only a few days' canal experience, was aground at the bank. I hurried up to the next lock. The pound above that is bigger than the one below, and, though its level was noticeably lower than it should be, I reckoned it could afford to donate some water to the depleted one, so I let a lockful and a bit down, and the stranded boat floated within a few minutes. Kantara came up to meet her, and the two boats shared the rest of the locks up the flight. Despite the shallowness of the water all the way up, there were no more problems, and it all went smoothly.

The four men on Wagtail were very much into learning, and had lots of questions all the way up. The four women were very much into Prosecco...

Then came Braunston Tunnel. Wagtail was rather anxious about this - and not without reason - and their fears were realized half-way through. The skipper of an on-coming NB Huffler  chose to switch off his tunnel light as he was passing us. To avoid dazzling us, he said. Unfortunately, however, the man at Magpie's tiller had already been dazzled, and now had no way of knowing where the unlit boat was. They crashed rather noisily.

With Mike taking the tiller again, we carried on to Norton Junction, where he executed a perfect turn. We learned later that 70-foot Wagtail got themselves jammed across between the banks.

We joined a crew of three at the bottom of Watford Locks, with NB Bothar ahead and Wagtail coming in behind not long afterwards. The female crew were now totally blotto, and hadn't even noticed the collision in the tunnel. The 90-minute wait gave us plenty of time to have lunch, then Bothar led us up the locks. The last boat down before we went up was NB Brutus Maximus, with whom we went down into Liverpool last year. Enthusiastic shouts and waves were duly exchanged!

Again, our locking crew of three was able to assist Bothar and Wagtail in a smooth, sociable and fun ascent. The weather was warm, bright and beautiful.

Then Crick Tunnel and Yelvertoft Marina with miles of sunlit canal between. Beautiful.

118 miles and 94 locks, and a great trip!

Christine and Mike treated us to a lovely meal at The Wheatsheaf in Crick, and we played a final evening of cards. They left before 10:00 the next morning, with a long trip to Torquay ahead of them. We had a lot of washing and tidying to do!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Five on a boat to Oxford - part 8

Friday awoke as a beautiful morning, almost cloudless under a bright sun. The peace of the canal and the surrounding farmland was almost tangible. We cast off and made our way to Napton Top Lock, aka Marston Doles. Unsurprisingly, we joined a queue. Christine and I went down to the lock to see if we could lend a hand or four. We could, and we gently hastened the passage of a couple of other boats before bringing Kantara in.

As we approached the next lock, something was not quite right. The queue here was longer than the one we'd joined at Top Lock. Being really clever people, we figured out that there must have been a problem. We went to investigate. There was a boat in the chamber, descending very slowly. People were gathered at the bottom gates, so we joined them. Faces were glum.

The problem was that one of the bottom gate paddles didn't work at all. The other one worked just enough to open six inches. And, needless to say, the top gates had the usual leaks, so emptying the lock was going to slow everyone. Fifteen minutes per boat, it turned out. OK, we weren't in a hurry, but the hirers were; they had time pressures that we didn't.

And so we carried on down the flight, a favourite one of mine, the crews of each boat working with those in front or behind so that we all made good time.

We stopped at the bottom for services and shopping as the rest of the convoy made its way past. There was mooring space for us just around the corner, so we pulled over there for much-needed refreshment. The shop that says it's "Open every day" (except Tuesday) was now found to be "Open every day" (except Tuesday and Friday).

We had hoped to moor overnight at Braunston, though there's always a chance that there will be no available space, but that hope was thwarted by the two extremely slow hire-boats we caught up with very soon after we left Napton. Neither one of them stopped to let us pass, though I suppose they wouldn't know we wanted to pass unless we did the boat equivalent of bumper-hugging, and we don't like to do that because we feel it's ill-mannered. So we dawdled our way through the rest of the afternoon, having plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, and finally we stopped at bridge 100 to moor for the night. We just couldn't take any more!

The Oxford is truly a beautiful canal.