Category Archives: Pre Narrowboat

What Do We Actually Know?

The Narrowboat – what do we actually know?

A lot’s been said already about this narrowboat; in passing, in dispatches, in the Queen’s speech, in-uendo but what do we actually know? What are the facts?

  1. The narrowboat exists – we know this because we have seen photographs of it and unless I’m really, really good at Photoshopping, which I’m not, then we have to believe they are genuine and a boat of said photographs exists [see first post]
  2. It needs stuff doing to it – the survey revealed this and was discussed at length here
  3. The boat’s not here – it’s up in Whilton, in Northamptonshire being looked after by the lovely people at Whilton Marina
  4. It’s light and airy – this is what attracted us to it in the first place


Do We Know Any More?

So far, so good but here’s a little bit more. It has an engine! Yes, no trying to source a horse to pull it through the canals of England and Wales and no ‘legging’ it through tunnels for us. We have BMC Leyland 1.5 Diesel engine that delivers 38 hp. Just imagine 38 horses roped to the front (sorry bow) of the boat, running at full pelt!

Know - Heart of the Beast V image
Heart of the Beast

It’s a beauty – it looks cool and all kind of enginy.

OK, I know what you’re all thinking at this stage; cool? enginy? These adjectives don’t immediately inspire confidence and knowledge in the combustion engine department. I suppose I have to admit, although I can spell mekanic, sorry mechanic, it’s just I’m a bit challenged in the oil and engineering department. But I’m willing to learn. I’m keen, I have to be. I have to drive it away in approximately 10 weeks time as that’s when it will be ready!

Switches Everywhere!

The only other tidbit I can impart about her/him/it [delete as appropriate] is there’s this panel and it’s full of switches. There are hundreds of them It’s going to be like starting up a 747!

Know - Panel image
All systems operational

More importantly tho’ is the Bilge Pump. Seaworld – sounds like it controls the gate to an underwater cage where the Killer Whale comes out to entertain the crowds. Can’t wait to flick that switch!

As I learn more, you’ll here it here first…


rp – peace and narrowboats


We Found a Vacuum for the Narrowboat

We found a vacuum that’ll be perfect for the narrowboat. It’s not too big and bulky and should be able to get into all those little nooks and crannies…

Vacuum image

A Vacuum of Perfect Proportions

It’s red so goes with the colour scheme of the boat. It’s got and ‘old iMac‘ Jonathon Ive vibe going on. Better still, it needs no batteries! It’s USB-powered and so it won’t be draining the boat’s batteries any time soon!

I could only find it online here at but you could get one at a novelty shop. Better hurry, they’re being snapped up by elves.

Other vacuums are available…


rp – peace and narrowboats

Gas Isolation Valve

Hatch to the Gas Isolation Valve photo

Gas Isolation Valve image


Gas Isolation Valve

This is the hatch to the gas bottles and the all important Gas Isolation Valve. We will need to use this when we change over the LPG bottles, which run the hob and oven. Hopefully this is the only time we will need to isolate any gas 🙂

Before we can drive off, the gas locker has to be ‘hammer tested’ (presumably hit with a hammer) and ‘inspected for its gas tight integrity’ (presumably this doesn’t mean striking a match or lighter near it to see if any gas is leaking!). Craig Allen from Craig Allen Marine is going to ensure it’s all boat shape and Bristol fashion.

It’s a quality brass sign.

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Is it Cold on a Narrowboat?

One question that is always asked when the choice of canal life, as a topic of conversation comes up is; “Is it cold on a narrowboat?”.

Cold - warming up nicely B+W image

The question has been addressed in books for example; Narrowboat Life – Jim Batty and YouTube is awash with vlogs (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) about this question being asked & answered.

Well, Is It Cold?

Well, I can tell you, it’s *&!$%! freezing when you haven’t got any central heating on, the Squirrel’s not lit (other multi-fuel stoves are available), the hopper windows are open to ensure enough air circulation to prevent dampness, it’s 2°outside with no sign of warming up and you can’t make a cup of tea because you’re waiting for gas system to be checked and brought up to B.S.S. certificate standards…


Squirrel image

(The Squirrel was freezing his nuts off)

 So, in answer to the question; “Is it cold on a narrowboat?”, the answer is no. This is because there are many ways of heating it; using Solid Fuel and not letting the fire go out (we’re looking at using coffee logs – see The Narrowboat Experience), Central Heating via an Eberspächer Diesel central heating unit (we’ve got one, hope it works) and wrapping up warm (I won’t be skipping naked around the narrowboat any time soon).
rp – peace and narrowboats

Traditional Roses Painted Teapot

A traditional roses painted teapot

Roses Teapot image

One thing we’re going to need on a narrowboat is a good cup of tea and this looks like the ideal recepticle.

Teapot, Where?

I spotted in a thrift shop in Frome, on Catherine Hill (I didn’t dare ask the price and in any case, we’ve got a white one so I might try and get mu to paint it for us – a lot more thrifty). I was tempted thought, I’ve got a red mug that looks exactly like it!

It’s a Tradition

Traditional narrowboat painting is comprised of Roses and Castles. As to why? The origins have been lost, which is frighteneing as we’re only talking about the 19th Century. Hardly the ‘Mists of time’. The roses are painted using four colours only, if you are aiming for authenticity.

We like the idea of tradition and find It fitting to honour the people that lived and worked on the canals so, we want to take some of that tradition and meld it with the modern.


rp – peace and narrowboats

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

That Sinking Feeling – when you’ve got everything but the Kitchen sink.

After the euphoria of finding the narrowboat you want to buy, the adrenalin rush subsiding and you’re left shaking by the canal bank, the actuality gradually dawns – it needs some work.

You suddenly notice that some aspects of your narrowboat pride & joy look a little jaded. Lacklustre if you will. Somethings need to be refreshed; there’s a scratch here (well, several), it could do with a touch of polish there (well, all of it) and the Galley (the technical term for the kitchen) well… The Galley is one of those things.

The configuration of the Galley is right, we wanted it along one side, not a walk-through with units on both sides of the boat, so you have to squeeze through or wait for someone to pass, so you can then get by. It’s just that one of the units needs changing, and there’s a door we want to do up and we want a new cooker and…

The Patina of Age

It has obviously served the boat and previous occupants well and whilst I’m all for a patina of age, we’re going to do up the Galley.

Looking Back from the Galley image
The Galley

With weeks and weeks still to go before the boat will be ready, one thing we can do is get some ‘bits and pieces’ and at least feel like we’re moving in the right direction. With the Galley in mind, we’ve bought a sink and a draining rack to go with it. It’s a small sink and we’ve been trying out basic mock-ups to ensure we got the optimum size; not too big so as to waste preparation space and not too small that you can’t effectively wash up in it. How did we do this? With a paper layout of the kitchen, sorry Galley in the sitting room, to scale and set up so we can see how different layouts will work. It’s a sort of role-playing while no-one’s looking, but there are no Hit Points or Dragons.

Kitchen Sink image
Kitchen Sink


It’s all coming along nicely, we’ve even bought an EasyDo Products ecoFORCE recycled (89%) Dish Brush for cleaning the pots and pans pot and pan (there’s only so much space to store stuff and mu insists she’s a one pot cook). Ooh, and x2 brush refills and some recycled (97%) Heavy Duty Kitchen Scourer Pads from the same company. At least that pot and pan will be clean.

Drained image

We haven’t got everything but at least we’ve got a kitchen sink.


rp – peace and narrowboats

Tale of the Bilge

So what is a bilge?

If you look at Oxford Dictionaries definition it first states that a bilge is on the outside of a boat. Further definition for bilges states it is ‘the lowest internal portion of the hull‘. It finally tells us bilge means ‘Nonsense, rubbish’! How prescient!

Basically, if you open up the floor of a narrowboat, you get to see the bilges. That is, sections of the boat below the waterline.

Is There a Question?

‘So what’s in one?’ I hear you ask. Well, you might think nothing but you’d be wrong. This is where water collects. It’s OK, don’t worry! We’re not sinking. Water can get in by various legitimate means; condensation, rain, splashsing in from the canal or spillage from the galley (we’ll come to the galley in another post). There are also other, less legitimate means for water ingress; water can leak from a disconnected pipe (I’m thinking sink if you’re lucky, toilet if you’re not), the stern gland (don’t ask) and maybe even oil from the engine!

Don’t panic!

‘My good God! What type of boat are you running here?’ I hear you gasping. Don’t panic, this is all normal or so I’m reliably told by people in the know. The thing I want you to take away from  this little discussion is that water in the bilge or bilge water isn’t clean. In fact it can harbour bacteria and emanate noxious smells, hence you can see bilge quickly becoming a derogatory term.

Pump it

You have to get into the bilges or at least gain access to pump out the noxious waters (I said pump, not syphon). You can get manual and automatic bilge pumps that remove said waters. I’ll let you know which type of pump we have (if any) and what we upgrade to if we have to.

So, I’ll be periodically cleaning out my bilges (let’s face it, there won’t be a lot of people queuing up to do it for me) and by necessity, be cleaning the bilge as a narrowboat needs blacking every two years or so, the contents of which I will be sharing in these blog posts – basically, a load of old bilge water 😉

A soon as I get a picture of our bilges, I’ll post it here.


rp – peace and narrowboats

What is this Electrickery?

Electrickery! There’s a ProPowerQ inverter thingy and the CTEK and a solar charger converter that throws out cool green & blue lights and a Sterling box of some sort…

The Electrics image
Cool! But what does it all do?

Boxes, switches, sockets, blue, red & black cables, it’s a veritable Aladdin’s cave of electrickery. It looks to me like someone knew what they were doing. Phew! I know vaguely what some of it does. At an overview theoretical level that is.


The solar panels, which are on the roof of our narrowboat collect the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity, as they strike the panels. The electricity created, charges the battery array, of which hopefully a battery management system (we do have one of those don’t we?) splits the electricity between the Starter battery and the Leisure batteries. The batteries are trickle-fed so as to keep them at the optimum level of charge; too little charge and the batteries won’t be of any use and will eventually die, too much charge and they will die early. Basically, they will die.

For a more in depth discussion of solar including photovoltaic and heating water, I’d recommend C.A.T. or the BBC’s Bitesize site (all the other sites seem to be trying to sell you something).


When the boat engine is running (preferably under load i.e. moving) it runs an alternator which also creates electricity and also charges the batteries. Wikipedia’s article goes into a lot more depth than I ever could or would want to!

Plugging In

Using the electricity made is a case of plugging stuff in. Lights and the like will be 12v and will run straight off the batteries. To use a 240v appliance i.e. a normal plug item, the voltage needs to be inverted, that is ‘turned’, from 12v into 240v, so the appliance can be fed with life-giving juice. The cleverly named ‘inverter’ carries out this job. However, it’s not a like for like process, the inverter actually takes energy to perform this conversion. The inverter we have on board is a ‘Quasi-Sine Inverter’ as opposed to a ‘Pure Sine Inverter’. What this means is that we can’t plug in and run a normal machine say, as the electronics would get upset. As I say, it’s electrickery!

Obviously, running appliances drains the batteries so more electricity has to be generated, either via the alternator or via the solar panels. The circle of electrical life!

Actually keeping said setup running is another matter. I have minus 0.5 experience of this kind of stuff but hey! How difficult can it be? 😉


I won’t worry too much, after all Geoffrey Baildon was also confused


SCHERENSCHNITTER - Patrick Wirbeleit image
from SCHERENSCHNITTER – Patrick Wirbeleit


rp – peace and narrowboats

Waiting Waiting Waiting

Waiting! Waiting! Waiting!

We always seem to be waiting…

Not so long ago, we were waiting for Christmas and New Year to finish. Not because we wanted it over but so work would start on the boat. Once it starts, we will be waiting for the boat to be taken out of the water to work on the outside and then there are the myriad of jobs that need doing to the inside (see previous). We are also waiting for the weather as it was snowing up North*

Modern life, for all its speed and rush contains a lot of waiting about.


A Voracious Consumption

To combat this, we’ve developed an ever more voracious consumption of anything and everything remotely narrowboat-related on YouTube. In addition to the channels we started watching (see Keeping the Dream Alive post), we’ve discovered some new, lesser known channels which are currently our favourites

Robbie Cumming – ‘cranking it’. Entertaining and informative at it’s best. Love Pub of the Week

Zenflautist – Anthony Ashton’s life on a narrowboat vlog. Great vlog, great guy

Boatman Benjamin – described by Ben as A slightly warped and crazily alternative type of Narrowboat channel for all to enjoy. Ben is a legend, listening to Orbeth – Space Themes

Orbeth - Space Themes image

These three channels take you beyond watching narrowboats on a canal…

Also of Note

Life on the Cut

Especially liked the Ludlow Medieval Christmas Fayre & A SPECIAL Guest! episode.


Whilst We’re Waiting

Whilst we’re waiting, we’re also spending the time thinking about what we want to take onto the boat or more accurately what we can’t take on board. What we will need? Can we live without it? Can’t live without? Will it go through the doors?


A Style is Developing…

A style is developing, it will be eclectic, more out of necessity than anything else. It will be built out of what we have collected in the past, a re-evaluation of things we have & thinking we would have to part with them and then finding we don’t want to part with them or don’t have to. Basically, it’s everything and anything. The only stipulation is it’s got to be good and it’s got to be cool.


Making the Cut

The types of things that are making the cut are; things of quality, things that are useful, things that are storage items.

There are a few things we want to add (I know, there’s no space!); a brass ship’s bell, glass & metal holders for tea lights so using candles is as safe as possible, a manual washing machine – this is proving difficult to source but we’re not going to give in yet, a new mattress is also a thing we want to start out with. We also got a gorgeous new teapot for Christmas (thanks Kate) so that’s solved one dilemma.

Teapot image
Tales from the Bilge – teapot

One of the larger items we have to think about is flooring. We want to lay down some form of recycled wooden flooring. We’re thinking if you get the flooring right, the rest will come together. You’d think old wood would be cheap but it’s astronomical in price! We’ve found some Ash but Oak is beyond our finances.
Material’s going to soften it all down; a mixture of sumptuous and utilitarian. Think heavy, rich Acanthus-themed material and denim 🙂

We’re still Waiting!


* I’m using North in the Southerner’s vernacular here i.e. The Midlands rather than true North. North has moved, it officially now starts in Leicestershire according to this recent article.


rp – peace and narrowboats