Category Archives: Pre Narrowboat

The Long Road to Mirrless – Part 2

The Long Road to Mirrless – Part 2

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Tuesday, we awoke, went out and found the canal. We explored a small stretch, walking toward Heyford from Weedon. We didn’t venture far as the standard rule about vacating hotel rooms was in effect; be out by 12:00. I wanted to wait as long as we could before ringing the marina. When we finally did, we had to wait for a call back so we sat in the garden of the Heart of England, surrounded by our bags, looking like refugees. It was another glorious day though. Waiting was becoming commonplace. Eventually we called back but found that the boat wouldn’t be ready so, as planned (I felt it might not be, upon seeing the engine on the floor, rather than in the boat yesterday afternoon) set off in search of another room for the night.

No Room at the Inn (or Pub or Hotel…)

Where we had stayed the previous night was fully booked. Never mind, there was another hotel across the road The Crossroads (cue cheesy music. No, not the one of famed TV Series Crossroads). At 13:00 there was a room but the clerk was unable to book it. “Wait until my Supervisor gets on at 15:00”. So we sat in the sun (again, getting a lovely tan by now) in a pleasant location for one and a half hours. At 15:00, the Supervisor looked into booking the room for us. “Can’t book this last room for one night, it has to be two or more, £160”. “But we only want it for one!”. “Sorry”.

Road to Mirrless - Part 2 - Walking image
Walking

We set off in search of a pub; The Narrow Boat. We were assured it was in walking distance. It was but up a hill, in sweltering heat. Never mind, on past a wonderful 1920’s garage that sold sweets in jars and up to the Grand Union Canal and one of the most picturesque pubs in the area. This would be perfect (if a little expensive) but only one night before we were to stay on our narrowboat.

Road to Mirrless - Part 2 - An old garage image
An old Garage

“Sorry, fully booked”.

“What?”.

“There’s a hotel not far away; the Holiday Inn, it says they have rooms available for tonight, from £55″. (The not far away was another one and a half miles!)

“Is it far?”.

“No, not far. It’s in Flore, just back down the way you came. Within walking distance”.

Back to Where We Started

Off we set again, this time with less enthusiasm, less stamina and less banter… Finally, we arrived at the Holiday Inn, after a very large hill and a rest stop in a sheltered bus stop.

Road to Mirrless - Part 2 - Bus Stop image
View from a Bus Stop in Flore (boring)

“We hear you have rooms available for £55 a night”.

“Oh, no Madam. This is a Premium hotel and our room price is £159 per night” said the Concierge, pointing at a suitably large Corporate sign on the wall, shouting ‘£159 per room, per night’.

“There are no rooms available. We are fully booked” he added indignantly.

“There is nothing available. Tuesday night is the busiest night for the hotel business trade!”.

“Aarrgghhh!”.

To be fair, the chap did ring round every hotel within a 100 mile radius (remember, we were on foot, heavily loaded). We set off once again now thoroughly dejected, hardly speaking to each other, the sun still beating down, with thoughts of having to sleep rough in a field somewhere.

On the trek back to the crossroads (the location, not the hotel) I rang Whilton Marina, explained the situation. They went away but rang straight back with news that there was a room available at The Crossroads (the hotel, and the location. Cue music – not funny this time, not funny before either).

“But, But…”

“There are rooms available”.

Crossroads

At this point we had just made it back to the crossroads and thus, The Crossroads hotel.

This crossroads is in the middle of nowhere, with very little by way of entertainment (except for ‘fully-booked hotel lotto’ in the early part of the week). The Crossroads is smack bang in the middle of the crossroads – you can’t miss it.

Cancellation

The Supervisor now told us there had been a cancellation, so a room could be freed up for one night. We grabbed it. It was more expensive than it should have been but it was a room. We didn’t have to stay out all night. Hurrah!

The room was fine, the restaurant was great with an excellent vegetarian menu and much needed Beers, Wines & Spirits of distinction.

A stressful day.

 

Road to Mirrless - Part 2 - Grand Union Canal image
One day, we’ll boat on here. One day…
The Long Road to Mirrless - Part 1
rp – peace and narrowboats

The Long Road to Mirrless – Part 1

The Long Road to Mirrless – Part 1

Monday 21 May 2018

Monday, the engine was going in after the stern gland assembly, of course. But of course, you all knew that. We had the chance of a lift from my brother-in-law to Northamptonshire, rather than incurring the expense (and hassle) of a hire car. He was travelling ‘up North’ and a short detour to Whilton Marina was doable.

A Lift

We travelled, at speed; A303, A34, A5. What you have to realise is that for years now, the vehicles we have owned either couldn’t or weren’t allowed to go above 50mph – Land Rover Defender CSW (50mph if it could make it), Land Rover Defender HT (50mph, Commercial vehicle limit), VW Transporter (50mph, Commercial vehicle limit). The run up to Whilton for us was like being in The Gumball Rally! It took about half the time it took us previously 🙂 I must add, no rules were broken in the writing of this blog post.

At The Marina

Long Road to Mirrless - Part 1 - marina image
Mirrless – across from the Wet Dock

Brilliant sunshine, went through the narrowboat detail, paid for it (ouch), saw the boat; the stern gland assembly was in and looking shiny & new, we were told in detail, how the engine bay had been modified to update it to take shiny reconditioned one. However, the engine in all its glory was by the side of the boat. It wasn’t in yet. “Going in next!” shouted an engineer. Basically it will have all new running gear from start to finish. We got a lift to the hotel we had booked; the Heart of England.

We sat out in the garden, drinks in hand (Marstons Pedigree – it was a Marstons pub), relaxing but little knowing the canal was but inches away from us, down a bank, behind the garden. We found that out the next morning.

Long Road to Mirrless - Part 1 - Easter Island
Have we strayed too far?

 

A Relaxing Day.

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

 

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Not long now! We travel to Northampton on Monday for the last time. That is, to pick up our narrowboat.

The Long Haul

It’s been a long haul; from initially deciding last year to going to look at narrowboats (we’d never been on one up until that point), to going to Whilton Marina because someone mentioned “they have a lot of boats and you can look around them”, to finding ‘the one’ and putting an offer in and it being accepted, to visiting the boat in the depth of Winter when it was cold and wet, to visiting it in when it was cold and wet, to it finally starting to get worked upon, to now!

Life will change. We’ll have to chop wood and carry water among many other new tasks and we’re really looking forward to it. To tackle these tasks we need tools and mu’s been busy renovating and cleaning

Chop Wood, Carry Water - Tools image

Some will make the cut, some won’t.

Things

Chop wood, carry water - Things I image

Of course there are other things, far too many things bearing in mind we have to make a one way trip and it’s in no way certain that the boat will be ready. We could be sat by the marina, surrounded by our things, as some engineer is trying to shoehorn our new engine into the backend of the narrowboat!

Chop wood, carry water - things image

 

Chop Wood, Carry Water

After the dust has settled (I thought I would have been saying ‘shaken the mud from my boots’ but the weather’s wonderful) and we settle into the pace of canal life, I’m sure this chaos of move will dissipate. One of the first things we’ll do is chop wood and carry water. And after we’ve gained an understanding narrowboat life? We’ll chop wood and carry water*

 

*Zen saying – Zen Questions by Robert Allen

rp – peace and narrowboat

Working Hard

Working Hard

It’s so close now, we can almost taste the salt air canal water!

Greeted on Instagram, on the way home from work tonight, with a photo of our soon to be narrowboat being worked upon in the marina at Whilton.

The annual leave is booked, the room’s full of junk, sorry essentials ready to take aboard and we can’t wait. Seeing someone down in the engine bay suddenly makes it seem a lot more real. The only problem is, that will be me in the engine bay, very soon. The difference will be that I won’t have a clue what I’m doing 🙂

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

Soon. Oh, Soon the Light

Soon…

Patience

Patience is a virtue…

This is what has been said. It is however difficult. To wait, be close and then be told to have to wait some more. It bites at the soul and all one can do is endure.

We are so close! The replacement engine (see previous blog) arrived Friday the 4th (May the 4th…), which is great news. It is however punctuated by a Bank Holiday which means; holidays (yay!), no work on the boat (Boo!).

It does mean there is more time for preparation but how much time do you need. On the one hand there is never enough, on the other there comes a point when, no matter how much time you have, you’ll never use it to any greater advantage.

By the Canal

So, waiting… Soon… Went for a walk by the canal…

Soon - V image
Somerset Coal Canal

The Somerset Coal Canal is a short arm off the Kennet and Avon Canal and on the beautiful sunny day that it was, patience was gained and soon seemed not that far away…

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines…

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines…

“Not you Sir, we have to swap yours out!”

Heart of the Beast IV image

So, while we had hoped to have been out on the cut tomorrow, we’re taking a pause for breath – the marina is replacing the engine. They are replacing it with a reconditioned one, with full warranty and they’re sourcing it from the same place the River Canal Rescue people source theirs from! That must be good.

We Are Sailing Waiting

We have to wait a little longer but I will get a firm date early this coming week but it will most likely be Friday 11 May. This means we will travel up to Northamptonshire on the Thursday and take a handover on the Friday.

It could however be earlier, so stay tuned…

Replacing Engines

Why the engine replacement? I think the technical term used was that it was Cream Crackered. It is also going to be lowered in the engine bay and properly mounted (stop sniggering at the back!).

In the past, engines were placed on blocks of wood but proper engine mountings are required now. Ours was on blocks. These will be removed and there’s some re-fitting of the engine bay required and it will then be placed on engine mountings.

All in all, this is great news for us. We will receive a vessel that is going to be able to withstand the rigours of liveaboard and cruising the cut.

The Beast

I will be sad to see this beast go

Engine - Heart of the Beast VI - 1920x1440 image

(It was one of my favourite photos) but I’ll post the new engine in all its painted (yes, it will be freshly painted) glory.

In summary, a little more waiting but that just means we have a little more time for preparation. The question is, can you really prepare for something as momentous as this? I finished a book this Friday – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch  and it’s going to be recycled! Preparation indeed.

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

The Narrowboat’s Out of the water!

It’s out of the water! The narrowboat’s out of the water!

“Shouldn’t it be IN the water?”

The narrowboat's out of the water - Jetty I image
Down By the Jetty

Oh, OK. But what this means is that the marina are working on getting it ready for action/blast off/launch. The hull has been pressure washed, the pits are being prepared for puddle welding, sacrificial anodes are being selected for attatchment and a whole host of other technical things will be carried out this week.

Bad Dates

We are just awaiting an official date for handover which is somewhat dependent upon aforementioned technical jiggery pokery but we are within two weeks of taking the helm (I’ll bring it back, I promise). There are no bad dates, just good ones…

As soon as I get the official nod, I’ll post.

Preparation

Preparations have reached feverpitch! We’ve been in the loft and brought down boxes of things we never knew we had. Stuff is placed in piles; for the charity shops, for the tip, for posterity. I’ve even got rid of another book!

Is That Our Boat?

We check the marina webcam every day to try and catch a glimpse of movement across the marina – “Is that it?”. “No, too long”, “Too short”, “Too expensive”, “Wrong colour”, “Wrong stern-type”, “Just wrong!”.

The hardest part is waiting. We can only do so much until we have a date but being patient is not easy. I’ve heard it said that once you are on a narrowboat and on the canal, you enter canal time where time appears to slow, as you ease into a different way of life.  I suppose we have to start thinking in canal time.

I’m waiting to start a two week holiday where the journey will begin. There’s no realistic way of telling how far we’ll get in two weeks – it’s all going to be new. Two weeks of new.

At this point, (wherever that is) we have the luxury of handing over to my brother-in-law who will take over, along with his wife and hopefully bring the boat the rest of the way, down to the West Country.

Anyway, just remember: ‘To err is human, to arr is pirate‘ – can’t take the credit, saw it on a flag on a boat the other day 😉

The narrowboat's out of the waterAt the Lock image
Not long now

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

Why a Narrowboat? A Combination of Things…

As the time fast approaches our move aboard and we visit canal sites to perform our last duties as gongoozlers, we’ve realised rather than standing by canal bridges, we will soon be going under them

Combination - Great Bedwyn - Bridge image

We’ve also started to analyse what it is that makes the move aboard so appealing. The conclusion is it’s a culmination & combination of things.

Culmination and Combination

It seems to be that moving aboard a narrowboat is a culmination of things we have experienced in the past

Glastonbury – the trek in, the excitement of the alternative, the sights, smells & sounds, the Green Fields of Glastonbury, setting up camp. Lots of different areas to explore.

Camping – under canvas, making a home in the outdoors and moving from place to place. Oh, and tea from a Ghillie Kettle.

Holidays in a Campervan – setting off on an adventure with all you need, packed into every little nook and cranny.

A Land Rover Defender – its strength, engineering and industial heritage.

Outdoors – walking, exploring, map reading, photographing

In some part, living aboard a narrowboat is a combinations of the essenses of the above experiences.

Well, that’s what we keep telling ourselves 😉

Combination - Great Bedwyn image
View from a bridge at Great Bedwyn

See you on The Cut.

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

We’ve Got a Date To Move Aboard!

Yes! We’ve got a date to move aboard!

Express Delivery

I’ve just got off the phone from the marina and everything is on track for the weekend of the 28th April. The boat will be taken out of the water late afternoon of Wednesday 25th, a series of mechanics & assorted tradespersons will swarm over it from roof to bilge, working their various kinds of magic and all being well, we should take delivery Monday 30th 🙂

Suddenly, it’s all very real.

A Canal Visit

We visited the Kennett and Avon canal yesterday.

Daste - B-O-A - canal towpath I image
Bradford-On-Avon

Firstly, we visited Bradford-On-Avon for breakfast at The Lock Inn Cafe and then to gongoozle at the lock. Two narrowboats passed through together – A hire boat paired with a 70ft Traditional with a Lister HR2 engine (a god amongst engines). The thoughts that we will have to manage this in three week’s time were sobering. However, I’m sure a tot of rum will help with that (only joking, it will probably be two 😉 ).

 

Date - Great Bedwyn image
Great Bedwyn Wharf

Secondly, we visited Great Bedwyn and its canal wharf. It’s mooring of barges & narrowboats, bridges and a lock in the warmth & sunshine of a snatch of Spring, re-enforced  why we’re doing this thing. We were inspired to visit there by pouring over Jim Batty‘s excellent book; Narrowboat Life – Discover Life Afloat on the Inland Waterways from Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd. If you are contemplating a life on the ocean wave canal, or just curious there’s no better resource. It gives a real insight.

 

Just think, with that date – it’s only a few weeks time and we’ll be walking those towpaths for real!

 

Date - Great Bedwyn - mu image

 

rp – peace and narrowboats

The Waterways of England and Wales

The Waterways of England and Wales?

No, we’ve not actualy moved onto the narrowboat yet, we’re not touring the canal network, it’s just that over the weekend, it felt like it.

We travelled to Norwich in Norfolk on family business and had a wonderful time in the City of churches (which was fitting as it was Easter).  We took the opportunity as once we move aboard, we won’t have the time to go off, on a whim as we will be wedded to the bilge! The stern gland will hold sway and the deck will need swabbing  ;-).

A Wacky Race

However, I digress. The journey up from Wiltshire (more across than up but you get the picture) was marked by torrential rainfall. Almost the whole way!

Waterways - Driving in the Rain II image

It was like we were in the Wacky Races vehicle; the one where a cloud continually follows them, pouring forth rain and lightning (there wasn’t any lightning) – I think it was The Gruesome Twosome). A grey, continual stream of rain, torrented against the car and drove visibility down to 1.5cm (well, maybe it was a little better than that). Ardous was a word that sprang to mind.

Open to the Elements

The grey motorway was awash and after a while, it looked like we were on a canal. It was effectively a waterway.  The same happened, to some lesser degree on the way back down. We suddenly thought, this is what it will be like some days, except there’s no pram hood cover to hold off the rain – there’s very little room on a Traditional Stern narrowboat to afix a hood, we’re open to the elements. I have purchased one of the most waterproof coats I could; Mountain Equipment‘s Janak jacket. I figure if it’s good enough for Anapurna, it’s good enough for the canal.

It’s only a few weeks away now until we take the helm, sorry – the Tiller (does that mean mu becomes a tiller girl?). The journey in rain focussed our minds on the tasks at hand. There’s a seismic shift coming in the way we’re going to live but that’s a good thing. We’re looking forward to the challenge

Waterways - Driving in the Rain II image

Now, where did I put that water sealant?

 

rp – peace and narrowboats