Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Toad in the Hole

oh yes With roasted onion gravy, broad beans and mashed potato, this was delicious. Can totally recommend this recipe if you like a nice bit of batter. We didn't have any of the expensive (bourgeois) stock to hand, so we just bunged in an oxo cube with the mustard/flour/onion roux and everything tasted fine. The whole meal took less than an hour to prepare, with the minimum of fuss. Top tea!

Thanks Delia.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Gas Bottles

Great. Bread, rolls, cakes and pasties can be baked. But we're not looking forward to changing the gas bottles. Fear of gas leaks has been drummed into us from an early age. We're assured that (handled properly) they are perfectly safe. And there's an autoswitcher between the bottles to minimise hassle. But this is definitely something we are going to need help with.

A whole lot of Chintz

We must have looked at a couple of thousand narrowboats in our search for a new home. but none of them had the feeling of interior space that we wanted. There was either too much dark wood (which the sellers wanted an obscene amount of money for), too much light wood (which the sellers wanted an obscene amount of money for) or an overabundance of small/tiny compartments the seller had knocked up themselves. Any of this would have led to a claustrophic submarine type feeling, and eventual cabin fever.

We did spot a couple of boats we liked, but they vanished off of the market before we were in a position to put in a credible offer on them. And some sellers couldn't even be bothered to respond to our emails. It was very frustrating.

What first attracted us to this boat in particular, is the fact that it is minimalist, light, uncluttered and airy in design. There are large windows. But not so many of them, that'd we'd feel like we were living inside of a goldfish bowl with people able to gawp in at us all the time. It's inevitable that the canals will be much busier than the rivers. But we think this boat strikes a good balance between sanity and privacy.

sheena says kitchen, i say galley

Most asked Question

we designed this
When solids have left our bodies, we have no wish to ever view them again. Some people don't mind (most notably the Dutch), but we are not of that mindset. When we heard that some boaters have to slosh suitcases full of excrement down the towpath to a disposal point, we were utterly mortified. Hellenistic culture invented the flushing toilet several millenia ago, so that's the system we wanted.

the boat throne
(For our friends) No, they don't go straight into the water. The 1's and 2's are pumped down a tube, where they are shredded by whirring macerator blades and shunted off to a steel holding tank. we were thrilled that the stuff really does hit the fan. But not so thrilled that the whirled jobbies would be stored directly under our bed.

Naturally, we have been reading up a bit on the 'science of poo', and treated properly the black tank (euphenism for ton of shite) should not stink very much, if at all. Without nasty detergent chemicals, the live bacteria allegedly seal in the gunk which contains the smell. The paper and stuff is eaten by these friendly non smelling bugs, and reduced to a gloop, which then gets sucked out through a big (hermetically sealed) hose every six weeks. Depending on how much food we eat, and the amount of tea we drink.

It is a bit niffy at the moment. Sheena reported a noxious blowback waft on her first encounter with it. We suspect the previous owners used chemicals, and at the next pump out we'll flush it through thoroughly. 'Biomagic' is the stuff we need, apparently. And we hear that Lemon juice is good for masking any lingering bowl smell. We shall be buying a sack of them.


Morso Squirrel
As well as toasting our toes, this solid fuel stove heats a backboiler, which in turn heats the radiators along the length of the boat. We hope to add a calorifier to the circuit for some free hot water when the stove is on, or the engine is running.

There is no backup diesel heating onboard, which we're grateful for. We may not be quite so happy about that in the depths of winter when it comes round to relighting the fire, or scavenging for kindling. But, Sheena's great-grandfather once wrote a book about how to start a perfect fire. So, for now, we're glad to be free of the additional expense.


Oh dear. We've got a 600W alternator, and one battery for our 'leisure purposes'. Guess what dogma's getting for xmas?

Good Boy

We've taken him on trains all over the country. Stayed in centrally heated and stuffy hotel rooms. Travelled to cities packed with more stressed out hurrying commuters than he's ever seen. Into marinas with cranes, boat engines and all sorts of strange noises he's never heard before. And he's behaved impeccably. No barking at all. And he didn't jump in the river, or fall off of the pontoons once. We're impressed. His weight is down to near perfect, as recommended by the vet. So he's a very fit, healthy and happy lab.


Looking down the roof, you think "ha, that's fine, i'll be able to handle that". But then you remember that there's six feet of welldeck hidden up front, where you can't see it.

Suddenly 54' seems very long indeed. Twice the length of our old house, in fact. "Try getting that round a bend in Manchester", somebody joked. And magically, rivers are much more appealing than they were before. But we will try to get it around some bends in Manchester. Definitely. And we'll have fun doing it.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Crane out and Survey

54ft and 12 tons
big ass crane
Chris the Surveyor gets busythe bent skeg
80 ton crane turned up at 7.30am. great.
But with no strops!! very bad.

Four hour wait ensued while correct strops were dispatched from West London. The wind was whipping down the thames at a fair old rate of knots, chilling our bones and making our knees knock. The offer of hot coffee and warm hospitality in the Marina office was gratefully accepted.

Chris, the marine surveyor, spent two hours crawling around underneath to determine the hull thickness, and if she would float. He had a few minor concerns, especially with the tiller being out of alignment, and a badly bent skeg. He surmised that somebody had most likely banged down on a lock cill somewhere.

The seller was furious with our first offer. And didn't want to budge from their original asking price, despite the surveyors recommendation as to the boat's true worth, and the subsequent work we'd have to do. We were prepared to walk away at this point. a painful and costly decision staring us right in the face. Eventually the seller calmed down, and we were able to work out a mutually beneficial deal. We then parted with some cash. Thanked everybody for their time and trouble. Handshake. She was ours!

Steve the marina mechanic was able to affect a miracle cure with a well deployed sledgehammer and some muscles. Mercifully, we didn't witness this. And returned from the pub, to discover a fully working rudder. Thankyou Steve.

The ineptitude of the crane company, meant our plan to transport her by road to Reading went pearshaped. So we are stuck on the thames until Jan 29th, waiting for the lock maintenance to finish. Our consolation is that this marina is very friendly, and works out cheaper than the one we were going to be transported to.

We're not going to turn our blog into a list of adverts, but these people went above and beyond the call of duty to help out a couple of boating neophytes. We're very grateful to them, and can recommend their services to anybody.

Bourne End Marina
Chris Holmes, Surveyor


Big Red Engine

2 cylinder Bukh marine diesel engine
We have a Bukh engine. The operations manual is 2' thick.

The manufacturer's website was quite helpful. So now we can authoritavely state that it has 2 cylinders, and is capable of delivering 24 horse power under full load. Which (given the length and weight of our hull) translates to a massive 3 knots of forward propulsion! To say we're slightly underpowered would be an understatement. This engine has to propel us up the Thames to the safety of canal land, so we're hoping the river gods will smile on us and not impede progress with any fast flowing currents.

The propeller turns clockwise, we are reliably informed.

Door needs love

We adore the improvised security feature the previous owner installed. but we are hoping to replace it with kickproof steel at first opportunity.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Cash Money

The seller was understandably wary of us sailing off into the sunset with their boat, and wanted some security. Cheque was unacceptable. And a bankers draft would take 5 days to clear the system. We wanted to conclude the sale with a handshake, and that be the end of it. So a large amount of cash was needed at short notice. Not enough for a major corporation to worry about, but enough to raise eyebrows at a local branch.

It took a phone call on the previous day.
12 forms of ID, including photographic.
an extreme scrutiny of my mashed up RFID passport.
a hurriedly convened backroom conference.
and a call to head office.

before the bank would let us have our money.

The staff were friendly, and apologised profusely for the delay, but we left the bank pondering on the system's extreme paranoia about money laundering and the black economy. it was carried in a backpack through the nightclubbing streets of Reading without incident.


Sunday, 15 November 2009

Rogue Herries

Uncle Millican
Our little journey into the unknown is inspired by, and in memory of :- Millican Dalton, Oliver Dalton, and Nicholas Dalton. If we can dare to experience 1/1000000th of the freedoms, adventure and excitements they enjoyed, we will be very happy indeed.

So small is the extent of this country that the sweep of the Eagle's wing caresses all of it, but there is no ground in the world more mysterious, no land at once so bare in its nakedness and so rich in its luxury, so warm with sun and so cold in pitiless rain, so gentle and pastoral, so wild and lonely; with sea and lake and river there is always the sound of running water, and its strong people have their feet in the soil and are independent of all men.

Rogue Herries ~ Hugh Walpole
complete book

Friday, 13 November 2009


the jurassic coast
Staying near Lyme Regis. Walking a lot with Sumo. Trying to get used to being out in the cold weather a bit more, and gradually familiarising ourselves with sloshing about in brown mud (it's red in Devon). Varying combinations of wet weather gear and hats. It has chucked it down with rain recently. Sumo likes the ocean, and the waves crashing on the beach. but the undertow is too ruthless to let him to swim in it here. Big pebbles too, which are nasty on the feet.

Lots of signs with "Private Land ~ Keep off" written on them.

Rambling around on the local footpaths, it's a shame to see that some of them have been fenced off to within an inch of their lives. and others have been neglected to the point that they're barely usable anymore. Out on one walk, we had to tunnel through some dense brambles and gorse, only to discover that a horse farm had annexed the path. Lifting 32kg of Sumo back over the blocked off stile wasn't easy. Thankfully, he didn't squirm about too much.

I don't suppose many people ramble around down here.
And the local council are short of funds.
etc... etc..

But down in the town where the tourists go, everything is manicured neat. Without somebody tackling the new growth regularly, I think many of these beautiful public walks will eventually dissapear. Which would be a great shame.

where's the beach?

Sunday, 1 November 2009


annoying pampus grass

It wasn't the Devon of our youth anymore.

It was becoming too rundown, too expensive, too petty and too bitter. And there were too many cars. We were both fed up of small town politics, and of heroin addicts stealing from the charity shop where Sheena worked. the nature and wildlife around us was great, yes. our proximity to the sea and a dozen beaches, wonderful. but the neighbours cats constantly dumped in our garden, and there were too many stairs for Sumo to climb. it was time to move on. We had some great times in Torbay, and some not so great times. it was sad to leave some of our friends behind. but other people we were glad to see the back of. Sumo got attacked by unruly dogs twice in one week, and we were then 100% certain we'd made the right choice.

sunny aspect

There is only one canal in Devon, and it's 13 miles long. A ship canal, on a tidal estuary. Some people do live on it, apparently. And no doubt it is idyllic and tranquil. but we want and need to explore a bit more of the network than that.

goodrington cliff walk

Eventually sold our house to a nice couple, full of youth and enthusiasm. We hope they'll both be very happy there. Took a year to sell it, due to the slump in the housing market. Several times we thought we'd die of stress. We came soooo close on one occasion, only for it all to fall through, with us having to return to square one again. Think we had about 50 viewings in all, and only two firm offers. Which translates to a large waste of our time, and a lot of un-necessary duster wielding. Quite an emotional rollercoaster ride, which we're both glad is over.

garden flowers

When packing time came around, the removals company were very friendly, helpful and professional. Which made the process a whole lot smoother. They didn't grumble at the fact we lived at the top of a steep hill, and they provided a fantastic selection of boxes to put all of our stuff into. the first time we've ever been excited about cardboard before.

the showhouse

The transition from "home" to "house for sale" was not so bad, because there were 1001 things to do and organise. The utility companies were highly sceptical that somebody would not want reconnecting in their new home. but we managed it. When we closed the front door for the last time, and handed in the keys at the estate agents, there was no sense of regret. it all felt good and proper, like the right thing for us to be doing.

Next thing we know, we are huddled around a laptop, looking at boats for sale.

We'll miss Devon, the South hams, and Torbay.
But we can't be in two places at once.


torbay sunset