Backseat Punter

Whenever anyone writes an article about boat life – which they do with alarming frequency and are presumably usually underpaid for – they will invariably begin their piece with that old Wind in the Willows quote we all know and love:

“…there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

This – is misinformation.

In fact, there are several hundred things more worth doing than messing about in boats. Reading, for example, or watching films. Or having baths. Or being clean. Or having electricity.

I can tell you from experience, dear reader, that the joy of messing about in boats is severely depleted when you have to do it every day or it’s a Thursday morning and the engine has broken down AGAIN and you have a casting to get to and tons of work to do and no power or hot water. AGAIN.

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“I can smell you from here.”

As you may or may not know, depending on whether you’re a stranger or one of the many people I complain to on a daily basis, Albion’s been a bit poorly of late.

It all started ages ago when we noticed that the engine wasn’t sounding great and decided to be super proactive and ignore it for a few months because the sound was the sound of something that sounded expensive.

Unfortunately, engines don’t take too kindly to being ignored when they’re feeling ill so – partly to punish us and partly in the spirit of Halloween – ours promptly died.

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“Bet you wished you’d fixed me noooooooooow.”

Luckily, Ed is somewhat of a dab hand at being pretty darn smart (and making things up as he goes along) and so – with assistance from my mum’s ever patient partner, the kindness of CRT to allow us to stay put for a while, and several hundreds of pounds worth of parts – he managed to get the old beast going again.

Very good, you might think. Nicely done. Off you pop then, you might say. Job’s a goodun, or something to that effect.

But oh, dear reader, you’ve been reading this blog long enough to know that wouldn’t be the end of it, right? (Unless you haven’t in which case please feel free to travel back through my posts and enjoy other instances of me complaining. There are quite a few about poo, sorry.)

You didn’t think we’d be boating off into the sunset happily ever after did you?

You did?

You must not be a boat owner then.

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Boat owners usually look like this.

No, what OBVIOUSLY happened is that, after a month or so of being absolutely fine, the engine suddenly become extremely and tenaciously not fine again (are you enjoying how much my engineering knowledge has come on after four years of living on a boat?).

I went to run the engine one day to top up our batteries and, while it started up okay, it very sadly petered out soon afterwards. Remembering the old rule of boat engineering, I vaguely wiggled some stuff that was on and around the engine but it was all to no avail.

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Em-woe-ji is me.

At this stage we had exhausted our collective engineering knowledge, which is 100% contributed to by Ed, and had to turn to The Experts.

The Expert this time being the lovely Darren at Cow Roast Marina who already knew us from when he fitted a very good and extremely electric-y invertor on our boat a few moons hence and therefore agreed to take a look at the engine for us.

BUT THERE WAS A CATCH.

Darren’s tools live in Cow Roast Marina. Albion was not in Cow Roast Marina. Albion was one lock below Cow Roast Marina and currently without the engine that was required to get her into Cow Roast Marina.

Which brings me neatly back to the futility of messing about in boats. You see, there was a way we could get Albion to the marina on time: via the extremely scientific technique of dragging. And also punting. And then dragging and punting some more.

I can tell you now that it was about as fun and easy as the last time we had to drag the boat somewhere.

I only wish I’d had my phone to capture the moment Ed discovered his vocation as a world-class gondolier. Having left me on dry land so that I could have a rope thrown at me once the boat had been steered to our desired landing point, Ed punted like a Cambridge University degree depended on it. Occasionally he nearly fell in. My heart, if not quite in my mouth, was certainly higher than is biologically normal. It was like watching The Fast and the Furious in slow motion. It was The Slow and the Furious.

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It was *exactly* this.

I also discovered at this juncture that I am a first-rate backseat punter. I could see, from my safe place on dry towpath, exactly how the boat ought to be punted right a bit or left a bit here and there. I occasionally helpfully yelled that Ed should avoid crashing into other nearby boats.

After being stoically ignored for several minutes, I decided to shut up.

Finally, after one lock, a tension-filled punt, and much top end muscle work (One Carli-and-Edpower is equivalent to about the same as one three-legged-horsepower), we rode triumphantly – if glacially – into Cow Roast Marina.

You’ll be glad to hear that Darren was then able to diagnose the problem and begin the long process of sourcing the correct parts to fix it (summin about fuel pumps?). You’ll be equally pleased to hear that we’ll only be without electricity and hot water for just a few weeks this time!

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Until next time readers, although you’ll probably smell me before then.

p.s. OPPORTUNITY: Are you a reader who also happens to be a millionaire? Would you like to be part of a unique opportunity to a) Give us heaps of money to fix up Albion or b) Buy us a house? If this sounds like you – get in touch with me in the comments!

Please!

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To Winter Mooring or Not to Winter Mooring pt. 2: THE DARKNESS INSIDE

Estoy triste. Ich bin traurig. Je suis sad as.

Let me set the scene. It’s 5am and a cheery alarm rings out sudden and loud over Albion.

I wake up and hit Ed on the head as I am wont to do when startled.

“Why did you hit me on the head?” said Ed.

“I set the alarm to wake up and book our winter mooring,” I said.

“I wasn’t snoring,” said Ed.

“No… I’ve woken up to book the winter mooring,” I said.

“You can’t just hit someone on the head for snoring,” mumbled Ed into his pillow.

“No, Ed, listen. I’ve woken up to book the winter mooring. Am I going ahead with it or not?” I said.

“No,” said Ed.

No. N-O. Two little letters and one little word that sent cold, cold icy shards into my heart. A bitter winter fog descended on my chest. Images of iced-over canals and snowy towpaths froze my soul.

I lay in bed, already part White Walker, as I contemplated this news. This year, we would not be taking a winter mooring.

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What the heeeeeellllll

As anyone who reads this blog might know, I love winter moorings. I know they’re a contentious issue amongst boaters, many of whom don’t see the point in shelling out yet more money on top of your license for the privilege of mooring somewhere for a few months yet still having to move every two weeks to empty the toilet and fill up with water anyway.

To which I usually respond, “Yeah but guys… Berkhamsted.”

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Bakhamstaaaaad.

I love Berkhamsted even more than I love winter moorings in general so was feeling pretty darn excited to book the same winter mooring we had there last year.

Imagine, then, my disappointment when I excitedly browsed this year’s winter mooring information only to find out that the Berkhamsted mooring had been treated to a right royal cubuph.

In case you don’t know what a cubuph is, it’s a word I just made up that stands for a Completely Unfair Bloody Unjustified Price Hike.

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Just call me Carliam Shakespeare.

Our little mooring in Berkhamsted had been upgraded from a Band 3 mooring to a Band 2, meaning a price hike that would now cost us £200/month if we wanted to take up a winter mooring.

Just FYI, here’s the difference between a Band 2 and a Band 3 winter mooring.

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Now here’s the spec for a Band 2 winter mooring, with my edits to show what the Berkhamsted mooring actually offers.

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The Berkhamsted mooring offers pretty much none of the things specified by the Band 2 description. There are no mooring rings or bollards and no facilities, unless you count the water point and elsan round the corner which it once took us two hours of painfully cold ice breaking to reach.

In fact the only thing the Berkhamsted mooring has to offer to make it a Band 2 mooring is the fact that it’s within walking distance of a popular town. NOT THAT I’M EVER CYNICAL ABOUT THESE KINDS OF THINGS but it seems to me that the price hike is a bit of a shameless money grab based on the fact that Berkhamsted is super popular and people will pay money to be near it even if the mooring fulfills none of the other things it’s supposed to.

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I mean, fair enough.

 

Not only that, but our mooring last year was far from stress-free. The water levels in Berkhamsted are notoriously terrible and more often than not we woke up completely tipsy.

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Not even the fun kind of tipsy.

Smashed posessions and wobbly showers aside, the facilities the mooring supposedly offers include the elsan point in the grounds of the Old Mill pub that is currently a battleground between the pub and CRT, who can’t seem to decide who is responsible for keeping it clean and functional. Add to that the fact that local builders seem to frequently use it to dispose of waste materials and you get an elsan that, last year, was blocked more often than not and took months to get repaired.

“But Carli,” I hear you cry. “If the mooring was that terrible, why would you even want to spend money to stay there anyway?”

To which I reply…

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BAKHAMSTAAAAAAAD

Unfortunately even the delights of Berkhamsted couldn’t change the fact that the new increased price was just too much for our freelance bank accounts, especially considering how imperfect the mooring had been last year.

That’s why this morning, with a heavy heart, I switched off my 5am ‘BOOK WINTER MOORING’ alarm, and went back to sleep.

Now, instead of our lovely, crappy, comfy, useless winter mooring, we’re going to be roaming the canals all winter, fighting the ice, and braving all sorts of terrible and hilarious incidents I’m sure.

Which is bad news for Carli, great news for Carli’s Blog.

Watch this cold, cold space.

 

Top 5 Ways to Wake Up on a Boat

OMG I FORGOT I HAVE A BOAT BLOG.

I do apologise, dear readers, for not having updated this blog in such a long time – I’ve been somewhat busy taking care of my dog who just lost her ear to cancer.

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Now you feel bad.

Fortunately, something happened in the early hours of this morning that inspired me to pick up my quill (laptop) and get bloggy with it.

Quick recap: we are currently moored in Rickmansworth, on our way Oop North (Milton Keynes is Oop North when you come from London), on a corner of the canal where the towpath bends around towards a lock. We are also very much In Nature, meaning that when night falls and it is dark… it is dark.

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Our view during the nighttime.

Around 1am this morning, a cyclist – who evidently thought night cycling with lights is for BABIES – cycled right onto the front deck of our boat.

We know this because we sleep right underneath it and also because, when someone crashes into your bedroom ceiling at 1am then proceeds to yell ‘I RAN OUT OF TOWPATH’, you tend to wake up.

This delightful wake-up call got me thinking about how #boatlife is actually really good for those of us who are not the world’s most natural early birds because it often tends to wake you up in the most horrifying and adrenaline-triggering ways possible.

There really is no better alarm clock; when you’ve been woken by boatlife – you stay awake.

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Boatlife

So without further ado, I present to you…

The Top 5 Ways to Wake Up on a Boat!

  1. Wake-Up by Coot

“Oohh boatlife must be so peaceful. Is it so super peaceful? I’ll bet it’s the most amazingly peaceful,” say People when I tell them I live on a boat. ‘Peaceful’ is actually the Number 2 erroneous adjective People use to describe imagined boatlife, after ‘Romantic’.

As anyone who has read this blog before will know, boatlife it is not romantic (unless you think poo and dirt are romantic) and it is most certainly not peaceful. Yes, we are surrounded by nature but – guess what? – NATURE IS REALLY NOISY.

Introducing the drunken football fan of the natural world: THE COOT.

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“**** YOU, I’M MILLWALL.”

If coots aren’t fighting then they’re procreating and when they procreate they make miniature coots whose natural state is yelling, constantly.

Awesome!

2. Wake-Up by Sinking Noises

Of all the noises to get you out of bed faster than a coot when it sees another coot it doesn’t like or wants to have sex with, sinking noises are numero uno.

Since our boat has never actually sunk…

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TOUCH ALL THE WOOD

…I’m not sure what I think sinking noises are but generally bubbling, swishing, dripping, and swooshing are all enough to get me out of bed faster than you can say ‘coots suck’.

Wake-Up by Floating Away

Okay I’ve written about this before but I really cannot stress enough how quickly you wake up once you realise your home is floating freely wherever it pleases. Coming adrift from your mooring is Number Two Not Fun Boat Thing (after sinking).

Also I am sorry to say that that time I wrote about wasn’t a one off. Thanks to soggy ground, dry ground, storms, wind, rain, no rain, and people who don’t understand that four miles per hour is a necessity not a lifestyle choice, this has actually happened many times since I wrote that first blog. Many times I have awoken to the sound of our mooring pins joyfully shaking themselves loose from their dirty homes. Many times I have looked out the window only to see the towpath waving sadly goodbye.

And all this is even despite Ed purchasing a new heavy metal pin-hammering mallet that I can barely lift.

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That’s the one!

Wake-Up by Boris Johnson

Once I was woken up from a perfectly good nap in the most horrible way possible: by experiencing the nearby presence of Boris Johnson.

I was awoken as he cycled past, both by his characteristic call of ‘Hrrrmpg burrghh gurrgh bruuhh’ and the sound of people loudly swearing at him.

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A rare occasion in which I am in agreement with a cyclist.

Wake-Up Upside Down

Ahh, I saved the best one until last. Also, unfortunately, the most common one of late.

Due to a lack of dredging and an abundance of idiots (the sort who leave paddles open on lock gates), the water levels on the Grand Union have been a nightmare these past few months. More often than not, we awake to a tipped-up boat, broken possessions, and SMASHED WINE.

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THIS IS THE WORST THING OF ALL THE THINGS I JUST SAID.

The fun thing about waking up to low water levels and a listing boat is that, when the boat goes like this:

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…we wake up like this:

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Which is only appropriate if you are a) in hospital, or b) a vampire.

What better way to wake up than with a rush of blood to the head and the acute pain of losing a full bottle of Campo Viejo?

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If it was a Reserva then probably don’t even bother talking to me until at least 2pm.

 


So there you have it!

A comprehensive list of reasons why a life afloat means I am pretty much always wide awake and 100% bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

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Or, at the very least, extremely nervous and easily-startled.

Thanks for reading, I’m off for a nap.

 

 

Winter BORING

When I wrote about the pros and cons of a winter mooring, I failed to take into account this: Winter moorings are winter BORING. We have spent the whole winter winter SNORING.

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Albion for the past three months.

While other hardy boaters have battled through the icy waters, their bargepoles glancing off the frozen canal like Ahab’s spear off Moby Dick’s back, we have merely sat in the warm and grumbled about what they’re doing to our blacking.

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BOATER VS FROZEN GRAND UNION

In fact things have been so pleasant and so easy that we’ve been at risk of feeling like not-real-boaters at all. That’s why, the other day, we decided we really ought to get out there and eat some ice.

Here’s a visual representation of how that went:

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At this point I should probably clarify that we didn’t just go for an ice-breaking jaunt for no reason. Our winter mooring hasn’t been entirely without excitement, we were in fact FROZEN IN for the last couple of weeks.

At first, being frozen in is really exciting and beautiful.

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See?

Everything is frosty and white and you can do all sorts of fun things like poke the ice, throw stuff on the ice, hit the ice with a stick, and watch the ducks wondering what in the actual hell is going on.

At night, the towpath glitters.

We even had snow at one point.

Snow is interesting!

However things get a little less fun when the ice starts to get fat and comfy and overstays its welcome, much like myself at your house in winter. The not-fun is amplified further when, although your winter mooring has a water point fairly close by, you can’t actually get to it unless you a) reverse all the way there or b) go down the lock, turn in the winding hole, go back up the lock, and make your merry way to the water point five hours later.

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It’s behind you! Of course because why would CRT make this easy for us.


A quick lesson in boatabulary (boat vocabulary): While you may initially think ‘winding hole’ should be pronounce in the same way as ‘winding a clock’ or ‘datty wind and grind’, it’s actually pronounced ‘winding’ as in ‘a cold wind’ or ‘boaters have definitely made up this pronunciation of winding’.

This is because a winding hole works by allowing you to ease your bow into the pointy end of the hole in order to let the wind blow you around until you’re facing the right direction. It is also because boaters love anything that has a misleading pronunciation upon which they can gleefully correct people over and over again. (See also: windlass – commonly pronounced ‘windlass’ as in ‘a cold wind’-lass but really ought to be pronounced ‘windlass’ as in ‘datty grind and wind’-lass).


Factor in thick ice that makes it impossible to go either forwards or backwards and getting water becomes impossible.

So when we ran out of water right in the middle of the deep freeze, it was not good.

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It was like this but cold.

Oh water, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee for letting me wash my hands. I love thee for letting me brush my teeth. I love thee for letting me do the washing up and for being quite a main component of showering. I love thee for letting me flush the toilet.

I do not love thee when thee is only available in 1L bottles of Waitrose essential spring water.

If you’ve ever washed exclusively from 1L bottles of Waitrose essential spring water then you’ll understand that it gets tedious pretty quickly.

After a week of this, things got gross.

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Since there’s only so much not-showering I can handle, we started to gaze longingly out of the window through our grime-encrusted eyes at what looked to be a defrosting canal.

“Hmm.” we thought, “That looks good enough for boating now.”

We decided enough was enough, it was time to face the ice and get some water.

We took up our positions; Ed at the back ready to steer us into the blizzard, me at the front – bargepole poised – ready to smash us a path through the tundra.

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We had this. We were getting water. Nothing was stopping us.

Except the ice, which did in fact stop us.

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We got about 10m down the canal, me flailing the bargepole wildly at all I beheld, until we came to a sharp and grinding halt that nearly threw me off the front of the boat.

From an open hatch nearby a friendly voice gleefully chirped, “You ain’t gonna get through that! Even if you could, you’ll never open the lock gates!”

Right. Excellent. Thanks. Reversing it is.

I’ll spare you a blow-by-blow account of how we, over the next two hours, managed to crawl backwards through the ice except to say that eventually we had to give up and head for the towpath where we commenced to drag the boat backwards like canal horses, with Ed smashing the ice as we went.

Later, as we huddled by the fire congratulating ourselves through chattering teeth and waiting for our water tank to fill up, I meditated on the fact that excitement is overrated.

The next day, I contacted CRT and asked if we could extend our winter mooring to March.

They said no.

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BAAAASTAAAARDS.

To Winter Mooring or Not to Winter Mooring?

That is the question we were recently faced with after wasting an entire summer achieving Sims Lifetime Aspirations like Getting Married and Going on our Honeymoon.

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Time that could have been far better spent on repainting the boat.

When we returned from our trip, it had somehow become September and all those usual winter-prepping jobs that can normally be done at leisure over the summer had suddenly become entirely pressing and urgent.

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“Damnit!”

Perhaps, we thought, it might be nice to get a winter mooring this year so that we might have a more permanent place in which to work on our floatyhome. Plus there was the enticing prospect of not having to move the boat in subzero (anything below 20ºc, for me) temperatures.

The next question was, where?

While we had been away we had left Albion in Rickmansworth near my mum’s house so that she could have eyes kept on her in case of unexpected sinking. But for a few months now our real destination has been Berkhamsted.

Ahh Berkhamsted, medium-sized historic market town, affluent commuter hub, home to castle (remains of), and the number one boating location of my heart.

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On certain blustery autumn mornings you can hear the faint whispering of Waitrose bags on the wind as they sigh: “…Berkhamsted“.

I love Berkhamsted. By rights I should hate Berkhamsted, being as it is a slightly larger version of Clapham with only marginally fewer estate agents. But it is also so very beautiful with so very many places to walk the dog and there are so very many pubs and Waitrose is so very near to the canal and London is only slightly further away at just 30 minutes on the train and I love it.

So we began to wonder whether we shouldn’t make a longer-term commitment to Berkhamsted and get a winter mooring there.

At this point I should probably tell those of you who are normal solid-ground bricks-and-mortar house people (as opposed to floaty-feet drifty-bum boat people) that winter moorings are a thing that Canal and River Trust do to extort even more money out of you depending on how well you cope with being cold.

If – like me – you hate being cold, you can pay a small (large) sum to secure a little mooring spot of your very own for your choice of one, two, three, four, or five months thus negating the need to move your boat in the glacial weather and allowing yourself to stay inside next to the fire for the entire winter until you roast yourself into spring.

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Me, in March.

Sounds great, right? Sign me on up for one of those bad boys, you might say.

However winter moorings aren’t as amazing as they might seem and the reasons are threefold:

Onefold: Winter moorings are e.x.p.e.n.s.i.v.e. in the sort of way that requires a full stop between every letter. Yes okay it’s not as expensive as paying rent but, since we’re already having to shell out for a yearly license, it’s another expense we could be doing without. For example, a Band 1 super double-plus-good winter mooring with rings or bollards to tie to, full facilities, and nearby transport links (or in London zones 1-4) would have set us back about £700 for three months. That’s nearly as much as our license for an entire year.

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And that’s not taking into consideration the fact that any decent, self-respecting boater is essentially skint at all times.

Twofold: Winter moorings aren’t always that great. Not everywhere is Berkhamsted, after all. If you can’t afford one of the Band 1 moorings (as described above), there is a chance you could be paying to stay somewhere with no facilities and no transport links whatsoever. Although these are cheaper, you’re probably going to have to travel to empty your casette and fill up with water every two weeks anyway so you might as well just keep cruising.

Threefold: It turns out the reasons were only twofold.

And so we were left thinking, can we afford a winter mooring and do we even want one anyway? Isn’t boating in winter just as fun?

Spoiler: Yes we can, yes we do, and no it’s not.

But if you have yet to decide for yourself whether or not a winter mooring is a good idea you can always use this handy quiz:

Should I Take a Winter Mooring or Should I Not Take a Winter Mooring?

  1. Do you like being cold?

a) Yes I am a weirdo who likes being cold.

b) I don’t like being cold but I can cope with being cold if it is necessary.

c) No I hate being cold and will do anything to avoid it including paying large sums of money.

2. Do you like staying in one place for longer than two weeks?

a) No, staying somewhere too long makes me antsy for I am as free-spirited as a wild, untameable moorhen.

b) It might be nice to not have to move around if the weather was really miserable.

c) I like staying in one place for as long as possible and that place is my sofa and/or bed.

3. Does clambering over a wet and slippery lock sound like your idea of a good time?

a) DUH! Sign me up for a wet slippery lock party!

b) It’s not ideal but it’s not a big deal either.

c) Why would I want to be anywhere except my sofa and/or bed?

4. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF THE CANAL FROZE OVER AND YOUR BOAT GOT STUCK AND YOU RAN OUT OF WATER AND YOUR TOILET WAS FULL AND IT WAS COLD AND STUFF?

a) I would fetch water from somewhere else, walk or drive my casette to the nearest Elsan point, and put the fire on – why are you shouting at me?

b) I’d be pretty stressed and it would probably make my winter a bit rubbish but I’m sure I could cope.

c) I would die, instantly.

YOU GOT:

Mostly a’s: You don’t need a winter mooring you big tough boatery boater. You are so at ease with winter you are probably a descendent of Jack Frost himself. Don’t waste your money, you beautiful wintry beast.

Mostly b’s: You’d probably enjoy a winter mooring but it also wouldn’t be a big deal if you couldn’t get one. Maybe take one just for one month to congratulate yourself on being so average.

Mostly c’s: You sound like a very rational and intelligent person who has made the wise decision to take a winter mooring for five years minimum. Enjoy spending all your ensuing time on your sofa and/or in bed.


When I took the quiz I got mostly c’s so we decided to spend the money and get a winter mooring in our beloved Berkhamsted.

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…Berkhamsted.

Luckily for us, the allocated stretch in Berkhamsted is somehow one of the cheaper ones, despite having fairly good access to facilities and not being a huge walk from the station. Also luckily for us, I am an awesome wife and got up at six (A.M.) this morning to secure our spot since the Berkhamsted winter mooring is also one of the most popular.

Oh, did I not mention the winter moorings went on sale this morning?

Sorry, Berkhamsted’s sold out.

 

Fridgegate

I’ve noticed that, throughout a lot of my blogs, I often write about the fundamental rules of boating. Rules such as Thou Shalt Not Buy A Boat Because It’s Not Worth It Trust Me and Why Did Thou Buy a Boat Anyway Art Thou Stupid? and See I Told Thou.

But one rule I don’t think I’ve covered is Thou Shalt Not Have Nice Things.

I’m quite surprised I haven’t written about this yet because it applies to absolutely everything. Nice clothes? Don’t bother, coal doesn’t really come out in the wash. Nice shoes? YEAH IF YOU LIKE COAL-COLOURED SHOES. Basically, there is no point buying anything nice because: Coal. And if it’s summer and the fire isn’t on: Dog and Mud. And if you’re not stupid enough to have a dog: General Boat Grubbiness.

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Here is a picture of me, just going about my daily boat business.

But it’s not just grubbiness that’s the problem. Our boat is also like the Bermuda Triangle of new appliances. It seems that whenever we want to treat ourselves to something new that will make our lives easier or more pleasant, Albion looks at that thing and says, “Nope!”

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Albion.

Take, for example, our shiny new fridge.

 Look at it! Beautiful blue ethereal light, radiant with peace and coldness. Like the very apparatus with which God himself creates a snowflake.

Our old fridge was not beautiful and shiny. It was beige. And beige in the way that I don’t think was beige to start out with.

It was also absolutely fantastic at doing the exact opposite of what a fridge was supposed to do. You could put food in it and, just 10 minutes later, the food would be perfectly warmed. Leave it for 30 minutes and your food item would be deliciously collapsing in on itself with rot. The fridge became affectionately known as the Mould Box.

So we replaced it.

I won’t lie to you readers, the installation process of the shiny new fridge was not without its stresses.

 

But, eventually, the new fridge was in and cooling the hell out of our Co-op pizza.

Sounds good, right?

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Turns out we underestimated the amount of power the new fridge would draw from the batteries. The old fridge had run off the gas so had never been a problem and we’re getting so much power from the solar panels these days that we thought the new fridge would be fine. We figured we’d just hook it up to the gas once winter came around.

Sadly this was not the case and, judging by the fact that the lights wouldn’t turn on, the water pump was out of action and we couldn’t get the engine to start, Shiny New Fridge had drained the batteries completely.

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WHY SHINY NEW FRIDGE WE DID NOTHING BUT LOVE YOU

But then we realised that the inverter was still working and that the batteries weren’t completely drained at all. In fact, to our relief, everything seemed fine.

Except for the entire 12v system.

Instead of simply draining the batteries like we thought, installing (and uninstalling) the fridge had obviously caused something to go very wrong with the 12v circuit and we couldn’t find a single blown fuse to explain it.

Which is a worse problem!

 

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Yay!

We thought perhaps the low batteries might be the issue so we attempted to hand start the engine to top them up.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to hand start a Petter PH2W engine (if you have then, wow, niche, and also please please tell us how) but it is IMPOSSIBLE. In theory you have to crank this cranky thing round and round really really fast and then, when you’ve got to optimum fast cranky spin, you flick a levery contraption and the engine comes on.

In practise, the cranky thing takes the weight of seven elephants to turn and the lever does absolutely bugger all.

After several goes, Ed had lost most of the skin on his hands so we decided to give up.

Literally powerless, I invoked another Rule of Boating: If you just go to sleep for long enough, everything will work out fine.

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This is actually a really good rule for life in general.

Lo and behold, curled up with the dog in bed, I awoke to the beautiful sound of the engine spluttering into life and the beautiful vision of Ed emerging, triumphant, from the engine room.

“How did you fix it?” I asked, wondering what year it was.

“Unplugging the fridge loosened a connection in the 12v circuit so I just wiggled it until everything worked again,” explained Ed.

So there you have it, an entire morning of stress that could have been saved if we’d remembered the most important boating rule of all: When in doubt, wiggle it.

 

 

 

 

 

For the Love of the Sun

My mum recently remarked to me that my blog posts haven’t been very lighthearted of late.

Perhaps this is because boating often makes you grumpy and cantankerous in an amount that is exactly proportional to the amount landlubbers think boating makes you harmonious and floaty.

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I mean floaty in a dreamy sort of way, not a physical way. The boat is, of course, physically floaty otherwise I would be precisely 100% more cantankerous.

Example: Yesterday as we were boaty floating through Hertford in the late evening summer sun, a landlubber called out to me, “That looks so relaxing!”

In reality it was 8pm and we had been forced to move the boat despite having another week left in our mooring spot because we needed to empty the toilet and the nearest elsan was over an hour away. Upon arrival in Hertford we couldn’t find a space to stop and so had to go to the very end of the Lea, turn around and come back again. The sky was beginning to bruise and I was beginning to think we would be forced to camp, when Mr L. Andlubber innocently remarked upon the enjoyability of my evening.

I smilingly called back “You’d be surprised!” in a polite, conspiratorial sort of way but inside my head I was really thinking “ARRRRGHHHHHHHH”.

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Ohhhh, that’s why pirates are always saying that.

That being moaned about, it is summer and that is a reason to be happy because it’s the season that will this year contain a) my birthday, b) my wedding, and c) my honeymoon. So I’m going to literally lighten up and write a post about how much I love the sun.

(This one’s for you, mum).

God I love the sun.

It’s been very sunny lately. You might have noticed by the way British people have been joyously heralding the weather on social media only to complain about the heat five minutes later. Or by the way the press have been digging out their stock photos of families enjoying the sunshine (or their teenage daughters wearing bikinis, if you’re the Daily Mail).

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“Thousands of innocent sunbathers enjoy the weather unaware of imminent FLOODS and SKIN CANCER and IMMIGRANTS.” – DM

But I don’t love the sun for its warmth or its tanning potential or any other pedestrian terrestrial reasons like that.

I love the sun for its sweet, sweet laptop juice.

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I am enjoying the sun. Just from inside and via solar power.

When we first moved onto Albion, we didn’t have any solar panels. Instead we had to run the engine to get all our electricity. With both of us working from home this meant a lot of engine running, which in turn meant a lot of money wasted on diesel. And, since our engine is hardly the most purry of beasts, a lot of shaking and a lot of noise.

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And probably a lot of disgruntled canalside property owners.

Sick of hearing our own teeth rattling and not wanting to anger those around us, we realised this could not go on.

It was time to upgrade to…

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SOLAR POWER!!!!!

“But getting solar panels installed is so expensive,” you may lament.

Not so, humble person insterested in renewable energies!

We managed to get two solar panels bought and installed for just £325 thanks to Matt at Old Friends Canal Services. He told us to order second hand solar panels from Bimble Solar (£58 each) and then installed them for us in a few hours. We opted for Kyocera panels on tiltable brackets (we had had stick-on panels on the old boat but had found them next to useless) so we can even angle them towards the sun like energy efficient geniuses.

We were a little worried that second-hand panels wouldn’t be as effective but oh how wrong we were!

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Our boat. All the time.

Since we didn’t get the panels installed until the end of last summer, we haven’t really had a chance to enjoy them until recently. Over the winter we do still have to run the engine for power thanks to shorter days and just generally living in England but the past few weeks have been a revelation.

The other night we fell asleep and left the inverter on. This is normally a disaster of broken-down style proportions but, this time, we woke up and the batteries were on 88%.

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IT’S PROBABLY QUITE HARD FOR YOU TO UNDERSTAND HOW HAPPY THIS MAKES ME BUT JUST TAKE MY WORD FOR IT.

We now haven’t had to run our engine for power for at least two or three weeks and probably won’t again until autumn (or the next grey spell).

So if you’re a new boater or just a BWaSP (Boater Without a Solar Panel), I really can’t recommend them enough. Although it is a little bit of expense to start with, it needn’t cost a fortune and will probably save you as much money in diesel and pissed-off neighbour lawsuits anyway.

Clear off and Relinquish Traditions

As a fairly new boater with only two years under my windlass and smarting from some of the reactions to my latest post, I’d like to make a disclaimer: I am not by any means a canal or boat expert and the majority of my blogs are roughly 12% serious. 14% on a day when something’s made me grumpy.

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DEAR GOD THIS BLOG IS ANYTHING BUT EDUCATIONAL.

That being said, today I am going to offer MY UNDERSTANDING of the CCer crisis as it currently stands based on MY EXPERIENCES. Please disregard the lot as soon as you’ve finished reading it. (No, not yet.)

(I’ll tell you when).

We recently watched the insightful Off The Cut by Wendy Zakiewicz. It’s a documentary film about what it’s like to be a ‘Continuous Cruiser’ or ‘A Boater without a Home Mooring’ or ‘Definitely the Best Sort of Boater You Can Be’ or whatever you choose to call us.

Here is the film (you can watch it now, I’ll wait.):

If you don’t want to watch the film or you can’t currently watch the film because you’re reading this blog at work (I like your style) then I’ll try to cram a very huge and complicated issue into a very small nutshell.

Haha Austin… anyway… what?

Oh yes, so, Off The Cut is a pretty accurate, heartfelt account of what it’s like to be a Continuous Cruiser. For those of you unfamiliar with the rules surrounding our way of life, the waterways are looked after/RULED OVER WITH AN IRON FIST (depending on your opinion) by CRT – Canal & River Trust – a charity designed to oversee the likes of lock fixing, dredging, taking away the homes of children, and towpath maintenance.

To be allowed to live on a boat as a Continuous Cruiser, you have to pay for a CRT licence. This entitles you to keep your boat on CRT waters, use facilities, live with the constant threat of your home being taken away, and have a cool key on a cork!

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IT’S ALL WORTH IT FOR THE FLOATY KEY THAT ANYONE CAN BUY ON EBAY.

To receive your licence (and to have it renewed on a yearly basis), you must comply with certain rules as set out in the British Waterways Act 1995:

[to satisfy] the Board that the vessel to which the application relates will be used bona fide for navigation throughout the period for which the consent is valid without remaining continuously in any one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances.

A failure to comply with these rules will result in your licence being taken off you or not being renewed when your current licence runs out. Which means you will be issued with a Section 8: After giving at least 28 days notice, to remove a craft which is sunk, stranded, abandoned or unlawfully moored on the Trust’s waterways

…or a Section 13 (I think?): the British Waterways Act 1971 states that it is unlawful to moor or keep any houseboat (defined mainly as any vessel not used for navigation) on the Trust’s waterways without a valid licence. It further gives the Trust the power to remove or (ultimately) demolish a houseboat if, following proper notice, the owner does not first remove it.)

Simple, right??

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Nope.

The problem with the act is that it doesn’t specify… well, anything really. It doesn’t specify what a place is or what ‘bona fide navigation’ means or what sort of circumstances make overstaying reasonable or why geese eat my blacking or why Pickett’s Lock always makes me crash my boat or why cyclists suck.

Thus, as #LawInspo for the CRT license terms, it’s not particularly useful.

Or at least it was completely fine until canal living became hugely popular and CRT suddenly found loads of dirty boaters clogging up its canals and demanding more of the basic facilities they needed to live (like water and somewhere to empty your poo) and CRT had to begin making the rules the hell up in an effort to get rid of all the boaters who weren’t neatly hidden away in marinas so that they could go back to spending their money on duck graffiti.

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Or, until a charity designed to cut weeds and fix big wooden floaty doors found itself at the eye of a government-created housing storm and did what it had to do to save the poor waterways from a new breed of ukulele-toting millenials who infest Broadway Market and poo in the canal.

Depending on your opinion.

To put an end to the confusion, CRT now state Clearly and Finitely that:

  • a CCer must move to a new place every 14 days
  • a ‘place’ = somewhere CRT made up on a map
  • ‘bona fide navigation’ means not returning to a place you were just at. Or the place you were at before that place. Or shuffling between a few places. Even though those would be different places in accordance with the British Waterways Act? Yes, look could you just keep travelling in a straight line until you hit the sea and then you can turn around. Except maybe don’t turn round even then. Maybe go in the sea. Yes it’s best if you were all in the sea.
  • You have to cover around 20 miles during the license period.
  • What?
  • Where did that come from?
  • I can’t see that anywhere in the Act.
  • What does around 20 miles mean?
  • Like 20 miles in one direction or 20 miles and back again?
  • I dunno, just like… around 20 miles.
  • Around?? Is 10 miles enough?
  • No.
  • 15 miles?
  • Maybe.
  • Maybe?? You’re going to take away my boat if I don’t go far enough so how far is far enough?
  • Look at this duck graffiti! So viral.

So you see, a lack of clarity is the problem. CRT cannot be more specific about the rules because the Waterways Act isn’t more specific about the rules and CRT is a charity without the legal standing to create new legislation and enforce it by law ( I have no idea if I explained that right. I’m just paraphrasing the script of Silk.) (How good was Silk??) (I loved Maxine Peake in Silk).

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What a powerhouse.

On the other hand, some of the boaters camp argue that murky law is our friend.

(Murky law, not Murphy’s Law).

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Murphy’s Law is no one’s friend.

They argue that, because the official laws are so vague, CRT can’t actually enforce any of its rules and we can all get away with doing whatever we want as long as we all just shut up and put down that ukulele. Pushing CRT (and perhaps, eventually, government) for more definite rules might result in new laws being created that make our way of life even harder. Where our boats will be tracked by GCHQ and any boat travelling just 19.9 miles during its licence period will automatically explode.

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“This one’s okay actually I just forgot to log him in Broxbour… Oh.”

That all being laid out, it’s time for me to confess.

I am one half of a boating couple in our 20s. We moved onto a boat in London (BOATING PROBLEM AREA #1) because we couldn’t afford to live in the city any other way. During our first year, we even RENTED.

According to many people on both sides of the debate, we are The Problem.

I even look exactly like what happens when you type “hipster girl” into Google Images.

So let me give you an insight into life as The Problem.

We moved onto the canals at the beginning of 2013. We started out knowing nothing and making all sorts of mistakes just like ANYONE ELSE DOING ANYTHING EVER. As we got more used to life on the canal, we took the time to learn about its history and about the rules, we found out that renting was a bit of an issue so we used our savings to buy our own boat (although I have to say we were very lucky with our waterlords who were nice and reasonable and took care of us. This is all I will say on renting because I don’t know how many contentious issues I dare to fit in one post).

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“I have read all of the boat informations and I still cannot work out why everyone on London Boaters is angry at me!”

In our rental year, we asked our waterlords to let us leave London and travel up the Grand Union, which we fell in love with. Over the past year on our own boat we have travelled to Oxford and back and are currently travelling up the River Lea heading for first the Stort and then Hertford, even though we both have work that requires us to be in London on some days (thankfully not every day, we are luckier than others with 9-5 jobs).

Not asking for a pat on the back or anything, just stating that this is the case for most of the Continuous Cruisers we have met – just normal people trying their best to live a certain way of life and trying to live it within some pretty changeable rules. I’m sure there are overstayers and poo-in-canalers but I haven’t met any and I certainly haven’t witnessed anything like the extent of problem boats CRT (and some other boaters) claim to exist. In fact, apart from the congestion in London, the only problems we’ve faced are a lack of boater facilities and the unpleasant sensation of being constantly watched by CRT.

Over the past few years we have experienced:

  • Having to risk mice and other pests by storing our rubbish on the roof or in the gas locker for days because there are no bin facilities nearby (where we are currently moored there is a big bin by a cafe with a sign that specifically says ‘No Boaters Rubbish’ or something to that effect, which makes me feel sad and rejected. By a bin.)
  • Continuous texts and emails from CRT telling us to move on from an area during two separate occasions when I had notified them that we had first an engine problem and then a gas leak.
  • CRT Volunteers (who walk the canals checking people’s license numbers to make sure they’re not overstaying) banging on our doors – and I mean banging like “STASI! OPEN UP!” – because they couldn’t read our brass licence plate (Landlubbers: This is akin to the police banging on your door once a week and asking to see your council tax information).
  • Having to pretty much cross my legs and wash with baby wipes for the time we were stuck in Berkhamsted with engine failure because one water point was broken (and never fixed the whole time we were there), one Elsan point was blocked and had started overflowing into the canal, and the other Elsan was an hour away on foot or by boat (and was locked when we got there.)
  • Wanting to visit Oxford but finding the moorings all ’24hrs only’ so having to retreat to Kidlington if we wanted to actually settle somewhere for our LEGALLY ALLOWED two weeks (there’s talk of doing this in more areas now, Berkhamsted included, making yet more ‘places’ unlivable for Continuous Cruisers).

This is just a small amount of the difficulties that we’ve come across as Continuous Cruisers and they are ongoing. We’ve currently come up the Lea because we a) really like Hertford and b) want to fulfil the terms of our licence but there is nowhere to empty our toilet within an hour’s radius of where we are currently moored. We are also two able-bodied people who are lucky enough to work from the boat for the majority of the time meaning we don’t need to be tied to one place. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for the disabled or ill or those with children of school age who are no longer allowed to cruise within a commutable distance to their school.

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I got a bit ranty for a while there and forgot to do any pictures so here’s a funny-looking duck.

People who don’t like Continuous Cruisers (or who are smug CCers themselves) argue that there are plenty of facilities if you just move far enough to find them. Well we’re movin’ and facilities we ain’t seein’. They also say that, if you can’t comply with the rules, you shouldn’t move onto a boat. Which is fine until the rules change so often that you don’t know whether you can comply with them or not from one year to the next. It’s not like you can be happily working, child-rearing and doing an acceptable cruising pattern around your desired location, only to read that the CC rules have changed and then suddenly have enough money to move into a house near your job or child’s school. It is hard not to feel like Continuous Cruisers are having their lives deliberately made harder in order to drive them out, either into CRT-owned marinas or off the canals completely to free up supposedly-protected land to sell off to developers. Either way, CRT stands to gain financially and the canals are kept ‘clean’, ‘tidy’ and ‘free of poor people’.

I don’t know what the solution to the busyness of the canals is, except to suggest that simply adding more facilities might help people spread out a bit more instead of clustering and shuffling around the places where they can find the things they need to, you know, live. As to CRT’s motives and financial dealings, I don’t know enough as yet to say what is truth and what is conspiracy theory. I only know that I don’t believe Continuous Cruisers are the problem we are made out to be and I increasingly suspect that we are simply subject to the same sort of prejudice as any sort of traveller has been since the dawn of time.

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AKA We don’t have to pay bills and get to enjoy views like this and y’all are just jealous.

(You can disregard this all now).

 

War.

A few weeks ago we went to see some stand-up courtesy of Joel Sanders, aka The Angry Boater. It was funny, of course, and enjoyable in the way only 1.5 hours of niche comedy directed exclusively at your interests can be. But most of all, it made me feel better. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

Alone in being very, very angry.

I didn’t use to be an angry person. My angriness materialised over the past couple of years. Some might say that this coincides with moving onto a boat. Or adopting the World’s Maddest Dog.

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WMD.

But I, and only I (and maybe Ed), know the true root cause of my anger. That cause is: Cyclists.

Not just any cyclists. I’m talking mad, speeding, arrogant flesh bags of entitlement on two canal-side wheels. I’m talking Towpath Cyclists.

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THESE BASTARDS.

Oh Towpath Cyclists, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

(It’s five. There are five ways).

Way 1 – I hate thee on narrow sections of towpath

Let’s get one thing straight, cyclists. Pedestrians have right of way on towpaths. Okay? It’s as simple as that. Boaters are even more important than regular pedestrians since we are HISTORIC and AN ATTRACTION and ACTUALLY PAY TOWARDS THE UPKEEP OF THE TOWPATH VIA THE LICENSES WE PAY FOR WITH OUR (possibly) HARD-EARNED BOATER MONEY.

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Artist’s impression.

You know where that places you in the hierarchy of towpath importance, cyclists? At least third, that’s where. And even then, canal birds are pretty important.

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That’s why ducks always tag the towpath.

Unfortunately, some cyclists do not know how low down they are in the pecking order.

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Pecking order!

Some cyclists believe that pedestrians, boaters and ducks have to get out of their stupid lycra-clad way on sections of towpath where there isn’t enough room to cycle around us.

THIS IS AN ERRONEOUS BELIEF, CYCLISTS.

Case Study 1: Posh lady, Old Ford Lock, Victoria Park

Last week, Ed and I were walking Skipper back from Victoria Park. On the way back we passed Old Ford Lock. At this point on the canal, the towpath narrows as it passes between the facilities block and the lock. As we walked through this bit of towpath, a cyclist approached behind us.

Now, I have a fairly complicated set of rules a cyclist must follow in order not to anger me. One of these rules is: if the towpath isn’t wide enough, tough. Wait. If you do not wait or, worse, if you attempt to tell me to get out of the way even when there is no place for me to get out of your way in, I will do as much as possible to get in your way as I am physically able to.

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That’s what happened with this particular woman who refused slow down and wait until the towpath widened and so witnessed just how much of an obstacle I can be.

When she finally was able to get round us, she turned as she cycled past and informed us “You simply MUST GET OUT OF THE WAY.”

It was okay though because, in return, I politely informed her of the actual rules of towpath cycling.

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It was like this, but with fewer words and more of them were expletives.

Way 2 – I hate thee in tunnels

Guess what cyclists!? Tunnels under bridges are still… you got it! STILL TOWPATH. STILL PEDESTRIAN RIGHT OF WAY.

Which means it is not okay to cycle through them at high speeds regardless of how many Carlis and their dogs are currently walking through them already.

If you cycle through a tunnel at high speed without bothering to check if I am in there already, you know what’s going to happen?

That’s right!

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ARE WE LEARNING YET, CYCLISTS?

Case Study 2: Grumpy Old Scottish Man, Tunnel Underneath Mile End Road, Mile End

Earlier this week, I was walking Skipper through the short tunnel that goes under Mile End Road. When I was already halfway through the tunnel I saw a runner coming towards the entrance. That’s okay, I thought, we can Share the Space. Anyway, runners tend to be less aggressive because Skipper can catch them more easily.

However before said runner had a chance to even enter the tunnel, a cyclist swerved round him and came straight towards me at fairly high speed.

So, naturally…

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Repetition is the key to learning, cyclists!

As well as making full use of my limbs to get in as much of his way as possible, I also added “There’s not really much room in here, is there? Perhaps it would have been better if you’d waited.”

To which he replied, “Well ask them to make it wider then.”

What!? What grumpy old Scottish man!? What are you talking about? Ask who to make it wider? Who do you think I am?? I am not Boris Johnson or Mrs. Canal & River Trust. I have no influence over these matters. If I did, YOU’D BE BANNED FOR A START.

Way 3 – I hate thee’s unecessary out-loud music??

People who can play music out loud in public: Buskers.

People who cannot play music out loud in public: Everyone else.

Cyclists who play outloud music while they cycle around are Bad People in the way that people who play outloud music on public transport are Bad People. No one wants to hear your music. Stop it.

Case Study 3: Unidentified cyclist, Mile End, 6am

In Mile End there is a cyclist who goes along the towpath blaring music out loud at 6am. EVERY. MORNING.

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Way 4 – I hate thee cycling past dogs at high speed

I hate thee cycling at high speed on the towpath at all but most of all please do not do this past people with dogs. You have no idea whether that person’s dog is a nervous one and whether you zooming past might terrify them into dragging their poor owners into the canal.

You also have no idea whether that person’s dog might have a history of eating rabbits’ heads completely whole and whether you zooming past might make you look like a particularly big rabbit on wheels who might be super fun to chase and whose head could definitely be eaten in at least two bits if not entirely whole.

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You just never know.

Way 5 – I hate thee’s BLOODY BELLS

My views on cyclists’ bells are also fairly complex but easy to grasp for the initiated.

They are as follows:

1-3 rings of your bell: ACCEPTABLE. I understand why you have bells, even if a lot of you don’t. Bells are for letting people know you are coming so that we don’t accidentally walk into you or so that we know you’re about to come round a corner or enter a tunnel (FYI if you get there first, I will wait for you to come through. Because that’s MANNERS).

4+ rings of your bell accompanied by “MOVE” or “GET OUT OF THE WAY” or, worse, a cheery “COMING THROUGH!”: UNACCEPTABLE. I repeat: If there’s no room. Tough. Wait. Bells are not for making people get out of your way. I do not have to get out of your way. I will not get out of your way. If you ring your bell at me four or more times I will get very much in your way.

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You won’t be ‘coming through’, as it happens!

 


 

So there you have it. Those are all the ways in which I hate thee, towpath cyclists.  If you are one such offender, please learn from this. Please slow down and stop expecting people to get out of your way. Please stop playing music out loud. Please learn how to use your bells properly. Please just stop everything you’re doing and start doing everything differently. Otherwise we, the rightful towpath kings, cannot be held responsible for our actions.

DISCLAIMER: Obviously I am aware that ‘not all cyclists…’ in the same way that ‘not all men…’. So don’t worry, it’s not all of you I hate.

Just most of you.

 

 

Albion: One Year Later

It’s nearly exactly a year to the day that we moved onto Albion and we still haven’t made it back to London. We have done a whole bunch of other things though and learned a lot about the boat, boaters, and boating in general. Here are some of the things:

1. Size matters: Small boats suck

Watch this video of a big dog trying to fit into a little bed.

That was pretty much what it was like to move into Albion. We thought we downsized when we moved onto a narrowboat in the first place but moving from a 65ft boat onto a 50ft boat with a tug deck and an engine room and a boatman’s cabin has really tested my capacity for giving up clothes.

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“Ahem, fifty-ONE foot, thank you.” – Albion


2. Size doesn’t matter: Small boats are the best

That being said, downsizing in boat length has meant nothing but sheer relief when it comes to navigating the waterways. No longer are we forced to go gently swearing into that good night as we search desperately for a suitably-colossal mooring space. No longer do we go through locks diagonally (except sometimes when we’re not paying attention). No longer does steering our way around one 90º bend take four hours. No longer are we longer.

Getting around on Albion has been an absolute dream, even with the old go fasty wheel and gear pulling thingy that we control the engine with now instead of what we had on the last boat which was like a modern fandangled throttle wotsit.

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I never said I learned any new technical terms.

3. White was a really bad idea

I love Pinterest. It’s been an invaluable tool in my quest to fall in love with interior design ideas then half-heartedly copy them to ill effect.

The only thing about Pinterest is that it is, much like Instagram, a largely airbrushed version of the truth. Pictures of beautiful white boat interiors do not show how beautiful white boat interiors become muddy coal-stained muckholes after just a couple of weeks.

Take this picture for example:

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Look at that beautiful white boat interior. I bet that beautiful white boat interior is just as beautiful and white now as it was in this picture, right?

WRONG!

That picture has been shared on Pinterest a fair few times. That picture is being used as inspiration for other narrowboat interior enthusiasts (or people who think living on a boat would be really romantic).

That picture is a picture of Albion. A picture of Albion after we painted her white because we looked at pictures of other white boats on Pinterest. That picture does not show what Albion looks like now.

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This one does.

I’m not saying white is a terrible idea for all boat interiors. If you have a bigger boat or you’re not clumsy or you’re an intangible angel made of Cif and Mr Muscle, you could probably have a white boat interior. But we live in a very little boat and consist of 60% coal dust at any given time plus we have an even bigger, even clumsier, and even dirtier dog.

 

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So yes, white was not a good choice for us.

4. Boats are never ever ever finished

I sort of knew this before but when I imagined the never-ending work that needs doing on a boat, I was thinking of maintenance. Blacking, anode-changing, engine servicing; this is all the stuff I knew we’d have to keep doing every so often as long as we were Albion’s custodians.

What I didn’t imagine was how much cosmetic DIY we would want to do and keep wanting to do even a year after we thought we were finished.

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Some DIY ideas are better than others.

A year of living on the boat has made us want to completely redo the kitchen, rescumble the boatman’s cabin, replace all the floors, repaint the boat and a whole host of other things that we’ll probably want to change again a year after completing.

For example it has now become completely essential to rectify the aforementioned white walls (or rather the now grey/mud brown walls) we only repainted but a year ago. The lower half of the walls have especially suffered, sustaining permanent marks courtesy of two fairly clumsy boaters and one larger-than-expected lurcher. We’ve decided to resolve this with another Pinterest-inspired technique: pallet-cladding.

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I’m sure ours is going to look *exactly* like this.

 

 

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And not at all like this.

For the top half of the walls, we’ve come up with another brilliant solution. We’re going to paint them cream instead.

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Genius.

5. Owning your own boat is still really, really expensive

Anyone who thinks boating is a great alternative to hanging yourself off the bottom rung of the UK’s increasingly unclimable property ladder is… probably right because living in a boat is likely still better value than spending your entire month’s wages on a studio flat in District 13.

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Tottenham is the last of the 13 districts of Panem and was thought to be destroyed by the Capitol during the First Rebellion.

That being said, it is still a costly process and it never stops being a costly process. Even after you’ve paid for a dry dock, survey, the cost of the boat itself, insurance, your license for the year and so on, the added costs never stop coming. Over the last year we’ve had engine breakdowns, oil leaks, electrical faults, and now currently a gas leak to be fixed, all normally requiring the help of people who actually know what they’re doing.

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The ‘ex’ stands for ‘expensive’.

I can’t imagine that we’re particularly unlucky, just that this is the way of boats. Yet I cannot help but keep falling into the trap of ‘ahh everything’s fixed now’ only to be greeted by a leak somewhere the following morning or the engine falling off or other equally incomprehensible problems.

Still…

6. It’s all worth it for the ducklings

At the end of the day, after you’ve fallen into the canal, the engine has projectile vomited oil in your face, the kettle’s lost its whistle and you’ve run out of kindling, the fact remains that living on a boat guarantees you get to see up-close ducklings at least once or twice a year.

Which makes it all seem worth it, doesn’t it?

So here’s to another year on Albion. May we learn exactly six more things over the coming 12 months and may there be many, many ducklings.

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Seriously, this is literally the only thing keeping us from moving into a house.