A really complicated engine problem

I think I’ve mentioned this before but, a little while ago, we were struggling with a dodgy connection to our ignition panel that meant the engine sometimes wouldn’t turn start up… or turn off after it’d been running.

This can be a problem when mooring.

This can be a problem when mooring.

We had the loose connection fixed though and everything worked splendidly again. We even went on an epic two-month boat trip and encountered no problems whatsoever. So we were quite surprised when a simple little jaunt to get some water ended with us pressing the ‘stop’ button on our ignition panel to no avail once more.

By the way, our boat really does have a 'stop' button. And boaters will have you thinking this stuff is difficult!

By the way, our boat really does have a ‘stop’ button. And boaters will have you thinking this stuff is difficult!

Going on experience, we knew there was only one thing for it.

When in doubt...

When in doubt…

We opened up the engine hatch, grabbed some wires and wiggled for all we were worth.

Sadly all the wire-wiggling that had worked so well on our loose connection failed to solve the problem this time and the engine remained stubbornly and loudly engine-ing.

When wiggling didn’t work, we turned to the other only known solution.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 11.49.46

After a little internet sleuthing, I discovered that every engine apparently has a manual off switch.

Seriously, we just had to press another 'Stop' button.

Seriously, we just had to press another ‘stop’ button.

We felt pretty pleased with ourselves and had a cup of tea, not yet ready to deal with the fact, while the engine was now off, we also had no way of turning it back on again.

However no engine = no power, so we did eventually have to seek the services of a nice man from River Canal Rescue.


I’m going to take a guess and say we were his least interesting callout of the day.

Along he came, all equipped with boat-fixing equipment and such. We sat back and waited for the bad news. Would we ever boat again? Who knew. Would we sink promptly and immediately? It was a possibility. Would I be able to charge my phone and check Twitter? Only the gods of fate could decide.

We sat with baited breath.

“Fuse’s blown.” the engineer said, pointing at a little black box next to the engine.

“Oh, right.” we said.

“I’ll just pop a new one in.” he said.

“Um, yes okay.” we said.

“I’ll be off now then.” he said.

“Yes, great, thank you.” we said.

He left, kind enough only to chuckle a little bit on his way out.


5 things that are RUBBISH about living on a boat

I’ve written about the unexpected side of narrowboat life and I frequently write about how much I love narrowboat life but today I’m going to write about how narrowboat life is sometimes COMPLETELY RUBBISH.

Look how crap this storm is.

Here are my top 5 things that are absolutely rubbish about living on a boat, in no particular order of rubbishness.

1) Running Out Of Water

Running out of water is RUBBISH. It always seems to happen when a) you’re about to get in the shower b) you’re already in the shower or c) the washing up has reached maximum density.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 12.21.58
Having said that, no water is sometimes also a great excuse to not do the dishes.

 If you can’t get to a water point for a while this means, at best, several days of trying to figure out the best way to pour a four-litre bottle of water into your mouth to brush your teeth without drowning and, at worst, no tea.


 2) The Cold

Gongoozlers are oft gently made fun of by boaters for always asking the predictable question “Is it cold on the boat?” This is then usually met with some trite reply regarding the boater’s aptitude for fire-making or central heating installation.

obama-smug“I don’t suppose you’ve heard of a little thing called… a radiator?”

But actually, you know what? Sometimes it IS cold on the boat. Sometimes, when you’ve just moved on and don’t know how to light your fire, it is FREEZING.

IMG_5675 IMG_5672
The amount of photos I took of myself being cold in our first week testifies to this.

Even now (fire ineptitude resolved) we still get the occasional freezing morning, especially since we stopped buying coal after the British weather tricked us into thinking it was summer.

3) Wildlife Responsibility

I don’t know what it is about boating that makes you feel so much closer to nature but I am suddenly experiencing a sense of responsibility for surrounding wildlife that I have never felt before.

IMG_2418Except for cats. Always for cats.

I have become a weird wild woman of the canal, rushing out to aid stricken coots and poking pike with a pole when they get stuck between the boat and the towpath (this actually happened, it was a pretty stupid pike).

5200_gall_006“If only I was equipped with the ability to somehow swim under the boat.”

This sense of responsibility manifested itself recently when we came across an abandoned gosling, who had been separated from its parents by a giant attacking swan bastard.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 13.00.06We named it Ryan.
Ryan Gosling.

Since my affinity with animals only stretches to small and fluffy things, I fended off the bastard swan with an umbrella. We then watched as poor miserable Ryan floated around crying heartbreakingly and looking exhausted.

Having decided we couldn’t well just leave him there, we called the RSCPA. To our surprise, the advice was ‘Try to grab it if you can and we’ll send someone to pick it up. If not just keep an eye on it.’

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to grab a gosling before but it is a muddy and stupid idea. Regardless of the fact that we didn’t want to scare the poor thing, we couldn’t get anywhere near him anyway short of wading into the middle of the canal.

Having failed at gosling-grabbing, we could do nothing but follow the second piece of advice and kept an eye on him by jogging, then running, along the towpath while Ryan zoomed up and down the Regent’s Canal as fast as his little webbed feet could propel him.

It was a literal wild goose chase.

tumblr_mzgslpv3x51shzrduo1_500All we needed was a black and white filter and the music from Benny Hill.

Finally the RSPCA called us again and told us that, as long as he didn’t look injured, Ryan would probably be all right. We waved goodbye and went on our merry way.

Ryan has never been seen since. This makes me SAD.

4) Theft

As well as living in close proximity to wildlife’s creepy crawlies, canal-life means you also live in close proximity to humanity’s creepy crawlies too. The worst of these are the ones who see boats as an easy target for robbery. Social media abounds with daily stories of bikes, pot plants and sometimes even generators all being stolen.

Luckily our boat is built like Fort Knox so we normally feel safe but, at night, outdoor noises do make you thankful for steel doors and sturdy locks.

Personally we have been very lucky… UNTIL NOW. Yesterday we discovered that someone has stolen our brand-new beautiful white lantern off the front of the boat.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 13.32.03I hope a genie comes out of it and drowns them in the canal.

5) Mouldy Food

One of the things I liked least about flat sharing was trying to keep track of what food belonged to you in the fridge. Or, once identifying which food belonged to you, going to the fridge and finding it gone.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 13.40.25A crime second only to lantern thievery.

We were so looking forward to having our own place and saving money with long-lasting freezer food and a fridge full of ingredients that meant we didn’t have to go to the shop and buy dinner every night.

Except of course then someone made the stupid decision to move onto a boat where we have no fridge and no freezer, at least not ones that are permanently running.

This means that, mere days after purchasing food, it goes mouldy. Bread is exhausted after a couple of days on board, salad wilts at the sight of a fire and once more we find ourselves making daily and costly trips to the shop to buy dinner.

The only light in a dark world of green bread and furry vegetables is UHT milk. I have written an ode to UHT milk. However, I will refuse to look upon scientists with anything but disdain until they see fit to invent UHT Everything.

Or a fridge that can be kept cold by the contempt of cats.

Well, I swan! (<– Apparently this is a phrase)

Summer on the water just gets cuter and cuter. This time, I was peacefully reading at the front of the boat when I got a call from Ed (who was walking up the canal) saying to get my camera ready as there was a pair of swans a-comin’ my way with all their cygnets in tow.

pngI didn’t believe him at first but he turned out to be right.

Lo and behold, the swan babies arrived. They even swam right up to the boat where I was sitting so that I could feed them little pieces of bread (only after checking on The Swan Sanctuary that it was okay to do so, naturally).

Anyway here are the pictures. I was VERY excited so I’m sorry if there’s swan too many.




                                           I called this one Little Mister Soggy.






                                                            The Grumpkin.     



  This one had EYEBROWS. I stopped being able to handle the situation at this point.









                               And off they went in their cygnet-ure formation…

The End.

N.B. I am also truly sorry for all the puns, I think all this punshine has gone to my head.


Remix To Ignition

Golly gosh I haven’t blogged in absolutely ages! You might say it’s aBOAT time!

sickboat  Boat jokes: they never get old.

I suppose the reason I haven’t written in such a long time is that everything’s been going rather splendidly, and there’s not much interesting about: ‘Everything’s great, thanks!’

Our driving of the boat (Ed’s driving of the boat) is nigh on perfect now so we have no hilarious crash stories, we’ve learnt to tie her up securely so there’s been no more amusing/horrific nighttime floaty incidents and the toilet has disappointingly failed to overflow again even though we had two whole boat guests to stay the other day.

Thetford C200CS“For God’s sake, pee more! I’m going to have nothing to write about!”

We did nearly sink once but that was due to a (fairly easy to fix) leaky stern gland so we remained boringly afloat. YAWN.

leaky-boat_1442059iUgh, this looks like so much fun.

Thankfully, finally, the boat responded to my calls for it to just do something INTERESTING and BLOG-WORTHY for once by deciding to pack up the batteries, the engine and the ignition panel all in one go.


Except obviously ‘yay’ wasn’t our immediate reaction. Our immediate reaction had a lot more swearing than that.

We’d been having problems with our batteries for some time, they had been running themselves down to 0% overnight and weren’t allowing us to use our inverter properly.

We decided that maybe it was time to gently let the batteries know that we’d be replacing them with a younger model.

What we hadn’t anticipated was that the ignition panel and the engine would take offence at this decision and die too. One morning I noticed the batteries had drained overnight again and wearily went to start the engine only to be greeted with a deathly silence from the ignition panel. “Come on, ignition.” I pleaded, “You know the batteries have to go. They’re too old now, it’s not fair to make them keep working like this…”

But the ignition panel exercised it’s right to strike and stayed stubbornly silent.

After a fairly panicked phone call to Ed in which I informed him that I had ‘broken the whole boat’, we decided to seek a less hysterical opinion. It transpired that the ignition panel failure had nothing to do with the rundown batteries and that it was more likely to be due to a coincidental loose connection. We soon found that reaching into the engine and wiggling one of the wires caused the ignition to start working again, if not a little wobbly..ly.

urlThus teaching us a new rule of boating: when in doubt, wiggle stuff.

Obviously this was a less than perfect solution but, while we waited for a free boatspert (a boat expert) to come and have a proper look, it worked.

Until suddenly it didn’t.

One day, mid-wiggling, the engine began to make all sorts of outrageous noises as we tried to get it going. By this point we assumed that the loose connection had become too loose even for wiggling. Again, we anxiously sought advice.

“You haven’t just run out of diesel as well have you?” asked the advice.

We laughed and made Victorian noises like pish tosh! Running out of diesel! Unthinkable! Surely this latest engine failure problem was definitely to do with the faulty ignition, there can’t possibly be three things wrong with the boat all at once! Right!?


It turns out that, actually, there’s nothing more that boats love doing than going completely wrong all at once. We found ourselves stuck with no diesel, a wobbly ignition and imminently retiring batteries. Which is a bit tricksy when you work from home and need electrical equipment to work, and that equipment needs to charge, and charging needs the inverter, and the inverter needs working batteries, and batteries need a running engine and so on. 

TheresAHoleIt was all very ‘there’s a hole in my bucket’.

Thankfully, due to the efforts of a superhero named Mr. Amazing Boat Engineer Man (probably), our boat woes were solved in a mere couple of afternoons with the installation of beautiful new batteries and a new wire to fix the loose connection between the ignition panel and the engine. Mr. ABEM also discovered that our alternator was ‘a bit buggered’ too, potentially a huge contributing factor to the Murder of the Previous Batteries.

Cluedo                     “The alternator in the engine room with a dodgy connection!”

Now life is sweet again. Everything is perfect. I never thought I could love a thing as much as I love our new batteries. They are the strong men of the battery world, charging everything beautifully and for long periods at a time without a hint of draining. Instead of having to run the engine all day to keep things charged, we can now enjoy peaceful silence while we contemplate why the pump has decided to start sporadically emptying our water tank into the canal.


A Study in Goose

I’m trying to use my camera more, since canal-life makes for such a good subject. Here are some snaps from our latest cruise.

(I realise these mostly consist of Frederick and Diana headshots but there’s also two of boats. Yay boats!)










A New Boaters’ Survival Kit

Recently, I was asked to write a guest post for online narrowboat magazine The Gongoozler. My post was all about the unexpected aspects of boat-living we’ve come across since we moved aboard. (If you haven’t read it, you can do so here.) Now I thought I’d complement that with a New Boaters’ Survival Kit featuring five things we never knew our lives would suddenly and bizarrely depend upon.

If you’ve recently begun boating, are considering taking up boating or would like to pretend you are boating from the safety of your own living room, here are some of the things you will need:


If you don’t already own slippers then for the love of God buy some, buy them now. Although we’re lucky enough to have nice wooden floors in our boat, it can still feel a lot like walking on an iceberg. To avoid fourth-degree frostbite, slippers are number one on my list of essentials.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 14.40.09Scientists also agree that, the more cat-shaped your slippers are, the warmer your feet will be.

I would also recommend having two pairs of slippers on rotation since I forgot to mention that, if the floor is like walking on an iceberg, then it is an iceberg that also happens to be made of coal. My Number 2 Replacement Slippers have now been conscripted since the bottom of my other slippers currently look like this:

IMG_5780 Yes it’s gross but YOU NEED TO KNOW.

 2) A mallet – (named Timmy (optional))

As detailed in this previous post, we were once unlucky enough to come loose from our mooring in the middle of the night. It was not fun. In fact, I think it was the least fun thing I’ve ever experienced including the time I thought it would be a good idea to fly all the way to New Zealand on my own.

fear_of_flying1That was not fun either.

Although this boatcident was mostly due to the full-on hurricane a-blowin’ that night, it was also a little bit due to the fact that we hadn’t really hammered our mooring pins far enough into the ground to make them secure. And this was due to the fact that we were hammering them into the ground using an old brick instead of a trusty mallet.

60mm-red-handmade-brick-01Pictured: 1 x bad hammer

Lesson: If you’re going to canal it, buy a mallet.

3) Elsan Blue or alternative

For those of you who have never pooed in a box, Elsan Blue is a bacteria-killing, waste-smushing, odour-suppressing wonder fluid that you put in your cassette to make emptying it less like the worst Bushtucker Trial ever.

toiletThis is a pretty accurate collage of all the faces Ed pulls after returning from emptying the toilet on days when we’ve run out of toilet fluid.

To put it finely, Elsan fluid turns your poo blue. Which makes all the difference when emptying a cassette as, with it, you’re just pouring an innocuous blue soup into a hole but, without it, you’re getting a third look at last Tuesday’s dinner.

Of course I must add that I only mention Elsan Blue as it’s the most well-known brand. It’s actually a lot better to use organic toilet fluids as these have a much less harmful effect on the environment.

Elsan Booooo.

4) A magic wand

I never suspected that, such a short time into my boatlife,  I would have grown to hate matches quite so much. But I do. I hate them. Matches are useless, lazy layabouts who break down under the least bit of pressure and only dabble in firelighting when they feel like it. I also hate lighters. If you’ve ever tried to use a lighter to light a gas hob then you and your thumbs will hate lighters too.

Luckily for me I have a magic wand.

IMG_5821I didn’t choose it, it chose me.

It might just look like a weird silver stick at first, but look what happens when I press the button!


IMG_5823Saying ‘LUMOS!’ at this point is both completely unnecessary and totally necessary.

My fire stick is just the best. It means we can light the fire without getting burned. We can light the hob without getting burned. We can light the grill without getting burned. We can do all sorts of fire-related activities without getting burned!

Definitely a boat must-have. Or just a must-have for people who don’t like getting burned in general.

5) UHT Milk

One of the things that surprises people most about our new life is that we don’t have a fridge. ‘How awful!’ everyone cries. ‘But how do you keep your food cold??’

tumblr_lfgl6nq8dx1qg7lypo1_500I keep my food cold with this icy glare that appears on my face every time someone reminds me I can’t keep my food cold. 

For the sake of factuality, we do actually have a fridge. It just takes up so much of the electricity that we prefer not to use it.

wide-bottles-of-beer-in-iceExcept when it’s really important.

When we first moved onto the boat, this was not a problem. Since we couldn’t work out how to light the fire properly, the boat was so cold that it acted like its own giant fridge anyway! Yay!

the-shining-snow_2“This… is so good… for the milk.”

Sadly, we have since learnt the most basic caveman skill of keeping ourselves warm so the boat no longer cools our food for us.

Most things stay pretty fresh in the cupboards but, instead of just getting on with it like the other foods, milk has turned out to be a whiny good-for-nothing reprobate who curdles at the slightest rise in temperature.


Thankfully we have recently discovered UHT milk, or SuperMilk as I like to call it. UHT milk never ever ever ever ever goes off (for a few months). The carton currently in my fridge won’t go off until SEPTEMBER. That is both delightful and gross at the same time!

I don’t understand how UHT milk works. No one understands how UHT milk works. We the fridge-less are just thankful for this weird long-lasting milk potion.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 16.04.07Yaaaay SuperMilk!

That’s all I can think of for now but I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as more bizarre yet useful items work their way into our inventory. If you’re a boater yourself, feel free to share your most useful gadgets and must-haves in the comments too!

Toilet Troubles and Poo Problems

You got adorable ducklings yesterday, today you get poo.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any conversation about boating takes roughly 10 minutes to turn to poo.

I met a lovely fellow boater recently and his third question to me was whether we were cassette users or pump-outers.

bs14It matters.

When you first tell people that you live on a boat, it doesn’t take them long to ask about your ‘toilet situation’ (this is normally after you’ve already been through ‘Is it cold?’ ‘How do you wash?’ ‘But it must be so cold?’ and all the other things neatly summed up in this hilarious blog post by fellow boater Elodie Glass.)

It wasn’t until we started having guests over however, that we realised just how confusing our toilet was to people who are used to your classic flush’n’go, BOG-STANDARD (zzing!) loo.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 12.18.30

Ultimate land-lubber befuddler.

For the sake of being informative, the toilet works thusly: any toilet business is deposited into a cassette (poo box) beneath the loo via a nifty trapdoor opened and closed by a little lever.

Sort of like the gunger on Get Your Own Back.


Except with poo instead of gunge. And hopefully there’s no people in there.

We also have a little blue button that operates a flushing system.

When faced with this simple system though, house-dwellers seem to panic. Instead of operating the lever, they see that little blue button and something stirs within them. This is familiar, they think. This is a flush! I understand flushes! Then they just flush the hell out of the toilet. Despite us yelling through the door to ‘PULL THE LEVER’ they just straight up press that flush button as though their lives depended on it. Unfortunately all this results in is a toilet full of water. Which in turn leads to a cassette full of water and an earlier-than-expected trip to the Elsan to empty it.

(I must add that I’m not singling out one person, this has happened several times. It’s understandable. Everyone knows: toilets flush. We boaters just like to do things more disgustingly differently.)

webCIMG1346Don’t judge us. It could be worse.

On one such grim occasion, we continued to allow our various guests to use the loo, not having realised the cassette was already full of water. Later that night, after our guests had left, the cassette decided it had taken one flush too many.

And overflowed.

If that sounds horrific (it was), it gets worse. The whole reason we’d had guests over in the first place was for boat drinks. Many, many boat drinks. This meant that we could barely walk up and down the boat without falling over, let alone deal with a poo flood of Jumanji-like proportions.


I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but, prior to our boat drinks party, we’d bought a beautiful new rug for the living room floor.

Unfortunately that new rug was placed in front of the door. Perfectly positioned for tripping up unwary drunk boaters stumbling around carrying large boxes of wee.

Safe to say, the newly malodorous rug was sadly deposited in the bin the following morning.

(If anyone picked that up thinking they’d found a street bargain: I’m so, so sorry. Please, throw that rug away immediately.)

Canal Trek: Into Darkness

We recently read somewhere that, if you want to know how long a narrowboat trip is going to take, you have to add the number of miles you’re travelling plus the number of locks and divide it all by four. I wish we’d known that before we decided to travel the entirety of the Regent’s Canal in one afternoon.


    The day had been going so marvellously. The sun was shining and we were helped at every lock by adorable rosy-cheeked Enid Blyton characters.

Gongoozlers Help us tiny gongoozlers! 

    However it wasn’t until we reached Kings Cross and the sun began to set that we realised we still had a million narrowboat miles left to go (Official Rule: five normal miles = one million narrowboat miles) and that we’d now probably have to finish our journey in complete darkness.

    In some trepidation, we pushed forward into the gathering dusk.

    The first place we came to was Camden.

   I love Camden. I used to live in Camden in some hazy far-off day before my house floated.

    Camden by canal though, is horrific. It is dingy and grimy and the water is so dirty that it actually feels sad.

tumblr_lkyjtl1dyD1qhula8o1_500 Someone take Camden to a magical Japanese bathhouse immediately.

    Once you’ve dealt with the general surroundings, there’s also the people of Camden to consider. They’re not so much gongoozling as gong-oozing across the towpath. As fellow boat blogger Joel over at The Angry Boater puts it, they’re a mixed set of ‘trendy, touristy & druggery’.

    And that’s by day. By night, stood there holding the boat in the first of three locks while Ed ran ahead to open the others, I more than once considered fetching the axe.

last-of-us-museum-clicker-attack-670 Turns out those hours spent playing The Last of Us were just training for cruising through Camden.    

    Those weren’t the only problems of traversing Camden by night though. We had not expected The Man Who Lives in The Lock.


Still standing at that first lock, I was greeted by the return of a confused-looking windlass-bearing Ed.

“I couldn’t open the second lock.” he said.

“Why not?”

“There’s a man in it.”

“What? What’s he doing?”

“Well… he’s eating his dinner.” After much confused whispering it transpired that a man had moored in the lock for the night. Since we haven’t been boaters for very long and haven’t got a clue whether the middle of a lock is a legit place to moor up and eat your dinner, we just politely asked if he wouldn’t mind us using his mooring spot for a little while. He graciously accepted and we were on our merry way.

blessed“Okay! Thanks! Bon appétit!”

    If we thought we had got past the worst, we were sorely mistaken. Next up on our list of trials was Regent’s Park.

    The first terrifying thing about Regent’s Park by night is that you’re not allowed to moor there which means that, not only is it pitch black, it is also completely deserted. The second terrifying thing occurs when you pass the aviary at London Zoo.

All of a sudden, Dark + Abandoned + Fog + Giant cage =


   It also didn’t help that the first thing we came across in the park was a drunk man collapsed on the towpath, illuminated only by the lights of a concerned cyclist who had stopped to call an ambulance.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 12.19.33Or, what I saw.

    To make matters worse, it was rapidly becoming clear that our headlight wasn’t doing a great job of illuminating our path. Ed dispatched me to the front of the boat where a quick examination showed that the lamp was at the wrong angle to properly illuminate the canal. I wiggled it around a bit.

“That’s right, leave it there.” yelled Ed.

    I let the lamp go.

    “No it’s moved now.” yelled Ed.

     I wiggled the lamp.

    “That’s it.” yelled Ed.

     I let the lamp go.

     “No! Where it was before!” yelled Ed.

     Feeing very hard done by, I sat at the front of the boat with one arm in the air holding up the lamp. I sat there by myself in the cold for the whole dark horrifying stretch of Regent’s Park.

     I sat there as we slipped into Maida Hill Tunnel where unknown things drop on your head and the light reflects off the tunnel ceiling in such a way that some people might have to close their eyes and wrap their scarf around their head so that they can’t see the canal demons.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 23.19.09YOU DON’T KNOW. YOU WEREN’T THERE.

   Eventually the bright lights and welcoming sights of Little Venice pulled into view and the traumatic journey was finally, finally over. As we emerged from the tunnel…


…we vowed never to venture out into the darkness again.

How To Make A Fire with Carli H

On our boat, Ed is the skipper. This is largely to do with his ability to steer the boat for more than a mile without screaming at a duck to get out of the way, but also because of his superhuman powers of Fire Making.


    Still, I am working on learning how to build and maintain the fire by myself and believe I have identified a foolproof method which I will outline in the following tutorial:

How To Make A Fire

with Carli H

1) Preparing the Fire Box

fireThis is the Fire Box. Our aim is to fill it with fire. 

Preparing the Fire Box begins with wiggling this wiggly thing.

IMG_5879This is in order to wake up the Fire Box and let it know that it’s time to get to work. 

Then you must empty the old ashes from the Fire Box’s ashpan, which lives under the fire.

Or, in my case, ask Ed to empty the ashpan for me because the ashes might still be hot and potentially hot things worry me.

Old ashes go into the Tippy outside.

 Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 12.50.45
This Tippy.

Not this Tippi.

Success! You are now ready to begin building your fire.

2) Building Your Fire

The key to building a successful fire is witchcraft. Failing that, you must ensure that your burny stuff has plenty of air, which helps it do its burny thing properly. Or something.

In our case, this means making sure our (smokeless — we play by da rulez) coals have plenty of space between them in order to let them burn good.

BBQ GrillSince we have to pay for our coal, I’m now going to start being VERY NAUGHTY before every Christmas to keep costs down.

3) Place coals into Fire Box*

Begin by withdrawing coals from the coal bucket and then positioning them in the Fire Box as described above.

coals into fireJust follow this scientific diagram and you’ll be fine.

4) Worry you haven’t used enough coals and throw a few more in there

5) Contemplate large number of coals now in Fire Box

6) Worry you’ve put too many coals in

7) Take some coals out

coals out of fire

8) Look at hands


9) Go back to step 3) and notice the “*”


10) Set things on fire

Now it is time to make like The Doors and light your fire.

To do so, you need two things: matches and kindling.



You might need to break up your kindling a bit before you put it into the fire.

chair-on-fireIt really depends on how patient you’re feeling.

11) Use matches to light kindling

12) ….use matches to light kindling


14) Look at matchbox in confusion

IMG_5885Say out loud to self: “These are designed to set things on fire right?”

15) Attempt to light kindling using matches one last time

16) Swear

17) Sit on the floor for a bit

18) Look around desperately for something that burns good


Newspaper burns good, right? Tear up a whole newspaper and throw it in the Fire Box.

Daily-Mail-Front-Page-233x300NB. Some newspapers are more satisfying to burn than others. 

20) Watch smugly while newspaper blazes, filling Fire Box with beautiful fire

IMG_5681Optional: – Throw gloves triumphantly into coal bucket and walk away saying “My work here is done”.


– High-five passing coots.

21) Notice fire is going out

22) No, no, no no nonononono NO

23) Yell “Whhhhhyyyyyyyyyy” for a bit

24) Waste 17 matches attempting to light crumbling newspaper ashes with shaking hands

25) Drop matches everywhere

IMG_588725a) Cry.

26) Put on coat

27) Go to the shop

28) Purchase large pack of fire lighters

29) Return home

30) Look at instructions on fire lighters box

31) Shrug

32) Insert whole box of fire lighters in Fire Box

33) Throw in box of matches for good measure

34) Light

35) Enjoy

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 14.40.09
Cat slippers also optional.

Et voila! You are now warming yourself in front of your toasty fire. Or, possibly, you have exploded the front of your boat. Either way, still warm.

Gently down the stream

Today’s post was supposed to be about our first two attempts at moving the boat by ourselves (one awful evening scramble in the dark to find a mooring and one very enjoyable journey — in case you’re interested). However, everything has been eclipsed by the fact that we had a boatcident last night.

I would set the scene for you but if you live in London you’ll already know that the weather last night was bloody awful. We had just taken a really nice (if a bit soggy) trip down the Regent’s Canal when the wind picked up and we decided we should probably stop for the evening.

We were using mooring pins for the first time but the wind was so strong that we could barely pull the boat over to the towpath, let alone secure her to the pins.

StormArtist’s impression.

    Eventually we managed to hammer the pins into the ground, tie the boat up and retire to the kitchen to warm ourselves up with Nando’s extra hot sauce (chicken boast).

The wind and rain were getting worse and the boat was moving around a lot so we went to bed feeling a bit uneasy. I ended up not really sleeping, waking up every ten to twenty minutes to look out of the window and check the pins.

Eventually at about 2 a.m., I drifted off.

Sadly, not much later, so did the boat.

I’m not sure what woke me up but I sat up and looked out the window as I had been doing on and off all night. This time however, all was not shipshape.

“Uuuummmm… Ed?” I said, poking Ed in the face.

“Blrgghh.” said Ed.

“Uuummmmm… Ed…?”


“… What side of the boat was the canal on when we went to sleep?”

“The left side. ”

“Oh.” I looked out of the window again. “Well… it’s not anymore…”

IMG_5799“I’m sure this used to be towpath…”

    We shot out of bed and rushed over to the other side of the boat like a Buster Keaton sketch.

IMG_5800“I’m suuuure there didn’t used to be a wall here…”

    Eventually we woke up enough to realise we had come loose from our mooring and drifted down the canal. As you can imagine, at two in the morning, this was quite terrifying.

narrowboat mist

There go, go, goes your boat
Gently down the stream
Scarily, scarily, scarily, scarily
Life is but a dream nightmare.

    After a mad rush to put on coats and boots over pyjamas, we quickly started up the engine and fought against the wind to get back to the other side of the canal.

1979.79.16Actual photograph.

    Stood there on the towpath at 2 a.m., struggling to hold the boat in the wind and rain while Ed ran round frantically hammering mooring pins into the ground, I couldn’t decide whether the whole situation was absolutely hilarious or just absolutely awful.

    I decided it was a mixture of both.


    Eventually we felt secure enough to take our soggy, muddy selves back to bed but I don’t think either of us got any sleep for the rest of the night.

gdo_nsg_11_0“Are we still moored up??”

empty porthole



“… Are we still moored up??”

Safe to say, we moved her somewhere much more secure this morning.

giant knotThat oughta do it.