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.