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.

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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.

 

 

Some Happy News

A little off-brand today but this post does involve boats at some point so bear with me.

A week ago Ed and I were lucky enough to get to go and stay at the beautiful Finn Lough Resort in Northern Ireland.

Look at it! Beautiful.

I lake it a lough.

Just as an aside, if you’re planning a trip to Northern Ireland or you go all the time or you’ve never been but have always wanted to go or you didn’t know you wanted to go but you do now or you’re in Northern Ireland RIGHT THIS SECOND — this is the place to stay. It’s run by my friend Gill Beare and her lovely family, and is made up of luxury waterside cottages on the banks of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh.

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It is for reals one of the most beautiful places I've ever stayed in in my life.

It is for reals one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed in my life.

As well as being just generally mindblowingly pretty, the resort also offers loads of activities.

We went cycling…

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…surfing…

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…and then we decided to head out onto the lake in our very own little boat.

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See, I told you there’d be boats eventually!

Unbeknownst to me however, after conspiring with Gill for months, asking my parent’s permission and managing to get down on one knee despite being in a rowing boat (proper boater, see), Ed chose this spectacular moment to ask me to be his boatwife forever.

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Yaay!

The surprises didn’t end there. I was then rowed to a beautiful little picnic spot…

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I must add that at this point we did have a bit of a heated debate about how to tie up the boat. After all, it’s not a proper boater proposal if it doesn’t include at least one argument about mooring.

…where I was greeted with champagne and, to even Ed’s surprise, a riddle…

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…which led us to this beautiful little camp, all set up by Gill to help us celebrate our engagement.

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So there you have it, we met on a boat, live on a boat and now we got engaged on a boat. It only remains to be seen whether we’ll marry on one too…

We won’t. We can only fit two people on our boat at one time. The registrar would have to stand in the canal.

NB. We’d like to say a massive thank you to Gill and everyone at Finn Lough for making the weekend unbelievably special. If you’ve got a proposal, celebration, wedding, or just an urge to row a damn boat across a damn lake for the damn hell of it, I’d really recommend you book your stay there now. It’s magical.

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.

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                                           I called this one Little Mister Soggy.

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                                                            The Grumpkin.     

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

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                               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.

 

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!)

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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:

1) SLIPPERS

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.

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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!

Aaaaah!

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.

badmilk2IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT THEN GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN, MILK.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Reconstruction.

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.)

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.

IMG_5679WIZARD.

    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.

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This Tippy.

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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

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

IMG_5883*PUT ON GLOVES

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.

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Matches.

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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

13) 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

19) NEWSPAPER

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”.

– Shout “I AM THE BEST AT FIRE.”

– 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

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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.