Monday, 30 April 2012

first it was the RAC then AA now...


Where ever you may be, what ever canal emergency you are having, rest assured that the D.E.B. won't be too far away.

"It was too windy, the front rope just came loose, I didn't know what to do!" said the anguished young boat hirer, "my wife and baby were inside having breakfast, I thought we were done for!"

"Then out of no where, grabbing ropes and shouting instructions... was the D.E.B. I hadn't called were not even members, but in a flash we were moored ridged to the side of the canal and off she went with here shopping bag.....

She knows all the knots as well you know.

She also managed to pick up a couple of friendly looking strangers at the chandlers on the way (aka mum and Sis)


Of course this was only a brief shower most of the day was blistering sunshine and we had to go to the pub and watch the football just to stop from burning (see - you should have come as well Lee!). I don't know how but we also managed to eat more than Pip and Lyn together and come out with more money than we went in with! (cheers both)

Actually it wasn't sunny at all but we spent most of the afternoon sitting in front of the fire drinking tea and eating Deb's profiteroles before a healthy stroll around the village and off to the pub.

Tomorrows shock headline - NO RAIN FORECAST!!!!!!!!!! 

Friday, 27 April 2012

Are USB cables the modern day rabbits?...

Its been a bit of a  funny old day on the cut. Following Debs proclamation yesterday 'think I'll clean the roof today' (not something she would normally say on a cold, wet and windy day-or any other day come to think of it) she decided as it carried on pi precipitating it down that today would be a great day to start wax polishing the sides (at least the bit near the towpath). 

I hadn't mentioned before but because of the low water level (don't know where all the rain is going) the canal we are on is about six inches down so we can't quite get close enough to the bank. We have had to use the plank to get to and from shore which Deb has been a bit uneasy about (it's usually the other way around in our family, if anyone is going to fall over it would be Jess then me and Deb always guaranteed to stay upright!) So to get to the only available side to polish deb had to bridge the gap with the plank (kept darting in and out to try and take the inevitable 'you've been framed' photo but it never came - shame that would have bought three and half batteries).

starting to look shiny

How come I have got more USB cables than devices that use USB? I left some at work, threw a good few away in the skip before leaving Poole, we have stored a few away here just in case and still I am finding more every day. I have left the two I found yesterday in my camera bag to see if it stays as two or see indeed if they are actually multiplying! Maybe I can invent a data cable version of myxomatosis and rid the world of the unwanted scourge of surplus USB cables) 

Whilst carrying on with my carpentry I was able to provide breakfast for the eight fluffy new neighbours who are growing louder every time the float by (definitely float, they don't swim they are so small and light that they just float on the surface) and I must try and get a video clip before they grow too much. LJ is in a bit of a state again today but hopefully the roof boxes will be at least built by tomorrow just awaiting their coat of colour)

bit of tidying needed I think

In between Deb's 'T' breaks (followed about an hour later by 'P' breaks) a narrowboat went past with a lady at the tiller and three people from a brass band playing their instruments sat on the roof in the rain.

Like I said bit of a funny old day!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Thought I'd better take my turn...

In writing!  James and I got up fairly early this morning having spent the night with the wind generator going, it is certainly working overtime at the moment, but I gather not putting an awful amount into the batteries (I'm not at all technical with all these amps, volts, etc).  We started the day with a nice cup of coffee and a cinnamon whirl, not particularly healthy, but very nice - even if I say so myself.  Then it was on to the jobs for the day, James with the top boxes and I decided that the roof needed clearing and cleaning before the boxes are fitted.  So it was a hike back to the Bongo to collect the remaining wood that we purchased at B&Q and then a trek back to LJ.  With the weather looking like rain at any time James set up the lounge area as a workshop so 'rain didn't stop "play"'.

Meanwhile, I cleared the roof of everything, starting with the piles of logs, these were stowed away at the front under the seats so a little protected from the rain, off came the poles and the trailer box and all stored temporarily at the front.  I started with sweeping all the bits from the roof before getting to work scrubbing it down with car shampoo, during this time lots of boats passed by and I lost count of the number of people who said "you can do mine when you've finished".  No one boat is definitely more than enough!!  After a quick lunch break it was back to work, I was really hoping it would rain to aid the rinsing down, otherwise I wasn't quite sure how it would be done.  I had just about finished the scrubbing down and cleaning the gutters when the dark clouds came over and I couldn't have timed it better, it absolutely poured down.  So there I was in the pouring rain, brush in hand rinsing the roof - sad thing is I was really enjoying myself!!  Just the polishing to do now.

James was getting on really well, good job he had his 'workshop'.  One box is nearly finished but they will need to be varnished first before going onto the roof.  While James was finishing off and clearing up I got dinner ready - Lasagna tonight.  After dinner we had a stroll up the canal as I had spotted Sarah-Louise going by in the afternoon and the lock flight closes at 2:30pm so knew she couldn't go far!  I was very interested in seeing her again, after all (as James as already mentioned), that is the boat that led us to getting Lois Jane and being where we are today.

Well tomorrow I think will be pretty much the same - James doing the boxes and me carrying on the cleaning of the outside, it really does need it and the result from today has inspired me to do the rest.  I think the weather is forecast to be the same as well, windy, sunny and showers - let's hope the showers are at just the right time again, surely I can't be that lucky.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

It's summer somewhere...

But not here. We new the wind and rain was coming but it hasn't stopped all day. More time inside means more power and electric generation and therefore more diesel that we really shouldn't be using this late in the year. 

I did as much to the top boxes as I expected (ie nothing - it will have to wait for the weather to get better). Most of the rest of my day was spent trying to suss out the wind gen. I couldn't understand how the batteries were getting so flat over night with little electricity being used. So the first thing to do as it was a windy night was to leave the wind gen going over night. The downside being it is horrendously noisy (think bike helmet with an electric blender strapped to it and you won't be too far off) so very little sleep was had.

The batteries were still low this morning so a little investigation was needed. After a quick strip down and re-wire it appears that some charge is getting through to both engine and domestic batteries but I still suspect that the domestic set are just about dead. I will still need to strip the wind gen when I get a mo. Deb had a relaxing morning and a busy day baking (cinnamon swirls tomorrow)

Hopefully tomorrow's weather will be a little kinder and I can get some work done. In the mean time a quick introduction to some of our new neighbours and a photo showing that we do get some clear skies!

proud parents

Venus over new moon

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

XL Day trip...

Our pop over to Mum and Dad at their eriba caravan meet was a little longer than originally intended. There was an outside chance that we would like to stay the night so packed a couple of extras.

The bongo's power cable (along with a boat spare one) stayed in the back of the garage in Poole so I had to take our extra long power cable from the boat. Even though the van is parked no more than half a mile away it was a bit of an early morning trudge down the ever muddier tow path with all the gear.

The forecast showers in Daventry lasted until we got to the camping site near Witney. And continued for the rest of the day. We are used to camping in bad weather but usually have our full kit with us and our awning is great for all the extra storage space. We soon had the eriba full as well as most mum and dads canopy awning.

We had a pleasant drive out through some of the eastern Cotswold's region (now Oxfordshire Cotswold's - I am sure they have expanded and no sign of the actual hills). Some of the villages and towns are my old stomping ground as it was only a little further west (proper Cotswold's) that I started my catering career in the summer of '88 as a commis chef at the Lower Slaughter Manor.

Stopping in the lovely little town of Chippping Norton we dodged some of the heavier showers and headed to the nearest pub for a late lunch before continuing via a couple of charity shops to Banbury. Dad had promised a boat warming present of a set of walkie talkies. Until now the only way of communicating to and from the front and back of the boat on the move was using an old cheap doorbell that we found on board and some rather rudimentary hand signal (not sure what Deb was trying to communicate but the hand signals didn't look too polite!) They will be most useful at locks where Deb can let me know if the locks are in our favour or if I need to moor up and wait for the lock to become available. Also useful when looking for a good mooring position; there is no way I can tell from half a mile away if a gap between boats will be big enough.

A quick stop at the pub on the way back to the caravan turned into another pub meal (shame I was looking foreword to dad's paella). It was a bit of a bargain though, order before 7.00 and get a home cooked two course meal for £5.00!

Proper camping weather by the time we got back, squelching over to the loo blocks and, of course, with the weather so bad everyone was locked away in their own little spaces which lost the atmosphere of a club meet.

We left mum and dad to it after breakfast and headed into Oxford to get some shopping (love Aldi!) and get some wood to make a pair of top boxes/solar panel supports for the roof (hate B/Q!). The weather was good for the journey back and the tow paths have dried out a lot over the last day or so. It was a bit more of a chore unpacking the van. We had all the day trip gear, a weeks food shopping and a load of wood. We did a couple of round trips with the bike trolley but I have left a couple of the larger pieces of wood in the van. Tomorrows weather looks abysmal so I probably won't get much woodwork done tomorrow anyway.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Spy an old friend...

What a day of sunshine and showers. Well it is April still I guess. Up and about earlyish today with a few jobs to do. By the time the first couple of showers had passed by, Deb was well into the cleaning. I was unbolting  part of the aft deck to try and get a closer look at the electrolyte level in the five leisure batteries that power everything from the pumps to get the water out of the taps to the TV and satellite box. The reason I am reluctant to buy new batteries straight away is that living aboard a boat you just can't charge batteries how they need to be done and so they don't last as long. If it's windy the wind generator charges a bit, if its a warmer day the fridge will work harder and use more power.

The batteries were filthy, none of the 30 cells were too low but each were checked and topped up a little. It sounds like quite an easy job but you need to be a contortionist to get to some of them and it took the best part of two hours with my head about a foot below the rest of me.

I think we must have been stopping for the odd shower/tea break at the same time ever day as the neighbours are getting used to popping round.

Did someone mention shortbread biscuits?

We tried to go out for a walk and a late lunch picnic but after no more than about half a mile Deb had realised that she had left the camera on the roof so we made a quick retreat and ate back aboard. 

Although we hadn't planned to move anywhere quite yet we had always said that we would avoid weekends if possible as it was logical that the waterways would be busy. We certainly weren't wrong there has been a steady stream of boats in both directions nearly all day even lat into the evening.

Whilst I was enjoying a patch of sun before starting again on the log pile I spied an old friend... Sarah Louise, not strictly an old friend but our first hire narrowboat from Lime Farm Marina just the other side of Rugby. It's all because of Sarah Louise that we are here today (wonder if this weeks residents will have their own boau this time next year)

The weather cleared up sufficiently to try the walk out again before dinner and were greeted on our return by a beautiful setting sun.

Tomorrow - a day trip to Oxford

Saturday, 21 April 2012

What hurts more...

Hail in the face or injections?

Early morning for me. The evening before I had had a massive (mainly ocular) migraine and had difficulty sleeping. By 4.00 I was feeling quite sick with it and by 5.00 it was either stay upright or pay a rapid visit to the bathroom. Although it was a bit chilly in the lounge I wrapped up in my woolly dressing gown (or smoking jacket depending on time of day) and sat up reading until the sun came up and started warming the canal into a serene, calm, mistiness. 

Mum and dad managed to find us without too much difficulty, after all I had moored right outside one of the best known marinas in the heart of the canal system (mum had actually asked the previous day for our postcode for the sat nav....)

It was a good job mum had heeded my advice to wrap up warm because the wind was pretty keen again today. Deb gave the visitors a very thorough guided tour of LJ, including all the electrical/monitoring systems, storage spaces and instructions on how to use the loo (no really it's more complicated than you think!)... 5 minutes later we were ready for a cuppa and off on our day trip.

We had decided to head south on the Oxford canal because there was a couple of options on winding holes (nothing to do with the complicated loo system) that would enable us to turn the 60ft LJ round and get back to the marina/car. If we had headed north and missed the only local winding hole the day trip may have turned into a weekend away.

The Oxford is a very different canal to the grand union. Most of it is much narrower and the locks and bridges are wide enough only for one boat at a time and it runs through some very peaceful countryside. As we meandered through fields and under disused railway bridges I could see that there was a rather nasty weather front that we may clip the edge of. Deb got my jumper and waterproof coat just in case and carried on her preparations for lunch. 

It started to rain a bit and dad headed below and shut the hatch to the aft deck, mum came in from the fore deck and watched the progress of the journey from behind the safety of the french/stable doors.

It started to rain a lot, I wished I had put my waterproof trousers on as well.

It started to hail...hard. 

My tiller hand was getting numb, my other pocket was filling with water, we were heading rapidly towards the winding point past bridge 107 and there is no easy way to pull over and stop a narrowboat so I was committed until we had managed to turn and find a suitable patch of bank to moor at.

HAIL OR INJECTIONS! - it was a close one but after a few months of far too regular jabs, I'll say hail in the face with no where to hide is worse!

By the time we had stopped I was soaked and freezing, below decks lunch was ready, the stove glowing warmly in the corner and the kettle getting ready to let out a whistle on top. It would have been a great location to picnic beside the boat, the towpath was little walked and we were on a wide corner of freshly cut grass, willow trees and a church spire finished the ideal rural scene. 

The journey back was much more relaxing with warm sun on my back and a good natter. We moored up only a few hundred metre's from where we had started but kept to the Oxford rather than going back on the Grand Union. The slight drop in water levels have meant that sometimes we can't moor right up against the bank and the only way from ship to shore is via the plank!

Parent made to walk the plank following washing up refusal
We were now looking forward to popping into Rugby a few miles away for something to eat (it's amazing how the fresh air and weather can build an appetite.)

All I will say about dinner until I get a photo from mum to post is that you have never experienced a curry until it has come with a 'family' size nann.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Lockin good day!...

It was nice to get back behind the tiller today (well actually in front of it but you know what I mean!) We don't have the budget, or the need, to be travelling every day. I really want to see a bit more of England's rural countryside and get to know some of the towns and cities that we will be passing not too far away from. So we will aim to change location somewhere between weekly and fortnightly. over I can't see!
We left our mooring just south of Buckby top lock about 10.30, a time of day that is soon approaching being early morning for us! But in fairness its not just like grabbing your keys and phone and jumping in the car. That reminds me, how that guy getting on in X-factor? His rap was one of the funniest things I have seen on this years shows with his song 'where me keys, where ma phone...' We did have an audience whilst we prepared our departure. I can almost imagine them thinking ... 'no that's the wrong type of knott, won't get far with that...'

Our first lock, and the last before the Braunston summit,  was in the pub garden of the New Inn. Deb was quite pleased that we were there before opening time as this was our first solo passage through a wide lock and the fewer spectators the better. To stop LJ getting bashed about by the incoming water (we were going up) I had to climb on the roof, feed the centre-line rope around a bollard, keep steady on the roof until we were at lock wall level and try and keep all 20 (aprox) tons of us tethered at the side whilst Deb operated the lock paddles. It was about as easy as it sounds, certainly not as easy as pairing up with another boat and wedging ourselves in.

Deb decided to do the washing up at this time and still hasn't got used to the amount of washing-up liquid to use :)

not going to get 200 washes out of that bottle now!

stubble is coming on, but you should see the hair!
It was a pleasant run for the next mile or so with manageable winds and little rain, although we kept waterproofs on just in case. We passed through farm land and a wooded cutting before I felt a chill run down my spine! The passage in the map book had reminded me the entrance to 'the' tunnel was shortly after a wooded cutting, surely we couldn't be there already!

Sure enough as I waited to let an oncoming boat through a narrow section, the boat following behind it was just extinguishing its tunnel light. 

Braunston tunnel is over 2000yds long and has a couple of kinks in the middle due to engineering difficulties back in the late 1700's when it was built. As the construction was so long ago in an era where health and safety was not even a glimmer in a bureaucrat's eye, there are no lights, no safety barriers, emergency exits, no little phone booths to call for help, no gps or phone signals, no powerful extractors clearing the air of diesel fumes. Worse still whilst headroom is ok the tunnel is only 15ft 7 wide. Now LJ is 6ft 10 wide and lets say the oncoming boats are the same that's 13ft 8 wide if we touch leaving just 23 inches for a gap between the wall, boats and other wall, minus the size of any fenders! Tight to say the least! 

One Following us in
Now imagine you are stood behind the boot of your car in the pitch black, there are another three cars in front of you, the further most one has been equipped with one headlight from a post war motorbike. Your view over the four car roofs is obscured further by a pile of wood, satellite dish, chimney and big plastic box; oh and you have no brakes and rear wheel steering. Lastly add deafening noise from the echo of diesel engines and choking fumes and you're in the tunnel too!

Surprisingly we made it through with only one very minor knock from the three boats we passed. As it didn't take quite as long as I expected, we pushed on through the next flight of locks heading down to Braunston village itself. The towpaths here were a little soggy from the last few days rain.

Small person takes large dog for a walk

We managed to find a mooring right outside Braunston marina at the bottom of the village and hiked up the hill to get a few supplies ready for mum and dads visit tomorrow. Braunston is a pretty little two street village with lots of character and a proud history. A local information sign says that one family owned the farm, windmill and bakers and all the villagers used to share the oven to roast their meat and cook their pies once the daily bread was baked. You can imagine what a thriving community it would have been, after all the canal (end of the 'grand union') was the main thoroughfare for all goods between the midlands and London.

I hope to spend a week or so close to here and learn more about Braunston's history.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A Celebration of 99 years!...

Funerals can really go either way can't they. Of course imho I feel that it is entirely down to circumstances. Although it was a sad day I could only feel positiveness that Nan had managed to get to the ripe old age of 99! Luckily for the vast majority of her life she was fit and healthy both physically and mentally. Lots of people loved and respected her and she had a great effect on everyone who knew her, but still managed to squeeze such a lot into life that she benefited from. 

It was great to see her closest family and friends supporting her final journey including a Skype via ipad link up to the family in Oz. It is good testimony of a long and fulfilling life if there are more laughs than tears at the end.

Of course from a personal level the day didn't pass without hitches....

We were up and about and ready to leave LJ by just after 7.30 with the intention of picking Jess up in Oxford by 9.00 meeting mum and dad on a campsite in Whitney by 9.30 and heading to London en-mass from there. Suited and booted, Deb having ironed my crisp white shirt with her new toy sized iron and no ironing board, we stepped ashore as the weather changed from heavy drizzle to persistent driving rain. I could have sworn that the van was only one canal meander away, but I think that was sunny Sunday afternoon distances having had that relaxing pint or so. Reality was about three quarters of a mile at as close to a jog as I will probably ever get!

At 9.30 we were still trying to leave the M40 (still well north of Oxford) having spent nearly two hours in 'nose to tail' traffic. A quick change of plan resulted in mum and dad picking up Jess from the train station, our rendez vous changing to Oxford and dumping the Bongo in the nearest all day car-park we could find (taxing in it's self). The success of the rest of the day was entirely down to the preceding hard work and organisation by all those involved.

We made it back aboard a little before 10.00 to the dull glimmer of LED lights and a battery bank far too depleted to run the inverter and therefore fridge, so it looks like the solar panels will be cluttering up the last available bits of roof sooner rather than later; along with a new state of charge monitor and possibly (although hopefully not) a new bank of five 110ah batteries.

Calling suppliers and engineers was followed by much measuring and head-scratching then realisation that function over form will have to be conceded. I think that power and its conservation will become a new priority even though I have been conscious to do everything I can to keep consumption low so far. With the ultra low energy lamps we use, if all 21 were lit it would still only add up to 63 watts compared to 200 watts  alone in our kitchen in Poole!

Time to move on tomorrow, not too far again though; getting ever closer to the daunting Braunston tunnel...

Monday, 16 April 2012

Finally made it off the marina!...

Slightly later than planned but what a beautiful day to get going. Slightly chilly in the master cabin early on (hovering around 8deg C) but very calm and an icy blue sky.

The first lock of Buckby flight is only about 100m from the marina so we were straight into it. The flight rises about 63ft over a mile or so, luckily we managed to pair up with another boat so there was three lock operatives which made the going good. 

As we have to be in Oxford early to pick up our daughter, Jess, meet mum and dad in Whitney and get to London by 11.30ish to meet up with the rest of the family for Nan's funeral; we have decided to moor as soon as we could north of the flight where we had left the bongo so we can get going well before the local commuter traffic.

With no evening boating traffic and only a couple of dog walkers it has been a very peaceful end to our first day. With the stove lit and burning a slow mix of coal and a couple of logs from the pile I soon had a bubbling pot of chicken and butter bean casserole going.

Everyone we have met today has been polite and chatty which echos all of our previous experiences on the cut. There are a few repetitive questions that I had expected to answer from walkers over the coming weeks but the first one came literally minutes after we had moored up - 'do you live on board all year round?' I wonder how long it will  be before the next one.

Now where are the rest of those shortbread biccies?


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Last day with leccy...

We have promised Ray that we will be off the marina by early Monday (not too early though as the locks won't be open until 10!) so today was mainly spent relaxing in the morning getting the last few jobs done (and making use for the last time of our electric fan heater). 

It has been another blowy day here, enough to give the wind generator a good try out as it will get a lot of use from now on. They don't generate that much power but every little will help, if it is going all day and only gives me an hour of TV I will be happy.

No reply from a company that I emailed yesterday asking for a quote for fitting solar panels so I will give them a call when I can. Hopefully as soon as we have sorted solar charging we will be closer to self sufficient with out too much engine power generation; even with the 80/20 split (red diesel/white diesel) we bought the diesel at it will still put us over budget until we are part sun powered.

Deb made the most of the provided water on site to clean the Bongo ready for sale and I, in a bit of role reversal made some shortbread biscuits to go with a cuppa later (well in about five minutes time actually! doesn't time fly)

We will be heading towards Norton junction through our first flight of locks so I am glad the wind is forecast to drop overnight and I think it will be the driest day of the week. With falling wind and clear sky the temperature is dropping quickly tonight and its forecast to be as low as -5 during the night!

In readiness for leaving tomorrow we have moved the van up to where we intend to moor tomorrow so we can make our way early doors on Tuesday to meet up with mum and dad and on to the funeral in London. Luckily near the Bongo's parking spot was a very nice little canal side pub where we relaxed for an hour over a Sunday afternoon pint and the papers before a nice stroll back to Lois Jane (LJ)

Now time for that cuppa and my biccies.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Good drying day!...

Windy in Whilton today, great day for drying so Deb has put a couple of loads through the washing machine, dried and stored with a third load drying in the bathroom.

Lots of bits and pieces finished off today and a big dent made in the log pile (hopefully another pile about that size tomorrow).

Part of the canal north of Leicester is closed due to water shortage so we will be heading north along the Oxford canal via the Braunston  tunnel which will be a bit intimidating 2042 yards of darkness! hope the lamp fix yesterday was a good one! 

We hope to meet up with Mum and Dad next week for a day on the canal but that will sadly follow our first family funeral for a very long time.

Last day on the marina tomorrow!

Friday, 13 April 2012

A lay-in at last...

I really can't remember how long it has been since I had a lay-in (or is it lie-in?) several years at least; probably closer to a decade! Managed 9.30 today!

Luckily only a few jobs for today. Get the washing machine in, plumbed and working. Go to Daventry with the bikes and trailer to get some shopping. Still got to split some logs tomorrow but we are quite happy with what we have done.

Getting the washing machine through the bow doors and under the worktop was easier than I was expecting but by this time the clouds were parting and the day warming up nicely so we brought forward the shopping trip by a few hours and left all the tidying and checking the washing machine until later in the day.

We tried our first shopping trip with the bikes and trailer as the bongo is now on borrowed time (note tomorrows log pile). The trailer worked really well but unfortunately my legs didn't. It was hard enough work with the thing empty but by the time we had been to Aldi and filled the top-box up my legs were burning; even pushing up hill was hard work. Hopefully as we get fitter it will all be easier but at the moment I can't imagine shopping trips on cold wet winter days (I think Ocado deliver to marinas) 

It was a nice afternoon out though, and the rolling fields either side of the pretty little village of Norton were a treat. It looks like a village with lots of history having more than a couple of large manor houses set in sprawling parkland. They have a village open day on Sunday so we may go back to have a closer look.

Luckily the trip back from Daventry was more down hill than up so we made fairly good time and got straight back to the washing machine which pleasingly all works as it should. 

Whilst Deb was busy putting everything neatly back in cupboards, I sparked up the cobb BBQ to cook some pizzas we had bought (intended to make them fresh but time was going fast). The cobb was fuelled today on a mere three lumps of charcoal and some pieces of chopped up branch picked up from yesterdays walk.

Very still here on the marina this evening, but as the sun dipped down you could really feel the temperature drop.

Two days to go until we cut the umbilical cord of the marina!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Week one in the big blue boat...

We have made it through our first week aboard Lois Jane. Lois Jane is a 60ft cruiser stern built/fitted by Alexander/Sandhills to what I now realize is a very high standard. The equipment levels are also quite impressive and I particularly like engine heat exchanger that runs the radiators whilst motoring; and the hydraulic engine drive.

There are two schools of thought with owning what many people would consider luxury items like boats bikes and cars. Buy it, use it and enjoy your time with it; or polish it, maintain it and try and keep it as close to new condition as you can. I still haven't decided if one is right and one is wrong yet, but whilst Lois Jane does have a considerably long list of jobs to do I hope I don't get too paranoid about every little mark and scratch. It took days to get the iroko floor scraped of brittle old varnish and back closer to its former glory (including 300 mile round trips after work to lay another coat of woodskin varnish) but only minutes to cure leaking radiators that have left damp patches. The outside looks great from a distance but up close the battle scars are looking rusty and will get attended to over the summer months What I do know is that we couldn't have afforded a boat of this quality if it was in any better a condition. 

We are still at Whilton Marina (where we bought 'LJ') near Northampton and will be until this weekend. It has been another fairly busy week trying to get the jobs done that have been on lists of varying sizes for the last few weeks but nothing like as busy as the previous few weeks trying to condense the contents of a four bedroom house into a narrowboat, small cupboard at the back of the garage and rather more of the mother-in-laws loft than was intended (thanks Pip)

So what lead us to this slightly belated gap year (or so)? Of course the usual stresses and strains of working  over 100 hours a week between us since we were teenagers. But, in brief.......

  • look to move to France and possibly start a B&B/gite business
  • decide seasons are too short and risks too high, look at smaller properties
  • visit lots of towns on rivers and canals.
  • decide that we can't decide what region we are agreed on to move to
  • consider living on a Dutch barge and tour the inland waterways of France
  • visit Southampton boat show to look at nice shiny new boats
  • decide that the purchase price and running costs of a dutch barge of any condition is prohibitive
  • research British waterways and narrow boats
  • book a couple of narrowboating short breaks
  • plan to buy a narrowboat in 2017 once we have saved some more money
  • remortgage now and buy a boat
It has been a typical April showery kind of day here in Whilton, and not too warm either! Travel reports on the radio today contain lots of bulletins detailing accidents from torrential rain and hail storms so I think we got off lightly.

The marina received another containerized delivery of new boats (presumably) from the Far East which was interesting to watch, they appear well fitted and the bamboo interior certainly looks hard wearing.

Deb dodged the showers and managed to get another coat of varnish on the workbench, small table and the woodwork on the bike trailer.

The bathroom looks much cleaner with fresh grout (silicone sealant tomorrow) and the tunnel light is now fully functioning. All sinks now hold water so the DIY list (at least on the inside) is getting shorter by the day. Tomorrow is fitting the washing machine day, log splitting and, if the weather is as forecast, a bike ride up to Watford locks to see what staircase locks are all about. We even managed an evening canal-side stroll!

Looking forward to getting onto the cut next week, now where shall we go......