Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Making A Bit Of A Splash... barely a ripple across the Droitwich Spa Marina as 'Smiffbob' Sandhills 24th boat dipped her toe in the water.

The day started as all good days should, not too early and with a nice cup of tea. We had been invited by Bob and June (of Autumn Myst fame) to our first boat launch. Sunday the 26th January was a miserable day. A proper British winter day, not particularly cold but wet and more importantly windy. The launch was due for the next morning. Hmm, with gusts as they had been I wasn't sure if the craning of 18 tons of Sandhills and Alexander Boat Builders craftsmanship would be going ahead.

The boat owners Steve and Lyn Smith (or is that Smiff) were due to leave home for Sandhills boatyard near Redditch at about 07.00, a couple of hours later I called Bob - no bad news so it looked like it was on. We took the short (and remarkably cheap at just over £5 for both of us return) train journey from Snow Hill in Birmingham to Solihull where we were picked up by Bob and ferried back to his and June's lovely house in the 'burbs. June was very welcoming as was Jimmy, Bob and June's latest trainee guide dog puppy. He is doing remarkably well for a young pup and padded quietly around us with his over-sized labradoodle paws (definitely the best example that I have seen of that particular cross so far).

We had never been to visit Gary, Mark and Sue who make up the Sandhills team so we popped over to meet the team at their workshop behind S. E. Davis and Sons (part of the same family group of companies) on their massive landscaping material, concrete supply, plant and training centre. Like most boat builders it is essentially just a big workshop with all the machinery needed for fitting and painting a narrowboat. It was lovely to meet the team and put names to the faces of not only the craftsmen but also Sue who has been very helpful in the past sorting out paint codes and varnish advice for my LJ, DIY.
Ready to feel rain on her roof

Time to bring in the big guns

A bit of persuading of the workshop doors and there was room for the crane

Before Smiffbob could be hauled out of the shed and transferred over to the low loader, Sandhills No. 25 had to had its roof peeled off and its old traditional Dutch engine dropped in place so it could go in for fitting. This was going to take a while so we made the executive decision to leave the Smith family and the Sandhills team to it and head over to the marina and wait for boat and crane to arrive. Luckily there just happened to be a pub around the corner so we decided a little drink and a bite to eat was needed.

We had been to the pub before at the back end of 2012 heading up from the Severn towards Braunston. Pip and John had joined us for the day with Daisy the JRT (if memory serves correctly) and we were moored outside the pub called 2 4 6 8. I though little of the name except that it was a bit odd, but when we were inside we realised the concept - main courses priced at £2, £4, £6 or £8 remarkable value and pretty good food this time as well. Of course it does have a name it's the Eagle and Sun, but we hadn't seen that at the time. Jimmy was allowed in as he had his 'guide dog in training' vest on. You really wouldn't have known he was there. Fingers crossed that after his socialisation with Bob and June he flies through 'guide dog uni' and finds the right match with a grateful new owner. Whilst we ate, drank, looked out at the rain squalls and talked boats and cruising, Bob kept in touch with look-outs in the marina.

We had the call. Last minute slurps of coffee and rest-room visits preceded a dash over to the marina. Smiffbob was still on her low loader. It would have been a disaster to have missed the launch. Luckily the crane hadn't arrived yet so we had plenty of time to check camera batteries and chat to the gathering well wishers. I was reintroduced to Jim Sparks from Alexander Boat Builders He built the shell of Smiffbob and our very own Lois Jane, I think that's four of Sandhills boats that are lucky enough to have a Jim Sparks hull now. Still the crane hadn't arrived, the calm that we get as the sun starts its final decent was with us. The winds lowered and we waited for the crane.

Lyn Smiff had been busy though and whilst we had a little pause, out came tupperware boxes of homemade cakes. Unfortunately Lyn has now set herself the precedent that all visitors to Smiffbob will be expecting lovely home baked cakes. We talked batteries and propulsion with Steve (Smiffbob has hybrid diesel electric propulsion and has over a ton of batteries!) and solar panels and power audits with our lookouts for the day, Tony and Pat from Tilda, Sandhills no.23. The launch had been due for noon but a delay with the low loader at its previous stop in the NEC (or whatever its called now), and the crane had put the timescales back by three plus hours so far and light was fading fast. Still no crane.

The well wishers gathered

Sue, Bob, Jimmy, Tony and Pat

Another member for the Jimmy fan club

Before the sun got too low we were treated to a guided tour of the marina by Tony from Tilda and a sneaky little look around their lovely boat. Bob wrote a blog of Tilda's progress when it was being built here and Adam reviewed her in May 2013 edition of Canal Boat. A very nice boat and I'm sure that the Sandhills guys are very happy that she is being so well looked after by Tony and Pat. 'Thanks for the look around guys'. And still the crane... No here it is!

The Smiff son and daughter doing the official naming

Apart from being a little late the launch went fantastically smoothly. As the bow broke the surface tension of Droitwich Spa Marina there was hardly a ripple. Flashes pinged and well wishers whooped, a new boat was born, welcome to the cut.

After congratulations and champagne came the tour of Smiffbob, wow what a boat Sandhills have out done themselves. Whilst you can see the similarities in craftsmanship between our Lois Jane (Sandhills No.1) and Smiffbob, the innovation has progressed vastly over the last fourteen years and Sandhills has evolved into a world class brand - anyone thinking of commissioning a new boat is making a mistake if they don't consider Sandhills. 

What a lovely day. Congratulations to Steve and Lyn, many thanks to Bob and June, Job well done to Jim Sparks at Alexander and Gary, Mark and Sue from Sandhills.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Could this post be anywhere near as popular as...

THE BUDGET BLOG - (here it is!)

I was genuinely surprised at the number of page hits the budget blog got and that readers either found it interesting or useful. This blog delves further into the psyche of a narrowboat cupboard lurker (my electrical information panels are in a cupboard). But now here is...


What is it, do you need it, how do you make one and what do you do with the information once you have the result.

Firstly, a power audit is simply everything electrical you use on the boat and how long you use it. The idea is that once you know how much energy you use, you can make two assessments that are of benefit if they are balanced, namely 'what size battery bank do I need and how do I replace the energy that I've consumed'.

Power audits aren't just for the continuous cruiser though. In fact it would probably be more important to me if I was a marina based leisure dweller out for a few days at a time. I wouldn't have invested in solar panels if I was plugged into landline electric forty odd weeks a year and I certainly wouldn't have a petrol generator for charging, I would want enough battery capacity to run everything I needed for at least a couple of days without even thinking about battery SOC or DOD (state of charge and depth of discharge respectively). A charging regime is probably easier for continuous cruisers as we move mooring every day or so (OK maybe every week for us) and charge the domestic battery bank to a certain degree every time.

Secondly, do you need one. Strictly speaking no, as long as you are happy with your power management at the moment. But if you are looking at buying new batteries or anything to charge them, or getting some new electrical equipment that may have an impact (say changing from a 240v fridge to a 12v one, or going from a portable radio to a Goldmine Epilogue signature audio system) then the balance of the battery bank capacity, charging ability/regime and power usage will be awry.

Thirdly, how do I do one. Pen, paper and calculator is fine but as I have an old laptop with Excel I used a spreadsheet. First off for each item you need to know how many amps it draws. Some state this on the info plate but most are in watts that have to be converted to amps - watts divided by volts = amps. Your 240v appliance isn't really running from the mains but from your 12v batteries via an inverter so you don't divide by 240. Unfortunately the inverter uses power itself so to make an allowance for that, any 240v item is divided by 10 rather than 12.

As an example let's take a 20" TV. Most seem to average about 40w (watts) divided by 10 = 4a (amps) x however long you use it (say 3 hours a day) = 12ah that needs to come out of your battery bank (amp hours - possibly amper hours ??). If you have a12v TV then you save a bit from not running the inverter. A new 12v Cello 22" TV/DVD uses 25w so 25w / 12v = 2.1a x 3 hours is 6.3ah or about half as much as a 240v one and the inverter. The downside of 12v appliances is that it probably costs more. The TV is about 1.5 times the price, a 12v fridge is between 4 or 5 times the price!

* technical disclaimer - those who know the author will appreciate his limited technical knowledge, those who know him well will understand his ability to sound convincing as he makes what he thinks, sound rather like knowledge - blog comments with corrections, amendments and further knowledge will be most appreciated.

So here is my power audit. I've split it up into seasons firstly because it is easier to work out what you use and secondly there may (will) become a time that we are marina based part of the year and if we only cruise in the summer I'll know what power is needed. Don't ask me how but I think I have rewritten the blogger code in HTML so you can input your own figures via my blog!!

Or Power Audit - This could quite possibly be a link to download my excel spreadsheet that somehow I have made available in SkyDrive

Lastly, what do you do with the resultant information. You really need to know a little bit about available power in a battery first. If you take the open wet cell leisure battery of 110ah capacity you should not use more than 50% of that capacity (or drop the voltage below 12.25v) as nasty things start to happen and your batteries will have started an early and rapid demise - at 12.15v your batteries cells have started to die. Google sulphation for far more accurate description than I'm going to try here.

These voltages are resting voltages ie no load being applied
The next bit of bad news is that to recharge your battery to 80% doesn't take too much doing but the last stretch to 100% can take many hours. Unless you are regularly hooked up to 240v landline and a multi-stage charger a genuine 100% charge is unlikely. So each 110ah battery gives me a usable 33ah. I use a maximum of 107ah per day so I could possibly scrape through with 3 x 110ah batteries (actually if you look at my spreadsheet you will see that we use more power in summer because the fridge cycles on for longer as the boat gets hotter - quite often 30°c on a sunny summers day - however on said sunny days the 400w of solar panels can put in more juice than we use so you could theoretically knock a good few amps off the summer usage.

If I was a marina based leisure boater I would want a battery bank of no less than 660ah so we could last at least two full days without the worry of charging and more importantly damaging the battery bank. As we cruise, cook and therefore charge the batteries daily, I'll try reducing my bank of batteries from 5 x 110ah to 3 x 110ah (or maybe 135ah ones if I can get a good deal.

In real terms that means a saving of about £140 for the battery purchase, 50kg less weight on the side of the boat that could do with 100kg less and 18 battery cells to check (about every 10 weeks) instead of 30.

What you take out has to go back in, and a bit more besides. The rough rule of thumb in a balanced system is that you have to put back in about 130% of what you take out. The primary reason for this is that your charging system is not made of magic (I look forward to adding the most suitable blog comment here). So if you use 120a then you would have to use a 120a charging system for 1 hour 18 minutes, a 60a system for a little under 3 hours etc.

Well I do hope you found that useful or at least interesting. Next Blog, we're off to a boat launch...

Friday, 24 January 2014

CaRT Boaters Meeting In Birmingham...

A few weeks ago we had an email from the Canal and River Trust inviting us to a regional boaters meeting in Birmingham. The invite had gone to mooring renters (winter, leisure and residential) as well as other boaters who had been logged in the local area. The email signed off by announcing that there would be a buffet providing light refreshments available - well it would be rude not to go wouldn't it!

I'm pretty pleased that CaRT have decided to have more of these open meetings to brief us on whats happening and to open up a forum for questions. Us boaters tend to have an opinion about just about everything and indeed where CaRT are involved we can be particularly vocal.

Before the due date there was a little bit of chat on FB regarding the fact that the meeting had reached its maximum attendees point having already changed to a bigger meeting room within the Bond's venue. We walked down through town towards the Grand Union canal. Like everything in Birmingham so far it wasn't far to go, no more than three miles round trip.

The Bond East Birmingham

The collection of meeting rooms is on the canal side and looks like it would be a great place for a stop off at their Cafe on a sunny day. Our meeting room was filing up quickly with delegates and frantic CaRT staff preparing for the 6.00 start. Richard Parry the CEO of the Trust gave a welcoming speech to the hundred or so of us that attended. There was a Q&A session afterwards. 

This is where I was expecting the hard hitting issues to come out and the very few concerns that I have be on every other delegates note books. I was sadly mistaken. No burning issues and heated debates regarding the treatment of the vulnerable; maintenance budgets and programs; visitor mooring changes or the possible victimisation of the Continuous Cruising license holders. But we had 'we haven't got enough water taps where we moor'; we want a bench to commemorate a deceased lockie'; 'support my crazy diagonal lock idea'; 'it's very muddy at my closest water point'; 'can we have a license type test for new boaters so they don't bang into my pride and joy'.

For any non boaters reading this the meeting is rather like the government coming to your county and letting you ask them questions. You're probably going to ask 'what are you doing about immigration'; 'why is my A&E service failing'; not 'can we have a new climbing frame in our park' or 'the road outside my house has now got TWO potholes'.  A lot of Narrowboat Associations were present but there was no cohesion, no plan of action, no barrage of questions based on their core beliefs and values. I was a tad frustrated and disappointed.  

There was an opportunity for attendees to voice their concerns on a more personal level with at least half of the allocated three hours being made available to talk to the whole CaRT team on an individual basis, no one could say CaRT was not making themselves available and approachable. I was expecting Richards opening remarks to be a little more specific the content of which I found a bit thin on the ground. Two questions/responses surprised me more than others. 

Firstly I feel the answer to the guy that asked for clarity (somewhere on CaRT's web site being ideal) as to what CaRT intends to do in 2014 as a 'to do list' was evaded. Richard basically saying we can't publish that information but not offering any reason why. If this information was available it could have made the basis for more meaningful content to the meeting. I agree that the purpose of the meeting was to canvas our ideas and thoughts but had we known what they are planning to do over this year it may have elevated the questioning to a more important level.

Secondly a question (or more accurately response) from a boating trader was a bit of a shock to me. His question was regarding the number of trade boats that are able to moor (and trade) within the trial visitor moorings (Foxton, Thrupp and Stoke Bruerne) and his concern with the possible national roll out of these changes. The chap queried the fact that a maximum of 2 trade boats are permitted to trade in any one visitor mooring zone. This is what I was lead to believe because I had read it on some CaRT literature during a spring visit to Stoke Bruerne. The emphatic reply from Richard and Sally Ash (head of boating) was that it was 'news to them' Sally interjecting that it was just ideas brought up in another recent meeting. Their literature clearly states a maximum of 2 traders in any one zone Foxton's winter T&C here

What flabbergasts me is that these are new and recent policies/rules/trials (November 2013 is the date on the Foxton pdf, Thrupp and Stoke Bruerne's PDFs dated August 2013) and the attending higher echelons of the trust don't know anything about it. Now the cynic in me says one of them must have known (Sally?), or important visitor mooring changes are being carried out by someone lower down the structure. I will of course be writing to Richard and Sally for an explanation. 

Following on from yesterday's meeting I would encourage as many people to attend as possible. My advice to the many boaters associations attending the next meeting is to be more organised. I can't see that the format of these meetings is sustainable otherwise.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Trip round Brum

Sunday 19th January
3 miles

We needed to top up the diesel and were desperate for a pump out so we chose a lovely, still, clear sunny day to pop out of Cambrian Wharf and head over to Sherborne Wharf. The service there was excellent and a very thorough pump out with a couple of good rinses for £16.

Leaving Cambrian Wharf

On leaving the Oozells Loop, where Sherborne Wharf is situated we could only turn left at the end which gave us a good excuse to cruise up to the next junction to be able to wind (not that we need an excuse!). Heading back to the 'roundabout' we took a right turn to go up past Gas Street towards the Mail Box where we passed Emma and Nick on Marpessa, it was Murk the lovely black lab I noticed first stood on the back looking out.

The long straight New Mainline

The Roundabout

Passing Brindley Place

Gas Street Basin

Gas Street Basin the other way
We stopped off at the water point opposite The Cube to see if it was any quicker than the ones at Cambrian Wharf, but it wasn't! After that we then headed back 'home, although it was lovely and sunny was a very chilly day.

Back at Cambrian Wharf
I have reset our mileage counter for 2014 and we now have 3 miles on the clock.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Feeling Spring Like In Birmingham... and a visit from LJ's namesake.

The Christmas Season in Birmingham is finally over. The last of the Frankfurt market debris was cleared away soon after Boxing day and this week the big wheel and ice rink have been dismantled and removed. There is something to be said for mooring in the middle of a city over winter. Aside the convenience of the facilities, I hadn't really appreciated the effect that the extra couple of degrees Celsius would have on the urban sprawl. Tucked down beneath the 'storage heater' effect of the surrounding tower blocks and offices we have yet to have a good hard frost. Reports from as close as Warwick suggest at least a couple of mornings with thickly iced canals. Most evenings we are in short sleeves whilst the Becton Bunny ticks over on a minimum amount of fuel, we have had the diesel central heating on for two hours since the 27th December (just for topping up the hot water) and the winter blanket has yet to fortify the bed. Who knows maybe our fourteen year old boat is just so well insulted eh Tom...(sorry that's a bloggers 'in joke'). In fact when the wind is slight the towpaths feel positively spring like - maybe the polar vortex from America will pass us by.

Going back to New Years Eve we had an early start with a coal delivery organised by our next door neighbours Peter and Heather. We hadn't expected a delivery much before 10.00 but Heather knocked on the door at about 07.30 to let us know that it was time to reverse LJ a few hundred yards to the pick up point. Much later that evening (about fifteen hours later) we partook in the city centre festivities enjoying the atmosphere, fireworks and the odd glimps of the blond locks of the back of the head of a former X-Factor contestant. Keri Roberts sounded good, and was very relaxed. I don't really watch any of the 'reality' TV programs (or much TV at all come to that) but if you followed last years, Keri was one of a trio who had the bust up on live TV as the judges wanted Keri to perform solo rather than in a mediocre group. 

There she is, somewhere in the middle
I wasn't alone in taking photos on my phone, look at all those tiny screens poking above the headline

By the time we had weaved through the hoards of people trying to edge their way out of a grid-locked Birmingham centre the balcony of the flapper was heaving with revelers, who would be at least a couple more hours before they started to move on (the bar was open until 03.00). Peter, Heather, Deb and I took back to LJ to see what booze we could rustle up. Not a lot sadly because we had drunk it all before we had left. Luckily Peter's daughter had provided him with a Christmas gift of a nice bottle of Brandy which he shared with us - most appreciated. By the end of our celebrating and chatting the Flapper had gone quiet and Peter and Heather managed to find their way, all of one boats length, back to their home 'Blackberry Way'

We have had a relaxing few days to start the year, the most strenuous being a couple of miles walk with a fortnights shopping and a couple of walks along the canal to pick up some more petrol for the ever faithful (and fairly frugal) old Honda geni. I wonder how much more 'green' a 100cc petrol engine is over a 2200cc diesel one). The solar panels continue to trickle power into the battery bank and provide us with just over one free power day per week.

We had a lovely visit from Geoff and ('THE' LOIS) Jane Wilson this week the former owners of out Lois Jane and therefore the first ever clients of Sandhills Narrowboats. We had a fantastic couple of hours nattering and are really looking forward to our reciprocated invite at Geoff and Jane's city residence in a few weeks when they are back in the area on business.

At last a pic of 'THE' Lois Jane, Geoff and young Weimarana Coco

Our evening stroll took us past the library last night where I stopped to take a few pics and waited for Deb who had to pop down to the post office.

Panorama across the skyline - LJ is moored between the two tower blocks to the bottom left

Over Symphony Hall towards Broad Street

Towards The Cube (right of centre) Geoff and Jane are at the top somewhere there

One of my favorite inside parts of the library - you've got to time it right to get it this empty!

From the secret gardens

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Not The Most Exciting Blog You're Ever Going To Read...

If you hate facts and figures, budgets and penny-pinching turn off now.

This blog is just about what we have spent during 2013. Not only do we log every engine hour and petrol generator minute, but we also make a note of every penny we spend - even down to the £2 for a charity raffle in Market Harborough at the end of the summer. Yes we even took 'the' book away with us on holiday. As well as an aide memoir in the future I thought this post may be useful for anyone thinking of making the jump onto a boat but don't know how much an average Joe would spend.

It's not that we (I) have some morbid fascination or OCD condition regarding figures, its simple, if we keep to a very strict budget we can carry on cruising if we don't we can't - nuff said.

I have excluded a couple of items from this blog, our endowments and mortgages, house and personal insurances. So here we go...

    1.   Diesel - £664.99 (av per month £55.42) 

As well as chugging us along for about 446 miles through 309 locks there is also a bit of power generating in there as well as any proper cooking. Our boat is gas free and has a domestic electric hob and oven and a fairly thirsty 50bhp Beta marine (2203) engine. We do have diesel powered central heating and hot water (also fed from the engine) but we rarely use it (20 hours in 2013). The tank is about 35% full at the moment. I've increased the budget for diesel for 2014 due to the fact that Adam and Adrian nearly went further on their three week holiday than we went in nine months (a tad embarrassing)

    2.  Coal - £423.75 (av per month £35.31)

The boat is never cold in the front half and rarely worse than chilly at the back. As of January 2nd we also have 12 bags in stock. We could have quite happily spent less over the final quarter but there was little fallen wood to be found on the approaches to Birmingham. We have mainly used excel throughout.

    3.   Petrol - £132.64 (av per month £11.05)
We use petrol for power generating using our old Honda EX1000 and for our little chain saw. This figure includes £45 for some petrol for the Mazda Bongo before we sold it in February but excludes fuel for hire vehicles. A truer figure should be about £8.80 per month. If we buy new batteries during 2014 (I suspect a couple of them are pretty dead) we will need to charge for longer. Back when the batteries were new charging per hour raised the %age charge by 10% as a very rough rule of thumb, now it's closer to 18%.

    4.   Loo Pump out - £78 (av per month £6.50) 
We use a two loo system (it works well for us). All the nasties in the pump out so we don't have to get up close and personal and liquids only in a small porta loo for elsan disposal (and if an emergency, the corner of a farmers field and diluted with a couple of buckets of canal water). When we first moved aboard I was expecting to be pumping out about every three weeks at an average of £15 (£260 pa) so we have spent a lot less than anticipated. 

    5.   Internet - £228 (av per month £19) 
We have used a Mi Fi on the Three network for the last two years giving 15gb of data usage (tested at home for a few months before we moved aboard). The contract has now finished and with the demise of my nokia (it doesn't like canal water) I have changed to a more pricey Three contract including a Samsung S4 with unlimited data and internet tethering to connect the laptop, ipod, and google nexus 7 to. The other advantage to the new S4 is that it is able to connect to the TV to stream programs via iPlayer (and similar) and any downloaded videos. 

    6.   Mobile Phones - £296.82 (av per month 24.74)
We have had two phones running on the Tesco network providing all we have needed in 2013. The new phone is now insured!

    7.   Shopping - £1844.10 (av per month £153.68)
This really is just food shopping. We rarely buy alcohol on the food budget tending to prefer to make a bit of a doo of going out for a drink now and again instead. It is well under half what we used to spend when we lived in bricks and mortar but we have a better and more varied diet.

    8.   Other shopping - £674.89 (av per month £56.24)
We tend to buy non food items in budget shops like Wilkinsons. There is always a bit that is spent in Super Drug and Boots. Other things that come out of this budget are things like my monthly prescription, new phone case, a Viewranger map data and the rare item of new clothing.

    9.    Pub + - £1360.59 (av £113.38)
Not strictly just for the pub but really anything that we would/could/should have already on the boat. So yes, it is the odd few pints but also restaurants, cafe's, takeaways and even a sarnie or bottle of water that we have bought out and about.

    10.  Entertainment - £337.58 (av per month £31.47)
Well we couldn't spend time in London without at least a few shows. Other inclusions were a firework display and a few more regular things like cinema, game apps and even charity shop books. 

    11.   Gifts - £453.04 (av per month £37.75)
We had to be a lot more strict in 2013 than we had ever been previously. Christmas 2012 came as a shock, we had never really budgeted for birthdays and Christmases (there was rarely a need) and as the receipts started edging towards four figures we realised that a change of attitude was needed to maintain our lifestyle. As with most things it's the little things that always seem to add up, cards and stamps will probably change for E-cards in 2014.

    12.  Travel - £892.09 (av per month £74.34)
Keeping the Mazda Bongo was a chore as well as an expensive and unnecessary luxury and the cost per mile rose and rose as we used 'Snoop' less and less. Of course transport in London, whilst great value for money, took its toll, but vehicle hire for visiting family and the odd hospital visit is pricey by the time petrol is added in. The average cost for a short weekend away is about £90. We rarely get buses, they are a rip off, it is usually far cheaper to wait until we are close to a train station and use trains (even more so now Deb has 30% off). We have had to trim the budget for 2014 and don't anticipate hiring a car more frequently than once per quarter.

    13.   Unexpected Costs - £323.31 (av per month £26.94)
There have been a few extra costs throughout the year that cropped up. A few bits associated with our tenant leaving that there wasn't a budget for like a month or so for council tax for a vacant property and some associated tracked post. I even had an income tax bill from recalculations for a company car I used to have. 

    14.   CaRT License - £884 (av per month £73.67)
Unfortunately CaRT expect some money from us for using their waterways. To get a small discount on our 60ft boat the fee is payable up front and in advance so we have to put aside the £74 per month. In fact we put aside nearly half of our net income towards yearly paid costs, and some of the following categories that are variable.

    15.   Boat Insurance - £240 (av per month £20) 
Although we haven't had to make a claim we are happy with the service received over the last year from Collidge and Partners insurance firm. Any questions have been answered via email promptly and we have a small no claims discount for the next period due in January

    16.   Boat Maintenance - £883.71 (av £73.67)
Everything from buying rope to make fenders, to a stock of varnish and rather expensive paint and lots of wood for various projects, but not including oil changes and blacking. This category also includes replacement of serviceable items, things that we have had but need replacing like padlocks, a food grade water hose, material and foam for new curtains and porthole bungs and petrol containers. I put more than we use aside with the goal of building up a certain level of reserve. It wont be enough for a shiny new Beta engine (about 6k before fitting) but will stretch to a lot of repairs that I am not capable of, unfortunately any thing bigger will involve ISA bashing.  

    17.   Oil Changes - £215.70 (av £17.98)
In addition to the main boat maintenance I also put aside £20 per month just for oil and filter changes. We do the servicing ourselves roughly every 200 engine hours.

    18.   Hull Blacking - £396 (av per month £13.20)
The average is over 30 months but we put aside £15 so can bring the next hull black closer to two yearly if needed. We took the lazy way out and got Debdale Marina to do the whole job, which we think was a great price (£6.60 per foot including lift out, pressure washing and two and a bit coats of black) for a great service and will most likely use them again unless we need to be out of the water for longer doing other jobs.

    19.   Marina Berthing - £486 (av per month £40.50)
A bit over our intended budget (by £90) but we hadn't intended to stay for three months in B1 central Birmingham (mainly because Sally Ash head of CaRT boating said we couldn't). We also had a short stop off at Mercia for a few days which was well worth the £10 per night. The £5 we spent on electric was easily enough to wash all of our summer wardrobe before vac packing for storage and freshen all the winter stuff once it came out of the vac packs. There was nothing on board made of cloth that hadn't been cleaned, even the rags.

There you have it, all told about £10,974 or £915 per month. And a lot of forums and boating 'advice' websites say living on a boat is as at least as expensive as living in bricks and mortar accommodation.

If you managed to read through all that here is a little bonus just to remember it's all about the boating really.

Boat in the shade to keep cool or in the sun for the solar panels - life is now full of these tough decisions

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year...

This year I produced a calendar with pictures taken from our travels, mainly from this year and one or two from 2012.


Frozen Canal At Sutton Stop


Fender Making By The Fire


Leaving Our Winter Mooring For Our 2013 Adventures 


On The Grand Union, First Lock Out Of Stoke Bruerne


Our Anniversary Cruise On The Ashby Last Year


A Cloudy Day Outside Buckingham Palace


Waiting For Pip To Appear, And Deb On Her Borris Bike


A Back Street Off Leicester Square


In Front Of The Fair, Stourport On Severn


Gailey Round House Lock


One Of My Favorites, The RNLI Memorial At The National Arboretum


Back To The Snow At Hawkesbury Pumphouse