Archive | March, 2012

Things that float my boat

31 Mar

I’ve recently participated in a case study of liveaboard narrowboaters, now published on , which is worth a look if you are a narrowboat nerd like me – especially if you are considering moving on to the water – or if you’d just like to see some more of my wonderful wordsmithery (the unpaid for variety). Seriously though, have a squiz at this site if you’re at a loose end – it’s free to register, full of info and there’s lots of reading.

Anyway, this exercise involved me answering  pre-set questions about various aspects of living afloat, one in particular giving me a really hard time:  “What do you like most  about narrowboat life?” Well, you know me, I could wax lyrical on that subject for ever and a day… but that’s not what they wanted, that’s for here. No,  I was being asked to single out one thing, just the one, the icing on the cake, the cherry on the top, the very bestest bit. And it really made me think; a sort of count your blessings moment.

So that is what has inspired this post and here are some of the things (in no particular order) that do it for me – narrowboat-wise.

sense of community ~ simple life ~ pretty pools of shimmering light  reflecting off the water onto the ceiling ~ mist on the water ~ rain on the roof ~ wind that gently rocks the boat when I’m in bed ~ my woodstove ~ smell of the woodsmoke ~ sun shining through crystals that hang in the window making rainbows all over the boat ~ camaraderie ~ colourful characters ~ closeness to nature ~ wildlife ~ countryside ~ the unique perspective when cruising through towns and cities ~ planning a cruise ~ setting off ~ returning home ~ the cruising itself ~ exploring new rivers/canals ~ finding that perfect mooring ~ travelling for miles and still being at home ~ only having to travel a short distance to totally alter the view ~ being able to move home on a whim ~ meeting new people ~ making friends in the locks (or queue for) ~ boatie friends from before still keeping in touch ~ ability to drop off the radar ~ technology that works on the boat ~ pulling off a tricky manouevre with the boat ~ John congratulating me on this ~ anyone congratulating me on this ~ devising a clever new storage idea ~ John making it ~ it actually working ~ shops with moorings ~ pubs with moorings ~ being almost self-sufficient ~ being skipper ~ having an empty loo ~ having a full water tank ~ being in the middle of nowhere ~ having all doors and hatches open when weather permits ~ battoning down and feeling snug inside when it doesn’t ~ the pace of life ~ the friendly waves ~ hobo being in peoples’ photos ~ being who I am ~ shedding stuff ~ peoples’ reactions when they discover I have running water/shower/washing machine/loo/various home comforts on board ~ John bringing back wild flowers after a walk on the towpath ~ ditto mushrooms/wood/veg ~ sunsets over the water ~ peace and quiet ~ being able to reach most things without moving ~ being in bed and the boat swaying as John moves about and makes my morning cuppa ~ kisses and cuddles on the tiller while we’re on the move ~ peeking out of the porthole when I wake to see a different scene from the day before ~ being able to sit, stand, walk and dance on my roof ~ fresh air ~ Hobo not suffering from condensation when it is said that all boats do ~ kids pointing and shouting “Hobo” ~ ditto adults ~ kids saying “that’s so cool” ~

Imagine if you will (and you’ll need to be a ripe old age to be able to do this) the sound of a stylus skating across vinyl. This is the sound that signifies it’s time to stop. And for those of you that have soldiered on to this point, I will reward you with pictures…..

Swan on the ice

I apologise if this post has provoked a prolonged attack of puking and promise to redress the balance in the next one, which will concentrate on the not so nice element of this lifestyle. But it could be a considerably shorter piece……

Chainsaw Massacre

17 Mar

The perfect peace of the riverbank is today shattered. There’s a man up my tree wielding a chainsaw. It’s very noisy.


I had grown rather attached to the willow, beneath which I moor, despite it shedding its leaves onto Hobo’s roof making an almighty mess for me to clean up (and destroying the paintwork if I don’t). Like a whomping willow, it took pleasure in attacking me whenever I moved the boat but I forgave it that too.

Its branches used to dangle down outside my bedroom, like a sort of hanging garden beyond the porthole; my first view of the outside world each morning when I popped out the cushion. It’s was a pretty tree and I like trees. Mr. Kingfisher used to perch on its branch – the one I used to be able to see from my chair in the lounge. Now where’s he going to sit?


But I accept it is old and unstable (hence my affinity with it no doubt) and needs a trim. It is being pollarded as I type. I learned today that it once fell over during a storm but was pulled back up again – there’s a scary thought – so perhaps it is a necessary evil to ensure it remains rooted in the bank. I would hate Hobo to be squashed….

Naturally this activity has necessitated a move. Hobo has been hauled downstream, barely a boat’s length, so my view is changed – just a little. I shall pretend I am on holiday while I am adrift – I am tied up of course but unable to get ashore – and make the most of it. I’m not sure how long this haircut will take but I will hopefully be back “home” again before long.

In the meantime I am planning a thorough roof cleaning session, safe in the knowledge that it, for once, might last for more than a day. I have a sneaky feeling though that the ducks might move in, spotting a nice clear runway for the use of, and leaving even nastier and more corrosive deposits. Not to mention how noisy this will be – imagine a herd of ducks running about on a metal roof – believe me, it’s quite something.

And now, some three and a half hours down the line, the job is done, the massacre over.  I am re-installed in my usual spot and peace is restored. But it’s going to take a bit of getting used to…..

Looks like rape to me.



15 Mar

                                                                                                              I love de trenz!

There’s another one..

..and another one..and another one

Sorry if I’ve conjured up the crazy mexican in yellow and green off the tele but I can’t help drawing comparisons with Bot River where they were heard but never seen. I remember approaching the tracks, time after time, hoping that today would be the day. But it never was. Narthing!

Yet we’d sit on the bus and hear them chugging away, several times every day and I was at the point where I was almost ready to jump in the car and see if I could get to the crossing in time. If it was hauling uphill I might have made it and have to admit to being able to tell the difference between up and down by the engine note. Sad eh? It’s just that I thought they might be a bit different – in a wild west sort of way. I’m not that much of a trainspotter – really.

Not the case in Sawbo, that’s for sure, they’re everywhere. Daytime, nightime, all the time. Very visible. I don’t even have to get off the boat and, bugger me, there’s another one slicing through the landscape. In town you are guaranteed to be held up at the level crossing and they always seem to come in pairs too – one from either direction – so can be a long wait. It is a main line into the city – Liverpool Street I think.

I think the only time I saw trains I saw in SA was in Uitenhage. And they were splendid – real old fashioned style. And in a museum.

And the photos are on John’s craptop in South Africa, which does rather spoil my plan for the end of this post………

So instead, here’s a look at the new foal over the way..

..with guess what in the backround.

Home again, home again!

4 Mar

Once more installed into my cosy cocoon that is Hobo and all is well with the world. Two weeks have gone in the blink of an eye and my life resumes the rhythm of the river. Effortlessly. It’s almost like I was never away as I seamlessly slip back into the familiar routine and all that goes with living on the water.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not still special. Some things will always lift my spirit and make my heart sing: opening the blinds in the morning to reveal the river right there outside my kitchen; the morning mist on the water; sun streaming in through the windows, reflecting pretty pools of light on the ceiling and bouncing rainbows all around the boat; my fabulous Morso Squirrel wood burning stove belting out heat to the point I have to fling open doors and hatches so as not to spontaneously combust;

My Squirrel stove

and, like last night, the rain pitter-pattering on the metal roof as I drift off to dreamland. I shall never tire of these things.

I could go on but this is the real world and it hasn’t all been plain sailing since I returned. For starters, my all singing all dancing Victron inverter has been playing up, (that which converts 12v to 240v and runs the fridge, tele, washing machine and so on). It also charges the batteries when running on shore power (as opposed to running the engine) and that seems to be where the problem lies. It’s overcharging. There was a hiccup with the supply while I was away and, to cut a long story short, I think this has upset the electronics. After conversations with its supplier, much help from my friend Reg involving trial and error diagnostics and endless paranoia about battery acid smells on my part, I think we’ve finally cracked it: seems two of the four batteries are cooked. I don’t understand why this is but running on the other two seems to be working fine. But not before I developed a nervous twitch by constantly checking the monitoring panel.

Then the round hatch fell off the back of the stove, potentially releasing carbon monoxide into the boat. My part-time neighbour, Pete, soon fixed this for me though by way of making and attaching a new lug. And the car battery was dead, but as I’d nursed it through much of last year,  this was no surprise.

But the weather has been kind to me and  I’ve enjoyed walking into town along the road and back along the towpath

A nearby lock

while the car was out of action. I might just make it a regular thing.

Checked out some of my rare breed neighbours as I walked up the lane and noticed new life in the field opposite. I know there’s turkeys too (I hear them), chickens, donkeys (occasionally trot past the boat), Shetland ponies and a pack of yappy terriers and jack russells that attempt to terrorise we humans. Not to mention the boaters and campers…

My rare breed neighbours..

New life opposite

My resident kingfisher has returned to the willow tree that overhangs the boat; first spotted in 2010 but not seen since. He is magnificent, so colourful, but sadly very shy. Every time I so much as think about reaching for the camera he’s gone.

Dog dirt alley is sporting a new feature too, currently being sculpted by a neighbour. The snowdrops are out and the gate has been fixed.

I found my treasured Zippo, thought lost in transit, and John thinks he’ll be back by the end of the month.

How good is that?