Tag Archives: narrowboats

Wood you believe it…?

4 Nov

I’ve said before that it’s pictures that often inspire my words and if ever there was an inspiration…IMG_20150829_142848 (1)

This was it. It did make me smile.

Not a competition to see how many bits of wood will fit in a Mini – just a boater being a boater and doing what has to be done to get what he needs to his boat.

I love boaters – nothing if not inventive, determined, bloody minded and with a total disregard for health and safety.

I also love Minis and have had close associations with at least three in my life – but will save those stories for a future post.

And wood, which seems to be the theme for today’s ramblings, is also very dear to my heart.

John’s too…002

Destined to become a totem pole. Some day.

Wood featured heavily on the agenda during late summer this year with a spot of willow pollarding. Goats on the farm love to eat the leaves so our lovely landlady issues orders to her captive tenants does deals with us to get this work carried out.

So it started with a neighbour having a bash…002001

And then it was our turn. Another neighbour needed planning permission to erect a gazebo on land adjacent to his boat so agreed to do his penance by way of a little tree surgery. He’s not daft. He doesn’t have a chain saw or the know-how to use one but knows a man that does and has.

That’ll be (always up for an adventure) John then.

Looks right at home up there…006

Loving every minute.

You should know that John was suffering at this time with a nasty attack of the shingles…002 003

But it takes a lot to keep this man down for long. He just drank lots of beer upped the medication and toughed it out. It helped to take his mind off the pain and discomfort says he but no doubt prolonged the outbreak says she. She, the wise one that recommends rest. She, who is always ignored.

Out come the loppers…001

And the chain saw…008

The pair of them work well together…007

While I did my best to stay out of the way with hands over my ears and eyes closed, trying desperately not to think about chainsaw accidents/impromptu dips in the river or even worse – damage caused to the good ship Hobo.

They did a good job of not bouncing branches off Hobo’s roof and Pete cleared up nicely and dragged the branches off to a designated place, to be collected by a farm hand later and fed to the greedy goats.

But not before we had the tasty bits for ourselves…002009001

006 Firewood for the future.

Wet willow isn’t the best but, with a few nights scorching by the side of the Squirrel stove a year or two of drying out, it will become most useful.

The wheelie bins are full of kindling, constantly topped up by next door but one who insists we help ourselves. It’s a caring sharing community you know. Mind you, he’s currently on the run from the law/banged up away just now so stocks are dwindling and we are a little concerned.

Pete next door also came up with a load of dry logs…003

Mostly ash I think – free for the taking and duly carted back here in John’s new van: a Vauxhall Combo that runs on LPG – very economical, cheaper to tax and fill up at the pump. A good thing, with which we are delighted.


The end result…007

Not pretty and a few whiskers still left but less likely to topple over now not so top heavy.

The new van also got me a good discount on a load of coal (80 x 25kg sacks) 40 for me…004

Under cover. And the rest distributed to assorted neighbours.

See the deckchair…another little restoration project that’s been hanging around – maybe I’ll be sitting in it next summer?

I’m feeling better prepared for the cold this year than ever before, which no doubt means it’ll be a mild winter. But that’s good – either way.

A couple of random, wood-themed shots from earlier in the year when we visited the Gibberd Garden in Harlow…


And one from a walk in the woods…IMG_20150612_134945

Epping Forest.

And as if John needed another little boat project…005

He volunteered for one anyway. Re-planking a nautically themed window box.

There’s more to tell of the other little boat too, again in another post I think.

Should be enough ammo, with that, Minis, the new gazebo and whatever crops up in-between to keep me – and you – busy for a bit.

And finally, no news bulletin would be complete without a word on the weather would it? Especially as it is loosely wood-related.

On a couple of occasions recently, I’ve been driving along and suddenly found myself in the thick of a blizzard of golden, fluttering flakes of gold as falling leaves waltzed on the wind. What an awesome autumn it’s been.

Even the gardeners among us are having fun…IMG_20151028_122530

Bottoms Up!

30 Jun

Hobo has a very nice bottom. It’s official.

Three weeks ago now, we had the old girl pulled out of the water to have her bottom re-blacked. The last time this was done was four years ago now (and four years before that, just before I bought her). This is probably twice as long as recommended but, I’m happy and relieved to say, that she has fared well – despite mental pictures of lace curtains that haunted me as the day approached.

But none of that – she is fine and in very good shape.

Her first two ‘outings’ were at Welford’s dry dock where I believe they did a splendid job. This time, Welford being so far to cruise to when you are constrained by having to go out to work, it seemed favourite to make use of the facilities here – ie the slipway with its bomb trolley, as John calls it, and the  excellent workmanship of Andy and Jess.

We’ve witnessed their handiwork on many occasions; business here picking up no end since they took on this service. No surprise really as they do a brilliant job.

I was at work when they decided to pull her out and couldn’t wait for me to get back – time and tide waiting for no man (or even boatbird it seems)  – other boats already lining up to take their turn. So I authorised John to skipper the operation to drive her up the slipway. Not that I had any fears on that score; just a bit miffed to miss the event.

Perhaps as well. I can turn into a real old woman when it comes to Hobo’s well-being. And driving into the yard to see her sitting safely atop the trolley on the slipway was a huge relief…003

As Jess made a start on scraping off the sludge…001

Andy pronounced Hobo a very well made boat and her hull in great condition. Music to my ears.

I always thought she was a good boat but there’s nothing like hearing it from someone that knows about these things and is totally unbiased.

They set about grinding her back to the metal, observing strict health and safety regs of course…011

Even the, now eight year old, anodes had stood up well…010

But I decided to add four new ones…008

As I didn’t think they’d go another four years.

On closer inspection, there was one place that caused concern, this being on the waterline where the red stripes around the stern…004 (2)

As much as I wanted to keep this traditional cream over red design, I conceded it would be prudent to lose this to further bitumen. Really quite nasty pitting so best get rid.

Protection over cosmetics every time.

And here it is gone…007 (2)

After all, I can always re-instate it at a later date if I feel so inclined.

Actually, I’m quite liking the green stripe that has been used for masking – called frog tape and apparently brilliant.

On the bow too…009 (2)

We shall see. More work to bring the superstructure up to scratch first though.

I’m getting more and more ideas for decoration and I reckon, by the time Hobo is tiddled up enough and ready for some artistry, I shall have a plan.

The truly marvellous thing when it comes to slipway versus dry dock is that boatbird can still live aboard while work is carried out, courtesy of some giant steps…002

The noise and dust is a bit of a pain but that stops in the evening so not all bad. I do struggle to walk half sharp when she’s not floating though. Feels so weird.

We were so lucky with the weather – the whole three days were glorious, sunny and, most importantly, dry. Well done, for once, to whoever arranges the weather. Just check out that sky…023

Not forgetting the good old digger that pulled her up and kept her there…024

My rudder and propeller. Before…009

And after…008 (2)

Minus the tangle of wire/weed/whatever.

The team in action…001 (2)

Supervised by the John…002 (2)

Looking good now the paint is going on.

Notice which gender isn’t standing around/watching/chatting?

That said, they both grafted furiously. Indeed, once we saw how hard they worked, any guilt at not having done it ourselves (and saving loadsamymoney) simply evaporated. We conceded we are just too old disinclined to undertake that level of physical effort.

A view from afar…


Because I can.

There’s even a short/boring/vaguely amusing video of Hobo as she comes off the slip – I was present for this – but I’m too mean to upgrade this site so it can’t be shown here. Maybe I’ll just post it on fishface instead.

There was a bonus too. My kitchen sink has been bloody useless decidedly inefficient since day 1. Any waste drained (or not) into the u-bend then into a thinner pipe, which actually went uphill – I may have mentioned this before – a right royal pain in the arse.

Being on the hard was the perfect time to work on her so we did just that. With Andy’s advice and a borrow of his tools, John drilled another hole (eek) in Hobo’s hull (lower and larger than the previous one) to take a 38mm skin fitting, this being provided by a kind neighbour who just happened to have one going spare. This then linked to a larger hose, pointing downhill, we did away with the u-bend altogether and BINGO – the water now actually drains away. Quickly.  Along with any gunk I happen to carelessly throw down it.

And John has plumbed it in such a way I even have more under-sink cupboard space, which on a narrowboat is back of the net.

All in all a pleasant experience. And you can’t always say that about routine maintenance.



Roydon and the unexpected…

24 Aug

Less than a  week back on my mooring (few things to attend to – MOT the car for one (yes of course it passed, it’s a Toyota) – and we’re off again, this time headed for Roydon.

We had a lovely long day cruising on the Saturday, into the darkness, finally finding a convenient piece of piling to hook to for the night.  A quiet spot, considering how close we were to Harlow – that parallel universe thing. Nights on the river in the middle of nowhere (seemingly) are special.

After a quick visit to Roydon Marina for top-ups and tip-outs, Sunday sees us at the designated spot, one we’d earmarked from long ago and more recently checked out for car parking, suitability etc.

You moor against a wall next to the little road that leads to the marina..100_1673Lovely great big old mooring rings..100_1672And a reasonable outlook the other side..100_1671Never know there was a busy railway line behind that tree would you? Trust me, there is. Hobo is in fact sandwiched between the road (surprisingly busy and very close) and the railway. On a positive note though, no jets for once, as we seem to be out of the Stansted zone here.

But it’s the road noise that offends me, I am simply not used to this these days, and would another time tootle just a little further on, under the bridge and round the bend, where there’s more mooring away from the road. Perhaps my recce wasn’t all it should have been… didn’t spot this till I’d walked down to the car park once or twice.

That said, I had a very pleasant seven days here while John was working away on the farm in the Fens. Travelling to work became shorter and quicker, apart from one day when I got stuck at the level crossing – 4 trains worth with huge gaps in-between – felt like I was there for at least 30 minutes!

I enjoyed strolling up the hill to the village store that sold everything you could possibly want/need and plenty more you don’t.

It’s a well used stretch of moorings – from the commercial crayfish boats..100_1674..a very busy and, at times, noisy operation, to the assorted boats with their assorted boatees, just parking off for the night.

Also some serious messing about on the river..100_1669How good does that look?

Internet connection (via 3 dongle, usually brilliant) here wasn’t great but kicked in occasionally with just about enough oomph to get me into the e mail and facebook but not enough for me to get blogging (without serious frustration on my part) sadly. So recent posts are all history, as it were.

Now a very funny thing happened during my stay here. A friend from Infants/Junior school in Higham Ferrers and The County High School Wellingborough (and not seen or heard from since) sent me a friend request on facebook, asking if I was me from HF and if so she was sorry she nicked my flip-flops!!

We were the best of mates back then, some 40 odd years ago, so have been doing some serious catching up.

It’s been great discovering what we’ve been up to and how our lives have panned out and seems we’ve sort of shadowed each other over the years, unknowingly living in the same areas. For all we know we’ve passed in the street and not known. Curiouser and curiouser.

Sharon is a very accomplished artist and blogger – check her out at sharonwrightartist.blogspot.co.uk where you will see this..Boatbird   20 x 16  oil[1]and the stages leading up to this, which she took from my Skype profile picture.

There’s an awful lot more good stuff on Sharon’s site. I thoroughly recommend you take a look.

John took this photo of me at the helm some 3/4 years back as we left Hartford Marina for destinations unknown. It was a high spot for me and Hobo, I was on top of the world and full of anticipation and excitement, tempered with  sadness at leaving behind friends and a super community that had been my (very happy) home for 4 years plus. And, if I’m honest, a flicker of fear.

It’s all there in this painting don’t you think…brilliant or what?

There’s a good chance we will get to meet again as she now lives quite close to my brother in Norfolk and visits this neck of the woods every month.

Life is full of surprises.

Moving Bella – Day 2

5 Jul

On Sunday at silly o’clock John and I pitch up for more crewing duty. We wanted to get an early start but Reg ( a man after my own heart and not an early riser) would join us for lunch at some point further down river –  exactly where yet to be decided.

Dave didn’t get a lot of sleep it seems – too excited. How well I remember that feeling – the first night aboard my very own boat – even though it was six years ago now. Seems like yesterday.

Another lovely day, less wind, so let’s get going says John – tea/coffee on the move. The first lock of the day is just around the corner so John walks on to set it filling while Dave and I slowly trickle Bella forward. Gates are still shut when we arrive so my pupil, given the choice of tying up again or hovering, chooses the latter – good man – and pulls it off like a pro.

Just three more locks put us on the Lea – a much wider river where we should be able to ‘put our foot down’ a bit.  And with luck/the law of averages we might just get a few locks set in our favour – to date they’ve all been against.  As we turn on to the Lea, the first lock looms and…yes!  A boat just coming out so, at last, straight in we go.

We trundle on with Dave mostly at the tiller, me and John enjoying the view and recognising places/landmarks along the way. Funny, it feels so familiar – like home ground – well I suppose it sort of is now.

One lock in particular sticks in the memory – Carthenagena – see below for why. Someone clearly loves this place. It makes for a lovely sight on approach and, whilst I do appreciate the feat of engineering involved and their serious old age, a pleasant change from the norm.

There’s a few live-ons hereabouts and I suspect it will be down to them –  frustrated gardener/s in their midst maybe.

You may have noticed, though probably not, that I have re-arranged the roof. I can’t bear stuff that gets in the way and is a trap for the ropes to tangle on so John has shifted the plank and poles all forward. Much better. I do so hate a cluttered roof.

We soon reach the agreed rendezvous point, The Crown at Broxbourne (or Frogspawn as we like to call it), so we pull in and wait for Reg. The delicious aroma of roast pork wafts its way through the garden and down to the river and succeeds in sucking us in. We are still only three so call our no. 4 who is still in bed on his way, stuck in traffic so don’t wait. The pork by now was disappointingly sold out so we did a deal and had the beef for the same price. The waitress sold us cauliflower cheese as an extra (we’re all big fans) but the chef must have run out of cheese as there wasn’t a trace. So, cauliflower in white sauce then.

They were very busy and there was a bit of a kerfuffle with the old dears at the next table, complaining we had been served out of turn ahead of them, which in truth we had been. Thankfully, their meals turned up quick quick so any awkwardness was avoided but it makes me glad I’m on the receiving end of service these days. I remember all too clearly how difficult the great British public at large can be from my years at The Star.

By the time we were all fed and beered it turned out to be a longer than planned lunch break. We would be running till late though….OK justified.

As we leave The Crown and round the bend we dodge hire boats, rowers and pedalos – blissfully unaware of our existence.

John just loves to invite people aboard for a ride (usually from one lock to the next) and a nosey downstairs inside the boat. And today was no exception. He spotted a couple of lads on bikes (Orthodox Jews from America on a visit it turns out) and has them stow their bikes on the (previously decluttered) roof.They were a nice couple of lads and, once I managed to convince them it wouldn’t end up on Youtube, let me take their photo.An unusual look but each to their own. They seemed to enjoy this little interlude, especially when let loose on the tiller, although a teensy bit puzzled by the accomodation. But, I think we may have made their day…happy to oblige.

The river had been quiet but then  we found the gongoozlers..It wouldn’t be the same without them and John does love to chat…And I love the way the kids are so fascinated…

Anyway, before you could say clutter up the the roof again why don’t you, John has found more bikes for temporary stowage thereon and  victims enthralled passengers to entertain till the next lock.A very snazzy number in pink..And its proud owner.

We’re not opposed to a little child labour help along the way, kids are so willing and eager to take part. “G’wan…put your back into it laddie..”

From the serene…To the beautiful…To the downright….There was the obligatory shopping trolley… if you look hardA fight with a fish…That the fish…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           finally won.

And I witter on about a cluttered roof….. !

An interesting abode and check out the plantlife.

The pylons march along with us..And cyclists are ever present on the splendid towpath that is newly ‘done up’ ready for the Olympics.John went for a spin with a local lad on his old tub..As he went to turn around..Before he joins us…In the lock.Reg misjudged the speed of the boat as he jumped on the roof…But he moved a bit smartish when I told him about that bridge coming up.

And he was feeling the cold at Enfield..

Or perhaps just trying to blend in.

We ended up at Tottenham Hale at 7.30pm. Dave’s friend was training in so this was a convenient stop, though John and I would have liked to have carried on a bit further – keen to see how our money had been spent in the name  of the olympics since our last visit to this neck of the woods.

Still, we’d had another brilliant day and made pretty good progress, considering.

We had planned on a day three but when we rang in the morning, Dave was full of confidence, had a mate with him and it was raining…..

So we had a lovely lie in instead.

We are in constant touch by phone/text and our man’s doing fine, just like John said he would be. My Mother Hen instinct wanted to give him another day or two but it really wasn’t necessary. By last night he had reached Hemel Hempstead on his way up the Grand Union. Even managing to do locks on his own now. Clever cloggs.

He was due more help from other friends today, swelling numbers again to four, and hoped to reach Stoke Bruerne by Friday with enough time to spare to take in the museum there.

We are hoping to hop aboard again along the route – maybe the Nene and/or the Denver crossing – and will tell it here if/when we do.

I know he has a birthday coming up in a matter of days so would like to think we’ll get an invite to the party, which will take place on a river somewhere soon…