Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Lovely image

Looking on flikr for nboaty pictures (I really was a bit bored) I found this: Its at Battlebridge on the Regents canal.

Survey booked!

Found a surveyor who was happy to carry out a full valuation and survey for an extremely reasonable price (£420). he's local too, so isn't charging for travel. Sounds like a decent bloke.

I got various quotes from surveyors in the midlands, ranging from £420 to £750. Luckily we don't want a survey until the end of June, so most of them were still available on the required day and i was able to pick and choose.

I just hope he values it at the price that the owner and I are both happy with! eeee
(seems there's always something to go eeeeee about)

Monday, 28 April 2008


Have been in touch with various surveyors in the midlands, because we will need a full survey and valuation. Not just for the mortgage people, although that would be reason enough in itself, but because it would be good to do it while its out the water. So thats another £5-600 or so.

Things we still need to pay for:

Blacking (DIY!) - £215
Survey - £420
Cam Conservancy licence - £562
Rest of deposit - £2600
Insurance - £? Need to get a quote from Collidge

Fuel (B-ham to Cam) - £??


Sunday, 27 April 2008

The Route to the Cam

Now, we've got the boat and the mooring, there isn't actually that much to do! After a very stressful week, I don't know how I'll occupy myself for the next two months until the drydocking/surveying/blacking! However, there is a whole trip to plan. This map shows the route we'll be taking to Cambridge from Birmingham. 9 days (at least), 230 miles, 79 locks and 2 tunnels!

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Mooring sorted.

Cycled out to our mooring at Upware today - 25 miles there and back. We decided to take the river route, but it was quite hard going, once past Bottisham. The track was very uneven, and would be impassable in winter. But we got there, and it was a glorious day (I got very sunburnt unfortunately :( ) and seems like a nice place to be. The owner showed us where we'd be moored and we handed over a cheque for £1804.80 for the year. Actually not that bad! But more than we'd pay if we managed to get a Cambridge mooring. We're lucky to get one at all though so I'm not complaining.

We've also worked out that we can get in and out from Cambridge on the number 10 bus which goes from Swaffham/Reach - a 20 min cycle from the marina. So its looking completely feasible.

Here's Upware:

View Larger Map

Friday, 25 April 2008

Oh frabjous day!

After a very stressful few days of waiting, Collidge came back to me with a decision this afternoon. And it was a YES! Bloody hell. It's really going to happen. Now, to transfer the deposit!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Mortgage Application in the post

Got all the documents sorted today, and sent off in a satisfyingly chunky package. I just hope beyond hope that they'll be accepted! eeeeee. Otherwise, its back to the drawing board. But at least they have promised me a quick decision. 


OK, So, step 1 is complete. We have a deal on the boat. Great. Wonderful. now we have to pay for it. I had thought that the bank might be able to give me a loan, but having previously been extremely helpful, they now told me that it is out of the question.

So, a marine mortgage looked like the way forward. Only they want a 20% deposit that can't come from a loan. To my great surprise and gratitude, my dad has offered to 'give' me this money. But that's just the first hurdle. Now we have to find all the paperwork, and crucially, a mooring. I called Upware today, and they have a 50ft mooring, which they are going to keep for me until the weekend, when we can go and pay for it. Heh. Its going to be £1800. Gulp. Thats more than I earn in a month. Now I could get a loan for that, technically, but I don't want to risk getting a personal loan just before applying for a marine mortgage. They will fiind that very fishy. So, before the weekend, we have to get that money together, from family, overdrafts and any other means we can think of! But we do have the two crucial things lined up: the boat and the mooring. Its sort of coming together...

Monday, 21 April 2008


Subject to survey, and me finding the money, but I actually couldn't be happier.

Offer made....

.... now we wait!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Lucky Duck is perfect!

I will have to try not to get to attached to this boat, but I think we've found the one...! The owner took us out for a trip and showed us round, explaining all the quirky (and amazingly useful) details that he's fitted the boat out with.

fingers crossed that he'll accept our offer! We have yet to decide how much to offer yet, but will think about it tomorrow and email him on Sunday night/Monday.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Iver + Birmingham + Whilton + Braunston

So as well as the boats at Iver and Lucky Duck in Birmingham on Sat, we may be able to go to both Whilton AND Braunston to look at Kestrel (will have to be Kestrel II on this river) and Fenland Breeze/Emma on Sunday! At least 5 boats that we're seriously considering we will have seen 'in the flesh' by Monday.

And I have a number for a mortgage broker who comes highly recommended, and if all goes to plan we could get more than £25k. £30k would be ideal.

Things to do today:
  • Call Upware today and see if they still have a mooring.
  • Call Lucky Duck's owner.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Lucky Duck

Lucky Duck is a 48ft trad, with engine room (for James!) and ingenious bed/study system. Seems to be in really good condition. Currently moored near Birmingham and for sale for £27500, we are going to view it at the weekend! The owner sent me a huge document with loads of pictures detailing the boat and seems extremely helpful. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Monday, 14 April 2008


Exciting! The broker Virginia Currer has two boats for sale that we're interested in, both lying at Iver. Which is 25 minutes from Paddington! Woop. If all goes to plan, we shall go and visit on Saturday.

The delicious Venus Rising is also near there, but I'll have to give the owners a ring tomorrow and see if we can arrange a viewing.

View Larger Map

Nobby Interior

Just thought I'd post this as a reminder to myself: a cool detail on Ian Birks (who writes for Canal Boat)'s boat Nobby. I like the idea of defining space with an L shaped bookshelf, and as a bonus it could be big enough to fit my big architecture books!


Just called up Sawley Marina, whose website was just revamped under the BWML umbrella. All the information on the website was totallly out of date! Rubbish! So Will Try and Jester, two very agreeable boats, are now struck off the list. Ah well. It does actually feel good to eliminate boats, so we can concentrate more on the ones which are still available.

Also, I am going to do my best to drive a hard bargain, and only offer what we can afford, when we get to that stage. The advice, it seems, is to mkae low offers . The owner may accept anything as long as its serious, if they are looking to shift the boat, and if not, they can just say no. Simple. The search continues.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Update (Financial and otherwise)

Have been refraining from posting, as so much has been in flux, and I wanted to wait til things had settled a bit.

Financial news first. I did go tothe bank, and to my surprise, they didn't throw me out on my ear. He said it was very likely that they could offer me something, having looked at my details. And although I wouldnt go for a loan with the Halifax (my bank) it did sound promising!

Anyway, when James and I arrived in Cambridge on Saturday, we found that the latest issue of Canal Boat featured Just Maggie II, one of our 'Top 5'. This caused a minor panic, given that it was one of our favourites. I phoned Whilton there and then, to see if we could perhaps go and visit it,and start the whole process rolling. However, they explained that Maggie was in need of a £7-9k hull repair, by an iron specialist. This was also the reason for the £8k price drop last month. We entertained the idea of buying it anyway, but soon decided that as a first boat it was too much to take on, especially if we needed to move in immediately.

However, the immediacy of the situation, and the shock of findingout just how different a boat can be from its description on a website has made us seriously think about moving our time schedule forwards. That is, we need to start viewing boats NOW not next month!

So we called up the next boat on the list: Rebecca Isis. Sold. Pants :( But all is not lost. We have a new, proactive timescale and a lot of boats to look at!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Summer Lady

I feel a mention should be made of another boat for sale that we recently saw. The name: Summer Lady. Length: unknown. Slat windows are the only visible bad feature I can see. We'd HAVE to replace those! But most importantly, she is lying in Cambridge, just down from Chesterton footbridge. (sadly it wouldnt come with the mooring!) But buying a boat IN Cambridge would have so many advantages - no long travel back from wherever we buy the boat (although I was looking forward to it!) and we could use a local surveyor that (big)James and Emma recommend.

Emma reckons we could probably make an offer of about £20,000! My James has peered in the window and taken the number so will be in contact soon and will update then.

I think this could be the boat (from
the size/colouring and name fits:

SUMMER LADY Built by Harborough Marine in 1975 - Length: 60 feet (18.29 metres) Beam: 6 feet (1.85 metres).Black hull Red/green superstructure a Diesel Inboard engine with a power of 27HP. Registered with EA Anglian Region number G17293 as a Motor boat. Last registration recorded on 02-Mar-06.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Narrowboating on Womens Hour

A friend messaged me to say that she'd heard an article on Womens' Hour about single women living on narrowboats, so I looked it up on listen again. Very insightful actually, although they introduced the topic as being about 'Houseboats' hmmm!

They talked to three women, on in London, one on the river Soar and one on the Grand Union near Uxbridge. although they did talk a lot about how idyllic and affordable it is I was glad that they also mentioned how stressful it can be when you've run out of diesel, or how smelly it is when you have to clean out the portapotti!(One of the reasons I'd prefer a pumpout!) - gave it a sense of realism


Its April now... Thats just May to go and then we will be making offers in June! Can hardly believe it. There's so much to get sorted before then, financially mainly. But it's good to have things like that to focus on - it makes it all more real. Right now, aside from the ongoing boat search, I need to get my head round if I can get a loan and how much. Quite nervous about talking to the financial adviser on Saturday...

Monday, 7 April 2008

A Reply!

Emailed a guy who has had the same moorings issues as us (and who blogs at He has luckily found a place up river. He replied to my message today and mentioned a few places that will be worth checking out - private moorings which aren't part of the city council's mooring list.

Also it seems Upware has a space. at £25 per ft per year, its more than the £800 we'd pay in the centre of Cambridge but we would get a land connection for the lectrics. So things are looking up. I mean the official line is 'don't get a boat til you have a mooring', but where's the fun in that? ;)

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Current Favourite Boats

We have a spreadsheet of all the boats we're interested in, with a percentage rating, according to how much we like them, but there are about 15 boats on it at the moment! I'll just list the top five here for now.

(Notice Granny Buttons tab on firefox! hehe)

Just Maggie II

  • Lying near Whilton.
  • 55ft trad
  • £21,950
  • Iron hull (1917 Bantock!)
  • Comes with inverter, wind generator and solar panels!
Antique iron hull will be a maintenance issue - will have to look into this, and she is a bit long, not a go-anywhere length... But I do like her a lot, and its a lot of length for the price.

Rebecca Isis

  • Lancashire (private sale)
  • 57ft cruiser
  • 1996 Robinsons
  • £27,000
I just love this boat! Far nicer than anything I thought we could afford.

Freespirit Rising

  • At Whilton
  • 57ft trad
  • £24,950
  • Dave Jones, 1989
Yup. Like this one. Not as much character as some, but looks well built etc. I also like the lack of fixed furniture (although I know its great for storage its just not my kind of thing.)

Venus Rising

  • Uxbridge (private sale)
  • 48ft trad
  • £29,500
  • Paterson, 1987
  • Pumpout loo, Rayburn and Suitcase genny!
Shorter than the others, and more pricey, but comes with some rather awesome features. I even like the fixed furniture!


There is another pic, of the exterior, in Canal Boat this month.

  • Venetian (Kings Lock)
  • 51ft semitrad
  • £26,500
  • 1979 Coles Moreton
Has been featured in Canal Boat, so may not stick around long. Apparently needs some TLC, but seems otherwise lovely. Although it may be that Le Creuset kettle thats doing it for me...

Boat Names

A much discussed topic!

Narrowboaters tend to attach less superstition to the renaming of boats, ans narrowboats are never 'she'.

The current favourite is Whatamess, both a play on James' surname and a probable description of the interior! Its taken from a series of books we both loved as children about a messy Afghan hound puppy.

Previous, and still considered names have included Lily of Devon (since I'm from Devon, hehe), Spitfire, following our mutal love of the aircraft, and FadeToScarlet, an amalgamation of our usernames on the forum where we met: He's FadeToBlackout, and I'm scarlet ibis. Difficult to explain to people perhaps!

Boats and Moorings

This blog will now become a record of the process of choosing, surveying, buying and eventually mooring a liveaboard narrowboat in Cambridge.

Firstly a summary of where we are now.

The decision:
In the summer of 2007, my then-friend-now-boyfriend, James offered to boat-sit for some friends who live on narrowboat Kestrel, on the Cam. He'd already fallen in love with the idea of living afloat but that weekend made him totally sure that he wanted to pursue the idea beyond a mere pipe dream. During that weekend, I came to visit him on the boat (I think I called it a 'canal boat' or something! Oops!) Having never set foot on one before, I was very excited to see what they were like. That first Saturday, spent chilling out on Kestrel, I fell in love with both the narrowboating lifestyle and James. When the owners (big)James and Emma came back and took us for a short cruise, i knew it was what I wanted! I was in a relationship with someone else, and just about to start a new job 70 miles away in London, so I kind of assumed that it was unlikely to happen to me for quite some while. So I said bye reluctantly and moved to London. But then events unfolded in the next few months which resulted in my getting together (finally!) with James on 10th September. We'd known each other for a long time and knew that it would be a serious long term thing straight away. So the obvious (!) thing to do, about a month after we got together was to put our names down on the fabled 'list' to get a highly sought-after mooring in Cambridge.

Research commences:
We knew we couldn't buy or move into a boat until the following summer, since James had to finish his History degree at Cambridge university and I had to finish my year's contract with my architect's job in London. But we started researching then, knowing that it couldnt hurt to learn as much as possible about the world of the canals, and the narrowboat market before making an offer in roughly June 2008. So from then on we started poring over canal magazines and websites, choosing which boats we'd buy if we could afford them now, mentally fitting them out and establishing exactly what we wanted from a boat. We are very lucky in that our friends (big)James and Emma have been incredibly supportive of our plans since the beginning, answering all our n00by questions and even, in January 2008, taking us on a tour of various marinas on the Grand Union canal. We stopped at Whilton, and had a chance to see quite a few boats we'd seen online at first hand. Whilton Marina is well known for specialising in the lower end of the market, and for keeping a very wide selection of boats for brokerage. It was an invaluable experience and helped us see exactly the sort of thing we could afford, and get a better understanding of the market.

Ever since that trip we have been further honing our narrowboat criteria, and keeping a list of the boats we like constantly updated in a spreadsheet

Our current ideal boat

  • Under £30,000 (more on finances later)
  • 50-57ft (enough space, but a 'go-anywhere' length - some of the smallest locks can only accomodate a 57ft boat)
  • Traditional (trad) stern, to maximise space and look authentic, but a semi-trad or cruiser would be acceptable if we liked everything else!
  • Engine room (for east access to the engine, and for storage)
  • Fixed double bed with loads of storage for clothes!
  • Bathroom with shower and pumpout/cassette toilet.
  • Kitchen with (ideally) a range but at least a gas oven and a 12 v fridge
  • Living room next to kitchen for optimised social cooking and preferably no fixed furniture, but space for a double futon, for guests.
  • Stove in living room (essential!)
  • Plenty of potential spave for books and a study.
  • Inverter so we can have 240v 'lectrics while not hooked up to the land
  • Must be in a habitable condition. We don't mind a bit of work, but we have to be able to move straight in.
I think thats it!

Financial Stuffs:
Compared to houses, boats are cheap to buy. We're looking at something in the range of £25,000. Certianly less than £30,000. Hopefully with my stable (ish), relatively well paid job, and respected career prospects as an architect, I'll be able to secure a personal loan to pay for the boat straight off. I'm meeting the bank next week to discuss possibilities! So there'll be more on that then. We looked at marine mortgages but they are only offered on boats costing more that £37,000 and aren't really viable for us.
Running costs are another matter, as Cam conservancy fees, BW licencing fees, fuel, moorings, general upkeep, all add up, But it wouldnt be MORE than keeping a house. And the benefits out-weigh the difficulties tenfold! Fact is, we both know that a life on the inland waterways would suit us!

Now this is the tricky bit, especially in Cambridge! Town centre moorings are VERY hard to come by, and although we're on the list, it may not be our turn til next year. So we'll have to find a temporary solution until then. Most likely would be to get a relatively expensive, but secure mooring in a marina, and maybe hop down to the visitors mooring in Cambridge during the week. If it comes to it, we can hop about constantly, or find a mooring further up the river, and commute to Cambridge every day. Either way its going to be a struggle for a bit, until we get our permanent mooring. But i have every faith that we'll cope.

So thats the background. My next posts will be more up to date news of new boats we've found and how finances are going. I'll also be looking for a job in Cambridge soon, so will be posting about that too.