Monday, 30 June 2008

Still waiting...

We were supposed to hear about the all-important valuation today, but just spoke to the surveyor and it'll be more like tomorrow. *waits with bated breath*

Saturday, 28 June 2008

I THINK its good news...!

The survey seems to have gone as we expected it to; its an old boat and it wasn't going to be perfect but there's no major problems. Yay! Just a few niggles with things like the gas system (which is perfectly gas-tight but uses the wrong size pipe), the inspection hatch on the diesel tank, the rudder bearing and some minor hull pitting.

The full survey documentation and valuation haven't come through yet, so we need to wait until that come through on Monday to decide how to proceed, but fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Birmingham in 3 days!

The contract from the surveyor has arrived, our tickets back on Sunday are booked, and James' possessions are starting to arrive in my room prior to vacating his Cambridge room. Not long now! I am so looking forward to seeing the Duck again, and even more to staying there for two nights. Now, just to perfect the art of blacking...

Trawling for tips online, I found an interesting series of photographs documenting The Antidote's blacking: (great name) but no real bank of advice. Canalworld forums of course has provided several threads on the matter, but there's a lot to look through to find whats relevant. Providing we use the right type depending on whether its already got bitumenous black or not, and put enough coats on, I'm sure we'll be fine... (eep!) All advice welcome!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Crick Fame

I have mentioned that James went to Crick on the Saturday before it blew away, and bought presents. Luckily he was wearing a very bright shirt making him easy to spot when he appeared in this months' Waterways World, kneeling down stroking Jess (of NB Kestrel).

James' First Narrowboat

My James went back to his dad's house in Bracknell to sort out some of his possessions and came across a couple of photos documenting his first ever narrowboating experience, aged about 2. He was a cute little blonde baby boy. He's not sure where the photos were taken, perhaps on the Kennet and Avon. The boat is certainly a hireboat. Perhaps James' family can shed some light on the matter! (click for a bigger image)

Thursday, 19 June 2008

The BCN in Waterways World

This month's Waterways World has, in a feat of immaculate timing, produced a whole detailed section about the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations), including pictures of Engine Arm, where the Duck currently lives, Spon Lane locks, under the M5 where James so expertly winded the boat when we went to visit, and Caggy's Boatyard!

I've included some pictures, and will hopefully replace them with better quality ones when I can!

Things are coming together!

We have recently been in communication with the current owner of Lucky Duck, to sort out the arrangements for when we come up to Birmingham for the survey. The boat will come out of the water into dry dock on Thursday 26th (a week today!). That day is also James' graduation. On Friday 27th, we will travel to Caggy's Boat Yard with James' mum. (big)James will hopefully be there too!

Caggy's is at Tipton, here:

View Larger Map

The survey will also take place that day (fingers crossed it goes well!) and then we'll begin blacking! We will be staying over in the boat for the first time that night, which is tremendously exciting!

We've also agreed to come to an arrangement about keeping the British Waterways licence so we don't need to buy one for the part of the journey thats in BW waters. Of course we will still need to get EA licences both for the Thames and the Nene/Ouse/Cam. I would have just got a 'Gold' one which gives you access to the lot, but that would expire in January, and we'f have to pay for the full year. Grr!

We also asked him to give us a list of the things he'll leave with the boat:

All ropes
A windlass (suggest you get a second though just in case)
Ground pegs for mooring (You'll need a hammer!)
A water conservation key (essential for the BCN)

Its so sooon! I can't wait!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

NB Kestrel

Our friends on NB Kestrel have just started a blog at I'm looking forward to seeing it develop, especially when they go cruising in September!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Back Where We Belong

Ever since I can remember (which admittedly isn't very long ago since I first saw it last year), the motorway bridge over the river Cam just before Baits Bite Lock has had the slogan 'Back Where We Belong' emblazoned on it. The bridge is always painted in various colours by the colleges during bumps (how they do it I have no idea, but it presumably involves some impressive climbing skillz!) and the colours of the slogan indicated that it was the work of First and Third (Trinity) Boat Club. I loved it. Graphically it is very strong, with the bold serifed font in yellow very neatly executed, and standing out brilliantly against the navy blue. It always meant a lot to me too, as I feel that when I come to Cambridge I am back where I belong, especially if I'm on a narrowboat!

But this year, someone has painted over it inexpertly in red (so maybe LMBC (Johns') or Jesus are resposible, but who knows) and this has saddened me greatly. It looks awful now.

Photo courtesy of Ed Brambley:

Blummin heck, 3 posts in a day, this has to be some sort of record!


For the first time ever, I was actually on the towpath for the last day of May Bumps this year. It was pretty chaotic, but good fun to see it all happening finally. For those who don't know, Bumps racing is a type of rowing race almost exclusive to Oxbridge rowing. Basically, all the crews line up along the bank at regular intervals, are pushed out into the stream with long poles, and then all set off together. You then have to catch up with and 'bump' the boat in front. Literally. And before the boat behing catches up with you. Crazy? Yes. Dangerous? Occasionally. Fun? Of course! Its a pretty big event, and absolutely foolish to be on the towpath (or indeed the river, if you are a boater) while the racing takes place. (big)James and I coincided to watch my James row in Clare's M3 boat. They were bumped fairly quickly by Wolfson College, but rowed pretty well,so James said. He's normally a cox so it was quite a change to see him at 7 (thats 2 away from the cox, behind stroke). Met loads of people along the towpath on the way back and managed to avoid sunburn, so it was quite a successful day for me! Maybe I'll be rowing myself next year (in Town bumps of course).

Clayhithe again

I arrived in Cambridge from London on Friday evening, met James and Jess (CrazyCollie) on Midsummer Common. Kestrel was towing Bacchus out to Clayhithe, again to avoid the fair, although they'll both be moored outside the city for slightly longer this time. I missed most of the journey, deciding instead to stay in the warm and do the washing up! (I know my place...!) I did stick my head out when we stopped on the way at the Plough to pick up Fi, who was joining us for the evening. When it started bucketing down, past Baits Bite, however, I was even more glad to be inside cooking with my James. However, this meant that we didn't notice the rain until Emma hooted the horn, initialising a frantic scramble to close the hatches and get a coat and hat for her. Once moored up, we ate dinner in Tanja's Bacchus, which fitted the 7 of us (and one cat)admirably. In the morning, after tea on the stern of Bacchus, we got a lift back in Cambridge with Fi and her husband, as James had to be at the boathouse for the last day of bumps.
This time, I (or rather James) managed to get some actual photos:

Kestrel's cosy (warm) galley

Towing up the Reach

Approaching the section of the river where navigation is on the left, rather than the right, as is the case in the rest of the country. Slightly confusing for visiting boaters!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Boating again

Tonight! Clayhithe again, but we'll just go for one night this time, cos James has bumps on Saturday, which I might actually get to watch for the first time ever. Then he has his Boat Club Dinner (read: Night of Debauchery) in the evening. I'll be in Cambridge for 4 whole days though, which is quite exciting - I'll be there for Clare May Ball on Monday night and have taken Tuesday off to recover!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Warrior Woman!

Today James and I met up with Sarah, who blogs at for lunch in London. It was lovely to meet her, much tea was drunk, (as is the boaters' way - either that or beer!) and we chatted lots about boats and everything else. Sadly I did eventually have to go back to work, but perhaps we'll see her again, on the water if our routes co-incide! This is one of the best things about the virtual waterways community - it means that we know people before we even set out, which it great - we know there'll be people we'll recognise, stop for a chat and advice with.

Narrowboat Tetris

Strawberry Fair came to Cambridge this weekend. Its a raucous, messy, somewhat crazy event, and as a result many of the boaters moored along the edge of the common where its held tend to move away for the weekend to avoid it. So on Friday night, with James and I on board, Kestrel set off out of the city to Clayhithe, towing Bacchus, which belongs to another boater friend, Tanja and her cat Fennel. (Her engine has gearbox issues). We started off moving with the boats tied side by side, but once through Baits Bite lock (and past the spacky rowers) we attached Bacchus, using a relatively long line, to Kestrel's stern, like a working pair. James, Tanja and I stayed at Bacchus' stern, which despite having no engine, needed to be steered independently. It was a lovely cruise, as night fell, but it was pitch black by the time we reached Clayhithe, to discover the moorings taken up by a few cruisers from Ely who had left stupendous amounts of space between them. We reckoned Bacchus would fit in one of the gaps (being only 45ft to Kestrel's 60) so brought the smaller boat alongside with nearly as much skill as would have been demonstrated by working boat people! This is where the tetris came in (James' term) as we very slowly brought the pair of boats into the mooring. A few worried faced appeared from behind the chintz curtains of the hireboats as James shouted ' 2 feet away, 1 foot, 9 inches...!' But with the game won, we were finally able to have dinner and crack open the wine. We missed last orders at the pub by about 14 minutes much to the annoyance of all!

The morning dawned grey and manky so all plans to clean the boat and do other various chores were cancelled. It was still lovely to open my eyes in Kestrel's back cabin and have breakfast looking out over the river. We moved Kestrel onto the bank, since the hire boaters had all but gone, locked the hound into the boat and set off to Ely on the train. Ely has the most amazing 'tat-shops'. Forget the cathedral, its all about the Gnome Factory (may not be its real name) and all the various other shops selling bits and bobs you never knew you needed. When we bring the boat through we shall certainly be stocking up on random antiques and bits and pieces. (big) James and Emma bought a lovely old Singer sewing machine for fixing the cratch cover awning. Back at the boat we just pootled about, read the paper and played with the new toy. Elizabeth, another boater come out to escape the fair was also moored, as were a few others we know. The other piece of excitement for the evening was the riverboat Georgina setting off some huge fireworks on the towpath about 20m from the moored boats. Ridiculous thing to do. Jess (the dog) was completely freaked, and as it was about 11pm, lots of people were woken up by it. The Jameses went and had a word. Apparently they had a licence. Hmmm. Everyone now awake, it made prefect sense to open up the gin, and invite Elizabeth over!

Bit of a lie in, but my James' hayfever was still playing up (he'd been plagued by it all weekend). Lovely and sunny though, so we awoke to a somewhat domestic scene of Emma cleaning and (big)James sitting in the well-deck with the sewing machine out. I soon added to it by helping Emma clean, polish and wax one side of Kestrel. Extremely satisfying to see it come out so shiny! Lunch was in BBQ form. James' sausages were edible, despite being totally BLACK with charcoal. We ate the sausages (they weren't all black) with Emma's homemade bread, which was yum. I am so totally going to learn how to make proper bread when we live afloat. Apparently its a very Cam-lady-boater thing! Tanja, as we discovered later, also makes amazing bread. My James was coxing all afternoon. We finished waxing the boat, then just sat enjoying the sun until he came back and left pretty much as soon as he did, with us steering Bacchus, being towed again by Kestrel. Getting through the lock was interesting, since we'd assumed it would be open, so we had to alter our plans and bow-haul Bacchus in. James was also just a little too enthusiastic with letting the guillotine up, hehe! I was holding Bacchus on the centreline and had to work quite hard to stop it surging forwards! Lovely smells were emanating from Tanja's kitchen and there were two loaves ready when we arrived back in Cambridge. Once we'd been to the waterpoint and pumped out (And let random tourists have their photos taken with the boat) James and I fashioned the loaves into bacon sandwiches and brought them over to the others, who by that point were having drinks at the nearest pub.

The only negative point was realising that I was sunburnt in an angry red strip between my skirt and top. Ouchies! Otehr than that it was a great weekend. I learnt a lot about, well, everything! Including how a cat copes with moving moorings. Obviously all cats are different but Fennel (and Elizabeth's Isis) both seem totally happy with being boat-cats.

[space for photo which is still on Tanja's phone!]

Update pending...

Many exciting boat-related thing have happened over the weekend, including a game of narrowboat Tetris, but I've not been at my computer as a result of being on the river! Will sit down properly tonight.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Overnight Cruise

with our friends on Kestrel. Tonight! I get to try out my boating shoes, yay!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Girly Boating Shoes

I have recently purchased what may be the most comfortable and useful shoes I've ever worn. Made by Crocs (whose other standard shoes I despise) these are bright red 'ballet pump' style, so really girlie - I even wear them to work (I am an architect though, and we're quite a laid back office) but at the same time very practical. They're grippy for avoiding slipping on the gunwhales, and made of some kind of rubber, so light and water resistant. They dry very quickly, but if you do get wet. they've got grippiness inside so your feet don't slide about. But most of all they're comfy - so squashy that I got an urge to bounce as soon as I tried them on!

Since I don't actually have a narrowboat yet, the only boat I've worn them on was a punt, but they fared admirably! Can't wait to wear them on Lucky Duck!

Oh yeah, and they cost £22.80, free delivery, with 5% promo code 46FF6, from KiddiKingdom

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Naming of Things

Fade To Scarlet was the name that we chose for the hypothetical boat that James and I wanted to buy. Its individual, colourful, evocative and meaningful. I still really like it.

But Lucky Duck has its own character, and I've kind of got used to calling it that. Its not out of some superstitious belief that the name of a boat shouldn't be changed. Its just that (and I may still change my mind) it fits. I think we'll wait and see how we feel about it, once we live aboard (assuming all goes to plan).

After all, it would be quite a big deal getting the boat repainted and registering it under a new name. Not impossible, but something not to be taken lightly.

However, that brings me round to what we call the blog. I feel it would be premature to rename the blog right now, before we complete on the sale, although the name is available (well James is placeholding it for me). Keep an eye out though, when we do live aboard... We'll let you know, and probably redirect from FadeToScarlet for while after the change if it happens!

In other news, James has his penultimate exam today (last one Wednesday). Fingers crossed for him!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Its June!

And we are getting the boat surveyed in 26 days... !

Understandably I am quite uncontrollably excited about the prospect of living afloat. Its been mine and James' dream for nearly a year now.

However, far for being overly romantic about it, the simple things are what I am looking forward to most. Things that I'd actually get just living with James in a flat. Like having a sofa to chill out on, not having to share a fridge or a bathroom with people I don't know that well. Having an oven. All my things being in one place. Living in one place. Sleeping in the same bed every night... Then I remember that as well as all these pretty awesome things, I get to live on a boat.