Saturday, 25 October 2008


We took advantage of the fact that we were in Upware, with both of us having a day off, to tidy up the boat properly. I baked bread, handwashed clothes, put up postcards and photos, and James completely reordered the saloon so that we have more seats for guests!

We also are grateful to Roger at Upware who lent us his diagnostic battery charger, which will help us work out what's wrong with our electrical system. The batteries are currently charging and appear not to have any faults as yet. However I don't think it has a fault code for 'a bit knackered'!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Unlicensed Boat!

Us, in short.

We bought a one-month EA license at Denver sluice back in September, and it now has expired.

However, I phoned up the EA to buy another, only to find out that- because the Denver lock keeper hasn't yet passed our details- or the cheque!- on to the central office of the EA, we're not listed on their database and so can't yet buy a new one until we recieve- by post- an application form and send it back- rather than just doing it over the phone as I'd hoped.

In the meantime, then, we're unlicensed until the paperwork is sorted out.

Now I understand why several boats in Cambridge I've seen have notices in the window saying, "License paperwork in the post"; I think I'd better get paper, pen and some blu-tack!

Feeling flat...

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been settling into our new way of life in Cambridge- moving around, semi-continuous cruising, really.

Or, rather, we would have if the boat hadn't kept breaking. On Sunday, we planned to move the boat up to Clayhithe and then on to Upware for the first part of the week. Unfortunately, the batteries had other ideas.

The starter battery was flat; I couldn't start the engine, even by using it and the domestic battery bank; there just wasn't the power to turn the engine over.

This was somewhat confusing, as we had made sure that we charged the starter battery first before switching over to the domestics when running the engine; we checked the electrolyte often and made sure that the battery wasn't flat.

The solution, however, wasn't too hard; we carried the battery over to Queens' boathouse, where- thanks to boatman Paul- we left the battery to charge overnight from the mains.

After work on Monday, we retrieved the battery and started the engine- finally!- and, after filling up on water, made a quick trip to Clayhithe in the wind, rain and darkness- nice... On Tuesday, we planned to go on to Upware; I returned back from work first, and turned the key to fire up the BMC.

Again, there was no power to start it- despite having had about three hours of running the engine, charging both battery banks at the same time. Something was draining the power from the starter battery; and, removing one of the terminals from the starter battery and seeing the lights dim appreciably, I realised that the selector switch between the two battery banks was, seemingly, faulty- draining both battery banks, rather than just one and preserving the starter. It seems that, looking back, there have been a number of hints towards this; in the past when travelling the Grand Union and Nene, the starter has seemed surprisingly flat on occasion whenever the domestic bank has been very depleted.

It's not a huge problem; all we have to do is to remove a terminal from the starter battery whenever we finish running the engine, so as to fully isolate the starter, until we can sort out the selector switch.

Thursday, 23 October 2008


We attended the Camboaters AGM last night. It was interesting to meet many more of the live-aboard boaters on the Cam, to make ourselves known, and I also ended up taking minutes (I seem to have a habit of this!). There were many heated discussions though, particularly about the mooring situation in Cambridge, and I found trying to minute these particularly difficult! The problem is that there are those with moorings and those without (or on the unregulated moorings) and the two loose groups are essentially at odds, with quite different requirements and priorities.

All the same I'm really glad we got to meet so many of the Cam boaters, and we hope to be mooring with them soon!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Halcyon Days

The Duck's previous owner has just emailed me some photos that he took the very morning we set off from Engine Arm back in August. It is odd to look at them and think of the excitement, despair, and 'interesting' times that lay ahead!

The Duck leaves its mooring in Birmingham for the last time.

Departing Engine Arm

James' first lock!

Waving goodbye...

Monday, 20 October 2008

Behind bars

As a post-birthday treat (I turned 23 on Wed15th) James and I went to the Blue Cross Cat Rescue centre on Saturday. If I'd had my way, we'd have taken all of the cats we saw away with us then! But we decided that we'd better wait at least until next year, and probably until we get a permanent Cambridge residential mooring.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Blogshank possibly our new, favourite boat blog. Kestrel's blog has linked to it for a while but until today I'd never clicked the link.

It's not written in the conventional sense, but is drawn by Mike in the form of a cartoon strip. He and Caroline used to moor in Cambridge but have now moved the boat to Market Harborough.

Utter genius!

Quantum Cat

'I know there's a cat in here somewhere!'

(big)James and Emma came over last night, bringing Jess onto the boat for the first time. We discussed the fact that we are thinking of getting a cat in the not too distant future, and it seems that Jess must have heard... Now everytime she's near the boat, and anyone says 'Where's the cat, Jess?' she will prick up her ears and rush towards the boat, looking in all the windows. Our boat must exude cat potential.

This morning we also had the good fortune to meet Robin and Guinness of nb Uisce while also chatting to (big) James and Jess on the towpath. Jess was very excited to see her old friend again!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Water Safety

Last night we attended Chesterton Rowing Club's AGM, which was interesting for me, as I've only just started to become involved in rowing. James was again elected Water Safety Officer, which basically involves making sure all the paperwork is completed if an accident occurs on the water, and ensuring that there are guidelines in place for things like night rowing. (big)James was elected Captain again this year, and Emma also kept on her sponsorship role. Maybe next year I'll run for something too!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Snail Mail!

This is what happens when you get a snail in your letterbox...

Fenland Wanderings

Mist-shrouded fens

The commute to work sometimes involves a very long walk!

A week ago, we were in Upware, and- as my bike was broken- we had to get to the bus-stop at Swaffham Prior by foot. This involved an hour and a halfs walk!

Saying that the roads are long and straight is an understatement. They make rulers look bendy; coming to any kind of corner is a cause for jubilation.

We're working out alternative ways of getting into Cambridge, however; whilst Upware is on the wrong side of the river, there is a bridge a mile or so upstream- so we can cycle north, across the river, and then along some straight roads to Stretham, where we can catch an assortment of buses.

View Larger Map

Scraping by

For the past week, we've been stranded in the centre of Cambridge, as the arm on the engine's throttle had broken. I spent a lot of time telephoning various engine and boat places trying to find a direct replacement, but all to no avail. We decided to do some boat maintenance in the meantime, and to fix the throttle ourselves.

There were a few areas where the paint had been removed, from the cabin sides of Lucky Duck- from when we hit various bridges.

The priority for us was to cover these areas over with paint before they got too rusty; there were some patches of rust already, so we went to Mackays- the local emporium of wonders- to get some Hammerite Direct to Rust paint, that eats away at existing rust, neutralises it, and forms a layer of primer, making repainting easier. It was also cheaper to buy one tin than a separate rust-eater and primer...

On Saturday, I attempted to fix the throttle arm back together with some steel epoxy whilst Amy sanded, wire-brushed, and removed the existing surface rust before painting away. A continuous stream of novice rowers provided comic relief. Then, we went to the house of a friend of (big) James', to assist in inserting a pond into a very large hole in the garden- in return for this, we could take our pick of an enormous pile of waste wood, from an old wooden conservatory they had demolished. James and I, and a few of his colleagues, shifted the pre-made pond liner into the hole, and headed off with the boot of (big) James' car weighed down with a large sack of wood and a lot of big pieces of joists- just the thing to keep us warm and snug, and all for free- fantastic!

When we returned to the mooring in the centre of Cambridge, we found a fellow blogger moored behind us temporarily, having reached the top of the waiting list for moorings in the centre of Cambridge. He was eighteenth on the list ten days ago, but was offered the permit on Friday- it just goes to show that there's a fair number of people on the list who've put their names on speculatively, and- when the space becomes available- forfeit their immediate opportunity in favour of those with boats. We were 40th on the list- but I expect we've moved up a good few places, which is encouraging.

Bypass Operation

This is a sight to gladden the hearts of Amy and myself- the engine running at 1500 rpm, normal cruising speed, with the bypass open. This shows that we've got more than sufficient cooling water passing through the engine, to keep the engine running at its optimum temperature. So far, the plastic mesh cable tied over the intake, together with a corrugated plastic hose, are keeping the system running far better than it ever has. High-speed runs from Clayhithe to Upware in an hour and 15 minutes are possible- non-stop!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Our 'latest' problem

... and some very good news!

James has a job, a 'proper' one at that! - working as an ICT support technician and teacher at a school just outside Cambridge. He started today and I've not heard anything since he left, but I hope its all gone well. As for me, I have the day off and am emailing people about references for a 'proper' job of my own. Not that I don't enjoy retail, but I really don't see myself ever becoming a manager, and I want to do something architecture-related if I can.

We are currently moored in Cambridge, with a rather annoying engine problem. (big)James and Emma are now back in Cambridge and they very kindly came over to have a look. (big)James identified it as a broken throttle control lever, which meant that the engine is 'idling' at 1600rpm and is very difficult to get into reverse. So we're stuck here (drat! ;) ) until we can find replacement or bodge something up.