Sunday 31 October 2010

Farewell Northern Pride

The end of an era... Barry and Sandra are heading back to New Zealand!  We wish them both a safe trip home.

We're sure Northern Pride will be sorely missed but hope a new owner comes along soon.  She's a wonderful boat and so lovingly cared for.  The blog and Barry's amazing photos will serve well as memories of two English Summer's on Northern Pride.

Lucky for the rest of us that Barry and Sandra are behind on handing in their homework and the blog will keep coming for a little while yet as they catch up on their movements over the last few weeks.

Farewell Northern Pride!

Friday 29 October 2010

Narrowboat browsing

We visited many marinas/brokers during our holiday in the UK.  It was a very worthwhile learning experience.  It is difficult to know if photos shown on a website give a true representation of the condition of the boat.  Now we know they often don't! You can get an idea of the layout and whether it's light/dark or the sort of timber work you like.  But... you're only going to see photos of the best of that boat.

We gave ourselves notional "budgets" of £40,000, £50,000 and £60,000 to see what we could afford at each of those price levels.  With the exchange rate firmly in our favour at the moment we'd be looking at the higher end if we were going today.  But on our last trip together it would have been the lower end.  Who knows what might happen over the next 2 or so years.

What the process taught us is that at whatever budget we have, we would be able to find a boat to suit our requirements.  There may be some compromising at the lower end of the scale but we could find something we'd be happy with.

At  £60,000 we found our dream boat at Harral Brokerage - Billy Whizz.  It had everything we wanted, was immaculate and the price had already been reduced.  Whenever we talk about the boats we looked at we always remember Billy.  If we had been looking to buy a boat we would have looked no further.

At  £50,000 we found a boat at Whilton Marina that needed a little repair and new paintwork.  It has been for sale for a while because it was one we'd looked at on the internet a while ago. We remembered the name because Pukeko is a New Zealand bird and Mick was born in NZ.  There was some damage on the roof and the paintwork wasn't the best but allowing for repair and paintwork in our budget would resolve that.  The boat had a lovely open feel and pretty much ticked all our boxes.  It didn't have a washing machine.

At  £40,000 there was a lovely little boat at Braunston Marina called Puddleduck.  At 50ft it was a little shorter than we'd prefer and had a smallish water tank but was in great condition. It was priced at just under £35,000 but there were quite a few things we'd want to do.  I see today that someone has bought Puddleduck. Great little boat.

Our wishlist has been a bit of a moving target over the last couple of years.  This trip has really given us more definite ideas.  We spoke to so many helpful people and learnt so much!
Our main preferences at this stage are :
Length - between 55-60ft.
We'd prefer a semi trad.  Mick's really not keen on cruisers and we feel a semi trad might be easier to sell at the end than a trad.  But... if we found the right boat.....
We want a washing machine.  If there isn't one already, there needs to be somewhere to put one.
We would prefer spay foam insulation, which seems to be the norm on boats less than about 10 years old.
We want to have 2 sources of heating - a solid fuel stove and a central heating system.  So we'd be looking for a boat that has the scope for these to be fitted if they aren't already.
Good ventilation - opening windows/port holes and we would like to have a side hatch.
We'd like to have a pullman dinette.  We want somewhere to sit and eat and I'd like somewhere I can use my laptop and write or sew.
We want a decent size water tank.

We took note of ideas we really liked.  Not that we're likely to ever build a boat but it's good to remember what we liked in case it gives us inspiration for what might be done in our boat.

Here's  setup we really liked.  A semi trad stern with a little utility area - space for a washing machine and even a little desk.

 We thought the tiled area on entering this boat was a great idea.

Oh, and finally, we saw a couple of familiar boats at Braunston.
We've enjoyed the DVD's "Narrowboat" and "Narrowboat Afloat" featuring NB Dover.

And we've also seen some footage about NB Raymond and the restoration.

Monday 25 October 2010

This was England

We had a fantastic holiday!  First I had a week visiting my long time friend in Germany.  We had a lovely time with a little sightseeing, a visit to Rothenberg to the Christmas museum and shops, and just spending time together.  I had a weekend in London on my own before Mick arrived on the Monday morning for a couple of weeks with a hire car to tour around England.

Our first destination was to Scarisbrick, North of Liverpool, to spend some time with Mick's half brother.  We only discovered Peter on our last trip to England in 2007 and saw him for only a brief few hours.  We spent an enjoyable few days getting to know him better this time, as well as meeting Anthony, their cousin.  Here is Anthony, Mick and Peter.

A bonus was that the sister of one of Mick's childhood friends lived just a few miles away in Ormskirk.  Mick hadn't seen Lynne for many years.  We both enjoyed meeting her and looking at narrowboats together. We also had a great day out to see the Anderton Boat Lift.  Lynne with Mick.

On the Saturday we made our way South to Buckingham.  Along the way we visited a couple of marinas and met up with Ray on Gypsy Rover at Fradley Junction.  We'd followed the travels of Gypsy Rover on Derek and Dot's blog for a few years so had been thrilled to find the new owners were fellow Aussies and would also be keeping a blog.  It was great to meet Ray and we enjoyed our couple of hours at Fradley - chatting about some of our many questions.  Ray and Dianne are the first bloggers we've encountered who are doing exactly what we plan to do.... years of planning, downsizing our house, researching from the other side of the world, buying a second hand boat, and planning on spending at least a year or two afloat including Winters. It will be very interesting for us to read their blog over the coming couple of years.  We may learn from their experience!

We hope to catch up with Ray and his wife Dianne (I can't imagine being left back in Australia while my husband starts off on our adventure alone!) while Ray is back in Australia over the UK Winter.  I'm cursing that I took not a single photo at Fradley Junction or of Ray or Gypsy Rover.  I'll definitely have to get better at this when we finally get a boat of our own.

The week we spent staying at Lillingstone Lovell, near Buckingham, was an enjoyable one.  Our accomodation was a delightful 400 year old thatched cottage. We highly recommend it as a quintessentially English place to stay.  It's called Little Thatch and had an absurdly steep, sloping, winding staircase up to the bedroom. The owners, Jane and Ian, live next door and were lovely hosts.  We enjoyed chatting with them - and much to our delight they were narrowboat owners!

We spent much of the week visiting marinas, looking at boats and lurking around the canals. We had a day trip to the Cotswolds and visited Moreton-in-Marsh, Lower Slaughter and Bibury among other beautiful Cotswold villages.

We also met up with New Zealand bloggers Barry a Sandra on Northern Pride.  Barry takes the most amazing photos so do check out their blog!  They generously invited us on their boat for the day but the logistics of working out how to get back to our hire car, and the fact that we were running out of time to see and do all we wanted to meant we needed to squeeze in other things on the same day.  We arranged to meet them at Cowroast for lunch at the pub.  As planned we arrived an hour or so ahead of the meeting time and began walking along the towpath in their direction. It was a pleasant half hour or so before we saw them coming out of a lock.  We jumped on board and Mick delighted in helping through the next couple of locks back to Cowroast.

I vividly recalled a blog entry by Sandra about Barry's camera and photography and a comment she made about him leaping about with camera in one hand and windlass in the other.  He's like a clambering monkey!!!  This day he didn't have to worry about the windlass but with the untethered boat drifting about in the double lock, I leaned out the cratch opening to see Barry leap to the roof of the boat from the stern, snap a couple of photos, and then off onto the lockside and up on the lock gate to take a couple more. Amazing.  I wish I'd taken more photos but was too busy watching! 

For our last weekend in England we drove to Cornwall and on the way stopped at Bradford on Avon where we had a picnic by the canal.  It was yet another gorgeous little town.  We stayed in Rosemary Cottage, a little cottage in the heart of Port Isaac. We are fans of the television show "Doc Martin" which is filmed there.  It's the most picturesque little village.  It was very restful to watch the fishing boats and we really enjoyed walking the steep, narrow streets. Our parking space was between the narrowest of spaces between the end of a building and the stone wall that was at the edge looking over into the water.

We drove to Padstow to have lunch on Sunday at Rick Stein's fish and chip cafe.  There was a queue at the door well before it opened at midday.  We joined the queue of course.  Padstow was very pretty with a lively harbour.  It was surrounded by interesting shops and eateries and being a perfect sunny day was crowded with people.  We enjoyed our visit there very much.

On Monday it was time to make our way back to London.  We detoured through Cheddar Gorge and drove through Bath but decided it was way to busy to try and find parking so we could look around.  We'll save that for a place to visit on our boat.  Our final visit was the little village of Turville, the film location for the Vicar of Dibley... yes, it seems we watch too much tv but we just love those English shows.

Finally it was back to a hotel near the airport to hand back the hire car before the long flight home the following day. 

All about the narrowboats we looked at in the next post !

Friday 15 October 2010

In narrowboating heaven....

Just a brief update from our holiday in the UK.  We've spent almost two weeks catching up with family and friends, old and new, and researching narrowboats.

Hello to Mick's half brother Peter, we were so glad to be able to spend some time getting to know you better.  Before you know it we'll be back again.
And Lynne, we had a great time during our couple of days out.  We'll look forward to seeing more of you in a couple of years time!
Ray, was great to meet you and we are suitably inspired.  Can't wait to meet up with you on the cut.
Barry and Sandra, wonderful to meet you at last.  We've loved reading your blog and will miss it sorely!

Until we get home to Australia...
Elly and Mick