Sunday 30 January 2011

Update - shipping

We did notice that the cost of household items and groceries appeared to work out cheaper in the UK, even more so when the exchange rate is so favourable for us at the moment.  At first glance it would seem like a lot of money to pay $700 to ship a few boxes over.

Well, I had a browse through the Asda online store to see what it would cost us to buy the things we'd need.

Duvet £20
Duvet set x 2 £25
Sheets & pillowcases x 2 £35
Pillows x 4 £20
£100 for the minimum both in quality and quantity of bedding.  This doesn't allow for a guest or particularly cold weather. 

Allow another £100 for cooking and dining equipment and maybe £50 for towels, bathmats etc.  Now we're up to £250 and we have the barest essentials only.  That is already $450 AU and leaves just $250 or £150 or so to spend on tools to match the shipping cost. 

I want to have my sewing to do while we cruise (a 10 year patchwork project), we could wrap things in old towels/sheets that would then be useful for cleaning or drying rags, we have a spare mini dvd player that is region free so would be perfect on the boat.  The bedding, towels, and some cookware we have an entire spare set that would likely go to a charity shop rather than in storage - we might as well take them and use them and leave them at a charity shop in the UK when we're finished.  Mick has multiples of a lot of his tools so he can choose those he's happy to leave behind.

We've weighed up the pros and cons and decided that for us the best option is to ship our own belongings over. It would be different if we would need to bring these things back again or if we would need to replace them if we left them behind.  We need to make this decision now as we've started packing up our house in preparation for moving later in the year.  We will only take the essentials to the new house because we'll hopefully be renting out within a year or two after to start out narrowboat trip.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Feedback - pick of the week 28/1/11

We received a lengthy and very useful comment from Peter on nb Kelly Louise about our pick of the week.  This was the very reason I started keeping this blog, in the hope that we'd get comments and learn along the way.  

We only started to learn something about boat electrics on our last trip by interrogating any broker who was willing to chat.  The most helpful of them in this regard also suggested the "travelpower" unit and gave us a talk about pure sine wave inverters (vague memories of high school science class).  We need to read more about this because it's something we knew little about. We'd like to find out the cost of a "travelpower" unit - can anyone tell us?

We are keeping in mind the extras we'd have to pay for when looking at the price of the boat.  The cratch is another item we often find we'd need to spend money on.  I definitely want it glazed and covered - to be able to see out and for the purpose of drying washing.  I'd prefer the cover to have clear "windows" on the side with roll up canvas panels but we wouldn't likely spend the money to change this if all else was suitable.

The cross bed vs. inline bed debate is interesting.  I can understand a cross bed not being practical for somebody particularly tall like Ray on  nb Gypsy Rover.  Personally, I can't stand being the one wedged under the gunwale at night! If possible we would be turning the bed and converting it to a cross bed.  Many people mention hating having to set the bed up each night and maybe one day we'll agree.  But.. we'd rather a wider bed and not having one of us sleeping against the wall (it would be me).

Friday 28 January 2011

Pick of the week : Bacchus

I love the weekly update box on the ABNB website.  There isn't always something of interest to us and over Christmas there hasn't been much new.

This week we saw one that ticked nearly all of our boxes.  The rear cabin would make a great little office and still leave a single bunk to sit on or for a visitor to sleep.  There is no washing machine on this boat but there is space to install one and also to store a porta potty in the rear cabin.

We would prefer a pair of armchairs for seating but the saloon isn't big enough.  We would make the dinette a half dinette to make space, especially as there is already somewhere for a guest to sleep.

I requested the detailed PDF brochure on this boat and the engine has only 691 hours on it.

Click here to have a look

Length: 58ft 2in  
Builder: Narrowcraft  
Fitter-out: Narrowcraft  
Year registered: 2007  
Style: Semi-trad  
Safety Certificate: RCD to 2011
Engine: Barrus Shire 40 diesel  
Bowthruster: None  
Plating: 10/6/5/4 
Last blacked: July 2010
Fit-out materials: Oak-faced ply with hardwood cappings & frames, bulkheads in oak-faced blockboard. Granite worktops to galley & bathroom.  
Insulation: Spray foam
Headroom: 6ft 5in  
Berths: 4 + 2  
Berth sizes: 6ft 6in x 4ft 2in perm double, 2 @ 6ft 0in x 2ft 0in perm singles in sep cabin, 6ft 0in x 3ft 8in double on L-shape dinette
Mains Power: Landline fore & aft, Power Master inverter 3kw pure sine wave, Waeco 50a battery charger
Cabin heating: Eberspacher diesel c/heating > rads, s/f stove  
Water Heating: C/heating + engine + 230V immersion heater > calorifier  
Water tank: 165gall (reported) stainless steel
Cooker: Spinflo Caprice free-standing gas cooker; 700W microwave  
Fridge: Shoreline 12V 4cu ft; 12V 1.5cu.ft freezer  
Washer/dryer: None  
WC: Tecma electric flush wc to remote tank  
Shower: in quadrant cubicle with curved doors
Other: Glazed cratch board and vinyl cover with zips
Location: Shropshire Union Canal
Price: £59,950

Thursday 27 January 2011

Shipping belongings

I have started to do some research into the cost of sending some of our belongings to the UK for while we're living on our narrowboat.  Mick is convinced he'll need at least basic tools so he can get a little work along the way.

We have double of a lot of things from the days of living in Melbourne and having our current home as a weekender.  So we've started putting aside bedding, linen, kitchen utensils etc that we'll ship over but not bring back again.  It is probably a close call whether we could buy all these things (if we bought mostly second hand or discount) for the cost of the shipping.  By shipping, we'd have our own belongings and we need to get rid of some of the things we've been storing anyway.

Pack and Send quoted me $700 to send 8 packing cartons (1 cubic metre).

I've asked the Aussies and Kiwis that we've made contact with in the last couple of years and there's mixed opinions on whether to send belongings or buy them when you get there.  It's made more difficult by not knowing what might be left on the boat you buy. 

Comments would be appreciated!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Our priority list - a moving target 19/1/11

We have been re-visiting our priority list.  Added some, removed some.

Our updated preferences are :
Length between 55-60ft.
Semi trad stern (or trad if we found the right boat).
Washing machine or space to put one.
Spay foam insulation.
Solid fuel stove and a central heating system or scope for these to be fitted.
Good ventilation - opening windows/port holes and preferably a side hatch.
Pullman dinette or at least somewhere to eat meals or write/type/sew.
Decent size water tank.
Cross bed if possible.

With movement on the canals again there's a couple of new (used) boats coming on the market.
Here is our pick of the week from ABNB Narrowboat Brokerage. Click here to take a look.

Length: 58ft 5in  
Builder: STS Boats 
Fitter-out: Kendall Narrowboats  
Year registered: 2006  
Style: Semi-trad  
Safety Certificate: July 2014
Engine: Isuzu 42 diesel  
Bowthruster: None  
Plating: 10/6/5/4 
Last blacked: March 2010
Fit-out materials: Oak faced ply with oak mdf & sapele hardwood trims, carpet to floors except for vinyl in galley 
Insulation: Spray foam
Headroom: 6ft 4in 
Berths: 2+0  
Berth sizes: 6ft 2in x 4ft 7in permanent cross double (there is room to change it to a lengthways double)
Mains Power: Landline; Sterling 3000W pure sine inverter
Cabin heating: Webasto diesel c/heating > rads; s/f stove  
Water Heating: C/heating + engine > calorifier  
Water tank: 160galls stainless steel
Cooker: Free-standing cooker with 4 burners, microwave 700W  
Fridge: 12V 4cu ft; 2cu ft 230v freezer  
Washer/dryer: Indesit automatic washer/dryer  
WC: Thetford Swivel seat Cassette  
Shower: quadrant shower
Other: Space to extend half pullman dinette to have both seats. Aft cockpit pram cover, foul weather cover for forward cockpit
Location: Llangollen Canal, Shropshire
Price: £59,950

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Banking for Australians in England

We've heard all sorts of stories about how difficult it is to open a bank account in England.  It's something we take for granted here in Australia.  You walk into a bank, show them sufficient ID and you have a bank account.  Not so, it seems, in England.  It isn't so straightforward if you don't have an address and a job - something people like us planning on cruising the canals won't have.

We would want an account with internet banking and with use of a Visa or Mastercard debit card.  We would prefer to open the account before we leave Australia so we can transfer the money we'd need to buy our narrowboat into the account at a time (and exchange rate) convenient to us.
I've asked lots of questions and searched the internet and discovered a couple of options. 

The easiest would be to use a service such as Work Gateways.  You pay for the service, provide the necessary documents, get some extras and the work is done for you.

HSBC offer an account designed especially for people new to the UK.  It is offered for an initial 12 month term at £8 a month.  Once the 12 months is up you could then open a regular bank account because you'd have a banking history.
HSBS Passport account

If anyone knows of other banks who will open a UK account before you leave Australia, please leave a comment and I'll investigate and post an updated blog entry.

Sunday 16 January 2011

The thing about gum trees

Gum trees are notorious for losing limbs or just falling over.  I try to never park my car under a gum tree - especially if it is wet or windy. There have been tragic instances in recent years of campers being crushed in the night by a falling gum after pitching their tent beneath a gum tree.  The drought has caused the trees to have shallow roots and now with the ground being soft and waterlogged the past week there have been trees down all over the place.  Twice I've had to turn the car around and go another way due to a tree having fallen across a road.

Yesterday we had a couple of problems of our own.  Two trees simply fell over.  One fell across our side fence and the other onto our chicken run.  There's some damage to be repaired but at least it wasn't the chicken coop itself, just the yard.  They freerange during the day so it will be interesting tonight to see how willing they are to go to bed after all the noise of clearing the larger limbs.  The wire inside is hanging down into their yard and all day the chickens have kept as far away as possible. 

Flood or fire. A land of extremes.

I had thought at first to only write in this blog about things that are relevant to our narrowboat planning but following a comment requesting photos of Australia there will be the occasional non-narrowboating blog.

Today we have a pleasantly hot Summer day (29 degrees c) so it is hard to imagine that just a couple of days ago we were being inundated by flooding rain!  It's also hard to imagine that a couple of years ago we were gripped by drought and experiencing the devastating fires of Black Saturday.

Two thirds of Queensland has been flooded.  I've heard reports saying it is an area the size of Texas and another that it is the area of France and Germany combined.  Here in central Victoria the flooding wasn't quite so extreme but still there has been towns under water and homes and businesses have been destroyed. Sections of road have been washed away.

We are lucky that our house and our town are on a slope but we were surrounded by closed roads on Thursday and Friday and lost power from Thursday evening until Friday afternoon.  With the sky so dark it was extremely gloomy in the house without power so we decided to try the road to Bendigo (our nearest city) and go shopping on Friday morning.  There was water rushing over the road in several places but not deep enough to be dangerous or close the road.  It was already starting to subside in many places.

Paddocks on the side of the road.

Two years ago at this time we were about to experience the hottest, driest stretch of weather I could ever recall.  It was to lead to devastating fires. 
These photos are from the back of my brother's house.  Too close for comfort!

And the sunrise through the smoke at our place the following morning.

The flooding reminded me of a trip we took at the end of October 2008 to New South Wales.  We stopped along the way at Gundagai to look at the amazing old bridges there.  There were devastating floods in 1852 that destroyed the old town of Gundagai.  It was rebuilt on higher ground and these two bridges were built.