Monday 28 February 2011

Other interests

I decided to keep little blogs of my or our other interests.  You can reach them from the pages at the top of this blog.

For a brief daily update of what the weather has been like and some photos of Australia :

For my patchwork and quilting projects :

Sunday 27 February 2011

Travel insurance, health insurance and medical care

Should we get travel insurance?
A one year policy would cost somewhere in the vicinity of $1,500.  Considering that we would be covered by the NHS for medical care, we wonder if it would be worth it to pay for the travel insurance policy.  But what about cancellation of airfares if something were to happen before we left… or what about if we went to Paris for a weekend… or hired a car.  The first few weeks we’d probably have a hire car and pay for some accommodation.  Maybe it would be worth buying a policy for a shorter duration to at least cover us for the bookings we would make before leaving home and the car hire insurance excess.  We could get a policy covering 2 months for about $500.  I’ll have to find out about what would happen if we travelled from the UK to other countries in Europe.  I wonder if British residents get travel insurance for these trips?

Are we eligible for the NHS?
From what we have learnt it appears we would be eligible for medical care under the NHS in the UK.  It would involve registering with a local GP to be “on their list”.  To do this you need to have a UK address and this isn’t always an easy thing for someone from Australia or New Zealand planning to live on a narrowboat.  We are hoping to use a friend’s address to receive mail from the NHS and register with a local GP.  I have discussed this with Derek and Dot previously of Gypsy Rover and recall Dot needing to attend an interview and obtain some sort of ID number.  I’ll post an update when I check with them about this.

Australia has a bilateral health care agreement with the UK so Australian residents would be granted health care at the accident and emergency department of a hospital.  I have been in this situation several years ago when I developed a corneal ulcer in my eye while I was on holiday.  I asked at an optician’s clinic what I should do and they told me to go the Eye and Ear Hospital.  It was a long wait (more than 4hrs) but they were very helpful, gave me necessary eye drops and asked for nothing more than seeing my passport and airline tickets.

More info here : Free NHS

What do I do about my health insurance in Australia?
I was wondering how being overseas, and cancelling your health cover, would affect the lifetime health cover loading.  You can cancel your cover to go overseas without affecting the loading as long as you are gone over 12 months.  For shorter periods you could apply to your insurer to have your cover suspended rather than cancelled.   

More info here : Lifetime Health Cover

For up to date information for Australians travelling to the UK, including information about medical care :

Saturday 26 February 2011

Preparing to go list

I've been keeping, and updating, a list of things we need to do before we can go to the UK.  Some of these items I'll have a blog entry about - I've found little information about many of these things!

So far we've done the first item (buying a cheaper house) and we're on our way through the sorting and packing.  I've also started with applying for my passport because I'll have to go to Sydney to lodge the application (and have biometric details taken). We aim to have our house on the market for sale in June.

If there is anything I haven't thought of, do remind me!

Buy a cheaper house
Sorting and packing up belongings
 – things to go to new house
 – things to store because we don’t need for now
 – things we’ll take with us to the UK
 – things to sell at garage sale
Apply for Elly's Finnish passport
Sell our house
Arrange insurance for stored belongings
Move to new house
Open a UK bank account
Send remaining chickens to their new home
Cancel private health insurance
Arrange for our mail to be dealt with at home
Arrange for mail in the UK
Book airfares
Ship belongings to UK
Rent out our house
Arrange for someone to have the potplants
Pack up remainder of our belongings and store
Sell Elly’s car (Mick's truck to be left at workshop)
Book hire car in UK
Transfer money to UK account

Thursday 24 February 2011

Pick of the week - Angela Louise

Here is one from Longport Brokerage.  It's a little shorter, older and a lot cheaper than the others we've looked at but is a nice little boat.  So if the exchange rate doesn't stay kind to us...   Angela Louise
Positives : We love the paintwork, low price, Mick would rather a bathroom that isn't walk through, on hard standing for easy survey, good mix of windows/portholes

Negatives : Age, no washing machine, smallish water tank, no mention of radiators - but full length of boat clear on one side so possible to install.

Name : Angela Louise
Length : 53ft
Price : £39,500

Stern : Trad
Interior finish : Oak faced ply above gunnel and sapele below with hardwood trim.
Engine Room : Beta 35 diesel engine boxed over, PRM gearbox, two 12v charging alternators, four services batteries. 
Electrics : 200w inverter to AC system.
Bedroom : Fixed double
Shower-room : Good sized shower, vanity unit and basin and chemical toilet
Galley - U-shaped, full size Vanette LPG oven and grill with hob over, Coolmatic 12v fridge
Dining Area and Saloon : L-shape seat (converts to double berth) and large dining table, 2 folding chairs,  Deville diesel fuel stove, 2 armchairs
Bow Deck : 2 lockable side locker seats, 455ltr stainless steel water tank, 2x 13kg propane gas cylinders 

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Self fitout and resale

While browsing through boats for sale we often see boats fitted out by the owner.

We suspect self fitouts would be an unknown quantity.  Have they got it right?  Is the insulation installed correctly?  Are the pipes the right size for the job? Is everything sealed and joined properly?  These are all things you can’t see.

After having read a horror story about a toilet leaking into the back of a wardrobe I’m very wary about boats fitted out by their owners.  We think that if we feel this way then it’s likely that potential buyers when it comes time to sell the boat on again may feel the same way.

We think we’ll eliminate self fitouts from our search.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Stressed and unsettled

We are both feeling unsettled at the moment and the narrowboat talk crops up several times each day.  I'm not happy at work, I'm feeling extremely stressed, we've started packing our belongings, and before we know it we'll be selling our house.  We both just feel like we want to get out of here now and be relaxing on our narrowboat!  Maybe it's the full moon.....

We went to have a look at a house today that was similar to our own.  We wanted to compare it and get an idea of the price and how long they are taking to sell.  We'll watch this one with interest.  It isn't renovated but is in comfortable living condition.  We talked to the agent about timing for selling our house.  We had thought to wait until Spring as everything looks at it's best then.  Now we think we'll put the house on the market before we settle on the new house we bought.  So about June and the middle of Winter.  The agent feels that the market is strong right now and the buyers are out there all year round but there isn't much selling in Winter.  We think we'll give it a try.

Hopefully I'll sort something out about work too.

Friday 18 February 2011

Pick of the week - Smuggler

From ABC Boat Sales : Smuggler

Positives : second cabin 
Negatives : no washing machine, no dinette (but room for a half dinette), not a lot of storage

Year : 2006
Length : 60ft

Stern :  traditional stern
Price : £54,950
Interior: Forward open plan saloon with futon sofabed, TV unit & storage.
Galley :  Country Leisure Midi oven & hob
Single berth cabin with wardrobe & storage.
Bathroom : shower, Thetford cassette toilet
Rear fixed double berth with double wardrobe & storage.
Insulation : Spray foam
Last blacked : 04/2010 at Alvechurch Marina.
Owner serviced in 07/2010.
Engine hours : 6616.
Heating : Eberspacher Hydronic diesel central heating – 6 radiators throughout boat.
Hot water : heated by central heating and/or engine.
Solid fuel : Arrow Becton stove
Electrical Systems: 12v system, split charging with 1 starter and 3 domestic batteries. 3000watt Sterling 240v
inverter. Shoreline.
Water tank : 150 gallons.
Propane gas: 2 x 13kg cylinders.
Licensed : 07/2011
Boat Safety Cert. : Valid to 07/2014
Shell Manufacturer : Liverpool Boats
Fitout : Classic Narrowboats
Engine : Beta Marine Model 43bhp
Gearbox : PRM Model 150

Thursday 17 February 2011

Windows or portholes?

What is your preference and why?   This seems to be another issue that elicits strong opinions. 

We are used to having fresh air through our house.  We never have every window closed and sleep with the bedroom window open because it is under our front verandah so the rain can’t reach it.  Even on the coldest nights we still have the window open a couple of inches.  During milder weather we keep the back door wide open until we go to bed.

This will be something we’ll have to get used to when living in a colder climate.  It might be impossible to leave windows or portholes ajar all the time. We love the look of portholes from the outside of the boat but they only open a little bit!  So… our preference would be windows.

Since we decided to work towards our narrowboat goal, we’ve wondered how we’ll manage sleeping in a steel box after a warm Summer day.  Does it get hot inside? Does it cool down at night?  I don’t think I’ve read a single blog entry complaining of being unable to get to sleep because it’s too warm.  There’s lots of complaints about cold, rain, snow and condensation though!

Wednesday 16 February 2011

I Love a Little Narrowboat by Pam Ayres

When I went to visit my mum last night she showed me a poem she discovered in a book of Pam Ayres poetry.  Here it is :


I love a little narrowboat, I love the old canal,
Imagining the tales these ancient waterways could tell,
I love to work the lock, those oaken gates so firm and strong,
With know-alls up above to tell you what you're doing wrong.

I love to see the native creatures busy at the bank,
The otter and the water vole, the terrapin and mink,
And peering in the water, into shallows green and still,
To see somebody's goldfish from the kitchen window-sill.

I love to moor along the bank and hear the gentle rain,
To cook a meal and watch the world beyond the window-pane,
Little bobbing moorhen chicks, the mallard and the coot,
Exhausted lovers hoping that their effort's bearing fruit.

I love the ancient bridges, every keystone, every corbel,
The singing of the little birds, the chirrup and the warble,
To feed a lonely swan, so perfect, white as alabaster,
Who struck me with his wing; observe my collar-bone in plaster.

I love to meet the other folk who use the waterways,
The walkers and the fishermen on sunny languid days,
We drift beside the towpath and we breathe the summer's breath,
Till roaring motor-bikers come and frighten us to death.

I love the inland waterways and if it's in my power,
I'll just keep on a-sailing at about three miles an hour,
And when I see that final tunnel, into it I'll glide,
I'll raise my yachting cap and see you on the other side.

Monday 14 February 2011

Pick of the week from Dreams Afloat

Here's one from Harral Brokerage : Dreams Afloat  It's a brand new boat, so a bit of a daydream.
There would likely be a lot of money to be spent on the extras necessary for a liveaboard.

Price : £60,000
Length : 60ft
Stern : Trad

Positives :
It's new and we can choose a name!
We like the blue paint colour
Lovely timberwork
The second cabin - we'd convert one bunk to a desk area
Excellent access from trad deck
The dresser in the galley
There are wo sets of side hatches
It has a nice open feel

Negatives :
Not keen on the curved doorways
The description doesn't say anything about the electrics (what would you get at this price?)
Not much else

Sunday 13 February 2011

Cratch covers and pram covers

We have started making a list of things we would like on our narrowboat that may not already be on the boat.  For example, we want a cross bed and that would mean buying a new mattress.

We definitely want a cratch and cover.  We would want glass in the front to be able to see out.  Another thing we thought we would want is a pram cover or pram hood - particularly if we are lucky enough to find the perfect semi trad boat.  It would give us another dry area in Winter (aside from the cratch).

Camberwell Covers give a price guide of £700 for a pram cover.  Their website shows a recently completed widebeam cratch board and cover for £900.  We're thinking we should allow £1,500 for both.

Coverit Canopies - Cratch Cover - these people appear to have made the canopy for nb Grumpy Git (our earlier pick of the week).  I'm not too keen on this style cratch cover with a square front.

This canopy maker was recommended by Sue on nb No Problem
Staffordshire Canopies
Here are some others I found when browsing.
Camberwell Covers - Cratch Cover
Camberwell Covers Pram Cover
Waterside Boat Covers - Pram Cover
Boat Hoods Direct - Pram Covers

Trad, semi trad or cruise - comments

I thought the comments from my last blog were interesting.  It fascinates me how different people see things.  When I read the comments again today I thought I'd copy them up to a blog entry so I can look back on these opinions easier in future.

For people buying their boat for holidays I can certainly understand they'd be thinking of Summer evenings sitting outside.  For us... coming from the Australian climate... we're thinking about how we'll manage on all those cold rainy days!  

I think for Mick and I it really is that we're going to be looking for a comfortable home for the two of us.  Although we've had a few friends and family say they'll come and visit when we finally get over there, we don't want to base our boat buying decisions on this. Neither of us are keen on large groups of people but even when we have a visitor or two and the occasional time when it isn't possible to sit out on the bank or tow path we'll just have to make do. 

And... the main reason we don't want a cruiser is the appearance.  We just love the shape of a narrowboat with it's short stern deck and bow.
So here is what people had to say about their choice of stern.  I might have to look at all the blogs I read and see what type of stern most continuous cruisers have chosen!

nb Chance said...
Hi Elly and Mick. Do enjoy your blog, Interested in your comments on trad, semi or cruiser, we all have different objectives and ideas, we have always preferred a cruiser stern, as its great to sit out on the back of the boat in the evening, if you can't sit on the towpath for any reason, or you are in a city where there is less room, its much more sociable we find, and we have often ended up with everyone on our boat on the stern, with numerous chairs etc, Trad is great for winter cruising as you can keep warm inside, but it makes getting in and out of the boat a bit tight, especially if you are tall. Semi trad is a good compromise, but the seats aren't really comfortable and you end up with two large metal walls either side. But we are all different. Thank goodness!!

Peter Berry said...
Now then, we seem to have a disagreement in the results of our own research! Before we bought the narrowboat I was steeped in reading about the market, (Waterways World in particular), the trends, what sells, what's popular etc. etc. We visited just about every broker in the land. My own findings were that the most popular style and size were 57 foot semi-trad, and thus the ones that retained their value best on the used market and were easier to sell. Under 60 foot because the locks on some canals can only accomodate this size, The Leeds and Liverpool is one example I think. This size is also easy to manage for a couple. Semi-trad because narrowboat enthusiasts love the look of traditional boats, and there are many followers of heritage amongst narrowboaters, not just into it as you would be for purely leisure purposes as you would be with a caravan for example. The semi-trad gives the look of tradition with the benefit of some room at the helm for more than one to enjoy the cruise from there. Then there are the practical issues. A 57 foot cruiser is going to have less internal space available than a trad of the same size. To me, internal living space is much more important than outdoor socialising space in this context. The semi-trad is a compromise again here, but you do get storage lockers that double up as seats in the cockpit area where a cruiser is usually all flat deck space. As you know, we bought semi-trad, which was my ideal choice, but would have bought a trad without hesitation if I happened to like the boat. We never considered a cruiser! If I was lucky enough to be able to buy again, I would aim for a used, under 5 year old trad from a premium builder. It would have a traditional boatman's cabin and an engine room with a traditional engine sat there with its polished copper and brass metalwork. Unfortunately, one like that would be in the £75K-£95K price bracket, rising to anything up to £140K if buying new and depending on what is specified. Practically, I am happy with our choice, and am still happy that the style and size are the factors that are going to make it retain its value in the best way it can, given the present financial climate. Semi-trads in the used market at present, which come from "middle of the road" builders and are under 5 years old come at, (roughly), £35K bottom end to £55K top end, give or take. It is now more important than ever to ensure that you don't pay too much for the boat/builder/specification/condition/size/age of the boat of your choice. Using a surveyor before signing on the bottom line will help with this. In my case, in February 2009 I paid £46K for our boat that was advertised at £48K, had been on the market 12 months and started at £52K. It was in "as new" condition and recently blacked, with only 550 hours on the engine and full service history. I thought this was fair, as it came with the opportunity of taking over it's fantastic rural mooring, which was also one of my purchase objectives. In 2005, whilst visiting those brokers, generally there was nothing of any use under £40K. One example was a 1999 40 foot trad, of ownknown builder. The outside paint was ok, but internally, you have never seen anything like it! It was was a complete wreck, needed gutting and starting again. It was offered for sale by a very well known broker on The Leeds Liverpool at Chorley. The price? £40K. I actually offered £20K and it was refused. I am glad it was now! Do-uppers are now advertised everywhere for around £15K-£25K. These are my experiences only, and choice is a personal thing!
Baz Juniper said...
We hired both cruisers & semi-trads in the 90s before buying a 40' trad which we've used as a weekend boat with annual longer [2-3 weeks] trips. I like the trad stern as it maximises secure 'indoor' space and I am often found sitting to one side or another of the slide runners on a specially selected cushion, operating the throttle with my feet. However, as we drift towards retirement and longer cruises, we've decided that a stern where we can both sit out whilst under way would be less antisocial, so we'll be seeking a semi-trad, as neither of us like the look of most cruiser sterns. Trouble is, we also like portholes, and finding an affordable 58' ish semi-trad with portholes isn't going to be easy, if present brokerage adverts are anything to go by. Good luck!

Elly and Mick said...
Hi Doug & James, we have thought about the seating comfort on a semi trad stern - but with two of us, we hope we'll find one with seating each side so we can sit lengthwise with a cushion. When we hired in 2007 I loved to sit along the bow seats facing forward and reading a book. Bliss!

Elly and Mick said...
Hi Peter, I have a new project to look at now! My thoughts on cruisers being easier to sell weren't from any research of our own, only what a broker told us. Another blog reader said he had done a little project keeping track of how long a selection of boats took to sell but he was looking more at the pricing than the stern type. We do think a trad would be good for having a bit more internal space but with storage under the seats in a semi trad it's an ok compromise. It would have to be a really good trad to tempt us. We don't want one where you have to be an acrobat to get in and there would have to be a door between the engine room (or whatever room is at the back) and rest of the boat so heat doesn't escape when you're cruising in cool weather. We'd want a boxed in engine in a trad. How comfortable do you find the seating on your boat? Elly

Elly and Mick said...
Hi Baz, There certainly seems to be two teams on the cruiser stern issue - those who prefer the look of a boat with a trad stern (or semi trad for appearances sake) and those who think that's silly because the cruiser stern is more sociable. Now the porthole issue will have to be a whole new blog entry! Elly

Peter Berry said...
Doug and James are quite correct about the practicalities of the seating in a semi-trad. Yes, it is a simple bench with a hard metal void as a back cushion. But, personal thing again, I simply don't like the concept of cruisers. We generally cruise as a couple. The seating in our semi-trad cockpit is only suitable for 2 + the helmsperson who will be stood up, (or sat on a barstool sometimes). This compromise is better than anyone other than the steerer having to stand precariously on the side gunwhales if it was trad. Having thought about this now, it is most likely that I love the traditional lines but want the room for company. You will see different semi-trad designs have different levels of seating comfort. Grumpy Git for example looked ok with its large Dek-King finished side lockers, and raised seat for the steerer aswell. Ours is only 1 small bench, which has removeable upholstery and is ok just for the two of us, one steering, one sat. It isn't practical space for socialising when moored up though, as a cruiser obviously is.

Elly and Mick said...
Peter, we did see some semi trads with useless seating, or even no seating. We'll just have to hope we find a good one! We thought we could adapt the seating if necessary - between Mick's carpentry skills and me making some cushions we hope we'll come up with something we like. I think it's much nicer when you travel as a couple for the second person to have somewhere to sit and chat. This has been an interesting blog topic! Elly

Friday 11 February 2011

Trad, semi trad or cruiser

What is your preference and why?

We’ve talked a lot about which type of stern we want when we buy a narrowboat.  There seems to be quite definite opinions on the matter from other people we talk to as well.

The first we really though about the different stern types was over a cup of coffee with a couple we met when we hired a boat in 2007.  Ann said she had wanted a traditional stern but when they’d gone looking at second hand boats they’d found one perfect in every respect except that it was a semi trad.  She was happy with their choice in the end. 

The boat we hired had a cruiser stern.  To sit and chat to each other, we perched on the little taff rail boards – not very comfortable.  Cruiser stern fans say they prefer them because if there are visitors they can put a couple of chairs out there to sit on.  So maybe a couple of people could sit in a comfy chair, there wouldn’t be room for more than a couple and anyone else would be perching on the taff rail.

Our preference is a semi trad.  There is somewhere to sit for at least a couple of people.  We feel we’d rather make a choice that works best for the two of us rather than trying to find a good option for if we have visitors.  The visitors will be there maybe 5% of the time and the rest of the time just us.  We’ll work around it if we have somebody stay.

We’d probably consider a trad if we found a great boat.  There aren’t so many semi trads out there like there are cruisers.  We prefer the look of a trad or semi trad compared to a cruiser too.

We spoke to a couple of brokers about this preference when we looked at boats last October.  One thing we hadn’t considered was the ease of selling the boat again when we’ve finished with it.  It seems a cruiser is easier to sell because they are more popular.  The chattiest broker said if we won’t consider a cruiser then we should go for a semi trad.  It adds another consideration to the already long list!

Thursday 10 February 2011

Pick of the week - Sukama

From Great Haywood Boat Sales : Sukama
Sukama is sold since I put her on my list of favourites but worth a look anyway. 
I notice Grumpy Git is sold too.

Positives : good size stainless steel water tank, generator, cross double, separate cabin
Negatives : price (right at the top of our budget), purple walls and black paintwork

60ft Trad

Boat specifications
Plating specification : Steel 10/6/4
Flat V-Hull Or Keeled : Flat
Built by : Alexander
Fitted out by : Fernwood
Source Of Hot water : Calorifier/ Eberspacher/ Immersion
Central Heating : Eberspacher
Solid fuel stove : Yes
Water tank capacity : 140 gallons Stainless steel water tank
Engine make : Beta 43hp
No of cylinders : 4
Keel, water, air cooled : Keel
Gear box make : PRM 150
Bow Thruster : Yes
Diesel tank capacity : 40 gallon approx
Additional Notes : Twin alternators
12 Volt
240V landline : Yes
Inverter : Zelon 1800w inverter charger
Generator : 7kw travel power pack
Batteries : 1 starter, 4 leisure
Type of toilet : Pump out
Bath/Shower fitted : Full size corner shower
Vanity Basin : Yes
Fixed Berths : Cross double
Extra berths : L shaped seating converts into a double
& separate room at stern can be used for a single or double
Cooker : Yes
Fridge : Yes
Gas, 12 Volt or 240 volt : 240v
Vessel History
BSS : 2012
Maintenance : Blacked & new anodes September 2010
Recent Survey : 2008
Mooring Available : Yes
Additional Notes : Front cratch cover, solid oak floor, spray foam insulation

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Changing the name of a boat

Sue on nb No Problem commented about the name of the boat that was our pick of the week - Grumpy Git.

It got me thinking about changing the name of a narrowboat.  At least two of the people we've been in contact with have said they'd change the name of the boat they bought.  I'm not superstitious but there's a small part of me that has to wonder if it would be a good thing.  I recently saw part of a segment on a tv show that was talking about superstition and how ridiculous it sometimes is.  They were asking people to smash a mirror and then telling them to slap themselves on the shoulder with a dead fish to counteract the bad luck they may receive for breaking the mirror.  The dead fish thing was total fabrication.  Everyone who agreed to smash the mirror also did the fish on the shoulder thing.  Not one broke the mirror and then declined the dead fish.

So is it really such bad luck to change a boat name?  There really are some that I simply wouldn't be happy cruising around in with the name emblazoned on the side.  I've read of some little ritual to be done if you change a boat name to prevent the bad luck.  Here's a couple of websites with instructions!

I'm thinking of that dead fish and wondering if it's all a lot of rubbish.  But.... if we did fall in love with a boat with an awful name I might just have to come back to this post to check out those websites again.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Pick of the week : Grumpy Git

Here's one from Great Haywood Boat Sales : GrumpyGit

Positives : we would really like a reverse layout and the solar panel is a good extra.
Negatives : the water tank is smaller than we'd prefer.

54ft Semi Trad

Boat specifications
Plating specification : 10/6/5
Flat, V-Hull Or Keeled : Flat bottom
Built by : GWV Boat Builders
Fitted out by:  GWV Boat Builders
Source Of Hot water : Calorifier/Webasto/Immersion heater
Central Heating : Webasto
Solid fuel stove : Bubble stove
Water tank capacity : 90 Gallon Stainless steel water tank
Engine make : Mitsubushi 42hp
No of cylinders : 4
Keel, water, air cooled : Keel
Gear box make : PRM 1:50
Bow Thruster
Diesel tank capacity : 36 Gallon
Additional Notes : Twin alternators, battery management system
12 Volt : Yes
240V landline : Yes
Inverter : Victron 2.5kw inverter & charger
Batteries : 1 Starter, 4 leisure
Type of toilet : Techma pump out
Bath/Shower fitted : Shower
Vanity Basin : Yes
Fixed Berths : Double
Extra berths : L shaped dinette converts into a double
Cooker : Caprice Spinflo
Fridge : Shoreline & freezer
Gas, 12 Volt or 240 volt : 12v
Additional systems : Washing machine & side hatch
Vessel History
BSS : April 2011
Maintenance : Full service history
Recent Survey
Mooring Available : Yes
Additional Notes : Reverse layout. Front and rear cratch covers. Solid oak fit out. Hull
coated with epoxy two pack. 800w solar panel on the roof. Two side hatches. Lots of storage.

Daily in OZ

I've decided I'm going to start a second little blog to record what it's like each day at home.
Some days I stand outside and listen to the cicadas and think how much I'd miss that Summer sound.
But then..... with our recent wild weather I think I won't miss it!

One day when we're in the UK on our narrowboat and complaining about the English Winter I'll be able to look back at that day in OZ and maybe the Winter won't seem so bad. :)

I'll try and include a photo whenever I can as I've had a couple of requests for photos from Australia.
I've added a page at the top of this blog or here is a link :

Daily in OZ

Monday 7 February 2011

Reading blogs

We have learnt a lot about the narrowboating life from reading other peoples’ blogs.  There is a variety of different type of narrowboat blogs from people hiring a boat for a holiday and keeping a log of their trip to those for whom their narrowboat is their home.

Here’s a selection of some of the ones I’ve stumbled across and enjoy reading.  There are many more but there’s only so many hours in the day for reading blogs.

English retirees (continuous cruisers) – nb No Problem, nb Epiphany
Boat sharers – nb Debdale
Building a boat – nb Chance, nb Waiouru
People living on a residential mooring – nb Lucky Duck
Continuous cruisers from afar – nb Northern Pride, nb Gypsy Rover NZ, nb Gypsy Rover AU
Holidays – nb Kelly Louise
Business on a boat - nb Hadar , nb Tia

Now, about the business run from a narrowboat, I’ve also read of a fudge boat, a cheese boat and a lady who runs a hairdressing salon from her boat.   If you have a link for these or other interesting businesses on a narrowboat, leave a comment and I’ll update this blog entry to include them.

Meeting Aussie narrowboat fans

Yesterday we had coffee with Neal and Marie, another Aussie couple planning to buy a narrowboat.  They had left a comment on the blog saying they were also from central Victoria and that they also had an elderly dog to consider before they could head off to the UK.  We couldn't quite believe it when we discovered that they lived just 10 minutes down the road!  What a small world it is.

It's always nice to talk narrowboats with someone who is as enthusiastic about them as you are.  We chatted about other bloggers, and about the difficulties in planning from so far away.  We all just wish we could go browsing narrowboats on the weekend but we have to be content with pictures on the internet. 

I wonder which of us will get there first?

Sunday 6 February 2011

How our pipe dream became a plan

On our return home to Oz from our 2007 trip, I began reading narrowboaty things on the internet and one day stumbled across a blog about a retired couple who lived on their narrowboat : Sue and Vic on nb No Problem.  Goodness!  Now I had something to read on a regular basis, and reading I did – every single weekend. Our neighbours down the road shared a subscription to Canal Boat magazine with us and we waited eagerly each month for the magazine to arrive.

I daydreamed of us buying a narrowboat and cruising around the English countryside.  Mick must have thought I’d lost the plot.  We live on the other side of the world!  It took him some time after our return to get over his first overseas holiday.  He’d been homesick at the end and although he’d thoroughly enjoyed the trip (especially the few days on board the hire boat) he wasn’t thinking about the next trip like I was.  When I mentioned my narrowboat daydream he laughed it off.  Eventually he too started talking about our next trip

I kept showing him photos from the blog and reading him interesting entries.  We especially loved the fact that No Problem was also home to Lucy the border collie.

One day I clicked my way to another narrowboat blog and to my amazement the bloggers were from New Zealand!  It was Derek and Dot on nb Gypsy Rover.  I went right back to the beginning of the blog and read every single entry.  So there were actually people from our side of the world who were in England on their narrowboat.  If they can do it, so can we.  If I wasn’t addicted to reading these blogs before, I certainly was now.  Somewhere through 2008 Mick came round to the idea of spending a year in England on a narrowboat.  It would be our retirement plan. 

The start of 2009 saw us talking more and more about it.  Just like 10 years ago as our plan of retiring to our weekend home had turned into a two year plan to move out of the city, we started thinking of making our narrowboat dream a shorter term plan as well.  

Mick has worked like a Trojan for as long as I’ve known him (24 years now).  He does everything in a hurry.  I’m sure part of the reason he so much enjoyed narrowboating was the forced slow pace.  He now looks forward to his "long service leave", although being self employed he won't be paid for it. 

I was increasingly dis-heartened in the job I’d worked at for the better part of the last 20 years.  Amazing how one unpleasant work mate can change your entire feeling for your work.  Although I’ve learnt to deal with her regular put-downs and trouble-making, I certainly don’t feel as dedicated and enthusiastic about going to work.  I either need a good rest from the place (taking extended long service leave) or to get out altogether. 

So here we are, on a mission to achieve our next dream.

Our favourite boat is still for sale

Our favourite find when we looked at what was for sale during our trip in October 2010 was nb Pukeko.  Every week or two we check if it's still for sale - you never know, we might win lotto and be able to buy that boat.  :)

Pukeko was on our list of boats we liked before we left for our holiday and I think had been for sale for at least a couple of months before.  I wonder if there's a problem we don't know about - it seems a long time on the market!

We loved the interior of the boat and didn't mind that there was a little work to be done outside.  At this price we'd splash out on a new paint job!

The price has dropped to £42,950.  Here's a link again : nb Pukeko

Saturday 5 February 2011

A friendly boating community in 2007

We were introduced to narrowboating in 2007 when we hired a boat for a few days.  We were amazed and very pleasantly surprised at how friendly boaters were – even to a pair of inexperienced Aussie hirers.

Our first evening we moored at Stoke Bruerne and wandered down to the Navigation Inn to have dinner.   While standing on the towpath deciding where we would sit, Mick bent down to pat a gorgeous border collie that was stretched out at the end of one of the tables.   The owners said hello and when they heard our Aussie accents we got chatting.  Before we knew it we were sharing their table and ordering our dinner.  

Their names were Ann and Alan and were a lovely couple (we've since lost touch with them - I wonder if they'll ever see this blog).  They were heading in the opposite direction to us to take their narrowboat back to the marina where they kept it.  After dinner they invited us for coffee on their boat – the first privately owned narrowboat we’d ever been on and the first we’d heard of semi-trads.  We felt like we’d had our first narrowboat lesson.

Early next morning we were faced with the 7 locks leading out of Stoke Bruerne.  Having never worked a lock we thought we’d wait for another boat to be heading in our direction so we could share the lock.  We waited, and waited, and I walked across to ask the man on a coal boat if he was heading off that morning.  He said he’d gladly share the locks with us but wouldn’t be leaving for more a couple of hours.

Impatience got the better of us and we bravely decided we’d take our time and give the locks a go by ourselves.  The man from the coal boat saw us wave as we headed off and he yelled out that he’d walk down to the first lock and help us through.  We were grateful for his kindness and went on with confidence.

The following night I was in the galley preparing dinner when I heard Mick talking outside on the towpath.  I poked my head out to see a friendly face and another invitation for coffee on a narrowboat after dinner.  It was Leon and Rae on their narrowboat The Old Bovine.  They were the first people we’d met who actually lived on their boat and we went to bed that night thinking how nice it would be to have a long term holiday living on a narrowboat.  It was the planting of a seed in our minds although we didn’t know it at the time.

By the time we returned that boat to the base we knew those few days were to be the highlight of our trip.  We took every possible opportunity in the days following to lurk around locks and check out boats for sale.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

The 10 year patchwork project

Not at all narrowboat related but something I plan to be doing while we cruise.
It is a project I started a year ago at my once a month quilt group.  I call it the Hexagon Star Quilt.

Alison, one of my fellow group members, and I saw this quilt in the book "Quilts of Virginia, 1607-1899" and fell in love with it.  It comprises approximately 25,000 hexagons and the original quilt is displayed on a bed at "Scotchtown" in Virginia, USA.

Quilt on the bed at Scotchtown

Close up of quilt

Alison and I excitedly began what we knew would be a very long term project.  These hexagons are small - the blurb beside the photo in the book says they are 1/2 inch hexagons.  When I first looked at the size of a half inch hexagon I faltered - it seemed insane to make a large quilt out of pieces so small.  But... carried along by the quilt group's enthusiasm I made a start.  Now I'm addicted!

A month ago I received a panicked email from Alison saying the hexagons we were using were too big!!  How could that be?!  Well, sometimes hexagons used in quilting are measured by the size of one of the six sides and sometimes they are measured across the entire hexagon.  There is a BIG difference.  The ones we are making are 1/2 inch along one of the six sides. We can't see the quilt in person and the pieces looked so ridiculously small it never occurred to us that they could be too big.

Alison and I held an emergency coffee meeting at my place and looked at her calculations.  If we made the exact same quilt it would be 5 metres long!  Hmmm... rather too large for our bed.  We are adapting the size to suit our respective beds (Alison is buying a bigger bed so she can make a bigger quilt!).  We decided to make one of the star blocks in the correct size hexagons and use it for a label on the back of our quilts. I'm going to write a message on the label explaining that this is the size pieces used in the original quilt.

The upside of our error is that I now only need to make 18,000 hexagons. What a bonus!

My first few blocks

The single hexagon has a paper of the correct size on top - much smaller!

The correct size hexagon isn't even the size of my thumb nail

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Narrowboat Sponsorship

Before making the decision to sell our house to help finance our narrowboat adventure, we looked at other options for buying a boat.

We had been reading of the travels of Derek and Dot on  nb Gypsy Rover NZ and following their success with this option we considered a sponsorship boat.  The arrangement would be that you buy a new boat (some hire boat company’s have second hand boats for sponsorship) and a hire boat company “manages” the hiring out of the boat. The income is split between the boat owner and the hire company and there is usually a fixed term of 4 or 5 years.

The idea was appealing because the income would help pay for the cost of the boat.  We thought that by the time the sponsorship term was up we might be ready to take over the boat and spend a year or two on the canals ourselves.  We’d also get a narrowboat holiday each year in the meantime.  During a subsequent short stopover in the UK I visited Kate Boats  to investigate the sponsorship option and they were extremely helpful.  They had a sponsorship boat being built at the time and let me have a good look around it.  I was impressed.

Back in Australia we discussed the idea in depth.  But… with an elderly dog to consider we just couldn't predict when the time would be right for us.  The cost of the boat was more than we had intended to spend, and we also worried about having a boat built when we lived so far away.  The requirements of a hire boat are also not quite the same as what is necessary to live on a boat as a continuous cruiser.  We eventually decided the sponsorship option wasn’t for us.

Other hire firms that offer sponsorship :