Thursday 31 March 2011

Pick of the week - Clara-Em

This weeks pick is one I really like.  She's from Rugby Boats
Positives : the layout is exactly what we're after, good price, cross double

Negatives: no dinette (maybe you could fit a half dinette?)

Name: Clara-Em
Price:  £49,950
Style: Trad
Length: 57ft
Berths: 4
Shell builder: Stoke-on-Trent
Fit out: Stoke-on-Trent
Steel thicknesses: 10/6/4
Year: 2005
Boat Safety: September 2013
Engine: Beta B43 43hp 4 cylinder diesel
Hours recorded: 409
Gearbox: PRM 150
Fuel tank: Capacity not known
Last blacked: 2008
Anodes: 4
Engine serviced: By owner to schedule
Tank & capacity: Stainless steel unknown capacity
Stove: Bubble diesel fired stove
Central Heating: Bubble stove feeding 5 radiators
Hot Water: Calorifier heated by engine, Bubble stove and immersion heater
Alternators: Twin 12v: 1x 45A, 1x 95A
Batteries: 3x 110Ah leisure, 1x 110Ah starter battery
Inverter/charger: Sterling 1500w inverter, Sterling battery charger
230v: Shoreline and inverter, 13A sockets throughout
Lighting: Ceiling recessed halogen minispots throughout
Gas: 2 x 13kg propane bottles
Insulation: Sprayfoam
Ceiling: Pine T&G
Cabin sides: Ash faced ply
Hull sides: Pine T&G
Flooring: Wood laminate
Windows etc: 7 aluminium framed with drop back hoppers, 2 brass rimmed portholes
Side doors: 1 set in galley
Seating: 1 leather and wood easy chair with stool, folding table and chairs
Cooking: Freestanding gas oven and hob
Fridge: LEC 230v
Washing machine: Easilogic
Galley worktops: Laminate
WC: Sani-marin pump out
Shower: Fully tiled with glass door and mixer taps
Basin: Ceramic basin set in vanity unit
Berths: Extending cross double in bedroom, fold down double in rear cabin

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Air fare prices

Something we discovered quite by accident is that we pay more for airfares from Australia to the UK than you pay if you're in the UK and travelling to Australia.

The planning for our trip last year started with me booking a tickets to go to Germany, then to London, then home.  Mick said he wouldn't come as he doesn't get paid any annual leave but we wanted to learn more about boats for sale.  I wanted to see my German friend who is going through a tough time so I went ahead and made the booking.  Over the next few weeks Mick started saying more and more that he wanted to come too. I kept saying I'd book him tickets but he'd say "No, we'll save the money".  Eventually I got so tired of the "wish I was coming" that I just told him I was booking.  But... by then he couldn't get on the same flight as me so said he'd skip Germany and just meet me in London.

I had enough frequent flyers for one way so we only had to pay for the other direction.  I checked the prices and schedules each way and much to our amazement there was a huge difference which way we booked it.  The frequent flyer point cost was the same either way, but we saved more than $400 by paying for the ticket from London back to Melbourne.

I just did a quick comparison of Qantas fares on September 14 and returning September 28 - just out of curiosity, not because we are planning on going anywhere!  A return fare from Melbourne to London and back was $2,228 but the same dates from London to Melbourne and return was GBP 1,056 which is something like $500 less.

So, we'll be keeping this in mind when we get over to the UK.  If we want to come back to Australia to "visit" we need to check carefully, especially if we can partly use frequent flyer points.

Monday 28 March 2011

Trad with reverse layout

While browsing the internet for narrowboats for sale we came across something that we thought we wouldn't like.  The boat was a trad and it had a reverse layout.  I wouldn't think this would be a good thing for Winter.  If you have the inside of the boat warmed by the solid fuel stove or radiators and had the rear hatch open to stand there when cruising, surely all the warm air would escape out the door.  Perhaps lovely for the steerer but not very fuel efficient.

This layout diagram is from Boat Finder Brokerage

Sunday 27 March 2011

Selling our house

Firstly, I accidentally posted my draft of the next pick of the week!  Oh well, I have a few on my list at the moment.

We had originally intended to wait until Spring to sell our house.  Then, in light of me leaving my job (will we be able to finance another mortgage for 6 months or more?) and having spoken to our local real estate agent (who feels there's still plenty of buyers in Winter just not so many houses for sale) we decided we'd put the house on the market in June after our long weekend in New Zealand (don't you love those discount fares - $417 return for 2 of us!!). 

It was our 17th wedding anniversary yesterday and we went out for dinner.  It was a chance to talk about all this without interruption, and without the stress of my last week of work looming being at the forefront of my mind.  We went through the list of things we want to do around the house before we sell it.  The list really wasn't as daunting as we'd first thought.  Mick has made great progress in setting up our storage area out at his shed/workshop and he's taken quite a lot of the stuff from his shed at home already.  I can now really get stuck into packing boxes, with somewhere to take them all.

So now we're planning to spend the Easter break getting those things done and as soon as it's complete we'll ring the real estate agent.  We might be now looking at the end of April!  Or maybe into May.....

Pick of the week - Phoenix III

Today's pick is from Tollhouse Boat Sales : Phoenix III  GBP 44,000

Positives : the price, we like the paintwork, good cupboards, galley is big enough to fit a washing machine

Negatives : no dinette, it's a bit older than we'd planned on

Vessel name:Phoenix III
Vessel condition:Good
Vessel type:Traditional narrowboat
Designer:Nantwich Canal Centre
Builder:Measham Boats
Year constructed:2001
No. of engines:1
Engine model:Vetus M4
Engine power:33 HP
Fuel type:Diesel

Length over all:55'
Beam:6' 10"
Maximum draft:2'
Hull material:Steel
Hull type:Flat
Fuel capacity:200 Litres
Water capacity:500 Litres

1 starter battery and 3 12v leisure to inverter.
240v landline
All steel 10/6/5/4 plating
Fwrd. well deck with windowed cratch cover/glazed hardwood front doors.
Hopper style gilt windows.
Steel rear doors.
Sliding steel hatch
Open plan saloon with forward cupboards and Brunel solid fuel stove/radiator heated by Eberspacher D5W.

Galley: Space for fridge. Full size gas cooker. Tile splash back. Side hatch.

Bathroom: Shower/ Basin/ Thetford cassette toilet, radiator.

Bedroom: Double bed with ample cupboard space and hanging wardrobes, radiator.

Aft cabin housing engine / batteries / inverter and cupboards.

Friday 25 March 2011

Pick of the week - Gdansk

Yet another from ABNB Brokerage : Gdansk
I'm interested to know what people think of boats built by Aqualine.  Please comment.

Positives : Semi trad, lovely fitout of bedroom, standard layout, 2 side hatches
Negatives : No dinette

Price: £57,500
Length: 56ft 11in  

Builder: Aqualine 
Fitter-out: Aqualine  
Year registered: 2005  
Style: Semi-trad  
Safety Certificate: BSS 2013, RCD issued 2005
Engine: Isuzu 42 diesel  
Bowthruster: Vetus 12V 55kgf 4hp  
Plating: 10/6/5/4  
Last blacked: 2007
Fit-out materials: Hull sides in ash faced ply; cabin sides (saloon & galley) in ash-faced ply, diagonal ash t&g (toilet & aft cabin); deckhead in ash t&g, bulkheads in ash faced blockboard Insulation: Spray foam
Headroom: 6ft 4in 
Berths: 2  
Berth sizes: 6ft 2in x 3ft 9in permanent double (extends to 4ft 9in).
Mains Power: Landline, Victron Phoenix 2.5kVA pure sine wave inverter/charger, 3.5kVA 230V Dometic engine-driven
Cabin heating: Eberspacher diesel c/heating > 3 rads, s/f stove  
Water Heating: C/heating + engine > calorifier 
Water tank: 110gall (reported stainless steel)
Cooker: New World hob & oven - gas  
Fridge: 230V 4cu ft 
Washer/dryer: Candy Aquamatic compact washing machine  
WC: Vetus wc to remote tank  
Shower: in tiled cubicle with doors
Other: Glazed cratch with zipped vinyl cover with window panels; galley worktops in marble

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Narrowboat talk on Sunday

On Sunday we met up for lunch with Ray and Diane from Gypsy Rover.  Poor Gypsy Rover is over in the UK weathering out the Winter in a marina on her own.  Ray and Diane will join her soon and they'll be blogging again.  We're jealous but can't wait to start reading their blogs.  It will seem so much more personal now that we know them in person rather than just by email.  And... very exciting for Diane.... she'll get to "meet" Gypsy Rover in person.  We had a bit of a giggle about the fact that Mick and I have seen the boat but Diane hasn't!  After having read Gypsy Rover NZ blogs for years at least Diane feels that she knows her boat.

We had a lovely lunch at Hepburn Springs and chatted narrowboats for a couple of hours.  Mick actually managed to stay seated for more than 2 hours so the topic must have been interesting (he did get up and stretch his legs in between :)). 

We talked about our dogs.  Ray and Diane had intended to take their pooch with them to the UK (hmmm... might have to have a blog entry about taking pets to UK) but are now reconsidering.  It got us talking about our own dog, Coco.  She's the one thing holding us back from going.  I have just over one week left of work.... woohooooo... I've resigned!  We were talking about the fact that this would be a very good year for us to go.  Work is now not an issue, we've bought a cheaper house, we'll be selling ours in a couple of months, and our belongings are being slowly packed and stored.  It could, if we chose, be all systems go by about September.  Except for Coco.  Mick and I talked about this for the rest of the day, toying with the idea of letting her go and live with someone else. 

I think we'll just be patient.  We'd feel guilty about fobbing her off onto someone else - she's part of our family now.  Plus we'd have to really apply ourselves to the process to have everything in place by September / October.  We're better off taking our time and seeing what happens next year.  Who knows what will happen or how we'll feel about things by then.  After several years of constant stress at work I just want to enjoy being stress free.

Patience, patience, patience....

Monday 21 March 2011

Narrowboat names

We read with interest the names of boats for sale in our boating magazines.  There are names that we simply couldn't live with, names that we really like... and in between... those that are fine and we could live with them.  A look through Jim Shead's boat name listing is interesting.  I often wonder how and why people have come up with the names they've chosen.  I particularly like the names that have a story behind them or a reason for them coming about : nb Epiphany

There are animal names : Aardvark, Badger, Barn Owl, Armadillo, Kiwi
And many, many boats with "human" names : Kelly Louise, Matilda Rose
Australian names : Aborigine, Rainbow Lorikeet, Kookaburra, Aussie Blue
Canal names : Aim 4 The Bank, Lock 'n' Roll
"Getting away from it all" names : Aint We Blessed, Dream Drifter, No Problem, Be-Calmed
Cute names : Lucky Duck, Tickety Boo
Names from the owners initials : Eninjay, Em-Jay
Or from the owners surname : Moore2Life, 4Evermoore 

Some of my favourites :
The Flying Finn (my mum's from Finland and it was a lovely boat too!),
Lady River Mouse (a sweet name which is an anagram of "live your dreams").

Meanwhile we keep dreaming about what our boat might be called.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Helmsman course

There is a several places offering RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman's Courses.  We feel it will be money well spent for us both to attend one of these.  At first we thought we'd both go along to a one day course but it isn't all that much more to have them come to you.  Much better to learn on your own boat.

We're hoping to learn a better way of bringing the boat in to the canalside than our method when we hired.  We had many an onlooker giggle at us.  We'd just aim the boat slowly towards the bank, with me standing on the bow ready to jump off with rope in hand.  I'd leap off with the centre rope and drag the rest of the boat in to the bank.  The whole process wasn't very skillful.  I think it's a bit like reverse parking - you just have to learn how to do it properly.

Here are some of the available courses I've found :
 Helmsman's Course at £130 each per day.
 Helmsmans Course for 2 persons (own boat) £310 per day.
Helmsman's Course at £130 each per day, maximum 3 persons per course.
An exclusive Helmsmans Course for 2 persons only, at £325 per day.
RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Course (1 Day) £125

RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Course (2 Day) £225

RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Course – Own boat (1 day) £350
One day IWHC course at £115.00 per person
Two day IWHC course at £220.00 per person
Own boat tuition for the IWHC course £POA

Saturday 19 March 2011

Financial considerations

Aside from the cost of buying a narrowboat there are many others we need to consider in our budget.

Firstly, there are the costs of airfares, accommodation and car hire for the time we’ll need to look for the right boat.  We’re hoping that if we do some homework before we leave, and immediately get stuck into our search on arrival, we should be able to look at any boats that fit our criteria and make a decision within a couple of weeks.  We pretty much have the attitude that there are a finite number of boats available at any one time so it’s just a matter of choosing the one that best fits our requirements.  We don’t want to get in a situation where we keep waiting to see if more come on the market in case something better comes along.

The next issue may be if we were to choose a boat that isn’t just sitting in a marina waiting for a buyer to come along and take it away.  For example, a liveaboard selling their boat may need time to arrange other living accommodation.  In this case our accommodation costs may be even higher.

Another major financial consideration will be if the boat we choose needs modifications or maintenance.  It’s likely there will be some things we’d rather change so it will depend who urgent or important those things are.  We’ll definitely keep this matter in mind when considering our boat buying budget.

We intend to book ourselves in for a helmsman’s course.  I’ll look into what is available and the costs involved.  Blog entry coming up.

How much will it cost to live?  This subject has been covered in many variations on other blogs.  The expenses we’ll need to consider are : insurance, BW licence, servicing and maintenance, diesel, other fuel (gas/coal), food, communications (mobile phone/internet).  I'll post a separate entry on estimates for these.

How do you support yourself?  Our budget includes enough money to support ourselves for 12 months.  If we are able to pick up some work along the way, no matter how little or poorly paid, we could possibly extend our trip.  The other option I’m hoping to pursue is to find work now, at home, that I could continue with while we cruise.  Thanks Ray, you put this idea in my head!  I have now resigned from my present job and once I’ve worked my notice, I’ll see what I can find to suit this possibility.

So there's a lot to consider and I'm sure this list will grow!

Friday 18 March 2011

Pick of the week - Carapace

Again from ABNB : Carapace 

Positives : Ticks pretty much every box, has travel power, solar panels
Negatives : We aren't keen on the strange rear slider, the two half mattresses would be a nuisance for making up the cross bed.  I'd rather a smaller fill in section of mattress.

Price: £62,500
Length: 58ft 6in  
Builder: Neil Hudson  
Fitter-out: Severn Valley Cruisers  
Year registered: 2005  
Style: Trad  
Safety Certificate: Bss May 2013
Engine: Shire 45 diesel  
Bowthruster: None
Plating: 10/6/4
Last blacked: 2011
Fit-out materials: Oak trhoughout with out trim 
Insulation: Spray foam
Headroom: 6ft 4in  
Berths: 2+2  
Berth sizes: 6ft 3in x 6ft 0in perm cross bed double OR 6ft x 4ft lengthways double; 6ft 3in x 4ft 0in Pullman dinette
Mains Power: Landline, 1800W Inverter, 3.5kVA 230V Travel Power alternator
Cabin heating: Diesel central heating powered by Webasto & Bubble stove  
Water Heating: C/heating + engine + 230V immersion > calorifier  
Water tank: 140galls Stainless steel
Cooker: Spinflo Midi Prima oven & grill - gas  
Fridge: 12V 4cu ft fridge (12V freezer also available) 
Washer/dryer: Zanussi Aquacycle compact washer  
WC: Thetford Swivel seat Cassette 
Shower: /in tiled cubicle with curtain
Other: Special rear slide gives good headroom. 50% lights LED. Solar panels, One private owner from new.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Mail forwarding - update

From comments left on my previous entry about having mail dealt with, I've looked into a few other offerings of this service.  We would prefer a service where you can pay as you go rather than having to pay a membership fee.  Most Australians would have their mail back home dealt with by a family member or friend.  For us, thhere would only be a handful of items within the UK.

Other than UKPostBox there was another suggestion called Boatmail that also offers the service on a pay as you go basis.

Here are the links to their fee pages :

For those who may want to investigate other services where there is a monthly or yearly fee payable :
Waterways Mail
Ship to shore

Monday 14 March 2011

When is the best time of year to buy a narrowboat?

We should have some flexibility in the timing of when we leave for the UK.  When we were over there last October looking at boats, there was a lot to look at and new ones coming up for sale all the time.  It got us thinking about when the best time would be to go.

Some people have told us that the end of Winter is a good time – say February/March.  The Winter is over and the boat sales start moving again.  Those boats that have been for sale over the Winter and not sold might see price reductions.

I would think that in the month or two before Summer would be a busy time for people buying boats in time for Summer holidays.  That would mean more buyers competing for the boats that are for sale.  I guess for sellers, they might think that the best time to put their boat on the market to catch that peak buying time, so more boats for sale. For us to go at this time of year would mean a good six months of easier weather so we could be familiar with our boat by the time we meet up with Winter.

We’ve also had people say the end of Summer is the best time for buyers.  Boat owners planning to sell may spend one last Summer using their boat and sell at the end.  There is also the consideration that if there are less buyers – and with Winter looming I wouldn’t think it would be a time that UK folk would be looking to buy a boat – perhaps the prices would be competitive.  Buying in September/October would mean heading straight on into Winter in just a few short weeks.

Opinions on this subject most welcome!

Sunday 13 March 2011

How can you receive mail while cruising?

One of the things we looked into a while ago was what to do about receiving your mail if you don't have someone who will allow you to use their address for your mail. There will be things that will need to be sent like bank statements, insurance documents, BW licence etc.

We've discovered a service called  They give you an address to use for having your mail sent and then forward the mail on to wherever you want.  Or... they'll scan the mail for you to read.

There are various payment options : Pricing
For most people in our situation there wouldn't be a large volume of mail so the pay as you go service would be the best for us.

So the next question is how to get the mail from  Royal Mail offer a service called Poste Restante where you can have mail sent to a post office and then collect it from there.  Royal Mail say this service is "subject to operational capability".  I guess that means you'd want to ring ahead to the post office and check that they will accept your mail on this basis.
More info :  Poste Restante

Saturday 12 March 2011

Pick of the week - Hill Top

This one is from Whilton Marina : Hill Top
Price: £49,950
Positives : washing machine, we like the blue exterior, open plan, space for a half dinette, the name reminds me of Beatrix Potter!
Negatives : we're not overly keen on the white kitchen cupboards, Mick would rather not have a walk through bathroom, it says no central heating but there are radiators in the photos (could we have a boiler installed?)

Boat Specifications
Boat Type : Traditional
When Manufactured : 2003
Length : 56  
Hull Manufacturer : Piper Boats
Plating Specification : 10/6/4/4mm
Flat, V-Hull or Keeled:  Flat
Fitted out by : BP Boatbuilders
Cabin Height : 6ft 6"
Engine Specifications & Components
Engine Make: Beta 43 (61hrs)
No. Of Cylinders: Four
Gearbox Make : PRM 150
Diesel Tank Capacity : 45 gallons
Hot Water & Heating Systems
Source of Hot Water : Immersion, engine & Backboiler to stove
Central Heating: None
Solid Fuel Stove : Morso Squirrel
Water Tank Capacity : 110 gallons
Material used : Stainless steel
Electrical System & Components
12 Volt Lighting : Yes
240 Volt Landline : Yes
Inverter : Mastervolt 2Kw
Generator : Electrolux 3.5kw
Batteries : 4 domestic & 1 Sarter
Bathroom Specifications
Type Of Toilet : Thetford cassette
Bath Fitted : No
Separate Shower Fitted : Yes
Vanity Basin Fitted : Yes
Kitchen Specification
Make & Model Of Cooker : Valor Vanette GG7000
Separate Hob : Vanette 4000/2
Microwave Fitted : Yes
Make & Model Of Fridge : Lec
Gas, 12 volt or 240 volt : 12 volt
Additional Systems : Fridgidare freezer 240 volt
Fit Out Materials
Insulation Used : Spray foam
Types Of Wood Used : Oak panel & ply
Window Types : Hopper
Materials Used : Gold anodised
Bulls Eye, Pigeon Box or Houdini Hatch : None
Exterior Doors : Front wood & steel rear
Side Hatches : Yes
Front & Back Covers : Front cratch & cover
History Of Vessel
Boat Safety Certificate : 2011
Last Hull Blacking : March 2011
Anodes : 4 Replaced March 2011
Recent Survey : Hull surveyed March 2011
Additional Information : Washing machine

Thursday 10 March 2011

Businesses on narrowboats - update

I have stumbled across a few more businesses run from narrowboats.  What a wonderful way to work each day.  I saw mention of a "jewellery boat" and also these :

Book Barge - what a lovely idea.  Moored at Barton Marina.

The Cheese Boat - or should I say "boats" as there is now two of them.  You can look on the website for their upcoming locations.

Tiller Cycles  - now this is a novel one!  A bike shop on a narrowboat.  Located between Leamington Spa and Braunston.

Ice Cream Boat - great idea for Summer.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Why didn't I have this on my "to do " list!

I don't know why I didn't think to put this on my list of things to be done before we can begin our adventure but it certainly should have been.  Yesterday I resigned from my job.  I had thought I would be doing this a couple of months before we were going - unless it was possible to take extended long service leave. 

Things at work have been difficult for a good couple of years and since Christmas I've become increasingly stressed about it.  Last Thursday morning I woke up and decided that on Monday I'd tell my employers I was leaving.  I haven't found new employment to go straight into but I have to give 4 weeks notice so I'm sure things will work out.  I'm hoping to find something that I can at least partly do from home and maybe I can continue doing some of that work while we're cruising.

I knew it would be difficult.  I first worked for these guys at 20 years old.  I had a couple of years break when my health was letting me down but it's now almost 12 years since they convinced me to come back.  It was a traumatic day yesterday.  I felt sad, the nice boss was sad, the other staff were sad. The only staff member who causes grief in the office doesn't work Mondays so at least I didn't have to deal with her. The stressful boss wasn't in either and I know he won't just let me quietly work out my notice.  So today will be.... well.... stressful.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Pick of the week - Rowan Jacob

This one is from Harral Brokerage.  Comments on boat builders would be most welcome.
There isn't a huge amount of info on this boat but it seems like it could suit.
Positives : Good size wardrobe,
Negatives : Dinette is L-shaped,

Name: Rowan Jacob
Price: £49,950
Style: Trad
Length: 57 feet
Year: 2006
Builder:  Triton Boatfitters on a John White shell
Large living room, solid fuel stove, L-shaped dinette,  cassette wc.  Vetus 42hp, inverter plus charger, solar panel. 

Thursday 3 March 2011

NHS medical - update

Now it doesn't seem to be too clear, but from what I've read you need an NHS number to access NHS services.  It might be that this is a fairly recent thing because previously it appears you used your NI (National Insurance) number for this purpose.  The NI number is necessary to work.  
This web site talks about the NHS numbers :  NHS Number