Daisypath - Anniversary

Thursday, February 5, 2015

One Year afloat, a summary of our experience.

This post is mainly for the benefit of some of our readers we know are beginning down the road towards living the dream.  Whilst we are still relative new comers we thought we would pass on our limited experience of living aboard AmyJo so far.

AmyJo was launched on a bright but cold morning of 30th November 2014 at Crick marina. She was the result of 4 years of research, planning and life changing experiences. Chris and I have lived on her pretty much full time since July 2014 so here is a brief summary of our experience.

Once AmyJo’s base plates were laid our journey towards our dream had finally started to be reality. To say we were like school kids getting a new toy was an understatement. We revelled in every detail of the experience, loving every last second of the build. We would savour every new fitting and furniture that went into AmyJo at each visit and pinched ourselves each time to remind us that this boat was really ours and no one else’s. Fernwood Boats, our builders, provided us with a boat we are extremely proud of and one that gets many admiring glances and comments where ever we go. She is our first boat and her design, whilst may not suit many, is exactly what we wanted. We listened to boaters during our design phase and one piece of advice became our mantra. Build her for you, not anyone else as they will only be guests, you will be the ones living on her. Sound advice we have since found out.

Our plan was to enjoy her at weekends and holidays then move aboard when we retire. This took a rather unexpected turn after we actually got AmyJo on the cut. We launched at Crick Marina to be there for the boat show but we always knew we would bring AmyJo home to Cheshire that year and so in July we took a three week holiday to cruise her up to Tattenhall marina on the Shropshire union canal. This would give us a taste of what life would be like as live-a-boards. It also meant we would find out what worked and what did not, what we needed to purchase and what we had we did not need.

The weather gods favoured us and we enjoyed three weeks of perfect weather. We cruised up the Coventry canal onto the Staff and Worcester then onto the Shropshire union managing the 119 miles in just two weeks by cruising 6 hours every day. We then found time to cruise into our home town of Chester for a few days. AmyJo performed faultlessly and we fell in love with her. We soon learnt how she handled and along the way got several very useful tips from the more experience boaters who we had great pleasure in meeting. To them we are eternally grateful.

The trip over we returned home and back to our old life ashore. In short time the mundane routine of work, cook, housework and sleep drove us both mad and in just 4 days we could stand no more so we moved back aboard AmyJo and have been aboard ever since.  Our eldest daughter Amy has suddenly became a tenant in her own home whilst we are enjoying life afloat. We still work for now but living on AmyJo gives us the feeling of being permanently on holiday when onboard. Another advantage - if we choose to cruise there is no need to pack as we take our home with us.

Life aboard a narrow boat for us is most enjoyable but for someone who is thinking of following suit there are a few things that one needs to be prepared for that may put some off.

In the early days we quickly found out that you have to adapt to new routines. Chris and I both work, so in the mornings getting ready takes a little longer. With only one bathroom and no hot water we had to wait for the kettle to boil to provide wash water. AmyJo has an immersion heater fitted for use when hooked up to the mains but it originally only had an on/off switch. We had this replaced with a timer so now we have hot water every morning when in the marina. No use when cruising of course, so then we rely on either the kettle on the cooker or running the engine to heat water.

On the subject of water we found our use of it has changed due to the fact we only have a finite amount stored onboard that, when used, naturally has to be topped up. The 400litre tank provides ample water but like other boaters we choose to conserve where we can. Take having a shower. At home one would run the water constantly whilst taking our ablutions. On a boat this would run most of the water out so we run the water to get wet. Turn it off whilst soaping and then on again to rinse off. This way less water is used and this helps delay filling up again. This could also be applied at home during water shortages or hose pipe bans.

Another topic of conversation favoured by many boaters it seems is the subject of toilets. Some favour pump out macerator loos whilst others favour porta potties. On good advice of seasoned boaters we have both on AmyJo. If you are frozen in for days or weeks out on the cut you cannot always reach a pump out facility when needed but with the porta potty this is not a problem as it is portable. If you have a pump out an adage one boater told us to prolong time between pump outs is, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down”. Now some of you may turn your nose up at this but reasonable application, and if one knows it will be a while before accessing a pump out, this may actually help until the facilities can be reached. 

Another area we have learnt to adapt is cooking. Some boats are all electric with generators providing sufficient power for the appliances. AmyJo has a gas cooker and oven and unlike some we do not have a microwave, therefore cooking vegetables has to be done the conventional way in a saucepan. The same applies with washing up. Our dishwasher is very economical as it consists of us using dish cloths and tea towels.

When at the house broadband internet was everything for both the girls and us. I could work from home using the internet. Having migrated from Essex to Chester social media is key in helping us stay touch with the family. Our aging parents have now discovered FaceTime so we regularly speak face to face more now than we ever did when we lived just round the corner to them. AmyJo has a GSM wireless router and our EE 4G package copes well with the demand we put on it each month. Its costly at £30/p/m but we consider that well spent.

One question we are constantly asked is “Now its cold are you warm enough on the boat?” or “How on earth do you keep the boat warm?” Well in this day and age its easy. Narrow boats can still have all the mod cons of a house, just in a smaller space that all. Modern spray foam insulation on a boat stands in for cavity insulation on a house and if applied correctly spray foam is more effective. We do have central heating, all be it powered by an EberSpacher diesel heater, that is also providing the hot water to the radiators. In addition, again on good advice of seasoned boaters, we opted for a log burner as well. So whilst frozen in and diesel reserves are very low we can still keep warm using the log burner. Our little hobbit multi-fuel stove can keep the boat as warm as 27°C quite easily if needed. Burning coal or wood we should never be far from a supply of fuel. One can also tap into local timber merchants for offcuts, another source of cheap fuel.

To anyone considering buying a narrow boat I’ll be honest here and say living the dream is not all what programs like Waterways make it out to be. It’s not all romantic scenery, cute villages with picture book pubs and pleasant boaters giving cheery waves as they pass by (though most do) but it is very rewarding none the less. For the newcomer there is a steep learning curve so my one piece of advice is do your research and definitely, without reservation, do hire boat holidays at different times of the year to be sure. Living aboard full time is nothing like living aboard for two weeks. It will take a time to adjust and settle in. One will learn to keep only what you need to save space. You will conserve water by turning taps off in the shower to soap up then on to rinse off. Put thicker jumpers on rather than waste another log until you can resupply. For all this your reward will be the natural wonders this country has to offer and over 2000 miles of garden to enjoy along the way. I could never tire of waking up to a view like this:-

Like I said at the beginning we're still novices ourselves but boating is one lesson Chris and I are truly enjoying so to summarize would we change anything now we are boaters? Absolutely not! We love our new way of life so much retirement cannot come soon enough. We simply cannot wait to “up pins” and “do the network” full time. Who knows we may cross paths one day.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Not a boaty post but a milestone in any case

Our lack of posts is down to the fact that sitting in a marina all the time does not give interesting reading.  Topped up the water again,  Lit the fire again.  Went to the pub again.  Move to the pump out and topped up with diesel and so on.....all the mundane chores of life in a marina,  Spring and summer can't come soon enough.

Excitement of the week.....We took AmyJo off the mooring yesterday and moved all of 65ft.  Yes that is AmyJo's length and all we did was to turn her the other way round and put her back on the mooring.  Reckon that must count as the shortest cruise we have had ever. Oh the temptation to head for the marina entrance and keep going, but we overcame.    

All this just to sweep the log burner flue hat was on the offside of the mooring.  I wanted it nearest to the jetty so I would not go swimming at the same time.  As AmyJo's flue is dead straight it was a simple matter of extracting the baffle plates from the fire and brushing them out side, and then inserting the flue brush a few times pulling it up and down the flue.

All went according to plan and the fire was soon put back together.  With blackened wrists and hands I was quite pleased with myself on a job well done, until that is, I turned round to be met by a stony faced Chris brandishing a cloth with obvious deposits of soot on it.  She had wiped down the galley worktop and was surprised to see the soot on the cloth and was not amused.  It would seem the sweeping of the flue had somehow let the soot back into the cabin despite ensuring the doors on the fire were closed.  I guess emptying the ash tray afterwards had allowed the soot to permeate through the boat as far as the bathroom leaving a very fine film on surfaces.  As punishment I spent the rest of the day washing everything down to remove it.  Note to self.  Next time take more precautions to cover up! Mind you at least AmyJo got an early spring clean so there has to be an upside is there not?

Chris's mood lifted, however, when the post arrived and in it was a letter from  our mortgage company.  I hate letters from them as the statements always leave me depressed knowing all our hard earned cash is going to them.  Not this time though.  Attached to the letter was also a nice fat cheque.  Our main endowment had matured with sufficient money to pay of our mortgage.  An added bonus it also left us with a nice lump sum of money left over.  This will be used to have the house drive re-laid as the current one is in very poor state.    Sure does feels good to be mortgage free at last!  Think we're going to have a good year this year.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in summary.

What a year 2014 has been for Chris and myself.  AmyJo is now a year old and has brought us many happy memories in that time. 

She still gives us much joy and now we seem to have moved onboard permanently she heralds a new phase in our lives that we are both enjoying immensely.  We simply cannot imagine life without AmyJo now as she has become an integral part of our lives.

So what did we get up too last year?

Our first longish Cruise in 2014 took us to Braunston and back in January with the weather cold but bright.  Freezing weather and thin ice gave us a taster of winter life aboard.  The stunning morning frost made us enjoy the life even more and cemented our desire to become liveaboards.  On the return Chris took charge and helmed AmyJo through Watford Locks for the first time with great success.

Morning frost at Braunston Marina
Chris dwarfed in her first lock at the helm of AmyJo
Our next big cruise took us further a field at Easter and in 6 days we cruised to the Saltisford arm where we met up with convalescing Keith and his good wife Jo on Hadar.  2014 has not been a good year for Keith as his health was not at its best.  When we met them he was making a slow but steady recovery.

We spent a day with them catching up as we had met them at Elesmere Port and Chester the previous year.  They have become valued friends and we often keep in touch via the blogs now days.  Keith is still not 100% but he  has improved as time goes on with the odd set back.  We can't wait to meet them again for a chin wag.

By a chance (scuse the pun) read of nb Chance's blog I found Doug and James had managed to get their blog pages in print.  We could not resist and so we now have a complete year of AmyJo's build from our blog posts immortalized in hard back.

As time when on we started to settle into the routine of commuting to Crick marina at weekends and settled into life getting used to all the vagaries of life aboard.  Chris reveled in trying out her new travel iron/hair dryer which proved a great success.

As we were staying in Crick Marina it would have been remiss of us not to attend the show in May to give Fernwood's our support.  We showed many prospective customers around AmyJo and we know they got at least two orders with our help.  Of course we had the usual show weather with a sudden heavy burst of hailstones literally thrown in.

In June we had a royal visit from a very special lady, Mary, Chris's mum came for the day with friend Derek and Vicky.  Disabled with one leg Mary was helped aboard and shown around AmyJo followed by a cruise and lunch in the Moorings.  A lovely sunny day brought more happy memories.
Mary helped onboard using the Ikea Chair lifting method
Best friend Derek relishes his first ever trip on a narrow boat during
Mary's visit.
Later in the month after sorting out a coolant leak that set off alarms we took ourselves off for another cruise this time to Whilton Marina.  Whilst moored there we had the good fortune to meet Mortimer Bones who we consider a celebrity in boating circlesBones, as she likes to be known, writes a column for the canal boat magazine and cruises in her free time.  On this trip Chris managed to get in some more helm time too

Mortimer Bone's boat of the same name

Chris enjoying her time at the helm
July was the month of our big adventure of the year, our trip home to Tattenhall Marina.  With mixed feelings we left our berth in Crick.  Sad to leave new found friends Barbara and Andy of nb Outlaw's dream behind, apprehensive of what lie ahead and excited to finally being able to spend more time on AmyJo.

Our trip could not have been better timed and we enjoyed three weeks of the best weather of the year.  Gloriously warm sunny days lay ahead

Waters new but which way, Coventry of course Chris.

Our fav mooring of the trip in All Oaks wood

Water Explorer allowed us to plot progress on the cruise
 At Hawksbury junction we ran into (but not literally) more boating celebrities in the form of John and Fiona Slee in their boat Epiphany.  Canal boat magazine readers will be familiar with Fiona's coumn of their travels around the country.  John and Fiona have cruised pretty much all of the network now.  Unfortunately no free moorings meant we could not stop for a chat with them.

John and Fiona round the junction at we enter it.
During the cruise we got to know AmyJo and how she handles.  We found that her design was working well for us, so much so within the first week we felt completely at home in her.  She swims really well and once you get to know her ways is a doddle to handle in tight situations.  In fact it was asked if AmyJo was remote controlled once by a boater who had witnessed one of my better manouvers.

Fradley Junction and the iconic Swan Pub bathed in sun
Along the way we stopped in some lovely places like this one at Gnosall

and navigated some narrow stretches like this one called the Grub Street cutting

The weather was fantastic giving us the opportunity to explorer Market Drayton on market day.  Here we lunched in a converted cinema and then soaked up more sun wandering around the market stalls.

Next was our marathon locking day through a very busy Audlum due to an historic boat rally.  We locked down 20 locks in total in 30C temperatures and were grateful many locks were sheltered by the trees.

We made better time than we thought we would so with another week in hand we cruised up into our home town of Chester and braved the deep Northgate locks to spend a great night in the basin being visited by many friends.

Northgate top lock

Finally after 3 weeks of constant cruising AmyJo brought us home to Tattenhall marina where we have been ever since.

AmyJo's current mooring in the marina.
 We stayed at home in the house for just 4 days and hated it.  We missed life aboard AmyJo so much we left the house in the good hands of our eldest daughter Amy to look after it and moved back onto AmyJo.  We now only go home for the post and occasional visits, spending as much time as we can on AmyJo.  She is now considered our home.

Over the months we have made many new friends at the marina starting whilst attending a massive hog roast laid on by the marina.  Below are pictures of us with some of our pontoon neighbours.

Recently we had our last cruise of the year up the Llangollen canal for a week.  Sadly we only had time to get as far as Whitchurch but vowed to return this year to cruise the full length probably in April so watch out for our posts on that cruise.

Wrenbury Mill and lift bridge
Now winter has arrived we are finding new experiences living aboard and have made a few refinements to help keep us warm like my home made secondary glazing that keeps condensation at bay and helps keep AmyJo warm and snug.  An added bonus we found is it also help to eliminate external noise as well not that there is much where we are.

One of our home made glazing units that also acts as a porthole bung

So that was 2014, here is hoping 2015 is equally as good if not better.  We've lived on AmyJo for six months now so I thought I'd let you all know how that has been for us in another post sometime.   

Until then we hope you have a great year and all your dreams come to fruition.  Have good health and peace.  Do comment from time to time if you feel the urge as we really do love to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year!

Chris and I would like to thank all our readers for taking the time to read our mutterings and would like to thank you all for your comments and support.

To those of you we have met and are yet to meet

May the new year bring health, wealth and happiness to you and yours

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Condensation Cure and Santa's new job

Hi all.
         We have been pottering around on the mooring over the last few weeks only slipping the lines to Diesel up and pumping out since our last post.  We've  kept our routine of work during the week and chillaxing at weekends as the weather has closed in.

Like others we have been keeping warm with the little Hobbit stove working well to keep us warm and snug on board.  My Eucalyptus logs are burning a treat and I've also manage to source a very cheap supply of offcuts from a local builder's merchant who is only too keen to let myself and others have his waste for a modest fee.   We both win.  £18 got me a one ton sand bag full of timber of all sizes.  Should keep us warm for a while and bonus, they will store it in their warehouse for me too so I can take what I need when I need it.

Also like others we have been dealing with condensation on the Houdini hatches and port holes that was getting a real problem but I've found a very effective and reasonably cheap solution.  For £10 per port hole I have purchased custom cut 3mm sheets of perspex with a 3mm hole drilled.  I surrounded this with 10mm "U" channel rubber and this assembly slips neatly into the porthole liner creating an effective secondary glazing unit.  I only made one to start with but the difference was amazing even in very cold weather. I soon ordered and made up more for the other portholes.

This porthole does not have the DIY secondary glazing and on a fairly mild
night condensation can be see running down the glass

This one does and is perfectly clear apart from my finger prints when
I put it in for the photo
 What is nice about these units is they can barely be seen as you can see from the photo above.  Only the rubber around the edge shows.

We also wanted to add the secondary glazing to the bedroom portholes but this meant that the porthole bungs would not stay in place as the space would now be too thin to take them.  Fortunately the perspex supplier,  theplasticman(Click), provides the perspex in different opaque colours as well so we opted for white.  This meant the porthole bungs would not be needed until the warmer weather arrives.  By the way the rubber I sourced from Seals direct (Click) and fits perfectly.  I joined it end to end to make a ring with a dab of Chryanolite super glue, also available from the same supplier.

Bedroom glazing unit in place and doubles as a bung too. 
The reason for the 3mm hole drilled in the perspex is t0 allow a small cord to be fixed so the units can be pulled out of the liner as they are a snug fit.  You can just make this out in the photo above.  Another advantage of the white perspex is even on a dull cloudy day a soft diffused light is allowed in whilst modesty is preserved.

So far these units have kept condensation to a bare minimum only misting very slightly when Chris is cooking.  It does mean we cannot open the portholes when they are in but as they are easily removed we just take them out and open the porthole if needed.

Our other problem was the Houdini hatches that poured condensation every evening to such an extent it was beginning to turn the wood black.  After reading about Tom's solution on b Waiouru (Click) with foam I decided to give it a go myself.  I bought 50mm thick blocks and although ours are not as elegant looking as Tom's our condensation troubles have also been cured here too.

Not as professional looking as Tom's but does the job
Finally, do you get the Boater's Update emails from C&RT?  If not have a look at the latest edition (Click).  We got a mention in T'other highlights!

Oh I nearly forgot, Santa has found himself another job at the marina in the lead up to Christmas...

Santa Wind sock at the marina

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy Birthday AmyJo

Today we celebrated that fact that it is exactly one year today that AmyJo was launched at Crick marina.
Since then we have travelled 395 miles, locked through 150 locks, passed under 2025 bridges, 6 lift bridges and passed through 13 tunnels.  Not bad considering we are weekenders

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Splash down

Not had much to blog about since our last run out.  

We did get a visit from Richard and Sharon on nb Oakapple in the early evening when we got back and whilst we sat chatting Mark and Corrine from  nb Dee O Ghee called to say hello,  so the kettle was soon back on and the lemon drizzle cake demolished.   Later that evening we had arranged to meet up with Richard and Sharon along with our mooring neighbours Paul and Shella in the marina clubhouse for a drink but when we got there at 8pm they had just closed the bar.  We quickly arranged transport and de-camped into Tattenhall and spent a great evening in the Sportsman's Arms instead.

This weekend the weather looked quite promising.  Chris needed to do some Christmas shopping in Chester so this morning we prepared AmyJo for the off and cruised into town.

View from the cratch as we slipped the mooring this
 We had a lovely slow run past the Golden Nook moorings with the sun warm on our backs.  Many moan about these moorings but for us its a time to chill and wind down as we pass the moorings.  By the time we reach the far end of them we are as relaxed as we can be

Looking back towards Golden Nook moorings
 We passed a few boats on our way towards Waverton and then passed through Egg bridge.  If you intend to stop there over the next few days you cannot stop on the moorings by the bridge as C&RT have their work boat and a wide beam barge moored there.

At Christleton just past the Cheshire Cat Inn one of the gardens had these lovely stones placed by the bank.  A simple idea but still very cute. 

Owl cute are these little fellas
 We started our descent through Christleton lock and then Greenfield lock.  Here more C&RT work boats and barges are moored up.  The barges are all empty and I wonder if they are being prepared for dredging as there are so many, or for the lock closures in January.

Empty barges line the offside upstream of the lock
At Tarvin Lock the lock keeper's cottage look lovely in the sunshine as did the newly painted water tower on the outskirts of the city.  There is something about this tower I like.  I think I mentioned it before that I like the ornate style of the brickwork.

Tarvin Lock Cottage  

Fresh paint on the water tower
All was going well and we made good time but that all changed at Chemistry lock!  Chris found the lock against us which was strange as we had not long passed a boat coming the other way.  She turned the lock but try as she might she could not open the gate.  I nosed AmyJo alongside and helped Chris open the gate then tuning to AmyJo found her stern had drifted out into the cut.  I got on board amidships and made my way down the gunwale to the stern.

That was when I christened the boat properly and found myself waste deep in the cut.  I had some how slipped off the gunwale.  Fortunately AmyJo was in neutral and I had the centre line in my hand.  Off course there had to be a group of Gongoozlers to hand but luckily none had a camera with them but I bet it made their day.  I scrambled ashore and pulled AmyJo to the bank.  Once in the lock I retired below to get a change of clothes before continuing.  As the lock emptied it was clear why Chris could not open the gate.  The lower gate on the onside had sagged by 3 inches and was not sealing with its opposite number.  The flow between the gate was considerable making filling the lock difficult.

We found a mooring just upstream of the new Waitrose supermarket and then took the opportunity to do a big shop.  After that we strolled into town to Christmas shop.  We got nearly all our prezies in under 2 hours!  Now that I like. 

Chester has its own Christmas market, whilst nowhere near as big as some, it does seem to be getting better each year.  The high streets are also adorned with Christmas lights.  With a mild and dry night the whole town centre looked very festive.

Chester Clock and the street lights

Chrismas tree and market outside the town hall

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This tree looked rather stark against this evening's twilight

Monday, November 3, 2014

October cruise Day 6 - Back to Tattenhall and a Blogger's Meeting

We left Barbridge junction about 9.30am and enjoyed the clear blue sky and sunshine. Considering it is now the beginning of November we consider ourselves blessed that the weather has been good to us so far.

Leaving Barbridge in what could be mistaken for a summers morning.
At Bunbury Locks we were joined by a lovely couple enjoying their cruise in their shared boat nb Avington.  We unfortunately forgot to ask their names but thank you both if you are reading this.  They seemed happy we would be going down the locks together.  In double locks having two boats together is much less stressful and makes easier work for the lock wheelers.  Just as we started our descent of the top lock another boater appeared downstream so with three boats in the locks we had to perform the famous Bunbury shuffle.  This greatly pleased the lady of Avington as although she had heard of this she neither knew what it entailed nor had they both experienced it.  After clearing the locks they both admitted they found doing the shuffle interesting.

We then cruised together through Tilstone lock and Beeston stone lock, however, at Beeston Iron lock we both agreed to go down separately and so with a cheery wave we said our goodbyes.

nb Avington waiting while Stone lock is turned in our favour

Turnotheworld, is it steam powered, but lovely none the less?

The distinctive Wild Boar hotel in the distance
 We have received a comment from Bloggers Richard and Sharon from nb Oakapple that they were moored by Wharton Lock for the weekend and sure enough just above the lock we came across Oakapple

We pulled in below the lock and were greeted by Richard and Sharon who invited us aboard for a cuppa.  We closed up AmyJo and with cake in hand as an offering we walked back up to Oackapple and enjoyed Richard and Sharon's hospitality for a couple or hours.  Meantime the weather had deteriorated and it started to rain.  Not wanting to be too late back we said our goodbyes with a promise to meet up again later in the week.  Thank you Richard and Sharon it was a great pleasure to finally meet you both and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

On the last leg before pulling into the marina the sun broke out again but we spotted these rather interesting cloud formations

Cloud halo around the sun gave this stunning ring of rays

These clouds look like a rolling wave of water

So that's our last long cruise for this year but we are still hoping to cruise for a few weekends over the winter.  We still plan to stay aboard AmyJo as she has now become our home.  We love being aboard and have new found friends in the marina.  We still miss Crick but whilst Tattenhall has accepted us, the other boaters still call us the folks on the posh boat!  We may 'ave a posh boat but we definitely ain't posh :-)

Total distance:8.16 miles Elapsed time:6h58m43s Locks:6 Bridges:15 
Average speed:1.17 mph (2.03 lock/mph)