Monday, 20 December 2010

Patience in snow

Even though we winterised Patience we've had a sneaking worry that the cold could still get to her. Last night, driving back from Crishall, the highest point in Cambridgeshire (so, hardly high but quite exposed) we noticed the temperature had dropped to minus 14 just after midnight. You need a fair bit of anti-freeze to combat that. On the other hand, as John pointed out, even where the ice is several inches thick, as it is in our marina, the engine compartment is surrounded by relatively warm (above zero) water so the anti-freeze in the engine has only to protect it for a degree or two.
Inside the beer was unfrozen, the water pipes flexible and since all had been drained that could be drained I left with a sense of relief. No chance of turning the engine over with the propeller under several inches of ice so I left her with her mooring ropes under a light coat of snow and spiders' webs sparkling white in the bow.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Boats and Frost

Patience is drained down so the frost doesn't catch her, but I do wonder about the boat that seems to have been abandoned near my office in Godmanchester.
I've seen no-one near her day or night and she's been moored, apparently without a license, in the same spot since early August.

She looks beautiful amidst the frosty trees at the Godmanchester backwater - but six degrees of frost can't be doing her any good ....

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Cost of Boating

With Patience now winterised and at rest we look back on a successful and interesting year and forward to licensing, insuring and saving up.
So what have we learned about costs?
Don't forget your GOBA subscription!
First, that the initial purchase price is not the whole deal. We were sensible and cautious in having a full survey in a dry dock before buying. The survey threw up some items, fortunately nothing serious, but a useful To Do list. We've carried out all these tasks except painting, which we'll undertake next year, but naturally these tasks have added to our first year costs. We think next year will be noticeably cheaper, but we now have Patience to the standard we are happy with.
We have categorised expenditure in three groups - start up, fixed annual and maintenance, and here is the approximate break down:
Start up
survey £420,
dry dock £130
plus purchase price

Fixed annual costs *
moorings £1000 
insurance £135
BW license £800

blacking, welding, anodes £900 * ** ^
engine service £100 ^
odds and ends £200

* varies according to mooring and length of boat
** a recurring cost divided between three or four years; 
^ cheaper if you diy
Fuel cost is about 0.5 litres per mile or 9.3 mpg (see previous blog entry, 4th May 2010)

So in round figures that looks like £2,500 per year plus fuel, all divided between the two of us.
Frankly, given the fun we've had, I rate that as a bargain!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Chief Engineer's Report

With winter coming on, it's been time to catch up with a few essential maintenance tasks on Patience.

Firstly, I have replaced the seals on the Jabsco WC, as it had stopped working properly over the summer, with rather unpleasant consequences! It now works perfectly!

Secondly, I spent an afternoon servicing the BMC 1.8 litre diesel engine. It was a beautifully still, sunny, autumnal afternoon on the Great Ouse, with only a few swans for company, curious to know what I was up to. I changed the engine oil and the oil filter. Draining the old oil out was facilitated by a very effective sump pump (top left in photo). I also replaced the fuel filter and bled the fuel lines. Finally, I cleaned the relatively coarse mesh filter over the engine air intake and lubricated the throttle and gearbox linkages. In common with many narrow boats, there is no paper air filter element fitted, as the engine compartment is a relatively dust free environment. The filters were obtained from ASAP who provide an excellent on-line technical support and parts at very reasonable prices. After all this, the engine fired up first time and seems to be running fine.

I have replaced the dipstick/oil filler on the PRM Delta gearbox, obtained from the very helpful people at Lancing Marine The old one looked as if it has been rather mutilated by the use of a mole wrench rather than a correctly sized 18 mm A/F spanner!

Finally, I increased the tension in the alternator belt slightly (to give the recommended +6mm play on its longest length), drained down the domestic water tank and associated pipework and checked the antifreeze mixture in the engine with a very cheap, but effective, hydrometer from Halfords. The inside of the water tank is still in very good condition after its repainting with two coats of bitumen in the spring, although some rust is coming through in one or two places, so it may be worth giving it another coat next spring to keep it in top condition.

Friday, 12 November 2010

James Brindley

I just watched a programme presented by Chris Tarrant about James Brindley "one of the most famous British engineers of the 18th century".
His narrow canals"unlocked the midlands" enabling a horse drawn boat to carry 60 times the capacity of a horse and cart.
His canals created the Grand Trunk or Grand Cross that joined up our four major rivers, the Trent, the Mersey, the Severn and the Thames.
[later ...] They seem to have stopped showing the James Brindley programme on BBC iPlayer , which is a shame, but you can read up about him on wikipedia.
I really enjoyed the programme though!

Thursday, 11 November 2010


We've now just passed the date of our very first narrow-boat-related event. That was the day I took my daughter Sarah to The Lazy Otter and the sight of narrow boats in the marina started us off on this journey. That first event is recorded here on an early blog. I found the original email asking John if he was interested.
Since then we've moved on - Sarah to start her teacher training, John and I to be partners in Patience. It does us good to look back to those early blog entries and see what we've done and then start planning what we have yet to do.
Painting I think is high on the list for the year ahead, as Patience is peeling in places. An annual engine service and replacement of some of the hoses would be important too. But Patience has performed well and we have learned how to manoeuvre her without too many bumps, and use her accommodation to the full. Speaking of which, we still have two cream leatherette swivel chairs for sale, ideal for the trendy boater. Just add a comment to this blog and they could be yours!
So, thank you Patience for a wonderful year. Next year we plan to explore the parts of the eastern region we haven't yet seen. After that maybe we'll head off for the rest of the canal system, but all in good time.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Last Boat to Ely

With a sunlit day on the cards we abandoned decorating and headed up to Ely for what is likely to be our last trip of the year. We planned to fill up with diesel (topping up helps avoid moisture in the tank over winter) and to pump out in advance of refitting seals on the marine toilet.
Ely was in sunshine most of the time (which compensated for the unpleasant job of pumping out) and a meal at The Cutter with a pint of Wherry compensated for anything else.
The approach to Ely from the south
Today we also received good news about The Lazy Otter as a marina. The leasing of the restaurant had sown doubts in some minds, but the owners confirm that they are planning a cesspit for the marina (which may sound foul to you but is good news to us and particularly to the live-aboards at the Lazy Otter!).  Oh, and they're not putting the mooring fees up, so that's extra good news.
This may therefore mean that this post should be entitled Last Drain from Ely ... but enough on that subject for the time being.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

About Bloggers

I heard Andrew Marr (an otherwise intelligent chap) sounding off in a rant about bloggers.
He sneered that they are "inadequate, pimpled and single" loners who rant about the world from the safety of their mothers' basements.
Well of course he had to show off at a literary festival that he could be as vituperative as the best of opinionated columnists, but if you don't mind I'd just make two points.
The first obvious point is that he didn't distinguish between the different types of blogs. He was snarling at news bloggers, amateur journos telling the world about the news in their corner of the globe - and often ignoring professional standards of balance and perspective as well as replacing facts with opinion and rumour. At best these folks can tell it like it is because they're there, in Hurricane Katrina, in army controlled Burma, in a blizzard or a political storm; at worst it's just bile and rant. That's what you get from the freedom to write with new media; these are the strengths and the weaknesses.
However some of us bloggers may have other intentions.
Our blog about Patience is intended to be both a travelogue and a guide to owning a narrow boat. A worthy enough aim, I think. For me it reminds me of our trips and provides boating information that we wished we had when we first bought her. I'm sure Sam Pepys would have blogged, though anonymously .....

The other obvious point is that bloggers come in all shapes and sizes and the only common link is that they want to keep an online diary. Imagine a well-educated and reasonably sociable family man and writer in his fifties and with a moderately successful career behind him. The description fits both Marr and me. Barely a pimple in sight between us. However, I don't vent my spleen at literary gatherings. And he gets paid well for giving his sensationalist opinions.
I just blog.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Back Down The Lark

Early mist and bright low sun at Judes Ferry started my long journey back to Patience's home moorings.
Judes Ferry facing south up the Lark
 On the right behind the orange ring is the cut between the old far mooring and near newer jetty. Doing a 3 point into the cut is easier for the boat in the picture than for Patience, which has to reverse past it in a straight line before turning sharply in.
Judes Ferry facing north back to Isleham
 The first section back down to Isleham Ferry was delightful. I saw three kingfishers flashing in front of me and two swans took off and soared overhead.
 A beautiful peaceful day and not a single boat on the Lark apart from Patience.

Back down the Great Wide Ouse and soon I was back at Ely from where it's not far back to The Lazy Otter and our home mooring.

Up with The Lark 2

Sunday saw me one of the first visitors at the Ploughing Match and the Pumping Museum (Museum of Fenland Drainage). And so I saw some of the tractors brought in on low loaders and being moved into position along a very long straight line on Green Farm. Each ploughman his own area marked with stakes, bright tractors and shining ploughs cutting through jet black soil. Men with soft Fenland voices earnestly calculating straight furrows and depth, huge adjusting spanners in hand.
Let the ploughing begin

Black Fen soil like long straight lines of liquorice
 Meanwhile, beyond the Eel Pie Band, the classic cars and the wild boar sausages, the Pumping Museum steams and rattles its oily way at full tilt to remind us that at Prickwillow agriculture and engineering go hand in hand, side by side. The drainage engineer draws water from the soil to enable the farmer to plough and sow then place his produce on the river barge on the canal created and watered by the  drainage engineer who ....
And then it's off towards Isleham, passing the remains of one of the original pumps, (there are more pics on wikimedia) known now as The Pepperpot having lost its sails long ago....
The Pepperpot wind pump(or pepper mill?!)
... through Isleham Lock and on up the beautifully winding Lark past Gravel Gardens to Judes Ferry where I moor up in some rather high moorings at the bottom of their beer garden and take a fine pint of cider.

I'm not wildly keen on Judes Ferry as a pub / restaurant, as I felt that it had a character bypass and I didn't like its big screen pop videos, but they have a broader-than-pub-grub menu and it's a pleasant garden on a fine day. Besides it's a handy mooring - though next time I would choose the ramshackle set of moorings just north of the pub. These are a little quieter away from the chatter of patrons and most importantly - at this furthest point of navigation for a 45 footer - you can turn the boat directly into a side channel instead of having to reverse first, as I did. I wasn't brave enough to risk turning in the river itself which my Imray Guide tells me is 13.7m while 45 feet is 13.716m .... A tight squeeze!

Up with The Lark 1

With a promising weather forecast we planned a 3 day trip up the River Lark to Judes Ferry. Unfortunately John had other commitments, but I was keen to go on - and had an excellent trip in glorious weather.
We set off together from The Lazy Otter, pausing at The Cutter at Ely for lunch, then on into uncharted territory for us, up the Great Ouse which heads north to the Denver Sluices and thence the sea. Here the river is very broad, more like a German canal, and frankly once Ely is to stern, rather unattractive.
But after a while up comes the junction to The Lark, a fair sized tributary to start with, only narrowing after ten miles or so, at Judes Ferry. Some sections are quite straight, notably the first section which must be artificial before it joins the ancient course of the Ouse to reach Prickwillow. This village itself may be a bit of a non-event as it has no shops and even the church was closed on Sunday. However it does have a fascinating Pumping Museum which is well worth a visit. As the Fens in their present form rely entirely on centuries of pumping out water, the Prickwillow Drainage Engine (and the Stretham Pumping Engine) are important working relics.
Patience at Prickwillow with Pumping Museum beyond
With John heading home I was moored up quietly with only the sound of tractors charging across the bridge as they brought in the harvest (note for next time - there is a quieter mooring a few yards up beyond the bridge). I managed to steal a look at The Old Vicarage which shows the results of Fen drainage. It was built on clay foundations with two steps leading up to the door; now there are nine steps, and the old cellars are ground floor rooms!
But having arrived, the best day was yet to come ...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Godmanchester to The Lazy Otter

We spent the weekend bringing Patience back from Godmanchester.
Moored under trees at Godmanchester Backwater

Knowing Saturday would be fine but rain was predicted by Sunday afternoon, we had a good meal on Saturday evening (good value, well patronised, good atmosphere, magnificent website though inefficient male loos) at The Old Ferry Boat at Holywell. There are good walks around here too,on  The Great Ouse Valley Way. Then Jenny and Sarah made their excuses and left us to it.
The Old Ferry Boat, Holywell, and Patience moored below
 So on Sunday John and I beat our way against the winds through Brownhills Staunch and Hermitage Lock back to the Lazy Otter, at which point the downpour began.
This is a delightful stretch of water with lovely towns and villages when seen from the river - Brampton, Godmanchester, Hertford, Houghton, St Ives , Earith ... with swans and geese, cormorants, grebes ... not to mention riverside pubs and restaurants with ample moorings. A pleasure to wander along.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Single Handed Boating

I mentioned my single handed venture in the previous post then came upon some notes I'd made a while ago. Worth reading. 
Harvested from an article in Waterways World January 2010 by Peter Fellows.

Anticipate problems! Work out a solution before acting!

Have at hand (ie not deep in the cabin): map, phone, windlass, waterproofs, refreshments (eg tea or coffee in a flask) and camera. Get used to packing all you need in a bag right next to you. Also have mooring pins and a hammer nearby for quick mooring.

When leaving a mooring reverse and push the stern out. Only when you are clear swing the bow into the middle.
If stopping briefly nudge the bow into the bank and hold it in place with the engine in forward at tickover speed.

Be very careful at obscure junctions or where bends or trees block your view. Sound your horn and listen carefully.
A sudden collision could knock you off and leave you stranded, or worse. Always stand in front of the tiller.
Wear a life jacket. imagine what could happen if you fall in and there's no-one else around ....

Pulling in
A centre rope is essential. Aim for the bank with the bow at a shallow angle. Swing the tiller to bring the stern against the bank and simultaneously reverse. Step off holding the centre rope and secure it to a bollard. Place engine in neutral and either wait for your lock or moor up with mooring ropes.

Mooring in wind
An offshore wind can pull you away from the shore while mooring so try to choose a sheltered spot, apply the centre rope immediately and prepare by tying the centre rope to a mooring pin before you manoeuvre, hammering it in instantly.

Plan carefully, use the centre rope – and ask for help from bystanders if possible.
Keep the stern away from the cill but place engine in tickover reverse for downhill or tickover forward for uphill while holding onto the bow rope.
Keep the roof clear at all times so you can climb on and off the boat roof in deep locks.
The Heron is also a solitary soul ....

Solo to Godmanchester

Patience at rest in Godmanchester backwater
I share Patience with John and we've had a great time together pootling up and down river, fixing improving and generally mulling over the ways of the world. I've found boating very sociable. However I've always fancied venturing out by myself from time to time though I've been put off by the realisation of how hard it can be to control a 45 foot narrow boat in difficult conditions (currents and winds can be real problems on the east anglian rivers.)
Anyway, having read up about solo techniques at this blog and it being a beautiful day with plans to go boating at the weekend too, I set off from the Otter aiming for Godmanchester. Why Godmanchester? Well it's a pretty little village (er, ancient town!) with a backwater (literally, that's no slur!) and at the bottom of the garden at the offices where I work there is an ideal unused mooring (though an overhanging branch is in wait, ready to scrape off the TV aerial).
It means I can commute (in a very round about, wholly impractical way) to work.
It also serves as a convenient staging place to explore the further regions of the Great Ouse instead of always returning to our main moorings at Stretham.
So I had a great trip, the weather was fantastic, I managed some of the locks single handed and at others was helped by other boaters in a small cruiser heading from Holywell to Huntingdon. It's also handy to be going upstream in locks where the gates are downstream and most of the locks are guillotines (no arm-tiring winding).
Approaching mill and bridges at Huntingdon
The Old Bridge from the Godmanchester side

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Neptune Staircase

While John and Sarah cared for Patience in East Anglia Jenny and I made a regular pilgrimage to Scotland and amongst many other things took in the Neptune Staircase at Fort William, on the Caledonian Canal.
It's a pleasant walk and particularly fascinating to watch as a tall yacht goes through the full staircase, which is the longest lock in the UK (according to wikipedia). To go through the whole stair the lock keepers must close both road and railway and swing both bridges aside to let the boats through.
Here's the step by step record:
First the boat in a higher lock, making its way down

Now, viewed from the bottom of the locks and to my left,  the road ...
... and  here to my right is the railway (Fort William to Mallaig)
Now the road is swung around ...

and the railway bridge is also swung away, to allow the boat finally to pass through to another part of the Caledonian Canal. A sight to see!

Ely and back

A very pleasant day trip from our base at the Lazy Otter (near Stretham) is to motor the 6 miles down river to Ely, moor up, have lunch in 'The Cutter' on the waterfront, visit the Ely Boat Chandlers (always a source of useful equipment and good advice) and return leisurely to base. We have done this a few times over the summer.
The attached photo shows Patience moored up right outside The Cutter, not always possible, on Friday 3rd September. On this occasion we also took the opportunity to top up Patience's diesel and water tanks at the Cathedral Marina.

Friday, 27 August 2010

St Neots and back

Sarah and John have just returned from taking Patience to St Neots and back (64 miles and 18 locks) over 5 days. We set off in glorious sunshine on Sunday afternoon and moored at the Old Ferry Boat Inn, Holywell on Sunday evening. We arrived in Huntingdon on Monday and enjoyed an excellent dinner at The Bridge Hotel. By Tuesday evening we had got to St Neots and moored overnight just downstream from the town bridge. Heavy rain was predicted for later in the day, so we made an early start back on Wednesday and got as far as Hemingford Grey before it started raining. We had a very pleasant evening meal at The Cock in the village.
On Thursday morning we waited for the heavy rain to abate slightly and set off again downstream at 12.30. The rain just kept coming down and the water level downstream of St Ives lock was sufficiently high to prevent a number of cabin cruisers getting through under the guillotine gate. Patience made it comfortably, although we did have to remove the chimney and stow the TV aerial on the foredeck.
The river was very high from then on; right over the top of the gates at Brownshill Staunch (see photo below) and well over the banks from Brownshill to Earith. We decided to just keep going and got through Hemitage Lock with a few cm headroom to spare. The headroom under the lock bridge had reduced to 1.8m and Patience is about 1.7m. See photo of boats held up on the Old West River the day after we just made it through.

We did the last 8.8 miles back to the Lazy Otter in 2 hrs 10 mins, an average speed of just over 4 mph. We moored up at 18.30 hrs, 6 hours after setting off from Hemingford Grey, 18 miles and 4 locks upstream. We were helped by the faster than usual stream flowing, although we were also sailing into a moderate NE wind.
Altogether a great trip, but the weather could have been kinder to us! Next time, we'll try for Bedford!

Photos are of 1) Patience moored up at St Neots, 2) Sarah on Patience (surrounded by duckweed) waiting to go through St Neots lock on the way home, 3) the water over the top of Brownshill Staunch, also on the way home and 4) boats held up on the Old West River by the high water on the tidal section under the lock bridge at Hermitage.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Why Canals?

I came across a wonderful little project my daughter had written for school at the age of 12 called "Why did canals become popular". It was a really good piece about the history and geography of it all, the links with the industrial revolution, moving raw materials and fuel to places of industry then the decline when the railways proved more flexible and faster.
But what it didn't address was why we love them today.
So I re-quote a piece by Ben MacIntyre from The Times. It sums it up rather well:

"The survival and revival of the canal is a reflection of its enduring place in British culture: a strange admixture of commerce and pleasure, history and modern development, back-breaking labour and reflective leisure. Canals always mattered more than the money they made.
In an age of dirt and speed, the canal is not only a vital artefact, but a form of therapy. Puttering along a man-made ditch seems a peculiar form of relaxation, but once one has seen Britain passing slowly and serenely at eye level, it is impossible to see it in the same way again."
Ben Macintyre

© Copyright
Roger Kidd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Slow and serene - that's the life for me! And Patience is the key ....

Thursday, 29 July 2010


Non-boat users may not be aware but the chimney on a narrow boat has a lid to keep out rain and the flue pipe itself is removable for reducing height under low bridges.
The flue on Patience (left) had at some time in the past been painted green like the rest of the boat but the green paint was peeling off leaving a perfectly good black enamel surface. The brass rings and grab handle had been painted red which was also peeling off and fading.
Having nothing better to do, I took to scraping off the paint and polishing up the brass. Quite successfully actually. And cheaper than buying a new one.
Probably the brass was painted because brass, looking good when polished, is a beast to keep shiny. I promise to give it one more buff then lacquer it to keep it bright.

Here's a pic from Ely Chandlery showing a spanking new flue pipe.
Ours looks a little bit like this (after an hour's polishing ...) But look at the little hook on the side. Is that for anchoring the pipe in a brutal storm? And ours has a double skin, keeping the hot gases separate from the outer decorated skin. Is this normal, or are we posh ?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

All Aboard

Today we fulfilled our promise at an auction of promises held at The Shelford Feast.
The prize was a day's cruise (and back) to Ely, with picnic. The lucky family boarded at The Lazy Otter and, fortified with fruit drinks, biscuits, coffee and a lunch such as Patience has not seen in our time, sped upstream. Thanks to Sarah for the excellent picnic and also for providing napkins and flowers.
Mum, dad and three children then explored Ely while we washed up and, in a spirit of bonhomie, finished off the bottle of wine.
Though we proffered bird books, coloured crayons and an Eye Spy activity sheet (it's the teacher in me!) and because we explained the TV was out of bounds, activity was mostly based around trying to point Patience in the direction we were heading and talking about the boat and her slow and peaceful surroundings on the Ouse.
Not too exciting perhaps, but our passengers showed genuine interest in the new experience.
We think they had a good time on the cruise - we certainly did, any excuse for a purposeful trip - and we noted that prices for commercial boats at Ely were £120 for one and a half hours, so our 4 hour charity promise plus lunch and tea and chocolate cake was a bargain!

Thursday, 15 July 2010


We have added an additional 12V DC power socket to the end of the starboard bunk in the forward saloon. This is in addition to the one already installed on the bulkhead of the rear cabin. The new socket is protected by a 13A fuse and the wiring is rated at 15A.
It can be used in conjunction with a small 12V DC/240V AC Belkin inverter (also shown) for low loads (up to about 150W), eg to charge phone batteries. There is an irony in converting from 12V DC to 240V AC and then back to low voltage DC - however it works!
Also shown in the photo is a twin 240V AC socket, but this is only live when Patience is hooked up to a shore power supply.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Polished and Shining

John and I set to and waxed and polished Patience. Last week we did the starboard side, this week we reversed her in (not an easy task - I recommend getting as close as you can and then manhauling it!) and waxed the port side.
My how beautiful she looks. The chap up the way tells us the previous owner used baby oil to give her a sheen before we bought her, and we can't help think that a) that's not a great idea b) it's surely washed off now c) wax polish is the long term answer.
While doing this we confirm that a previous painting was done without proper preparation, which explains the way a layer of green paint is peeling off the gunwhales. So another job is lined up - scrape, prime, paint and add a layer of non-slip sand to the final coat. Patience deserves no less.

Twenty Pence

Monday evening, family out having fun so I head for the friendly Lazy Otter for a very filling baguette and a pint.
A cloudless sky and nearly the longest day encourage me to take Patience out for a gentle stroll down to Twenty Pence Marina. Once there was a pub here, I believe, but sadly not at the moment, so I turn around (in a rather tight spot) and return refreshed.
Anyone know if there are plans to create a new pub at Twenty Pence? I'd visit it for a short evening trip out.
On the way back I pass three young Huckleberry Finn figures in a well-worn cruiser setting alight to a barbecue on a flat area of the river bank. Those guys were really enjoying themselves in the simple life. Not a beer in sight, boat well moored up in the middle of nowhere, just burning a few sausages and having a chat on a long sunny evening. A pleasure to see. Another tale from the riverbank.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Another uneventful day in the sun ....

Our posts up to now have been about boat improvements, plans for improvements, and taking to the water. It's worthwhile pointing out that part of the fun is just pottering about, going nowhere, achieving little - but visibly relaxing, away from work, away from computers, away from the home phone.

So I went to see Patience kitted out with lengths of hose to fill her water tank, a broken hasp that needed replacement from the chandelry, and a plan to sand and paint the front doors.
However while the hose was long enough, I'd forgotten the connectors, and while contemplating moving her up to an empty berth near the tap another resident told me a scary story of a narrow boat colliding with a cruiser to catastrophic effect. Hence the empty berth. I opted not to move. 
Sanding down proved effective as well as sociable as several owners paused for a chat, but unfortunately revealed a woodwork mosaic of brown and white patches - white where the original brown stain had vanished. Now I knew that I had to stain the wood first before I could apply my varnish, putting back the job by a few days.
In an attempt to save the day I drove to the chandelry for a new hasp (the original broken in a struggle to beat our way off a mooring against the wind) and saw success turn to failure when the apparently good fit was about 4mm off - I could bolt through two holes but not all four.
So, why an uneventful day in the sun? Because instead of cussing about three successive failures I just retreated to the aft deck with my sandwich and a custard tart and read Bill Bryson's "Thunderbolt Kid" until my smile muscles ached.
And isn't that why I have Patience? She helps me switch off, just messing about on the river. And the next day I returned to work refreshed. Thanks to Patience.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Up and Down The Cam 3

After a restful night at Burwell a short run back up the lode to the Upware 48 hour moorings at the junction of Wicken Lode then a short walk across the fields to Five Miles From Anywhere, an unexpectedly urban style pub in the middle of nowhere (hence the name ...) Nevertheless, any port in a storm and a pint from Buntingford Breweries was very welcome.

It's worth pointing out that the lode at Upware is actually higher than the surrounding fenland, so walkers on the road below would see us quite high up on the horizon - an odd sight.
Finally up to Pope's corner and back down the Old Western River to The Lazy Otter. Home again.
Was the trip to Cambridge worthwhile? Certainly! We saw our own city through new eyes, saw goslings in strict straight lines and moorhen chicks going in circles, even cygnets clambering up the back of mum to hide beneath her tail feathers. The weather could have been worse and after all, Patience is a comforting boat with warmth and food and drink and shelter from the storm.

Up and down the Cam 2

From The Bridge in improving weather to Baits Bite Lock. It's just north of the busy A14 but it is also in the middle of the countryside and beautifully tended.
Then further down the Cam, past lots of live-aboards, rather too many boats that looked abandoned and in bad shape, through fleets of university boats with straining oarsmen and women to Jesus Lock, effectively the end of the line for motorised boats. Along the way we had seen Cambridge from a new point of view, and despite the fact we have lived here for well over 30 years it was as if we were seeing it for the first time. We celebrated by taking lunch at the carvery at The Fort St George, which we strongly recommend!
With the weather on our side it was a leisurely return up the Cam, through Baits Bite and Bottisham Locks again but this time through Reach Lock - more a water barrier than a normal lock, as the water levels are the same on each side - and down Burwell Lode to Burwell itself at the end of the line. We were fortunate to find space on a mooring here, at the point where navigation ends and only a few hundred yards from the Anchor public house.
We chose Burwell Lode over Reach Lode this time as the turning circle at the end of Reach Lode is barely an inch more than Patience (13.7m) while at Burwell there is a little more room for a multi-point turn. So we'll return to Reach after a recce and hope to enjoy the delights of The Dykes End (don't laugh ...) some other time.

Up and down the Cam 1

We live just south of Cambridge and our friends scratched their heads when we said we were going to Cambridge for the weekend - and taking 3 days about it. Moored as we are at The Lazy Otter just north of Cambridge and living just south of the city on Saturday we drove from home around Cambridge, up the A10 to where Patience is berthed and headed up the Old West River to Popes Corner, turning right onto the Cam.
By this time the weather was pretty foul but we ploughed on, rain dribbling into our shoes (anyone got a spare trad stern?) while our wives read the papers inside.

Passing the "Five Miles From Anywhere" pub at Upware we saw all the cruisers had moored up to escape the weather, leaving no space for a 45 foot narrow boat, so we trundled on through Bottisham Lock and finally moored up by The Bridge Hotel just outside Waterbeach.
By this time the wet weather had blown away so, drying our shoes by the wood stove, we took our rest before having an evening meal at The Bridge. Good value, very busy, well organised.
Three boats south of The Bridge. Patience in the foreground, a totally black boat called Walhalla at the end, looking for all the world like a spooky German U-Boat

River machinery moored next to the Cam Conservators headquarters, doing a great job keeping the river free.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

About Diesel

We couldn't find anything that helped us work out our fuel capacity and rate of use, so here are our conclusions, based on John's calculations and my length of stick.
My dip stick is marked at 5cm intervals and by measuring before and after journeys plus some clever estimating, John calculates that 1 of these units equals 17.5 litres. He estimates the tank capacity at 200 litres.

A combination of dip stick before and after plus filling the tank from the diesel pump reveals that Patience uses an average of 0.5 litres per mile or 9.3 mpg. This will vary according to speed, winds and current but should hold good for an average journey at 4mph.
Do you agree?

Friday, 14 May 2010

From Lazy Otter to Ely

A short trip, less than 2 hours each way, but a very pleasant one.
We pumped out, watered up and filled with diesel. We saw the wonderful cathedral on the horizon - Galleon of the Fens. We visited the Ely chandelry, our friend Ted Coney, an antiques emporium, and just got back in time for supper after a relaxing day.

Go to Ely for a pleasant trip!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Fuel Consumption

The 18 mile trip from Hemingford Grey back to the Lazy Otter enabled us to estimate our diesel consumption, based on the horizontal cross sectional area of the transom fuel tank (0.35 sq metres) and the drop in height measured by a dipstick. This gave a very approximate figure of about 0.5 litres per mile or 9.3 mpg. The capacity of the tank is estimated to be a little over 200 litres, so Patience has a cruising range of about 400 miles. Does anyone else have fuel consumption figures for narrow boats? [postscript: later figures suggest 8 miles per gallon is nearer the mark for Patience]

The photos show Patience waiting to pass through St. Ives lock and after passing through Hermitage lock. The water on the Old West River was a lot calmer than the exposed tidal section we experienced upstream of Hermitage!

Photos by John

Monday, 3 May 2010

To Hemingfords

Taking advantage of the Bank Holiday weekend we set out on Saturday morning aiming to reach the Hemingfords and return to base. This involves several locks, several waterside pubs and a variety of views along the Great Ouse and Old Western River.
We were also testing out Patience for overnight stays - the first we've had since we took her over at Christmas.
The river to Earith is meandering and the river banks are built up high as flood protection, which can make visibility limited.
Nonetheless it's worth looking out for church spires, windmills and of course the bird life - herons that float lazily away as you approach, swans that sit proudly in pairs, on substantial riverside nests or in groups of 50 or more with last year's cygnets in the flooded margins at Earith and beyond.
Geese of various kinds, terns, grebes, egrets ... they're all here, flourishing and undisturbed.

Flood damage, collision or carelessness? These two are past their best as they cling to each other near Twenty Pence marina.

Approaching St Ives from the east. I thought I knew St Ives but it is very different approaching it from the water. The Dolphin appears after the bridge and on the left, where there are some moorings, but we went on a little and to the tributary on the right after the bridge, where there is a public mooring outside the Norris Museum. Very convenient and close to the town, lots of eating places, the church and a nature reserve.
Next morning, following heavy rain overnight, we had hardly left our St Ives moorings when we chased a long rowing boat to a medieval recreation alongside the river. Tents, open fires, pig roasts, iron tools being made, sword fighting etc. And our old friend councillor Charles Nightingale visiting in his official capacity as Chair of the South Cambs District Council.
Next to The Ferry Boat at Holywell, Needingworth, for a well earned pint then on to Hemingford, a beautiful old village, boasting the oldest continuously inhabited house in England - Lucy Boston's house, author of The Children of Green Knowe. You can see the garden over the wall on the right from our mooring place here.
A pint in the excellent Cock inn which manages to be both a good local pub and an up market restaurant (a tricky balance) while welcoming oddments like ourselves.
With time pressing we head back now rather than press on to Houghton and Godmanchester and with wind and current against us narrowly avoid a scape at a rough mooring by The Ferry Boat (Holywell) to make safe harbour at The Pike and Eel (Needingworth).
A very welcoming place, though surprisingly empty, we force down a pint of Adnams, retire for a rest and a read of the papers, to trot back for an excellent and well priced evening meal. The mooring is very good too, though we imagine more designed for cruisers, and this is the view in the morning just before we set off back to the Lazy Otter.
Four different locks - Earith, St Ives, Brownshill and Hemingford, four pubs and a wealth of experience gained navigating seemingly simple rivers in very squally conditions. Winds and currents that threaten to blow us onshore, three hail storms and combined sun and wind that make my face as pink as a salmon. But it was worth it - a thoroughly enjoyable trip, with many thanks to John for his calm seamanship.