Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The bunks are finished!

We have finally completed installing the twin bunks and refitting the carpet round them.
They look very smart and will provide seating for up to 6 people (round a removable dining table for meals), twin single beds or a 4 ft 6in wide double bed. There is also a lot of useful storage space underneath them. As well as providing more accommodation, we think they greatly enhance the appearance of the forward saloon, which looks much less cluttered.
They are designed to be freestanding, so that they only need to be screwed down to the floor and not the walls, and are constructed from 18 mm hardwood-veneered marine ply on a softwood frame. The ply has had three coats of Ronseal gloss medium oak varnish, which blends in very well with Patience's existing interior woodwork. The total cost, including the upholstery (from Whalin Upholstery) has been about £850.
Photos by John

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Just a couple of weeks ago I was on a houseboat in southern India. This weekend I was walking around another houseboat on the north Norfolk coast, near Brancaster Staithe.
This one is simply a metal hull barge with a long shed on top.
Quite a nice shed, as sheds go - and I like sheds - but this houseboat, presently stuck in low tide mud, couldn't go anywhere without a tug, as it has no propulsion. An earlier version with a timber hull lies adrift and rotting in the background.
So, anyone suggest its purpose? Could it be a base for mussel farmers? They take the shellfish from nearby mussel beds and transplant them in local creeks, to be harvested again once they've reached maturity. Do fishing boats tow them to the site? It can't be for leisure purposes as no-one I know would fancy a week in a shed on mudflats. But wait - isn't that what twitchers do? Surely it can't be a hide for observers of wading birds?
Answers on a postcard please ....

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Return From Exile

Well, not exile exactly, but we brought dear Patience home to the Lazy Otter after a week scraping and painting at the Earith boatyard.
She was craned in and out and now looks polished and frictionless. She would have sped through the locks at Earith had it not been for a power cut and the lock keeper's lunchtime ....
Bottom blacking is one of those things a narrow boat needs every two or three years. Economising on blacking is a false economy, but there are cheaper ways and more expensive ways of going about it.
We were charged for prepare and black = £7.50 per foot, to lift on crane £5 per foot  and to lift back £3 per foot. Then add the sacrificial anodes and welding them on (clearly seen in the top picture) and the total was £697 blacking plus £180 anodes.
So if you can get a cheap dry dock and DIY you get that relative sense of wealth as well as satisfaction, despite the bitumen in your hair and fingernails!
But we are at least pleased that Patience is in good shape. Now to install the berths John has so lovingly created. Next time, folks.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

How poor are they that have not Patience

That's Othello Act 2 Scene 3 - and so it proved today as we had an idyllic day boating up the Old West River from the Lazy Otter to Earith for Patience to have her bottom blacked.
It's generally recommended that a narrow boat has its bottom covered with a couple of coats of bitumen every 3 or 4 years and we brought Patience for this treatment to Westview Marina at Earith where she will also have a couple of new sacrificial anodes to help her resist rusting.
The trip up took a little over three hours and involved our first lock, thankfully manned. Note that the lock is directly under the road bridge and that in being raised to the higher level Duncan's sensitive scalp nearly touched the underside of the bridge. Unlucky for you if you're 6 foot 3 and it's high water...
As Westview were fixing their crane  it may be a week or two before Patience can show off her new bottom. Meanwhile we can relax after a perfect day - and watch one of the several seals who have made Westview Marina their home.. (Photos by John)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Waterways in India

Lest we forget, the UK is not the only place with canals and waterways. Much of Europe has well developed internal traffic, but this week was my first boating holiday on the waterways of southern India at Alleppey in Kerala.
My stay was on the houseboat Pallanaya - 93 tons, capacity for 6 passengers, 4.85 metres wide and 32 metres long, 1.65 metres in depth and made in 2008 with an Ashok Leyland engine (capacity unknown) and a crew of 4 including a cook. So not your average narrow boat in the cut.
The waters are wide and full of varied craft from tiny fishing canoes (and one small pedalo) through commercial ferries to luxury leisure houseboats like ours and not forgetting one raft containing a full sized combine harvester!
Here's a double decker like ours, timber with metal sheeting below water and coir woven around a tubular steel superstructure.

Inside there were three ensuite double bedrooms and aircon. Upstairs a lounge with excellent views ahead, while the main deck downstairs was a dining room.
 Crew quarters, spacious kitchen and air con units were to the rear.
I recommend it at least for 24 hours, if you happen to be passing that way. More info here.