Life aboard the broadbeam river barge, Eva Luna

Sailing off into the sunset

I should have written this a long time ago, and perhaps it’s just a reticence on my part, but Eva Luna found her new owners in the summer of this year.

They are a lovely, lovely couple and I think they’ll love the lifestyle – both are creative, and neither seem daunted by the hard work that comes with a boat. Both also seem really practical.

They have taken her out onto the river onto residential moorings and texted a week or so ago to say they were loving it and enjoying their their new water borne adventure.

So this ties off the adventure. I wish it had been longer, and miss the old girl. I miss the clean air and the wildlife, but mostly I miss the people. I still see some, but life on the water carries on without us, quite rightly. So I’m glad I blogged, even if I couldn’t put it all on record!

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Waiting for her new owners

It’s nearly 2014, and time for an update on the boat.

We’ve been visiting Eva Luna each week to run her engine and keep her clean and tidy. The marina don’t really do much to look after the boats, so we check that the shore power hasn’t gone (affects the batteries) and run the Webasto (heating) to make sure her systems stay working. Owen’s been going to the marina and running the engine as well.

It didn’t feel right leaving her so empty, so I couldn’t resist putting a tiny Christmas tree onto her. Now wondering what to do for the New Year. She looks so very different empty!

It’s now a bit of a waiting game for us in terms of getting her to a new owner, as three lots of people have expressed a genuine interest but are either selling boats or houses, or waiting for other money to arrive before making an offer. Part of me wants it sorted, another part feels like it’s cutting off a family member.

I’m hoping I can persuade Owen to take us out for one last sail before she goes to her new owner, but the river’s running very high after the storms, so that may prove unworkable. It’s one thing taking a risk sailing on a ‘red board’ river when the boat’s ‘ours’ but she will soon be someone elses. It’s funny how we used to just pass the river and occasionally note that it was flooded. Now I notice water height, speed, colour and even smell – not in a bad way. Water has a very different smell to road smalls, and I do miss the cleaner air on the river.

It’s funny how things come full circle. The people who so kindly let us look aboard their boat for ideas when we were first looking have been in touch. I was really surprised when I learned, a while back, that they had moved back onto dry land. They haven’t, however, been able to resist the call of the water and are now back aboard. Over the Christmas period, we saw some of the friends we’re missing. The cottage I’m living in with the children is lovely, but it’s only temporary (rented) while we sell the boat and build a new life on land. Unfortunately it comes with ‘issues’ (a subject for another blog, another time.) So I can’t help wondering….


Eva luna is for sale. She’s a 70′ broadbeam suitable as a liveaboard. Contact Claire: +44 90) 7771 817015.

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Moving on

We are about to move off the boat and leave her in the hands of the Thames and Kennet  marina to find her new owner, although the thought of her being empty seems all wrong.

When we moved aboard Eva Luna, she was called ‘Grace and Favour’ (long story!). She hadn’t been lived in for a while so as soon as all of her systems were tested in anger (which happened quite quickly as an unusual cold snap set in early in the year we moved in) it all went wrong. It didn’t take long to get her up and running really, but everything is now in full working order, she passed her boat safety with flying colours and one way and another, I’d hate all of that hard work to be wasted, and hope her new owner arrives soon: several people have expressed an interest, but as she’s a liveaboard, most are waiting for their own sale to go through, be that of another boat or a house.

It is reassuring though, and at least we know now that she’s at the right price, just waiting for the right owner at the right moment.

We wanted to hold a bit of a leaving party on Monday evening, but that was pretty much vetoed and as I don’t have the energy to sort out something else, quietly slinking away it shall be!

Our pirate flag was folded away this week. I did think about leaving it flying, but it doesn’t necessarily make the best first impression, apparently. We’ve slowly been moving our things into storage until we can have access to the cottage. I am amazed by how much ‘stuff’ we stuff have. I thought we had pared down our lives. A 50′ storage unit tells a different story, with old friends such as marbles (keeping those for some art work), vuvuzelas (ouch!) and a pair of silk shoes making a reappearance.

Our attempts to find somewhere to live on land have met with some shocking discoveries – the rental market in the area is nothing short of ‘mental’, with properties being snaffled within hours and agents behaving very, very badly.  (More on that later.) Being boaters has defined us for the past few years and I have met some lovely people that I would otherwise never have met. My new home will be a cottage on land, shared with the boys – it’s all bitter sweet- excitement about our new home, sadness for leaving this one with so much left undone.

However, I think we’ll be better citizens going back on land. Living on a boat teaches you about the value of what so many take for granted – not wasting power or water; knowing when to put the heating on and when to stick on a cardigan; the value of services pumped to your door like gas, electric , water and sewage services.  We haven’t missed them – the boat has everything we’ve needed – but you do value them more when you have to think about them and manage them.

We were blessed to find this boat at exactly the right time for us – our children have had an amazing youth, and one I hope that they will look back on as an amazing period of their lives.

We’ll miss her!


Battening down the hatches

Ah me. After a halcyon summer which we felt would go on forever, the days have started to get shorter, and the rain has reappeared. Many of the geese and small birds from the hedgerows have flown, and the coots, aggressively territorial over the summer, seem to have declared a winter truce.

"Eva Luna"

An early design of Eva Luna’s livery.

With any boat, the onset of winter is the testing time: have any seals rotted and need replacing? Does the heating still work? It’s a bit like turning the boiler back on in a house.  99% of the time it’s fine, but there’s always that one…… We’re with the 99 this time (hurrah!).

Thinking back to our first winter on the boat, coming on for three years ago now, it makes me shudder. No-one had been living on her and the winter came in hard and fast – the coldest for years. Her systems, no longer accustomed to being used, managed by us, completely novice boaters, all fell over at once in the middle of a cold spell.

At least whoever takes her on from here will be taking on a boat that’s been lived on, and whilst systems do eventually of course wear out, at least we’ll hand her over in full working order.

We’ve put the double glazing back up over the skylight in the main cabin, and we have put the heating on twice over the past week. It, thankfully, still works a treat, although some of the radiators need bleeding – a small and easily resolved problem, thank goodness. (Hope I’m not tempting fate by saying that – we’ll be bleeding them on Sunday afternoon.) The torrential rain earlier this week tested the boat for being watertight, and she’s passed muster. One way and another – woot!!!

Even in the rain, though, the river manages to look beautiful.

I managed to get the boats’ rails touched up (with paint)  before the rain started, so no chance of rust there and looking prettier – all in all, warm and watertight and ready for the winter. It seems ironic that now she’s running like a dream, we’ll be moving on. It fills me with sadness.

If I’ve learned anything from our adventure,  it’s that if you don’t use a boat and it’s equipment regularly, expect problems. So whilst we’ll move off in the next month or so, making it easier for the sales team to take people on board for viewings,  there’s no way we’ll let our hard work getting her in tip top living condition go to waste. We’ll only be a short way from her current moorings, and a small part of me is relishing the thought that we may actually get to use her as a pleasure boat rather than a home for for a while before she goes to new owners.

Against this bitter sweet backdrop, excited about a new future, sad to be leaving this boat behind, I’ve started re-reading the Tales of Eva Luna (Isabelle Allende). It seems forever ago that we sat down as a family and decided her name….

Eva Luna is now for sale: call 0118 946 1320 and ask for Claire.

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On campaigns, Caversham and Clandestine Cake Clubs!

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So last month I spent a lot of time ‘banjaxed’. Firstly losing Bingo absolutely crushed me. Then I had some kind of norovirus type infection that laid me low for a good week, after which the VAT man called and I discovered that for one reason and another I had to rework 18 months worth of accounts. The joys of self employment!

Anyway, I’m now back in the driving seat, and have regained access to my work website. This blog has little to do with my professional life, but I have been working behind the scenes on a campaign for change. We clearly needed to get in some professional help to help us navigate the paths of government, but there was no money in the kitty for professional lobbying. two of us went along to a talk by the Houses of Parliament Outreach Team. So if you’re campaigning for change – and I know lots of boaters are – you might find the notes I’ve blogged useful.  There was so much information, I split it into three:

Part one: background, paliamentary questions

Part two: parliamentary debate

Part three: the legslative process

Secondly the Thames Clandestine Cake Club, a largely boat-based affair, suffered a mutiny. It will no longer be a Clandestine Cake Club, but a boat based cake community. Just as much fun, same people attending but less formally bound by the CCC rules. Well what did you expect? Put 10 boaters (free spirits) in a room together…. CCC will be at the Heart of it, though, and all bakers are grateful for the motivation it gave us.

And last but not least, we decided to move off Eva Luna to allow the sales people at Tingdene to sell her from the sales pontoon. This was a hard decision to make – heartbreaking in fact – but our generally chaotic surroundings of football boots and work papers have been tidied into boxes, but that means we can’t access them and with winter drawing close we need to get out jumpers. coats and boots again.  I really don’t have time to get out and market her myself (although if you know someone who might be interested, she’s on sale at the reduced price of £89, 950 ONO – call Claire 07771 87015).

So we’ve found a lovely house to be a bolthole until we finally decide where we want to be. No matter what, it won’t be far from the water!

And as the house is in Caversham, that’s my ‘Three C’s”: cakes, Caversham and campaigns!

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Selling the boat

Our lives, it seems, are in a permanent state of upheaval. I came to the conclusion that I really don’t have time to market the boat myself, and am unlikely to persuade Owen to get us back out on the cut, where people doing what we did when we were looking – scouring the riverbanks for information, advice and tips about any boats for sale – might be. But it really is time for Eva Luna (our wide-beamed river barge) to find her new soulmate.

Boats as places to live are very specific creatures. We know when the right one has arrived.  We looked for a long time to find her. I feel like her new owner is just waiting to find her. Does that sound odd?

We know her new owners will be delighted with her. and have none of the ‘this boats not been used for a while’ problems that we had when we first got her. When I think back we were very naive – our first winter was harder than it needed to be. But what an adventure!  We will never take for granted being warm and dry again. At least her new owners won’t need to find out the way we did. I laugh when I think how little we knew.

I don’t think I was really ready to leave the boat before, and hadn’t done a lot about getting her sold, but with the new school year starting, Bingo not being with us any more, and the changes in our lives over the last few months, it really is time for a change. But this still feels like a happy boat, a joyous place, where the boys have been able to to live a ‘Swallows and Amazons’ lifestyle, where we met and fell in love with the best dog ever, where we’ve learned and grown so much as people (and shrunk size wise!) We’ve just outgrown her and need something bigger to accommodate four large, noisy adults!

I had originally based the price of the boat on what the Estate Agent had suggested (yes, we looked at that route to sell) and the fact that friends had sold their much older and less well maintained boat for the price that we are now asking –  really she’s now at a price to sell: Apollo Duck widebeam boat. I feel a bit foolish for taking the advice I was given before. The new owners of the boat that we based her price on are quickly realising they paid too much.

Now we’re finally ready to make the move and sell, I’m sure the girl in the sales office of the boat sales company we’ve gone with must hats me – I really need to get it done now the decision’s so concrete, and as she’s had the details for well over a week I’m chomping at the bit.  (I was a bit taken aback that they haven’t been to do photos or anything, but are still expecting to take a handsome commission. It makes me ‘harumph’, but that’s the way life is and I’m not convinced that constantly fighting the system serves me well!)

Yes – there’s a first time for everything!

So if you know someone who deserves a great little boat and is ready for an adventure on the water, point them our way – we’ll always be happy to show people around, the way people did for us when we were first looking for the right boat for us!

(Footnote: tel – 07771 817015; e: clairelthompson at gmail.com)


IMG_2482 IMG_2484 Stern end wood burner boat bow

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Dear Bingo

Dear Bingo

I wish I had given you just an extra day here with us.   A day to go and roll in fox poo and dead fish, the way you loved to do. A day to go get soggy in the lake, even though it meant showering you afterwards. A day to scatter the coots and geese.

A day for your little round bottom to jump through the grass chasing whatever it was we couldn’t see. A day to chase balls along the corridor, and to pull on your tug toys. A day when you got cheese treats instead of dog treats. A day to do do the things you loved, and that I loved doing for you.

A day to have the very best steak for dinner.  And some really smelly tripe stick treats. A day to sleep on the beds you weren’t allowed on, and unmake them to create your own little nest. Because you gave us joy, and you deserved to have it back.

A day when all of the people who fell in love with your little cock-eared smile and funny little eyebrows could say goodbye to you.  A day when I could stick my face in your lovely glossy fur coat and smell the little doggy smell I tried so hard to constantly sanitise.

I’m sorry for every time I told you off for doing the things you did just because of being a dog. And for sometimes wishing you wouldn’t.

Thank you for making me go out for walks every day, and giving me the gift of health. Thank you for getting me out more and helping me see the countryside,  the wealth of butterflies and wildflowers that might otherwise have passed me by. The peaceful spots we chose to walk so that we wouldn’t meet too many other dogs. Thank you for comforting my children when they were upset, kissing away their tears, and for being patient with me when I prioritised my work over giving you a walk. For showing me I had extra love to give. For never baring your teeth at me or biting me, even when I trod on you. For forgiving me for leaving you at the vets to get injections I couldn’t hold you still for.

You never asked for much, and I failed you far too often.

I’m glad you had time doing the things you loved the most, playing ball; snuffling, even when it was things I wouldn’t have wanted to snuffle; hiding from us and running back, knocking us over with your speed; playing with your doggy friends.

I am sorry for being too much of a coward to give you the extra time. I pay for that mistake daily, and I hope that if dogs have souls or spirits or whatever’s out there once we are no more, you’ll forgive me. For not being strong enough to make you feel safe around all the other dogs. For not mortgaging my soul to get you the very best doggy behaviour specialists straight away. For running out of time to help you. You deserved better.

You’ve crossed the rainbow bridge, which is where I’m told all good boat dogs go.  I hope you hung around long enough to know how much you’re missed


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A really bad day…

Today has been the worst day ever.

We had to let Bingo – our dog – go.


Permission Granted for Judicial Review of CRT’s Continuous Cruising Guidance

CRT logo

Ironic slogan, under the circumstances

According to a press release issued by the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA), a volunteer organisation that campaigns and provides advice for constant cruisers, the Court of Appeal has granted permission to Nick Brown, the NBTA’s legal officer, for a Judicial Review of the CRT’s contentious 2011 Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring.

Lord Justice Jackson said in his judgement that the issue of whether the 2011 Guidance accurately sets out the powers of CRT and the restrictions on licence holders arising from Section 17 (3) (c) (ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 merits pursuit in Judicial Review. I agree. Anything that brings clarity has to be a good thing. We cruise on the Thames and have few problems, but the CRT isn’t terribly boater friendly, despite charging large sums of money for it’s licenses, and seems to make up the rules as it goes along.

Our boat is pretty and well maintained –

But it always helps to have complete clarity, and this ruling overturns a previous  High Court judgement (November 2012) that refused permission for Judicial Review. It’s good to see that common sense has prevailed. CRT claims that the Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring sets out what a boater is required to do to comply, but the Court of Appeal believes it is arguable whether CRT is correct and I’ve heard it said that the CRT enforces unevenly, with boaters with less pretty boats being targeted with orders to move on. The lack of clarity would chew your mind.

Most people simply observe some good practise rules that the NBTA espouses, such as mooring properly, leaving the easy mooring spaces free for the one week cruises, and as the owner of a ‘pretty’ boat, we’ve had no problems – but I hate to think of fellow boaters being targeted.

In 2012, the CRT committed £500,000 on a project to reduce the numbers of boaters who do not comply with its interpretation of the law. That’s half a million pounds that could have been spent providing new moorings or undertaking much needed repairs to waterways. I always find it really sad that the CRT hasn’t been able to embrace the boating community.  London boaters have demonstrated clearly that having boats on them enhances canal users experience, and adds a sense of safety to people walking themselves, their families and dogs along towpaths. There’s room on the river for everyone if it’s managed well. Sure, there will always be disagreements, but it would be really nice if the CRT could step up and become the hero of the hour rather than the villain of the piece. It is, after all, both publicly funded and a charity, and should be there, therefore, to represent more than just the interests of holiday boat providers, who increase costs as well as bringing revenue.

Well done to Nick and Panda. Let’s hope it leads to happier relationships in future. I’m back off to enjoy some sunshine!

(For more information about the ruling, contact secretariat@bargee-traveller.org.uk)

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Boaty Book Review: The Art of Racing in The Rain

photo dog in bed

What’s he thinking?

A friend and fellow boater, Amanda, runs a book club on the first Wednesday of every month. This week’s book choice was ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ by Garth Stein

It was one of those books that sounded nice, but wasn’t something you’d admit to reading. The premise of the book – told through the eyes of a dog, sounded a bit, well, silly. A bit like admitting to reading a Mills and Boon novel and saying you enjoyed the plot.

But it was a brilliant read. The author resists the temptation to make the dog a ‘super-dog’. Instead he’s an animal that can see and sense things that we know dogs can, but is also an animal with failings, unable to communicate and trapped in an aging body.

The book is a comment on the frailty of life, on the ways we handle grief, and the man/dog relationship. Ultimately, although it had me balling my eyes out, it’s a hopeful book, reflecting on the blessings we have been given in life, and how we can pass them on.  It’s not just dogs who can be utterly lovable!

That said, I didn’t make the club itself this month, and opinion – as usual – was utterly divided. From my end though, it was highly recommended.

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