Spring seems so long ago: halcyon days on the river in our little widebeam home.
The Crofton Beam Engine is a big part of canal history – so much water goes down through the system that it seeks to replace it by pumping the water back up hill. These days it’s done by electric pump, but in its day this was British engineering at its very best.
During the recent freeze, when the electric pumps gave up the ghost, the whole thing was genuinely operational rather than simply preserved for posterity.
There are some pictures on my Flickr account, which, having locked me out for a year, has suddenly allowed me back in. Go figure!
They were taken at the Croften open day, when the whole thing was operational. There was also a steam driven canal boat there, The Thrush: a piece of boat history still floating. It was the last working wooden boat made in England apparently. Frankly, whilst I’m glad there are enthusiasts out there to preserve them, I’d not want to live on one! Working boaters lived on those things with entire families in at one end of the boat. Hot steam engines that take up over half the space in the boat. Don’t think we’d be afloat if we had to live like that.
This lifestyle is pretty halcyon now that the warmer weather has clicked in.
The following are some quick notes.
The kingfishers are back. I’ll blog about the grebes later – they have more character than I imagined.
The lifestyle is pretty hedonistic, and my weight’s rocketing in the wrong direction. Wine o’clock seems to come around a little quicker around here!
The exhaust has had to be taken off the boat for repair, so we can’t currently move her.
O.(husband) thinks that the lack of insulation is what’s caused our damp problem. Which means taking down the walls. Which means a refit. Urgh! Can hear the cash ’tils ringing already.
The windows on the front doors have been resealed in the past week – will help keep us warmer in the winter.
Off to choose fabric for curtains tomorrow – thinking about a Moroccan theme for living room but not sure it won’t look like a hippie palace! Won’t worry me but may worry others when we sell her on, to upgrade, in a year or two.
Will blog what’s happening with licenses later in the week – and how impressed I’ve been with the responsiveness of the EA Minister John Benyon (and yes, he is a conservative, and yes, I did just say that!)
The kids have found a new pocket money spinner, with other boaters offering them cash for cleaning down their boats. They’ve worked together really well, and are loving it.
I’d love to say yes to AV – A Vote.
But we are currently disenfranchised.
Like other travellers (yes, we come under that category) we don’t live in a house and pay council tax so we don’t have any rights (and before you get hot under the collar, we pay £1000 for a rivers license!) . We’d love residential moorings, but haven’t yet found them. They are rarer than rocking horse manure.
I would probably say yes to AV as I usually manage to waste my vote.But I haven’t engaged with the debate: just scowled a lot at politicians laying out their stall on telly. Ity’s not very interesting if it doesn’t affect you – I empathise with every child whpo’s sitting through party political broadcasts at the moment.
Flippancy, however, aside, there’s a serious point. We will shortly, I hope, no longer be travellers. But this exercise has demonstrated to me what it feels like to be a traveller. Or homeless. No vote. No-one wanting to give travellers children a proper break and give them education choices. We have a way out of this, but how many travellers do? The children worry me the most – it’s possible to completely disappear of the authorities’ radar. The very kids who most need support are simply a problem to be moved on.
We’ve also found it impossible to get census forms. Guess that if we don’t live a proscribed manner, the authorities would rather we didn’t exist. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Even prisoners get more consideration.
So I’d love to say yes to AV: A Vote for everyone, no matter what their lifestyle choices.
It’s evidently been the week for big bumps - reminders that canal boating is a contact sport!
This weekend, Claire and James took their river cruiser, Ceejay (alternatively named Emmy P) out onto the cut (the riverside). As they left the marina, their steering went! Kaput!
At the time, we were having a pontoon party (more on that one later) for the Royal Wedding, so everything was dropped while people ran to bring them to safety.
Fortunately a friend of theirs pulled his narrowboat in to help them, and things were soon fixed to a point where they could make it out onto the cut – but not before their battery also gave up the ghost (solved by recharging).
They have worked so hard to get the little boat renovated that they really deserve a break. Hopefully the fact that it broke whilst still on the marina was a sign that someone up there was looking after them, and they chugged off happily enough once the drama was over, with just enough time to moor before darkness fell.
It is getting fairly urgent that we follow them out – whilst we’re ‘continuous cruising’ in principle, moving enough to stay legal, we keep having to come back to the marina because very few places want a boat as big as ours moored. Hoping we’ll find some residential moorings soon, but these seem rarer than rocking horse manure.
Sometimes things aren’t bleeding obvious until they jump out and hit you in the face. And it wasn’t until I read a blog on minimising water when navigating locks that it occurred to me that locks don’t go up. They may seem to when you’re travelling upstream, but of course they only fill up temporarily, and then empty again. Downstream.
So actually, this is a big issue in the summer when lots of boat movement means water is travelling even faster towards the sea.
So being gentle with the lock equipment so that it holds back the water efficiently, getting through quickly (forget ‘boaters do it slowly’ here!), and sharing locks (harder for a widebeam, but riverboats at least can usually squish in with us) will help.
We were taught good manners as part of our RYA training, but persuading other boaters to consider the water rather than ‘who was there first’ and to close everything off may be a tougher proposition.