Yearly Archives: 2020

a curious case of sticky fuel

a curious case of sticky fuel  

River Canal Rescue reports there’s been an uncharacteristic peak in fuel-related component breakdowns not linked to diesel bug. It cites two identical jobs where fuel injectors were diagnosed as needing an overhaul, yet their replacements stopped working within a week, and injection pumps were found to have failed even though the diesel was clear and bright.

Upon further investigation, RCR engineers found in both cases the injector pump racks had seized solid and the nozzles were blocked, and when replacing the plunger filter head, they found the fuel had a sticky, syrup-like substance.  Alongside stuck injection pump racks, injectors and filter head plunger failures, RCR is seeing cases of fuel filters blocking with wax inside them.

Managing director, Stephanie Horton, explains: “Over the last nine months we’ve come across higher than normal call-outs for injector, injection pump and fuel problems not related to diesel bug. Our contractors are also reporting reoccurring issues with these systems and ‘sticky fuel’.

“It’s definitely a type of contamination, but not one we’ve seen before. Samples have been taken and we’re trying to build a picture of the problem.  Our engineers are reporting problems across the UK and this particular issue is only becoming clear when a fault reoccurs, because the diesel on the whole, looks bright and clear.

“Initially we suspected sugar in the fuel, but sugar stays crystalline instead of dissolving. We now believe it may be related to a reduction in FAME free fuel and a change in fuel and fuel treatment additives.”

In order to identify the culprit, Stephanie is keen to hear from boat owners and engineers with similar problems: “I want to learn more about their experiences, where they filled up and what treatments they may have used, and increase my sample size. The more I know, the closer I am to finding a solution.”

Stephanie believes the issue could stem from chemicals, now present in some treatments and red diesel, which replaced banned additives, and she’s looking into the farming sector’s blocked fuel filter problems reported around a year ago.

According to Farmers Weekly, in order to increase the proportion of fuel derived from renewable sources (capped at 7%), an increasing amount of biodiesel was blended with red diesel. Known as Fatty Acid Methyl Ester - FAME – it’s made from a combination of fresh and recycled vegetable oils and some animal fats.

The blockage problems were initially attributed to its storage, but differing regional cases discounted this.  The UK Petroleum Industry Association (PIA) tested samples but failed to pinpoint a single cause. However tests by a fuel additive producer showed there could be a problem with insolvable particles dropping out of some of the fuel blends.

After testing 100 fuel and clogged filter samples, only 15% were found to contain contaminants as a result of poor storage, and in many cases, they weren’t significant enough to cause a blockage. The remainder were contaminant free with a clear appearance.

More detailed tests revealed the fuels had high total contamination levels and particulate counts, many between 15-20 mg/kg.  Clean gas oil normally has a contamination level of 6mg/kg and the legal limit is 24. When an external lab tested the sticky residue it revealed the problem was caused by sterol glucoside and monoglyceride particles.

These substances can drop out of bio diesel components and the problem’s made worse at low temperatures. They can also easily accumulate as they don’t melt back into the fuel as the temperature rises.  With FAME coming from multiple sources, the PIA says fuel producers are working to address the issues by changing the properties of their diesel fuel blend.

Stephanie continues: “There’s an industry task force currently looking at sustainability and the use of second stage bio-diesel for marina applications and they report these ‘sticky fuel’ symptoms were reported in their testing samples when using first stage bio-diesels. It’s clear there’s an ongoing problem which I wonder may be due to marinas no longer being able to supply FAME-free oil.

“It’s important we get to the bottom of the problem as these are costly breakdowns and business are also at risk due to the reoccurrence of issues and covering repairs under warranty.”

Stephanie is asking anyone experiencing ‘sticky fuel’ issues to send in samples or get in touch with River Canal Rescue: “Please give your name, email address, a date when the issue occurred, when you last filled up with fuel and where, plus information on whether any treatments were added to the fuel and if so, what type.”

Letters should be addressed to: Fuel Samples, River Canal Rescue, 11 Tilcon Avenue, Baswich, Stafford ST18 0YJ, email:  with fuel issues in the subject line or call 01785 785680.

slipping into an accent

slipping into an accent

Emma on the Shropshire Union Canal

Emma on the Shropshire Union Canal

Before we moved onto a narrowboat we filled our minds with information about how locks work, maps and routes of the waterways, engine maintenance and all the things we thought might be essential to know. When we started travelling we were so focused on not hitting the cill in a lock, so excited by being on an adventure, that we hadn’t fully thought about the people we would meet along the way.

Being musicians we have travelled around the country for twenty plus years, driving up and down the motorways, arriving for soundcheck, getting up on stage, packing up and heading home again. Coming from Gloucestershire, and with family in the south west, I’ve always been enthralled by the different accents we’ve encountered that seemed unusual, curious or, sometimes completely incomprehensible.

Chester Basin, Shropshire Union Canal

Emma and Ernie in Chester Basin

When we set off on Jambo we travelled not at seventy but three miles per hour and in doing so slipped quietly through the water, gliding into each new village and town. We knew Worcester well as it was close but as we moved northwards we found ourselves listening to accents slowly emerge, alter and change – like climbing the lower slopes of a hill with the gradient getting steeper until the source area of the accent appeared at the top then slipping away again to be replaced with the foothill of another.

As we navigated our way up the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal we skirted the outer edges of the Black Country with it’s unique accent that has more in common with Middle English of a thousand years ago than most other regional English accents. When an outsider is spoken to by someone of an older generation from Dudley it often leads to a quizzical look and a shrug at its impenetrability!

Heading up the Llangollen canal we heard the slow creep from English to Welsh with it’s sing-song mellowness and sad undertones and as we made our way further north to the upper reaches of the Shropshire Union in Cheshire the twang of the Mersey estuary, most associated with Liverpool, crept into the pronunciation and phrases. As we couldn’t take a direct route east we had the chance to hear the slow decay of the Cheshire inflection and the rise of Mancunian which reached it’s crescendo within Manchester itself.  It seemed strange in contrast to reach Wigan, which even by Narrowboat didn’t seem that far away from both Manchester and Liverpool, and hear such a unique and different tongue.  It was in Wigan that I definitely felt most distant to our original west country home.  Saying the word ‘pal’ down south is often followed by an argument and yet up there “y’aright pal” (are you alright pal) was used in the same way that “mate” is used in Gloucester or Bristol.

Castlefields Basin Manchester

Castlefields Basin, Manchester

Throughout all of these changes brought about by our journeying we met the folk on boats.  Those who like us travelled brought a wide and varied range of accents from their original homelands. Most strange of all was what happened to my own accent. Left to it’s own devices I have a relatively strong Gloucester/West Country accent (or speaking in farts and whistles as a friend from Bristol once described it) but after years of needing to speak to people from all over I’ve lost it by the simple necessity of needing to be understood. The further we got from Gloucester, the stronger it became until one morning I jumped out of the boat and instead of saying “good morning” came out with something that only an old farmer from the Forest of Dean could have understood!  As we got nearer to the south west again my accent snapped back into it’s usual BBC announcer state! Very Bizarre.

bugsworth basin

Bugsworth Basin

Travelling the length of the Trent and Mersey canal we left the rhythms of Cheshire behind and listened to a gradual change into Midlands accent around Rugeley and Burton on Trent before the addition of a northern inflection started creeping in as got nearer to Derbyshire.  It was fascinating to listen to and gave us plenty to natter about as we made our way along on the back of the boat.

After Leicestershire, where to be honest we didn’t get to speak to too many people (not sure why), we headed along the Grand Union. After quite some time north of Birmingham it was quite a shock to hear southern voices again but as we curved up towards Warwick and Kings Norton the familiar Brummie tones appeared.  It’s a warm and friendly accent despite reports that it is the least liked in the UK and the focus of much mimicry but I love the sound of it.

Once we’d returned to Gloucester for the winter it took a couple of weeks to not “hear” the accent. This may sound strange but when we first got back to the area our friends and families accents sounded remarkably strong and it took a good couple of weeks to readjust and for it to become invisible to our ears again.

Foxton Locks from top lock

Foxton Locks - Foxton Top Lock

Something special happens when people get onto towpaths. The rush and hurry of day to day life can fade as the water works its wonders, people smile and are more willing to stop and talk.  Between boaters the conversation inevitably turns to the weather, news of the waterways and toilets but from non-boaters the most popular questions are normally ‘doesn’t it get cold?’ (nope), ‘do you live on there?’ (yup) and ‘do you go to the loo in the canal?’ (absolutely not!!). Once these essential questions are out of the way people often open and are eager to talk about the local area, about the history of the place or their own experiences of boats. This means we have heard some wonderful tales ranging from boating disasters to local road planning and how the place has changed to one interesting chap who once worked in the rope industry (it was a lot more interesting than it sounds!).

Whatever the subject though there have been few occasions that we’ve been bored by people who want to stop and chat and we’ve also noticed that a boat going through a lock is enough to entice even the most sullen teenager into action in helping with a gate. It’s taken some adjusting to but we’ve met a number of  “dodgy” characters, especially in cities, who you might if you passed in the street try to avoid but who have turned out to be, genuine, friendly and engaging – the water is a great leveller.

martin vogwell - jodarolo crafts and plants

Neil & Claire's boat, home of plants and Jodarolo Crafts

The people most special to us have been the boaters we’ve met. When I fell off of a lock gate in 2019 and stumbled my way down into Audlem it was Claire and Neil from their boat Jodarolo Crafts who helped us moor up Jambo and point me the direction of the local hospital. Further along the way, when we were buzzing at having just gone up the Foxton lock flight we met Rob on Tebay who could understand what we were doing and why we were so excited. At Braunston we met Chris who had sold our boat Jambo three times already and at Greensforge we met Jo and Michael who record their travels on YouTube as Minimalist and had a good natter while we gave them a lift to the chandlery to buy emergency spare parts as they’d broken down.

But most special have been the boating friends we’ve met and got closer to during the national Coronavirus lockdowns including this site’s very own Linda and Gerry and the wonderful Martin & Gail from Towpath Tipples (if you like canals and you like Cider these are the people to know), and Debs, Andy, Chris and Evie, who have become like family.

boating and france

boating and france

what's not to like?

Have you ever thought about the attractions of waterways beyond these islands?

We have been slow as a nation to perceive the incalculable inherent value of our sadly neglected canals.

Our friends over the Channel have long understood the glories of their waterways. The network of navigable rivers and canals in France extends throughout the country, from the deep south to the borders with Germany and Holland – and connects with the networks in those countries and beyond.

They are kept in excellent condition for the commercial traffic that still uses them, but private boating for pleasure is as popular there as here, and it is not hard to see why. Glorious countryside, continental weather, plus great food and drink, have long attracted Brits to France in particular for holidays, and many are now choosing to enjoy them linked to all the pleasures of messing around in boats.

It is of course possible to boat further afield on European waterways, but the closeness of France, its user-friendly network, and its innate attractions make it the number one destination.

Major hire companies in the UK have French offerings in their brochures, specialists like LeBoat have huge hire fleets available, and for those who like their cruising to come with maximum comfort and minimum effort, luxury cruises on the major rivers are growing in popularity.

Yet most British canal enthusiasts hardly give France a thought when choosing to invest in a boat or a boat holiday. So let’s look at the pros and cons of boating in France.

the pros

The pros are easy and some of them have already been mentioned.

The variety of scenery in France is staggering, and viewing it from the water is as attractive there as here. And much as we all love traditional pub grub, even the most enthusiastic among us have to admit that fish and chips or cottage pie can pall a little – especially compared with the legendary food and drink available in all the different regions of France.

Moreover, from a boating point of view, the two main attractions of France are the breadth of the waterways, and the electrification of locks.

France has no equivalent to our narrowbeam canals and boats; there are variations across the country in terms of maximum beam and length, but it is broadbeam all the way and for private boaters, length is no problem either.

A 50ft by 12 ft craft is ideal for comfortable cruising for four and can go anywhere and moor up anywhere. The size means large double beds, sundecks for relaxing or eating, large kitchens and saloons, and more than one bathroom!

Virtually all locks in France are electrically operated – a boon for those more advanced in years. Systems vary from waterway to waterway, but all benefit from powered paddles and gates so no more jumping on and off, climbing up dodgy handrails, teetering across ancient gate edges, yanking on swing bridges, pushing heavy gates or misplacing paddle keys.

the cons

And the ‘cons’ are far less daunting than they can appear. First, you do need someone on the boat to have certification. You will need an International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft (or ICC) to provide evidence that you are competent to handle a boat. In the UK, this scheme is run by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA). If you have had previous boat handling training, you may already have the necessary evidence of qualification for the ICC – the list of acceptable qualifications can be found on the RYA website.

Don’t worry if you do not currently qualify. You simply need to take an RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Course. This is a practical course, takes 2 days, and costs in the region of £300. Details of the course and of a training centre near you can also be found on the RYA site. If you have a partner who would benefit from basic crew training, this can often be done at the same time for a modest additional cost (as little as £25), making it a very enjoyable two days on the water. The relevant RYA course is the Inland Waterways Crew Course. There is no exam at the end of either course – you just do the two days and you get your ICC.

The other Certificate you will need is a Code Européen des Voies de Navigation Intérieure (CEVNI). This is like a Highway Code for European waterways, covering signs, rules and procedures. It looks daunting but is really mostly common sense. The CEVNI is only available to those holding an ICC. If you already qualify (see above), you can apply to take the test at a recognised centre or online. If you are going to take an RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Course, the CEVNI test can be administered at the same time for a nominal cost (£30). The test is multiple choice and pretty much no one ever fails! For anyone who has been on the receiving end of incompetent UK hirecraft helmsmen, it might be a good idea in the UK required something similar!

The other major ‘con’ is cost. Boating is not a cheap pastime wherever you do it. It is a brave man who buys a boat, especially if he is only going to use it for a few weeks in the year. Insurance, maintenance, mooring etc. are not cheap, here or in France. The old adage is that whatever you spend to buy the boat, assume you will need to spend 10% of that every year just to keep it.

The cost of a boat appropriate for French waterways will be higher than for UK narrowboats because you need a different kind of boat for river conditions – widebeam, with a protected prop and rudder, and a strong diesel engine. You can easily spend £250,000 and upward for such a boat new; a decent second hand similar craft would cost around the £100,000 mark.

Of course, you can use a flat bottomed narrowboat in France, and some do, but it is not ideal. On the other hand, the cost of hire craft has now reached crazy levels – again, both here and in France. And of course, if you love boating as a pastime, there is nothing quite like owning your own boat.

Luckily these days, there is a middle way – boat share. This is growing in popularity across Europe as a way of having your cake and eating it – all the pride and pleasure of ownership, but with the worry and cost of maintenance shared with other friendly, likeminded people.

boat share

Boat share, like holiday time share on land, has rightly had bad press in the past. Greedy and/or incompetent management companies were to blame. Luckily, most of these have gone out of business and the ones that remain provide a reputable service.

Alternatively, many boat share schemes now cut out the management companies altogether and are run by syndicates of owners who undertake the task of management themselves: think freehold vs leasehold flats. In these ‘freehold’ schemes, syndicate members who enjoy fiddling around on their boats, maintaining, repairing and upgrading, do so together in annual working parties. Others contribute their administrative, financial and marketing skills to the common purpose. And for those big expenditures like winter mooring or repainting, the cost of bringing in the professionals is shared among owners. The way it works is simple: find a boat syndicate you like; buy a share of weeks; pay a yearly running cost contribution (agreed at an AGM); and enjoy.

Annual running cost contributions for a French boat share vary but are usually in the region of £3-500 per week owned. The only costs on top of that are fuel and mooring fees. Fuel for a 2 week holiday should not be more than a few hundred pounds and mooring is either free if you choose, as many do, to ‘wild’ it, or about £20-25 per night in a marina with water, power and shore bathroom facilities: comparable to European caravan site fees.

Of course, there is an initial capital outlay – typically £2-3,000 per week purchased, but this can be recouped if and when you want to sell. Think of it this way: a bank loan of £2,500 to buy a week would cost just £125 a year at, say, at 5% p.a. interest. Add that to that, say, £400 per week running costs makes a total of around £525 a year. That wouldn’t hire even the smallest craft for a week in low season, let alone a luxury 50 ft widebeam craft. Or of course you can spend a six figure sum on a depreciating asset, another 10% every year on maintaining it, and then use it for just a few weeks. Just ‘do the math’ as they say over the pond.

If the idea of boat share in France interests you (and why not?!), a good website to explore is It has sections on Why France?, Why Boat Share? and How it Works?, providing answers to all the most common questions.

floating home

floating home

martin, emma and ernie

Martin and Emma, along with their dog Ernie are liveaboard boaters, folk musicians and continuous cruisers. They began their canal adventures on NB Jambo in 2017, only moving onto NB Digalou after the Covid Lockdown of 2020. Martin invites you to join him aboard as the trio continue their adventures.

Where to start… well I was born in… too far back… ok then! The shorter version is that after living in a house a stones throw from the Gloucester Sharpness Canal for fourteen years, my wife Emma and I - who are both musicians - were given a chance to change our lives and so we bought a narrowboat and left the land behind to live on the water.

We’d been on a narrowboat only once before when we’d hired from the (now closed down) boat hire in Dunhampsted, Worcestershire, but that was it. We devoured every boating YouTube video we could find and were still completely clueless… and sometimes three years later we still are!

Our first floating home - NB Jambo

Our first floating home - NB Jambo

We’d fallen in love with, and purchased, a boat that we had found advertised online which was moored on the River Lea over the other side of the country from where we were living. Getting it back to Gloucester was a massive struggle involving boat movers, a broken down engine and finally a lorry which craned her back into the water at R.W. Davis’ in Saul (about 8 miles south of Gloucester). It was stressful, expensive and utter chaos - so therefore a good introduction to boating.

In July 2018 we emptied a three bedroom house, giving away about 90% of our possessions and filling the attics of various friends and family members with a small library of books, music, and instruments and moved onto Jambo - a 39ft narrowboat made by East West Marine in 2006.

At this point I was still commuting to work, every day becoming harder to drag myself away from the canal to sit in a windowless office for 8 hours in front of a computer (I work in IT). One day, having finally snapped, I decided that I wasn’t going to any more! I went into work and handed in my notice with the idea of finding another job where I could work remotely, but the managing director had different ideas and so on January 1st I found myself unexpectedly working for the same company I had for the last 14 years but from our boat - a dream come true!

The Gloucester Sharpness canal is one that I’ll write about later but it is not normal (in the nicest possible way) when compared to a lot of the canal network in the UK. It is very wide, fairly short and massively forgiving for new boaters getting to grips with navigating for the first time, but we yearned to explore so on the second week of January, much to the shock and worry of our friends, we left Gloucester lock and travelled north along the mighty River Severn. We arrived safely at Stourport on Severn and started our journey through the narrow canals, learning as we went, often getting it wrong and being saved by good grace and the amazing people we met along the way.

river severn at Worcester

the River Severn at Worcester

stourport basin with narrowboat Jambo

Stourport basin on a clear January morning

Winding our way northwards we traversed through the early months’ snow and ice past seemingly magical places such as Greensforge and quiet canal homesteads like Kinver stopping only to work for a few days before taking to the tiller and pushing on. At Wightwick our engine went awry as our gearbox disintegrated leaving us to limp into Wolverhampton and then to the middle of nowhere on the Shropshire Union Canal where it finally expired leaving us stranded for three weeks whilst River Canal Rescue desperately tried to find the right parts.

Emma getting us through Hurleston lock flight

Emma getting us through Hurleston lock flight

Carrying on up the Shroppie I fell off of lock eleven of the Audlem flight, broke a finger and whacked my head leading to a trip to hospital, which meant that as we turned west onto the Llangollen Canal’s Hurleston lock flight I was having to wind the lock paddles left handed as all four seasons of weather battered us.

We also found at that point that our lovely Jambo didn’t like the Llangollen. She was “raw water cooled” meaning that the engine was cooled by drawing water out of the canal, through the engine before it was ejected on the port side. In the low waters of the Llangollen canal Jambo rebelled, became stubborn and stopped whenever the cooling system became blocked, all the way up to the little town of Llangollen itself where we had to turn around and go all the way back the way we had come to reach the Shroppie once more.

Ernie taking in the sights on the Anderton Boat Lift

Ernie taking in the sights on the Anderton Boat Lift

Once more on the Shroppie, we continued north and eventually reached Chester, the massive city walls towering over us. For the first time in a while we took a break before heading to Ellesmere Port so that we could say that we’d navigated the length of the canal. The weather by now was a lot better and we spent a lazy day or two on the Middlewich canal which connects the Shroppie and Trent & Mersey (T&M) watching the trains whiz over the adjacent bridge before turning left onto the T&M and meandering north (with a detour down the Anderton Boat Lift and along the River Weaver to Northwich before returning vertically up to the canal) eventually reaching Preston Brook tunnel and leaving C&RT waters for the Bridgewater Canal. Entering the city of Manchester was daunting (we half expected to see “here be dragons” on the map) but it was a wonderful experience giving us free accommodation in one of England’s largest cities whilst feeling completely safe in the unique Castlefield basin.

Beneath the walls of Chester City

Beneath the walls of Chester City

Our plan from the start of our journey was to reach Sheffield in the north of England but when we eventually reached Wigan, which would have started us onto the Leeds & Liverpool canal, we were unexpectedly turned back by the lock keepers. There just wasn’t enough water in the canal due to damage further up and so rejected we turned south again and followed the same journey back south, past Middlewich on the T&M and up “Heartbreak Hill” (or the Cheshire Locks) before turning up onto the Macclesfield Canal. This waterway turned out to be an absolute delight and one of our favourites but having reached the end we were warned of yet more water shortages on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which again blocked our way north. We sulked into the incredible Bugsworth Basin before slinking down the Mac again.

the Middlewich Canal by moonlight

the Middlewich Canal by moonlight

From there we ducked our way through the very low Harecastle Tunnel and journeyed on through the potteries finally reaching the end of the Trent & Mersey and entering the broad expanse of the River Trent for a very short while before heading south down the River Soar. Having to go away for a few weeks to appear at gigs in Devon, Holland and Gelsenkirchen, Germany (yup - it’s a strange life) we moored Jambo up at Ratcliffe On Soar and so luckily missed a flood which hit the area making the river un-navigable. When we returned to Jambo (who was fortunately safe and sound on a floating pontoon) we carried on towards Loughborough (which seemed like a very quiet place as the students weren’t around) and zipped through Leicester with it’s knackered locks before racing up the Foxton lock flight eventually reaching Braunston on the Grand Union Canal where Emma drifted us into the only free mooring space with about 1 centimetre free either end.

watching us watching you

Watching me watching you

The cruising year was coming to an end and it wouldn’t be too long before the annual engineering works started to kick in so we hurried (at 3mph) along the central branch of the Oxford Canal to re-join the Grand Union at Wigram’s Turn before turning off through the Lapworth Link. Trailing north we bounced through the Lapworth locks before finally turning onto the Worcester and Birmingham canal. Here we hit the Tardebigge flight of 30 locks that took a day to recover from as we had to rope Jambo out of every lock (the bubbles at the bottom of each lock caused by the overflow caused problems with the raw water cooling system!).

At Worcester we pulled in at our favourite cake stop (Commandery Café attached to the civil war museum on the outskirts of the town centre) and waited for the water level of the River Severn to drop as it was in flood. Four weeks later we were still there (and about half a stone heavier - it is exceptional cake!) until the waters of the river finally subsided and we could travel through fog and fast waters to return to the Gloucester Sharpness Canal for the winter.

Emma and Ernie the dog

Emma and Ernie the dog...

We believed we only had a year out to roam the canal network but once we’d had a taste of what life could be like as nomads there was no way I was going back into an office. We settled in for winter, moving less frequently, walking Ernie around more familiar terrain and then, with three days before we were planning to head back up the river, lockdown hit and life changed for everyone….

To be continued...

CRT’s top ten hits to be water safe this winter

Canal & River Trust is calling on people to enjoy being by water safely this winter and has published ten seasonal tips on how to take extra care on the towpaths. Wintery canal scenes have an enchanting, picture-perfect appeal. However, the reduced daylight and wet and even slippery conditions typical of this time of year can conceal hidden dangers.
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choose the way you cruise

choose the way you cruise

conquer land or water with the caravanboat Departure One M & XL

caravanboat logo

caravan boat

Living off the grid just got even more interesting!  When we heard the word ‘Caravanboat’ floating around we decided it was too good of an opportunity to miss, so ‘cast off’ those doubts (that was a sailing joke) and get ready for the strangest and most awesome caravan boat in existence!

meet the caravanboat

The tiny house can come in all shapes and sizes, in fact there are really no rules about how you should begin a life of off grid living.

The one factor that people normally take into account is whether they want to live on the land or on the water, but with the Caravanboat you can do both with ease. The Departure One is both a caravan and a fully motorized houseboat for those van dwellers that just can’t get enough of the water! It’s the ultimate cure for Wanderlust, letting you go pretty much wherever you want whenever you feel like it.

what’s inside the caravanboat?

The Departure One Caravanboat is fully kitted out for getting off grid, and has been designed so that you can stock up on supplies for two days living without having to hook up to extra power or refill water for drinking or cooking. What’s more, the Caravanboat has solar panels on the roof so that you can power up on the go or connect to an electrical hook up once you’re back on land.

The Departure One has enough room for four people to sleep inside, and it’s got a fully fitted bathroom too.

There’s a kitchen with induction hobs, hot plate and fridge, and the covered terrace area means that you can sit and enjoy the ocean whilst eating or relaxing with friends. Plus there's a ship's steering wheel inside – any vehicle with a ship's wheel must be OK!

what about landlubbers?

The engine folds up so it’s out of the way when you’re on the land, and a pull out awning means you can keep dry when the elements are against you.

The Caravanboat XL is 8.00m in length and 2.45m in width, but if you’re used to towing trailers with an SUV then you’ll be absolutely fine driving down those tight country lanes.

There are also USB charging points, batteries, LED lights and an on board water heater.

final thoughts…

We love the sense of freedom that the Caravanboat brings to the camping experience, and now you can really take your trip into those far reaches that were otherwise unreachable when you only had your camper with you. On land or off land, the Caravanboat is a luxury vehicle that compliments your sense of adventure and can take you to some truly exciting places. At an affordable price, the caravanboat offers sheer luxury and the freedom to choose how and where you cruise.

editor's note

The Caravan Boat is manufactured in Germany, and the manufacturers are looking for an agent in the UK. The Caravanboat meets UK standards and apart from the road tax for your vehicle, the only thing you will need is a waterways licence for when you are on the water.

You can get short term water licences from the Environment Agency, a one week or one month licence from CRT (for spreading days afloat through the year) and an annual licence for Lake Windermere - worthwhile as it is currently only £19 .

The other thing you would need to consider is launching places. Many Marinas have both Caravan Sites and Slipways. In fact the Caravanboat would be an exciting purchase option for Marinas and Holiday Hire companies who would be able to offer their customers a very different boating, camping or combination holiday.



canalboat agent wanted

We only allow selected shipyards and suppliers to work together on our products and monitor the entire process chain from planning to the purchasing chain and production processes to delivery. Our customers benefit from this effective production concept, which enables good product quality and market-driven sales prices.

Our clients can accompany the entire construction project in close cooperation with us in all work steps and can thus incorporate change requests during the construction progress. Together we build an individual caravan boat for our customers.

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+49 172 419 72 84 SALES

winterise your boat

winterising your boat

tips from river canal rescue to help you save on costly repair bills

With winters getting colder and sub-zero temperatures becoming more common, River Canal Rescue has put together some tips on how to winterise your narrowboat and so avoid costly repair bills.

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the rose of hungerford – part 2

the diary of iris lloyd

the rose of hungerford - part two

The Rose of Hungerford is owned by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and is run by fully trained volunteers. They can be any age (over 16) as long as they are reasonably fit. Experience is not necessary, as full training is given. All volunteers have to undertake annual safety training so they are ready and able to deal with any problems that may arise.

rose of hungerford in lockThere are various roles available on the boat:
Outside crew, who work the locks and help with the operation of the boat;

Inside crew, who look after the passengers during the trip and run the galley and onboard licensed bar;

Helm who steers the boat; and Skipper, A Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) qualified Boatmaster, responsible for the safety of passengers, crew and boat.

Volunteers behind the scenes also manage the many diferent but necessary aspects of running the boat such as maintenance, cleaning, accounts, general correspondence, press and publicity, social media, advertising, recruitment, new volunteer training, crew rostering, stocktaking, safety training and running the small onboard shop.

The Rose can carry up to 45/50 passengers with a crew of five (more on longer trips). The boat is equipped with an electric wheelchair lift so passengers are welcome on board whatever their mobility.

In ‘normal’ times, there is a regular programme of trips from April to the end of October with a choice of 1½ or 2½ hour cruises and also a selection of special trips offered, such as the very popular Cream Tea Cruises. There is also an option to charter the entire crewed boat for private events such as poetry evenings; ukulele entertainment; cub and scout trips; company staff parties; talks; retirement, birthday or anniversary celebrations; university and school reunions; and many more.

Rose of Hungerford at ChristmasChildren from the parish church have been taken each year on the Christmas cruise, with Santa on board. One year, I was taking the Minutes for the church council meeting and wrote in my notes, obviously without thinking, that the children were being offered the chance to book for Santa Cruz! “Sorry, we aren’t thinking of taking them that far,” was the leader’s comment!

The following are The Rose of Hungerford’s average annual facts and figures taken from a normal year: 660 miles covered (equivalent to a journey from Hungerford to John O’Groats);

800 locks worked; 500 hours cruising; 6,000 passengers carried; £40,000 raised for the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust.

​Iris Lloyd, Waterways chaplain (I am heavily indebted to Sarah Warburton for the above details)

babies to boats

babies to boats

a journey of new beginnings

If someone had told me 4 years ago when I semi retired from the NHS  that I would own and run a narrow boat holiday business instead of looking after mummies and babies , I wouldn't have believed them for a moment!  And yet here I am running, single-handedly, Tiller Girl Narrow Boat Holidays.

mummies and babies

tiller girl melanie franklin pryce

Having spent my 45 year working life with the NHS, firstly as a Cardiac ICU nurse then Registered Midwife. I have been so very fortunate to have had an exceptional career. I love meeting and working with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, its what makes life interesting and varied.

Having cared for  women, babies and their families for the past 26 years it has been a roller coaster of emotions, but I have loved every minute (Well nearly every one...).

But all good things come to an end and times change. The opportunity to take flexi retirement. I would have more time with my family and hobbies, but keep one leg in midwifery and still maintain a working wage. It seemed to be a good move.

I had for some time been thinking of having a second income such as a self catering property and had been looking for a small cottage preferably in the Yorkshire dales (I'm a Yorkshire lass through and through) or on the Yorkshire Coast to invest my hard earned pension.

My eldest son Ben who bought a narrow boat a few years ago to live aboard and who completely rebuilt the interior, said 'Mum, a narrow boat would be better!'   He  felt it would be easier to maintain and hire out, being closer to home. So off we went to have a look.

a boat of my own

tiller girl luxury boat hire

We were offered a viewing there and then... she really seemed to fit the bill and because she was only 4 years old, we felt she would be a sound investment. My father always said when making a big decision, sleep on it and if it still feels good in the morning then do it!

I had searched the internet to look at average costs and what type and standard of narrow boat was available, the range was mind blowing but we felt that this was the one for us and had lots of potential.

Within a week the job was done!  Following a full survey (which we would always suggest!) and  a bottom blacking, John and I moved her to Sawley Marina and changed her name to Tiller Girl which was John's suggestion because, as he keeps telling me, she is my boat, not ours!

I must admit to waking a few times in the night with  'what have I done, that's a lot of money to spend!' but on the whole couldn't  wait to get started on the refurb!

Tiller Girl was built as a 2 berth live aboard in 2014 and I felt she would  perfectly fit the bill of my idea to have a couples' retreat, a luxury boat for time out and relaxation as well as family holidays.

Then came months of the steepest learning curve ever!  I thought my midwifery  studies were hard, but this was a different kettle of fish and with no guidance or  tutor but myself! Although we had had many river and canal holidays growing up as a family, and having a brother and nephew as marine engineers,  I still spent many an hour on the internet researching hire companies, insurers, Facebook narrow boat pages and the Canal and River Trust website to find out what I needed to run my own hire boat - as well as reading all the manuals and building specs of the boat. My brother Rob, now answers the phone to me  'Canal boat engineer support'! He says I only phone him when I need something...!


And then we started on making the interior into what I felt would be expected of a luxury hire boat.

Every bit of the internal woodwork has been cleaned and sanded, waxed or painted,  a carpenter friend carried out a refit of some of the internal doors,  fitted new oak worktops and breakfast bar and righted all the wrongs or 'unsafes' that were highlighted on the survey. Ben helped me with loads of advice and support with painting some of the exterior.

Learning the ins and outs of how to service and look after a beta marine engine and how the electrics and batteries worked was difficult to say the least and so much to take on board that I must admit to feeling overwhelmed and having doubts whether I could ever manage the boat maintenances. But I pulled up my big girl knickers and faced it head on!

Applying for the commercial licence from The Canal and River Trust meant I had to write a hand over manual which was pretty comprehensive and descriptive and again other boat companies were a great resource (No plagiarizing though!) and having  a good understanding of writing health and safety with the NHS it was finally accepted and my license arrived! The Boat Safety Certificate had to be completed for commercial hire but very little needed to be done which was great news to my  bank account!

Julie Cutts, the manager at Sawley Marina where we decided to moor her,  was an absolute gem as are all the staff (and many of the boat neighbours) and have supported me all the way with great wealth of knowledge of hire boat companies, to mooring and giving us our own embarkation point at the marina and for all of this I pay a commercial mooring fee which is an extra 30%.

I'm sure every narrow boat owner has a dislike for the wind when trying to navigate a 57 foot boat of steel in any wind stronger that a whiff of breeze!  Marinas are so tight on space and with other boaters (experienced or not!) watching and commenting(!) makes it even worse getting out and on to the canal! Red faces and lots of apologies were often the order of the day when first starting to learn manoeuvres! So having the embarkation next to the canal was a god send in the beginning.

Great working relationships are the key, and luckily having experienced this in my job as a community midwife made it easier when dealing with companies, boaters and the general public.

Then COVID-19 reared it's nasty viral head and everything came to a sudden stop! I fully refunded everyone who had made a booking and by this time, funds were running low. I couldn't carry out the planned external painting and the Marina was flooded. So a worrying time all round.

The external painting didn't happen apart from little bits here and there to make her more presentable. Tiller Girl is Sapphire blue and orange and not the colour I had imagined my hire boat  to be, but we have had so many positive comments on the 'Floating Jaffa Cake' that she will remain as she is and I have built our image around it.

By the time I was free to go back on to Tiller Girl, I was eager to get started. Time was running short and I needed her ready for when I could get her out on the water and earn some money!

Enquiries for holidays started coming in as soon as the Facebook, Instagram and web pages were up and running. I had cards printed and sent them to all the marinas in the area, left them on shop notice boards and in chandleries and the marina office.

Bookings for spring and summer came in although a great many enquiries did not lead to bookings.

I wondered if it was to do with the cost/pricing. I had thoroughly researched costs of other hire boats and took an average although I was advised to put the prices slightly higher as it was felt to be 'an exceptional hire boat'.

I offered to donate money to a spaniel re homing group from any bookings on their website which worked well.

I maintained low season prices as I felt this may stimulate custom and it certainly seemed to work as I was fully booked until mid October! Dates had to be flexible due to COVID giving 72 hours between bookings, deep cleaning and my part time work Rota at Sherwood Forest Hospitals

As soon as we were given the all clear from the CRT and the government to begin hiring, I had many more bookings and enquires and our first guests arrived on the 27th July!

Hand over is intensive and  takes around 2 hours, with a tour of the internal features including fire safety, exits and cassette toilet. I encourage all hirers to read the manual and watch the videos on the website prior to coming on Tiller Girl and ask them to sign an agreement that holds them responsible for the boat.

All hand overs are  socially distanced with face masks and hand sanitizer. I have removed many of the luxury features such as books, games and soft furnishings  due to covid-19 and strictly follow the government guidance on deep cleaning.

We then leave the Marina and guide them through to first lock, discuss and demonstrate casting off and mooring up, good water etiquette  and boat manoeuvrability amongst every thing else.

It's a massive amount to take on board (Literally!) and when the guests feel happyish and me too, I leave them and make my way back to the Marina on foot or bicycle. I wish I could take a picture of their faces when I leave! There's such a mixture of panic,  realization and excitement that it's now all up to them!!

There have been a few hiccoughs along the way which I have managed to straighten out without too much hassle; Lack of battery power, inverter problems (due to lack of Battery power), water ingress from the mushroom vents in torrential rain and a leaking stern gland, all manageable thank goodness.

I have my phone next to me 24 hours a day so guests can ring me at any time, I must say they have been very respectful! Experienced HGV drivers and caravan owners seem  have a better understanding of manoeuvrability, the contribution of strong winds and battery power.

Safety is my main concern and I work hard to maintain good safety procedures and an extensive hand over to ensure that beginners are fully aware of the dangers of the water, especially around locks. My heart was in my mouth as I watched a not young, returning guest walk along the roof of Tiller Girl entering a lock!  We supply a range of sizes of buoyancy aids - even some for dogs as we are pet friendly.

I have had a very hard season running Tiller Girl, working as a healthcare professional through covid-19 which led to a much higher work load in the NHS and the strict deep cleaning on Tiller Girl.

There is still plenty to do to reach Tiller Girl's full potential but I am looking forward to another hopefully successful season with much still to learn and experience and many more wonderful guests to welcome aboard.

I have taken the plunge and will be retiring fully from the NHS in January 2021 to focus full time on Tiller Girl! Fingers crossed!

Melanie Franklin-Pryce is the owner of Luxury Narrowboat Hire 'Tiller Girl'.

Tiller Girl is based in Sawley Marina on the Trent and Mersey canal.

07739 709 242

Bill Savage

Bill Savage Canal is kingBill Savage describes himself as a canal junkie. His book ‘Canal is King’ is about a canal journey-with-a-difference. From idyllic tranquility to urban grunge. Travelling with Bill is a bit weird, often hilarious, always eventful, inevitably informative, chatting with quirky characters along the way.
Photographer as well as author – we have to thank Bill for providing our frontispiece for this edition of CanalsOnline Magazine!
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