Monthly Archives: December 2021

boating community supports veterans afloat

Inland waterway businesses and boat owners are coming together to help the Forces Vets Afloat Project restore a boat so it can be used and enjoyed by British forces veterans. Founder and boat owner Andy Flint set up the Project in July 2021, and it is on track to send its first boat to the Veterans Support Association.
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waterfowl

the diary of iris lloyd

waterfowl

I am very fortunate to be living opposite a bridge over the Kennet and Avon Canal, part of the High Street, in Hungerford. The Rose of Hungerford, a pleasure boat, is moored opposite my house, as are several other narrow boats. There is often activity on the water with the movement of boats, fishermen sitting for hours along the towpath, or the annual canoe race from Devizes to London. In the better weather, boat owners are busy cleaning their boats or they put foldaway chairs on the towpath and sit and enjoy a chat with their neighbours or have drinks and snacks out in the sunshine fore or aft. They are always ready for a friendly ‘Hello’.

ducks Another great pleasure in living by the canal is watching the waterfowl. There are always plenty of ducks, the males with their beautiful heads of green sheen, and if we are lucky, a flotilla of baby ducklings in the spring. Sad to say, the ducklings reduce in number very quickly and few survive to maturity.

Parents and grandparents bring their children to feed the ducks. Feeding them with bread is not good for the canal, as it pollutes the water, and is not nutritious for the ducks, whose natural diet is seeds and greenery (try sweetcorn, lettuce, peas, or oats), but families have done this for generations and there is no way of stopping them.

As well as the ducks, there is an occasional coot or moorhen, and every summer half a dozen Canada geese make it their stopping-off point for a few weeks. They’re very visible with their smart long black necks and white bodies.

Then there are the swans. This year, one set of parents has been very much in evidence with their cygnets, as large as they are but with brown feathers, now turning white. When they first appeared, there were seven of them, but one disappeared. However, this male and female have been very good parents and have successfully reared the other six. They join the ducks to be fed, often leaving the water, which is very disconcerting for parents when the swans are as tall as their very small children and are not nervous of approaching a possible food source.

swan and cygnets: photo by Nigel Perrin

swan and cygnet, Nigel Perrin

Sometimes they spring up onto the grassy bank on my side of the canal, flap their wings to dry off a little, then approach any visitors who are taking advantage of the sunshine by sitting on the wooden benches to eat their snacks.

They were there today, at the beginning of December, and we took some good close-up photos of them; obviously they thought that the mobile phone was something good to eat!

twelve months on

twelve months on

my first year as a continuous cruiser

I bought Blackbird, a 40ft narrow boat just over a year ago and have just completed my first year as a Continuous Cruiser. It’s been a wonderful time (mostly)! I have enjoyed travelling through the inland waterways enormously. It has given me an appreciation of our nation’s industrial heritage in a way that no amount of reading or consumption of modern media technology ever could. I now know why the Black Country was so named, the importance The River Weaver played in the salt trade, I have learnt about the movement of coal and limestone along The Lancaster Canal and the connectivity between Cornish clay and The Staffordshire Potteries. I have experienced first-hand the power of The English Rivers, not just as forces of nature, but as the living veins of our earliest transport routes. I have also learnt a good deal of practical things that have helped me make living on board a pleasure, I am sure other boaters could add a their own advice….

Condensation.

I was rather surprised at how much condensation could appear after just one night; even when the boat was reasonably warm. I now try to:

Warm the cold places of the boat by opening cupboard doors.

Wipe down the windows each morning with an absorbent cloth; as it prevents moisture getting into the window frames and causing rot.

Open the galley window a little when cooking.

Insulate, insulate, insulate!  Everywhere you can.

Create airflow routes, I drilled holes in the board that supports the mattress and in the draw fronts under the bed. You can make patterns so the holes are decorative as well as practical.

Wood Burners.

morso squirrel log burning fireI have used open fires and stoves for 30 years and so am very familiar with the art of fire making. However, the stove on Blackbird is fairly small and making the most of the warmth has taken some thought.

I always have a good supply of dry kindling and small logs to hand to get the fire going quickly after a cold day's cruising.

A dedicated bucket for ash and a small shovel are very useful.

Keep your eyes open for the wonderful local coal barges and stock up when you can. There are several different smokeless products available which burn at different rates and have different heat outputs. Try a few until you find the sort that works best in your boat.

My stove heats the space best when it is on long and low; I fill it up in the evening before I go to bed and turn the vent right down. Even if it goes out during the early hours of the morning there is enough heat to take the edge off the chill.

Forage for wood as you go, log it with a bow saw and store it somewhere to dry.

Make good use of the top of the stove to slowly cook a stew. I use a trivet under the pot to stop the bottom burning. It’s an ideal place to warm a kettle too.

Mooring

Angle mooring pins and position them well back from the bank, in wet ground they can pull sideways with the movement of passing boats and slip out, even when they are hammered fully in.

Use brightly coloured plastic bags around the tops of the pins to highlight their position to other towpath users. Sainsbury’s are perfect!

If you don’t have a piling pin, a normal long pin can be used. Position it vertically through the back of the horizontal piling and wrap the lines over the top and bottom of the pin before tying off on the dolly.

Learn to tie a few knots, a round turn and two half hitches, a canal man’s hitch and a clove hitch will all be useful.

Clothes

Be ruthless, chose what you really need and give the rest to a charity shop.

Pack the clothes that you aren’t wearing in vacuum bags, it will save space and keep them dry.

Slip on shoes are perfect for going in and out of the boat, especially when it’s muddy.

Fuel

Keep diesel tanks as full as possible, especially in the winter. Diesel bug lives in the water film between the air gap and the diesel layer. I had it in my engine and it clogged up my fuel filters. If you do get diesel bug it can be treated with products available in most chandlers.

A spare gas cylinder is a very useful thing! I buy mine from the fuel barge.

Engines

I knew very little about diesel engines a year ago, now I can change the oil, and filters, tighten and replace an alternator belt, monitor the coolant and oil levels and pack a stern gland greaser with grease. These are all surprisingly easy jobs, learning how to do them will save you money and give you confidence in your engine.

I have also assisted in replacing an alternator and removing a gear box that needed to be reconditioned. I really like engines now!

The weed box should be examined regularly especially in areas that have a lot of rubbish or vegetation in the water. I have been surprised by how little weed around the prop it takes to lose a lot of power. I have also learnt to know when there is a lot of weed on the bow by the sound of the engine.

Make a note of the part numbers for your filters and belts and keep some spares, you never know when you might need them.

Cruising

A guide book makes the journey richer as you can understand the history of the environment around you.

Go slowly, stop often and explore the places you pass through.

Talk to the people around you and hear their stories.

Security

Pick your mooring spot carefully, ideally around other boats. If you have to leave the boat for a while, there are several things you can do to deter would be intruders:

Place a pair of big, old boots just outside the door.

Set a battery powered radio to come on in the evening.

Twinkling fairy lights make the boat look as if there is someone inside.

I have met lots of interesting people both on and off the boats who have been so kind and helpful. There is never any shortage of advice! I have loved boating life and can’t wait for year two!

new waterwatch initiative

new waterwatch safety and surveillance initiative

the initiative

  1. The WaterWatch Safety and Surveillance Initiative is committed to promoting the aims of the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign to reduce the number of fatalities resulting from drowning on the coastal and inland waterways of the UK by utilising the experience of members of the Merchant Navy Association (MNA) Boat Club and other organisations with whom we have a partnership, such as the Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association (NSBA) who promote WaterWatch on The Broads.
  2. Members of the MNA Boat Club and partner associations who volunteer to participate in WaterWatch, known as WaterWatch Crew Members, have an interest in, and a concern for, the safety of the increasing number of recreational boaters and other waterways users on and around our rivers, canals, lakes, Broads, coastal waters, harbours and marinas.
  3. WaterWatch Crew Members are experienced boaters and skilled observers who can be relied upon to spot potential incidents and hazards and respond  with detailed information about the nature of  the incident when reporting  to HM Coastguard, to the appropriate inland waterways authority or other emergency services.
  4. WaterWatch Crew Members will inevitably come across incidents where immediate assistance is required before reporting the incident. In such circumstances members should always ensure that any action they take does not put themselves or any member of their crew in jeopardy.
  5. In most circumstances, having reported an incident to the appropriate authority, WaterWatch Crew Members will need to stand-by ready to assist the co-ordinating authority according to need. For example by maintaining a visual watch over the site of the incident, providing on-going  situation reports, liaising between the co-ordinating authority and the rescue services, relaying messages and, where appropriate, by taking photographs..
  6. By participating in WaterWatch members will not only help to promote the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign but also have the opportunity to develop and maintain good relationships with local stakeholders such as boatyards, marinas, the local navigational authority and local emergency services.
  7. WaterWatch volunteers will be part of a motivated and enthusiastic team having the opportunity and satisfaction of putting their boating experience and expertise to good use by helping to enhance  safety on and around their local waters (perhaps even to the extent of helping to save a life), whilst protecting the boating environment and promoting responsible boating behaviour.

The MNA Boat Club is a member of the National Water Safety Forum.

members' checklist

Spot significant sightings of:

  • People or craft in difficulty likely to require urgent assistance
  • Unexpected hazards
  • Dangerous or suspicious behaviour
  • Behaviour threatening the boating environment (e.g. speeding & making a large wash)

Respond

If the incident appears to be life threatening requiring immediate action (such as pulling someone out of the water)  WaterWatch Crew Members should of course render such assistance as they can manage without putting their own safety or that of their crew in jeopardy at any stage.

Report

  • If the incident appears to be life threatening, requiring the assistance of the emergency services, WaterWatch Crew Members should contact the appropriate  emergency service, such as HM Coastguard, by calling 999
  • If the incident appears to be a criminal act in progress call 999 for the police
  • For other significant Incidents contact the appropriate authority such as HM Coastguard or Local Navigational Authority direct
  • In all cases Indicate:
    • type of incident
    • time of Incident
    • precise location (GPS co-ordinate if possible)
    • number of persons involved, including children and animals
    • other pertinent information (e.g. persons wearing lifejackets)
    • type of assistance required

Stand-By to further Respond if required

WaterWatch team members should:

  • provide their name and contact details and advise the authorities of their activity as a member of the WaterWatch scheme before offering to assist by standing by at the scene (or elsewhere as directed)
  • be prepared to provide a visual and/or listening watch and to monitor the situation and assist with liaison, relaying messages, providing up-dated situation reports (SITREPS) or other assistance as required.
  • At no time should WaterWatch members put at risk their own lives or the lives of their crew

Record

WaterWatch team members should use the digital Incident Report form to submit a brief summary of the incident as quickly as possible after the incident has been terminated by the relevant authority, with a view to possibly being asked for a more detailed report at a later stage.

typical types of incidents responded to by members of the waterwatch crew

People (none wearing lifejackets) pulled from the water after falling off vessels on the Broads; in one case the vessel concerned had steamed away oblivious to the fact that they had a crew member missing!

Use of ladder fixed to the transom of our WaterWatch crew member's boat to recover another vulnerable person from the water before calling an ambulance

Standing by to assist broken-down craft,  and escorting hire craft holed in a collision to the appropriate boat hire operator's base.

Alerting police and coastguards to incident involving theft of an expensive electric launch, subsequently recovered undamaged and miscreant arrested.

Use of boarding ladder to recover an elderly yachtsman who fell of the deck of his yacht into the river whilst hoisting sail.

Reporting to waterway authority several incidents of hire vessels speeding and/or helming without due care and attention, causing a danger to other craft.

Towing grounded craft into deeper water to re-float.

Standing by to assist Broads Authority Ranger’s launch to recover grounded hire cruiser .

a strange day on the wey

a strange day on the wey

...a tale of detective work

When I left school at sixteen I didn’t have a lot by way of exams to speak of, so I went off to Kingston College of Further Education to get some more.   With good marks in my City and Guilds electronics I set about working for a local company that made already obsolete equipment.   I got bored and decided that there had to be something else out there.  One afternoon, one of the guys at work spotted some of my doodles and suggested I could do evening classes in art.   That was it!   I’d be an artist so, armed with another couple of O levels from evening classes, I applied to Epsom school of Art and Design.  To my surprise, I got in!   This was all way back in 1977, when I lived at home and went on family holidays with my parents (like you do).

I hadn’t a clue that this was going to be one of the last holidays on the 26 ft Springer that dad had fitted out some years earlier.   Waking up on a Wednesday morning, with average weather for the time of year, it seemed that nothing out of the ordinary was going on as we looked over the scenery near Worsfold Gates on the river Wey.   Apart from there being a faster current than usual, all was well.   During breakfast I decided to turn the radio on for a bit of music, only to hear that crowds had gathered outside some unspecified mansion and that the news reporter was broadcasting live.

“He was such a beautiful and wonderful person,” one onlooker said tearfully

“How will we ever live without him,” another cried.

OK, so something big had happened but nobody said where the mansion was or who it was that had departed this world there.   The accents of those speaking were clearly American but they could have been there or in this country or basically tourists anywhere in the world where a mansion had been built.   We carried on listening but the only information we got was that they would go back to the live broadcast sometime in the next hour.   We were told the weather for the day, which we’d more or less guessed, but still not where or whom the news broadcast was about.

After a spot of watching the swans swimming to stand still in the current, I decided that it may be an idea to walk into the village and get a paper or at least ask someone.   Whilst I was contemplating, a man from what looked like a live-aboard lifeboat conversion asked idly if we knew what was going on with the news.   With this conversation overheard by another boat owner who was just as clueless as the rest, I decided it was time to make a move.

“I’d go to the village but I’m waiting in for someone,” the live-aboard owner said.   “But you can borrow my bike if you don’t mind getting me a tin of tobacco when you’re there.”

With money given for the tobacco, a couple of other orders written on a sheet of paper, I got directions to the village and set off on the borrowed rusty green Raleigh bicycle.   It was pleasant riding along the route dictated to me, as the bleb in the tyre thumped the brake block with each revolution of the wheel, and I was beginning to wonder whether the thing would stay inflated when I arrived at the post office in Send village.   Leaning the cycle carefully against the wall I bought the tobacco, some bread and other groceries and then asked for a paper that may tell me what the hell was going on.

“Nothing in the morning edition,” the lady behind the counter smiled.   “I’ve been wondering but, if you wait a few minutes the late issue is due.   You can have one of them.”

With nothing much to do, I decided that a 20 minute wait was fine, and settled to looking through stationery and other bits and bobs.   Whilst there I bought a small balsa model plane kit with the thought of building it during the holiday.   It was a simple thing, powered by a rubber band and endorsed by the BBC.   Their approval wasn’t really worth the ink used to print it as the device was really flimsy, making it unusable in anything but still air.   With the purchase made, the papers arrived and I stuffed one into the handlebar basket of the Raleigh before heading off back to the boat to the accompaniment of the thump, thump, thump of the bleb.

“Did you find out?” I was asked on my return.

“No, I just got the paper and came back before I forgot which way to go,” I replied.

Finally the truth came out.   The person in the news was none other than Elvis Presley himself, who had passed away the previous afternoon in Memphis.  The swans didn’t seem bothered and there was no crazed outpouring of grief in the meadow.   In the next chart show, the song, “Way Down” ceased its slow descent and shot to number one where it remained until after I’d enrolled at art school.

None of this has much to do with the River Wey and its general quirkiness as a navigation, but it is one of those moments that sticks in my mind, partly because of the location but also because of the event and the fact that, for most of a morning, nobody in that meadow had a clue what this big news event was.

All of these memories, like so many more have filtered their way through to my writings.   My foundation year and first days at Sunderland Polytechnic are now shared by May Farmer in “Maze Days,” but as yet, the incident with Elvis has not percolated.  It happened though, and I remember it as well as I remember spending hours rigging that model plane with cotton until it could fly in a hurricane.   ©2021 Michael Nye

help transform canals into your concrete doorstep

help transform canals into your concrete doorstep

a festive appeal from the banal and dither trust

Banal and Dither Trust

‘Making life better by South Shields’

Dear Reader,

Canals have always been magical places to me, and I hope they are somewhere you find peace and relaxation too, only disturbed by the noise of canal boats tearing past at three miles an hour: smoke (now outlawed) spewing from their chimneys and diesel exhaust (shortly to be illegal).  Yet with many miles of our waterways still in urgent need of revival, your festive gift today can help bring them back to life (who killed them you ask).  Let me add this urgent need is not caused by lack of sustained maintenance but by their constant use by boaters.  By-washes causing bank breaches, weight of boats causing culverts to collapse and heavy use of locks resulting in them deteriorating.

Where canals look run down and uncared for, it’s my job to help convince you that this is the fault of boat owners who insist on using the waterways.  We can transform them into special places filled with concrete which will help create new walking or cycling routes, bringing green space and nature back into our towns and cities, along with creating concrete jobs.  I can assure you that none of the money you donate will go to the upkeep of the canals and navigable waterways, not one penny will be wasted on making it easier to cruise the waterways.

From Bristol to Birmingham, Kendal to Little Venice, together we can make canals concrete, shimmering and better (no boats).

We believe no other UK charity (Banal and Dither Trust) brings so much blue and green strife to the people whose lifestyle it is meant to preserve for future generations. We’re here not to improve canals, but to destroy the quality of life of people who live on the water and bring relief to those who live beside them.

Over 4 miles of canals already have a ‘Devid Scowcrovich Concrete Flag’ award, recognising the healthy, nature-friendly space they provide by means of getting rid of the water and replacing it with concrete. With your support, we could create even more.

£25 could help buy a bag of concrete

paddle boarders on canal

£35 could make our towpaths bloom with wildflowers and buzz with bees undisturbed by mooring boats.

canal basin at night

£50 could help upgrade urban towpaths for walkers, fast runners and speeding cyclists, plus motorbikes and electric scooters #Hurrah for Speed.

working canal boat

Devid Scowcrovich

Chief Mickey Taking Officer

devid scowcrovich

coping with extreme weather

coping with extreme weather

With the UK’s weather patterns becoming increasingly unpredictable, River Canal Rescue is advising owners how to manage their boats during extreme weather scenarios.

The emergency assistance and breakdown firm says the key to dealing with any situation is timing and balancing health and safety.

Managing director, Stephanie Horton, says: “In order to stop a vessel drifting onto land when water levels rise, position a scaffold pole or poles, or a boarding plank, between the boat and the river/canal side edge and fix it into position.  This acts as a mooring post, preventing flood waters from floating the boat onto land.

“Alternatively use the engine to keep the vessel in position, so when the water rises, the power of the boat keeps it in deeper water. However be mindful that as the propeller is at its lowest point, it can easily be damaged if the boat does drift. These options are not advisable other than in emergencies and if you have the opportunity, moor in a lock as it provides some protection from flood waters.

partially sunken narrowboat on river avon

“If the boat has drifted, it’s all about timing; when the water levels start to go down, try to push the boat back into the water or off the land before they drop too far. But be cautious as this can be dangerous, particularly if you’re unable to see under the water.

“River Canal Rescue usually dispatches two engineers in dry suits to undertake this manoeuvre because although it sounds and looks easy, knowing the best way to re-launch a boat and where to push depends on the severity of the grounding, depth of the water, its flow and accessibility.

“To reduce winter damage to boats, get into a routine of visiting your vessel regularly and check the batteries are fully charged. With a bilge pump in continuous operation even a fully charged battery will only last a few days.

“Check the bilge pumps are fully operational and left on ‘automatic’ setting.  If there’s no bilge pump or only a manual one, install an automatic bilge pump. It needs reviewing because it relies on battery power, so unless the boat’s shore powered, there isn’t an unlimited supply.

“Ensure drain holes are clear of debris - keeping these clear will stop water running into the engine room, and secure canopies to prevent rips developing and water getting into the boat.

“Also check ropes and anchoring points, if the mooring’s at risk of flooding, run a rope to locations that can still be accessed even in a flood situation and ensure other ropes are loose enough to deal with the potential scenario of the pontoon going under.

“In windy conditions, check ropes for chafing and ensure they’re well positioned and adjusted to the conditions, and before moving a boat in ice, consider the importance of your journey. It’s easy to believe you’re impregnable when surrounded by steel but even a couple of inches of ice can pierce a hull.

Widebeam boat in deep mud on river Avon

“Check river/canal conditions, and again consider whether the journey is really necessary; they can change quickly and easily catch you unaware. Get updates from the Environment Agency. Never head out when a river is in red flag.

“And be aware of the wind direction before manoeuvring. When coupled with difficult river conditions, the windage of a boat can be easily underestimated and your vessel will become uncontrollable.

“If a vessel is caught in a situation, do not attempt a recovery without assistance. Severe weather conditions increase the risk to boat owners and simple tasks can easily result in accidents and injury.

“Finally, check your insurance policy. As insurance companies try to minimise their exposure, an increasing number of third-party only policies exclude salvage and wreck removal - one of the biggest risks to boats.”

In October last year, the UK faced severe downpours and over the last weekend of the month there were 90 flood warnings and 120 flood alerts in place, putting huge pressure on boaters who were faced with suddenly rising and falling water levels.

You can find RCR on Facebook, visit their website, call 01785 785680 or email

the joy of instagram

the joy of instagram

a gourmet guide for the eyes

Love it or hate it, there can be no denying that Instagram is a potentially fascinating platform, filled with zillions of little windows into the lives of those who tell their stories in pictures.

For canal-loving Insta fans, there are some bright shiny gems to be unearthed within this vast mountain of imagery - photographers who have that jaw-dropping and unfathomable ability to captivate, pull you in and take you on a spectacular journey along our waterways as seen through their eyes. Whether amateur or professional, they all have that ‘special something’ which makes their images an absolute delight and a privilege to stumble upon.

Stumble no further! Below are some leads to a few such accounts - guaranteed to sprinkle a little magic on your Insta feed and leave you wanting more.

Enjoy!

account name: mrscloudinspector

If nature and serenity float your boat (and whose boat don’t they float?), then come on over - you won’t be disappointed. This is a lady who understands good composition and how to capture and balance beautiful content. Weave in her appreciation of light and shape and the result is a smorgasbord of wonderfully dreamy ‘other-worldly’ images; delicate yet striking at the same time.

“Hi, I’m Megan and, along with my husband, I’ve been a narrowboat dweller for almost a decade, which is slightly less time than I’ve been on Instagram! I’ve always loved to take photos: years ago I would make holiday scrapbooks with printed photos and mementos, collages of trips and adventures, montages in frames and albums.

"The thing I love most about boat life is being so connected to nature. You can step off the boat and instantly be surrounded by nature. But not only that, you are immersed in it. When the wind blows, you feel the sway of the boat, hear the lash of rain on the windows, see the sun reflecting off the water and watch shining ripples of dancing light on the ceiling. An electric blue kingfisher darts past the side hatch; you watch a heron catch and eat a fish; the coots build a nest in the reeds opposite and raise three hungry chicks.

"There is something soothing about being on the water. It is no surprise that there is an upsurge in studies into what has been dubbed the ‘blue gym’. The fact that a pioneering doctor has prescribed walks along the canal in addition to medication in the treatment of mental illnesses and that the relationship between aquatic environments and health is now being researched, is testament to the healing power of nature. It certainly works for me.”  Megan (@mrscloudinspector)

instagram mrscloudinspector

instagram mrscloudinspector

Instagram mrscloudinspector

instagram mrscloudinspector

Instagram mrscloudinspector

instagram mrscloudinspector

account name: anuneasyparadise

Atmospheric, poignant, haunting. The imagery and stories to be found here touch something in the soul. Looking for a unique Christmas gift for a special someone - or maybe a little gift for your special self? Check out the book behind the account here

“We moved onto our narrowboat in 2012 after a decade of travel in Asia, and as much as we wanted a home we also wanted a way to explore this country that had become so unfamiliar to us. Which we did indeed do. We never imagined that nine years later we’d still be living on the boat as a family of four.

"Photography has always been part of our lives, chronicling the everyday and simplicity of life around us. Out of this a story evolved, captured on countless rolls of film, of the community on the Kennet and Avon Canal. But it was always intended to be more than just fragments of an unusual lifestyle, We hoped that it could be a voice for a group of people, of whom we are a part, whose place on the waterways is becoming more uncertain as the rules by which they are governed evolve.” Sebastien and Louise (@anuneasyparadise)

instagram anuneasyparadise

instagram anuneasyparadise

instagram anuneasyparadise

instagram anuneasyparadise

instagram anuneasyparadise

instagram - anuneasyparadise

account name: shinnysin

An enchanting and delightful romp of an account, documenting life on the canals as and when it happens. Be warned: the interior shots are likely to provoke a severe case of boat envy deep in the hearts of the romantically-inclined. Where are you taking us next in your beautiful boat, Sinead? We’re loving finding out! Sinead also has an Etsy shop, where she sells crochet patterns, notions and finished items. Check it out here

“I am now in my 7th year as a continuous cruiser and I can honestly say it's the most magical life I could have ever dreamed of. I could focus on the hard parts, and there are many! But the precious moments far outweigh the bad. Falling asleep listening to the owls, misty mornings, coffee by the wood burner and a new adventure every move-day with new places to explore, is my idea of heaven. I love that narrowboat life brings you closer to nature with everything revolving around the seasons, Even rainy days are a pleasure when you're cosy inside.

"My wooden home is constructed mainly from pallet wood, scaffolding planks and a lot of recycled stuff! Originally a Barney boat built at Braunston, we had to rebuild the whole top wooden cabin and replace absolutely everything apart from the hull and engine. It still has the original 47 year old Sabb twin pot diesel engine which runs like a dream. It has a beautiful sound, chugging along. After a lockdown winter in snowy Llangollen and this coming winter on the beautiful sandstone Staffs and Worcester, I think a summer on the Thames is the next plan.” Sinead (@shinnysin)

instagram shinnysin

instagram shinnysin

instagram shinnysin

instagram shinnysin

instagram shinnysin

instagram shinnysin

account name: srcnikon

Photography to really make you gasp in wonder. Steve Cole's subject matter goes way beyond our waterways, but we can forgive him because every shot is just so stunning. His  astonishing image of Sawley Cut, titled 'Cool Power' (first image below left) was commended in the UK Landscape Photographer of the Year 2020 competition and has been viewed a staggering 13million times on social media sites.

You can also find Steve’s photographs on Flickr  or follow him on Facebook.

“I have been enjoying photography as a keen amateur for around 10yrs now and will often be out very early in the morning or out late in the evening capturing the wonderful colours and light of both sunrise and sunset.

"I live in Long Eaton, Derbyshire and I am literally spoilt for choice when it comes to waterways; the river Trent and Soar, Trent and Mersey canal and Erewash canal, plus other river diversion cuts are within a short walk and give me endless potential throughout the year. A big percentage of my landscape images will include these stretches of water.” Steve Cole (@srcnikon)

instagram srcnikon

instagram srcnikon

instagram srcnikon

instagram srcnikon

instagram srcnikon

instagram srcnikon

Copyright Notice: All images shown here are the property of the Instagram account holders who kindly granted consent for their inclusion within this article. They are strictly not to be reproduced elsewhere without the relevant account holder's prior written permission. All rights reserved.

it’s a blast!

it's a blast

dawncraft boat dawntreader

There is one major problem with Dawn Treader (DT) that has annoyed me since I bought it. It has crazing on the glass fibre. This is when the surface of the gel coat loos like smashed glass – and I suppose in a way it is. Confined mainly to the cabin roof and the decks, the internet has more causes and cures for this than the common cold. The most laborious cure being to ream out each crack with a Dremel and fill with gel coat and smooth, an option that would take me years on a 25-foot boat. Worse than that I know I simply don’t have the patience for that kind of thing.

What causes it seems less certain, it’s obviously down to aging by sunlight and / or the the gel coat mix. Originally DT was the sort of green best left on a 1970s colour chart and not revived as the darker colours absorb heat more. What ever the cause, the problem is six months after you paint it, it starts to resemble the cracking usually associated with an old master’s oil painting. Water gets under the paint and within six months to a year it's all peeling off.

The next issue is the cabin roof, this has had a hard life with me, kids, dinghies, canoes you name it, shoved on – Indeed about the only thing it hasn’t had is a Harrier jump jet land on it. Mainly because its flat. And there in lies my problem. I don’t think it has slumped it seems to have the same shallow curve as when it was built, but it doesn’t shed the water the same way some other craft do. The original design had only one support beam - Known to Dawncraft owners as 'the nutcracker' as you invariably whack your head on it. I’ve noticed this for a long time so actually installed some stiffeners, basically hard wood strips laminated and bolted in under the handrails from the inside. It stops some of the flexing but did little to improve the profile.

Ok - what I think is missing from modern life is the ability to utilise one process already proven to cure another problem. Also the ability to experiment , we rely too much on the internet for our salvation.

dawncraft boat roof

Basically, I have vinyl wrapped the roof in the same way they do custom cars. It’s a very 70s thing and an optional extra!!

First obviously sand back any rough bits and loose paint – remove all fittings and fixtures. None of which I could do because I resin them in to stop the leaks, you just have to work around it.

The trick is to work in small sheets, so I came across the deck and not along it if that makes sense. Tape down one end – the stuff wants to curl back on itself the moment you un roll it - leave your self some excess ( it trims easily) then dry the deck with a hair dryer – you need every last bit of moisture out those cracks and you want the deck slightly warm to help stick and off you go.

Once it's down, it's the same trick I used inside. Use a hair dryer and heat it up - you are trying to cause air bubbles which you can either smooth out or pop with a sharp knife. Once it cools and shrinks it looks smooth. Going around the air vents wasn’t as dramatic as I thought as it's so flexible. The effect is instant and fresh, and you soon get the hang of it. I did the whole lot in one afternoon.

Will it work on the outside? Of course, it will - as long as the vinyl has a reasonably good UV protection, after all they use it on cars, lorries etc and the vinyl graphics – a sort of Viking carving that some owner applied to my hull sides in 1990 are still very much evident (In the same lurid green). It works on DT because it is flat, working on anything with a full curve may be trickier but then they drain so don’t get the problem to start with.

As an engineer I was going to write a stunning article about E10 fuel and what it could do to your engine. But what with Covid, followed by climate crisis, fuel shortages and Xmas stuck in the China sea, who needs another doomsday scenario. Basically, E10 is more hydroscopic than E5 which means it attracts and absorbs water. It can corrode fuel pipes and carburettor rubbers. But then I sat down and realised something from years ago when common sense was in fashion: we changed these each year or so anyway, as part of what was known as a 'routine service'.

boating community supports vets afloat

boating community supports forces vets afloat  

Inland waterway businesses and boat owners are coming together to help the newly-established Forces Vets Afloat Project restore a boat so it can be used and enjoyed by British forces veterans.

Andy Flint - vets afloatFounder and boat owner Andy Flint set up the Project in July 2021, and with the support of River Canal Rescue, Ballinger Towage Services, Redhill Marina and volunteers, is on track to send its first boat to the Veterans Support Association (VSA).

The project began when Andy, a member of the abandoned boats group on Facebook, witnessed people arguing over rights of ownership and how to create the highest profit for the least investment. He posted a suggestion that rather than haggle over who could make the most from the boat, why not give it to a more deserving cause.

His feedback received 100+ likes and comments, and the consensus was to support ex-forces personnel. From there things snowballed; a member of the military, Lizzie Lane, offered to set up the Forces Vets Afloat Project on Facebook and within 24 hours it received 15,000 views.

vets afloat Tushka HortonRCR’s rescue team co-ordinator, Tushka Horton, also messaged Andy, offering assistance and signposting him to Redhill Marina in Nottingham. As RCR takes its abandoned vessels there, she thought it would be a good place to source and restore a boat.

By day three, the site had 50,000 views and Andy was approached by Fran Vaughan, who offered to donate her parents’ 40ft narrowboat, Spencer’s Revenge. Her father Frank, had passed away, and the boat, moored at a marina on the Macclesfield Canal, needed some tlc.

The same day, ex-forces veteran Pete Ballinger messaged Andy volunteering his towing services. With help from Tushka and other volunteers, Pete travelled from Chepstow to Cheshire to pick up the boat and deliver it to the Marina on the River Soar.

Spencer's Revenge on its way to Redhill MarinaTushka comments: “I was thrilled to be able to steer the boat and help with the lock at Great Haywood. All of us are so proud to be involved in this Project.”

Graham Smeeton from Redhill Marina agrees: “When Tushka asked if we could provide a base for the Project’s donated boats, we were more than happy to help. All of us here, including marina owner Richard Morley, are proud to support those who have served our country.”

Spencer’s Revenge has been re-named Aurora and once restored, it will become a floating community hub for the VSA, supporting people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

John Joyce and VeteransVSA founder John Joyce welcomes this new initiative, describing it as ‘the biggest new therapy’ for veterans: “In July, nine veterans went on a River Thames boat trip and we all found it so relaxing. I knew then I had to find a boat and soon after Andy contacted me. Fate certainly played a part!”

Fate appears to have been present since the start of the project. Andy lives close to Redhill Marina and Fran says the timing of her father’s passing is ‘too perfect to be a coincidence’. Both of Fran’s parents were in the military and having been left with a boat that needed work, she came across Andy’s donation request.

'Canute' donated by Keith ProsserA second boat, a fibreglass Viking 23 moored on the Coventry canal, was donated by Keith Prosser in October, and in another quirk of fate, the inheritance of a 24ft sailboat from an unknown benefactor, influenced his decision. “I was given a boat by someone I didn’t know, so felt it only right to support the project and give ‘Canute’ to a veteran I don’t know.”

Andy continues: “The whole project is about utilising the skills and knowledge of businesses, boat owners, volunteers and the VSA, so we get boats to people who will really benefit from them.”

Redhill Marina

RCR is providing one year’s free membership for all boats donated, but the project also requires more business support and volunteers.

To find out more and make a donation, visit forces vets afloat website and click on more/want to help, send a message via Forces Vets Afloat on Facebook or WhatsApp, email or call 07956 082162.