Monthly Archives: July 2022

where do boaters go for their holidays?

where do boaters go for their holidays?

When you live aboard your boat life can seem like one long holiday, especially if you are retired. So where do we go for our holidays?

the author on her Dutch BargeIt’s pretty much essential for you to enjoy the outdoor life if you live aboard a narrowboat (or wide-beam) so it’s likely that your holiday will be one where you spend your time outdoors, take your dog with you and you’re able to enjoy the freedom of choosing where you go.

Many boaters are also avid walkers and can’t wait to check out the footpath map in the next place they moor up.

However, most places where canals and navigable rivers run offer fairly flat terrain for walking and this leaves a little bit of discontent for those who yearn for higher ground.

If like me, you feel the pull of mountains and crave the peace of untamed and lonely places you might enjoy a bothy holiday.

A bothy is a basic shelter in a wild, remote location, mostly in the mountains or on the coast but always a long way from roads and civilisation. They are often abandoned stone buildings, usually with a fireplace and some kind of sleeping platform; think camping but in a small, stone, wind and watertight structure.

Most bothies are in Scotland but there are also some in Wales and the north of England. You can visit them at any time of year and you don’t have to pay to stay. There’s every chance that you'll meet and share the space with other lovers of wild and lonely places too. You can't drive to bothies but some can be reached by canoe.

For those who love walking, a bothy can add another dimension to an adventure, and young people may even join you if there’s the promise of an exciting overnight stay. I am a bothy enthusiast with an appetite for walking in the hills, views from high ridges and the freedom of wild isolation.

bothies in Scotland

Bothies provide a completely diverse experience to life aboard a narrowboat and it could be something other boaters would also enjoy. I belong to The Mountain Bothies Association which looks after about 100 bothies (although there are lots of others) and I'm part of the maintenance team for Camban Bothy at the head of Glen Affric in Highland Scotland. It's a beautiful site surrounded by some of the biggest mountains in Scotland and a day's walk from the nearest road; some map and compass skills are therefore essential.

The MBA website is a good place to start if you're interested in finding out more, or drop me a message.

Sally Kershaw

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If there's one thing I am learning from boating life, it is that I am not in control! OK, in a superficial way I am. I get up most mornings with a vague plan of where we are headed and what chores need to be done. I don't know how it is for you, but I can happily waste time if I am not focused. Perhaps that isn't even wasting time - boating life is meant to be about slowing down, escaping the rat race and working out what's important in life. To 'be' rather than to 'do'.

So to a certain extent I do have control but what I am really thinking about is the lack of control in my circumstances. For example, Richard and I have a route plan of the direction we are headed and ideally a  framework of time in which to get from A to B but that's when the problems start.

Our first was realising our 'new' boat batteries (less than two years old) were flat and in fact dangerous because one had actually blown. Awaiting replacements and taking the opportunity to install a more powerful invertor delayed us by a week or more.  A bout of Covid unexpectedly stopped us in our tracks and then just as we were on the move again, a swing bridge failed to open and then a lock gate refused to shut!! All these little annoyances remind me of how little control I really have over what I want to do.

Yet, should it matter? Perhaps it  reminds us that in fact we are not in control of our life. At any moment something can happen that totally alters our path. For me, I learnt this when Richard, my husband, had a serious, near fatal bike accident, taking months of rehabilitation. It changed everything but in fact not for the worse, because it taught me what's important in life and not to 'sweat the small stuff'. From it, I learnt just how precious and precarious life is and that what matters is kindness. We received so much love and support following Richard's accident that it made me understand how kind gestures, however small, can make someone else's life so much better. The commandment of God to 'love thy neighbour' came alive as I realised I was vulnerable and in need of help.

I know that an argument against God is that if he exists, why does he allow bad things to happen?  My understanding is that God is not Father Christmas. Just because I believe in him, doesn't mean I am going to have an easy and charmed life. What I do believe though, is that God wants to come alongside us in all that is happening in our lives, good and bad. There's a saying that, because God is invisible, he needs to use our hands and feet to do his work here in earth. That is what I saw, experienced and understood in the aftermath of Richard's accident. I saw God's love in the actions of those around me.

I often feel we are sent to help certain people and that certain people are sent to help us. To my mind that is God at work. I appreciate that for those who don't believe in God this may sound far fetched but with or without belief, we can all show love and kindness to one another. We may not have control over the circumstances we find ourselves in but we can have control over how we respond to them and how consequently we treat one another and how we live out our lives to make the world around us a better place to be.

making new memories

making new memories


jan & tony lacey making new memoriesWe’re Jan and Tony and in January 2021 we bought a 60ft narrowboat and made it our new home! Previously we’d hired boats for over 20 years and owned a share in one for a while which cemented our love of all things narrowboating.

We both come from the world of showbiz – Tony a musical director and Jan a singer and dancer. We’d both had successful careers in entertainment and television so perhaps it’s no surprise that we took to vlogging (the video version of blogging) although we’d been used to working behind the scenes and not usually in front of the camera.

Like most people, we’d always taken videos of our family holidays and that included our many narrowboat trips, but, our family had never seen them!

In the days during lock down, we decided to share those early videos on YouTube and before long they’d attracted a wider audience. We called our channel, MAKING NEW MEMORIES, because that’s what we were doing, every day!

When we were doing our research into buying our current boat, we went to YouTube to see if there were any helpful vlogs. It was there that we watched David Johns (Cruising The Cut) and Kevin Shelley (Countryhouse Gent) to get an idea of the lifestyle.

At that time we weren’t cruising but put down in video form our thoughts, our visits to nearby waterways and then to looking at potential boats, to eventually moving aboard. Our vlogs now feature a mix of cruising, local history and our life onboard.

So, what can you expect to see here?

Well, there’s the daily routine of how we film, what we see, exploring new waters, meeting people, the kit we use and the tech involved, some helpful tips and advice if you want to start vlogging yourself, plus the situations we find ourselves in – it’s never a dull moment, and we’ll share these with you here with a sprinkling of pictures.

We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures!

101 ways to die on the cut

101 ways to die on the cut

(or near misses that could have been tragic)

Steve Burt at the helm of narrowboat Lutra LutraWhen we bought our narrow boat, Lutra Lutra, last year, we were awash with happy memories of carefree cruising holidays. We spent a full fortnight congratulating ourselves on breaking free from the tedium of suburban life and embracing the freedom of live-aboard continuous cruising. And then reality set in...

Winter was approaching, the batteries were draining every night, the engine developed a terrible rattle and we couldn't find the spanner for the gas bottle. This article was born from that creeping realisation that life on the cut can be uncomfortable and, at times, downright dangerous. Thankfully, we've yet to suffer a fatality, but then there's always next year...

Freezing to death

Let's start with the winter. Whoever thought that spending January in a metal box floating on icy water with a few millimetres insulation and single-glazed windows was a good idea? Turns out over 50,000 live-aboards do. We originally thought that Webasto programmable central heating would keep us toastie warm, but were then informed that it should not run continuously. Besides which, it was noisy and ate up diesel. So, after a few nights wearing woolly hats in bed, we were told that we needed to keep the wood burner alight from November to March. Cue carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide kills 30 people each year in the UK, which is why you need to get your boat safety certificate and make sure your CO alarm is tested regularly. Our boat had a Morso Squirrel stove fitted at the bow. Burning huge quantities of kiln dried wood resulted in peak temperatures that would have been credible in the Sahara desert. However, they lasted only long enough to play one round of strip poker before plummeting back down to arctic temperatures. We eventually discovered that 6-8 large lumps of coal held closely together in a coal cage would stay alight all night and keep off the worst of the chill. There's nothing more satisfying in the morning than riddling the fire, placing a few sticks of kindling and a heat log on, opening the vents and watching it roar into life a few minutes later to boil your kettle and cook the porridge for breakfast.

However, whilst we were now cosy and warm, the CO detector was less happy. No matter how hard I tried, we consistently reached 50ppm. Now this is the limit for 8hr exposure according to OSHA. Turns out, we had one of the Morso Squirrels produced for the Norwegian market with a smoke hood above the baffle. Once removed, along with the stop that prevented us leaving the ash pan door open, the fire performed much better. But we were still cold!


So, OK, condensation isn't fatal. But ask any boater and they'll tell you that water is public enemy no1 on board, and that includes condensation. Which is ironic, given that we need the stuff to float our boat.

Anyway, it turns out that not only does condensation ruin the woodwork, bringing nasty dark stains to the surface which are difficult to bleach out (second hand oxalic acid going cheap on eBay), but when you try to heat a damp boat all the energy gets absorbed by the water molecules. All very 'exciting' for them, but not helpful for raising the temperature inside.

And we had rivers of condensation down the windows every morning and bands across the ceiling where the insulation was thin on colder days! Everyone has their own theories on how to reduce condensation, from bags of rice to carpet up the walls. Plastic film secondary glazing was £10 well spent to preserve the window frames.

However, in our experience, ventilation is the most effective weapon against condensation. Unfortunately, we think that when they painted the roof of the boat pre-sale they screwed down all the mushroom vents and it didn't occur to us to check until February. It took a good month before the humidity sensors started recording the 40-60%, which is the ideal range. And a litre of white vinegar to neutralise the calcium chloride that had turned our entire bed into one big damp trap (but that's another story).

Food poisoning

Successes included potatoes wrapped in tin foil and baked next to the coals as we cruised and rice pudding simmered slowly on the top.

But, given the erratic nature of our fire lighting ability there were also some spectacular failures. These were compounded by the fact that we discovered that the compressant had leaked from the 12v fridge. So, our foredeck became our fridge (and sometimes freezer) for the winter. All well and good, but you definitely don't want food poisoning when your bathroom doesn't have a flushing loo!


fan fitted behind fridgeArmed with a GCSE in physics, I was ill equipped to conduct forensics on our dead fridge. But when the new one arrived it had no plug! So I bought crimping tool and set to work.

Since then, I have added a computer fan to circulate air behind it and increase its efficiency and am contemplating some other wiring at the stern, so death by electrocution is a distinct possibility for the future!

Fire and Explosion

The closest we have come to explosion was when I filled the expansion tank on the central heating with antifreeze purchased from the local garage. Thankfully the 1litre bottle only just took it above the red line as I later discovered that this was a MAX line, not a MIN, with the result being a potential fountain of antifreeze in my airing cupboard through the pressure release pin holes in the lid.

Others, however, have not been so fortunate and I have heard horrendous stories of hot water boilers exploding or of diesel fuel sprayed around the engine rooms. Similarly, whilst our stove problems revolved around a refusal to stay lit, I have heard stories of chimney fires and glowing fireboxes; blocks of wet wipe are not a safe fuel!


Every so often along the canal you see a boat that is full of water. Mostly, this appears to be the result of long-term neglect, with absent owners, but occasionally it is due to a leak. Bow thruster tubes can be a problem in this way. We have been warned about the step that is welded into the stern of Lutra Lutra. Very handy if you happen to fall in, but a weak spot for rust the rest of the time. So blacking is a regular diary appointment and the bilge pump gets regular use.

Drowning and Weil's disease

On the subject of falling in, you might think that canals are shallow and safe, but it can be surprisingly difficult to get out if you are wearing sodden clothing and Wellington boots. We recently fished a man out of the cut on his way back from the pub. He wasn't wearing wellies, but had suffered a head injury on the way down. Alcohol and water can be a lethal combination (other than in a whisky glass). My homemade elderflower champagne is proving to be quite lethal on its own!

Dangers lurk beneath the surface. We have been exploring the Birmingham Canal Network (BCN) and can tell you how many shopping trolleys there are underneath the water. And then there's always the danger of catching Weil's Disease - it's rarely fatal, but you might die of horror when you realise that its source is rat urine!


lutra lutra in a canal lockFinally, if you really want to go out in style then hang out round the locks. We undertook a day's lock training recently. It should have been entitled 101 ways to die at a lock. We are super-careful around locks, but a friend was nearly sunk by helpful hire-boaters on the Oxford canal. From catching fenders to getting caught up on the sill, you need to keep your wits about you. And, should you happen to fall in at a lock, just remember that the human body is not buoyant in turbulent water. It might just be the last thought that you have.

Which brings my catalogue of catastrophe to a close. I hope that you have enjoyed hearing of our mishaps and calamities. If you have any to add, feel free to get in touch; schadenfreude is most certainly alive and kicking on the cut.

the pig place, adderbury

our pub of the season - summer 2022

the pig place, Adderbury

The Pig Place has to be one of the most delightfully different pubs we have ever come across, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were one of very few truly 'outdoor' pubs in Britain. Most of the seating is outdoors, with an abundance of sofas centred around fire pits. Talk about bringing all the comfort of your living room into the great outdoors! The views are amazing, and it's great to sit and watch life pass you by on the canal.

Trotters Bar

Everything at The Pig Place has a pig theme, so it's not surprising to find the bar (a converted livestock trailer) is named Trotters Bar.  It is only here that you can come across seemingly decapitated bar staff. The trailer is not very high, and the staff seem to be universally pretty tall, with the result that when they are not bending low to serve you, you can only see the body up to the neck.

Trotters Bar has a very good range of bottled beers and ciders. Plus the usual range of stronger stuff. The wine that stood out for us was of course 'Shy Pig'.

The Pig Place Trotters Bar

The Trough

You cannot visit The Pig Place without sampling the food - served at The Trough of course! We had a full English Breakfast on more than one occasion, and it was superb every time. The bacon is particularly good, and the sausages were the best ever. Of course The Trough also caters for those amongst us who do not eat meat, and there are even some Vegan options.

The Trough

The Farm Shop

The Farm Shop sells everything from kindling and logs (buy these to burn on the fire pits) to some rather special ice cream from a dairy in Worcester, plus a good range of beers and wines at very reasonable prices, essential groceries, vegetables and of course meat. There is always plenty of bacon, and if you are very lucky you might be able to buy home-produced sausages before they sell out. If you fall in love with the whole concept of The Pig Place, you can even buy yourself a Pig Place T Shirt.

The Sty

The Sty is the only really indoor part of the establishment. Hand built by Dean from recycled building materials, (mainly old doors...) it is a delightfully quirky and cosy area for when the weather is being less than kind. Many events take place here (either inside or just outside): There are fairly regular themed weekends, and always plenty of live music. This might be staff members Greg or Tom playing guitar and singing, customers jamming, or invited guests. There is also the occasional opportunity for very young musicians to have the chance to shine in front of an afternoon audience.

The Sty at The Pig Place

Campsite and Mooring

The Pig Place has a lovely grass pitch for all sizes of tents, plus room for campervans and motorhomes, caravans and trailer tents. Interestingly, the site is on English Heritage Ridge and Furrow land, but as the pitches are not marked out, campers can find their own suitable spot.

There is such a friendly atmosphere at The Pig Place, that a good proportion of campers tend to join in with any festivities, and of course all are encouraged to partake of food and drinks at the Trough and Trotters Bar. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it, children are not allowed to stay. Under 18s are welcome to visit The Pig Place up until 6pm, but then the entire site is child free. Dogs, on the other hand, are most warmly welcomed at any time!

The Pig Place is right on the Oxford Canal, just north of Bridge 187. There are some mooring spots available on the opposite side (towpath side), but The Pig Place has its own visitor moorings. These are free for visitors during the day, but when it is busy you may well have to double up on a mooring. Overnight mooring is available, with electric hook up if you want it, but this comes at a reasonable cost. The management do ask you not to run engines or generators while you are there, as this would impinge on the peaceful enjoyment of others.

The Pig Place, Adderbury - campsite and moorings

The Pig Farm

For some, the main attraction of 'The Pig Place' is the presence of the pig farm. The idea of a pig farm can sometimes conjure up the thought of something dirty or smelly, but here, nothing could be further from the truth. Happy, clean, contented and friendly pigs play and roll and trundle about in their pens and there is absolutely no smell at all.  They scarper inside their wooden huts as soon as the first drops of rain fall, and come out again with the sunshine. They have a very good life, and it is lovely to simply sit and watch their antics.

pigs at The Pig Place

Behind the scenes

The people behind The Pig Place are Dean and his wife Sara. They live in a Narrowboat on The Pig Place moorings, and have several dogs as well as the pigs. They also have a few ducks, and you can't buy fresher duck eggs anywhere. Dean and Sara have spent their lives being that little bit different - from the very beginning when they ran off to Gretna Green to take their marriage vows. When they eventually decided to live on a boat, Dean built one for them as at that time they had plenty of time on their hands but little money. And while he was doing this, he was taken on by a boatyard and became an official boat builder. Dean's creative streak is visible all around The Pig Place, and a member of his staff told us he always had to have a project on the go. The couple also have a love of motorbikes and vintage cars - there are a few classics dotted around. Hence the motorbike night which is held every Thursday - bikers come from all over to eat, meet and have a quick drink.

I asked Dean how they came to be running The Pig Place, and he told me they had been looking everywhere for a bit of land to buy and were incredibly fortunate to be able to buy what they have named 'Narrowboat Acres'.  They have never looked back, and although they say it is hard work, especially in the winter, they love the farm, the pigs, the lifestyle and the people who work for and with them. They were both well and truly hooked from the day they sold their very first packet of sausages from one of their very own pigs.

Dean with his Pig Place van - and a couple of porkers


We had a wonderful few days at The Pig Place. The staff were universally very friendly and welcoming, and Sara and Dean always had time for a chat. We have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this pub as our 'pub of the season', and we shall definitely be returning when we are next in the region. Remember - it is just north of Nell Bridge (187) and Nell Bridge Lock (32) between Kings Sutton and Aynho on the Oxford Canal. Don't miss it!

Dean - owner of the Pig PlaceThe Pig Place is open from early April to the end of October. Dogs are welcomed, but under 18s only allowed up until 6pm. Food is served daily from 8am, and the bar is open from lunchtime.

0789 287 9447

waternav update

WaterNav is the UK’s only free mapping and route planning tool that works offline – giving peace of mind to thousands of boaters who have been reliant on an internet connection, via wifi or mobile data, to arrange and track journeys across the inland waterway network. River Canal Rescue (RCR) is committed to making the app completely FREE for its lifetime.
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funded and developed by river canal rescue

WaterNav is the UK’s only free mapping and route planning tool that works offline – giving peace of mind to thousands of boaters who have been reliant on an internet connection, via wifi or mobile data, to arrange and track journeys across the inland waterway network.

Funded and developed by River Canal Rescue (RCR), the breakdown company is committed to making the app completely FREE for its lifetime; there are no catches or gimmicks, sign up or hidden charges, and its full functionality is open to everyone.  All users need to do is create an account.

Other routing planning providers only function using the internet (problematic for boaters in areas where signal is traditionally an issue), so RCR’s dedicated programmers looked to NASA to develop an offline solution.

Lead software developer, Brandon Briggs, comments: “NASA uses certain software and algorithms to direct and monitor its robots on internet-free Mars, so we thought why not develop a similar system for the UK inland waterway system.  We adopted a route planning algorithm, which uses a dot matrix system, to reference all the canals and rivers in the UK, and we will not stop there.”

waternav rcr

Launched last year, WaterNav’s new updates now enable users to plan and specify their journey length/time or preferred routes etc, taking into account locks, points of interest and canal/river information etc, and be directed to the nearest available mooring/marina at journey’s end.

Brandon continues: “We are continually developing the app and taking onboard feedback from users, so don’t be surprised if we regularly ask users to update their version.”

 All UK waterways, mapping and route planning are incorporated into a single app and there’s also a help/SOS function linked to RCR HQ, for boaters who require assistance. Plotting the user’s position within a 5m radius has proved invaluable in emergency situations or when cruising on rivers with no access.

WaterNav has around 10,000 users and the figure is growing because it’s simple to set up and use. Access via Google Play or the App Store, register as a user and download the maps. After this, the app can be used offline.

Moving forward, additional community features are being developed for online users. “Boaters will be able to flag up any problems or issues they come across, such as debris in the waterways, lock closures, busy hot spots or pubs that may have closed down etc,” explains Brandon.  “This information, together with CRT notifications, will be shared on the app once verified, and to do this, we’re working on an automated moderating system.”

RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, adds: “We’re planning to add some really exciting features to WaterNav over the coming year, to encourage new interest from the younger generation, help share some of the amazing features on our canals and rivers and build the community spirit our UK waterways are synonymous with. Funding this app means we are giving something back too, and helping reconnect the community.”

angel II of Islington

Angel Community Canal Boat Trust recently provided free trips for an especially deserving group. After hearing of their work in raising funds to supply trauma kits to send to their countrymen on the front line, they were proud to be joined by the 1st London Plast, a Ukrainian scout group.
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angel community canal boat trust

angel community canal boat trust

angel II of islington

Angel Community Canal Boat Trust, a charity based in Islington, has been providing day and residential boat trips for community groups on its boat Angel II of Islington for over 40 years.

Recently we provided free trips for an especially deserving group. After hearing of their work in raising funds to supply trauma kits to send to their countrymen on the front line we were proud to be joined by the 1st London Plast, a Ukrainian scout group.

Over a very warm and pleasant weekend in June we were joined by 48 cubs, scouts and leaders who took to the canal like the proverbial ducks to water, of which we saw many during our trip.
Split into 4 groups each enjoyed a 3-hour trip between Islington and Little Venice, learning about our historic canal system and how to operate the canal locks, as well as enjoying the wildlife along the route.

Their voices rang out with song throughout the trip bringing smiles and cheers of encouragement from passers-by on the tow path and they made particular use of the acoustics in Islington Tunnel.

After a combined picnic and games session our return journeys were just as tuneful with several enthusiastic renditions of Ukraine’s winning Eurovision hit.

Skipper Phil Gavigan said “the strength to carry on through adversity should be an example to us all. Several of these young people have had to flee their war-torn homeland leaving family and friends behind”.

One of the leaders said “We loved everything. Thank you for making the children smile - the children said it was such a happy day, ‘the best day ever’ “.

Angel II of Islington - Ukranian scouts trip

1. It's not hard work when it is fun. 2. The signed flag presented to Angel II of Islington by some very happy scouts.

To find out what funding may be available for your community group visit our website  or contact our skipper.