england in the spring

Dear Lord, you promised Paradise
At the measure of our years.
No grief, no crying, no more pain,
You’ll wipe away our tears.
A city built of purest gold
Its walls a jasper ring,
And we shall be your people, Lord,
And you our God and King –

But can it be more beautiful
than England in the Spring?

I drove today along a road
With hedges clipped and neat
Fluorescent green in light and shade
With daisies at their feet.
And trees, sap rising, swayed their heads
Atop their patterned bark
And shelter gave to verge side flowers
Beneath cathedral arc.

There were snowdrops in the churchyard
And bluebells in the wood,
And daffodils were everywhere –
You’re right, it all “was good” –
So who has need of amethyst
When wisteria’s on the wall?
And hyacinth and foxglove
Steal the colour from opal?

Primroses, joy self-seeded, see
the roses, not so prim,
ignore pale onyx, agate, quartz,
And from carnelians skim
bright red and yellow, flame and pink,
as buds uncurl, rain-pearled.
And there are violets underfoot -
jewels hiding from the world.

Seen from the bridge, the water plays
Like crystal, diamond glass,
And there are mallards in the flow
And swans preen on the grass,
And grown-ups sit and children play
And dogs run to and fro.
Don’t you have spaniels up there, Lord?
May I refuse to go?

There’s a hedgehog in the garden
And it’s fallen in a pot,
And we’ve rescued him and popped him safe
Among forget-me-not.
He curled up in protective ball,
Breath prick(er)ly and slow.
If hedgehogs aren’t in Heaven, Lord,
do I really have to go?

And here is blossom, cherry red
And apple, pink and cream,
Forsythia, wood anemone,
Dog roses by the stream,
The dandelion and celandine
glow golden, campion red,
the crocus burgeons, lilac bursts
like stars above my head.

I know you love us, Lord of Life,
Creator God and King,
But it will be so hard to leave
Dear England in the Spring.

(Revelation 21.1-4 and 18-21)
Iris Lloyd

waterways matters

waterways matters

Alison Saunders, Waterways ChaplainAlison Saunders, wife of Mike, vicar of Hungerford, has been appointed Senior
Waterways Chaplain of the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Waterways chaplains work across the nation’s inland waterways to support boaters in need, helping to resolve a wide range of issues from access to benefits and healthcare to being a listening ear and companion to the lonely and anxious. Chaplains are committed to walking one mile of their towpath each week but most walk much more than that. They are happy to chat to anyone they meet, whether it be boaters, fishermen, cyclists or other walkers, and to help in any and every way they can, if asked.

There are about ten chaplains along the length of the Kennet and Avon. Ali says, “I
would love to see more Waterways Chaplains along the canal, to support boaters and all who use the waterway in any capacity, raising awareness of its potential and the challenges for those who live on it.”

She can be contacted by email or by phone 01488 208341.

music and the marinated mind

music and the marinated mind

marinated in canal water, that is..

If my interest in canals can be traced back to 1967, then I would have to say that music came first. I well remember hearing Guantanemera (probably sung by Pete Seeger) on my grandmother’s radio when I was of pre school age. From then on, I wanted to play something.

My chance came when I joined the Buckland Infant school band. I was summarily thrown out in the first rehearsal as I was busy looking at how the castanet I had in my hand was held together and missed something the teacher said to me! Harsh but I didn’t really want to be a castanet player anyway. I wanted to be Bert Weedon! Not easy when you’re five years old and have just lost access to a borrowed school castanet.

I’d made my mind up that the guitar was to be my instrument of choice so I used a bit of pester power, eventually being given a ukulele for either birthday or Christmas. It looked like a guitar at least but it was nothing like the thing Bert played! I tried but eventually gave up when the bridge of the thing had come unstuck, assuming I probably had nothing by way of talent anyway.

michael nye - ululele

Sings of the inland waterways by The Boatmen

Album cover for 'Songs of the Inland Waterways - Straight from the tunnel's mouth' by The Boatmen

BBC album - 'narrowboats'

That could have been it but, ten years later I acquired a very cheaply made nylon strung guitar and decided that if I couldn’t be Bert Weedon I’d try being Bob Dylan instead. That was at least something easier to achieve technically as I would not need amplification or orchestral backing. I’d still need to be able to play the thing though. I had no idea how to tune it, play a chord or pretty much anything.

I reasoned that there were plenty of “musicians” at school but soon found their claim to be able to play their electric guitars were mildly exaggerated. This was mostly on account of said guitars not actually existing in the first place and their supposed owners being just a tad economical with the truth. I plugged away though, and it took a month to play a C chord, another to play G7 and then came F in the book. Simple, a four string chord and all you have to do is hold two strings down with one finger. I began to wonder why in the world I couldn’t have been born with an extra digit on my left hand because F was downright impossible.

I’d also decided that I should really be learning on a steel strung guitar so I bought a cheap one for single figure money at a second hand shop. The instrument looked really pretty with multi coloured veneer and a beautiful scrollwork design on the scratch plates. I polished it and then fingered my first C chord. The result was a marked difference to the nylon strung guitar.

It sounded terrible, out of tune buzzes coming from everywhere and it felt like I was attacking my fingers with cheese wire. I figured a bit of perseverance was in order and so I persevered, spending six months with permanently sore and occasionally bleeding left hand fingers. I tried lowering the strings by chopping bits out of the nut, which helped but the soundbox seemed to be moulting internal struts at an alarming rate. I stuck each one back with Araldite and spent the rest of the evening picking the glue off my fingers.

It was around then that I became aware of waterways music thanks to a BBC album simply called “Narrow Boats” that my dad had bought. I had a job too and the combination of that, the album and an advert in “Melody Maker” saying “Why not buy your second guitar first,” I thought “Why not” so I set off to purchase a brand new Italian built Eko Ranger Six, which I still play regularly. That allowed me to learn properly but, by the time I had gone to Sunderland Polytechnic, canal and other folk songs weren’t really the thing to be playing. I tried electric and soon found that amplifying my lack of talent really didn’t help that much, but I kept slogging on. I got my degree in Fine Art and, along with my guitar, second hand electric guitar and very tolerant fiancée, set about the process of getting married.

Some years later I was playing some music to our children when I dug out an album that I bought at an IWA rally in Weybridge when I was still a teenage member of the Surrey and Hampshire Canal Society. The album, “The tunnel’s mouth” by a band calling themselves “The boatmen” is a bit on the raw side with songs like “Boaty Boaty spit in the cut” being a little bit ripe even in their cleaned up form. I played a few tracks (the cleaner ones!) to the kids and was surprised that they actually liked the music. I then thought it’d be nice to find some more waterways songs. Using the internet as a resource I have since dug out a number of other canal related music, both traditional and more recent that tell the story and create the atmosphere of the waterways. The tunes for most are relatively easy to work out, giving me a small repertoire to play when required.

Michael Nye and his daughter at Maesbury

Michael Nye with his son, daughter and one other - Supergroup

I’m not sure when the interest in inland navigation, music and writing fused but I do like learning new songs about our canal system and have had the privilege to have been able to play some to a live audience on a number of occasions. I’ve often played a few songs at events where I have my books on sale and enjoy both the process of being a waterways author and occasional singer!

I still have that first ukulele which, after it spending years in various attics, I have restored, and enjoyed playing Maesbury some years back accompanied by my son (also on ukulele), daughter (on vocals) and a guy that made a uke out of a biscuit tin!
©2022 Michael Nye

aqueduct marina builds green credentials with bilgeaway

aqueduct marina builds green credentials with bilgeaway

Aqueduct Marina builds green credentials with Bilgeaway  

Aqueduct Marina, based on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich, is encouraging customers to install River Canal Rescue’s Bilgeaway filter on their narrowboats.

aqueduct marina and bilgeawayThe Marina, a fervent advocate of environmentally-friendly solutions, now stocks Bilgeaway in its chandlery and is promoting the filter to its 147 mooring and 90 hard-standing users, external customers and those buying boats through its brokerage service.

Aqueduct hopes this move takes it one step closer to picking up the UK’s first Inland ‘Clean Marina’ award.

The Marina is already involved in a number of initiatives, including The Green Blue and Clean Marinas, and recently launched its own Greener Marina scheme - a customer communication programme which aims to develop a culture of environmental awareness between staff and customers, helping it gain Cleaner Marina status.

Bilgeaway is described as the world’s ‘first’ environmentally-friendly filtration system. It uses a non-toxic solution to remove contaminants from dirty bilge water, preventing waterway pollution, which are then rendered non-reactive, leaving environmentally-friendly contents in a cartridge for disposal. The housing can be re-used.

The product’s a ‘first’ because while other filter systems trap hydrocarbons, they fail to de-contaminate them, transferring the disposal problem elsewhere (typically a landfill site causing further land-based contamination).

Marina and operations director, Phil Langley, comments: “We are already trying to encourage customers to reduce pollution, emissions and their impact on the environment, and are doing this by promoting the use of solar panels and eco-friendly products.”

RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, agrees: “Everyone has a responsibility to do their bit and if all boats had a filter installed, in 10 years’ time the waterways environment could look completely different. We’d have clearer canals and rivers and the oil slicks in marinas and harbours would be a thing of the past.”

To find out more visit Bilgeaway and Aqueduct Marina websites.

to err is human

dawncraft chronicles

to err is human

Bank holiday and not a virus in sight. Finally time to get the boat out and go for a cruise - but first what is known as a shake down voyage, the whole idea being to see what needs doing or break something close to home where it’s easier to fix.

I started the outboard a few weeks ago having left it tilted up and completely drained out of fuel. Originally this was done so the fuel didn’t evaporate and leave a carb full of two stroke oil. Now I would recommend it because the fuel goes off: just disconnect the fuel pipe and let it run out by itself.

Any way, never mind all that.  “Let go forward, let go aft" and we are off! Well at least momentarily, as 30 foot of neatly wound blue flex disappeared out from under the canopy – oops !! Resisting the temptation to hit reverse and wind a live cable around the prop, a gentle pull back on the boat hook making sure that there weren’t too many spectators and off we went again, hard a starboard. Only it didn’t - it just carried straight on. Ahh I forgot to feed the cables back through the bellows when I tilted the outboard to allow some slack .Still no harm done and finally out of the marina and down the canal towards Bath.

Simon Woollen - pulpit on DawntreaderThe thrill and relaxation was short lived as on a more desolate stretch of the canal we stopped moving forward, although oddly I could go back wards 20 foot or so and the same forward. Ten minutes leaning over the side and we still had a prop connected so we must be snagged. If at any time I had looked forward, I would realise we were missing something, The PULPIT !! Having removed this for painting, I had just placed it back on the deck with a length of rope coiled up just to hold it. Amazingly it made one of the best performing anchors I have ever known! Shorts on and in we go to retrieve it from around a sunken tree branch. Luckily nothing more was damaged than my pride.

Time to limp back and carry out a few minor adjustments. The outboard will run happily on 100 :1 that’s 100 gallons of petrol to one gallon of two stroke, hardly noticeable and almost equivalent to what 4 stroke will puff out naturally (if you never have to fill yours with oil it's because petrol seeps down the rings and dilutes it – just take the dip stick out and give it a sniff - trust me it will stink of petrol). Anyway, because it hadn’t been used for a while and it was cold, I increased this to 50:1 as per manual and gave the fuel a liberal dose of Redex; this cleans the carb, and scrounges the old oil and muck out the engine and exhaust system. Now the engine had been run for an hour or so, it did - vast clouds of it.

Not perhaps socially acceptable in today's climate but I have a defence. Make smoke and zig zag was one of the greatest Naval tactics of the battle of Jutland. All I really needed was a full-size white ensign and the sight of Dawn Treader suddenly emerging from her own smoke screen would have been awesome.

However, we have some sense of responsibility, so the last bit was done under electric motor making the purchase of a new battery worth the investment. I connect mine with a parallelogram alongside the petrol engine so as you steer boat it steers the pod. I wanted to extend the control wires to the cockpit but you have to push the handle back for reverse. But it moves the boat happily and the lesson is, it’s a few years old but has always worked in an emergency.

The rest of the afternoon was spent securing the pulpit with brass screws - not DIY store specials that I had to grind off to remove it, draining the carb and adding another gallon of neat fuel to get the 2-stroke mixture back up, greasing the steering, and making sure my cables ran properly before heading out again to complete the voyage with little or no drama.

Ok what did we learn? I have got rusty in lock down and what was second nature a few years ago didn’t flow as routinely as it used to do. Secondly and although I have always kept a log of each of my voyages complete with what went wrong etc., a maintenance logbook is a must. Especially when we all start jobs and forget to finish them! And lastly don’t ever beat yourself up; we live in a society where we are told we are imperfect, damaging everything around us and are generally inadequate. So who am I to rebel and go against the grain?

keith harris

featured author - summer 2022

keith harris

Keith Harris - authorI was born and brought up in the English seaside town of Hastings, many miles from the nearest navigable canal. I have always been drawn to the sea and joined the local Sea cadets when I was thirteen. We had a small fleet of retired Royal Navy boats that we had to launch from the shingle beach at Bulverhythe.

Most of my summer holidays were spent at the “Unit” where we were given an almost free rein to find ourselves and hopefully learn by our mistakes. We had a 27ft Montague-rigged whaler which we once sailed to Rye, fourteen miles away for a camping weekend, a couple of RNSA dinghies and the boats that I loved the best, the dories. These were designed as beach landing boats and were crewed with four pulling oars and a steering oar.

I was fairly light in those days - someone said I was too light for heavy work and too heavy for light work and so I invariably landed the role of coxswain. They were fantastic surf boats, being rounded at both ends rather like an elongated coracle, and we would spend hours going in and out over the waves.

We had to drag the boats down the shingle on greased slides to get afloat, which when the tide was out would involve 50 or 60 yards across the sand. On one occasion when I was steering, I saw an enormous roller approaching. I couldn’t say anything to the crew who of course had their backs to the wave, as I didn’t want to distract them. All I could do was to encourage them to “pull up hard” and fight with my steering oar to hit the wave square on the bow.

On the bow oar was a guy called Chris who was older and bigger than the rest of us. He was a Petty Officer (probably eighteen at the time) and an “old” hand. In hindsight I think he might have been better suited to rowing aft but hind-sight and all that… As the wave tumbled towards the boat it towered above us over six feet high. The bow lifted and Chris went up in the air with it. The boat reared up and then crashed back down with a thump leaving Chris suspended in mid-air, oar still firmly grasped in his hands.

Then the immovable object and the irresistible force kicked in and the inevitable happened as the boat began to rise up again, gravity took over and Chris came crashing back down. He hit the thwart with such a force that it split in two and left him sprawled on the bottom boards, legs in the air bravely still clutching his oar which was pointing to the sky.

It was as much as I could do to keep the boat heading into the waves as I now had two oars pulling on the port side against just one functioning to starboard. By the grace of God, and I like to think a little bit of good seamanship, we survived the next couple of breakers intact before I managed to turn the boat around in a trough and head back for the beach.

I should add here that not one of us was wearing a life-jacket. I was fifteen and although we didn’t properly understand the implications at the time, we had been allowed a valuable freedom to test ourselves and I think it gave us confidence and character which stood us in good stead for the rest of our lives.

Most of my contemporaries from those days went on to make a success of their lives. One gave up a life at sea as a Master Mariner and then became a GP and lifeboat doctor. Another was a senior captain with BP Tankers, one a Pilot guiding cruise ships through the Alaskan Fiords and yet another became an engine room artificer in nuclear submarines.

Unfortunately because of the nanny state and the dreaded H&S, protective parents and compensation culture, amongst other things, kids don’t have that option anymore. They have substituted real-life adventure with make believe computer games and I phones.

keith harris - author

I was thirty before I discovered that there was an extensive and fascinating network of over 2000 miles of canals in Britain. We hired a boat from the little-known village of North Kilworth in Leicestershire in 1976. Our friends Marion and Malcolm from Southampton had joined the local canal society and found out all about it and we travelled with them and our kids who were five and six at the time to pick up the boat in Marion’s Ford Anglia, which she called Bruce! We were starting on an unforgettable week of discovery and adventure around the canals of the Midlands that would leave a lasting impression and hook me for life.

We certainly had an eventful week. Tanya, aged 6 at the time was stung by a bee, Mark (5) fell in near Rugby, we had a complete double mattress wound around the prop in Birmingham, and were aground overnight stuck alongside a camping boat full of Boy Scouts in a remote spot somewhere between Leamington Spa and Braunston. It was that remote that it took Malcolm and I half an hour to walk to the nearest pub! This was in 1976 and I have to say that things in a lot of areas have improved since then, although a lot more have worsened, but that’s another story.

In spite of all this I developed a love and fascination with canals which has never left me. I was eventually able to buy my own narrowboat in 1986 and was lucky enough to fulfil another long-term ambition in 1998 when I acquired the beautiful replica Dutch Luxemotor, Saul Trader.Keith Harris - Saul Trader

I had always had an urge to write, and once started a book about preserved railways but for various reasons it never got finished. With the advent of Kindle and Amazon, self-publishing has become a lot easier. I think it has opened up endless opportunities for would-be authors, some good and some maybe not so good. I think grammar, punctuation and spelling accuracy are important and I try to make sure my writing is thoroughly checked. Somebody commented after reading my first book that it was “written in the vernacular.” Well sorry - it was actually written in the study.

It is a long and sometime laborious process, but infinitely worthwhile and fun. I often have a chuckle myself at some of my jokes, and I hope that you do too. The initial object of the exercise was to record my travels for my own benefit. Kindle has made it possible to spread the news further afield and I can only hope that my readers will also find some enjoyment from my ramblings and learn a little about the lore of the cut.

keith harris - author

Keith Harris -author

Keith Harris - author

Keith Harris

The Saul Trader books are available to buy in print or electronically. Visit Keith's shop for more information on each book and to buy. You can also find out about another of Keith's books which is currently in the pipeline!

narrowboat logbook and journey planner

narrowboat logbook and journey planner

by Joseph Gascoigne

My name is Joseph and I live on a Widebeam named H2O with my father Steve. We have lived on the boat since July 2021 and are continuous cruisers; prior to that we lived in Newark On Trent. My dad has always loved boats and fishing, in fact if he's by water he is happy. I on the other hand was a typical teenager who enjoyed playing on my games console, meeting with my friends and doing all of the normal things an 18 year old would do.

So it was a bit of a shock when my dad suggested moving onto a boat. It was a lot of turmoil selling the house and getting rid of so much of the stuff you accumulate when living in a house. At that time I also had the added pressure of my A Levels, but we muddled through. Whilst all that was happening the boat was being built to my dad's design. He had planned it all out before we even had a boat builder, so he would go up to Manchester every week to check on its progress, and I would be at home either taking exams or revising for them.

So the day actually arrived, the boat was launched and we moved on, I hadn't seen the boat for months, so when I actually saw it completed for the first time in the water I thought it was great.
We were a bit nervous when it came to moving it for the first time out of Whilton Marina where it was launched, but when we actually were out on the cut I thought it was brilliant. I enjoy the peace and quiet of a country mooring, long walks with my dog Leo and nights on the boat with the log burner, I think I am turning into my dad!

After a couple of months getting used to canal life , we decided we wanted to start some sort of business. I had noticed that my dad would scribble things down in a notepad, about the moorings we found, the diesel we purchased, what the Wi-Fi was like etc. and was always rummaging through his pad trying to find where he had written something. And that's what gave me the idea of producing a Logbook and Journey Planner.

naroowboat log book and journey planner cover

narrowboat log book and journey planner

I produced a draft copy and let my dad fill it in as we travelled, to see what sections needed to be added or edited. Then, when we were both happy with it we looked for a way of printing and publishing it.

After sorting out the printing & publishing aspect, we published my book through Amazon and my dad made a Facebook post telling fellow boaters about it. We had a great response from the community and the book began to sell. In the first week it was the No 3 best selling book in the boating section on Amazon!

The Narrowboat Logbook and Journey Planner contains sections to record your
travels on our waterways. Initially there is a section to record the boat's details, such
as overall dimensions, engine & gearbox model, fuel, waste & water tank capacity.
Then licence and Insurance details and renewal dates. There is a Diesel Log for recording Fuel Purchases, followed by a Propane Gas Log.

The next section is the Travel Planner and Log, which allows you to plan your route
for the day's travels and highlight Water Points, Elsan, Moorings and Shops on the
way. There are spaces for 120 travelling days.

The following section is the Pre Travel Check List: the daily reminders of things to check before casting off. There are also sections for recording contact details of Friends On The Canal and Places of Interest.

Finally there are Notes Pages and Useful Contact Details, such as CRT, RCR and Environment Agency.

narrowboat logbook and journey planner - fuel log

narrowboat logbook and journey planner - journey planner log

Over the following few months I produced a series of books for the Boating Community, both for Narrowboats and Wide beams, and the response has been great.

My most recent publication has been The Boater's One Pot Cookbook and for that one again I asked my dad to ask fellow boaters on Facebook for their favourite recipes and again the response was amazing.

We are at present on the Grand Union heading north and the weather makes you feel spring is really on the way. It's nice to see boats moving again and a few more smiles on people's faces after the tough few years we have had.

If you do see us out on the cut, do give us a wave!

rustins acquires peek polish

rustins acquires peek

finest range of premium polishes

Rustins Limited are delighted to announce they acquired Peek Polish in March 2022 and are excited to have Peek as part of their group of brands.

peek polish

Rustins Head of Sales, Ian Slater, said of the news "We are excited about the acquisition of Peek. This high quality, multi surface premium polish available in a range of sizes with its eye-catching
packaging that would stand out on any shelf. We look forward to combined administration and
logistics to make it easier for merchants to stock Peek Polish and our sales team look forward to
meeting Peek customers."

Robert Peek added "I had no doubt in my mind that Rustins was the right company to carry Peek
Polish forward. Rustins and Peek have family-owned traditions that supply high quality products to
both tradesperson and household customers. I wish them every success in the future."
Contact: Vince McDonagh
+44 20 8450 4666

river canal rescue callout figures for 2021

river canal rescue 2021 call-out figures

River Canal Rescue reports it responded to 171 major incidents in 2021; emergency situations either involving submerged, partially sunken or grounded craft, plus salvage work.

Rochdale sunken canal boat rescue

The figure is 25% lower than the 231 incidents RCR reported in 2020, this is primarily due to a reduction in boat use until lockdown restrictions eased in June 2021. Between June and December however, there was a peak in call-outs which continued into January 2022, due to mild weather and boaters wanting to make the most of what was left of their cruising year.

In contrast, the number of general call-outs, such as electrical, fuel and engine issues, flat batteries, over-heating and gear box failures, rose to 3235, over 13% up from 2850 in 2020. RCR says the rise is due to the high number of people unable to visit and maintain their boats during lockdown, resulting in minor niggles becoming larger problems.

RCR’s Canal Contracting service also arranged 505 visits to undertake a variety of work, including: plumbing and electrical installations, gearbox replacements, inverter, solar installations and general engine maintenance. There were also 340 engine services booked in, resulting in RCR’s busiest ever pre-Christmas service period.

Its subsidiary, Key Diesels, whose team fits and supplies new and refurbished engines nationwide, undertook 75 jobs to replace engines (no mean feat given the coordination and logistics involved) and completed 45 head gasket jobs and 20 strip/repair jobs for customers’ engines. In total, Key Diesels sold 95 engines, comprising 25 new, 40 refurbished and 20 remanufactured models.

RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, comments: “Key Diesels has gone from strength to strength, and we’re keen to encourage people to upgrade their old BMC engines, as they are getting to the vintage stage now. Unfortunately, demand is still high.”

RCR recently became a distributor for electric motor company, Lynch Motors, offering customers a greener solution within their engine replacement options.

“With the majority of call-outs occurring in the last six months of the year, it was an incredibly busy time,” concludes Stephanie. “Not only did people need help with maintenance related issues, they were also keen to ensure their boats and engines were in a good condition, ready for a full season’s cruising this year.”

guildford steamboat meet makes welcome return

guildford steamboat meet makes welcome return

saturday 9th july 2022

The colourful presence of anything up to 18 steam launches of different sizes and vintages always makes Guildford’s ‘Puffing a-Wey’ event truly atmospheric.

‘Puffing a-Wey’, first held in 2012, brings members and boats from the Steamboat Association of Great Britain to Dapdune Wharf in central Guildford as guests of the National Trust. The Trust owns the River Wey and Godalming navigations, maintaining the waterways to a high standard, and the charming Dapdune heritage site is their centre of operations. Almost hidden behind Guildford’s Cricket Ground, the place has a uniquely rural atmosphere despite its closeness to the busy centre of town.

A number of steamboat owners regard the Wey as home waters, and steamboats somehow ‘fit’ because they are extremely colourful. No two are the same and like anything steam driven they seem to breathe and have their own individual voices, be it ‘Lady Amanda’ and her huge ‘chime’ whistle of the sort you might hear on ‘Mallard’ – the world’s fastest steam locomotive - or a discreet, terribly English, ‘toot’, more in keeping with the scale of the petite ‘Melissa’.

steamboat engine


A few steam boaters might admit that they only run their boat for the whistle and the steam kettle, the highly polished and fast acting ‘Windermere kettle’ being an essential piece of equipment. Some even sport pie ovens and the owners are quick to point out you can’t have that feature if you’re powered by an outboard motor...

‘Puffing a-Wey’ is popular with visitors to Dapdune Wharf, and boaters are asked if, for this one official day of their weekend meet, they will keep the wharf area busy with lots to look at.

Registrations are rolling in and between 15 and 18 vessels will be making the journey to Guildford for the day.

steamboat rally

steamboat rally

Whatever the age of the craft, the ‘look’ is essentially Victorian or Edwardian, whether the boat carries a clerestoried cabin or is simply arranged as an open launch or day boat. Often boats have been constructed by their owners and the same is true of many of the engines – ‘singles’, ‘twins’, ‘compounds’ or ‘triples’ built in various configurations by the owners themselves in home workshops. Being steam powered their moving parts are largely exposed, making them into conversation pieces for those really interested to find out more.

One of the delights of steam boating is that it is still reasonably accessible and if not built by the owner, a 16’ open launch might cost between £5 and £8000 depending on condition, Maintenance is important as is safety, and the Steamboat Association is committed to promoting best practice in both areas.

The SBA, an early member of the Heritage Fuels Alliance, is also dedicated to looking for sustainable alternatives to coal in its effort to reduce the impact of heritage steam power on our changing climate: you might even detect compressed coffee grounds, amongst other things, being used to raise steam...

Come and take a look at Puffing a-Wey on Saturday 9th July.