new narrowboat design for black prince

black prince launch new narrowboat design

One of Britain’s best known canal holiday operators has unveiled a brand revamp and a new range of hand-built boats to reflect soaring levels of interest from families in narrowboat breaks.

Black Prince Holidays, which operates canal breaks from nine bases across the UK, will be investing more than one million pounds over the next year on the new Signature range of narrowboats, as well as developing a new website and updating its signage and team uniforms with a sleek, modern look.

black prince holidays

black prince holidays - new boat design interior

Following two summers of record bookings, Black Prince’s boat-building team has crafted a narrowboat to appeal specifically to modern families. The new layout features a larger kitchen area with more worktop space, multiple USB sockets and wireless charging pads, plus black-out blinds and bespoke mattresses for comfortable nights.

Black Prince worked with Devon-based interior design agency PHI Concepts to develop a fresh take on narrowboat interiors and transform the traditional style into something fresh and modern.

The new boat launches first at Black Prince’s Stoke Prior base in Worcestershire, and Napton in Warwickshire, and will be immediately recognisable with its sleek royal blue exterior and clean lines.

The design style has been used across the company’s website, signage, livery and team uniforms, which can be seen on waterways across the UK.

Leighton Jones, operations manager at Black Prince says the developments have been inspired by feedback from guests: “Narrowboats have a very traditional image, but over the past two years we’ve attracted a new generation of families and we felt it was right to develop a boat that appeals directly to them.

“Our new brand reflects all this, without losing the links to history and quality that people associate with Black Prince.”

For more information and to book, visit: Black Prince

ev charging facilities at aqueduct marina

Ev charging facilities are now available for visitors to Aqueduct Marina

Facilities to allow electric vehicle users to recharge their cars are appearing in many locations across the country. To help meet the demand, Aqueduct Marina have recently had four charging stations installed at their Cheshire location.

These new Rolec charging units, operated by VendElectric, provide Electric Vehicle users with an opportunity to recharge at 22kW via a type 2 connector. As with many other charging stations, visitors need to download the VendElectric app to allow them to use the charger that will be accessible to the general public seven days a week, 9.00am - 5.00pm, and to marina, caravan and boat customers 24hrs day. Anyone visiting their boat or simply calling in to enjoy a coffee or meal in the marina’s café can use these new chargers.

electric car charging at Aqueduct Marina

electric car charging at Aqueduct Marina

The installation of the new chargers is part of Aqueduct’s aim of becoming more environmentally friendly, with plans underway to reduce their carbon footprint even further. Robert Parton, MD of Aqueduct Marina, said, “electric car charging points feel like Wi-Fi connectivity 15 years ago, which at that time was not an essential requirement, but rapidly became the primary requirement of all customers to the marina. I expect electric car charging will soon become a must-have.”

john skull

featured author - spring 2022

john skull

narrowboating - it'll be fun, they said...

I love boats. From every warship I served on during a 21-year Royal Navy career, a flybridge cruiser we owned in Sydney and our 42-foot sailing yacht, which carried us all the way up the east coast of Australia from Melbourne to the Coral Sea off Far North Queensland. I loved them all.

During my naval career, I travelled all over the world and the lust for travel stayed with me even after I left the Navy over twenty years ago. I’ve lived in Germany, Cyprus, the United States, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand, and in all these places, I managed to find myself on the water or under it – I am a scuba diving instructor, too.

I retired in 2017 and Biene, my German wife, and I returned to Europe to live in Germany. In 2018, during a short trip to England to visit friends and relatives, we went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the birthplace of Shakespeare and Biene spotted a narrowboat. She reminded me that I had always fancied a spell on the canals, so we decided to think about it.

john and biene skull with sunset

John Skull - beautiful canal scene

Buying a boat is generally a long process involving numerous trips to marinas and boatyards, drawing up lists of wants, must-haves, likes, don’t-wants and hates. How long? Narrow or wide beam? Traditional or cruiser stern? These are all questions to be carefully considered. Then there are the surveys and negotiations/haggling with owners and brokers. This can take months.

Bearing all this in mind, within five days of deciding to ‘think about it’, we took command of the first and only boat we viewed. Clearly, this could be an article called, “How Not to Buy a Narrowboat!”, but as it happens, we got lucky and the good ship Speakeasy became our home for almost two years. Two years of adventure, fun and misadventure.

car being driven down canal

john skull, author

As well as boats, I love to write, so I kept an illustrated daily journal of our first seven months on the cut. It was originally meant as a tool to keep friends and family informed of our travels, but it developed into much more. For example, I never thought that I’d ever write so much about toilets! I had previously written a memoir of my childhood in Belfast during the height of the Troubles and how I managed to find myself in the Royal Navy, which received great reviews on Amazon (It’s called, ‘If You Can’t Take a Joke….’ and you can find it on Amazon).

if you can't take a joke, by John Skull

Narrowboating - It'll be fun, they said

I decided to self-publish my narrowboat journal, as it gives a light-hearted, but realistic account of everyday life on the canals, including the successes, failures and simply stupid mistakes, like this extract from the book:

Cast off the mooring lines and off we went - eastwards once more. As we passed under Henley Bridge, a gorgeous wooden boat fully dressed with flags and bunting wanted to cross our bow and head downstream. Given our average speed of 3mph, I happily waved him through and slotted in behind him and followed him downstream. It was at this juncture that Biene tapped me on the shoulder and with a nod of her head suggested I should take a look behind me. I did. As well as the lovely boats ahead of us, there was a line of these wonderful boats following us. We had inadvertently joined the parade of historic wooden and Dunkirk boats, during the Henley Regatta! At this point, it was impossible for us to move out of the parade, so Biene and I joined in the spirit of the event and treated all the spectators to our ‘royal’ wave. Most waved back!

Henley Regatta

Like every other boat I’ve had the good fortune to sail on, Speakeasy was loved. She provided us with shelter, warmth and a sea-chest full of stories for our grandchildren as they grow up. It is available on Amazon under the title, ‘Narrowboating......It’ll Be Fun, They Said’.

barge-inn booze

barge-inn booze

Barge-Inn Booze started as an idea about six years ago. The idea came to me as I was sitting on the 'Oatcake Boat'. Then all the planning came in to place. I had to contact Stoke on Trent City Council  and a number of other agencies as well Canal and River Trust, who took some convincing. Then two years later I had all the licences required and permissions needed.

Once we were up and running we joined the RCTA and love travelling to their events. We mainly trade at Stoke City Football Club and Westport Lake, but when there is no football we travel to many beautiful places such as the Anderton boat lift, and meet up with the pizza boat ('Baked on Board') which goes down well (beer and pizza!).

My first RCTA event this year is the Easter Floating Market at Great Heywood where we will be joined by many great traders including 'Baked on Board' and the wonderful Sue Meades on the 'Cheese Boat'. Many more events are planned: you can join my Facebook group Barge-Inn Booze for updates on where I shall be.

barge inn booze

barge inn booze

barge inn booze

I like to promote local beers, gins, and crisps. The local beer is Titanic Ales which is made in Burslem. I sell four of their most popular real ales.  Then there is the very popular Stokie Oatcake Gin which is made by Moorland Pottery.  It doesn't have Oatcakes in it, it is filtered through oats in for a period of time and six botanicals are also added, to represent the Six Towns of the Potteries.

barge inn booze

barge inn booze Stoke Oatcake Gin

barge inn booze

Our crisps are from Rugeley in Staffordshire, made by Just Crisps, they are manufactured on their farm and all the ingredients, including the rapeseed oil, are grown on the farm. They taste amazing!

barge inn booze

barge inn booze

Barge-Inn Booze has been in many different newspapers and TV shows: The Sentinel (newspaper in Stoke); BBC Radio Stoke; The Sun newspaper as one of the top ten pubs in England; Channel 5’s 'Celebrity Five Go Barging'; and Towpath Talk. We are also on Trip Advisor as the number one pub in Stoke on Trent, with currently 74 five star reviews.

I have won various awards over the years including New Business of the Year, Manager of the Year, and have gained the Trip Advisor Mark of Excellence.

barge inn booze

barge inn booze - Wayne Sadler with company

I have many wonderful followers on social media, most of whom have become good friends. I even have Celebrity followers - Shaun Williams being one.

One of the main reasons I love doing Barge-Inn Booze is to attract people down to the canal,  #makinglifebetterbythecanal. I really appreciate all that C.&.R.T. Management,  Staff and Volunteers do, not just for Barge-Inn Booze, but for the whole network, for the visitors and boaters.

I am looking forward to seeing lots more friendly people and traders this year.

We shall be at many  wonderful places including: Anderton boat lift in Northwich, Coventry Basin in Coventry, Market Drayton, Westport Lake and Harecastle Tunnel in October for their fabulous Scarecastle with Canal and River Trust. Don't forget, you can join my Facebook group Barge-Inn Booze for more updates as to where I shall be.

Barge-Inn Booze open for trade

barge inn booze

wayne sadler, barge inn booze

Wayne Sadler, trading as Barge-Inn Booze, has been a member of the RCTA since he first got all the licences and permissions he needed to set up a narrowboat pub. He is based in Stoke on Trent, but travels widely to RCTA events.

Follow Wayne through his Facebook Group

the wooden canal boat society

the wooden canal boat society

One of the attractions of the waterways are the former working boats, often gaily painted, covered in shiny brass and lovingly maintained by their owners. Every year there are several gatherings of ex working boats. Some are converted, some still clothed up and ready to carry another load, but, there’s one thing that nearly all have in common- they’re made of metal.

100 years ago metal boats were the exception. Most were made of wood, oak for the sides, 3 inch elm for the bottom. Sadly, though many gained a new lease of life as pleasure boats after they finished carrying, the enormous cost of maintenance meant that most ended up being destroyed or simply abandoned.

Based in Greater Manchester, the Wooden Canal Boat Society is busy not only saving a small fleet of wooden narrow boats, but also putting them to good use. Museums are all well and good, but boats were made to be used.

Portland Basin - full of wooden boats

Portland Basin - full of boats

Portland Basin by Adrian Glasgow

Portland Basin - photo by Adrian Glasgow

It all started back in the 1980s as a project to restore the wooden motor boat “Forget me Not” and make use of the former joey boat “Lilith”. Whilst “Forget me Not” was being stripped down and put back together again at Guide Bridge, on the Ashton Canal, “Lilith” was bow hauled and hitch hiked around the network carrying buskers to raise funds for tree planting in Africa.

Before “Forget me Not” was finished a third boat was offered, “Hazel”. Built (probably) in 1913, she turned out to be the last Runcorn wooden header narrow boat afloat. She made an epic journey from London to Ashton in 1988. She was slipped for inspection at the Ashton Packet Boat Co. Almost every part of the boat was on its way out. The only possibility was to save up the pennies for an eventual complete rejuvenation.

Wooden Canal Boat Society - Forget-me-not and Lilith pass Guide Bridge Mill, Ashton

"Forget Me Not" and "Lilith" pass Guide Bridge Mill, Ashton on a recycling trip

Wooden Canal Boat Society "Hazel" en route to Middlewich FAB Festival

"Hazel" en route to Middlewich FAB Festival

In 1992 the ‘big ricky’ “Southam” was purchased from BWB for £525, sunk at Hillmorton. This was followed by “Elton”, donated by BW sunk in Southall in 1993 and “Queen”, the oldest surviving wooden motor narrow boat, sunk at Denham, in 1994. These boats were hitch hiked to the Boat & Butty yard in Runcorn.

After “Forget me Not” was launched a recycling project was begun in 1996 using “Forget me Not” and “Lilith” to collect unwanted goods from canalside homes for resale and recycling. Initially these goods were sold on a flea market stall. Now the society runs the biggest charity shop in Ashton, though recycling trips have been suspended during the covid crisis.

Wooden Canal Boat Society - Wooden boat Southam leaving Marple

Wooden boat "Southam" leaving Marple

Wooden Canal Boat Society - Wooden boat "Elton"

"Elton" being shafted across the Tame Aqueduct. She was going on to dry dock at Portland Basin Marina to repair damage caused by being rammed by an out of control steel boat

Tameside council has given the charity huge amounts of help. The boats were moved to the local history museum, Portland Basin, in the late 1990s and work on a Heritage Boatyard in Stalybridge started in 2000. The ground here had to be lowered by 2 metres to canal level.

A “Hazel” sponsorship scheme encouraged supporters to make annual contributions to a fund for her renovation and maintenance. In 2011 this reached £23000. A further donation of £75000 from Tameside council enabled work to begin on her. Boatbuilder Stuart Hughes flew in from America to take charge of the work. She was launched in 2013 and entered service in 2016.

Wooden Canal Boat Society - wooden boat Hazel being rejuvenated

Wooden boat "Hazel" being rejuvenated

wooden boat forget me not being relaunched in 1994

Wooden boat "Forget Me Not" being launched in 1994

Every boat has to have a purpose. “Hazel” is a well being boat, enabling people suffering mental stress to spend time on the canals (an idea later pinched by CRT!) She has been restored to her original unpowered condition, so guests can enjoy the peace of a canal journey being towed by a distant motor boat or, possibly in the future, a horse. Currently she is funded by the National Lottery to provide time afloat for NHS and care workers who have worked hard through the covid pandemic.

Wooden Canal Boat Society - Hazel at Kerridge, Macclesfield Canal

"Hazel" at Kerridge, Macclesfield Canal

Wooden Canal Boat Society - Hazel emerging from Hyde Bank tunnel, Peak Forest Canal

"Hazel" emerging from Hyde Bank Tunnel, Peak Forest Canal

Lilith” has been the recycling boat since 1996, though she’s currently idle until this project resumes. As it is nearly 40 years since her restoration was completed she is in need of some serious work as soon as the resources are available. She’s recently celebrated her 120th birthday.

Forget me Not” , built at Polesworth in 1927, does the towing on wellbeing trips and, when they resume, on recycling trips.

Southam”, 1936, was originally a butty. Motorised and converted in 1965 she has also been used for towing. She had new planks fitted in 2019 but the reconstruction of her cabins has been delayed by the pandemic. Her 1965 fitted BMC 3.8 engine is to be replaced with a similar unit donated by Tameside College. Her future will be as a spare tug, volunteer accommodation, representing the WCBS at events and possibly as a mobile craft shop.

Wooden Canal Boat Society - Southam towing Forget-me-not and Lilith on recycling trip

"Southam" towing "Forget Me Not" and "Lilith" on a recycling trip at a time when "Forget me Not"s engine was inoperable,

wooden boat lilith

Horse drawn through Dukinfield - "Lilith" on her way to her 100th birthday party, Dec 2nd 2001

At present a priority is clearing “Elton”, 1937, of recyclable metals that have built up on board so that she can be tidied up and used as workshop space. In the longer term plans will be made for her restoration and a project for her to work on. Ideas are being bandied about at present.

Similarly “Queen”, 1917, is awaiting restoration. After some recent submarine adventures work is underway to make her float more reliably. Short term she will be used as a craft workshop. Like “Elton”, ideas for her post restoration use are under discussion. A water drip Bolinder, similar to the one that powered her between 1924 and 1947, is being restored for her at the Anson Engine Museum.

Wooden Canal Boat Society - Queen, the oldest surviving wooden motor

"Queen" the oldest surviving wooden motor, being sheathed in metal to protect her planks.

Wooden  Canal Boat Society - the author on "Southam"

The Author aboard "Southam - photo by Adrian Glasgow

This collection of boats is of national importance but they've been maintained on a shoestring budget. In order to ensure their survival and future usefulness the WCBS needs to grow into a well funded national organisation.

The society would like to hear from people interested in helping with this, whether it's project planning, fundraising, business development, publicity, administration or just helping out at ground level. You don't necessarily have to live near Tameside to help.

For more information, or to volunteer, please visit our website

Chris Leah, 2022

rcr warns of perils of cheap boat insurance

rcr warns of the perils of cheap third party boat insurance

RCR warns of the perils of cheap third-party insurance

River Canal Rescue is warning boat owners about the perils of buying third-party insurance on price alone after finding some insurers will not pay out if a boat sinks.

The breakdown and assistance firm estimates around four out of 10 sunken boat claims are being rejected and says it’s due to a lack of definition in the policy small print, misleading wording referring to ‘wreck removal’ rather than ‘salvage ’, exclusions for salvage cover and salvage costs being rejected unless the peril is covered.

RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, believes ‘low cost’ insurers are selling policies that are neither fair nor transparent, and opines they’re likely to break Financial Conduct Authority guidelines. “We’re not insurance experts, but we have many years of experience and some of the clauses and reasons used to reject claims are not made clear at the outset. In many cases the small print is shocking and full of ambiguities, meaning people don’t know what they’re covered for when buying the policy.

“The definition of ‘wreck’ for example, varies between companies and while we regularly undertake salvage for customers under this clause, an insurer recently rejected a salvage claim stating ‘wreck removal was for vessels that had broken up and required disposal’.

“The most important reason for third-party cover is it’s required when mooring in a marina/boat yard. Should the vessel sink, insurance is in place to cover the refloat. When buying cover, the assumption is a refloat is included, however I know of one insurer offering two third-party policies – one with salvage and one without. So unless you look at both policies in detail, and know what you’re looking for, you could end up with sub-standard cover.”

RCR is authorised to handle claims for most of the UK’s leading boat insurers and has in the past reminded boaters about the importance of understanding what they’re covered for in their policies.

Stephanie continues: “Those with a basic third-party liability policy could face crippling costs if a major incident occurs as it will only cover the cost of a claim against you if you hit another boat, cause damage to someone else’s property or injure someone. And while the majority of third-party policies automatically include the raising, attempted raising, removing or destroying the wreck of your boat as standard, not all do.

“These costs will only be met if the vessel’s causing an obstruction to navigation or potential damage to a third-party property. And with sinking and under-water damage the biggest risks on the inland waterways, prudent boaters should ensure they’re covered for this, as well as personal accident and medical expenses. ”

Stephanie concludes: “When it comes to paying recovery costs, some insurers may only do this once the cause of the sinking is identified. To assess the claim, they’ll want a clear understanding of what happened, before deciding to accept or reject it. If a sinking’s due to poor winterisation, a lack of maintenance or a failure to check when the river/canal is in flood, the claim may be rejected, unless there’s clear evidence the incident could not have been prevented. In contrast, some insurers cover salvage under the third-party agreement as standard, no matter what the cause.

“It’s important to check your policy meets your exact needs, pay close attention to third- party liability sections and ask about exclusions and how a potential claim will be handled. Is there a 24/7 claims hotline, are their assessors approved inland waterway repairers and if so, who and where are they? How a claim is handled should take equal priority alongside cost and cover options.

“Cheapest is not always best; if in doubt, consider an ‘all-risks’ policy or swap insurers.”

To find out more about River Canal Rescue, follow the team on Facebook, visit email or call 01785 785680.


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.

chilligibbon’s stringed things

featured roving canal trader

Chris Hicks - chilligibbon's stringed things

We have been trading from the canal now for 5 years, albeit the last couple of years have  been very quiet on the festival front! Karen, Ozzy dog and myself have been living aboard now for about 7 years, quickly progressing from our first small leisure boat to a 57ft liveaboard within about 18 months, having fallen in love with the lifestyle, surroundings and characters on the cut.

I am a keen amateur musician and have played bass guitar in a few local bands during my younger years but now am firmly set on the ukulele and enjoy playing with a ukulele group. Also we have many an impromptu jam session on the towpath or in the canalside pubs!

I had a 3 string guitar a few years ago that someone had made from an old whiskey tin, after a while I took it apart to make a few changes to it. This progressed to me doing some investigating into the history of cigar box guitars and then moving on to making myself a guitar from scratch from an old wooden cigar box. This turned out well, so I made another one, and another one!

Chris Hicks Chilligibbon

At this point I had a couple of friends on the canal asking if I would make them a guitar, so I did and one thing led to another and we ended up becoming roving traders so we could sell as and when we got the chance to travel and attend small Canal based festivals.

Initially I was making the instruments on the towpath with a few tools when the weather allowed, now I have an 8 x 6 shed on our mooring so have a little more comfort and room for a few more tools!

Every instrument looks and sounds different depending on the box or tin that you use, I started by searching eBay and junk shops and experimenting with anything that looked like it might work, now I get people giving me tins and boxes so have a good selection at the moment.

Once I had sussed the guitars, I started to make ukuleles as they are very popular at the moment. Both the guitars and ukuleles are fairly compact so make good boat instruments without taking up too much room.

I tune my guitars to an open chord which means you can play with just one finger across all 3 strings on any fret and make a chord so it is easy to get a tune quickly for beginners but is also versatile enough for a more established player to use more complicated chords or play with a slide for a real bluesy feel.

I build instruments for stock and also will take commissions if a customer has a suitable box or tin that they would like converting.

Alongside the instruments, Karen makes crochet blankets, buntings, cushion covers and mushroom vent covers and also always has a good selection of her handmade rag rugs available when we are trading on the towpath or online.

Recently she has made matching blankets and cushions to finish off the décor in an historic back cabin and can make to order if you have something specific in mind.

chilligibbon crochet rug

chilligibbon crocheted blanket

chilligibbon rag rug

Chris Hicks Chilligibbon

How much fun can you have with an old box? Chris Hicks, trading as chilligibbon's stringed things, is the maker of Cigar Box and vintage tin guitars, ukuleles and other musical instruments. 'From First aid to Glenfiddich to Jacobs Crackers, we can make any tin of the right size into a great instrument.'

Visit Chris & Karen's Etsy shop, take a look at their website and follow them on Facebook.

madness of moorings

the madness of moorings - are you paying too much?

the barge association mooring survey

Why do boat owners decide to live “afloat”? Are the reasons changing? If affordability was important then how do you know what it’s going to cost? Has the pandemic made it more difficult to pay for where you and your boat live? Can you help all UK liveaboards achieve the best deal for each of us?

There’s no doubt that moving onto the water has become not just a lifestyle choice but, for some, a lifeline when housing costs become too much to bear. City dwellers faced with impossible rents and mortgage payments have looked to the canals and rivers as a seductive alternative but are they? For many, this means “continuous cruising” with no fixed mooring just to avoid the fees. For others who want or need a more settled life, it’s a hunt for an affordable mooring.

But have those calculations changed during the pandemic? Some who live in cities have enjoyed the enviable position of being moored in managed marinas with national commercial landlords or Trusts who claim charitable status. Others have to negotiate their way (and their bank balance) through the fog of privately or corporately-owned moorings where you have to pay what you’re asked with no idea if this is a good deal or a rip-off.

And the bigger you are, the more difficult and expensive it gets. To find out just how difficult, DBA - The Barge Association, which represents not only barges and large broad beam boats but has members with craft of all sizes, is running a national survey, comparing mortgage figures & bricks-&-mortar rentals with mooring fees.  The equations, particularly for London & the Home Counties are already quite startling and the survey now urgently needs more information from all areas of the UK in order to complete a comprehensive database to aid owners in their hunt for moorings and in negotiating new or renewal terms.

Already it is clear that for some, monthly mooring fees for vessels are between 50% & 100% more than comparable apartment rental costs, and almost exactly the same costs as 20 year mortgages And the fundamental difference is that after every payment, every year, the vessel owner is left with nothing and the building buyer is a year nearer to owning the property.  For example, In East London, a modest two bedroom flat will attract a rent of between £12,000 & £15,500 per year and a mortgage for such a property may be between £1,000 & £2,700 per month. Meanwhile, marinas & docks in the borough of Tower Hamlets will be costing liveaboards in the region of £420-£640 per week!

The strong impression is that mooring owners are able to defy the laws of economics to charge more and more per year whilst delivering less and less value. Meanwhile, the renter or purchaser gets less and less for their hard-earned salary. For many, the challenge of continuous cruising is too much. Experienced boaters often say it requires similar time and effort to a part-time job on top of what you do to earn money just to service the boat plus, for those who work from home, which is hugely attractive to a boating lifestyle, the need for reliable power and wifi is a significant driver for needing a permanent mooring alongside the option to cruise when you can.

So, for those walking past a barge owner, the universal question is no longer; “Is it cold in winter?” but “Are your economics on thin ice?” You can help NOW by contributing to the DBA Mooring Survey for wherever your boat is moored, whatever its size and whatever you do with it.

The survey is open NOW

Please help us all find out what is going on, create a national database which will be available  to the public and then please use it to help you!

For further enquiries please contact:

Mike Gibbons, Chair DBA - The Barge Association

Email or telephone 07885 239643


the malt shovel in shardlow

pub of the season - spring 2020

the malt shovel, shardlow

Ksenia and Lena who run the malt shovel in shardlowThe Malt Shovel in Shardlow was built in 1799 and is set by the side of the Trent and Mersey canal. The free house pub has been run by long time friends Ksenia and Lena since 2016.

The pub has a main area, a snug and a lower snug, each area set with gaming tables which were specially made for the pub - to keep everyone entertained We have scrabble, backgammon, and monopoly to name a few, with all the game pieces available from the bar.

game boards inside Malt Shovel in ShardlowThe Malt Shovel retains many of its original features such as the beams and the tiled floors adding character to this charming pub. In the warm weather it’s perfect for sitting outside and watching canal boats and cruisers and the rest of the world go by.

The pub has a great range of real ales, lagers, ciders plus wines and spirits, but it's best known for the well kept Pedigree. They also do a lovely cream tea with freshly baked scones and cakes.

Food is also served at the Malt Shovel, a fantastic breakfast from 10am everyday and then the lunchtime menu with home cooked dishes and locally sourced produce from 12noon, with Sundays serving great home cooked Roasts. Thursday Evenings from 5pm-9pm is the ever popular Thai night, where the Thai chef, Tik , cooks each dish to order from Pad Thai to Beef Massaman; a very popular night and booking is advisable. Friday night is fish and chip night with their own Beer Battered Haddock.

For the many boaters that moor up by the canal side next to the Malt Shovel, Ksenia and Lena can also provide fresh produce if required - 'boaters baskets’ - breakfast basket, ploughman’s basket - very handy if you want to stock up before moving on.

Opening times : Sun - Thur 10am-11pm, Fri & Sat 10am- midnight
Food serving times: Breakfast - 10am - 11.45am daily, Lunch 12pm - 2.30pm Mon-Fri and until 3pm at weekends. Thai Night - Thursday 5pm - 9pm. Fish & Chips - Friday 5 - 8pm.

Ksenia and Lena welcome you to the Malt Shovel in Shardlow.

You may contact them by phone on
01332 792066
Email them at
or visit their website: