Roving Canal Traders Association

roving canal traders

The Roving Canal Traders Association is the collective voice of roving canal traders. It aims to give advice to old, new & would-be traders, and holds frequent events giving increased opportunities to all floating traders.

A different floating trader - every one a 'character of the cut' - will be presented in each edition of this magazine.

For more information on the RCTA, or to join, please see Website

Barge Fiodra

featured roving canal trader

Bob Chase - Barge Fiodra

Fiodra was carefully designed to be a flexible, floating, event platform and a place to live. We have been running a successful programme of our own events since 2018, as well as hosting a huge variety of events for hirers.

This project brought together my experience and several passions. I come from a maritime family, my father was a marine pilot and one of my brothers the skipper of a tug. I began living on my first boat in 1990. I have also had a career in community arts and in venue management. I have always found hosting shows, cinema and events to be great fun and rewarding.

I began designing Fiodra before I left my final full time job at the National Autistic Society in 2016. She was built in Poland, to my design, by the Viking Canal Boat Company. After delivery in 2017 we took her on a maiden voyage to Bristol and back. We launched our business in Spring 2018 with a residency in Paddington Basin. We hosted story telling with Kate Saffin, poetry from the Canal Laureate Nancy Campbell and classic canal films.

Since then we have travelled most of the waterways we have access to in a wide beam. We have made visits to Oxford, Guildford, Maidstone, Hertford and all points on the Grand Union. We used the opportunity to explore what worked and what didn't work onboard.

barge fiodra - mindfulness

Barge Fiodra - Art Gallery

By adding (removable) gallery panels and 12v gallery lighting we were able to create a beautiful gallery space for visual artists. Our first season in Little Venice was in partnership with the Guild of Waterway Artists. It was successful from the get go and we have since been able to host many exhibitions of paintings, illustrations and textile arts.

This Easter (2024) we will be hosting a textile art exhibition by Marissa Stoffer. Marissa stayed on Fiodra last summer on the River Lea where she collected the natural dyes she has used to create this work. Check out our website for details.

We also managed to install a micro-cinema in the boat using a digital projector and high quality sound system. Everyone loves the experience and we have been able to show several indie films including the launch of the film TIDES. However we quickly discovered that mainstream films were uneconomic for us to show in a cinema with only 24 seats.

We have also tried our hand as a Cafe and Jam Shop. Fiodra is designed with extra features that enabled us to register as a food business, with a 5 star hygiene rating. Selling home made cakes, coffee and tea on the back deck worked really well. My partner Moira also sold her gourmet jams. She usually delivers locally by bicycle under the banner of the Jam Pedlar.

barge fiodra - cinema barge

Our latest project, the Floating Camera Obscura, was inspired by another partner, Ben Nathan from Pinhole London. Photography is another string to my bow, having a diploma in photography and having worked, as a photographer, in London for several years.

Ben and I have now run several pinhole photography workshops onboard with young people. We convert the saloon into a darkroom where photographs can be developed. We also teach the history of photography and have installed three camera obscura onboard. Everyone is
amazed to see this fascinating technology on a boat!

Besides our own projects we have grown the hire side of the business. It took a knock during Covid but we now have to turn people away. Our partnership with Tag Venue has been very productive especially when they made us a SuperVenue because of our positive reviews.

It’s impossible to list all the events on the boat but they have included: Argentinian wine tasting, the launch of a music CD, meditation workshops, environmental talks, poetry evenings, pinhole photography, yoga, and of course lots of family parties.

barge fiodra - café barge

barge fiodra

What's next?

Well I'm the sort of person who loves a new idea and enjoys making it happen. I just don't have the stickability to carry on forever. So now I feel ready to let go of this project and look for a new challenge. Travelling all the canals, we have not been able to see, in a narrowboat, is one distinct possibility.

What would be lovely is to find someone who wants to build on what we have achieved or to take things in another direction altogether. It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone. Just by doing a few hires a year it is possible to cover the main costs of boating and live afloat for free.

If anyone wants to find out more about Fiodra they should go to https://sale.fiodra.co.uk/

I’m really happy to discuss plans and ideas with any potential buyer.

Bob Chase 6/3/24

Bob Chase - Barge FiodraI've been around boats since a boy. My (late) father was a marine pilot, in the Wash, and from a local fishing family. My brother Bill was skipper of a tugboat. We built boats for ourselves large and small over the years and my family owned a few canal boats. I've lived on two narrow boats on the southern English canals. Fiodra is the newest and biggest vessel.

After careers in photography, arts management and technology, I am now a freelance mindfulness teacher and web-consultant. Oh! and I run Fiodra.

You can find out what is happening, where and when by visiting Fiodra's Website

previously featured traders

Brian Greaves - floating blacksmith      Lorraine Stevenson - the mad hatter

Caledonia     

Lesley & Rob Pearson     Shiam Wilcox - Fern Floating Fine Art

Sam Keay - gangplank gins     Fiona Lewis - Fi's Fabulous Floating Emporium

Peri Pigott the narrowboat weaver    kte louise evans - josie moons floating bazaarChris Hicks, Chilligibbon's Stringed Things    wayne sadler, barge inn boozepete and jules - the hippie boat    Wendy Witch
Daisy and Lloyd    Lisa Grainger LDK PrintBob Chase - Barge Fiodra

buy online from a roving trader

  • GillyFlower - the Narrowboat Weaver (Peri)
    Individual and unique handwoven textiles made from a mixture of re-claimed and new wools. 
    To buy online visit Peri's Facebook
  • Lisa Grainger - LDK Print
    Ellie - elephant toy
    We print or embroider T Shirts, Polo Shirts, Hoodies and Teddy Bears while people wait. We also print or embroider clothing for companies & clubs.
    Visit  Website to order online.
  • Floating Dolly Lady (Joanne & Steve)
    floating dolly lady
    Amazing range of metal birds as well as Russian Dolls.
    Buy online by going to Facebook
  • Bird Box & Jenny Wren (Andrea)
    Host of loving handmade items such as knitwear alongside other gifts such as Bags, Scarves, Rugs, Hats, Jewellery and handmade wooden items.
    For mail order go to Facebook
  • Canal Art by Julie
    Canal Art by JulieHand painted canal ware and items of canalia such as tea towels, model boats etc.
    Please visit website
  • Stitch on the Water (Colin & Gillian)
    Making a variety of embroidered gifts including cushions for children and adults, Bags, hand tied keyrings, embroidered earrings, cot quilts etc.
    Please see Facebook
  • Last Night in Limehouse (Zoe)
    Hand painted leather dog collars byZoe Marsden
    Individually hand painted luxury dog collars (predominantly for sight-hounds)
    Please visit Etsy shop
  • Paw Prints Afloat (Doggie Boat & Tim Clarke Photography)
    All manner of doggie essentials: leads, collars, bandannas, portable water bottles & collapsible bowls, plus toys & healthy treats.
  • Visit Website to buy online
  • Gangplank (Sam)
    Cafe/bar. Creator & seller of foraged fruit spirits (Gangplank Gins) cordials and preserves.
    Visit Website
  • Julie Weir Art
    Wildlife Artist who paints with Watercolours & Acrylic inks. Also Online Watercolour School.
    Visit Website
  • Fern Floating Fine Art (Shiam Wilcox)
    Fern floating art
    Flora & Fauna Artist, prints framed or unframed, greetings cards.
    Browse & buy online 
  • Dazzle Paws (Sheena Orton)
    Hand made dog collar by Dazzle Paws
    Dog collars, bandanas and accessories, all lovingly hand made.
    Browse and buy online