Monday, 29 December 2008

We wish you merry tidings of comfort and mangers, three ships and auld jingle santa babies &c.

Merry Christmas to all!

It's a bit belated; we've been to a wedding- where Amy managed to upstage the bride in my eyes at least. We've been to see various assorted relations in my family, including our Most Avid Blog Readers (hello!) and also saw various sights in Yorkshire at the wedding, including the Standedge Tunnel (which is FAR quicker by train!) and the Rochdale Canal in the centre of Manchester, where we stopped on the way back by train.

All in all, a hectic few days- a more detailed update will hopefully follow shortly.

And, hopefully, the Duck will still be afloat on our return- I played around with bits of cork, tinfoil and wire to make an automatic switch for the bilge pump, before giving up, going to Ely and buying a proper Rule switch from the swindlery- sorry, Chandlery. The stern gland has been weeping a bit, and leaving the boat unattended for a few days could have ended up with a damp engine bilge if we'd not been around to pump it out, hence the switch.

I'm sitting in my brother's lovely room and typing this on a somewhat swish Macbook Pro. Apparently it's called Adam. He's pestering me to mention him, so there it was.

Happy New Year to all- though, hopefully, there will be one last post for 2008 to come.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Another Cambridge blogger...

nb Kestrel recently alerted us to the existence of another Cam narrowboat blogger: nb Nooksak

Alas, they are selling their boat, but its a great blog, not just about boating either! I wonder if there are any more undercover Cam bloggers? Certainly some of out neighbours read ours, as a shout out across the river from NB Zinfandel revealed recently. (They have a website, since they have been hiring out their boat, but alas, not a blog)

Fame (but not fortune)

Co-incidentally we are referenced in two waterways publications this month: Bones' column in Canal Boat, in which she mentions our bedroom, and Canals and Rivers where two of our photos from the blog (from when we blacked the Duck ourselves) have been used to illustrate an article on Budget Boating. How appropriate! 

There is also a possibility of an article for Waterways World, on breaking down... we'll keep you updated on that!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Generating Christmas Cheer

There are times when you have to acknowledge your debts, and we're massively indebted to Jim and Sarah. Not only did they live up to their advertised "Towage and Steerage", but they've now sold us a generator and charger for an extremely good price.

The laptop is currently being powered by 240v from the Honda EX650 generator and the batteries are being charged at the same time. Our lovely new toys were handed over last night, when the Moomins (Simon and Ann) gave us a lift up to Bill Fen to see the Warriors (Jim and Sarah). We had a very nice evening, with mulled wine and seasonal goodies on Warrior and several rounds of falling down water in Ramsey's pubs followed by fish and CHIPS on nb Melaluca.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Deck the Duck with Boughs of Holly

Well, it's that time of the year again.

I wanted to tape a single, solitary humbug to the bow fender, but was over-ruled by Ms. "Sparkly" Tillson and her desire to fill the Duck with paperchains, baubles, and the aroma of baking. I bought a tree at a local B&Q and carried it back to the boat- they're heavier than they look, are christmas trees!- and picked needles out of my jumper for a few days afterwards. Unfortunately, the tree's at a slight angle in the pot; but then, our walls aren't vertical either, so it doesn't really matter.

Amy and Emma went out to Ely and pillaged a Woolworth's for decorations, and came back laden with diesel (80p per litre!) and a bag full of colour-co-ordinating baubles, beads, and tinsel.

The duck on top of the tree finishes it off....

Amy also returned with battery powered LED lights. They looked clear in the box, but when turned on are actually a horrible green colour. They've been relegated to the cratch; the next stage is to buy some red ones, so we can have festive navigation fairy lights...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Early morning on the Cam

Sunrise and a scull through a fogged up kitchen window this morning.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

My New Bike!

I only paid £25 in the end, as well. This should help to reduce journey times when out in the fens, and better still, its pink, so James won't steal it!

Shopping List

Now we have been paid, we need to prioritise our spendings.

The electrical system is the biggest problem at the moment, so ideally we'd replace the batteries, get a new charger and another alternator (so we can charge starter and leisure batteries simultaneously). A small petrol generator also comes high on the list. But first we'll probably get a SmartGauge, so we can keep a better eye on the batteries we have and hopefully make them last longer. We were thinking about a bigger inverter but we really don't need one, since we don't want to run anything with a particularly high wattage.

I think we both know what our Christmas presents from each other are going to be this year!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Daddy's Girl

My dad came to visit last weekend, to see the boat for the first time. As the owner of a sea-going trimeran, the pace of narrowboating was a bit of a change for him, but he enjoyed it, I think. He meant to buy me flowers on the way, but decided to get me some coal instead. It was very welcome! He just sent this lovely photo that he took when we went for a little cruise.

A few days after returning home, he was taken into hospital with a minor heart attack. It happened while he was alone on his boat and he had to be air-lifted to hospital. Thankfully, he was brought to hospital in time and has had a stent put into his heart. He is now back home, and recovering well, I am pleased to report.

"The best bed on the waterways" - Canal Boat magazine

Well, one of their columnists anyway!

These are for Bones, who was mightily impressed with the design of our folding bed (not by us, but by the Duck's previous owner), and has been wanting one for herself ever since. We have been extremely tardy in providing these details, but here they are at last!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Fenland morning

Although I would love to moor in Cambridge permanently - we are now 33rd on the waiting list, so its closer to being a reality! - there is something wonderful about cycling through the fens of clear, sharp, frosty mornings like this one:

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Lucky Duck v. Fotheringay Bridge

nb Kestrel has recently uploaded this photo they took of the damage we did to Fotheringay Bridge, on the River Nene!


Grease is the word

Apparently we've been using the wrong type of stern gland grease, which isn't waterproof enough, and therefore unsuitable for using to keep the water out. We just continued using the tube that came with the boat when we bought it without really thinking, but it might go someway to explain why  the stern tube drips pretty much constantly... It was Kestrel's Emma who pointed it out, so thanks! And I have now purchased the right sort. 

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Batteries again

Ever since we took posession on the boat, we've been having problems with our battery bank. Well, the problems didn't actually surface until, two weeks in, we stayed in Cropredy for a day to meet fello boaters and for the first time, didn't charge the batteries for eight or so hours, as we had been for the preceding days. The fridge was the indicator: we were playing host to that well known double-act, Bones and Maffi when it sounded like there was a hamster trapped in the fridge. This, as we came to realise, indicated that the batteries had dropped to a voltage too low to support the fridge's heat pump. The length and small diameter of the power cables supplying the fridge wouldn't have helped matters either; although the fridge stopped working at 12.1 volts measured at the batteries, the voltage the fridge was receiving- reduced by the resistance of the wires- were even less.

This went on for months. Every time we were unable to run the batteries during the day, we'd not have a fridge. In fact even after a full charge, it would be merely 8 hours before we could no longer run the fridge. While cruising it wasn't such a problem; we charged them enough most days. Once we arrived in Cambridge the issue became more pressing. Finally able to spend time to get the wole bank apart andtest them individually, James found none of them to be obviously deficient, and we resigned ourselves that we needed new ones. However, we decided that before we did so ( we couldn't yet afford to buy them anyway) a Canal World thread was required! As always, there were many helpful answers, but the breakthrough came when James realised that they were actually wired up incorrectly. This page (from SmartGuage) explains why. Basically we need them to be wired up so that they act as a single large cell, and this wasn't how it was done. Three of the five were never being fully charged or discharged, which wasn't ideal.

So during his half term, James rewired them. And we charged them up fully in Upware last week, only to return from the pub to a very sulphurous smell, and a very unhealthy battery, as described in a recent post! This was clearly a dud one, probably bringing the whole bank down.

And things are definitely improved. the bank holds a ~12.7V charge for much longer than it ever did. We just have to get back into the habit of actually using the fridge, rather than storing milk on the baseplate!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Well Met By Moonlight

Last night we travelled from Ely to Little Thetford by moonlight so bright it cast shadows and precluded the use of a torch... A sight rarely seen in the city I felt privileged to be on the counter of my boat, watching the moonlight on the water, in the middle of the Fen wilderness.

This post REALLY should be accompanied by a photograph, but it was impossible to capture. Andrew Denny would surely manage but I didn't, alas. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Last weekend, we were in Upware, and felt that it was time to explore the possibilities of mooring somewhere that wasn't Cambridge, Waterbeach or Upware, so for the first time, when we left the marina (in the daylight! - a novelty since we normally move after dark, when we've finished work) we turned right and headed North, rather than South.

We were headed for Ely, where we had moored on our way into Cambridge for the first time at the beginning of September, but stopped off at Little Thetford to check out the mooring scenario there and deciding that it was pretty good! We arrived in Ely just as it began to get dark, and found a nice mooring just by the train station, which has proved excellent for cummouting into town for work. The train fare is just £2.30 return, as opposed to the £5 that it costs to get the bus in, and Cambridge is only 17 minutes away. We can also take our bikes with us which gives us a lot more flexibility.

Today we are planning to move to the Little Thetford moorings after work, and take the no.9 bus into town. Tomorrow we will move on again, and moor overnight in Upware, check the post before moving on again the next day to Waterbeach. All this is because my dad is visiting at the weekend, and it would be nice to be in Cambridge itself.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Batteries burn and casing bubble...

Finding a battery that's emiting a sulpherous stink, electrolyte, is too hot to touch and is actually smoking visibly whilst being charged are all good indications of being

Edit: ...somewhat unhealthy!

Stop Thief!

Bicycles are very necessary and useful things, especially if one lives in Upware some of the time. Faced with a two-hour walk to the bus stop, or a 30 minute (if that!) cycle ride, I know which I choose.

However, a week ago today Amy's bike was stolen- along with many others- from outside Sainsbury's in the centre of Cambridge. It's not an unusual occurance- gangs with vans cruise around, throw great piles of unsecured bikes in the back, and make off to sort out the bikes and count their loot.

The hunt for a replacement was on. Unfortunatly, new bikes are for the moment way out of our price range. Second hand, too- Cambridge has bike prices as inflated as its house prices (which, incidentally, are defying the national trend and are still heading upward!).

Amy was kindly lent Emma's bike for a few days, and then we managed to secure a second-hand replacement from a friend. It needed £40 of work to the back wheel to make it rideable, and it still needs new brake blocks, but for the moment it's far, far, FAR better than walking! At the moment, we really could have done without the hastle and expense of having to sort out that replacement, but luckily enough it's worked out all right in the end.

Colours of the Cut

Wow, its been so long since we last posted! And not for lack of happennings either; the fact that its been a hectic few weeks, with a lot of moving about has contributed to the lack of blogging. There will (hopefully) be a few blog in quick succession now we both have internet access for a few hours - in the Cambriridge University Library.

Firstly though I'd like to say a huge thank you to all the readers of the blog who sent me birthday presents! The most recent arrival (late due to it being difficult to source) was a book that Jim of nb Warrior had recommeded that I read: Colours of The Cut, by Edward Paget-Tomlinson. I have, ever since getting into the world of the canals, been excited and inspired by the beautiful signwriting of the old working-boats, and of the new boats that draw on this tradition in contemporary signwriting. It was given to me by James' paternal grandparents, avid blog-readers - so THANK YOU!

Colours of the Cut is compiled from a series of short articles written by E P-T, for Waterways World in the '80s and '90s. Meticulously researched and beatifully illustrated in simple gouache paintings, they together form a compendium of signwriting examples found on a myriad of canal carrying companies' working boats of the early C20th. Many of these boats no longer survive in their original liveries if they survive at all, so the use of old black-and white photographs was vital - it may see like a contradiction in tems but often these are the only record of how the boats were coloured. Amazingly, it is possible to get a good idea of the colours, by using careful analysis, comparison, and written descriptions.

It is my plan, when I can afford it, to redo the signwriting on the Duck, in a way that will certainly be influenced by the old working boats' liveries! It will be a challenge, but I can't wait. Eventually, I'd love to do signwriting full time - with my passion for type and font design, combined with my love for the world of the canals and their traditions, it would be my ideal job!
When I can afford some paints and brushes, I'll also get to work practicing my roses and castles!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Recent Happenings

Firstly : Phew! We are now licenced again. The EA never did send us its forms but I printed them off at a library in my lunch hour and they are now safely with the EA. What a relief!

James has also made use of his half term to fix the battery wiring system which wasn't ideal. (more details will follow when I have more than 5 minutes online!) We'll still need new batteries when we can afford them though...

Saturday, 25 October 2008


We took advantage of the fact that we were in Upware, with both of us having a day off, to tidy up the boat properly. I baked bread, handwashed clothes, put up postcards and photos, and James completely reordered the saloon so that we have more seats for guests!

We also are grateful to Roger at Upware who lent us his diagnostic battery charger, which will help us work out what's wrong with our electrical system. The batteries are currently charging and appear not to have any faults as yet. However I don't think it has a fault code for 'a bit knackered'!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Unlicensed Boat!

Us, in short.

We bought a one-month EA license at Denver sluice back in September, and it now has expired.

However, I phoned up the EA to buy another, only to find out that- because the Denver lock keeper hasn't yet passed our details- or the cheque!- on to the central office of the EA, we're not listed on their database and so can't yet buy a new one until we recieve- by post- an application form and send it back- rather than just doing it over the phone as I'd hoped.

In the meantime, then, we're unlicensed until the paperwork is sorted out.

Now I understand why several boats in Cambridge I've seen have notices in the window saying, "License paperwork in the post"; I think I'd better get paper, pen and some blu-tack!

Feeling flat...

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been settling into our new way of life in Cambridge- moving around, semi-continuous cruising, really.

Or, rather, we would have if the boat hadn't kept breaking. On Sunday, we planned to move the boat up to Clayhithe and then on to Upware for the first part of the week. Unfortunately, the batteries had other ideas.

The starter battery was flat; I couldn't start the engine, even by using it and the domestic battery bank; there just wasn't the power to turn the engine over.

This was somewhat confusing, as we had made sure that we charged the starter battery first before switching over to the domestics when running the engine; we checked the electrolyte often and made sure that the battery wasn't flat.

The solution, however, wasn't too hard; we carried the battery over to Queens' boathouse, where- thanks to boatman Paul- we left the battery to charge overnight from the mains.

After work on Monday, we retrieved the battery and started the engine- finally!- and, after filling up on water, made a quick trip to Clayhithe in the wind, rain and darkness- nice... On Tuesday, we planned to go on to Upware; I returned back from work first, and turned the key to fire up the BMC.

Again, there was no power to start it- despite having had about three hours of running the engine, charging both battery banks at the same time. Something was draining the power from the starter battery; and, removing one of the terminals from the starter battery and seeing the lights dim appreciably, I realised that the selector switch between the two battery banks was, seemingly, faulty- draining both battery banks, rather than just one and preserving the starter. It seems that, looking back, there have been a number of hints towards this; in the past when travelling the Grand Union and Nene, the starter has seemed surprisingly flat on occasion whenever the domestic bank has been very depleted.

It's not a huge problem; all we have to do is to remove a terminal from the starter battery whenever we finish running the engine, so as to fully isolate the starter, until we can sort out the selector switch.

Thursday, 23 October 2008


We attended the Camboaters AGM last night. It was interesting to meet many more of the live-aboard boaters on the Cam, to make ourselves known, and I also ended up taking minutes (I seem to have a habit of this!). There were many heated discussions though, particularly about the mooring situation in Cambridge, and I found trying to minute these particularly difficult! The problem is that there are those with moorings and those without (or on the unregulated moorings) and the two loose groups are essentially at odds, with quite different requirements and priorities.

All the same I'm really glad we got to meet so many of the Cam boaters, and we hope to be mooring with them soon!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Halcyon Days

The Duck's previous owner has just emailed me some photos that he took the very morning we set off from Engine Arm back in August. It is odd to look at them and think of the excitement, despair, and 'interesting' times that lay ahead!

The Duck leaves its mooring in Birmingham for the last time.

Departing Engine Arm

James' first lock!

Waving goodbye...

Monday, 20 October 2008

Behind bars

As a post-birthday treat (I turned 23 on Wed15th) James and I went to the Blue Cross Cat Rescue centre on Saturday. If I'd had my way, we'd have taken all of the cats we saw away with us then! But we decided that we'd better wait at least until next year, and probably until we get a permanent Cambridge residential mooring.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Blogshank possibly our new, favourite boat blog. Kestrel's blog has linked to it for a while but until today I'd never clicked the link.

It's not written in the conventional sense, but is drawn by Mike in the form of a cartoon strip. He and Caroline used to moor in Cambridge but have now moved the boat to Market Harborough.

Utter genius!

Quantum Cat

'I know there's a cat in here somewhere!'

(big)James and Emma came over last night, bringing Jess onto the boat for the first time. We discussed the fact that we are thinking of getting a cat in the not too distant future, and it seems that Jess must have heard... Now everytime she's near the boat, and anyone says 'Where's the cat, Jess?' she will prick up her ears and rush towards the boat, looking in all the windows. Our boat must exude cat potential.

This morning we also had the good fortune to meet Robin and Guinness of nb Uisce while also chatting to (big) James and Jess on the towpath. Jess was very excited to see her old friend again!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Water Safety

Last night we attended Chesterton Rowing Club's AGM, which was interesting for me, as I've only just started to become involved in rowing. James was again elected Water Safety Officer, which basically involves making sure all the paperwork is completed if an accident occurs on the water, and ensuring that there are guidelines in place for things like night rowing. (big)James was elected Captain again this year, and Emma also kept on her sponsorship role. Maybe next year I'll run for something too!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Snail Mail!

This is what happens when you get a snail in your letterbox...

Fenland Wanderings

Mist-shrouded fens

The commute to work sometimes involves a very long walk!

A week ago, we were in Upware, and- as my bike was broken- we had to get to the bus-stop at Swaffham Prior by foot. This involved an hour and a halfs walk!

Saying that the roads are long and straight is an understatement. They make rulers look bendy; coming to any kind of corner is a cause for jubilation.

We're working out alternative ways of getting into Cambridge, however; whilst Upware is on the wrong side of the river, there is a bridge a mile or so upstream- so we can cycle north, across the river, and then along some straight roads to Stretham, where we can catch an assortment of buses.

View Larger Map

Scraping by

For the past week, we've been stranded in the centre of Cambridge, as the arm on the engine's throttle had broken. I spent a lot of time telephoning various engine and boat places trying to find a direct replacement, but all to no avail. We decided to do some boat maintenance in the meantime, and to fix the throttle ourselves.

There were a few areas where the paint had been removed, from the cabin sides of Lucky Duck- from when we hit various bridges.

The priority for us was to cover these areas over with paint before they got too rusty; there were some patches of rust already, so we went to Mackays- the local emporium of wonders- to get some Hammerite Direct to Rust paint, that eats away at existing rust, neutralises it, and forms a layer of primer, making repainting easier. It was also cheaper to buy one tin than a separate rust-eater and primer...

On Saturday, I attempted to fix the throttle arm back together with some steel epoxy whilst Amy sanded, wire-brushed, and removed the existing surface rust before painting away. A continuous stream of novice rowers provided comic relief. Then, we went to the house of a friend of (big) James', to assist in inserting a pond into a very large hole in the garden- in return for this, we could take our pick of an enormous pile of waste wood, from an old wooden conservatory they had demolished. James and I, and a few of his colleagues, shifted the pre-made pond liner into the hole, and headed off with the boot of (big) James' car weighed down with a large sack of wood and a lot of big pieces of joists- just the thing to keep us warm and snug, and all for free- fantastic!

When we returned to the mooring in the centre of Cambridge, we found a fellow blogger moored behind us temporarily, having reached the top of the waiting list for moorings in the centre of Cambridge. He was eighteenth on the list ten days ago, but was offered the permit on Friday- it just goes to show that there's a fair number of people on the list who've put their names on speculatively, and- when the space becomes available- forfeit their immediate opportunity in favour of those with boats. We were 40th on the list- but I expect we've moved up a good few places, which is encouraging.

Bypass Operation

This is a sight to gladden the hearts of Amy and myself- the engine running at 1500 rpm, normal cruising speed, with the bypass open. This shows that we've got more than sufficient cooling water passing through the engine, to keep the engine running at its optimum temperature. So far, the plastic mesh cable tied over the intake, together with a corrugated plastic hose, are keeping the system running far better than it ever has. High-speed runs from Clayhithe to Upware in an hour and 15 minutes are possible- non-stop!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Our 'latest' problem

... and some very good news!

James has a job, a 'proper' one at that! - working as an ICT support technician and teacher at a school just outside Cambridge. He started today and I've not heard anything since he left, but I hope its all gone well. As for me, I have the day off and am emailing people about references for a 'proper' job of my own. Not that I don't enjoy retail, but I really don't see myself ever becoming a manager, and I want to do something architecture-related if I can.

We are currently moored in Cambridge, with a rather annoying engine problem. (big)James and Emma are now back in Cambridge and they very kindly came over to have a look. (big)James identified it as a broken throttle control lever, which meant that the engine is 'idling' at 1600rpm and is very difficult to get into reverse. So we're stuck here (drat! ;) ) until we can find replacement or bodge something up.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Northampton Nights

Whilst moored up waiting for the floods to subside in Northampton, I had charged up my DSLR camera and taken a few night shots of the Carlsberg factory, and only just uploaded it since James' laptop doesn't have and SD card reader and my PC works best on a shoreline connection:

Post Modernism

Today, after James' interview (no news yet, but fingers crossed!), and when I had finished work, we decided that we should go all the way to Upware again. We have been moored in Cambridge and Clayhithe for the past week, so in order to check our post a trip was required. It took 2 hours and 45 minuted in total and the cooling system performed excellently for the whole trip!

It was very exciting to get to the post-box wall and find that letters have actually made their way out here to the middle of nowhere - we received

2x cards from my mum
1x card from my grandma
1x package of important documents for James (including new bank card)
1 x boring bank letter to me

Tomorrow, I will make the first attempt to commute from Upware - luckily my shift's not til 12pm so I have a bit of time to work it out - I shall leave VERY early!

Sunday, 28 September 2008


Intruiged by Starcross's reference to our not having signed up to the Top 100 Boating sites webpage despite being 'recent stars' (!), I decided to register, and see where we would be placed. We're 51! Not bad, considering we're up against shiny Texan marinas and the like. But as Andrew Denny says, since its so American dominated, its really not that indicative af anything. What we need is a top 100 Canal sites page!

An Update

Apologies for the dearth of blogs. We have been somewhat preoccupied by the processes of finding jobs, the scattering of CVs like confetti, the online applications, the interviewing... But thankfully I now have a job: working in the White Stuff shop in Cambridge. Its hardly career-boosting but we need the money and i enjoy retail work. The White Stuff shop is the biggest in the country, with frequent visits from head office and very high expectations of its staff. Its going to be a challenge, but I hope I'll enjoy it! Long-term, I would like to go back to university to do a Masters and eventually architectural research, but for now I'm happy to settle into Cambridge life and get the boat fixed up!

James has an interview for a job as an ICT support position at a school in Cambridge, whoch would be excellent if he gets it, since he would like to go into teaching.

We've just been enjoying the sun, trying not to get too stressed about work/finances, and seeing friends for the past few days. Once I start work (tomorrow) life will have a different rhythm, but it will be good to establish a routine again. We will continue blogging when anything interesting happens that is worth writing about but obviously it won't be everyday!

Thanks again to everyone who's commented and wished us well!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Pipe Dreams

Cambridge - Upware

So, on Saturday, we arrived in Cambridge. It really feels great to be home, although in some ways, this is just the beginning of a new saga - that of finding a way to live comfortably and earn money in Cambridge, as well as fix all the problems that reared their heads while we were cruising.

On Sunday I again donned wetsuit and jumped (well, clambered inelagantly) into the River Cam. Luckily it was another sunny day. The reason for this second immersion was to check on the tights wrapped round the intake baffle plate, since we'd still found the engine to be overheating. They were still in place but I replaced them with some plastic netting that a nice chap gave me for free in Homebase when I explained how little I needed and what for. Using cable-ties I fixed it securely over the baffle plate, ensuring that nothing could get in that was smaller than about 3mm diameter. It was quite a surreal moment when one of our friends arrived for tea and cake, and I was still in the water up to my neck!

This seemed to help but it would require a cruise to test it out. So we took our friend for a short excursion to the Penny Ferry (about a mile away) and back. On the way back the engine was still overheating, so James also had another look at the intake hose. He took it out fully this time, and surmised that it was in a poor condition, and would need replacing/reinforcing.

Moored at the waterpoint, with bikes affixed ready for the off.

So, yesterday after going into town and scattering CVs to various agencies and shops, he fixed jubilee clips onto the pipe, to try and prevent it kinking and sucking itself flat, which we reckoned was preventing enough water from getting to the heat exchanger. At about 5 we set off, hoping that the cooling system might work better this time a,d that we'd makie it to Upware. Alas, the temperature needle was still climbing and a look at the pipe told us that it wasn't worth continuing to reinforce it, so we made a hasty landing at The Plough Inn, which has some visitor moorings, and rushed back along the river to B&Q before it closed, in order to find some better pipe. As luck would have it, after fruitless searching in the garden hose section, we found some plumbing pipe that was absolutely perfect for the job: it was a 'flexbile overflow pipe' made of ribbed, reinforced plastic, and was the right length and diameter as well as having rubber ends that fitted exactly onto the fittings in the boat... all for £2.50. Amazing. However, when fitted, there still wasn't enough water coming though, so we decided to call it a night and try again in the morning.

The day dawned miserable but we managed to get the water flowing well, somehow, by taping up any possible airleaks in the pipe connection and flushing it again just in case. Miraculously, the netting in combination with the marvelous new pipe seemed to do the job and we made it to Upware with the bypass (which lets out spare water, showing that the intake has sucked in enough) opening up at tickover. It normally doesn't open until the engine's running at 1800rpm! And the temperature stayed at 60 degrees! We may have found a temporary solution - if only we'd worked it out somewhere on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, not here...

The new pipe!

Anyway, so now, here we are at Upware. We had a little difficulty mooring, since the pontoon's not quite long enough, but were soon welcomed by our neighbour, and shown where to connect our shore line and other useful things.

We have set up our placemarker that came with the boat - a duck sitting atop the end of an old lock gate beam - and put our postbox up. So if anyone fancied writing, our address is quite obviously:

Amy and James,
nb Lucky Duck,
Upware Marina,

The lovely brass plate was made by James' uncle Phil!


443 miles

295 locks

32 moveable bridges (of which 20 are usually left open)

15 small aqueducts

6 tunnels

That's an average of 8.9 miles, 5.5 locks and 3.4 cups of tea per day.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Day Fifty - Back Where we Belong!

On the Cambridge visitor moorings, in front of the (infamous) Georgina.

Ely - Cambridge

River Great Ouze, River Cam

17 miles, 2 locks

Finally, we've made it- after cooling failures, propshaft failures, tiller failures, bridgestrike, crashes, bashes, low bridges, floods, running out of electricity, improperly charging batteries, lack of electrolyte, lack of fuel, and running out of teabags... we're at journey's end.

It feels strange- I'm extremely happy to have arrived, and to have reached the end of what has been, at times, an incredibly difficult journey. I've learned a huge amount about narrowboating, far more than I would have otherwise, in an extremely short space of time.

And yet, the happiness is tinged with regret. For the past fifty days, we've not had to worry about getting up for work, paying National Insurance, commuting, deadlines or pressures of the "real" world. Instead, we've been "on the cut", meeting incredible people and having a generally fantastic time. Of course there were bleak moments, but there's also been moments of joy and the ever-present realisation that this is what we want to do- that boating is for us. Even in the pouring rain and howling wind, it's nice to be able to look forwards to mooring up and lighting the stove; even when the propshaft situation was at its worst, we knew that this was one of the downsides to an otherwise amazing way of life.

We'd never argued with each other in the year so far that we were together- and then we got the boat... a situation that other couples I'm sure will find familiar.

Well, enough navel gazing. On with the account of the fantastic final day's cruising.

We had a look around Ely in the sunshine, before leaving at 10:30 or 11, or thereabouts. The weather was fantastic- bright, warm sunshine, extremely nice for September. There were a couple of intake problems, however, which slightly marred the day; although there were none yesterday, there were a few recurrent issues today. We had to stop a couple of times to flush it- however, we've come up with some improvements to the system, which are documented below.

Pope's Corner, where the Cam and Ouze (Old West River) converge

We passed Upware marina at midday exactly, and saw our space through the trees. Round the corner, we breasted up to a widebeam on the EA moorings for five minutes so we could flush the intake, and found out that the gentleman owner was another moorer at Upware, and that he had some surplus steel he was happy to give us to make a skin tank- and that several of the other moorers were welders! That's the long-term solution- but, for now, it's extremely gratifying to realise that our neighbours are so nice and supportive; hopefully we can be equally community-minded once we're there.

We were also hailed, as we passed, by the crew of NB Jambo- "we read your blog!"- and we promised them a mention. Well, it surprises us both greatly when we see our readers- surprises us, in fact, that we actually HAVE readers!- one day, we'll be able to stop properly and chat to people we see.

A fleet of Optimist small dinghys, that we overtook at the River Cam Sailing Club, below Clayhithe

Once we'd arrived in Clayhithe, a few miles away from Cambridge, we decided to stop on the visitor moorings and put our Plan into action, for dealing with the intake.

(Big) James had mentioned how another Cambridge boater, who has a similar intake and similar problems, put a pair of tights over the end of it to keep leaves and muck out. The water at Clayhithe was clear and nice, and the weather extremely nice; Amy was resolved that we try it at least whilst we could, so she squeezed into her wetsuit and hopped over the side, a pair of tights in hand.

These she stretched over the baffle plate and tied in place with a twisted wire- I'm not sure how well they will work, but we can at least try them and see if they keep muck out. The next step is a wire grille, made from a sieve we think, and some cable ties to cover over the gaps.

The second part of the plan involved reinforcing a hose. The Duck's water intake has a two-foot length of inch diameter plastic hose between the inlet and the strainer. We'd noticed that, when the intake got blocked, this flexible hose would suck itself together and really compound the problem. My idea was to place a length of garden hosepipe, cut from the hose we use to flush the intake, inside the larger hose to stop it kinking and squeezing itself shut- and, when we set off again, the indications were good, with the bypass opening up- showing that we had more than enough water going through the system- at normal cruising revs, and the temperature staying low. A temporary fix, but it should be enough to keep the engine healthy for the short-term.

Then, we pressed on towards Cambridge- and, soon, Baitsbite Lock was in sight, and then we were through onto the stretch of river I'd rowed upon countless times. It felt fantastic and surreal all at the same time- good to be there, but strange to be there on our own boat, to see the familiar scenery and sights from our own counter.

The bridges of Cambridge

Clare boathouse

This photo's unfortunately missing a green 62' trad and a hyperactive barking collie...

As we headed into town, we saw a few boaters we recognised- with an ecstatic welcome back from Luther on his fishing boat, ZZ10 - before we finally made it into the centre of town and moored up in a nice, duck-sized gap.

It feels good to be home.