Thursday, 28 April 2011


Last Thursday, I went down to London to spend the evening with my two younger sisters. As I have mentioned before, Esther (the middle - and tallest! - sister) lives in East London, surrounded by canals (lucky her!). We set off from her house for a lovely walk along the Regents Canal to Broadway Market.

The boat exiting the lock behind us is in fact Tarporley, a Town Class Large Northwich, now a community boat which Sarah used to be involved with before she got her own! I guessed it was Tarporley before its bows had even left the lock! *geek*

We had dinner at a delicious pizza place on Broadway Market called Bella Vita - highly reccomended before heading back towards Esther's via a few halves of Aspall's at her local. A really lovely evening- it was great to catch up with Milly and Esther, who are both so grown up now, it feels like meeting up with girlfriends! Milly has recently begun to look even more like me, if that were possible! And seeing all the canals in the area has convinced us that we will come back by boat in the Summer (I have officially got three weeks off so we can have a proper cruise somewhere!)

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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Ellesmere Port Easter Gathering: Arriving

We spent our Easter weekend at the Ellesmere Port Easter Gathering, a rally of historic narrowboats the likes of which we have dreams of one day owning. Through both the blog and our membership of the Young Working Boaters Society, we know quite a few people who own these boats, so as well appreciating lots of fantastic old boats, the rally was a chance to catch up with friends and have fun.

We stayed for two full days, arriving on Friday afternoon and leaving on Monday. The train journey from Cambridge up to the Port, which is on the Wirral just west of Liverpool, took 6 hours so we wanted to make it worthwhile! Our accomodation for the week was a tent in the hold of Sarah's Chertsey, which we bought for Shackerstone and as yet has not been pitched on land!

That's our blue tunnel tent in Chertsey (on the left)

On Friday, we arrived, pitched the tent and then just relaxed, enjoying the unseasonable weather and taking in the sights of the Inland Waterways Museum, bumping into people we knew, being introduced to those we didn't. The weekend was a great opportunity to get to know members of the Historic Narrowboat Owners Club, of which we are now honorary members. They have regular meetings, a newsletter and are just a decent bunch of people who shareour love for these boats. When, in some years time, we come to the stage of contemplating upgrading the Duck, this group will be one of the ways through which we hope to find our perfect boat, but in the meantime, it is great to just chat about boats with likeminded people!

Traditional boatwoman's dress

Butty Gifford, recently repainted by Phil Speight

Beautiful National 2DM engine

Rivets on Fenny
The yellow and blue BW one is Blossom's new boat Darley!

Spectacular sight of big ships passing on the Manchester Ship Canal

Peter and Laura on Stanton had this great Cobb BBQ
Meanwhile we tried out some 'Arctic Explorer' rations!
Mmm... (they were actually quite tasty!)

After a long, hot, day we retired early to our tent in the hold. Over the next few days I shall continue to recount our weekend's adventures!

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Friday, 22 April 2011

Happy Easter!

We're going to take a break from blogging over long Easter weekend, as we're going to be spending it doing boaty things and probably won't have time. The weather promises sunshine, and so we're looking forwards to a wonderful long, long weekend.

In the meantime, here's some fun Friday links.

I love Neil Herbie's hilarious description of the feeling of Them and Us that you get when cruising the Thames as a narrowboater.

This cat is kitted out for boating - I wonder if we should get Lyra something similar? She is quite the swimmer though, so probably doesn't need one.

And lastly as if anyone needed cheering up any more with so much sun and holiday on the cards, a smiling Boots,!

Enjoy the holiday!

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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Refridgerated Duck

So, we have a fridge - 98 litres from Shoreline, very shiny, and with a good sized freezer compartment. Getting rid of the old one and acquiring the new one proved more stressful than we imagined, however! I put the cranky old one up on Freecycle and had about 15 people wanting it. The first one to reply said he'd be over on Sunday and would call first thing to say what time. 4pm rolled around and I'd heard nothing. He had my number but hadn't given his. Exasperated, I called the only person who'd emailed about it who actually had left a mobile number. She and her husband (who happen to know a friend of ours from rowing) showed up within the hour and took it. They wanted it for a relative who was fitting out a boat on a budget, so I was pleased to give it to them - I did warn them that it wasn't the best fridge in the world, though!

Arranging to get hold of the new one wasn't easy either - first off, we thought we'd get one delivered to my work, but it would have been a massive struggle to get it to the boat. A friend offered to have it delivered to her, but I really didn't want to put her to trouble. We decided then to pay a bit more and get one from Ely Chandlery, since James could cruise out there and it would only be a short walk with the trolley. But then, John Pippin saved the day and offered to drive to Jones Marina in St Ives on his day off, so thanks, John! As luck would have it, they had a deal on fridges, and so it was significantly cheaper to go there than buy online or pick one up from Ely. James repaid the favour by doing some anglegrinding and painting of Caboodle. It is wired in and ready to go, but we're not allowed to turn it on yet, which is quite frustrating - the coolant liquids need to settle. But it won't be long now before we are up and running, and able to store lots of tasty food!

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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Cats Reunited

While we were out at our old mooring, we re-introduced Lyra to her old friend Tom, the Pippins' ginger cat. It was great fun to watch. At first, they were wary, and it was clear that despite her absence and the fact that Tom is bigger, Lyra was still boss! They ran off together and played in the bushes, until it got dark.


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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Home Improvements

I've been thinking for a while that the Duck's interior is in need of a revamp. It is dark and heavy, in woodstain, with strange hexagons on the walls. Yesterday I went into the wonderful Clement Joscelyn  shop where they stock such beautiful homewares, to get some inspiration for fabrics and colours. I want to make new curtains (must learn to use my sewing machine first!), and paint the walls a pale colour to give the space more light. 

Amongst their huge stock of fabric swatch books I came accross the fabric maker Zoffany. They have a range called Intaglio based on antique maps and prints. I really love this idea. My father worked in the geography department at the university and he regularly brought home various maps they were getting rid of. In the loft of the house I grew up in there were huge rolled up fabric maps which I dreamed of hanging on the wall of my house when I grew up. And we also had a huge stack of old nautical charts, which I think have sadly now been sold, but which would have made fabulous wallpaper. However, I think this look with its delicate colours and prints, could really work. I particularly love Zoffany's London fabric which would make wonderful curtains.

 images: zoffany, weheartit

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Monday, 18 April 2011

Misty Fen

This is where we are moored this morning. Last night we escaped the cheerful but unrelentingly repetitive circus music to head downriver to the peace and quiet of the fens. I love that we can just pull pins and move to the countryside when the fancy takes us. Waking to the utter stillness of the fen this morning was wonderful.

We walked over to our old mooring to see the Pippins and catch up with the Parish gossip. They were both tired out from a day of painting their neighbour's boat Caboodle (it's going to look lovely!) and we had a quiet evening with them, with cheese and mushrooms on toast as well as gin and tonic and cider! I expect we'll stay out here until Tuesday when we need to be back in town for rowing.

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Sunday, 17 April 2011

My Favourite Finds v.8

I got this dress in the Scope shop last summer. Spring has been teasing us here- it can't seem to make its mind up. So it was back to tights today, and with a long sleeved teeshirt underneath it too. But the cheerful apple print still makes me feel spring-like!

Shop: Scope
Originally: ?(no label)

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Saturday, 16 April 2011


We need a new fridge. Our old one, which will be taken away by a freecycler on Sunday, is so noisy and so inefficient that we have decided after nearly three years afloat that we are going to splash out on a proper 12V low energy fridge. Last night we removed and deconnected the old one, which was chained in (as per Boat Safety regs) and proved difficult to get out as a result. But it's now ready to go. We also discovered a gas pipe which used to connect to the old gas fridge, which needs capping off, but that's another story for another post!

Eversince we began living off-grid, we've got out of the habit of storing chilled food. In the winter, it's OK to keep things outside, and in high summer the solar panel keeps up with the fridge's energy demand. But for a lot of the year it's not cold enough outside or sunny enough to keep up with the dodgy fridge. I am so looking forwards to being able to take advantage of buy one get one free offers, store leftovers, and make and store larger quantities of all sorts of delicious things. I think we're going to go for one of these from Shoreline:

I ummed and ahhed about whether or not to get one with a freezer compartment (it's cheaper to get one with for some reason, but we've had issues with our old one dripping). But I think a new one will not suffer from this and it will occasionally be useful to be able to buy the odd frozen meal, or freeze leftovers, or buy icecream in the summer. And let's not forget the importance of having ice to go in a G&T with a slice of lime not lemon on a hot summer's day!

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Friday, 15 April 2011

The Circus is in Town

The Cambridge News have uploaded a short video of some of the performers from Zippo's Circus, who are on Midsummer Common this week. Guess whose boat they are performing in front of?


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Happy Friday!

This weekend we'll be hoping for sunshine, doing some rowing, spring cleaning, and getting rid of our old fridge (it is ancient, noisy and inefficient).

In other news:
Camboaters now have a twitter account! Follow to hear the latest about what's happening on the Cam.
If you are on Facebook and want to keep up to date with fun boating things on the Cam, you can find us at Cam Buccaneers
Lastly, we are also now on Wikipedia!

Have a lovely weekend, all!
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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Cambridge River Festival 25th September 2011

2009 Open Boat Day
On Monday evening, we met up with the rest of the Camboaters committee to talk about future plans. The biggest, most exciting event we have coming up is the River Festival. In previous years, Camboaters has organised a Boat Open Day, to allow interested members of the public to come aboard various boats and see what life is like on board. I've always though this was a great idea, to dispel myths and encourage understanding. But this year, we're going to go further and expand the event into one which celebrates all life on the river. Some of the ideas we have in mind:
- Residential and historic boats in the basin - 'boat open day'
- Boats occasionally working through the Jesus Lock to demonstrate how it works 
- Exhibition and river trips on the trip boats Georgina/Rosie
- Childrens activities on the ChYPPS boat
- Punt trips (above the lock)
- Opportunity to try rowing and canoeing, and paddle boats - boathouse based
- Music from a local boater band
- Stalls selling local produce and crafts
- Stands with information from groups such as the Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Fish Preservation and Angling Society 
- Demonstration of low carbon lifestyle of boaters including Renewable Energy 

Over the coming months I will undoubtedly be posting a lot more about this event as it comes together and we confirm who's going to be there and what fun things are going to be happening. In the meantime, if you are interested in coming, bringing your boat, or having a stand there, please let me know!

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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Elly Maersk

On Saturday, we watched a huge container ship arrive at Felixstowe port. It was an incredible sight, and made me curious about which ship it was, where it was going, and where it had come from. Anyone not interested in ships and engines, look away now!

I had a look on the internet to find out more (there are loads of ship spotting websites -should have guessed!) and discovered that she was the Elly Maersk. Turns out she is one of the largest container ships in the world, and has a 14 cylinder Wartsila-Sulzer 'super engine', the largest engine ever built. The cylinder bore is just under 38″ and the stroke is just over 98″. The engine weighs in at 2,300 tons and is capable of delivering 109,000 horsepower. Blimey. She draws 15.5m maximum, so just her depth below the water is longer than the Duck! You can find her current position (when I looked she was just off Holland, heading for Bremerhaven apparently) at

Elly Maersk

Ship Type: Cargo - Hazard A (Major)
Year Built: 2008
Length x Breadth: 398 m X 56 m
DeadWeight: 115000 t
Speed recorded (Max / Average): 10.4 / 9.1 knots
Flag: Denmark [DK]
Area: North Sea
Latitude / Longitude: 53.90506˚ / 7.79563˚ (Map)
Last Known Port: FELIXSTOWE

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

And is there honey still for tea?

On Sunday James and I met friends for a picnic in Trinity Hall, and then spent the afternoon punting to Grantchester and back, that quintessential Cambridge trip. In fact we went as far as Byron's pool, the head of navigation even for punts. It was a glorious afternoon, and there was so much good food and drink. I didn't need dinner after having spent the whole afternoon munching on lovely things!

The post title is of course from Rupert Brooke's The Old Vicarage, Grantchester.

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Monday, 11 April 2011

What's On the End of Felix's Foot....?

... Felixstowe! Ahem. Sorry. Blame James for that 'joke'!

We have been enjoying some unseasonably warm weather in the UK. It has been wonderful, and we made sure to make the most of it over the weekend! 

Growing up in Devon, close to the sea, I miss going to the seaside on a sunny day. So, on Saturday afternoon, we hopped on a train to Felixstowe. We chose to head there after checking out where on the coast we could get from Cambridge in a reasonable amount of time, and what the Met Offce predicted the weather would be like. Felixstowe is 2.5 hours away by train and was predicted sunshine all day, so seemed like a good option!

We arrived at 3:30pm, having spent the morning rowing as usual. Walking through the town, we passed so many charity shops that we would probably have never reached the beach if we'd stopped in all of them. I liked this basket of ducks outside one of them, but resisted buying any of them!

Once on the seafront, we saw this outside the town hall - an armoured personell carrier, waiting to take the bride and groom away. What a great way to depart!

We walked to the pier to eat our picnic which I prepared on Friday night.

Sitting on the pier in the sunshine but out of the wind, we had sandwiches, Frazzles and Jammy Dodgers (nostalgic childhood food!) as well as some cupcakes I'd made to my current favourite chocolate cupcake recipe filled with raspberry jam and topped with vanilla frosting.

We then set off down the promenade towards the point where the river Stour and Orwell meet at the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich. We passed lots of beach huts and a Napoleonic Martello tower, now in use by the coastguard.

Then we headed away from the seafront towards the port. Felixstowe is the biggest container port in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe. There's something about the aesthetic of containers, of the distance they have travelled, of the many exotic and mundane things they may be carrying. We geeked out a little bit and wandered about as close as we could get to the great ziggurats of containers.

There were huge gantries over the railway line taking the containers off to where they were needed, and as we watched we saw more being loaded. It really was fascinating. We walked back to the town via the nature reserve on the point, and saw a container ship heading in to port. Back in the town, we grabbed some fish and chips to eat on the seafront before heading back to the station. A great day!
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