Tuesday, 27 September 2011

First Day of School

My starting at UCL this week has been really exciting and had meant that I've just not had a moment to blog until now. The River Festival was a great success and I will try to write it up properly soon. In the meantime, here's some photos of my new university and environs. 

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Thursday, 22 September 2011

My Favourite Finds v.13

The last few days have been so hectic, what with River Festival prep and James starting his course full-time! But I did find a moment for a few pictures of my most recent find. It's a lovely dark purple dress from Kew, that going by their online shop, would have been about £75 or so. It's perfect for autumn as it's actually quite thick, and lined, and such a delicious autumnal colour, just like the elderberries in the picture!

Dress: £7.50, Cancer Research, Burleigh St

It even has pockets! (how I love a dress with pockets!) and I've been keeping warm and casual by wearing it with a grey tank (also from a charity shop some time ago) and boots.

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Friday, 16 September 2011

Most expensive waterway in the country?

Camboaters (that is, me and James on behalf of) have done some research and were shocked to discover that the Cam Conservancy Licence is the most expensive in the country in terms of cost per mile of waterway for an annual river licence (£77/mile as opposed to a canal licence which is 30p/mile). The next most expensive is more than three times cheaper.
Click to enlarge
The Cam Conservancy have sent out their latest consultation (yes, we have another one to wrangle with!) because they claim to have an income shortfall. One of the reasons they receive less money is that very few of the residential boaters in the area choose to buy a Cam Con licence. Instead most opt to buy an Environment Agency licence, which is the same price but allows navigation on nearly 150 miles of waterway in East Anglia, and access to the Cam via an interchange agreement. The agreement means that a small percentage (30%) of the EA licence fee is passed to the Cam Con.

If the Cam Con were to bring their fees more in line with the rest of the UK, then Camboaters are confident that many more owners of powered boats who moor in the area would buy a Cam Conservancy licence, and
purchase short term licences for when they go cruising. (We are in the process of gathering hard evidence for this, but it's a no brainer). This would significantly increase the Cam Con's income.

Camboaters have proposed this idea when the fee increase was first put forward last year. But we were disappointed to find that it has been dismissed out of hand and not included as an option in the latest
consultation. Instead, those who buy an EA licence would be hit with an additional river licence to pay, resulting in a 25% increase in costs, making the most expensive waterway in the country even more
expensive to use! 

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Blades of Glory

This is what we have spent several evenings over the past week doing:

Stripe 1 of 3!
Repainting the rowing club's blades.

It's been quite a lot of fun, because despite the hard work, lots of club members have helped out. We are nearly done! I will post some pictures of the finished product once all the tape is off!

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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Recycling Shelf

Recycling Shelf (Put or Take) from Ryd Cook on Vimeo.

On Aylestone Road, just the other side of the river from us, there is a shelf, built into the fence. The Recycling Shelf. I rarely remember to go over there, but when I do it does always seem to be full of random things, and it is such a good, simple idea. It seems to maintain some sort of equilibrium between the 'put' and the 'taken', which is nicely illustrated in this video I found about the shelf. Last night when I popped over, I found a pair of binoculars. I wonder how widespread these type of things are? Do you know of one in your area?

Google Maps link to the Recycling Shelf:

View Larger Map

Monday, 12 September 2011

Great Aunt Cissie's Sewing Machine

After I dug out the old Singer sewing machine and established that it had not rusted solid, I spoke my dad (to whom it belonged). He told me that he in turn had inherited it from his dad who had been given it by his sister-in law, Cissie (my Great-aunt). I looked up the serial number of the machine, and it turns out that it was made in 1931.

Using the Singer, my grandad made the fabric parts of a folding canoe, which he then gave to my dad and there are photos of me sitting it when I was very small. An aptitude for hand crafts seems to run my dad's family. My grandma (my dad's mum) was en excellent knitter and embroiderer, and my grandad used to enjoy similar things. He didn't knit but he had a spinning wheel which he made himself and used to spin yarn for my grandma to knit with from raw wool, having first carded it with big spiky carding brushes. When my grandparents were still alive I used to love visiting them in their house in Wantage (Oxfordshire). They made all their own bread, and jam from fruit grown in their garden or gathered from the countryside. They were frugal and self sufficient in an entirely non-hippy way, just because they were brought up in austere times and also because they enjoyed it. 

So, using Great-aunt Cissie's sewing machine myself, I'm carrying on a family tradition of making things with it. I've now got to grips with adjusting the tensioner and how to fill up and thread the bobbin using the machine's ingenious mechanism. I really hope that I find time to use it, but there are quite a few jobs around the boat which will demand it - we need new curtains and the cratch cover needs fixing.

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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Any Questions? V.5

Here's today's question and answer. If there's anything you would like to know about our life afloat or narrowboating in general, do get in touch via twitter / facebook / email or formspring.


A question from Formspring: In the time that you've been a live-aboard, have you ever been bothered by drunks and opportunist thieves/vandals? Does this happen often, and what measures have you taken to guard against it?

We've actually been pretty lucky. In our three years boating we've only been let off our mooring twice, and neither time was at our home mooring. The first time was by kids in St Neots on the Great Ouse, which was scary because it is a river, but they only let one end off and we were up so were able to secure it straight away. The second time was in Wolverhampton at the top of the Wolverhampton 21 on the BCN. We were moored near several other boats but the bow of the Duck was the only rope not tied either to a ring or looped over the same bollard as another rope so it was more vulnerable. The only problem that time was that Lyra fell in! But she was OK, and we were quickly back on the bollard and chained up.

At home, we've never been bothered by any anti-social behaviour, but wherever we moor we always tie the ropes through closed loop pins and then back onto the boat so that opportunists would have to climb on to the boat itself, thus waking us/alerting us to their presence. We always chain our generator up when it is outside, as there was a local spate of unsecured generator thefts. In really dodgy areas, we would just avoid mooring up, but occasionally we've used a chain as well as ropes just in case.

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Friday, 9 September 2011

Off-Grid Baking 9: BCN Cookies

I've been promising this recipe for ages now. Rebekah made them for the YWBS lot on the BCN Challenge, and they were so good that I asked her for the recipe. She sent it to me and since then I've made them several times. They're especially good while cruising, and they're made of oats so they must be healthy, right? I've substituted the chocolate chips for both smarties and caramel buttons, with excellent results!

The caramel version!

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Sew far, sew good

My Singer on the left, making duck bunting!
Preparations for the World Rivers Day Festival continue apace, and one of the things we have been up to is making bunting out of recycled fabric. On Monday night a group of us got together for a session of bunting making, using Charlotte's sewing machine. And we got quite a bit done, but could have made more with an additional machine. 

So I dug out my old Singer, which I've had on the boat for nearly three years since my dad got it down from the loft and brought it over to me. Embarrassingly despite having learned to use a sewing machine at school, I'd forgotten how to use it and it had languished unloved under the bed. When we redid the bedroom, we found a spot for it when it can be more easily accessed. But I still needed a refresher! I took it out of its case and tried to get some of the dust off. It looked a bit sorry for itself! But a few turns of the handle which produced a smooth, quiet clunking proved that all the mechanism was moving soundly.

I lugged it over to Charlotte's boat Felicity last night, and she showed me how to thread it up. The bobbin was still full so once the cotton was on the top spindle, I was ready to go, using the wheel to spin it. It does have a retro-fitted motor attachment but it was quite quick enough using the wheel, and I didn't want to drain the batteries. That evening, we must have made 50+ metres of bunting. I really enjoyed it, and was so pleased that my previously unloved old Singer was still going so well. I have resolved to give it a good clean and an oil, and start using it more often!

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Shackerstone Festival 2011

We spent a lovely weekend at the Shackerstone Festival on the Ashby Canal, with friends from the Young Working Boaters Society. We arrived on Friday night, having taken the bus to Milton Keynes and a train from there to Nuneaton to avoid the peak time train prices! Sarah, who owns Ling, picked us up and drove us to the canal to pitch our tent in the hold of her boat. On Saturday, as well as catching up with people, we got a chance to go boating on the FMC josher Emu, which has a Bolinder engine (one of the oldest diesel engines, and quite wonderful, if extremely loud!). We went on a trip up to the end of the Ashby and back, which took all afternoon. We had dinner at the Rising Sun before retiring quite late to our tent. On Sunday, Sarah was busy and so wasn't able to drop us off at the station. We found a much more exciting alternative, as Mike was going to be leaving at 11am on Victoria. We hitched a ride to Hinckley, where he dropped us off to catch the train to Nuneaton from there.  

The banner flying on Ilford
James laces up a keb to try and retrieve a lost spoon!
Emu's chimney
Passing Camping Boat Ling on Emu
James learns how to steer Victoria
Victoria underway
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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Lyra's Cruise

So. The Warm Home Place Boat went moving again recently. I was most unconvinced by the idea. The noisy-growly-monster that lives at the back of the boat growled all day. I mostly just found a cosy spot and curled up until it stopped. As soon as it stopped I was up and about, looking out of the windows and trying to get out of the doors, just wanting to know where on earth we had got to this time. Sometime the big wet was on one side, sometimes it was on the other. Most confusing.
Last time the warm-home-place-boat went moving for a long time I hardly went out at all, but this time, the food providing humans had a plan, which I was unconvinced by at first (I am unconvinced by most things except for food and sleeping). They got a long string and attached it to themselves and then they let me take them for walks! They didn't like it when I wanted to take them walking under hedges and brambles, and would stop and refuse to follow me. But when I walked along places they could follow, it was OK. I took them quite a few walks in different places. My favourite place was in the big, noisy city, where I took Female Food-Providing Human for a walk in the dark time and I found a mouse behind a pipe. I chased it either side of the pipe but it got away when Female Food-Providing Human made a noise and it scuttled through a hole in a wall.

Sometimes the humans brought me out on the the top of Warm Home Place Boat. I did not like this AT ALL. I jumped down into the boat to get away from all the noises and the wind and the wet everywhere. 

I am glad to be back next to the Big Grass now, although I still think the best fun is to be had hiding in the dark little cupboard at the front of the boat, that's too small for the humans to follow, and snoozing there, too sleepy to hear them calling for me and rattling the box. So they get all worried and then I emerge later on, stretching myself, and then they make a fuss of me and feed me. Teehee.

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Friday, 2 September 2011

Any Questions? V.4: Mooring in Cambridge

In light of the fact that lots of our new readers are not necessarily boaters, I've decided to start a regular(ish!) feature called 'Any Questions?'. So, if there's anything about narrowboating, or living afloat  that you're curious about then please get in touch, by email, facebook, twitter, comments or formspring! Here's today's question and answer.
This is a question I get asked regularly in emails: "I would like a mooring in Cambridge. How can I get a city centre mooring like yours? Are there any other places nearby where I could moor?"

Cambridge is a wonderful place to moor, hence city centre moorings like ours are in demand, unsurprisingly! On British Waterways water, moorings are sold off by auction unless they are on private land. In Cambridge, the moorings are managed by the City Council who run a waiting list. You can find out how to add your name to the list on their website. However, it takes years to get to the top of this list of 80+ names so put your name down asap if you are even thinking about it - there's no obligation to take it up should you be offered it. They say it takes 3-5 years. It took us 2.5, but it varies. Also, if you have a widebeam boat (>7ft) then although you should put your name on the list just in case, it's best to give up all hope of ever getting one - widebeam licences very rarely change hands and although they are on the same list, people waiting for them just float to the top and stay there. Clearly getting a central mooring is not going to happen straight away even if you have a narrowboat so if you have a boat and want to live in this area you have a few of options.

1) Advisable. Get a space in a commercial marina. There are a few within commuting distance of Cambridge, and if you have a car, are perfectly nice places to live. This list is fairly comprehensive, although there are others along the Ouse towards Huntingdon and Bedford or further North on Brandon Creek. Some, like Cathedral at Ely and Jones' at St Ives have public transport connections, but on the whole you would need a car. In my opinion this is the only realistic option. Get a marina mooring out of town and sit out the years until you get the letter saying you have a city centre spot. Or just stay put, out of town, in a nice countryside location. Be aware that not all marinas accept live-aboards so it's best to speak to people who moor there when you go to have a look at the place to find out what the owner's stance is. The other advisable option is to get an Environment Agency Wild Mooring. You find a stretch of riverbank that is suitable and if the EA owns it they can let you moor there legally for a fee. If it's owned by a farmer, or someone else and you can make contact, you can pay them instead, I think. There are more details here, with a map of some currently available Wild Moorings. There's several in Littleport.

2) Unlikely. Find a private mooring. There are few places just outside Cambridge which are run on an 'ad hoc' basis by private land owners: at Brown's Field (Fen Ditton), Horningsea, and above Bottisham lock. None of these sites advertise their moorings and generally are passed on by word of mouth. By far the best way to get yourself a spot at one of these is to go there in person and find someone to talk to. This method is governed purely by luck and by 'who you know'. You may be lucky, like we were.

3) Inadvisable. Hop about on the visitor moorings in the area. The EA/Cam Conservancy does not have a 'Continuous Cruising' licence option. Each of the visitor moorings provided by GOBA (Great Ouse Boating Association), the Environment Agency, and the City Council give you 48hrs. So you have to move every other day in order stay with the rules. We did this quite often for about 6 months, because although we had a mooring at Upware marina, we didn't have a car and there are no buses from the village so it was not feasible for us to stay there all the time. Of course, there are boats who remain on the moorings for longer than they should, relying on the apathy of the navigations authorities. But basically, attempting to just use the visitor moorings is Really Bad Idea and I would advise against it strongly. Either you move every other day (this soon loses its charm) or you flout the rules. The local navigations authorities don't admittedly have a history of actually doing anything about it, but they claim that they will chuck you off the list or take you to court (this has happened) if they decide you have flouted the rules one too many times. A risky strategy.

4) Highly inadvisable. Find a space on the infamous 'railings'. Along Riverside, just north of Elizabeth Way bridge in Cambridge, there is a stretch of river of which all the authorities have refused to take ownership. There is a mix of boats, some derelict, some well cared for, but all of them cannot leave their spot without fear of someone nicking it while they are away. There is an ongoing battle between local residents and the council to try and get the council to claim ownership and ban mooring there. The Cambridge News reports the history of this area.

You can see the answers to previous questions about living afloat here!

If you are after a boat as well as a mooring near Cambridge, ours is now for sale! 

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Thursday, 1 September 2011

World Rivers Day Festival - Sunday 25th Sept

The Camboaters World River Day Festival is approaching fast! James and I are involved in organising what promises to be a fun, hands-on day out. It is based on the Open Boat Days which were held on World Rivers Day in the past, but this time, we've added some exciting extras - as well as visiting the open boats, there will be opportunities to try lots of other watery activities, like fishing, canoeing, punting and rowing. There will be stalls such as Nanna Mexico and Taste of Cambridge selling delicious local food, music on the Georgina, arts and crafts, fun workshops and lots of interesting local organisations and charities. If you are keen to bring your boat then do get in touch, we would love to have the basin below the lock full of boats!

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