Sunday, 30 December 2012

Out of Reach

Bottisham - Upware - Cambridge

13 miles

We got back to the boat a couple of days ago, having left it at a secure mooring whilst we had our Christmas trip to see our families. Once we were back, we quickly refilled the water system (having drained it down whilst we were away to prevent frost damage) and arranged to have Lyra returned to us from the cattery.

After spending an afternoon with John aboard Pippin, when we went to get diesel from a very-nearly-flooded Jones boatyard in St Ives by car, provisions, and the obligatory visit to Emmaus, we set off this morning to try and traverse the navigable lodes.

If the water rises two more inches, the carpark and chandlery will flood.

There are three dead-straight man-made lodes which form drainage channels, all of them accessed from a double guillotine gate lock at Upware, which can take boats up to 14' by 62'. They branch off one from the other to the nature reserve at Wicken Fen (where we went camping), and the villages of Burwell, and Reach.

It was quite windy, and there was a fair stream on the river, so we made good time to the lock at Upware.

However, our cruise plans were scuppered by the EA's pumping station. The great, 2' diameter outlets were pouring out water pumped up from the lodes, which were at a lower level than the river, and the red light was illuminated at the lock, forbidding us from entering. That's the perils of boating on what's primarily a system for land drainage!

Illuminated red light and official notice on the pump house.

A bit disappointed, we winded with less than the usual amount of elegance in the 50' lock channel- the very strongest flow was against the stern of the boat and I had to force it around with the engine, rather than using the flow to the advantage, so as not to clout the moored plastic cruiser we were heading towards- we set off back to town and our home mooring.

Progress upstream back to Cambridge was very slow. There was a good 4-5kph stream running from all the rain we'd had, a bit faster in the narrower places, and we managed to make a speed barely above walking pace, with the engine at 2,400rpm - our fastest economical cruising speed, which normally gives a speed of 9-10kph. Frustrating, but at least we were moving. The hire-boat sized skin tank put on by Fox Boats those years ago proved its worth, with us able to keep up this high load on the engine with no movement on the temperature gauge and no sign of overheating.

On the way back, we passed an eight from our rival boat club, X-Press BC. They were rowing to Ely- but I'm not sure if they were brave (or stupid) enough to row to Ely and back in a day as I have with my club! Certainly we've not seen their boat return into town yet.

Flooded fields behind the towpath.

Finally we made it back and moored up happily in our usual space.

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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Devon Floods

We took the train down to my hometown of Exeter on Friday night. Amid all the disruption we were surprised to find that our train departed Paddington exactly on time.

We had booked seats in the Entertainment carriage, complete with TVs in the backs of the seats, for no extra charge.

We arrived in Exeter at 10:30pm and were soon at my mum's house, with mugs of tea. 

On Saturday morning we looked out of the windows (my mum's house overlooks the River Exe) to see that the river had risen. Watching the news, it seemed that all trains to the South West were cancelled. We went for a walk to look at the river.

We trust that the Duck is still safe on its mooring in the Fens!

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Winter Solstice

Fen sunrise

So, today is the shortest day, the longest night. Time to light candles and fires, and snuggle up in cosy blankets with mugs of hot chocolate! But from here on in each day will be a little brighter and longer - a cheering thought, especially for our solar panel! 

Happy Solstice to you all

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My Favourite Finds v.24: The Re-Cycling Shelf

I've mentioned the Recycling Shelf on Aylestone Road before, but it really came up trumps yesterday! I was with another of the Camboaters committee, having been to buy food for our boaters party tonight, and we passed the niche in the wall with the shelf in it. Leaning against it was a mens bicycle, looking a bit forlorn but full of potential with a nice orangey bronze frame and drop handlebars. James has been hankering after a "fixie" bike for some time and so, with this frame to work on, I thought, he will be able to do it up as he likes. I wheeled it home to leave on the boat as a surprise for when he got home.

I did a little research into the brand, Sun. Based in Aston, Birmingham, it has not made a bicycle since 1961. The company was taken over by Raleigh, which did actually continue to produce Sun branded bikes for a while afterwards. Looking at the graphics on the frame, I reckon this one was produced in the Raleigh era.

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Monday, 17 December 2012

Brummie Weekend

On Saturday afternoon, we went to Birmingham to meet up with our friends from what has previously been known as the Young Working Boaters Society, to think about the future of the club. It was a really good meeting and although there is a lot of detail still to work out, we are feeling really positive about it.  Basically YWBS has always just been a social group, but we want it to be something more. To find a way to make it a club which actively tries to get more young people involved in boating and the canals, not just in historic boats. And so the Young Waterways and Boating Society was born, and we have some exciting plans for 2013. More will follow, but watch this space!

After the meeting, we went out for a curry and a drink. The centre of Birmingham on a Saturday night is an experience not to be forgotten, but we had fun, and rolled into the back cabins of Lamprey and Victoria at about 1am. James and I shared the cross bed in Lamprey - it is titchy! We aren't tall, but only I actually fit. James was a tad too long for it. I thought it was delightfully cosy and had a lovely night's sleep! 

In the morning we set off to help Victoria down Farmer's Bridge and Aston locks. With four of us, we whizzed down the locks and were at Aston lock 8 in under two hours.

Victoria, now a coal boat, was fully loaded, resulting in some interesting effects as it came into some of the locks (hope this video works!)

Then we walked back up the locks (remarkably quicker than we came down!) to meet the others on Lamprey and head to the Black Country Living Museum along the Old Main Line. It was a lovely day and a nice cruise through the BCN. We made it to the BCLM in a record two and a half hours. just in time to wangle entry into the museum (the canal gates were locked) and dash up to the top of the village for some delicious fish and chips, cooked the traditional way in beef dripping. Yum!

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Thursday, 13 December 2012

A cold and frosty morning

It was -5 this morning, but with the stove going, we were nice and warm. Outside, the Common sparkled with a layer of hoar frost and it was quite beautiful.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Meet the Boaters 4 - Lucy

This is a new series I've started on the blog - a chance to meet some of  the diverse bunch of people who live on boats on the canals and rivers. I've asked them all to answer a few questions about themselves and their life afloat!

Meet Lucy, who tweets as @narrowboatlucy

A bit about me:
I live onboard our 1978 Hancock & Lane narrowboat Kingfisher with my husband and our cat. We live on a residential mooring but try to get away when work permits. My favourite cruise to date was the Thames ring, which we did clockwise (250 miles, 175 locks!) in just 17 days last year. A bit of a whirlwind but very satisfying. Our boat's a year older than I am, and we're continually working on some project or other (currently reinstalling the stove), but it's been liveable from the day we bought it. When we first viewed it I actually cried (with relief or happiness, I'm not sure).
How did you end up living afloat?
An old pal of mine has lived aboard for 20-odd years. I never really fancied single-handing, but when my husband and I decided to move in together it seemed the right time. We viewed quite a few boats before buying, and it's safe to say we were pretty naive, but we were also very lucky. We've stuck it for several years now without getting fed up with it. Even since the cat joined us it still hasn't felt too small.

What are your favourite things about life afloat?
I really love our floaty home. It's cosy and I love the style of the decor. I love the feeling of having a place for everything - as a child I loved my dolls house, and I think campervans are just ace. There's a touch of 'playing house' about it I think. I love watching boats passing by, and the I find the motion of the boat calming somehow. The birds and other creatures are great and our neighbours are supportive and fun.

And your least favourite?
We live in a really urban area and the litter really grinds me down. The wind blows it towards us and it collects by our bow. I suppose you'd get the same thing living in a land house, but somehow it really blights living aboard for me. I hope that one day our lives and careers might take us to a slightly more rural location.

Has living afloat changed you at all?
I pay a lot more attention to my environment now. I've always bit a bit of a greeny, but living aboard has definitely made it seem more important. I haven't quite given up the car and motorbike, but I now cycle to work, preserve water obsessively, monitor my energy use, recycle more fervently, haven't used a carrier bag in ages and have reduced my consumption of STUFF significantly. Boating can be expensive though so my bank balance isn't much better off! We've also become crashing boat bores - everyone we meet hears about it before too long.

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Monday, 10 December 2012

Productive Weekend

It was a weekend for sorting things. This time of year, daylight is at a premium, and we had quite a few things to do which needed light to be carried out effectively - James wanted to check the tappet clearances on the engine, as well as change the fuel filter. The engine's now running beautifully, and starts well even from cold. We also needed to take a few things over to the garage - we are slowly clearing things out of the boat to leave us less to do next year. The garage doesn't have any light, so anything over there ideally has to happen in daylight. Whilst over there we set to work on some pallets to chop up for kindling and now have a couple of big boxes ready to burn. We've been selling it to neighbours as well so wanted to have a nice stock of it.

The other job we got done was one which could be done in the evening, thankfully, and involved sorting out the contents of the kitchen drawer, otherwise known as the junk drawer. This sounds like a minor task, but perhaps you have not seen our drawer! It was stuffed full of "useful things" but far to jumbled up to make finding things possible! Inspired by a post by A Thrifty Mrs about saying "no" to Junk Drawers, our drawer now looks like this:

And the pots on the table where a lot of these pens were stored are gone, leaving more space on the table.

I had bought some cheap plastic pots from Poundland and now we have a fixings pot, a batteries and fuses pot, a torches pot, as well as using a spare cutlery divider for pens, tools and stationary. Lots of obsolete and duplicate things went to the Recycling Shelf, and some markers and pencils went to James school. We celebrated getting so much done at the weekend with a takeaway curry!

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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Cambridge Christmas Head Race

It was the Town rowing clubs' fancy dress race on Saturday. Here's a few of the boats I saw while I was marshalling. The red and green guys were a bit unnerving!

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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Fen Skating

I can't skate. It's something I've always wanted to be able to do, but having only ever had access to temporary Christmas rinks which are always massively crowded and expensive, I've never learnt. But this year, with the help from some friends who work at the "North Pole", Cambridge's temporary ice rink on Parker's Piece, I plan to at least learn to go and stop. The main driver for this is that I want to be able to enjoy one of the Fen's historic traditions: Fen skating. It has been popular in the area since the 19th century, and it sounds wonderful.

In the harsh winters we've recently had, areas of the Fen wetlands have been wet and cold enough to freeze over again, creating natural ice rinks. One of the most popular locations is at Welney, and there's another fen which is often skatable near Whittlesey. The Fenland Skating Centre allows people to hire skates for free at Welney, and keeps a website where the conditions at the various sites are updated daily during the winter. Maybe this winter we will make it out there and have a go!

Images from

There are some lovely videos on Youtube about skating in the Fens.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Meet the Boaters 3 - Mort

This is a new series I've started on the blog - a chance to meet some of  the diverse bunch of people who live on boats on the canals and rivers. I've asked them all to answer a few questions about themselves and their life afloat!

Mort is a friend of ours, and she has a blog at

Mort, 38, Research Scientist

How did you end up living afloat?
My friend, who lived on a narrowboat, went off to Africa as a Voluntary Service Officer and asked whether I would like to look after his boat while he was away for two years. Unbeknown to him I needed somewhere to live so I moved on board. By the time he came home I couldn’t quite come to terms with moving back into the stationary world of the land so I purchased my own boat.

What is your favourite thing about living afloat?

The water is a great place for a tired and weary mind.

And your least favourite?

Other people running generators for hours on end

Has living on a boat changed you at all?

I am not sure anything changes us, it just helps us become who we were meant to be. (I love this - I  think I was always meant to be a boater too! - Amy)

If you'd like to be involved, do get in touch using one of these methods below. I'd love to feature you and your boat!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Floods and Thanksgiving

We have been extremely fortunate this weekend. The Cam has risen a little but nothing that putting out the long plank doesn't solve. The wind was more worrying, and we spent time re-mooring some of the boats on the Common whose pins were loose. One of the Dutch barges further up river came loose and ended up on the weir barrier, but remained floating and was brought back to its mooring fairly quickly. The Yarwoods have blogged about it.

 I really feel for those in other parts of the country where it is much, much worse. 

I spent Saturday doing odd jobs about the boat. I resealed around the edge of the kitchen sink and cleaned inside my cupboards, identified a few things for the recycling shelf and various other bits and pieces. On Sunday after an outing which turned into a circuit training session when one of the rowers didn't show, I had a baking spree. I was making a couple of puddings to bring to a Thanksgiving dinner held by an American friend, so I started by baking a batch of brownies, then having some ingredients left over I improvised a blondie (white chocolate brownie) recipe with figs and brandy. 

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday - I wish it would take off over here. It seems to lack the commercialism  of  Christmas, being more about appreciating what you have than hoping for new things. And then there's the food, which is akin to a Christmas roast, but with more variety and pumpkins! I ate so much and t was all delicious!In addition to the turkey, we had mashed potato, gravy, three kinds of stuffing, green bean casserole and butternut squash salad. For dessert, there was two different types of pumpkin pie, Mississippi mud pie, Baileys cheesecake, and my brownies and blondies. The blondies in particular got a lot of compliments, so I will reproduce the recipe here, as much so that I remember it as anything else!

Fig and Brandy Blondies
125g butter
100g white chocolate
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
75g ground almonds
handful of chopped dried figs
teaspoon nutmeg
shot of brandy

Grease and line a baking tin, preheat oven to Gas Mark 5

In a saucepan, melt the butter and white chocolate, then add the sugar once they are all melted. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes (use the time to chop the figs!), then add the eggs, followed by the ground almonds, nutmeg, chopped figs and brandy. Pour into the tin and cook for 30 minutes until the top is crispy and a fork comes of of the centre clean. Allow to cool before chopping into squares. 

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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Getting the word out!

Plans are afoot 'round here. We are hoping to start make things happen with trading up to a longer, older boat early next year, and so I am trying get the word about the fact that our 48' narrowboat Lucky Duck will be coming up for sale. I've written a full, detailed description of the boat (linked from the pic in the sidebar too), and I'm starting to publicise the fact that we will be selling up soon. It would be brilliant if we could get a buyer lined up early (wishful thinking perhaps, but we can hope!). It won't be officially for sale and up on Apollo Duck or any other boat sale sites until we've had an offer accepted on the next boat, but if things go to plan, that should be sometime in early 2013.

So, this is where we need your help! First and most obviously, if one of your New Year's resolutions will be to buy a boat, or you know someone who's thinking of getting afloat, and you think the Duck might suit, then do get in touch. We would also be very grateful if anyone would be kind enough to put the word out on their blog, with a link to the description, or on Facebook, Twitter, or simply by keeping an ear out for potential buyers! 

The Duck would make an excellent starter boat for someone as it's all set up and ready to go as a live-aboard or a holiday boat, either on or off the grid. The systems are all in good order, the engine runs well and it is an easy to handle boat (as proven by the fact that I can single hand it!). It's got its Boat Safety Certificate until December 2013, and was blacked last in 2011. 

It's been a good home for us over the past four years, but we're ready for the next adventure!

(P.S As I've said before, sadly it doesn't come with the Cambridge mooring)

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Meet The Boaters 2 - Mark

This is a new series I'm starting on the blog - a chance to meet some of  the diverse bunch of people who live on boats on the canals and rivers. I've asked them all to answer a few questions about themselves and their life afloat!

Mark is a good friend of ours, and fellow Cam boater.

Picnic out at Bottisham with Mark and friends
Mark, 31
Outspoken Delivery, Assistant manager

How did you end up living afloat?
I had just returned from a cycle trip to Kenya among other things in Africa. I was looking for somewhere to live, but really hated the idea of renting and living in what I felt was a boring house share (compared to what I had just done).
A few people I had worked with and made friends with at Outspoken Delivery, Rob and Peter, and Andy all lived on boats, so as an unlikely option I had a look at boats for sale in Cambridge. It just so happened that a perfect one was for sale, in term of cost and location (the railings so I could move on straight away) 
Around the same time as this I was diagnosed with Cancer, without a doubt this was the thing that pushed me into buying lovely Susie Q, at the time I didn't know for sure if all would be well with my health after the operation, so the boat was a pretty good thing to focus on, a live for the moment type of thing too. And I have never regretted my decision. The cancer was beaten and I still appreciate living with my feet on the ground!

What is your favourite thing about life afloat?
Without a doubt the community: everyone knows each other along the river, or if not, knows someone who knows them. You see people a lot more than you do normal neighbours on a street, and you have a lot in common, so you have time for people, you help people with what you can and vice versa. Gossip, friendly chat, sharing warm fires and a tea in the winter or cool beers and a river cruise in the summer. River life is always fluid and interesting, challenging and rewarding. Why wouldn't you want to live on the river!?

And your least favourite?
In all honesty, above the cold, toilet emptying and few 'yobs', it's the way the two bodies in charge of the Cam, the Council and Cam Conservators seem to be so hard and unhelpful to the narrowboat community!

Has living afloat changedyou at all?
For sure, slowly helping me appreciate how to live live sustainably and enriched it greatly with all of the friends I have made......

If you'd like to be involved, do get in touch using one of these methods below. I'd love to feature you and your boat!

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Monday, 19 November 2012

The Weekend

Such a busy weekend! On Saturday we were both rowing/coxing in the Winter Head race, and James was coxing two divisions back to back. Sadly neither of us won our categories, but we both came second, with my crew second only to another eight from the same club and squad, with some overlap of rowers, by just 7 seconds!

After racing we spent a couple of hours sawing and chopping up pallets for kindling, before going home to help a fellow boater whose engine has packed up move to the waterpoint to pump out. It was an interesting towing challenge, given that their boat is 70ft! In the evening we headed to the pub to celebrate a rowing friend's birthday, and to give a good send off to another, who is leaving.

On Sunday, James was off to Ely again to try and get the Irene's engine going again. Still no luck with that! One day, maybe, he will come back saying, "it works!" I was rowing in the morning and then my friend Hannah and I went foraging. She's not done it before so wanted some guidance on what to gather and then how to process it afterwards. It was a gloriously sunny day and we had a nice bike ride interspersed with foraging.We made lots of lovely apple, rosehip, haw and redcurrant "Towpath Jam".

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Meet some More Boaters!

Peggy from The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife got in touch to let me know that she also had a series running on her blog a while back, where she interviewed some boater families, also called Meet the Boaters! (great minds etc). If you are curious to read about some more live-aboard boater families and some who have now left the boating life, pop over to her blog where you can read them all!

Pictures from Peggy's blog.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Off-Grid Making: Grilled Cheese

I read a lot of American blogs and had come across mentions of "grilled cheese sandwiches" many times. But I assumed that they were referring to what we in Britain call cheese on toast/toasted cheese, i.e stick bread under the grill until it's done one one side, flip over, heap with cheese, tomatoes, and whatever else and then grill that side til it's all melty. According to one food historian, this was the original way to do it, and is certainly still the most common in this country. It wasn't until the 1960s that the second slice of bread was added on top in American cookbooks, but it hasn't been popular over here.

However, and quite confusingly, that which Americans call a grilled cheese sandwich is actually not grilled at all. A bit like what we call a cheese toastie (made in an electric toasting machine), "grilled cheese" is made in a frying pan on a hob by spreading the outer slices of bread with butter before putting it in on the heat. This method is far more boat friendly, as electric heating devices such as toasters are very power hungry. There's something nice about being able to hold it in your hand rather than eat it with a knife and fork too.  Having solved the mystery of what exactly this American dish is, I am now a convert, and regular make them when I need something tasty and hot in a hurry. They are also great for eating whilst boating: much less messy and can be eaten one-handed by the steerer, with a mug of soup as accompaniment. Adding tomatoes, meat, sauces or herbs to the filling makes them extremely versatile. I tried one with soda bread, apple and brie the other day, it was delicious! This blog from A Beautiful Mess has some lovely ideas for variations.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Meet the Boaters 1 - Jo & Family

This is a new series I'm starting on the blog - a chance to meet some of  the diverse bunch of people who live on boats on the canals and rivers. I've asked them all to answer a few questions about themselves and their life afloat!

To kick off, meet Jo, aka @muckyboatlady

Jo's daughter at the wheel

A bit about Jo:
I live on board an elderly Dutch barge with my 3 kids, who are 11, 9 and 6, and our border collie. We've been boaters for 4 years now, and it's finally starting to feel like we're getting the hang of it! I work part time, my oldest is at school and the two younger kids are home educated, so things are pretty full on. Our boat needs a lot more attention than it gets and is looking pretty sorry for itself, was a bad summer for painting.

How did you end up living afloat?
The boat was my dad's, so it's been in my life for over 20 years. My dad moved to France and offered us the boat. I spent the first 18 months constantly on the verge of selling because it seemed impossibly hard keeping everything running, but various fabulous people have helped get things more sorted.

What is your favourite things about life afloat?
I asked the kids what their favourite things were, they said they like the summer, and being in the countryside and moving to new places. I like the people on the canal and being apart from the mainstream. I love the views and the wildlife.

And your least favourite?
We all hate the cold in the winter and the dark mornings, we still haven't got our lighting sorted to run off the batteries in any dependable fashion. We also get very fed up with people staring in the windows and discussing us loudly!

Has living afloat changed you at all?
When I asked my oldest if she thought living on a boat had changed her she seemed to think she was more sensible than lots of other kids her age, she said she thought living on a boat was more dangerous if you didn't listen and obey the rules. I think I'd agree with her, I think all my kids are very trustworthy because there are more dangers, not just falling in but other things like hot stoves, gas, wasting electricity and water.. I think they're very open minded about people and they're part of a pretty mixed community, I feel like there's lots of people looking out for them. We also have a much more outdoorsy life than we used to, we're far more aware of the seasons and the weather. I also think we're much happier :)

If you'd like to be involved, do get in touch using one of these methods below. I'd love to feature you and your boat!

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Monday, 12 November 2012

What We Did at The Weekend - Jam and Engines

James spent most of his weekend doing DIY on other people's boats. Saturday saw him, with John and Mark, *nearly but not quite* get the Irene's engine going. On Sunday, he helped Rob on Friendly Fox put his battery bank back together. 

My weekend, however, was spent mostly foraging and jam making (gender stereotypes? What gender stereotypes?). Whilst out rowing on Saturday morning I'd spotted a few late blackberries and set out to gather some when I got back from doing the laundry. I cycled out along the towpath and along with the blackberries, found an unexpected row of redcurrant bushes. I finished in Cow Hollow Wood, where I gathered a bag of sloes as well. Dusk was falling so I took the train back into town (conveniently I arrived at Waterbeach station 5 minutes before it set off)

It wasn't until Sunday that I had a chance to make the jam. I called it Towpath Jam (although I had been given the apples by a work colleague so it wasn't quite accurate)

The recipe is simple, just gather whatever you can find on the towpath (or hedgerow). The only thing you really have to have (unless you're adding pectin from a bottle) is apples (cores and all):

Towpath Jam

Towpath berries (whatever is in season: blackberries, elderberries, redcurrants, rosehips, haws, sloes)
Apples of some sort (crabapples, bramleys)

Destalk the fruit and chop the apples, but put the cores in as well - they have lots of pectin. Heat the fruit in a large pan until it is soft. Press through a sieve into a bowl, throw out the skins and stalks, and return pulp to the cleaned pan using a measuring jug. For every 600ml of pulp, add 500g sugar. Bring to a rolling boil until the setting point is reached. I use the traditional cold saucer method for this - a drop of jam on a cold saucer will wrinkle when pressed with your finger, once it has reached setting point. Seal in sterilised jars.

In the late afternoon, we went for a little cruise because it was such glorious weather. We picked up our friend Chris on the way (he'd just finished coaching a boat, so when we spotted him we swung past the boathouse and he jumped on!) We stopped at the Plough for a drink, then headed back as the dusk was falling to go to the water point. There we met Kirsty, who is about to buy a boat, and she had a go steering the Duck back to our mooring (this reminded me of when (big) James and Emma used to let us have a go at steering when they went to the waterpoint when we were wannabe narrowboaters, many years ago). Then, we all four went to the Fort St George for mulled wine. It was a lovely evening.

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Friday, 9 November 2012

A very useful new website

The crews of Indigo Dream and Leo No. 2 have responded to the difficulty of finding official information  about cruising the Thames by creating their own website. They have gathered link to info on the C&RT, PLA and EA, plus everything they've learnt from much experience of cruising the Thames themselves and put it all in one easy to navigate place.

It's still in draft, but already it is full of useful information for narrowboaters thinking about doing a bit of Thames cruising. Thanks for putting this together, guys!

Here it is:

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Trapped in the Fens again

The Fen waterways are effectively cut off from the rest of the Inland Waterways, from now until the end of February 2013. The Environment Agency are carrying out a series of maintenance works on five locks on the river Nene over the winter. The dates overlap such that the only gap is between 21 Dec and the 02 Jan. This would be enough time to travel the length of the river, providing it is not in flood, but at that time of year, flooding is very likely. EDIT: Weekend passage is possible by arrangement with the EA.


Islip - 05 Nov 2012 to 07 Dec 2012
Irthlingborough - 12 Nov 2012 to 26 Nov 2012
Ashton - 26 Nov 2012 to 21 Dec 2012
Elton - 02 Jan 2013 to 01 Feb 2013
Orton - 28 Jan 2013 to 28 Feb 2013

Due to essential maintenance work the above locks will be closed during the periods stated. 
The Agency regrets any inconvenience caused.
For further information please call the Environment Agency on 03708 506 506 
between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday and ask for the Waterways Team in the 
Anglian Region.

The Nene is currently in Strong Stream Advice and navigation is not advised. Additionally, the poor sunken boat at Ditchford lock has yet to be rescued, and so that lock is also closed until further notice.

Picture: RCR
All this also means that we can't sell the Duck or buy another boat until the Spring. However, we hope to be poised to start making exciting things happen as soon as we are able to get things moving in March!

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Sunday, 4 November 2012

My Favourite Finds v.23

These are the boots I bought from the Oxfam in St. Giles Street in the centre of Norwich. They are beautifully soft leather, from Clarks, and cost just £4.99. Not only that but they are fleece-lined so very comfy and warm. New favourite Autumn boots.

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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Last Weekend - Norwich

We stayed over on Norwich on Sunday night, after our Ely trip, taking the train from Ely soon after we'd mooredup. It is half term so there was no school for James on Monday. We love the city - every time we visit we enjoy it more and this was no exception. We'd booked to stay in another one of the MJB apartments we'd used when we went to North Norfolk. It was on Unkthank Road, a big old high ceilinged house, just on the edge of the city centre. For just £20, we had a large living room, with a kitchen/dining area, a big double bedroom and a bathroom to ourselves. It wasn't perfect - neither of the two TVs worked and the shower was temperamental but it was fine. Again, we were given a code to get in to the house and the apartment which worked perfectly. These pared down, concierge-less hotels are a real find and I wish a similar model for hotel management was more widespread. Even Youth Hostels are more expensive! 

We had a lovely meal out at the independent Italian restaurant, Paolos. We were lucky enough to arrive in time for their early evening special menu - for £6.50 each we had delicious traditional pasta dishes. James's carbonara was perfectly buttery and creamy, while my aubergine bake was heaped with lovely melty mozzarella and a tasty creamy tomato sauce. Would definitely recommend it.

In the morning, I cooked bacon sandwiches in the apartment, then we did a spot of Christmas shopping in the city centre. Norwich is full of little, independent shops, some really great charity shops and second hand shops, as well as the fabulous market. I picked up a pair of Clarks leather ankle boots in Oxfam for £4.99, which I'll dedicate a Favourite Finds post to soon.

We stopped for tea in Strangers coffee shop (my favourite cafe, Franks, is closed on Mondays), before walking back to the station through the cathedral grounds, past Norwich School and along the river. So many pretty buildings! 


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