Saturday, 27 October 2012

Camboaters AGM

Thursday night was the Camboaters AGM and Social. It was a good evening, well attended and friendly. James and I are both still on the Committee, with me as Secretary and James taking on the role of Chairman. 

As well as the business of deciding this year's committee members, it was also really nice to catch up with boaters, some of whom we'd not seen for a while. We also held a pumpkin competition, and there were some splendid entries.

Mine was the one with the ducks (surprise!) and we all decided that Charlotte's beautifully decorated grinning pumpkin was the winner! Her prize was a pumpkin and apple cake I had made using the pumpkin flesh carved out of mine (roasted and pureed to replace the canned pumpkin in the recipe). We decided to share out the cake there and than, and everyone seemed to enjoy it!

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Friday, 26 October 2012

A Cam Conservator

I think my predilection for joining committees has really gone too far this time. Although I recently gave up my position as Secretary of Chesterton Rowing Club, as I am no longer a member, the most recent position I've taken on is the biggest and most responsible yet.

Our little backwater of a river (congested as it is) is run by a separate navigation authority, the Conservators of the River Cam. There are a number of staff (a River Manager, her Assistant, Foreman, several workmen, Bailiff and Seasonal Bailiff) but the decisions about how the river is actually run are made by a board of Conservators, who give instructions to these staff.

The Conservators are appointed by several different bodies: two are appointed by the Environment Agency, three by the University of Cambridge,and the rest are appointed by the City Council. Three of the City Council Conservators are Councillors, and the other four are members of the public. 

In June, it was announced that the City Council was requesting applications from members of the public to fill those four positions. For a while, one of the boaters, LP, has been on the Conservancy, but he planned to resign at the end of 2012. Thus, a vacancy arose. The Camboaters committee felt that it was important to have a Conservator who was a boater. It soon became clear that I was the most likely candidate for this - as a graduate student my hours are flexible so could make the daytime meetings and I have a good knowledge of river-based goings on. I duly submitted my application in the Summer. Twenty-four others also applied for the four positions. A week or so ago I found that mine was one of the four chosen by the Council's Environment Scrutiny Committee for approval by the full Council later in the week. This was just a formality, and the full Council passed all four without discussion. 

So, in January, I will take my seat at the Conservancy meeting not as a mere Observer, but as a Conservator of the River Cam. I'll be the only female Conservator and also the youngest by some way. Gulp.

I should probably add that all opinions posted here in my personal blog are my own, and not those of the Conservancy!

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My Favourite Finds v.22

This is a Miso dress I got for £4 in the Scope shop on Burleigh Street, Cambridge. Aren't the colours wonderful? So autumnal and very much my colours too. And it has pockets! What more could I ask for?

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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Our Weekend - Sunday Shenanigans

After a busy Saturday, me racing on the Autumn Head and James visiting family in Bracknell, we were looking forwards to cruising the Backs again on Sunday. It was the last of my birthday celebrations, and I'd invited a few friends along to join us.

It wasn't really the best weather for cruising or for photos, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Everyone brought tasty treats to share and we had fun. Turning the boat in the strong flow from the weir turned out to be a bit of an adventure, however, and we lost our Morco (water heater) chimney in the process. But everyone stayed dry and that was the only casualty, so it could have been worse! 

In the afternoon we went to the pub, and then after dinner headed over to Pyewacket, where a friend of Hannah's was visiting, and demonstrating a new toy: a thermo-electric generator run off a little fan assisted fire, with a USB output. It was quite fun to play with, but it was raining so we retired to the boat where we had some delicious chilli and then sat about drinking Marsala and blueberry liqueur. A fun way to end my week of birthday!

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Our Weekend - Friday Fun

Last weekend began with a bang on Friday evening. In the afternoon we chugged out to Clayhithe with Chris and Simone. It was damp and rainy, but I stayed inside with the perfect excuse - I was baking a cake for the evening's celebrations. 

In the evening, we headed over to The Sun in Waterbeach for a party, organised by John Pippin for our friend Mark. He left the Army recently, after many years of service but due to various mess-ups and mis-communications, he didn't get the proper send-off. So, instead, we held a "Welcome to Civvy Street" party. There were about twelve of us, including Mark and his wife, some of us boaters and others from the Hole-Making Shop where John had first met Mark (he comes in regularly to have holes made). 

We had all pre-ordered our meals and the food was delicious, and in quite incredible portion sizes! I had a tremendous giant yorkshire with beef,mashed potato and veg For dessert we had the cake I had made - a simple chocolate fudge cake, with my homemade blackberry and elderberry jam filling and covered in melted chocolate. On James's instruction I made a tank shape on the top out of marshmallows, a reference to Mark's Royal Engineer background. It was a really lovely evening, and I think he really enjoyed and appreciated it. We certainly did!

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Thursday, 18 October 2012

My Favourite Finds v.21

I've not done a proper one of these in ages, with an actual outfit. That's mainly because taking photos of yourself is tricky when you don't have any space at home to do it, and no nice camera with tripod etc. But, I think I have found a solution: the University Library is a pretty good place - in the bookstacks it's really quiet and I can use my camera phone on its timer setting. The lighting's not perfect but it's OK, and if I hold a book I avoid that ridiculous 'what do I do with my hands?' stance!

I had a bit of a dry spot with charity shopping recently, but over the last few weeks I've got back into it and have been rewarded with some lovely things!

This skirt is from a little charity shop in Holt, Norfolk, when we went there for a little holiday. It's a very posh village but that means nice, good quality finds like this Hobbs skirt, which was £4.99. The top is from White Stuff, picked up in the Cambridge Mill Rd Oxfam for £3. The scarf is from Camden market years ago. The wonderful hat was given to me this year for my birthday by my dad! I love it, I feel like a little pixie!

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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

More photos of the Backs

Blog readers Chris and Joy spotted us when we were out boating on the backs a couple of weekends ago.

They sent us these lovely photos. It's so rare to get photos of your own boat from a distance, so it was really  kind of them, thanks!

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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Driving lesson

Sunday gave me a chance to have a go at driving the Motor Rail Simplex locomotive around the Fullers' railway. More complex than the Ruston - and more powerful and faster - it was a bigger challenge to get to grips with. The controls - handbrake, throttle, clutch pedal, reverser, and gearbox - were in different places and took some getting used to, but I got there in the end and made several circuits pulling fully loaded trains - before stalling it!

Roger explains the controls

I go for a ride to see how it's done

Success! Although no-one wanted to come for a ride on my first time around, I wonder why....

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Monday, 15 October 2012

Boats and trains and traction engines, oh my! - 2

On Sunday, we awoke in the lovely cosy back cabin of Ilford. The range had died down, but the sun was coming in through the hatch and we were soon up and ready for a trundle into town for breakfast at the Wetherspoons in Stone.

After filling up on fried breakfast, we went back to the boats for the second parade of the weekend. This time we hopped aboard Spey. It was another lovely day for boating

Once Spey was tied up, we headed down the locks with Mike on Victoria. He was single handing and we were glad to help as we so rarely get to work canal locks! We helped work Victoria and also Lamprey down the five locks within walking distance, before reluctantly turning back. 

Lovely old brewery building

Once back at the Fullers' yard, it was time to get the trains running again. This time James was shown by Roger how to drive the more powerful Motor Rail Simplex - he's written a bit more about learning to drive it which will be up tomorrow so look out for that if you are at all interested! I hopped in the back for a few loops of the little railway, and then left him to it while I chatted to other friends, including Jo and Keith from Hadar, who were also moored in the area for the party. Although I've been reading their blog for years, we'd never met so it was nice to see them. There was also a beautiful little steam launch to look at.

Sadly we had to leave at about 5 as it takes hours to get home. It had been a wonderful weekend, and we enjoyed cataching up with old friends as well as making new ones. Thanks are definitely due to the Fullers for their generous hospitality in letting us stay in Ilford and for organising such a great party!

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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Boats and trains and traction engines - oh my! -1

This weekend, we visited Stone in Staffordshire, on the Trent and Mersey canal, to the boatyard owned by our friends the Fullers. They were planning a gathering of working boats and a party, and it was very well attended with about 25 historic working boats and butties. They also have connections in the traction engine world, and so several people brought their engines along, including Betsy, the Aveling and Porter (I think) steam roller that was owned by TV personality and preserver of "oor indoostrial 'eritage" Fred Dibnah before he passed away. 

We left on Saturday morning, and after a combination of trains and buses, we arrived in Stone at about half one. First stop was a local pub, where several of the traction engine mob were due to arrive. 

Thirsty work driving a traction engine, apparently it does 50 miles to the gallon - of Guinness.....

We then headed to the boatyard, where we held a parade of historic boats to the winding hole and back, to get a chance to grab photographs of the boats moving. I went on Victoria, the Royalty-class boat owned by our friend Mike, and Amy headed off on the Josher motor Ibex with the Fullers.

Rebekah with 12-week-old daughter, Eliza Grace - who is already very used to boating and is soothed to sleep by the sound of an air-cooled Lister!

 There was then a bit of a job to do. Wooden Clayton's tarboat Spey, owned and operated by a consortium of other (relaively) young working boaters, had picked up something massive on the propellor whilst heading the the party the previous day, and had had to be towed in. Whilst at the boatyard, with a large crane, it was the natural place to get the boat partly out of the water and get at whatever was around the prop. Old boats don't have weedhatches - and this was something big!

 Jason, the skipper of Spey, got under the counter once it was lifted slightly - but couldn't get whatever it was off. I had the important job of holding Jason's legs and stopping him going right into the cut....

So Spey was lifted up more and Joe got in, carefully - very, very, very carefully, as Spey is wooden and covered in tar! - with the gas axe to cut off whatever it was.

 Success! A very mangled supermarket trolley, cut off of the propeller.

To celebrate, we went for a jaunt on Spey, having kicked over the semi-diesel Bollinder engine and carefully backed out of the yard.

Very precious cargo!

Once back at the boatyard, festivities continued into the night. A bonfire was lit, a hog roast was set up, and we played around on the Fullers' narrow gauge railway!

Of two-foot gauge, they've a line laid out around the boatyard in a rough rectangle shape, with branch lines off to serve the moored boats - the narrow-gauge railway wagon pump-out machine is a sight to be seen! Dan and I had a go on the hand-truck, and had fun zipping around.

After playing around for a bit, things got a bit serious - we brought out the two diesel locomotives! I had a go at driving the 11hp Ruston engine, which was great fun, and took train loads of people around and around the yard.

Eventually, we retired to bed, exhausted - in 100 year old Josher butty Ilford's back cabin. With the range going well, we were warm and snug.

Betsy, Fred Dibnah's steam roller. (Photo: R. Fuller)

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Friday, 12 October 2012

1000 posts

So, this is our 1000th blog post! 

My very first post was about a little dog I saw on the tube, and it soon became a blog about looking for, buying and moving on to our narrowboat Lucky Duck. I began the blog in November 2007, a month after James and I got together, so as much as anything else this blog has been a documentation of our adventure! Five years ago I hardly dared hope that in 2012 we'd be living the dream - afloat on our boat, with a little cat and a beautiful city centre mooring. But here we are, and it's brilliant.

The blog has also connected us with some wonderful people over the years, many of whom we would count among our good friends. In fact it is through some of them that we got hooked on historic boats! This blog has definitely enhanced our experience of boat dwelling. So, thank you, to all those who read and comment, those we've met and those we've yet to meet, it wouldn't be the same without you! 

Here's to another 1000 posts!

Leaving Smethwick on Lucky Duck, one hour after collecting it. Photo taken by John, Lucky Duck's previous owner.

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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Novice weekend

Last weekend is one of the most amusing of the year. It's novice weekend; all the colleges entice their new students to the boathouses with dubious burgers and sausages cooked on barbeques, cheap beer and cakes. Then, after schmoozing them, they put them out in tubs, stable training boats, to start to teach them how to row. Some colleges even put out novice eights to add to the general chaos.

There was a bit of a stream on the river after recent rain, and that combined with novice rowers, senior rowers on outings, and some visiting small boats for a race led to a chaotic but good-natured couple of days. We sat out on the well deck with cups of tea and cake and enjoyed the many slow collisions, near-capsizes, and occasional bangs and scrapes.

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Monday, 8 October 2012

Up the Backs again

On Saturday, we went up the Backs again, having previously booked passage with the Conservators.

It was a wonderful sunny day, but - due to the rain - the river was slightly up and there was a stronger stream than usual. I debated not going, reckoning that the combination of stream and lots of punts enjoying the sun would make the trip slightly more challenging than usual, but I'm glad I went for it in the end.

Ascending Jesus Lock

Magdalene Bridge, with plenty of punt traffic

Bridge of Sighs, St John's College

Corner between Trinity and St John's colleges 

Mathematical bridge - with a punt traffic jam!

This cheeky chappy - a liveaboard boater in Ely - hitched a lift through a clearer part. We didn't mind, we had some good conversation!

As I suspected, the river was full of punt traffic, some more competent than others, and made for challenging conditions. We got through, though, going into reverse fairly often - something the punts cannot do! - and carefully threading our way through.

The way up to the Mill Pond was, though busy, particularly good humoured. We had some very good laughs and jokes with the punt tour guides, and everything was very good-natured. After a brief pause for cakes in the Mill Pond, we headed back.

This time, a couple of punt tour guides had a moan, one saying that we were "the biggest hazard on the river" - ironically as I was reversing to avoid a hired punt, veering across our bows.... It didn't spoil the day overall, though, as the sun shined and we had a good time.

Lyra slept through most of the trip - and enjoyed scrutinising passing novice rowing boats from a lofty perch once we were moored back in the usual spot.

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Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Generation Game - Part 2

Last weekend, we had some very special visitors. My dad, younger brother, and granddad all came to visit and for a cruise. They have visited before, when we were in Reading and at Upware.

Although Amy was away in London, I took the boat up through Jesus lock to meet them all, and we had a good time taking the boat down to The Bridge pub at Clayhithe, where we had a good meal and met John and Mark.

The weather was very kind to us, and we had a fantastic trip, talking about old boating holidays, the history of the river, and many exciting things.

(Photo taken by Claire, a blog reader.)

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Thursday, 4 October 2012

Foraging in Cow Hollow Wood

Between Waterbeach railway station and the river there is a wood called Cow Hollow, planted 12 years ago by the Woodland Trust. I'd never been through it before, in all our years of living on the river. But on Sunday, I walked through and found a foraging treasure trove of sloes and redcurrants. I gathered some sloes and will be back next year for the redcurrants (they were all but finished).

Luckily I found just enough redcurrants for a bottle of redcurrant gin! Now both types of gin are on the go:

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