Monday 30 January 2012

Thousands of Miles of Waterways

This is a guest post from Phil Bassett at Boatshed Grand Union, who has discovered some cool canal maps online.
I have heard many figures quoted for the number of miles of navigable waterways in the UK: It is certainly several thousand. How do you find your way around such an extensive network? Well there is a route planner http://http//  which I love. It's great for planning routes and will give you an itinerary, plot your route on Google maps and show you a photographic tour. Mike Kelly's application is a great location aware information system that is really useful to have on board. All the information and route-planning of a Nicholson's Guide plus more, in electronic form. Lately I have found this great map of the inland waterways at the UKWRS site. So now you know how much of the waterways there is to explore and you have the means to find your way around. Jump into the Boatshed site and look at all the narrowboats for sale that we have in Hertfordshire and London as well as the Dutch Barges and Wide-beams.

Visit the Boatshed Grand Union blog here.

Wednesday 25 January 2012


Yes, I too was one of those people who asked, “What is the point of Twitter?” I had already wasted hours on Facebook keeping in touch with my friends’ status updates, and I didn’t need a whole other social world on line to mysteriously suck away my time and energy. But as I got more into blogging and ‘met’ other bloggers on line I kept hearing that tweeting was the thing to do.

I find Twitter to be a lot faster and busier experience than Facebook, it is a constantly moving conversation, like walking into a bar where everyone is talking at once: That makes it sound awful! But it’s a quick and easy way of sharing news, links and information. It’s a place to socialise, network and meet new people.

To get people ‘following’ you on Twitter you need a short and interesting bio, saying what you’re about. Advertise your Twitter ID on your email signature, blog, other social network profiles, and website if you have one. Follow other people and companies with similar interests, and follow people that you would like to follow you. Whenever you see something interesting ‘retweet’ it, and that person will thank you.

On Twitter I’ve discovered people that I would never have randomly met or spoken to in real life. Last week I discovered a campaign to stop the government closing 50% of coastguard stations that is tweeted by @CoastalJoe1. I heard that a 74 year old man who fell into the Coventry Canal at Tamworth is seeking the girl who saved him via @unofficialNBW and I heard that British Waterways are looking for volunteer lock keepers via @waterscape_com. It’s also useful to follow @BWcomms. Boats I’ve tweeted with recently include @hotelboats (Snipe and Taurus) @b0atg1rl, @nbchalford, @workinboatwoman and @albiondumsday (Granny Buttons narrowboat blog). I’ve even discovered a boating hairdresser @FloatingSalon. @workboatpug is an Oxford based marine engineer who publishes a daily online paper called ‘Tweets from the Fleet’, sharing boating articles and information.

The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It is a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic. Hash tags allow you to create communities of people interested in the same topic by making it easier for them to find and share information related to it. Try following the hash tag #BoatsThatTweet and easily discover so much more about canals and narrowboating!

This week I will be taking over the Boatshed Grand Union Twitter account so why not follow me @BoatshedGU for regular news updates from this blog and information about buying and selling narrowboats?

You can also follow my personal account @Boat_Wife for blog updates from and any other random things I might tweet about.

I look forward to ‘meeting’ you on Twitter!


Monday 23 January 2012

I Want a Widget!

Yes, a widget is an actual blogging thing, but I suppose the thing that I really want is an email gadget.

I’m happy to have begun working with Paul from the popular website Living on a Narrowboat. I’ll be providing some content for Paul and he has featured me in an interview on the site. I also wrote this article about living aboard with kids. When Paul emails me he has this great email signature that includes his photo, social media and blog feeds, so you can see his latest tweet and article title. It looks great and I want one!

So I signed up to Wise Stamp and was told that the more people I recommend the faster they will give me my widget!

If you would like one please click on my referral link here

Great for bloggers and businesses.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Urgent: Your Boat is Causing an Obstruction!

Low water level - Startops Reservoir
I'm not usually one of those boating bloggers that rants against BW, so my apologies in advance because this is a bit of a rant.

Last Thursday I received an email from the BW Boating Co-ordinator South East to say that “The mooring of your boat is causing an obstruction to waterway staff and therefore it is essential that you remove the boat urgently.”

This was my reply.

Dear Boating Co-ordinator

On Monday afternoon I checked my email and found that the Tring Summit would be closed as of Wednesday and that we would have to vacate our winter mooring. At this extremely short notice my husband arranged to take Tuesday off work so that he could move our boat. I went to work, my husband took the children to nursery and by 9am he had begun working through the Marsworth flight.

At 11.25am on Tuesday 10th BW sent me some further information “regarding the water levels in the area where you currently have a winter mooring.” This lengthy explanation of the problem again re-iterated that the section would be closed to through traffic and moored boats from Wednesday 11th onwards. The document said that displaced boats could relocate their moorings

“to the north, adjacent to Marsworth yard. Good parking and facilities are available.”

Later that day we received a further email admitting that this was short notice, and giving boaters until Saturday to relocate. My husband had by then moored on the towpath in Marsworth but I told him that as winter moorers we'd received an email suggesting that we could moor adjacent to the Marsworth yard, allowing us the convenience of good parking and facilities. He moved the boat again.

Today the local enforcement officer told my husband that we should have been moored north of the bridge on a towpath mooring. Later today I got home from work to find two urgent voicemails and an email accusing us of causing an obstruction and asking us to move again, immediately.

I did not appreciate the tone of these messages when we have gone out of our way to move quickly to the place we were told to. We are unable to take any more time off work. If BW staff need access to the site they may relocate our boat as necessary to the north side of the bridge but I believe my husband has already requested that we are moored against the towpath (not double moored) as we have young children and a pushchair to get on and off the boat.

As I have since found out, local water-based businesses were invited to a crisis meeting last Saturday about the water level problem so I am sure this has not arisen completely “out of the blue”. Following the short notice, inconvenience and misinformation we've experienced I would think an apology would have been more appropriate than the emails, voice mails and conversations we've had with BW staff that seem to suggest we have done something wrong. This is unfortunately another incidence where BW has made me feel that I am an inconvenience instead of a valued customer. We moved as quickly as possible to the place where we were told to and are being made to feel as if we've done something wrong.

Boat Wife

Dear BW

I write to confirm that I have just spoken to the enforcement officer and we will be moving our boat tomorrow to Marsworth winter moorings, north of the bridge. Given that she has said this will be ok, I am disappointed that we had to be so stressed out yesterday by messages such as "urgent" and "immediate". Please forward my feedback to the people who handle your communications strategy.


Boat Wife

Dear Boating Co-ordinator

CC: Senior Waterway Manager

Thank you for your apology.

I do indeed think we were misled about where to moor. I had assumed we were specifically told to go to the BW yard because of anticipated congestion in the area, and the fact that we had paid for a winter mooring.

I am working this afternoon, but if BW staff do need to move my boat today please ask them to leave me a voice message explaining where it now is. My husband got the impression from the enforcement officer that it would have to be moved urgently. Otherwise we will try to find an alternative mooring tomorrow, when we are not working.


Boat Wife

The Friday Rant Club Have linked this up to the Friday Rant at


The original urgent voicemail I received from the enforcement officer said,
“I know that you have a winter mooring but you should be on the towpath. We have two staff boats coming down there and they need to get on to the wharf.”
I know that BW are doing some work at the yard and I didn’t want to obstruct any working boats needing access, so we moved our boat on Saturday.

On Sunday, the enforcement officer (who usually moors on the Tring summit) had moved her own residential craft onto the mooring adjacent to the BW yard.

Read more about the Tring summit closure.

The pictures below show the current low water levels in the reservoirs and above Marsworth bottom lock.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

How to sell a boat

At a time when some businesses are struggling, our biggest problem at Boatshed Grand Union is that we seem to be selling too many boats – we have several under offer at the moment and are ready to take on more boats for brokerage. To meet the demand of our large and expanding database of 240,000 registered customers we need more canal and narrowboats to sell.

How is Boatshed different?

We put your boat onto more than 50 websites of our own websites, which we advertise in all the main boating magazines. We also have direct computer links that put you boat straight onto Apollo Duck and other similar sites.

No need to move your boat – we sell it where it is.

You can still live aboard.

No sale – no fee.

More photos than any other broker provides.

We offer a complete service, including handling all the paperwork and financial transactions. Our brokers accompany customer viewings, therefore making themselves available to answer any questions that a customer has. On average it can take about twelve viewings to sell a boat (that's the world-wide average) yet at Boatshed Grand Union the average number of viewings before a sale is four. By the time the buyer travels to your boat they have already seen so many photos of all aspects of your boat that they have a really good idea of what to expect.

When I bought my current boat from Boatshed I was amazed at how quick and efficient the process was: It's traditional brokerage but with cutting edge technology. If you're interested in experiencing a way of selling your boat with minimal hassle and stress then get in touch. After all – no sale, no fee, nothing to lose! We sell boats for boaters.
Disclosure: I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union.
For business blogging and other services visit

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Family Friendly Working

Today I am excited to be the featured mumpreneur on Antonia Chitty's website
Antonia is an inspiring writer and mumpreneur who combines writing non fiction books with running her own PR Agency, ACPR which specialises in PR training for entrepreneurs.

Family Friendly Working is for you if:

■~ you have a job, but feel fed up with trying to do too much in too little time

■~ feel torn between work and spending time with your children

■~ dream of being a mumpreneur

■~ would you love to find work that fits in with the family

■~ are running your own business and want resources and support
Thanks to Antonia and Kizzy for featuring me today.
Become a Mumpreneur (Affiliate link)

Monday 16 January 2012

My brand new blog is here!

At the beginning of this year I started a business blog covering the freelance writing, business blogging and virtual assistant side of life! I might write about blogging and social media tips, answer FAQs, showcase my writing, review relevant books, tell you about my experience and history or give you an insight into working from home on a narrowboat. I haven't really decided yet.
Now that I've got a few clients for business blogging and am doing some social media promotion and freelance writing work I thought I'd better add a blog to my business site.
Services include business blogging, content producing, copywriting, audiotyping/transcription, secretary service, virtual assistant, and social media. I've put some special January sale prices on the site too, as a special offer! Even if you don't need this kind of service, perhaps you could like me on Facebook so that your friends know about my new business, and I can get out there and promote their small businesses with my super blogging powers!
I've got a good feeling about 2012...

Friday 13 January 2012

The Best Goal is No Goal

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there".
Lewis Carroll/ George Harrison
So, I’ve been procrastinating about making my New Year resolutions because Leo Babauta at Zen Habits blog says that the best goal is no goal! But what do you do if you don’t have goals?

“You simply do. You find something you’re passionate about, and do it. Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing — you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.”

Last week I looked back at my resolutions and found that I’d achieved about half of my goals last year. For the ones that I did not achieve I’ve asked myself, did I really want to do them anyway?

Yes, I do want to finish one of the books that I started. I’m going to have to schedule in a time slot for that and get started on it. I love writing, it won’t be a chore, it’s just making the time for it. Time is a problem for achieving the other things too; housework, exercise and self-hypnosis. To make time for new things, other things have to go. In the first week of the year I removed the habits of red wine and TV from my life. I didn’t make myself any promises; I didn’t make any resolutions or sweeping statements. But I made conscious choices to do something else. I was busy. I had some writing work to do. But am I ready to let go and flow freely through life without goals? That sounds a bit scary, like being tossed about at sea! (Like the creatures in the river that are afraid to let go in Richard Bach’s Illusions).

For exercise I was thinking of trying running. I love to walk on the towpath enjoying nature. Surely running will simply be enjoying the canal, but at a faster pace? But then I look at that January weather and the squelchy muddy towpath and tell myself that I can’t remember where my trainers are…

So, instead of goals or resolutions, how about wishes?

I wish my book was finished and published.
I wish my boat was cleaner and tidier.
I wish I was fitter, healthier and had more energy.
I wish I drank less alcohol.
I wish I had more regular writing work.
I wish I had a driving licence.
I wish I was more calm and confident.

I know from being a hypnotherapist that all I need to do now is change those wishes into affirmations and actions!

I am now finishing my book.
My boat is becoming tidier and cleaner.
I am now fitter, healthier and have more and more energy.
I now drink less alcohol.
I have more and more writing work.
I am now learning my driving theory.
I am becoming more and more calm and confident.

So, my “goal” is to focus on the results, without setting down strict rules about how to get there.

What's your plan?
“Make each day your masterpiece.”
John Wooden, Sportsman

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Why I Work for Boatshed

On Valentine’s day last year my husband and I were in a pub talking about getting a bigger boat. I said that my perfect boat would be a 70 foot narrowboat, green, with side hatches and a ‘boatman’s cabin’. I’ve always fancied having the living room at the front of the boat with glass doors to the front deck so that you can look out at the glistening water up ahead.

Way back when I was looking for my first boat I feasted my eyes on glossy waterways magazines and caught trains all over England to boatyards full of gleaming paintwork and tongue and groove interiors. More than ten years later things have changed and so much of the searching can be done on the internet. After a couple of weeks of casual browsing, my husband sent me an email with no words, just a link to an online boat brokerage. At Boatshed Grand Union there are up to eighty photos of each second hand boat for sale so you can get a really good idea of what a boat is like before going to view it.

There, before my eyes was a 70 foot narrowboat, green, with side hatches and a boatman’s cabin. The living room was at the front of the boat with double glass doors to the front deck so that you could look out at the glistening water up ahead.

Phil, the boat broker said that I could come up to see it the next day. So while my husband went to work I took the kids on the train to Hertfordshire to see the boat. It was a golden sunshiney day: The boat was perfect. We put in an offer and I told Phil that I was moving to Hertfordshire and looking for work.
‘Do you need any help at Boatshed?’

The next day the vendor accepted our offer. I know that we were lucky, but it seemed like such an efficient way to buy a boat. The photos had shown us so much of the boat; the good bits and the bad bits, that we knew it was just what we were looking for.

After we’d bought the boat and moved on board I chased Phil up about helping him at Boatshed and after an eventful interview on his boat where I drank his wine and he broke his leg (another story) he agreed to let me become a part of Boatshed Grand Union! So that is how and why I came to work for Boatshed, the world’s number one yacht brokerage: Global reach and local knowledge.

What’s your perfect boat? Browse canal and narrowboats for sale at Boatshed Grand Union.

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union. For business blogging/virtual assistant visit

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Wednesday 4 January 2012

Who works on the waterways in 2012?

During the Industrial Revolution as the Irish navigators or “navvies” continued to build the waterways network, steerers were needed for the boats and lock keepers were required for a variety of maintenance tasks.

Other related professions included Reservoir Keeper, Blacksmith, Superintendent of Canal Works, Canal Toll Clerk, Wharfinger, ‘Navigator’, ‘Canal Labourer/Navvy’ and ‘Boat Boy’. (1) The canal-side inn keeper often provided stables as well as refreshments, and later, when the boatmen moved their families on board, boat steerers became boatwomen as well as boatmen. Then of course there were occasional canal-side shops and the boatyards which included boat building, boat maintenance and the painting of boat names and decorative livery such as roses and castles.

At the height of the canal age these major trade routes would have been busy with cargo carrying boats working fourteen hour days; a very different scene to the relaxing leisure resource that the canals have become today. During a peaceful stroll down the towpath, a rural cycle ride or a day’s fishing would you suspect that the canal is still a hive of activity and a place of business for many modern canal folk?

In the 21st century there is a surprising diversity of businesses on the waterways. I can think of The Marine Engineer, The Boat Broker, The Coal boat, The Trip Boat, Roses and Castles, The Floating Hairdresser, The Virtual Assistant, The Writer, The Book Barge, The Sandwich Butty, The Cheese Boat, The Puppet Barge and Mikron Theatre to name but a few. I haven’t even begun to think of the variety of employees at British Waterways; soon to become The Canal and Rivers Trust.

People like Phil, Brian, James and I at Boatshed have made canals and boats a part of our working life. Phil says, “We are very pleased to be the first Boatshed brokerage dedicated to the Inland Waterways of the UK. We share a passion for canals and canal boats and we are very lucky to be able to work at something we enjoy so much.”

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Confucius

New Year is a time for new projects and taking leaps of faith. Whether you’re thinking of working on the waterways, living aboard or taking up pleasure boating, your perfect boat could be waiting for you at Boatshed Grand Union. Seize the day!

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union
For business blogging and other services visit
Images of a day boat and a trip boat: part of a business for sale at Boatshed Grand Union.

Ref. (1) Census history reported by Marsworth Local History Group in The Marsworth Village Newsletter April 2011

Monday 2 January 2012

Does Goal Setting Work?

Becoming a Writer
 It’s time again for the New Year’s Resolutions, so I thought I’d look at last year’s blog post where I made a mighty list of (unlucky?) thirteen resolutions! How did the year pan out?

1) Set Realistic Goals. I broke this resolution already when I made a list of 13 goals! I began this blog by writing that our mission was to be boaters, travellers, writers and parents, but I didn’t know if it was realistic to be all of those things, as well as a medical secretary, a hypnotherapist, a home-maker and a wife. In 2011 we were boaters, travellers, writers and parents, but I dropped the hypnotherapist and medical secretary parts of my life. I’m quite pleased with that!

2) Enjoy my children, every day. Spend quality time together. Life is short. I think I do this, but I still need to be reminded of it.

3) Put some TLC into my marriage; recognise thoughtfulness, make time for each other, listen, and focus on the positives. I did do this and we are in a much better place than we were last year. We happily enjoyed our five year wedding anniversary on 11/11/11.

4) Get a bigger home, more storage space, a washing machine. I’m really pleased about achieving this one. Our gorgeous new boat is my dream home, and it has a washing machine.

5) Sell a freelance article. I’ve had articles published, but this year I am going to be paid for writing something! I have bought a book about it. Ok so I didn’t read the book, but I have been published in Towpath Talk and Waterways World, with more writing work coming up! A dream come true. And I’ve set up my freelance website

6) Finish writing one of the three books I’ve started writing. Now I can’t remember what one of these books was! But the other two are still unfinished. But I am really going to finish the Narrowboat Wife book soon. And I did write an ebook, Narrowboat Families.

7) Keep on top of the housework/ boat chores. Not so good at this. But what mother of two pre-school kids has a pristine home? I’m better at not giving myself a hard time over this.

8) Settle in a community. Get some neighbours and a local pub. I’m happily enjoying our new winter mooring at The Grand Junction Arms and we’ve got to know a few local boaters, and even some house people!

9) Exercise – swimming or yoga? I failed miserably on finding the time for this. But now that we don’t live in London I walk a lot more – there’s not even a bus route to the Grand Junction Arms. I’m in The Countryside without a driving licence. I walk up hills pushing a heavy pushchair with two children in it; that’s got to count for something! I also pull mooring ropes and push lock gate balance beams.

10) Be more calm and confident – use self-hypnosis more often! I did not manage this one. I hardly listened to my lovely, relaxing self-hypnosis mp3 and have been waaay too anxious this year. But it did lead to some great creative writing about my imaginary friend Mick Jagger.

11) Promote my blog. I did pretty well at this and now have about 2000 page views a month. I’m not promoting it any more though – no time! And I’ve had about 24,000 page views in total. Amazin! Although I heard on BritMums that it’s not cool to count.

12) Get a job related to writing. So, I’m doing a bit of feature writing and a bit of business blogging and I’m really enjoying it. I’m also doing some medical audio-transcription, being a virtual assistant and starting a temp job as a part time library assistant. I know I sound busy but I do actually need more clients. Please visit my website to see how I can help your business.

13) Long term goal – make writing my career. I have definitely made some good steps towards this.

Overall Score: 7/13

I’m really happy with that, and quite surprised! But I heard it’s not cool to count.

Next week: The Best Goal is No Goal