Monday 25 February 2013

The Timber Tradition

"There is something about boats that have history, individuality and have been worked by the hands of different people over many decades."

Last year I visited Bates Boatyard traditional sideslip and dry dock facilities and spoke to Jem Bates about the unique services his company provides. It was a fascinating interview and I could have written a book about him and his work, but I managed to condense it into this little article for Waterways World.

Grab yourself the March issue for only £3.75 and find out why people are attracted to wooden boats, how can you restore a vessel that is over 100 years old, and is Jem the only person doing this work on the inland waterways? Do you love traditional boats? Would you take on a wooden restoration project?

You may also like: How to become a freelance writer in 24 hours

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Monday 18 February 2013

What is the cost of living on a narrowboat?

You may notice that I very rarely review products or services on this blog. However, when Paul Smith from Living on a Narrowboat asked me to review his new budgeting software I felt that it was something that could be really relevant to any of my readers who dream of living on a narrowboat.

Narrowbudget the world’s only budget calculator designed specifically for narrowboat owners. The Standard version is free but the Gold edition allows you to load recent data from a real liveaboard narrowboat, save the data you enter, add your own categories, download the eBooks, Living on a Narrowboat: The real cost of a life afloat, and Living on a Narrowboat 21`Liveaboard Case studies, and it includes the Narrowbudget Cheat Sheet.

The introductory booklet points out that, “Living on a narrowboat is likely to cost you more than you imagined and is much harder work than living in a house.” 

Quick Start Guide 

Despite the title, ‘A Quick Start Guide’ I found myself six pages in before I got to the page describing how to enter data. The first few pages are all about initial log-in with repeated invitations to upgrade to the Gold version (which I already had.) So, I might suggest restructuring the Gold edition guide to begin with a ‘Quick Start’ summary, followed by a more detailed section, including trouble-shooting any log-in problems.

I then got stuck in and had a good look through every section of the process, adding estimates of my own based on my liveaboard life on a 70ft narrowboat. I also took a look at the pre-entered data Paul has offered based on his own lifestyle.


I loved the explanations, hints, advice and links in the right hand column that accompany each section; very informative. For example, in the section on propulsion diesel Paul writes,
“There generally isn't much difference between your engine's fuel consumption whether it's running on your mooring to charge your batteries or gentle cruising along the cut.”

I wanted to add here that the EU tax on propulsion diesel is a tax on leisure boating and in my opinion running your engine to recharge domestic electricity is not a leisure cost. Our family therefore declares about 95-100% domestic use in winter. Our only ‘leisurely’ cruise is to the water point!

However, I then found Paul explains this very well in a side-link from this page to his forum: “The duty paid/duty free split is not an exact science.” 

Cheat Sheet 

The Narrowbudget Cheat Sheet is brilliant because it breaks down what Paul spends on his own lifestyle. He really has thought of everything in this detailed summary of his expenditure.

I’m quite jealous that Paul’s mooring is around half the price of mine, and yet he’s in a marina with laundry facilities and an electric and water supply close to the boat. (I'm on the towpath.) So the mooring you are able to find can really affect your costs. I would add that engine repairs can be a really ‘wild card’ of unpredictable expenses, as you never know what is going to break next. 


In addition to the bonuses that come with the Gold version of the software, of course you also have access to all of Paul’s site: Living on a Narrowboat. This is full of informative articles and forum discussions that answer almost every question you could think of about living on a narrowboat.

I love the visual layout of the dashboard which is the final page of the process where you receive your results. There are several bar charts that give you a graphic overview of your data. 


Over the past couple of years I have watched Paul develop and grow his website and I must say he is really passionate about his topic.  (He created the site shortly after he moved onto James in April 2010.) Having tried out the software it is also now clear to me that he has been passionate and thorough in his research in trying to create the best experience for anyone with questions about living on a narrowboat. The extra bonus materials included in the Gold version give the newcomer a good idea about the realities of life afloat.

I would recommend this product to anyone thinking of living on a narrowboat, it could save you a lot of time as Paul has kindly done the research for you!


Disclosure: The product was supplied free of charge to me for the purpose of review. The opinions are my own. This article contains affiliate links.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

@BritMums Carnival goes watery and dreamy!

Take time to dream.
Welcome to the BritMums blog carnival: a collection of writing from other bloggers, loosely based around the theme of boats and water, or following dreams, because that's what my blog is about.  The idea is to grab a coffee and begin to read, drifting from blog to blog discovering new voices, ideas and dreams. If you read something you like, leave a comment and spread a little sunshine around the Internet today.

Maggy from Red Ted Art has written a post about making paper boats: Such a lovely idea, I think I would enjoy it as much as the kids. My five year old daughter suggested we write a message on one and send it out to sea, like a message in a bottle.  How to make a paper boat.

On her other site, also fitting in with my carnival theme is her Life of Pi review

Catherine writes picture book recommendations for little people near and far at and recommends this pirate book. The Pirates Next Door. Matilda’s life in Dull-on-Sea is made much more exciting when The Jolley-Rogers move in next door while their pirate ship is being repaired!

And Jenny at The Gingerbread House has got a great craft idea for Valentines Day; Valentine Sun Catchers, and at her family blog Treading on Lego, she describes how to make a hand print Easter lamb.

Sarah at Mum of Three World took her family on a canal boat holiday, and enjoyed getting grubby and wearing a badge saying 'Lock Labourer'! She even found that boating made her talk to her husband more than she does in 'real life'. A lovely, funny post: Canal Boat Tales.

Sarah at is a north Wiltshire mum drowning, or waving, she still hasn't found what she's looking for. She's written a heart-felt post of her family's search for a dream home near water, with countryside views, and stumbles across the history of an old lock keepers cottage. Beautiful writing.

And finally, the most watery, dreamy, canal-themed post of all from Alice, writer, traveller, dreamer and boater who blogs at Writings From the Wherever. In A Travelling Heart she asks herself 'What does travel mean to you?' She's also included a beautiful video in her post, of narrowboat travelling. 

Thanks to the lovely bloggers who have joined in today. It's been an evocative, watery journey visiting your writings! xx

Monday 11 February 2013

Coming Soon: Free eCourse for you!

I’ve created a short personal development e-course based on tuning in to your desires and wishes. Before I had children I was a clinical hypnotherapist so I have a background in using the power of the subconscious mind to achieve goals. The course will either be free or very low cost.

If you'd like me to let you know when the course is open for sign-up then join my list to receive the monthly newsletter. You will also receive the free eBook Narrowboat Families as a thank you for joining. 

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Wednesday 6 February 2013

My Snow Day Video

At last, my first ever video-log! There's a tiny bit of me, a lot of snow, and the story of what to do when the tap at the water point is frozen. This took me hours to make, I think I'll be less ambitious next time I make a film!

Thanks to Mike Andrews for making the soundtrack Snow In The Dark available under a Creative Commons licence.

Monday 4 February 2013

The long road

Once upon a time there was a beautiful winding road, more than two thousand miles long. Although some people used the road to go on very long journeys most people just liked to stay close to their local area. The road was so beautiful that people used to visit it just to enjoy a short walk or take photographs. Some people used the road for cycle journeys. 

But the road was built for cars and there were over 35,000 cars using the road. Some of the cars had permanent parking spaces and some of them travelled continuously, parking only temporarily. Some travelled long distances and some travelled short distances, in the same area. The cars that had no permanent parking space were allowed to park on the road-side for fourteen days at a time before continuing their journey.

Parking spaces near pubs and facilities were popular but in 12 years travelling on this road I had never been unable to find a parking space (except in Camden). So I really don’t know why The Trust, (the people trusted to look after the road) want to change many of my local parking spaces from a 14 day permitted stay to a two day stay. It reminds me of when The Trust tried to introduce neighbourhood parking zones in London. Those proposals would have forced travellers to travel further in a shorter space of time. People with cars on the road in London did some research which indicated that the road was not overcrowded. (1)

Parking on the Wendover arm may be reduced to two days at any one time: Perfect for a weekend visit but impractical for someone who lives in their vehicle. The Trust have proposed to make some parts of the Wendover arm into “no parking” zones; whilst at the same time admitting its popularity. Big changes to parking rules in Berkhamstead will result in locals being forced to leave the area. This will have an impact on local businesses serving pints of ale to the weary traveller!

The thing is, if parking is restricted to shorter time periods then travellers will have to move more often and further. But moving X number of cars without a permanent parking space to different temporary parking spaces, more often, does not free up more parking spaces.

If I arrive at a popular visitor mooring and find it full I tend to just moor on a nearby towpath mooring instead. If some people overstay longer than 14 days then by all means deal with those people, but don’t penalise a whole community and way of life because a few people break the current rules.

We only have until the 1st March to make our views heard. If you disagree with the proposed changes please sign this petition, and send your own response to The Trust.


PS. I do now have a permanent parking space, but still feel part of the lovely friendly travelling community! 

(1)    London Boaters BW Consultation Response. Appendix D Congestion Survey Maps.