Wednesday 31 July 2013

Happy Blogiversary to me!

It's three years ago this week that I first gingerly dipped my toe into the wonderful world of blogging. I didn't need a Facebook page and hadn't heard of Twitter. I was a shy and nervous new-comer and I was definitely, absolutely sure that nobody would particularly want to read a blog about me, and my life!

But because my friend said, "Hey, you should start a blog!" I started publishing excerpts from my travelling diary, while myself, my husband and our young family explored the waterways of London, Hertfordshire and Essex. As my confidence grew I made friends with other bloggers, went to blogging conferences for mummy bloggers, started a Facebook group for boat families, and also started my own business as a professional blogger! I even began to get articles published in magazines...

So, if YOU are out there thinking maybe, just maybe, you might start a blog one day.... just do it! Let me be that friend that says, "Hey, you should start a blog!" Because that little suggestion changed my life...

Here's the very first blog post that I wrote:

Angel, Islington to Uxbridge.

Space: The final frontier. With the arrival of the new baby we are testing the space limitations of a 57 foot narrowboat. These are the voyages of the narrowboat Grassington, a blue box that tardily travels through time and space, at a maximum speed of four miles per hour. Our mission; to travel the waterways we’ve never seen, to live the dream, to be boaters, travellers, writers and parents. For so long we’ve waited for the right time; to have enough money, or to discover the elusive way of earning a living while travelling.

But the absolutely right time never comes, sometimes you just have to do it anyway. We might not have the biggest, most comfortable boat we had dreamed of, or the huge stash of savings to make the life easy, or the dream job, that meets all our mental and spiritual needs. You know the one, the job that we can work at from home while earning a decent income, and still spend quality time together as a family. But with one of us on maternity leave and one of us working in London we decided to cast off and let go. The handsome doctor and his winsome assistant.

To quote Mark Twain, “In twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowline. Sail away from the safe harbour. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Read more.

Friday 26 July 2013

#Narrowboating: Not just for blokes!

Image from
I recently wrote a couple of articles for my community boating blog that focussed on a female skipper; Lee Davies. I sometimes forget that narrowboating is still a very male-dominated world because I’ve made so many amazing friends on the Cut: many of them are women and many of them are mothers. (For example Alice, Melina and Claire have all brought up kids on the Cut and blogged about it! Amy blogs about fitting out and living on the 1935 Severn and Canal Carrying Company motor, Willow.)

Lee Davies feels passionately that women are under-represented on the canals. I hope that my interview with her might encourage other female boaters to consider becoming involved with community boating: it’s not just for blokes!

Do we need more women on the Cut?

Lee Davies is the only female Senior Trainer at NCBA.  I got to chat to her about how her interest in boats developed into a career as a skipper and NCBA trainer. She also runs FindaSkipper, providing skippers for all occasions, plus cooks, training courses and more.

You have a boat relocating service?

Yes, we also move boats for people. It might be someone who just bought a boat or someone who has gone on holiday and needed to rush back home: we can bring the boat home. We had a man recently, he had a stroke and his wife couldn’t move the boat. We were asked to go out there and bring the boat home for them.

It might be a liveaboard or a really posh boat broken down in a not very nice area. Perhaps the owners have had to go back to work, so we’ll go and boat-sit or move it on for them.

How did Find a Skipper start?

I’ve been involved with boats for many years and I was skippering all over the place. I was driving along one day and the name just popped into my head: Find a Skipper! I found out that the domain names were available and bought them straight away.

I suppose you could say we’re based in Wigan but we cover the whole system; I’ve got skippers all around the country. I’ve got people dotted around.

How under-represented are women among professional skippers in your opinion?

Women are very underrated on the canals. Men think we’re all stupid because we’re female. They think women can’t handle a big boat, but something needs to change.

Men will see you with your head in the engine and ask you what you are doing. I’ll say, Well the stern gland is leaking, I’m just sorting it out, and they’ll say Oh, I don’t think you should be doing that! But there’s plenty of women that live alone on board, or live on boats with children. How do they think we manage?  When you go to a boatyard the idea is that you stand and you watch and you learn.

How often do women apply for NCBA training?

There have been a few coming up lately, there’s one on the Wirral and one up at Skipton. But only men have approached me for training at Find a Skipper. I only know of three or four women that have qualified and are working as skippers, they are few and far between. There are lots of female volunteers though.

Get on board!

The NCBA and their member projects welcome women interested in boating. Why not get in touch with your local community boating project, or consider improving your skills by training with the NCBA? Find out more by following my other blog

Friday 19 July 2013

How do you do laundry on a narrowboat?

A while ago I asked my readers what they would like to read about on the blog, and I got plenty of interesting answers. Curiously there were several questions about doing the laundry!

Jess said, “I'm going to have a washing machine on my new boat (very exciting), but how on earth am I going to dry sheets in winter? Do people just use laundrettes in winter for big things? Any ideas?!”

I have used the launderette for sheets. But often I will just peg it folded over the tiller. Peg it tight - I lost a double sheet into the Cut on a windy day! I didn't see it go... I assume it blew away and then sank eventually. Indoors I hang sheets over long copper pipes that are part of the heating system, or over the curtain rail across the front door, and sometimes over the shower door - anywhere I can really. On a hot summer day I sometimes spread them across the roof; steel gets very hot! Sheets or clothes will then dry on the roof very quickly. It reminded me of when I was in India, watching the ladies of Varanasi spread their laundry on the Ghats beside the Ganges.

I also have a Brolley Mate which can be used to hold a lightweight rotary washing line onto the tiller. We have a trad stern on our boat but it rises above the roof level and half of the washing line hangs over the canal.

On our last boat we had a rotary washing line that was held in a specially made hole in the deckboards (pictured.) Also, when in remote countryside I have been known to peg up a line in the trees or a hedge!


Andy and Sue are planning to move aboard soon and asked me, “How do you do the ironing when not connected to shore power?”

Good question. On my first boat I had a little travel iron that ran off a 12volt plug – the kind you can plug into a cigarette lighter socket. It was rubbish!

Now I have a travel iron from Argos that requires an ordinary 240volt supply but I made sure that it was only 900 watts. Hinari Travel Steam Iron It runs off our 1500 watt pure sine wave invertor.

The Launderette Equation

Before we had a washing machine I was very frustrated about the amount of time I spent taking tiny children and lots of laundry, on foot, to the launderette.

I decided there must be a scientific equation for how posh an area is versus how close is the nearest launderette. The nicer the area you are visiting, the less likely there is to be a launderette. However, finding a launderette is not a problem in inner city areas.

The Launderette Equation for Boaters

(Local house price) / (commuter train fare to London) x (N) = distance to launderette from mooring.

Further research is required to ascertain N and calculate the distance of the boat from the launderette.
If you travel a lot get yourself a copy of the Aylesbury CanalSociety Launderette List. “Many boaters won't boat without it.”

Read more about launderettes and laundry in my boating life.

As with many parts of boating, there’s never just one solution to a problem. It takes all different boats and different boaters to find different ways of doing things. How do you do your laundry?