I wanted a new cover because the old one had no windows, and was too sharply angled for me to sit in it with the sides rolled down. That meant we could really only use it in dry weather, but I needed it to be more available. The front part was made of perspex, too, and it was so scratched that it was basically opaque.
I decided on Kinver because I’d heard good things about them. They took my order over the phone, came down to the marina to measure, and although I never met anyone from the company they did a lovely job and the result is exactly what I wanted.
The new cratchboard
The new board they installed is more beautiful, and has glass panels instead of perspex. The board is also wider at the top, which means that you can sit inside without having to lean forward to avoid your head being squashed by the angle of the cover.
Last but not least, Kinver gave me a couple of beers with which to toast both Christmas and the new cratch; and when I said there was a leak, a few weeks after installation, they came back and re-sealed underneath the whole board. Great customer service; a very satisfied customer here.
…is a lack of internet connection at home! I have been busy at work (A level season- I teach and mark A levels) and at home- moving regularly, filling the water tank, filling up with diesel, making new friends, having towpath parties, festivalling, and even doing a bit of boat maintenance here and there. We had a scorching July and as the school holidays started, the rains returned as per tradition…
Summer on the canal is a wonderful thing. Boat Girl has built dens, toasted marshmallows, jammed with musician friends, found a little sister who adores her (she SO wants to be a Big Sister!), ridden her bike, planted beans and nasturtiums, grown marigolds from seed, been wild swimming, walked for miles, and generally been outside more than inside. I love that she gets the chance to enjoy the world, rather than watching an interpretation on a screen. She makes things, draws, writes, and does engineering like using string or wool to brace structures or to make zip-wires and swings for her fairy people.
(Don’t get me wrong- I think there’s a time and a place for TV and films, and computers- but we are all apt to become screen addicts and in this setting, that’s not even a possibility because they just aren’t there. For me and for her. We get screen time at other places (her dad’s, my mum’s, work) and as I’m writing this on a BRAND-NEW! laptop (VERY exciting, I can tell you!) we’ll be able to watch films as well without being on hookup- because I can shift the telly and we can use this machine with its splendid battery life and HDMI input.)
I’ve been toying with going back into the marina for the winter. Pros: electric hookup, convenience for parking, toilets, showers, water on the pontoon, having a home mooring at licence renewal time. Cons: the cost, feeling ‘trapped’. Despite the pros outnumbering the cons, they seem trivial in comparison to the cons. Anyway, yesterday I walked along to Sharpness at the southern end of the canal (we’re back at Purton) and on the off-chance I went in to see about a mooring there. They had one, at less money than Saul Junction Marina (though, of course, it’s not as swish). So I’ve taken it, and paid with my marking money for a year’s fees. I imagine I’ll use it little, but it will be useful to have the hookup during the darkest months. We won’t stay there too much anyway as it’s non-residential. It just means I’ll have a home mooring, which undoubtedly makes life easier (“They’ll hound you till you get a home mooring” as I was told yesterday- “they” being CRT).
Anyway because of my laxness at posting recently, here are just a few photos for you to enjoy- a taster of the life we live.
New life on the canal
The pots have been a picture all summer
Having coffee in the mornings surrounded by loveliness
So on April 1st we left the marina and moved out onto the towpath. We’ve had a lovely month- we’ve made new friends, deepened existing friendships and really benefited from our floating neighbours. So far our travels have brought us to Purton, where the canal is very close to to the River Severn. It’s a beautiful area, with stunning views across to the Forest of Dean, and really only a few metres from the river itself. This area is famous for its boat graveyard, which helps prevent erosion of the banks which might otherwise threaten the canal itself. I must try to get some photos to include because it really is quite lovely.
We are very much enjoying life outside the marina. Each new place brings new views, new bird sounds (this canal is amazing for twitchers!), and new surroundings. The challenges are much less challenging now that the weather is a bit kinder, the days longer and the bridges open all week for ten hours a day. The solar panels work brilliantly at keeping the batteries topped up. The composting loo is easy to use and maintain. The only (very first-world) problem I’ve encountered really are that my fairy lights don’t like the 240V power coming through the inverter, and they strobe so that I can’t use them! And it’s a frustration that we can only get hot water from running the engine; I would love a solution for this.
It’s been fabulous to actually boat along, to remember that lovely sense of freedom and to smell the clean-water smell of the canal. We are looking out for otters now; apparently there have been several sightings and signs of them.
Spring has really sprung the last week or so. The crocuses are all but over, the daffs are looking lovely, and I haven’t needed to keep the fire in overnight or through the day for ages. (As a result I’m burning mainly wood at the moment.)
Sitting out out on deck of a morning or evening, I reflect on how lucky I am to have had this chance, to make this choice. It’s one I can’t imagine regretting. Even winter-those short days!- feels a long time ago.
The composting loo is working well. Not smelly, not arduous; and Single Mum has offered me a third share in an allotment, so compost heaps will soon be mine! A moment of composters’ humour: to accelerate the composting process, I was advised to turn and mix the contents of the bucket. As a result I can now say that I stir shit; and have a shitty stick that I wouldn’t touch things with 😂
However, once the Heap is created I suspect the buckets will simply be emptied directly, to break down naturally. A food waste compost heap will be created as well; I don’t envisage using the Heap on my strawberries or potato plants 😱😷
There are lots of jobs to do, apart from breaking into the overgrowth on the allotment. I swept the chimney last week, and cleaned the cratch, but the deck rail wants sanding and oiling, and I really must get around to the rust patches on the roof. However, the bottom is blacked and I’m told she is in good shape down there, so I am pressing on with the kitchen refit. Ideally I would swap all the living spaces around, but unless the lovely B can’t do the smaller job this spring, I think I will let that idea lie for now.
The marina is busy at weekends now, with people filling up, running engines, ‘tidying things up’ after the winter. The rubbish area is filled with evidence of cleaning and clear outs- I took another four bags of books and clothes to the charity shop. Everyone is eager to get out onto the canal. Me too- this summer I must get to the far end and I also want to do my shopping by boat!
I thought I’d link to this short film about the (ongoing) dispute between CTR and various groups of boaters. We’re leaving the marina for the summer (but we’re hoping to get back in for the winter!) so I’m keenly aware that I might struggle to move “15-20 miles” as that’s the length of the whole canal…
My own feeling is that CRT are on rather shaky legal ground, but of course so few people being pressurised have the funds to mount a challenge in the courts- and there is an argument to suggest that S8 notices are issued in a trickle for the very purpose of preventing people banding together to defend themselves as a class action.
There are also a couple of petitions doing the rounds- one about allowing boat children to stay in one area to attend school, and one to prevent the eviction of boat dwellers. Let’s not forget that S8 notices are designed for the removal of sunken or abandoned vessels- not people’s homes. Secondly, for most liveaboards, the boat is their home and their only real asset. Confiscation is a massive, massive step to take and it’s hard, in my opinion, to justify that move in the circumstances that we’re seeing in some of these cases.
So I took the boat over to the pump-out station a couple of weeks ago, to empty the tank for the last time before we started using the new composting loo. L volunteered to help me: the weather was quite calm, but I hadn’t moved the boat since October and I find that I lose some of my confidence after a while. She was there to help cast off, moor up and to provide moral support. So I got everything ready (so I thought) and the tiller in place, the dog shut in, the engine on and the gears engaged; I cast us off at the stern and L at the bow, which was the end nearest the pontoon. As we reversed away, she said suddenly, “Did you unplug your shoreline?”
That moment when your stomach turns over and then drops like a stone. No. I hadn’t.
I put the boat forward back to the pontoon and L gathered up the lead, which had been pulled right out of the plug socket. We carried on with the job of steering across the marina, reversing into the service bay, sorting out the payments and so on; an hour or so later we were back and tying up (I reversed in this time, as it’s slightly easier to come out forwards than backwards. It also makes a shorter journey for carrying things in through the main stern door- though a longer trip with coal and wood, which both live in the well deck). When we inspected the electric bollard, we found that a large piece of the plastic had been ripped off, exposing the wires inside. Sadly, I’d just pushed my topup card in: the meter was reading an accurate total, but the plug itself wasn’t working at all. I covered the top of the pillar with a plastic bag to stop water getting in, tied it on with some string and nervously rang the office to confess what I’d done.
“You’re not the first,” said C, laconically. “And I doubt you’ll be the last.”
As a result I’ve been two weeks on battery power and solar power. It’s been fine. Small irritations, no more than that, but good to know before we go out on the cut in April:
there’s no way of heating water without running the engine, even though when it’s fine the solar panels keep the batteries nicely topped up- irritating because it’d be nice to avoid running the engine every day. Perhaps I should look at getting a generator- but I’m not sure that’s any better.
my fairy lights don’t like the inverter- it can’t be a pure sine wave one- and they behave like disco strobe lights when I try to use them.
Anyway, the batteries have coped well with the systems and it isn’t too arduous to make sure I run the engine each day. I’ll be glad when we can plug back in and use the immersion heater and the fairy lights in the lounge though (hmmm, priorities…)
The worst thing and the most annoying thing- because it was so totally avoidable- is knowing I’ll be billed for the new bollard. An avoidable expense. Grrrrrr.
I have finally got a minute in daylight to take some pictures of our new composting loo. It arrived a couple of weeks ago and the lovely R disconnected the macerating loo, capped off the tank and the glorious glitter khazi is fully functional!
Made by Colin and Maria of Kildwick Crafts, the order was completed quickly and delivered when I was expecting it. The box weighed 14kg, so I was easily able to handle it myself, and the unit is self-contained so it could go wherever, anywhere you want it to stand. We’ve gone conventional and put ours in the bathroom 🙂
Now the best part. You can have almost any colours you like for the outside, and for the inside… we went sparkly…
Isn’t that fantastic! I’ve never had a glittery loo before.
A couple of weeks in and the practical aspects are easy to cope with. There’s no smell, because of the separation- and there really is no smell. Visitors have confirmed this! We’re using sawdust for our drying material and so that’s probably the dominant smell. I’ve been emptying the bottle in the toilet block, rinsing it and giving it a wash, then replacing it. I clean the separett at the same time with Method cleaner. It lasts me and Boat Girl several days (2-3), though admittedly we’re often out in the days at work and school.
I’m delighted to never have to pump out again (more about the memorable last pumpout expedition later!) and feel that this is far easier than a cassette would be. You have to keep an eye on the bottle, make sure it’s not over-full before you use it, but the unit comes with two bottles and two lidded buckets so plenty of spares. I’ll keep you updated but so far, so very very good!