Freyja and Christina crossing the English/Welsh border on the Chirk akkiduck

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The brew cupboard revisited

It was supposed to be the airing cupboard, cosy-warm over the calorifier, but there was clearly another something going on when the top shelf went in high, high enough to accommodate a five-gallon barrel with an airlock on the shelf below.  And below that shelf a spacious shallow drawer, coincidentally the right depth to take tubs of yeast, campden tablets, and all the bitty stuff that go with wine making, and beer brewing too.  I’m not complaining, I was a willing convert and then perpetuator and definitely a benefactor of the outcome.  And really, who needs more than one shelf to store linen ?  Anyway, the Bloke slatted one of the shelves in a wardrobe by way of compensation.

 The elderflowers seemed so slow to blossom this year, I watched and watched, and now suddenly they are setting berries.  Maybe it’s this part of the country.  But we do have some dandelion on the go, a first for us.  We’ll try to leave it at least until December before sampling.  By then we probably won’t have the bedhole to store it in, our wine- and beer cellar:  below the waterline, steady temperature at all times of year, perfect.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

For the boater-bikers out there

Here’s a picci of our Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 resplendent in her own private quarters on Freyja’s front deck.  With the handlebars dropped, the top-plank up and tarps down, she’s as snug as a bug in a rug and nobody knows she’s there.  The Bloke has corrected me, it’s a “he”.  Sorr-ee.

We load and unload with a wide ramp that chains to points on the gunwales.  Nothing complicated and it works.  And it is amusing to see jaws drop when we decide to go for a ride and the Bloke rolls up the tarps and we unload her-him-it;  usual comments are along the lines of:  “Well, I’d never have guessed that was there.”  and then we hear about all the bikes they’ve had.  And we eventually get to go for our own ride.

Getting her, um it, was another story:  we went into the dealership with a tape-measure and had a puzzled sales team following us around as we measured up everything we fancied.  Funnily enough, this was the one we liked most and the one that fitted perfectly.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Before they go to brokerage …

It’s worth making a separate mention that the boats will soon be going on brokerage, and when that happens, it’s likely they will be separated.  It will be sad to see them split up but I accept that it’s probably inevitable.  So if you are hesitating about taking them as a pair, do contact us now and I’m sure we can negotiate a favourable rate for them both.  Or if you’re interested in the butty Christina to pair with your own boat, she’s such a unique boat after all, get in touch with us about that too.

tel:  +44 (0)77 8023 9781

Working on Water

For anyone contemplating a business afloat, the butty provides a brilliant opportunity.  At only half the licence fee remember.  We were thinking of all the things someone else might use her for and our favourite is:  The Chip Butty;  no, seriously, the workshop could be fitted out as a kitchen and the hold area and greenhouse revamped for table covers.

The workshop would also make a lovely studio.  It has a large opaque glass roof-light, which is excellent to work by, and the hold area has been good as a permanent shop, with the tarps propped out so that customers can view the stock straight from the towpath.  It’s a good viewing area, from either side, unlike cramming stuff in the cratch, and you don’t have to pack everything away at the end of each day, with stock finishing up all over the boat;  you just drop the sides, like shutters on a shop, and go next door, pour yourself a drink and put your deserving feet up.

Or it can be used as intended.  It’s benched and wired, was completely fitted out with bench tools, and kept the Bloke very busy.  And I’ve always appreciated how lucky we are to have that space to store all the paints and paraphernalia and grease and oil and tools and “useful things” that are otherwise crammed into the engine compartment and lockers.  We can work on things and there’s no need to tidy away at the end of the day.

You may like raising plants and selling seedlings:  well, the greenhouse is perfect for that.  We’ve always used it to provide us with our greens and tomatoes, and it houses the Bloke’s cactus collection.  We’ve even got a worm bin up the front and make our own compost;  I made the worm bin, three trays and a sump, from pallet wood and an old cat litter tray, and stocked it with worms from a fishing tackle shop.  That was about 12 years ago and the descendants of that original colony are still working hard for us.

And then there’s Christina’s beautiful boatman’s cabin, it has a peacefulness to it that makes for a restorative complimentary therapy space.  It has also been a boon for family and friends:  they love the novelty of it and the privacy of their own boat (we like that too) and they always remark on the cosiness, we’ve even had people stay in midwinter when we were frozen in.  We did wonder once about taking paying guests but never took it any further.

The opportunities are endless really, pretty much anything you’ve hankered after doing is likely to be possible.
Incidentally, the boats will be going on brokerage soon and it’s likely they’ll be split up, so if you’re interested in them as a pair, please do get in touch, or if you’re interested in the butty Christina on her own, get in touch about that too, we’ll probably be able to negotiate a favourable price.

Friday, 1 June 2012

At Anderton

Since we happen to be here, right by the Anderton boat lift, we’ve decided stay for this bank holiday weekend and enjoy the opportunity to gongoozle the gongoozlers.  And be tourists ourselves.  And why not ?

You may have gathered, we don’t move very fast, and that means we get to actually see the towns and countryside we pass through, and industry and nature at their most astonishing, things that those on a mission to cover as much distance in the shortest possible time must surely miss.  Travelling gently is calming, you know, but moving just short distances can be a problem for us:  there is a minimum distance we must cover in a day for the cat to be able to reset her catnav.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Why the Bloke ?

My sister-in-law asked this.  She lives in America so, until now, was spared a rendition of the tale.  For you, Chris, but also because it hints at other aspects of canal living:

We had inkled that he (pre-Bloke) and I might become more than just good friends, that we might, in fact, have an interesting life together, so thought we’d cruise in tandem for a bit and see what developed.  It was all very tentative and nothing was said to any of our respective friends, we’d known each other for years, after all, so there’d be nothing unusual with us cruising in company.

We left Bulls Bridge, loitered in the Slough Arm a while, then headed north.

Coming into Berkhampstead, he went up to set the lock whilst I held the two boats and engaged in conflict with the overhanging willow.  A young British Waterways chap was working down and joined him.  He appeared to recognize me down below there (though you were not someone I remember having seen before).  He said brightly to my newly potential partner:
“Is that … ?”
“I heard she’d got a bloke.”

There’s a sticker I’ve seen in boat windows that makes me smile;  it reads:  Towpath telegraph relay station.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Gas usage

In fact, we don’t use much gas at all.  We have a lovely built-in gas hob, oven and grill, but the Jotul range meets pretty much all our needs.  Even in high summer we’re more inclined to fire it 

up with a few bits of fast-burning wood to cook the evening meal.  But the range really comes into its own when the weather is cool:  on tick-over it keeps the boat cosy, whilst effectively providing free cooking heat for stews, soups, steamed puddings, breads and carrot cake, things that are so costly when cooked on gas.  And I’ll give you my recipe for baked beans, though it’ll spoil you for tinned ones I’m afraid.  Most days there’s the aroma of something warming on the go.

The gas hob is the Bloke’s hero first thing in the morning, as he is usually the first to get up.  On those rare days when I’m up first, my inclination is to tickle up the fire and fiddle about doing

something else until the kettle comes to the boil.  The Bloke, however, on waking, requires instant tea-gratification, so his first action once vertical is to plonk the kettle on the hob and light the gas.  And the gas oven comes into its own on those occasions when we may have picked up some cold wood by accident, and the roast in the range is cooked but just won’t crisp and brown, so a blast in the gas oven fixes that.

As a footnote, the wood we burn is mostly fished out of the canal or picked up dead from woods and hedgerows as we cruise, though in the depths of winter we may add some coal to keep the fires going through the night.