Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Dear landlord

We have not owned our own home for five years or so and would be unable to re-enter the housing market now even if we wanted to. We have rented from a large land owning estate (no, not a council estate) without a problem. They tend to leave us alone, content to put the rent up by 10% every two years.

They do however inspect the property every two years to look for structural problems, items for repair and, I suppose, infringements of the tenancy agreement. Today was their inspection and we had a visit from Tory Boy and the Honey Monster (you didn't see them) who promptly tripped over the dog (tenancy infringement, the dog not the tripping). It was not onerous or anything like it but it emphasised to us that this house is not our own. I know that when we own the boat, and are living on it, that a BSS geezer, or geezeress (or should that be geezess), will want to root around the boat every four years but at least they are there taking an objective view of the boat and looking at it as our property and not looking around our home as rented and at us as a tenants. It is an important aspect of our social world, to feel secure in your own chosen home and not to feel as if you are doing wrong or infringing on others or their property.

The agency that runs the estate forgot to put in the tenancy agreement what the notice period was but I think that we'd best give them the normal 28 days for fear of losing our deposit on spurious grounds. We haven't told them that we are leaving yet and there is, so far, little sign around the place that we are doing so in the very near future. There will be much frantic activity taking place here at some indeterminate time a few weeks from now. We are putting off the inevitable until then (but we do have the odd box gathered together and some of them are very odd indeed).

Monday, 26 November 2007

Wood you believe it

I visited my timber merchants today. Not the one I will use for the boat fitting but the one I use for my bow making. There are many exotic woods available at the yard and I found some Indian rosewood that had been cut with a mortise and tenon joints. Slightly baffled, I asked Barry, the timber geezer, what these were for.

“Have you had a job lot of seconds.”

“No they're picture frames”."Picture frames. They are six inches thick and 2 metres long."

“Aahh!” said he. “To export it from India the timber has to be shaped into something. These were exported as picture frames and these”, he held aloft another enormous piece of timber, “are rungs for a ladder.”

They were obviously for a giant's ladder and not for mere mortals like you and me.

Anyway got me to thinking about wood. The timber used on the boat will be all ash. Ash faced ply for the lining out and solid ash for the coamings, mouldings and frames. Most people would buy in the coamings and mouldings but these are extortionately expensive. My plan is to make my own from ash planks. I already have the machinery to make the job easy and am used to working with blank timber. The thicknesser and the router should pay for themselves. My newest tool is a biscuit jointer to make the furniture. Never used one before but think it will be very useful. I'm not a real carpenter and as such can cheat as much as I like. No dovetail joints on this boat. Lisa wants a country style galley and I think that mortise and tenon joints would suit very well to give that chunky, country feel. Although a well made galley may be several months down the line. We may initially have to be content with an Ikea table and a single cold tap.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

I do love to be beside the seaside beside the sea

Lisa loves the sea. I'm quite ambivalent about it. This weekend we took our new camper to the seaside. I say new camper but it is an eighteen year old ex ambulance. We bought it so it could double up to carry the ash faced ply boards and all of the chandlery for fitting the boat and initially give us some extra stowage space.

The thing drinks petrol like there's no environmental crisis. For the cost of the fuel used during the weekend, we could have flown to Vienna, had two good meals, and waltzed the night away in a luxury hotel and still had change for the taxi home. As it was, we were jammed in the back of a freezing, dirty, wet vehicle looking at a freezing, dirty, wet sea. It has translucent panels in the roof and we parked right under a street light (I know, I know). We woke up at 2 am and could read without turning on the interior lamps. To put a canal spin on this, at least I'm learning how not to fit out.

Friday, 23 November 2007

It's Granny's fault

Well thanks to Granny things have been going a bit mad around here. Granny Buttons give me a mention and the audience figures have gone through the roof and takings are up. That's what it's all about though, bums on seats laddie, bums on seats. Not normally known for over-exaggeration, I'm absolutely cock-a-hoop but also a little baffled and not a little disturbed at the number of people who are reading this drivel. A narrowboat blog from someone without a narrowboat. There's no accounting for taste.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Nagging doubts

I'm starting to have nagging doubts about the layout I've planned. Also the size of the portholes. I've included a copy of the layout for any comments (positive only please. We don't want any negative waves here Moriarty). I'm wondering if the bulkheads are in the right place. Will the saloon be big enough? Is my workshop going to be large enough to make bows? Will I really be able to fit a sold fuel Rayburn through the front door? Does it look aesthetic from the outside? Will the jumbled mess that's in my head really result in a decent boat? (Don't worry. These are rhetorical questions).

The boat is all portholes and I found myself frantically flicking through old copies of waterways magazines to investigate whether there is going to be enough light. Someone stop me from getting on the phone and screaming at the person on the other end, "Stop this madness. I don't want it to go any further. Cancel the whole thing, keep my deposit and I'll buy a small semi somewhere in the north of England." Whoever they are.

There are also two side doors at the back on either side in my planned workshop. At the front, there is one in the galley and one opposite the dinette and these will have opening glazed inner doors on the inside to allow more light. The coloured spots on the plan are either lights or mushrooms. It's all blindingly obvious. Well it all makes sense to me.

My refusal to buy any modern software for my computer dictates that I have to pass it through several different pieces of, sometimes ancient, software to change it from an OpenOffice spreadsheet to a jpg file. It seems to have come out okay. I might even get a photo on here soon.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Interweb resources

Is Tony Brooks' site the most useful on the interweb to those of us fitting out or thinking about fitting out a narrowboat? It is certainly the most helpful practical guide that I have found covering most aspects of the systems involved.

The one exception is the 240 volt systems as this is not covered as comprehensively. I should imagine that Tony has come to the conclusion that people can kill themselves fitting this wrongly and didn't wish to be a part of the problem wanting to remain firmly routed in the solution side of things. Very sensible I'd say. I'd envisage that some of his diagrams will be printed and pinned to the inside of the boat and scrutinised during that first month.

Monday, 19 November 2007


I feel that I may need to clarify what I mean by 'a habitable standard'. The word habitable is, of course, relative. The Duke of Westminster's idea of habitability will be very different from Josef the tramp's . We will be very happy with a lined boat with bulkheads up, a solid fuel stove, a little cold running water, a few lights and some loose furniture initially (well that's what Lisa said. Whether she actually means that is an entirely different thing). Showering facilities can be arranged with friends, laundry at the launderette. We are not strangers to a little bit of hardship.

The boat will not be finished for at least a year (if ever). We'd rather the £800 it takes to keep our rented house ticking over went on our boat and not into our landlord's pocket. In 'The Narrowboat Builder's Book', Graham Booth reckons he took 1390 hours to finish Rome. I think that I can get in 250 hours on Pickles in the first month and that way we can make it habitable to a greater or lesser extent (possibly the latter). Naive, stupid or brilliant. You decide.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Contract signed.

I drove down to Hanbury Wharf today to sign the contract. It was all done with the least bit of ceremony (“There it is." "Sign there." "That's it." "Thank you.”) as Lisa was visiting Terri (keep up and read the cast of characters) who was with the outlaws. I'm not normally one for ceremony or fuss but when it comes to something that is a life changing purchase, I think that a little celebration wouldn't have gone amiss. A little disappointing perhaps as I fancied a pint at the time.

According to the contract, there is also the distinct possibility that the boat will be delivered in December. Well that would be a very pleasant Chrizzy prezzy and it would keep me off the streets over the festive period. It may also allow me to extend the intended 30 day fit out period to a slightly more reasonable time frame (it's my time frame after all). The build time could be as little as four weeks. This seems incredible for the amount of work necessary. I appreciate that Liverpool Boats are a mass production commercial operation who build masses of hulls yearly but four weeks would be pushing it. This is one of the reasons we chose The New Boat Company and their Kingfisher sailaway from Liverpool Boats. When I want something, I want it now. I'm not really big on metalwork (I don't even know how to weld but must learn this year) and very pleasing as Josher type bows are, in my opinion, they do not warrant the extra cost and extra time that the yards that produce this style of boat would take. Also I do not tend to be very pernickity (I don't think that is even a word) about things.

Toodle pip

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Village life

We currently live in a small Leicestershire village and today I bumped into one of the other inhabitants whilst walking our relative dogs. Knowing that it was time to announce our impending departure and knowing that said inhabitant would inform the all other inhabitants by the end of the day, I mentioned that we would probably be leaving early next year for a boat. She told me that, 'the interesting people always leave'. We are the least interesting people here. This place has more intriguing, odd and eccentric characters than Royston Vasey. Indeed, in comparison to our fictional counterpart, this village looks positively insane. Long may it be so. I shall miss it, and them, and do hope the same diversity of characters are there on the cut.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Bears, contracts and bloggers

Don't you just hate Pudsey Bear day. Well I do anyway. Listening to Radio 2 in the workshop makes me think that if you want to give to charity, brilliant but don't think that the rest of the country needs to know about it. And you really don't need to bathe in that huge vat of custard before you do it.

I emailed the New Boat Company to see if they had finalized the contract ready for signing and it will be this weekend. The word 'eager' was used in the reply as in the fact that Liverpool Boats were 'eager' to start the boat. I can't imagine that this eagerness extends to the sheet metal fabricators or welders. I imagine that the company is eager for my money. Wait a minute. Why are they so eager for my money. Are they in financial trouble and hoping that this order will bale them out. All sorts of things go through your head when you are dealing with these kind of sums. I'd best read the contract carefully and ensure that it is in the BMF format. I think I'd best put the eagerness down to marketing.

How do other bloggers find you after being live for only two days? I was taking a break from the workshop and playing around with feeds and Feedburner. (I still have no idea how it all works. What's the difference between Atom and RSS? I chose Atom as I know what an atom is but as for an RSS. No idea. Really Simple Syndication apparently. Well if it was so simple I'd know what it was.) Anyway, admiring my statistics I was proud to find that no one had been on my page (except for the inevitable bots), no one had read it and no one had subscribed. Then, suddenly, the number 1 appeared replacing the number 0 in front of me. The perfect 0 was gone for ever. Well thank you very much Maffi. And I can assure you that there is absolutely no class or taste here.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

I'm devastated

I can't believe it. I've just found that nb Debdale is using the same blogging template as I've chosen. Incredible. Even down to the clock. I suppose it's up to me change mine to something a little more unique as theirs seems to have been on the go since August. However I don't know the blogging etiquette for this kind of thing and may leave it for the time being. I don't suppose there's copyright on templates by end users.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Act one Scene one

Well here we are then.

The plan is much the same as many others before us and in this respect it has all been done before. The time frame however is a little less than many of those same others would probably wish for. Thirty days to fit out a new sailaway 70' narrowboat to a habitable standard, move out of our existing home and move lock, stock and two smokers onto said boat. How difficult can it be?

The deposit has now been paid, the build slot is booked and any second thoughts will be expensive. We've only been planning it for ten years. I say planning it but we didn't really start planning until Easter 2007. Before that we were merely dreaming, talking, assuming and generally thinking about the possibility of the concept. When we were students the seed was sown when we bought an ancient Dawncraft 22 with our student loan (whoever said students weren't responsible with their funds). The Dawncraft saw us around the midland canal system for a good month or so. OK we didn't have running water, electricity, cooking facilities or headroom. But we did have a cat, an eight year old daughter, too much beer/wine and adventures aplenty.

When we ordered it from The New Boat Company they said that there aren't many orders made for sailways at this time of year for delivery in January. Really, I wonder why. I think I may be missing something. Not only that but we will have to sail/drive/navigate (delete as appropriate) to our home location. That should be fun.

The thirty days doesn't start until we get the boat onto the Ashby Canal where it will be moored. Hey. It's my blog and I'll say when it starts. OK.

The boat is due at the end of January and we now have a little bit preparation to be getting on with. I'll get some pictures on here when I have something to picture and work out how to do it all.

Toodle pip