Sorry for the delay.
Miss I is back and a new post will be up soon.
Sorry for the delay.
Miss I is back and a new post will be up soon.
In the side bar of this this site, there is now a warning letting you know that I use google analytics, it makes me feel better about blogging because I can see that people are actually reading what I write. Silly, perhaps but there it is. In order to comply with the EU cookie law I need to tell you about this, so I have. If you stay here then you agree that I can see anonymised data about you through my google analytics account, it’s not sinister it just makes me feel better.
Anyway now you’ve had the warning if you’d rather have my recipe for rather nice chocolate chip cookies then here it is:
Preheat the oven to 190 deg C. Line two baking sheets with grease proof paper.
Chop the chocolate into small chunks and set aside.
Heat the butter and sugars in a small saucepan until combined, stirring continuously.
Add the egg and vanilla, beat until blended.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl and stir them in.
Add the chocolate.
Dot heaped desert spoonfuls of the mixture over the lined baking sheets – leave plenty of space between them, they spread out a lot when cooking.
Bake for 8-10 minutes then carefully transfer them complete with baking parchment to a cooling rack. They taste good hot or cold.
When Miss Inexperience and MsB left their mooring in central London they did so with two new pumps in their possession. What they had failed to account for was the small problem that neither of them had any idea what to do with them beyond the theoretical knowledge that they should have a pipe attached to either side and some wires to transport the magic from the batteries (where it’s stored) to the pumps (where it’s consumed).
Shortly after arriving in Cassiobury Park, Miss I decides that it’s high time she tackles the increasingly thorny issue of the yo-yoing hot water supply, not to mention the monotonous clogging of the shower pumps filter with hair (yes, the job of cleaning that out is just as fun as it sounds).
Miss Inexperience decides to tackle what she thinks will be the easier task first and replace the shower pump. Tentatively she removes the pump from its box and gives it a good coat of looking at. Beyond telling her that replacing it should be a fairly simple task (two hoses, one in one out, two wires ditto, it even has an arrow on the bottom telling you which way round to put it) it doesn’t tell her much. Along with the pump there is a selection of plastic attachments, 4 “penny washers” and a manual, she decides to read the manual. No, it really is as simple as it looks:
As if Miss Inexperience could ever get that lucky. The hose linking her shower pump to her shower tray was beyond repair and the shower tray had apparently been self draining for goodness knows how long.
She buys a new length of hose before removing the pump (which has, by this point, given up the ghost entirely). She concludes it probably died of an overdose of abandoned hair although that doesn’t explain the newly discovered self draining aspect of the shower tray. Tentatively (with the delicate aid of a Gorilla Bar) she lifts the floorboard next to the shower tray. As with so many things in her short boat owning career, she abruptly finds herself wishing she hadn’t. On the other hand it does help her identify the source of the problem.
Miss Inexperience quietly props the floorboard up in the kitchen and wanders next door to find out if APs wet and dry vacuum is to hand. She then spends the next hour or so vacuuming what is euphemistically known as grey water out of her bilges and chucking it into the canal where it was meant to end up in the first place. Still, it seems no major harm has been done. As the waters recede, one slow vacuum full at a time, she discovers the source of the leek. Not that it really needed much in the way of searching for. Slowly, probably over the course of years, the jubilee clip holding the decrepit pipe to the drain on the shower tray has rusted away leaving the pipe not quite secure and allowing the small amount of water that had been seeping out to become a petite lake under the bathroom. This, Miss Inexperience realises, shouldn’t be possible. The boat has a run through bilge which theoretically allows rain water to drain from the bows into to the stern bilge where it can be pumped out. It would seem that something, somewhere has gone a tad awry as what she has discovered under the floor is a small lake. Miss Inexperience pokes the drain holes, discovers they’re full of leaf litter and hesitantly lifts the next board along. More water … drat.
Having spent most of the day vacuuming out the bilges and clearing the drain holes so that the water actually runs through the boat rather than just into it Miss Inexperience is quite glad to finally get back to the job she’d started doing – replacing the shower pump.
Step 1: disconnect old hose, “it came off in me hand gov”
Step 2: wiggle new hose into place without breaking the slightly rusty shower tray fitting and jubilee clip it on as firmly as possible without crushing said slightly rusty fitting.
Step 3: replace floorboard and run away.
As is so often the way with this kind of job, once she’s done the unexpected tasks the actual process of putting in the new pump takes about ten minutes. She flips the switch, the pump gulps air, she turns it off again and goes to make dinner.
Miss Inexperience is a restless soul, so when the time comes to leave London, she does so with the same lack of planning and at pretty much the same speed as she arrived. Bored now of the hurly-burly. Bored of the same faces, the same places every day; she decides, one June evening in 2010, that it’s time to move on. And this time she’s brooking no argument.
MsB, who has been in London for 13 years, ums and ahs; she is used to the monotony of pay and considerably more attached to her surroundings than Miss Inexperience is. Although they have been talking about leaving London for a while, this has always been at some unspecified point in the future. On this particular evening however, Miss Inexperience turns round and says: “you keep saying we’re going to leave. When exactly?”
And that, as they say, was that. There is some planning that goes into this. They both have to hand in their notice, a task they perform at the same time as booking off the week they’ll need to get out beyond the area Miss Inexperience knows well, yet still stay close enough to be able to commute back.
So, with everything sort of organised they pack their stuff onto the boat and set off with barely a goodbye (to be fair they’re not planning on going far at this point). That first night is spent at Kensal Green, barely any distance from where they started, but the sense of freedom is tangible. There is adventure in the air.
They travel slowly, since, despite having been re-packed twice, and the grease gun having been unclogged. The stern gland is still leaking like a sieve and Miss I is obsessively pumping the bilges. They crawl the length of the Paddington Branch, turning west at Bulls Bridge onto a section of canal Miss Inexperience has never traversed before but that MsB used to live on a long time before.
Slowly, slowly they put Cowley Peachy, Uxbridge and the amusingly named Black Jack’s Lock behind them. They stop overnight at Rickmansworth near the mislabelled “Aquadrom” before hitting Cassiobury Park, where they intend to spend a couple of weeks before dropping back down to Rickmansworth in order to empty some toilets. For the next few weeks Miss Inexperience and MsB will “continuous cruise” (or “continuous moor” as it’s sometimes known) in this area until their contracts have expired and they are free to continue their journey to a new life on the other side of the country.
A funny shaped parkMiss Inexperience had actually been moored in Cassiobury Park for a while before she noticed quite what a funny shape it was. Of course, once she had noticed there wasn’t a lot she could do to un-notice…
Amusing, and it turned out apposite shape aside Miss Inexperience decides Cassiobury Park is an extremely nice place to moor. It feels like mooring in the middle of nowhere, but is near enough to Watford for there to be a ready supply of everything you might need – such as shops, a laundrette, takeaways and, usefully, a plumbers’ merchant (but more of that later). There is, in common with all such beautiful places, very little phone reception. It was a blissfully quiet couple of weeks.
Cassiobury Park is also where Miss Inexperience and MsB, who have between them lived in London for 16.5 years, saw their very first flasher.He was a youngish man, early 30’s maybe, with some daft story about how he was on his stag do and his mates had stolen his clothes and wouldn’t give them back until he had had his photograph taken. He didn’t have a camera with him, and was definitely sober.
They laughed at him and sent him away with an elderly t-shirt so he wouldn’t frighten the wildlife on the way back to his car. He came back 10 minutes later, again naked except for his brown loafers and white ankle socks (pulled up). His story this time was basically the same except that he told them his friends were hiding behind the bridge and that they would be able to see the flash, Miss Inexperience has no idea if the pun was intended. On top of that she has fantastic night vision, is well aware that there is no one hiding behind the bridge and having been in the area for nearly two weeks knows full well there are no convenient pubs in the surrounding area that he could have come from. She is also, truth to tell, getting a little bored of this game now. In the interests of an easy life however, and to an extent out of morbid curiosity as to how far this will go, she continues to play along. She is not daft enough to get her camera out, she has, after all lived in central London for over three years and instead fishes her phone out of her pocket and photographs him with that – it takes a couple of goes to get a shot that he considers adequate, he would probably have asked her to try it again had she not informed him that she is bored now and he should go away.
Of course he doesn’t. What he actually does is creep along the side of the boat (a boat with no lights on bar the one in the bedroom where there isn’t anyone, no music on and two people paying very careful attention to any noise outside) and attempts to peer through the bedroom window at the two women inside (the two women who are standing fully clothed in the kitchen).
Miss Inexperience gently opens the door, quietly steps up onto the gas locker and informs the whole of Cassiobury Park in a voice trained by years of calling back lurchers, and tinged with anger at the invasion of her privacy, that the young man in question is a pervert and that he should leave now or he WILL REGRET IT.
Miss Inexperience subsequently posts the better of the two photographs of the flasher on Twitter because what else do you do with such a thing? Granny Buttons enhances it for her, no one admits to knowing the man.
Everything else is optional
In July 2010 Miss Inexperience had not yet come into contact with Jon Ody, the originator of the title of this section, however she understood the principle. Most things on a boat are, in fact optional; it doesn’t matter greatly if the engine doesn’t work, or indeed if there’s no gas or the glass in the stove is broken (as long as you’re not trying to use those things), however, there is one thing that should work at all times. That thing is, of course, the bilge pump.
Miss Inexperience has, as has been previously mentioned, a very leaky stern gland, so it was really quite fitting that early one Sunday morning she got up to take the dogs out, flicked the bilge pump on as usual, and discovered that it wasn’t working. It is a Sunday morning. She doesn’t know the area particularly well. She doesn’t have the faintest clue right now what’s wrong with the bilge pump and anyway the dogs need to go out.
Remembering the day her engine mounts had disappeared under water and yet the boat was still afloat, she lifts a deck board tentatively and stares into the murky depths. There’s about 3cm of water in the bilges. Ah well, it can wait for a few minutes. Miss Inexperience takes the dogs out and frets a bit. Where on earth is she going to get the bits to repair or replace the bilge pump on a Sunday morning? It might just be a loose connection. She wanders along the towpath a bit further and frets some more. MsB is inside making coffee, currently blissfully unaware of the bilge pump situation.
Miss Inexperience returns with the dogs and explains to MsB what she has discovered. “Oh,” says MsB.
Miss Inexperience drinks her coffee, takes up the deck boards and pokes the bilge pump. It’s not clogged, although it is filthy. The fuse is still intact and none of the wires appear to be loose. She declares it dead. Dodo-esque in fact. “Oh.” Says MsB.
Miss Inexperience takes a walk down to Bridgewater Basin to see if they sell bilge pumps – they don’t. So MsB takes the Nicholson’s Guide and her phone and sits on the roof working out which is the next nearest boatyard and ringing them to see if they are a) open on a Sunday and b) sell bilge pumps. They are, and they do. Miss Inexperience gets her bike down from the roof and takes a ride… A six-and-a-half-mile ride, down some of the bumpiest towpath she’s ridden on for a long time, through Rickmansworth, past the “stink hole”, all the way back to bridge 180 and a tiny basin with a comprehensive chandlery who have, in stock, all the bits she needs to replace her bilge pump. She is in the chandlery for a total of about 20 minutes including locking and unlocking her bike. It took her nearly an hour to get there and will take nearly an hour to get back.
But bilge pumps are not optional.
On the way back she detours into Rickmansworth to confuse the other shoppers at Waitrose by riding her push bike through the multi-story car park that is the only road access to the store (the alternative involves taking her bike in the lift, or carrying it bodily up the stairs).
So, two hours cycling, 20 minutes in a chandlery, a 30 minute detour to Waitrose and about half an hour to fit the new bilge pump. Done.
It actually takes longer to pump the water out of the bilges than it did to fit the pump.
The deck board latticeOver the four years Miss Inexperience has owned the boat several of her deck boards have been replaced. The one on the front locker was replaced after a friend stepped on it and it fell through. Said friend was very embarrassed; it wasn’t her fault, the board was rotten and should have been replaced before that happened. After that three of the back deck boards were replaced for similar reasons. They were verging on dangerous and, as they were the ones that were mostly stood on, they got done, the same applied to the top of the gas locker. But that, sadly, was as far as it had gone. The less well used deck boards were in better nick than the rest so they were waiting, and had been waiting, for a while. In fact, they’d been waiting for so long that by this time they were a little dangerous and Miss Inexperience had been forced to carefully place things across them so they couldn’t be stood on.
About a week after Miss Inexperience stopped in Cassiobury Park, Thoroughly Decent Bloke (TDB), a friend she hasn’t seen for a while, turns up with his so-new-he’s-still-in-the-process-of-fitting-it-out wide-beam. He moors up next to them, taking the number of boats that have joined Miss Inexperience in Cassiobury Park to two, as AP has also turned up by this point. Miss Inexperience is grateful she doesn’t know anyone else who’s likely to be joining this bring-you-own-boat party as they are currently lending credence to the argument that scruffy boats always travel in packs (even though TDB’s boat really can’t be described as scruffy).
TDB stops by on his way back from work the following day, takes one look at her deck-boards and points out that they need replacing before someone falls through them. Miss Inexperience knows this, that’s why there are things strewn across the back deck in a seemingly random pattern, unfortunately she has no way of getting hold of the materials she needs to manufacture new ones and anyway, right now her priority has to be her dodgy water system, it can wait. Anyone who doesn’t know not to stand on the bits with stuff on them shouldn’t be on the back of her boat anyway.
“I’ve got some spare materials, I’ll make you some new deck boards.”
“Really?” Miss Inexperience replies. “Thank you.”
And he does. Without any hoohah at all. Miss Inexperience wakes up one morning to find that he has taken away her old deck boards to use as templates for the new ones and slowly, over the course of the day, he puts them back, only made out solid ply rather than the lace she had before. He also finds some green deck paint left over from doing his roof and paints the whole deck green (even the Hex Board) so that it matches itself, if not the rest of the boat.
“It’s no trouble” he says to her protestations. And it does mean that it’s now safe to walk on the back deck again.
Keep stirring, there’s one in there somewhere
It has been getting progressively harder for Miss Inexperience to change from forward to reverse over the course of the journey, and it’s becoming almost impossible to find neutral on the way. By this point the change requires actual thumping of the Morse handle in order to dislodge it, and changing gear is increasingly involving a nasty grinding noise and on occasion the boat not actually going into gear. This is really not a sustainable situation, and Miss Inexperience is struggling with the Morse lever one day when TDB comes past. He gives it a waggle.
“The gear cables could just be dry. Try putting some WD40 down them.”
“I beg your pardon?”
So he shows her, spraying it into the top of the cables and waggling the lever until it moves freely. It’s a revelation, such a simple thing that makes life so much easier. Sadly the free movement hardly lasts any time at all, those gear cables are very dry.
 Perrott, D and Mosse, J Waterways Guide 1: Grand Union, Oxford and the South East London: Nicholson 2006 p. 44
the Camden confusion
Having spent her first summer in London continuous cruising, Miss Inexperience decides to take a winter mooring at Camden. She had no particular reason for picking Camden, other than it was a ‘cool’ place to moor and it was locked at night so she felt relatively secure. With hindsight it was a silly choice; had the canal frozen she’d have been stuck somewhere with no facilities and had to lug canisters of water from the nearest tap, assuming, of course, that she could persuade Camden Lock Market, whose tap it was, to let her do so.
It also meant that anyone who knew where she was moored on 9th February 2008 called her to check that she was all right. Which was … interesting, as she had no idea there was any reason she shouldn’t be…
“Are you all right?”
“Er … yes … why?”
“Camden’s on fire! But you’re OK? It’s not near you?”
“Camden’s on fire?”
Miss Inexperience walked out on to the back deck of MsB’s boat and looked in the general direction of Camden. There was a plume of smoke and an orange glow… MsB on the other hand had turned the radio on to reports of a fire burning out of control in one of the markets.
“It’s OK” Miss Inexperience told her friends, “I’m not moored that close to the markets, I had no idea it was happening.” She carefully omitted to mention that she was not, in fact, on her own boat, and that that probably had something to do with her lack of knowledge.
“I think it’s the Canal Market” says MsB. “Shall we go and check?”
They grab coats, keys and lurchers and head off down the towpath as fast as their little legs can carry them. When they finally get into the mooring and can clearly see that the boat is safe, they breathe a huge sigh of relief. What was actually a twenty minute brisk walk felt like it had taken hours. They discover, upon arrival, that not only do they have a far better view of the (reportedly) 30 foot flames than they had from the back of MsB’s boat, but also that everyone else on the mooring is standing around on the towpath watching the flames and chatting. They put the dogs into Miss Inexperience’s boat, make themselves a cup of coffee and go and join the party on the towpath.
Every now and then someone’s phone will ring, and one of the boaters present (including Miss Inexperience) can be heard patiently explaining the situation.
“No, it’s OK it’s not that close to us … the Canal Market’s the one on fire … no, no between the Hampstead Road locks and Hawley lock … the one above the Hampstead Road locks is the Camden Lock Market … no, that one’s fine … no, even if it were the Camden Lock Market it probably wouldn’t affect us, we’re at least 300m away, and most of us are here, so we could get the boats out anyway … we’d only have to go round the corner past Cumberland Turn …yes, I can see the flames … no, not that dramatic, probably looks better on the news … there are helicopters everywhere … no, I think it’s all right, that block’s gone but the fire brigade appear to have it contained … no, I’m not planning on going to have a closer look…”
the mattress malfunction
Finally, in the summer of 2009, Miss Inexperience admits that her elderly futon mattress is no longer fit for purpose, and so, with the aid of MsB, goes about purchasing a new one, similar to the one that MsB has. Now MsB had purchased said mattress some time ago from a shop in Camden which no longer existed; however, a quick label check and associated internet search revealed that the company was still going. Several phone calls and quite a lot of measuring and re-measuring later, they managed to order a mattress of almost exactly the right size for the bed.
The main problem that remained was how to get it delivered. Fortunately MLB was quite happy to have things delivered to her houseboat, and they had done this on many prior occasions. However, some delivery companies are considerably better at finding MLB’s quirky address than others. Some firms consistently fail to recognise that boats could have addresses, let alone letter-boxes. As a result they would frequently attempt to deliver to, say, the nearest house, or in the case of Miss Inexperience and MsB’s joint dog food orders, quite often the nearest restaurant to the mooring. The local pub apparently found it less amusing, as they rarely took parcels in. If you happened to get one of the better firms they might manage to find the gate, but that was merely the first hurdle. Having found the gate, they had to get through it, which seemed to cause some consternation, despite the inclusion of the gate code in the delivery instructions. If, by some fluke, they did manage to get through the gate, they then had to identify the correct boat… This should be easy, after all the name of the boat forms part of the address and the position of the boat on the mooring is included in the delivery instructions; somehow though, it was never that simple. So, if it’s this much hassle to get an ordinary package delivered, you can imagine how stressed Miss Inexperience was about a mattress, which wouldn’t be that easy to collect from the dispatch office if the company failed to deliver.
MsB did the ordering and instructions because Miss Inexperience didn’t want to mess it up, and is given a delivery date, which Miss Inexperience then checks with MLB. It turns out that MLB isn’t going to be in that day, but she is quite happy for someone else to wait in her boat for the mattress. Miss Inexperience therefore books the day off work and goes round to MLB’s first thing in the morning to wait for the mattress.
The mattress does not arrive, and it keeps on not arriving as the day goes on. Sometime around lunch-time, Miss Inexperience does something she should probably have done first thing; she wanders over to the nearest house (where cards are often left by this particular delivery company) and puts a note on the door stating that the mattress delivery should not be attempted here but at the nearby gate. The mattress continues to fail to arrive. Miss Inexperience variously stands at the gate fretting, wanders up and down the mooring fretting, and, finally, rings the company she’s placed the order with, to find out what’s going on. The mattress company ring the delivery firm. The delivery firm state that they tried to deliver and that no one was in.
The mattress company ring Miss Inexperience back. Miss Inexperience reasonably points out that a) she has been in all day and that b) there is no card in the box telling her that they have tried to deliver and that she was out. The mattress company ring the delivery firm again. The delivery firm state that it’s too late to get it out to her today, but that they’ll put it on tomorrow’s van. The mattress company ring Miss Inexperience to explain what’s happening; Miss Inexperience points out that she has booked the day off work to be here for the delivery and that she can’t just take another day off tomorrow. MLB, who has now come home, kindly offers to take the delivery the following day.
The mattress does not arrive the following day – couldn’t find the address. Nor does it arrive on the next delivery date – absolutely no idea.Eventually MsB contacts the delivery firm and somehow manages to get the direct line for the driver. He puts it back on his van and drops it off at the end of his shift the following day – going out of his way and above the call of duty to get the damn mattress to the mooring. That man, whoever he was, deserves a great deal of thanks. Miss Inexperience was very grateful, if only because it stopped her having a nervous breakdown over the whole bloody thing.
Now all she has to do is move her boat to outside MLB’s boat as soon as possible, so that she can swap her manky old mattress for her amazingly thick new one. She manages that the following evening, swaps them over, and discovers once she’s made the bed that two of the three lurchers she and MsB currently have between them can no longer get up onto the bed without assistance…
the fridge frustration
One day, a short time after MsB had managed to secure her somewhere to moor her boat on a permanent mooring, Miss Inexperience arrived home to discover a fridge on her back deck. A 230v fridge, covered with a tarpaulin, plugged in and full of food. Not, sadly, her food.
The fridge, it transpired, had been inside the boat that had previously occupied the mooring she was now on. It had in fact been in use while inside the empty shell, a shell that was also used as a tool-shed. Miss Inexperience was somewhat relieved to discover that the tools were not in fact inside her boat, they’d been moved into a butty.But still, a fridge.
The answer to the question “when are you going to move that fridge?” was variously over the course the next few months: “as soon as I can”, “I don’t have anywhere to put it” and “I’ll see what I can do”. Miss Inexperience is glad to be on a mooring, there’s no doubt about that; it comes as a relief after all that frantic boat moving on days off, trying to remember exactly when she arrived on a mooring and when she has to move, as well as, after she has moved, where she’s moved the boat to this time. On more than one occasion she set off in the wrong direction, only to have to turn round and go to the mooring she’s actually left the boat on. Not to mention that there is mains power on her mooring, as well as water on tap (so to speak) which means that she can actually do some of the jobs that need doing on her boat – she doesn’t actually do many of them in the end but she does get some done for her. However, her cruising ability is something she jealously guards. (She only has a 230 circuit put in after she’s been on the mooring for several months, it genuinely hadn’t occurred to her that one would be useful before that.)
And now she has a fridge on her back deck.
It stays there for over a year, until it finally dies and she takes it, by boat, for disposal. You are not having another fridge on my back deck she informs its owner – if all your food won’t fit in your fridge, I’ll store some of it in mine. He accepts, so she does. It’s not ideal but still an improvement on the living with a fridge on her back deck. A fridge, for goodness’ sakes.
Despite having gained quite a few new skills, Miss Inexperience is still relatively new to this boating lark and has no idea how to fix most of the things that make her home function, so she does what all newbies do and calls in the professionals:
water water everywhereIt’s the 23rd December; LB, MLB, MsB and Miss Inexperience are sitting around having a quiet drink and contemplating a stress free few days watching TV and not doing very much. Miss Inexperience nips ‘next door’ into her own boat to pick something up (some more gin perhaps? Maybe some ice?) and discovers that her water pump is cycling. She flips it off at the switch, assumes the water tank’s empty and goes back to MLB’s boat with whatever it was she came in for.
A couple of hours later MsB and Miss Inexperience wander off to bed and discover a large puddle where Miss Inexperience’s bedroom carpet should be. In blind panic they start hauling things out from under the bed trying to see where the leak is coming from, only to discover it’s the pump itself that is leaking. Fortunately, it is doing so on the outlet side so Miss Inexperience has temporarily solved the problem by switching said pump off. They shrug, figure there’s no point in worrying people tonight and put the damp stuff out of the way in the shower compartment.Christmas Eve is spent pulling out wet stuff. Lots of wet stuff. Miss Inexperience hasn’t been on the boat long enough to learn that anything stored under, say, the bed, should be in plastic boxes, let alone that putting books on the carpet is a bad, if space saving, idea. The wet stuff is then spread out in MLB’s boat, ranged as far as possible round the fire, a feat made difficult both by the location of said appliance and the requirement for heat to permeate the rest of the boat. Then MsB and Miss Inexperience spend several hours carefully peeling apart the pages of sodden books in a vain attempt to rescue them, while LB heads back to his boat in search of a spare water pump to replace the broken one.
The repair is enacted using a pump with a failed pressure switch which LB had been asked to replace rather than repair for somebody, despite the fact that the pump element was fine. This he accessorised with a pressure switch from his “bucket of useful bits”. Water issue number two was discovered when LB was in the process of removing the broken pump from the system: the stopcock on the water tank didn’t work. But, since the floor was soaked anyway it wasn’t a major crisis. LB put the system back together and wandered back into MLB’s boat to cook dinner, mumbling about charging extra for working on Christmas Eve. Miss Inexperience waved a vegetable peeler at him in a vaguely menacing fashion and offered him a beer instead. Apparently he’d take what he was offered.
On Boxing Day the next pipe joint in the system exploded.
Cue some more swearing and emergency bodged plumbing from LB, who agrees to look at the plumbing properly in January since there are clearly some issues. Not least that Miss Inexperience is still suffering from a wildly erratic shower and that her stopcock doesn’t. Plus there’s a fair chance that the rest of the pipe joints will explode under the pressure since the “new” pump has more oomph than the old one.
It takes over a week for everything to dry out again – including Miss Inexperience’s carpet which she takes up and props around the boat to allow the floorboards to dry as well. By the end of it MLB is getting mightily unimpressed with the amount of stuff being stored, and in some cases dried, in her living room. Miss Inexperience can’t apologise enough and MLB does understand, but it is her living room and her boat isn’t exactly huge either. Miss Inexperience finally gets the floor dry and puts the carpet back down, before hauling everything she’s taken out back into her boat and hoping to hell it doesn’t happen again.
It was a Christmas of things breaking. As if the chaos caused by Miss Inexperience’s water system breaking wasn’t enough, the benches in her living room chose to collapse as well. The starboard one went first; it fell down at the aft end one day just as MsB was sitting down on it. She jumped up like a scalded cat and kept apologising but really it wasn’t her fault. It could have happened to anybody. When LB takes it apart to fix it he discovers that it was only held up with bits of 2”x1” so it was an accident waiting to happen anyway. He replaces the struts with lumps of 4”x2” and they put the whole thing back together.
A few days later the starboard bench also collapses at the aft end. Again it does it when MsB is in the process of sitting down on it. By this time MsB is naturally feeling a little sore about the whole thing. Again, taking it apart (remember it’s Christmas, had it been any other time of year they’d probably have checked the other bench and repaired it at the same time) they discover the same problem. The same solution is deployed and it’s pointed out to MsB that again, it was an accident waiting to happen, and that it could have been any of them sitting on it that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Miss Inexperience wasn’t sure that her reassurance was really working but it wasn’t in any way MsB’s fault. These things happen. And it was quite funny watching LB doing woodwork wearing a party hat from a Christmas cracker.
It was June by the time LB got round to tackling Miss Inexperience’s dodgy pipe-work. Fortunately nothing else had exploded in the mean time. Miss Inexperience has not yet learned that there are so many calls on a boatman’s time that if she actually needs the work to be done in a timely fashion she has to keep nagging. It is, with some boatmen, literally a case of she who shouts loudest gets dealt with first. Of course a busy boatman is a good thing. The busier the boatman, theoretically, the better they are.
So in June Miss Inexperience pulls her boat onto the Lisson Wide moorings (with BW’s permission) where she can have access to water while her plumbing is dealt with. The work is chaotic, particularly for someone who lives on her boat. LB has to check each and every pipe joint, and replace some lengths of pipe. And all of this has to be done around the boat’s fittings (bed, benches, wardrobe, bathroom); as if that weren’t bad enough Miss Inexperience cannot even remove the things that are stored under or in these places as she has nowhere else to put them that won’t be equally in the way. Fortunately Miss Inexperience has a job to go to and MsB’s boat is handy so she can leave Pen there with the other dogs.
Even so, it takes about a month for everything to get done. Accumulator tank fitted, new stopcock etc. A month of intermittently running water (Miss Inexperience’s tip for the top: remember to fill the kettle before retiring to bed) and an almost complete absence of hot water. It is a situation made tolerable only by the proximity of MsB’s boat where she can shower and eat. Still when it’s done the shower is improved (though still erratic) and the hot water is a consistent temperature when it reaches the sink. Much to both Miss Inexperience’s and British Waterways’ relief she can now take her boat off the mooring… She fills up the water tank and meanders off down to Camden for a week.
the return of the cooling conundrumHaving been studiously ignoring the cooling problem and regularly topping up the engine header tank/pumping the bilges for well over a year, Miss Inexperience discovers she can no longer ignore her ailing propulsion system. Unfortunately she discovers this while attempting to pull back into the Lisson Wide mooring (which she had just left a week ago) in order to pick up MsB and her cassette toilets for a “poo run”.
Moving at tick-over, she putters into the free space next to the gate to pick them up, throws the Morse lever into reverse … and nothing happens. She takes the lever back to neutral, and tries again. Nothing. She swings it into forward for second, and then back to reverse. Still nothing. She hurls her centre line to SBT who uses the fortunately sturdy gate to stop 40’ of Springer colliding with 20’ of narrowboat which would then have hit a very expensive Sea Otter houseboat. They tie off to the gate, and attempt to work out what the hell has gone wrong.
Gear cable: yes, there is one; yes, it appears to be intact.
Water: yes, and no alarms.
LB comes and has a peer and throws the throttle from forward to reverse a few times. Then shrugs, “Should be working. Here’s the number of SLE, he’s probably your best bet.”
Miss Inexperience calls SLE, then she calls BW; she explains carefully that she didn’t mean it to happen and that she’s called SLE and would it be OK if she moored up back where she was until her engine could be fixed? And they know she’s really sorry right? BW are quite reasonable about it – even when it goes on for far longer than it should have done, as is MsB’s best friend (BF) who arrives home one night to find that Miss Inexperience’s engine alarm is going off. Miss Inexperience is, at this point, on holiday in Wales, which leaves MsB and BF to try and figure out how to stop the damn alarm. They try turning the key to the off position and removing it, nothing; they try turning the isolator switches off, nothing. Eventually, in desperation they disconnect the batteries. Miss Inexperience is rung and told about this in the morning. She agrees that that was all they could do; gets very grumpy and rings SLE.
SLE’s response is that he wasn’t told the key had to be returned to directly upright when the engine was stopped and bickers about whose fault/responsibility it was. Surely he shouldn’t need to be told something that simple? When Miss Inexperience returns, she moves the boat off the mooring and, on arriving at MLB’s boat where she stops for a cup of coffee on her way to Kensal, discovers that the engine will no longer stop. Another frantic call to SLE ensues – no, the diesel cut off doesn’t seem to be working either. Could you look at that when you come to fix the engine stop? Yes, Miss Inexperience can disconnect the fuel lines from the injectors if SLE can explain which bits the fuel lines are and which bits the injectors are. This is the scariest thing Miss Inexperience has had to do so far, however the engine stops and Miss Inexperience spends another month moored somewhere she shouldn’t be (but at least it’s somewhere different this time) while she waits for this problem to be fixed. She then pays SLE (discovering in the process that the cause of the problems appears to have been gunged up water pipes and that lots of clearing of the system had been required on top of the subsequent electrical fix) and vows never to use him again. In the mean time MsB has done some mooring juggling so that the boat can sit somewhere with mains power and access to water.
bother said pooh, as the boat slowly sank
(or why won’t the engine start)
After a couple of days moored outside MLB’s boat, Miss Inexperience needs to run the engine to charge her batteries as she doesn’t actually have a battery charger and had to borrow one from LB when she broke down. It’s pitch black but she gets the engine keys out and starts her up. Or at least she tries to. The engine turns over but nothing happens. There’s no kick, there’s no sputtering into life. Nothing. Just the engine turning over undercut by a very odd noise.
Further investigation reveals that the reason the engine won’t actually start is that part of it is under water. Unbeknownst to Miss Inexperience the stern tube had developed a really quite nasty leak which had clearly been dripping for several days. As Miss Inexperience doesn’t have a float switch on her bilge pump the water had built up in the engine bay until the bottom of the engine had gone under water, at which point the problem had been noticed as the engine wouldn’t start. She screws as much grease as possible into the stern gland, finds somewhere to perch the borrowed battery charger where it won’t fall off and fry them all, and waits for daylight to sort the problem out.
The following day they take a proper look at Miss Inexperience’s engine compartment. There’s still a lot of water coming in through the stern gear, despite Miss Inexperience’s attempts with the grease gun, and the engine bay is about 6” deep throughout – so using the bilge pump to empty the engine bay is a non-starter. LB heads back to his mooring in search of a wet and dry vacuum cleaner and some jerry cans to put the fluid into. Miss Inexperience then spends the afternoon vacuuming her engine bay and emptying the oily mess into jerry cans. Fun.
Once this had been done and the engine battery had been boosted using the charger the engine started. Phew.
There was, however, still a small waterfall coming through the stern gear. They tried again with the grease gun. It moved a bit but didn’t seem to help. For the moment therefore, Miss Inexperience would have to keep using the bilge pump until the correct size packing could be acquired and LB would replace it for her. He offered to show her how but she didn’t think she was quite ready for that level of responsibility; it is after all quite possible to sink a boat while replacing its stern tube packing in the water – not therefore a job for the faint hearted or frankly petrified.
the fridge rotation
Having been on a mooring for nearly a year barely moving the boat – toilet cassettes were emptied by bike trailer, a battery charger had been acquired/connected and water was a hose length away – Miss Inexperience discovered that her gas fridge had stopped working. The fridge is actually a three-way (230v/12v/gas) but Miss Inexperience hadn’t thought about it – it was, as far as she was concerned, a gas fridge. LB knew her well enough not to even posit a suggestion that she just connect it to the mains. Apparently the gas element of it had stopped working because it needed shaking, so that’s what he did. He emptied her fridge, took it out and rotated it several times before putting it back in again. Once he had done that it worked, and considerably better than it had ever worked before.
The moral of this story is: if you’re not going to move your boat you’re going to have to shake your fridge – or something like that.
running hot and cold
Having lived with intermittent hot water for several years, Miss Inexperience is offered a reconditioned, considerably more efficient (newer) instantaneous hot water boiler that should solve her problems. She accepts and arranges for LB to fit said new boiler. Unfortunately she allows LB to remove the existing boiler before the ‘new’ boiler is ready. She then spends a ridiculous amount of time without any running hot water while she waits for the new boiler to be returned and fitted.
In case you were wondering – it takes an average of five kettles full of water to fill a standard domestic sink full enough for washing up (allowing a bit of space for cold, even though there’s cooling time while the next kettle boils) and three to fill it full enough to have a wash. If you want to wash your hair as well you’re probably going to need two sinks, so six kettles. As you can imagine this is fine for a few days but not so good for a few weeks, or a couple of months (which is about how long Miss Inexperience was without her boiler for). And the moral of this story is unless it’s actually broken don’t let someone remove it unless you can see the thing they’re replacing it with.
Incidentally, the new boiler didn’t fix Miss Inexperience’s hot water problems, though like the pipe-work it did improve the situation.
the fire’s supposed to stay inside the glass
Miss Inexperience has cracked her stove glass. It’s not dangerously broken but it’s not as safe as it really should be. None of it’s fallen out, it’s just cracked. It’s cracked because the eco-fan fell off onto the glass when the door was open, but again it’s not the end of the world. Miss Inexperience has asked LB to order her a new one and he has done so, it should be here any day now.
Which is probably a good thing given that Miss Inexperience is about to do something very, very silly. Miss Inexperience, AP and MsB are all sitting on the boat eating fish and chips; when they’ve finished AP goes down into the kitchen to put the kettle on and Miss Inexperience balls up the chip papers and throws one of them into the fire.
The fat-soaked chip paper goes up with a whomph and Miss Inexperience slams the stove door on it. The cracked stove door. The glass in which proceeds to bend under the force of the heat allowing blue flames to poke through the widening gap…
On one side of the stove is AP, hand on fire extinguisher. On the other side are Miss Inexperience and MsB. Miss Inexperience is between the dogs and the fire. MsB is opening the front doors and attempting to work out how they get themselves and the dogs out onto the towpath without anyone getting injured in the process. Although it is possible to exit Miss Inexperience’s boat via the front doors, it is quite a difficult manoeuvre to pull off, as only the top half of the doors actually opens and there is no deck, the well goes all the way down to the bilges. As Miss Inexperience watches the fire leaping through the glass and contemplates getting the dogs out of the front of the boat without injuries, she reflects that it would probably be a good idea to do something about that…
The fire extinguisher remains unused, the flames die back, no dogs or people are thrown onto the towpath. Miss Inexperience makes a mental note that burning chip papers is a bad plan, shuts the fire right down, so it will go out slowly with minimal risk to the rest of the boat, makes sure the windows are open for air flow and hopes to hell that LB can collect the glass the following day.
Despite re-packing and regular greasing Miss Inexperience’s stern gear is soon back to its old leaky ways. She mentions this to LB, who demonstrates how to tighten it up; this does fix the problem, for a while. Then it starts again, she’s greasing it, she’s not doing anything unusual, she doesn’t understand. LB says he’ll have another look at it, which he duly does.
When he takes it apart to put some more packing in there he discovers the reason why the stern gear is leaking again. Despite Miss Inexperience’s best efforts there hasn’t actually been any grease getting to the stern tube as the pipe from the grease gun to the stern gear is blocked. Because there hasn’t been any grease getting through, the friction caused by the prop turning has burnt through the stern gland packing reducing it to a blackened mess. LB replaces the packing, unblocks the tube, and Miss Inexperience goes about making sure there’s plenty of grease in the new packing. She is also taught at this point how to refill her grease gun. That tells you how long the problem’s been going on for really doesn’t it?
 LB – Local Boatman, a friend of Miss Inexperience and MsB
 MLB – Mother of Local Boatman
After Miss Inexperience had owned her boat for about two years she came up with a theory regarding things breaking. She had observed, as no doubt many others had before her, that things in a boat tend to go wrong one after another. So, she surmised, if you picked something you could do without and left it broken that should break the chain. She traced back through the list of things she had fixed or had had fixed on the boat and realised that the first thing she had ever fixed was the flush on her porta-potti which she could definitely have done without. Damn.
That aside Miss Inexperience has finally gained some fairly important skills. She can now check that there is enough oil in the engine, knows where to put the extra oil in and what level it should be at. She knows that there should be coolant and keeps it topped up. She knows that batteries need poking occasionally to make sure they’re still there, she knows that her stern tube needs greasing. Other than that everything runs pretty much as well as it ever did. But it’s normal now because she’s got used to using a shower that you have to jump in and out of like you’re taking part in some demented variation on the hokey-kokey as it passes through ‘the right temperature’ briefly on its way to either scorching or freezing. She is aware that the engine must be run if she wants to use anything that requires 230 V because the inverter kills the batteries, and cold kills the batteries, and having a shower kills the batteries…
But the longer she lives on the boat the more things she finds that really need a tweak.
The first thing Miss Inexperience did when she bought the boat was put in some book shelves. Although she knew she wouldn’t be able to take the whole of her library she couldn’t possibly survive without any books so she put some shelves into the only empty space. They were badly executed but they were sturdy enough (mostly because each shelf was held up by the books below it).
Unfortunately, as anyone who’s ever been on a boat will know, putting a lot of weight (say a couple of hundred books) on one side of a boat will tend to make it list in that direction. Miss Inexperience fiddles ineffectually with the for’ard ballast, moving the whole lot to port, she then straightened the boat up the rest of the way with bags of coal, which is fine until you need to use them.
Eventually, after Miss Inexperience had been in London for about a year, a friend asked her why there were always five bags of coal (around 125kg) on the port side of her roof.
“Because they counteract the book list.” He gives her a funny look and returns sometime later with two rather hefty lead ingots which she hauls into the boat and places carefully as far to port as she can manage. Sadly, even the weight of these did not solve the problem but it did reduce it to the point where she could get away with three bags of coal (around 75kg as ballast); she is still using this system even though when she uses it at the beginning of the season it means she ends up listing again.
One of the very early things that Miss Inexperience did to her boat was fit an inverter. The previous owner had had one, and had put the wiring in place, however it was disconnected at both ends as he’d managed to buy a 24 V inverter rather than a 12 V one. (No, two 12 V 110 Ah batteries does NOT equal 24 V and 110 Ah mate) Without thinking too much about power consumption (she’s still quite new to this boating lark) Miss Inexperience purchases a 600 W inverter which will run her laptop and printer (though not necessarily at the same time). It’s a modified sine wave inverter as pure sine is way out of her price range and anyway she’s not convinced that it’s necessary – so far nothing appears to be suffering ill effects so perhaps she’s got away with it.
This she wires in to the existing, hideously over-sized, cabling because she doesn’t know any better. Although there is some complicated bodging done with connectors to make it work – probably not the best plan when you’re not sure what you’re doing eigh Miss Inexperience? No one died. And nothing got set fire to.
When Miss Inexperience bought the boat it had an elderly 6 CD multi-changer car stereo and for unknown reasons three speakers: one aft and two for’ard. The whole unit was very bulky, and Miss Inexperience mostly connected it via a stereo cable to a portable DAB radio anyway, but it worked and Miss Inexperience is not one for replacing things unless it’s actually necessary. However, once the CD player element died, it was only a matter of time before Miss Inexperience decided it had come far enough up the list to warrant replacing. There are always many things to spend money on on a boat; the problem is, in general, one of prioritisation.
Eventually the radio started sporadically doing some very odd things; then, one day, without warning, it let out a single agonal breath and remained nailed to the perch. MsB and Miss Inexperience were caught slightly off guard by this, as they had come to the conclusion that this was a zombie stereo and just poked it occasionally to see if it was still going. Fortunately they had a fair idea what was wanted so they set about working out the specifics and finding a good price for it. Once the magical noise box had arrived Miss Inexperience set about her first complicated piece of boat maintenance – changing the stereo. It went fine, but did involve some rather nasty discoveries about the state of the wiring. Namely, some of it was quite chaotic and in other places people hadn’t bothered to shorten the wires so that vast amounts of cabling had to be removed in order to work out what the hell was going on underneath.
This was also when she discovered that not all of the lights were on the same circuit and that she had absolutely no idea what any of her fuses did. In the end she gave up trying to identify the correct fuse and turned the power off at the isolator switches instead. It wasn’t like she was planning on doing anything else like make coffee, or put lights on, while she replaced the radio now was it?
So far Miss Inexperience has only done a limited amount of cruising on any boat; she has travelled as far west as Newbury and as far East/South as Camden on her own boat and has done various stretches of canal on other peoples boats. On canals, and even canalised rivers, you can generally stop pretty much anywhere along the towpath for up to two weeks (depending on local restrictions). So, other than her brief sojourn on the Thames she has never really been anywhere with limited mooring. London is, therefore, a bit of a shock. Around Rickmansworth and Watford (as far north as you can get and still be on the tube network) it’s possible to moor pretty much anywhere. In London proper however, there are designated moorings and in most places it’s not physically possible to just bang in a couple of pins as there are high voltage cables and fibre optics running under the concrete towpaths…
(7 days – no breasting up, plus 2 boats worth of 2h ‘stop and shop’ moorings)
Miss Inexperience headed straight to the visitor mooring in Camden when she arrived in London for a couple of reasons: her job was in Camden (she might as well make life easy for herself) and it’s Camden. The latter is the reason most people head to Camden (it’s a very popular mooring).
When Miss Inexperience first arrived it was possible to moor there for 14 days during the winter and 7 days during the summer – it’s now 7 days all year round. She was lucky; when she arrived there was a space into which she could squeeze her boat. This is generally not the case, which means either a quick turn in ‘dead dogs’ tunnel’  and heading back to Little Venice or carrying on down the Camden Flight to Islington.
The Camden visitor moorings (though not the stop-and-shop moorings) are theoretically locked overnight, although that is generally done by one of the boaters currently on the mooring. There is (or at least was) a warden for the mooring which somehow didn’t seem to make a difference, it was still done by whoever happened to be there at the appropriate moment and remembered, or occasionally by a boater from one of the other moorings as they passed through. Miss Inexperience is bad at confrontation and didn’t really want to have to ask locals to leave the mooring; however she quickly discovered that not locking the mooring meant towpath “parties” going on all night outside her boat with loud music and drunkenness that she also wasn’t very keen on. She also discovered that putting on a high-vis jacket when she went to lock the mooring lent her an air of credibility and meant she got far fewer questions.
The boats in Camden also tend to be used as a backdrop for people’s photographs, which is mainly not a problem. It’s even perfectly acceptable to step onto someone’s boat to take a photograph providing they have given you permission. The following however, are all things Miss Inexperience has seen and DOES have a problem with:
Despite these minor problems Miss Inexperience enjoyed mooring at Camden; there are two supermarkets in easy reach of the mooring as well as an “organic supermarket” (outside her price range but good for treats). In fact when Miss Inexperience gets her first winter mooring this is where she chooses to be (good job the canal didn’t freeze that year otherwise she’d have been stuffed as there’s no facilities on-site).
And finally: it’s all fun and games until someone sets fire to a wall.
Miss Inexperience was sitting in AP’s boat when she hears crackling and can smell burning outside. As her boat is next to AP’s she sticks her head out the door to see what’s going on, only to discover that someone has set light to the ivy covered wall next to the boats. It has been a dry summer and they’ve clearly put some accelerant on it as the flames are already 6 foot up the wall. Miss Inexperience rings the fire brigade and endeavours to explain that no, she doesn’t have a postcode for her current location, the nearest road is Regents Park Road and that the fire is on the towpath. In the mean time AP and some lovely Italians from a hire-boat attempt to extinguish the conflagration with buckets of water and at least one of the hire-boat’s fire extinguishers – Miss Inexperience didn’t manage to stop them in time, she still wonders how they explained that one when they got back. They did such an efficient job that the flames were gone by the time the fire service arrived, but, as the wall was still hot and there were crackling sounds (and a primary school on the other side of the wall) they decided to douse the wall thoroughly anyway while chatting with Miss Inexperience about living on a boat. Good fun was had by all.
The Grand Union (Paddington Branch) is considerably easier to moor on with several sections where it’s possible to put in pins. One of these is just beyond the official visitor mooring rings at Little Venice, however (as Miss Inexperience discovers when she moves in the middle of a week to get out of the way of the Canalway Cavalcade moorings) the whole stretch from Little Venice to the Harrow Road Bridge is counted as the Little Venice visitor mooring. The BW enforcement officer gently explains this to her and agrees that she can move her boat as soon as she gets a chance.
Volunteering at the Canalway Cavalcade (before she owned her own boat) was Miss Inexperience’s first introduction to the canal in London and she discovers (the first time she goes there when the Cavalcade isn’t on) that Little Venice looks oddly empty without it. As a local boater however she realises that it can make moving around a bit of a nightmare. There is a huge influx of boats at the beginning of the festival, meaning that you have to go further afield to find a mooring as the whole section is closed to visitors and, when they all leave again it’s possible to get stuck waiting to go through the Maida Hill Tunnel (272 yards, thanks for asking) for up to an hour. Generally, if at all possible, it’s a good idea to be a long way away from Little Venice when the Cavalcade is going on because boats that aren’t part of the festivities really just get in the way.
It is on the Little Venice visitor moorings that Miss Inexperience discovers children like to bang on the outsides of boats and then run away – a kind of water based equivalent of the doorbell game, and that anything not locked down, for example AP’s bike, will get nicked.
There is a wicked cross wind at times on the Little Venice visitor moorings; this is fine if you manage to find a space on the section with rings, however, if you’re trying to moor single handed and your boat is being blown out while you’re trying to knock a pin in things can get a bit dicey. Miss Inexperience struggles with this for about twenty minutes one day with a particularly vicious wind before coming to the conclusion (having checked the towpath both ways) that if she just loops the rope over a section of fence while she quickly puts the pin in, it’ll be fine. This blocks the towpath but she’s keeping an eye out and putting the pin in as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, as she hits it for the last time a cyclist appears.
“Mind the …” the cyclist slows and looks up to see what’s going on … and is promptly taken off her bike by the “…rope”.
Miss Inexperience picks her up and apologises profusely. The cyclist, a little shaken but otherwise unhurt, accepts the apology and the explanation, ducks under the rope and leaves saying that she has learnt an important lesson about mooring boats “to slow down and look for ropes”. Miss Inexperience takes the rope down, ties it to the pin and vows never to do that again.
She also arrived back at her boat one evening to find that one of the pins had come out (some people seem to think that slowing down past moored boats is a slur on their boat handling) and the boat was almost completely blocking the canal (quite impressive since it’s only a 40’ boat and the canal here is quite wide). Given the strength of the wind and the length of the centre line it takes Miss Inexperience, MsB and AP quite a while to get the boat safely back to the bank. Fortunately, Miss Inexperience has ‘D’ pins and always threads the rope through them so she just has to bang the pin, and a couple of spares, in.
The Paddington Basin mooring is a bit of a concrete jungle however it does have a couple of things in its favour, notably its proximity to supermarkets, Paddington Station and St. Mary’s Hospital – on at least one occasion someone who has had an accident on a boat has been hauled onto the roof and taken round to the back to St. Mary’s where the skipper has yelled “a little help here” in the general direction of the ambulance bay. It also extends the amount of time you can stay in the area of Little Venice to three weeks.
That said, Miss Inexperience isn’t a fan of Paddington Basin, most of the moorings are down slippery pontoons and those that are on concrete are generally under bridges. There is one mooring, near the glass bridge that has a security guard opposite it (which oddly didn’t make Miss Inexperience feel that much more secure) and the level of wind in there is such that lighter boats (like Miss Inexperience’s) sometimes have to crab to get anywhere. The wind means that manoeuvring has to be done at some speed and Miss Inexperience has been yelled at more than once by boaters who appear not to understand that not all boats handle the same. She has, on more than one occasion, wondered aloud whether the boat owner in question would prefer her wash hit his boat or her boat did so as she was being blown in his direction.
However, apart from its lack of trees and slippery surfaces in places, Paddington Basin is quite a safe place to moor; in fact the worst thing that happened when she was moored there was the discovery by AP of a group of builders sitting on the back of Miss Inexperience’s boat drinking cans of beer on their lunch break. They probably thought it made them less conspicuous. For all Miss Inexperience knew they could have been doing it for days, but, as they didn’t leave any mess and didn’t argue when AP pointed out that it wasn’t their boat and they shouldn’t be there she wasn’t too worried about it.
(14 days plus 5 boat lengths of 24 hour)
Opposite the cemetery at Kensal Green is actually quite a nice place to moor. It’s a long mooring on a wide section of towpath which allows the possibility of safe barbeques and general sitting around on the towpath (something of a rarity in the middle of London).
There is also a huge Sainsbury’s which Miss Inexperience and MsB regularly cruised to at Christmas (subject to ice) to collect last minute shopping and alcohol (a quick lift of the trolley over the magnetic wot-not and you can offload straight onto the boat before slipping the trolley back into the supermarket the same way you got it out – no damage done).
It is however a bad plan to attempt to moor here during the Notting Hill Carnival, as Miss Inexperience and one of her friends discovered. They set off for the mooring one evening during the festival, thinking it would be fun to cruise through. However, by the time they’d had a few bottles, rocks and other missiles thrown at them by drunken festival goers who appeared to equate boats with target practice. Had been leered at, jollied at and generally irritated by being the only sober people in a crowd of louts (albeit louts that couldn’t get at them and were drunk enough that they couldn’t even manage to hit a narrowboat moving at 3 miles an hour) it started to lose its appeal. She didn’t make the same mistake twice.
(14 days, locked at night)
As Miss Inexperience quickly discovered; the Islington Visitor Mooring is a funny place. It starts about 10 meters east of the Islington Tunnel (the longest on the Regent’s Canal – it only has two tunnels, one of them has to be the longest) and is in a deep cutting surrounded by houses.
When Miss Inexperience moored here the first time she was very new to boating; she knew about the “8 ‘til 8 rule” regarding running engines but, as she was getting home late and her batteries weren’t holding charge, she put her engine on at about 1950 one evening (for half an hour so she could shower) and got yelled at by someone who pretty much moors there full time. Sadly, the irony was lost on her as she didn’t really understand the continuous cruising rules at this time. The reason for the bawling out was gently explained by another boater. There is at least one local who has a problem with the boats and who always reports boats running their engines after the 2000 cut off.
She explained the situation; he nodded and responded that when he needed to do it he went for a half hour cruise as they couldn’t say anything about boats moving. Wide eyed with terror (there are two locks east of the mooring and a tunnel west of it) she nodded and pointed out that single-handing at night was a bit scary. So he helped her top up her batteries and introduced her to the concept of “batt aid”.
Miss Inexperience eventually tried to avoid mooring at Islington for a variety of reasons, not just the grumpy local(s). The Northern Line is reliably unreliable which lead to Miss Inexperience attempting to cycle to work. Not knowing the way she got herself in the wrong lane going down Pentonville Road and nearly got knocked off by a van while trying to do a legal right turn (legal only for bicycles, buses and taxis; everyone else carries straight on) meaning that she arrived in work on time but very shaken. On top of that was the difficulty of negotiating the very busy centre of Islington (it’s a bit like Oxford Street but less … linear) from the supermarket to the mooring, and the embarrassment of the day she had to figure out how to get to a position where she could call down to AP to let her in because she’d arrived back after the mooring had been locked and she’d forgotten to take her BW key and phone with her.
The visitor moorings in Victoria Park are notoriously difficult to get on to. They’re generally two boats deep along the whole length of the park and many of the boats present appear to be continuous moorers. Whenever Miss Inexperience headed down that way she inevitably ended up turning back having not found anywhere to moor. The further East you go on the canal in London the more dodgy boats and continuous mooring there is to be found. The enforcement officer at the time Miss Inexperience was there had done a marvellous job of clearing the rule-breakers out of central London, but unfortunately, as with many problems, it was just moved; in this instance to Victoria Park and later to the bottom of the Hertford Union and the Lee Navigation. It is possible to walk around the edges of Victoria Park, and at night it is advisable to do so – though it’s better than it used to be. It’s a great place to moor if you’re going to one of the festivals, or even if you just want to listen to one of the festivals, since you can hear the music from the towpath; that’s if you can find somewhere to moor.
Mile End Park
(14 days – if you last that long)
Very few people moor in Mile End Park even though there are a couple of places you can do so, and even fewer do so more than once. Miss Inexperience didn’t try it, as a single female being that far away from the safety of other boats
seemed like a bad plan. There were too many horror stories and she wasn’t keen on ending up as a statistic. After Miss Inexperience moved onto her mooring and stopped continuous cruising in London she briefly had a job in Mile End. Having seen the park at night (and had to purchase Kevlar tyres for her bike because of the quantity of broken glass lying around in the park) Miss Inexperience is very glad she didn’t try and moor there. Not recommended for anyone.
1 Dead Dogs’ Tunnel is actually a disused loading bay.
NOTE: NOT ALL OF THE PICTURES WILL APPEAR RELEVENT. THEY’RE NOT, BUT I APPEAR TO HAVE LOST PRETY MUCH ALL OF MY PHOTOS OF LONDON, THESE ARE FROM AN OLD PHONE AND ARE THE BEST I CAN DO. SORRY.
(May Bank Holiday Weekend 2007)
Miss Inexperience somehow made it through that first awful winter when she couldn’t get the stove to work properly, the water temperature was more changeable than a British Summer Day, it snowed, it flooded, trees fell down blocking the navigation and the towpath, she couldn’t afford to renew her mooring as she had been out of work for much of the time and she wanted to move closer to civilisation anyway, so she ends up ‘continuous mooring’ in a field because she can’t get any further in the direction she’s trying to go, by the skin of her teeth. She wasn’t entirely alone; her neighbours took pity on her, and in the depths of winter took her by car to get coal, picked up firelighters when she ran out and occasionally took her and her skinny lurcher into their boats to warm up with a mug of sugary tea.
With spring comes the possibility of seasonal work in London so Miss Inexperience identifies five days in which she can move her boat and crosses her fingers that the damaged weir will be fixed by then otherwise she’s going to have a VERY long commute. She also secures SBT to help with the move as he’s done “The Big River” before.
The Kayak Race
The cruise starts with turning the boat, this shouldn’t be difficult but there’s a wicked current running and Miss Inexperience is fighting the boat round just as some people on the bank start putting kayaks containing children into the water, directly in line with where Miss Inexperience’s 15 tonne lump of uncontrolled steel is going to land… Eventually the adults realised the danger, stopped putting children into the water and assisted her to turn the boat. (But not sadly before they shouted abuse at her for messing up their race – as there were no signs and Miss Inexperience doesn’t have access to the internet she really had no way of knowing that there was going to be a race.) At some point in the middle of avoiding the children an alarm started going off on the control panel. There was nothing that anyone could do about this. Other than put a spare hand over the speaker; neither Miss Inexperience nor SBT had a spare hand.
The cooling conundrum
Once Miss Inexperience and SBT had managed to get clear of the kayaks, find somewhere safe to pull in they turned the engine off and discovered that the water-cooled engine had run out of cooling water. They waited. They let the engine cool down. They put some more water in and cruised for a bit. They checked the water level. They put some more water in. They cruised a bit more. They repeated the procedure every couple of hours for the whole trip. But at least the alarm stayed off.
The handlebars/pub/bridge concatenation
The last stretch of the Kennet through Reading is extremely fast flowing and, as it passes through the city centre, narrows to approximately half the width above and below. There is also a low arched bridge, with a pub garden next to it and it is a sunny day. Miss Inexperience misjudges the flow, in full view of an almost overflowing beer garden, hits the bridge; losing in the process the handlebars to her bike (if it hadn’t been locked to the roof the chances are she’d have lost the whole thing) and the gas ventilator. Those in the pub garden cheered. If you are ever in a position to cheer at this kind of accident, please don’t. Miss Inexperience lost her ability to have a shower that day. Not to mention the cost of repairing the bike.
The supermarket/licensing miscalculation
So, they’re on the Kennet, heading for the Thames and looking for a supermarket because Miss Inexperience didn’t think it was worth stopping for food in the morning since they were already running late. Now if you turn left out of Reading (upstream/north) you come to a good mooring directly outside a Tesco Extra. If, however, as Miss Inexperience and SBT did, you turn right, you end up having to go through at least one lock (where you have to buy a licence) before you can get to somewhere that might stand a chance of having a shop. The boat has an anchor but no navigation lights (just a ‘tunnel lamp’) which means they cannot move at night on the Thames; this wouldn’t have been a problem had they turned upstream. As it was they were just pulling into a mooring as the light started to fail. Cutting it a bit fine there hey Miss Inexperience?
Boats, boats everywhere
As Miss Inexperience and SBT head further down the Big River they encounter a lot of other boats. Miss Inexperience starts to enjoy herself somewhere in the middle of day two; there’s no need to slow down on the Big River, it’s wide and fast and really quite fun after the Muddy Little Ditch she’s been moored on until now. This is all quite relaxing until they start meeting canoes, kayaks, rowing boats, skiffs, toppers and various other small squashy boats containing small squashy people, who don’t seem to be aware that there’s a 15 tonne lump of steel heading for them, and that even if Miss Inexperience throws the boat violently into reverse it’s unlikely (given the current) that she will be able to stop it before she hits them. Particularly if they will insist on hanging around in front of her. There were several tense moments where Miss Inexperience moved to go round such obstacles only to have them turn around and head back towards her (no, not tacking, just erratic).
Tide-tables exist for a reason
Having managed not to kill anyone, sink the boat or any of the other terrible things Miss Inexperience has imagined happening throughout the whole journey, they arrive at Teddington Lock at completely the wrong time to hit the tide. They pull onto the lock mornings, go to talk to the lock-keeper, realise their mistake, scurry back to frantically ring a different lock-keeper (the one at Brentford) and beg him to let them off the Thames when they arrive at about 21h… He agrees. They secure the boat on the lay-by with the lock-keeper’s permission, before sauntering off to acquire some food/emergency battery operated ‘nav’ lights and, for reasons known only to Miss Inexperience, a mop.
They get through the tidal section without incident and turn onto the Grand Union Canal just as the light is failing (at some point the nav lights fail as well, good job there wasn’t anything coming the other way). They moor up and somehow find their way to a restaurant for a well deserved celebratory meal.
The power of suction
After three days on the Big River without slowing down for anything, the Muddy Little Ditch into London seems very slow and boring. It takes Miss Inexperience most of the day to crawl past the rows and rows of moored boats (going considerably slower than she really needs to as she hasn’t quite figured out that it’s the water movement that matters rather than the actual speed). However in spite of this she manages to arrive in Little Venice just before a trip boat is about to leave. This isn’t a problem except that she’s never taken this boat through a tunnel before and she’s tired and can’t seem to keep the boat moving in a straight line. The worst happens, she gets stuck on the side of the tunnel, and completes her traverse with much cringing and scraping before pulling over as quickly as possible so she can embarrass herself in private.
She moors up at Camden and relaxes.
 The Thames
 Miss Inexperience rings BW when she realises that she won’t be able to move away from her current location and arranges to overstay with permission. By the time the flow has abated enough for the weir to be fixed and normal service resumed, there are about 10 boats on this section all in a similar position.
 Had Miss Inexperience thought to check the tide tables and locations of supermarkets before setting off she would have realised it was safer and cheaper to remain on BW waters overnight and only venture onto The Big River (which is EA territory and therefore requires a separate licence) in the morning, thus saving them the cost of a day’s licence and quite a lot of stress. Ho hum.
Sometime around August 2006, Miss Inexperience decides to finally follow her dream and move onto a narrowboat. Despite having been to innumerable National Inland Waterways Festivals, grown up next to the Llangollen Canal and spent time on a variety of narrowboats, Miss Inexperience really hadn’t done her research and didn’t really know what she wanted apart from: nice wide gunwhales (which she didn’t know how to spell) and the ‘railing type of handrails rather than the solid kind’. A friend was selling his boat and Miss Inexperience went to look at it. She loved it. It was quite a small boat, quite scruffy and had been re-painted really, really badly but that didn’t matter, this was going to be her first boat. No looking at a variety of boats and picking one for Miss Inexperience. No, this boat. A scruffy 79, or possibly 82, Springer built boat with a dodgy service history and an engine that no one has ever bloody heard of.
So she bought it, and started piece by piece to take her life apart and ‘de-clutter’ it down to the point where it might stand a chance of fitting onto a 40 foot boat. In the process she rid herself of a good three-quarters of the contents of her wardrobe, 6 bin liners full of books (that hurt) and quite a lot of other stuff that was being kept merely because it wasn’t actually in the way. The charity shops and clothing banks did well out of Miss Inexperience that year.
Slowly, car-load by car-load, she moved onto her new boat. A boat that was moored five hour’s drive away from her flat, an hour’s walk from the nearest shop (despite having moved onto the boat by car Miss Inexperience doesn’t actually drive, thank you parental taxi service), 10 minutes from the nearest pub, 8 miles from any prospect of employment, but handily only about 20 seconds from the nearest combined sanitary station (release ropes and shove across the river). Yes, I said river. Rivers are prone to flooding, and strong currents and other things that first time boat owners with no bloody experience at all should probably not be dealing with on their first winter aboard. Miss Inexperience was about to learn some tough lessons in life on the water.
Lesson One: The oven has a gas safety cut off. If you can’t find it, you can’t make your oven work. Which is going to rather scupper your plans for dinner. Oh well, scrambled eggs anyone?
Lesson Two: Full elsan cassettes are heavy. Opposite Miss Inexperience’s first mooring was a combined sanitary station with a toilet (tastefully illuminated with ultraviolet strip-lights) and a quite handy motion sensor light which came on whenever anyone stepped onto Miss Inexperience’s back deck making finding the keyhole considerably easier. Since Miss Inexperience didn’t need to fill up with water, it made sense to her to walk her full cassette round to the emptying point, normally a two minute walk. It took Miss Inexperience fifteen minutes to haul her toilet round, and caused her to gain several fetching bruises on the thigh where she’d forgotten about inertia and whacked herself with the damn thing.
Lesson Three: Bugger the cars. When going through a partially automated swing bridge with an increasingly impatient queue of cars waiting for it to re-open Miss Inexperience shouted across to her AP to start lifting the barrier on the far side. The first car promptly started across the bridge, despite the other barrier not having been raised yet. The bridge wasn’t quite closed, and it remained not quite closed, and slightly wobbly, until BW arrived, fixed the mess and retrieved Miss Inexperience’s only BW Key from the mechanism.
Lesson Four: Make damn sure you can make the bank before leaping off the boat, particularly in November. Funnily enough this occurred at the same swing bridge as Miss Inexperience’s previous mishap. There was a coal merchant opposite the bridge moorings which was due to close and Miss Inexperience only had half a bag of coal left and needed to go to work in the morning. In her hurry to get off, she hit the bank with the toe of one boot and dropped straight into the water with the boat heading for the bridge. Much swearing ensued as Miss Inexperience hauled herself back out of the really quite cold water just about in time for her crew (SBT) to stop the boat hitting the bridge. Miss Inexperience then squelched round to the coal merchant, with her two (rather drier) crew, to beg for coal even though it was nearly closing time, so that she wouldn’t freeze to death. The guy in the coal merchant took pity on her, or possibly he just wanted her to stop dripping on his floor.
Lesson Five: Solid fuel stoves take a lot of getting used to. Miss Inexperience spent a lot of time cold that first winter, and to be honest it’s a miracle she didn’t set her chimney alight since she didn’t think to sweep it before using the fire. Most of that first winter was spent sat inside, shivering, wearing her coat and hat, cradling a mug of coffee, almost in tears, wondering what the hell she’d done and why she’d wanted to do it. She could make a fire, she was very good at making a fire; it was keeping it going that was proving to be a problem. As a result she was using a LOT of firelighters.
 Aged Parent.
 A note of caution: work boots are very heavy when full of water and the lace-up variety wont come off without a lot of effort so if you’re going to fall into water wearing them, make sure it’s shallow water. If you’re likely to fall into deep water make ’em easy offs – better to lose your boots than your life.
 Strange Bloke Thing: A considerably more experienced boater.