Sunday, January 2, 2011

Nuts, Bolts, and Notebooks
     I've begun a notebook listing everything of curiosity or interest that catches my eye as I parse blogs and boat builders' web sites, with notes on the basics of boating. I've discovered Canal Boat magazine and its wonderful website which offers great reviews of boats on test and online articles on canal boating skills, unlocking locks, and buying a canal boat. 
 I teach myself the directions for the bow and stern, fore, aft, starboard, and port by standing up and moving through a virtual boat. Owing to a learning disability things like days of the week, time of the day, directions involving numbers, left and right, etc. were hard for me to learn and I still get them tangled sometimes.
     My notebook also includes ideas I might like to incorporate on my boat after further investigation: finrads (hot pipes with"shark fins" on them which travel throughout the the boat distributing heat instead of radiators bolted to the cabin side); anti-slip coating on the roof and rear deck; hot water pipes to the taps running alongside central heating pipes. This keeps the tap lines pre-heated which makes good sense to me.
     My list seems endless with notes on double glazed windows to reduce condensation and keep heat inside; polycrystalline solar panels for an additional power source which will generate even on cloudy days; 2 pk epoxy blacking for the hull which should last longer than single coat products; slipper sterns, hybrid diesel/electric engines, composting toilets, bow thrusters, hospital silencers, Axiom propellers, ball valves on plumbing versus gate valves, canbus vs. fuse box technology; greasless PSS stern tube seals for a dry engine space; double Thinsulate vs. spray foam insulation; Oyster Caro self tracking satellite systems, finger grips along the roof rails, tongue and groove ceiling painted white, Heritage Uno diesel stoves, reverse layout---the list is endless as I review narrow boats such as Braidbar's Caroline Anne for its composting toilet and solar panels; Sir James for its Empirbus DC electric distribution system with a GSM card allowing the owner to turn on the heating or freezer, turn off the lights, or set the alarm remotely; and NB Felonious Mongoose with its state of the art electric/diesel hyrbrid system.
    Looking at the clock I see it is one a.m. as I rabidly download the manual for a water cooled engine! I  laugh hysterically as I picture my daughters' incredulous faces while I try to explain the mechanics of water vs. air cooled boat engines. Me, the Luddite who prefers travel by dog sled over car; the total mechanical butterfinger who knows how to start the car, turn it off, fill it with gas, check the oil, and cry when something more difficult raises its ugly head. I laugh until tears pour down my face and I develop a case of post hysteria hiccoughs. Love does not make any sense and falling in love seems to drive all normal convention out the window.  I am in love with narrow boats, and I know no one on this side of the Atlantic ocean who would even begin to understand why. 
Meanwhile further email conversation with Dear Sir continues: 
Boats and Cruising: Valerie: On the Move at Last (November 10th 2009)
"...Well just leaves me to say goodnight but before i do, hello to Jaqueline Almdale in the USA thanks for your e mail in response to my asking for overseas readers to make themselves known.
From:Jaqueline Almdale
To: Les Biggs
Subject: RE: U.S. follower
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2009
Hello Les,
     Thank you for replying and for the shout out on your blog.  It seems from what I’ve read so far that the NB community is populated by very supportive and friendly folk. With people taking hire boat vacations I imagine one would meet people from literally everywhere.
     I thoroughly enjoy your descriptions. I appreciate the history you include, and your explanations are easy to understand. You have a fine, clear way with words that make your blog entries shine.
     It’s a relief to know my dream is not unobtainable. I am more motivated than ever to begin writing my book. After all if some nitwit publisher will pay The Pitbull With Lipstick (aka Sara Palin) 5 million dollars for her brain droppings, I should be able to write a book which garners an 1/8th of that which would allow me to enter the country on a retirement visa and buy my boat....
     It makes me smile throughout my day every time I think about the canals and I picture all of you moving along through your day and then mooring up. People wonder what I’m up to!  Little do they know I am many thousands of miles away in my head, savoring blog descriptions, reaching for a future possibility.
     I bought a new notebook and every time I find something interesting to do with NB’s or the canals I make an entry. I’ve looked up hospital silencers, Tim Tyler hulls, fine pitch propellers, bow thrusters, and a few other curiosities. I found descriptions and pictures of traditional boatman’s cabins but could not find descriptions of Potter’s cabins. I came across pictures of a boat hull and shell being fitted and it had one. But Potter’s cabins seem to be an item the majority of boaters don’t find useful anymore.  Do you know anything about them? It seems narrow boat owners stowed their children in them at night when they used to haul freight with their families on board.  
     Oh! To be eighty and free, traveling along as you will! It seems to me one of the best things about living without a permanent mooring, and traveling as one pleases, is the immediacy of life. One is just there—in that moment--and not tied up in knots about what happened in the past or what might happen tomorrow. One is living in the ever present now.
     Thanks again for your encouragement Les. It’s wonderful to hear from you.
P.S. I am a medicinal herbalist. If you can find tincture of Arnica, it will help the soft tissue in your back heal faster. It brings down swelling, and draws white blood cells to the site to begin repairs. Soft tissue damage takes much longer than bone to heal, but Arnica can make a great difference in healing time. The web indicates Weleda’s Arnica lotion is available for 5 pounds 85 pence. Theirs is a trustworthy product. 

From:Les Biggs
To: Jaqueline Almdale
Subject: RE: U.S. follower
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009

Hi Jaqueline,
      Next time i go into a decent size town i`ll look out for that lotion you mention as my back still troubles me a bit so anything is worth a try.
      You know everytime i communicate with the USA be it your goodself or others i get a yearning to visit as the last time i was in the US was back in 1981 when i spent a month travelling Greyhound coast to coast and up to Toronto to visit family. The one place i would really like to see again is Las Vegas as it appears now that the 'strip' is covered in themed hotels like the Venice and Pyramid etc. Maybe one day before it`s to late i might just put the boat in a marina and do it.
      Cats on boats are no problem and for dogs it`s a great life with the biggest garden in the country all along the canals. Some boaters have chickens that travel in runs on the roof getting the ability to give free range eggs when the the boat moors and they roam the towpath. Parrots are also a popular pet with some having large cages taking up the whole front end of the boat in what is called the cratch.
      I suppose your now gonna' look up the word cratch! I have tried to find out about Potters cabins but so far with no luck but there are plenty of old working boatmen still around so hopefully the mystery will be solved.
      My only idea is it is something to do with the 'Butty' boat. This was a narrowboat that had no engine and was towed behind another motorised boat. The usual set up was the wife would steer the 'butty' with the old man on the 'motor' and the kids doing the locks or steering the butty when mum was cooking. Both had small cabins as space was money to the working boat family in so far as the more cargo they could carry the more they earned.
      On average the cabins were 8' long and with the big families, the butty was usually for the kids. As time progressed the canal companies introduced inspectors to make sure the boats were not overcrowded but the boaters usually put some of the kids on another boat when the inspector called.
      Schooling for the kids became a problem when the railways began to spread around the country taking freight from boats to rail resulting in the boat families giving up their land based cottages to live aboard to save money on rents. Schools were set up at bases usually in an old work boat but the kids were only able to attend while the boat was waiting for a cargo either from the London docks or a coal field anywhere in the country. This was called 'waiting for orders'.
      Some kids were given away to other boat families if their parents couldn`t afford to feed them and i have in fact met a woman who as a child was handed over in a pub. She went on to operate her own boat at 17yrs old and now lives in a lock cottage. I visit her every year as i pass by. I find the history of the canals so interesting and seem to find something new on every trip.
      You mention technology and sadly although it`s possible to live with the minimum on a boat i do find it`s nice to have some--especially the 'Net. So "what other techo things do i have," i hear you say; well i have a sattelite dish as i find a good tv signal is hard to get on the cut with an ordinary aeriel, plus a DVD player. The washing machine saves looking around for launderettes that are becoming scarcer;  the diesel fired central heating doesn`t get much use as i tend to use the log burner fuelled by wood from fallen trees along the cut (canal).
      All sounds like home from home--well i suppose it is really but the big difference is the freedom to move around; not being tied to power suppliers, the engine provides all power stored in the batteries plus hot water so the fuel used to travel gives me electric and hot water. Not bad eh--3 products from each litre of fuel. Bottled gas for cooking lasts 3 months at about £20.

Better stop now in case you get envious. LES. X


  1. You make me Laugh I get the hiccoughs too!!

  2. Ahh! A good laugh with accompanying hysterical hiccoughs is good for clearing the pores and taking your mind from your troubles.
    I love you!

  3. Weird following this story, it`s like a BBC repeat that although you`ve seen it before it`s still so enjoyable.
    Pinch pinch! am i dreaming? NO, it`s real, it`s lovely, it`s love. Thanks Jaq.XX

  4. The American radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to have a radio show begun during WWII which would feature some factual story with a surprise twist at the end, upon which he would say, "...And now you know the rest of the story."

    It is a good thing you are returning to me soon; else wise we will both be covered in bruises! It's only when I hear your voice I know I am not dreaming.
    Love Jaq

  5. Keep up the research Jaqueline! Thing is each boat is different so it's another learning curve when you actually get one lol


  6. Will do Heth. I actually find everything to do with the boats and the canals fascinating. I appreciate your encouragement. (And I'm so happy you and Dave are warm at last!!)