Moore 2 Life:Exploring the waterways

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Book:'LIFE WITH A NARROWBOAT' © Chas Moore

Chapter 5: A Boat Of Our Own, 1999

Get warmed up

The start of the year finds us with our own boat Nomad of Erehwon. Terry and Myra now have their own Butty Lark moored in the same marina at Ham Manor Basin. It had been decided that we all would like to live on boats and explore other canals at our leisure sometime in the future. Terry has been given his Golden Handshake and retired.

When we arrived Terry and Myra gave us a cup of tea on their boat while an electric fire on Nomad took away the chill of January. Then we all went off by car to look at a second hand boat that promised to be worth a look. But the fit out was disappointing. On returning we found Nomad cosy and warm. We set about checking the batteries, charging them up and lighting the fire before going to bed.

Woke at seven with the fire just about going. Boosted it with more wood and coal. The electric fire was at the bedroom end with the coal fire at the other. It rained during the night and water was dribbling down the chimney! Another maintenance job on the list that never gets any shorter! Only 1 kW used to keep the boat and us cosy over night. Ann varnished all the window ledges while I attended to the engine before running it till it got nice and warm. Work is getting very stressful and having the boat provides a pleasant distraction. Or is it the other way round now? (Work is the distraction). We left our friends on their boat and returned home.

Another weekend

It was the middle of February before we could get back because the family need our time at weekends as well. It only takes an hour to get to the boat from home and getting away on a Friday evening is great. Arrived with cat and dog for the weekend. Our friends were on their boat and had kindly switched the electric fire on in Nomad. We got the coal fire going and had the dinner which Ann had prepared before we left home. The casserole was heated up in the oven. After Tara the cat had finished prowling around the boat she finally settled in her basket in the cabin. Then Terry and Myra came round to discuss where we were to go for the first weekend away on both boats. On the Kennet and Avon canal the choice is only east or west from Newbury!

Going east with two boats, Kennet n Avon canal pictures

Next day we went east in the morning. Widmead lock is flooded as the river Kennet was well up. This may well have influenced our decision to turn left, as it was easier to let the water push us that way getting out of the basin! We stopped below Monkey Marsh Lock for lunch in warm sunshine. It was so great to be out and about. The crew on our boats made it easier to travel through the wide locks. The wide locks letting both boats in. We continued to one of our favourite spots at Midgham where we found several other boats had got there earlier. Terry turned round and moored up against the grassy edge with the plank to get off and I did the same behind Butty Lark. After a game of Mah-Jongg we all had dinner on Nomad. Then back to Butty Lark to watch their colour TV. Tara the cat is happier now that we are not moving. After a dry warm day it is frosty outside now but the fire has been going all day to keep us warm.

Got up early next morning to get the fire going with more coal and open it up. By breakfast time it was cosy and warm again. We set off back mid morning against the fast flowing river Kennet. Crunched some ice that remained in sheltered spots. Getting into Ham Manor Basin can be a bit tricky with the high river flow and we made it into the narrow angled entrance almost without hitting the sides!

Looking for a boat

Near the end of the month we were up on the boat again. It was raining as we unpacked the car. The wheelbarrow provided a quick and easy method of transporting the stuff to the boat. Lit the fire and got the cat and dog settled in before joining our friends at the local Swan for dinner.

Next day we got up early and set off to Leicester in the car. Having seen some second hand boats we wanted to consider the possibility of having one built to our own specification. Went to River View Boats to see what they can offer. Very promising. We now had a better idea of what to expect and how much to pay for a new boat. Returned to Butty Lark for a meal provided by Myra. Then talked a lot about our future together. It had been a dry warm day and we felt that we had achieved some thing today. Ran the engine an hour for the batteries. Terry came round with his new hose brush and we washed both sides of the boat. Looking after our investment.

Maintenance

A month later we returned at the end of March to do some maintenance. Changed the oil in the gearbox. Replaced the fuel filter and cleaned out the water trap. Relieved to get the engine started again after that job! Nomad only has two batteries, both Leisure types but one is used as the starter. This is not ideal but swapping the connections each year helps them both. Next job was to refill the tank with water after the winter and get cold water running again. A gas heater provides the hot water. Then went to pay for our BW Licence at the office and paid our respects to John Gould who had died last week. He was the man who last used this canal with his working boat and campaigned to keep it open by forming the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.

Annual Easter race

Easter came early this year at the start of April and we were back on our boats again. Departed on Friday morning with both boats going east this time. A third boat joined us when we got to Monkey Marsh Lock. The lock is large enough for us all. Stopped later at Midgham. The Easter canoe race sets off from Devizes heading all the way to Westminster on the Thames. The first canoes with two on board were about to pass us. We watched as they got out to carry the canoe past the lock.

Next day we cooked porridge on the fire that Ann had fed with coal earlier. As we ate it more canoes passed by. Our cat is enjoying the view from the window. Apart from seeing the canoes go by she watched a pair of ducks being fed with bread. Then Ann took Tara out for a walk with harness and lead. An unusual sight as many passing walkers have said. It is Sunday and there are many boats out and about.

We continue our journey east to Woolhampton Lock and swing bridge. Here you are advised to open the bridge before leaving the lock. The river once again joining the canal and at this time of year it takes your boat along with it. Both our boats bumped the bridge on the way past. Fast reverse to stop and pick up crew after they shut the bridge. Arrived at Aldermaston and turned below Padworth Lock. Then back up to moor at Reading Marine Wharf. There are quite a lot of people walking by and looking in at us. "Oh look, they have got a kitchen sink and a television!"

Easter Monday gives us a long weekend on our boats. We find time to chat with Bob and Jane on Hobo who keep their boat there. Terry and Myra join us on Nomad as they leave their boat at the yard for some work to be done on it. With all four of us back on board it was like before with two crew and two skippers. We agreed to take turns at being skipper between locks! We had lunch at the halfway point, then back to Ham Manor Basin and returned home.

Redundancy !

I have been made redundant. Although I saw it coming it is still a shock. I am feeling guilty now because I do not have to work for someone else after a lifetime doing just that. From Apprentice to redundancy for me was the opportunity to learn so much. I was involved for the most part in Research and Development as an engineer.

Now Ann and I have the freedom to spend our own time as we chose. We talk a lot with our good friends who help us come to terms with the new situation. I was certain that I did not want to start a new job being well over 50.

We cannot now afford to keep Nomad and decided to sell her. It was a difficult decision to make because our situation has changed. Just like our friends went through last year. However we are looking positively forward. We are considering the possibility of getting another boat to live on and let our property. That way the income from letting and my small private pension should be enough to live on. Nomad was not a suitable boat to live on for the years we planned. It is surprising how much of my previous income went to pay for tax, national insurance and the private pension. Now I just pay a little tax.

Another boat ?

By mid April we were back with cat and dog on Nomad in the marina. Terry and Myra were there and offered to take us to Aynho Wharf to look at boats being built there. If we are to have a boat built it is not too far from home. The cost of a boat was very reasonable and they would build to our specification, which we had been working on for some time. So there is a possible way forward.

It was a quick short visit and we were all back on our boats and moving by mid afternoon going west. Stop at Guyers lock for tea and on to Benham for the night. Managed to turn both boats here. Butty Lark is longer and turned above the lock. It was a nasty wet night and we got the fire going. Sunday was brighter and we all went for a long walk round Hampstead Park in the sunshine. Our friends provided a welcome lunch after that. Then we returned to the marina and went home.

Get away

I was still suffering the trauma of redundancy and needed a long holiday and what better than to spend some time on Nomad. "I did not need to book time off work and could have a holiday when ever I liked!" Our plan this time is to head west for Bradford on Avon 118 Lock Miles away.

It was nearly May when we got back on board with the animals. Terry and Myra had already left the marina and arranged to meet us at Kintbury. John and Sue on Evening Shadows had also arrived that evening. They were very supportive and considerate when I told them I no longer had to work. We decided to travel together at least to Kintbury. Got diesel at Newbury Boat Yard. 80 litres at 18p a litre, always good value this red diesel. John and Sue kept their boat next to ours all the time we were at Ham Manor and had never once been out at the same time, so this was a unique occasion! So it was not long before we met up with Terry and Myra again. John and Sue continued their journey to Hungerford.

In the morning we made porridge on the fire and our friends joined us for breakfast. Both boats left in sunshine bound for Hungerford. After lunch there, we moved on slowly due to the lack of water above the lock. Very tricky getting off the boats at Hungerford Marsh Lock as we could not get close to the bank. Just had to jump for it. Swing open the bridge above the lock and go in. At Cobblers Lock it was just as difficult to get off the boat. By the evening we had got up to Froxfield where a good edge provided a mooring. Next day we went through Burnt Mill Lock with its new gates. We were stopped here last year because this lock had been broken. There is much more water here all the way up to Crofton.

Up to the top

We had breakfast on Butty Lark because Myra had made fresh bread! Then up the flight to the summit pound and through Bruce Tunnel. There is much more water up here now that the canal has just been dredged. BW has been busy at the locks here for they now all have landings where you can get off safely. Good new moorings at Wooton Rivers at the start of a 15 mile stretch all the way to Devizes with no locks. Eventually got to Pewsey, which is about half way. We all went off to the shops the next day that took about 15 minutes down hill. Did not think about getting the bus back up until it passed us! The Kennet and Avon Trust Shop provided a refreshing cup of tea before we set off again after getting water to fill the tank.

On past the Barge Inn but no, we did not stop for refreshments this time. After a quick visit to Devizes Marina, which had grown since we last past by, we stopped at the Wharf. Some restrictions were still in force regarding the Cean Hill flight. Last time we had to book our passage but not this time. Next day we arrived at the top Lock 50 at nine o'clock like last time. Then we realised that the controlled section now starts at Lock 44, which closed at 11. We got there too late and the lock keeper would not let us through so we lost a good days travelling. The next day we set off down the lock with Butty Lark. All the way down on a wet day to the bottom at Lower Foxhangers by lunchtime. The sun had come out so we continued to Semington.

Turn round day

We were slow getting up after that energetic day and set off late just to make some progress. Only got to Hilperton. Next day we arrived at Bradford on Avon and turned at the top of the lock. Sadly we had run out of time. Terry the navigator did not think it wise to continue to Bath. We had to get back next Sunday for Mum's 80th Birthday. After lunch we left to return home stopping at Semington again.

Next day we went up the Seend flight of locks. Half way up there just happened to be a Pub called Barge Inn and it was time for lunch. We moored outside with Butty Lark along side and enjoyed a drink and good grub in the pub. Then proceeded on to Foxhangers and a difficult mooring with our friends alongside again. The plank bring employed to get off. Many other boats were arriving and pairing up for the controlled ascent tomorrow.

Going up Caen hill

We were off at nine, this time in the dry. Time to admire the view above Lock 44 where we could stop for lunch. Then on up to Devizes wharf to go shopping. We moved on for another hour and stopped in the evening somewhere. In the morning we were up again to continue our travels. Passed under Lady Bridge. An elaborately decorated bridge designed by Rennie in 1808. Lady Susanna Wroughton had objected to the canal going through her land so the canal was made wider and landscaped. It has now become a wildlife haven. By the end of that day we had reached Pewsey.

Continued our rush home by eating sandwiches on the move. The rain did not help and made the trip seem longer than it was. Lit the fire to keep warm. Finally stopped at Little Bedwyn and we all had dinner on Nomad. When we got to Hungerford the next day we went shopping, then on to Kintbury. By Saturday we were back in Newbury. Despite the rushing about we all enjoyed the trip. This was a holiday for us but I do not have to go back to work because I am retired now. "Just not got used to this way of life yet".

Birthday

After celebrating Mum's birthday, my brother and his son came for a short trip. They had come over from France and were looking forward to seeing the boat. We went east down to Colthrop Lock where we could turn. On our way back we found a queue of boats and a fallen tree across the canal. A BW man had been called but could not get there before about six pm! A boater was already cutting branches off and managed to get by. We followed him through and got back safely to our mooring. Our guests left us that evening and we had a quiet time next day before returning home.

Boat for sale

At the end of May we came up for the weekend. I had by now found occupation looking after an elderly couples garden and found it quite therapeutic. The dear old boat was now up for sale. We spent a sad time removing all our personal items, returning some to Terry and Myra on their boat and packing the rest in the car. It was sunny and hot at first but then we had a violent thunderstorm. Just like in the films when bad times are portrayed. Cleared out the fire and swept the chimney before blacking the fire. We had borrowed a carpet cleaner and went over the carpet three times, as it was so very dirty.

When the Broker came to measure up she was quite impressed. It does not add value to the boat but a clean tidy boat helps to get a sale. We were told that the boat is worth more than we had paid for it. Such was the demand for second hand boats these days. Then we arranged for a full engine service that the Broker requested.

The final trip

My younger brother came over from California for a trip on the boat. We went to Midgham and met our parents there who had travelled up by car. We set up a picnic with chairs on the deck and the towpath and enjoyed the time together. As it turned out this was our last time out on Nomad of Erehwon. She was sold in August.

A new way of life

We had used Nomad while we were working, kept her in a marina and could only use her at weekends and holidays. In the main we explored the Kennet and Avon from Newbury going east and west. Two weeks got us to Bath and back once with not much time to hang around. Our future promises to be quite different on a boat designed by us to be lived in with time to discover new canals. There is so much more to see. After selling Nomad we felt we had lost a way of life that we had enjoyed very much.

We are now looking forward to getting our new boat built and have put a small deposit down to secure a build slot at Aynho Wharf Boat Builders. From our time on the boat since being retired we both realised that there is much more to life and are looking firmly to the future. So we have decided to call our new boat Moore To Life.

Planning our future

Things we take for granted in life are about to change. Car, contact, post, medication, finance, etc.

We won't need the car. A major change in life style. From now on we will rely on our legs. We can hire one to get 'home' occasionally. Chris and Tracy need a better car so will have ours.

To keep in touch with family and friends we will get a mobile phone.

Our postal address will be our son's house. He is happy to send on our post. The Post Office operate 'Poste Restante' and will keep post until collected at most Post Offices.

The Medical Centre has agreed to keep us on their books using our original address. Repeat prescriptions can be requested by post and returned using a stamped addressed envelope. If we need to see a Doctor or Nurse we can sign on as a Temporary Patient at any medical centre.

Our property will be rented to enable our life style to be viable. Will use an agent to find Tenants and handle the finance. We had been advised to keep in the property market and not sell the bungalow.

Power and space is limited on a boat so a smaller computer will be required.

Our new boat spec

I set about designing our new boat in earnest over the next few months. We had already got a quote from the builders based on what we needed and what they could supply. So we worked on the detail. Moore To Life is to be a Semi Traditional Narrowboat and 57 feet long to enable cruising of the entire canal network. The open cockpit at the stern provides easy access to the living space through central lockable steel doors. The Taff rails provide some security against falling off the back.

THE ENGINE, a 2 litre Barrus Shire diesel, is below the floor boards and drives a 16 inch prop via a 2 to 1 gear box. A 240 litre diesel tank provides the main source of power for engine and heating. An Eberspacher boiler heats four radiators in the living space and provides domestic hot water. One starter battery and four domestic batteries store 12V power for the boats electrical systems. When running, the engine supplies the hot water and charges both sets of batteries.

THE UTILITY section houses the electrical systems, washing machine, coat hooks, cupboards and shelves. It is intended to be like a hall where you take coats off and change shoes. A radiator helps to dry wet coats hung above it. A power line can be plugged into shore to provide mains power while in a marina. This keeps the batteries charged through an Inverter / Charger. The Inverter supplies limited mains power from the batteries. The 'black' tank is mounted across the boat. Boats with tanks under the bed on one side have been seen to lean over when it gets full! Two port holes provide light and the floor is laid with vinyl. A door leads to the cabin. This proved great for keeping the warmth of the fire from escaping out the back door.

THE CABIN has a 4 foot wide double bed and a wardrobe. Some of the space under the bed is used by the calorifier which stores the domestic hot water. The other space is accessible from lift off panels and is used to store clothes and blankets. A cupboard above the bed head provides more storage and reading lights. A convenient switch on the wardrobe is used to turn on the boiler when waking on a cold morning. A radiator by the bed providing the heat. Two more port holes give light and privacy. The floor is laid with carpet tiles. A roof vent provides fresh air.

THE BATHROOM is next on the starboard side. This has a port hole, a vanity unit with flush mounted basin, four foot bath with shower head and an electric flush loo. A radiator keeps the towels warm n dry. The floor is laid with vinyl. Above the basin is a wall light and mirror. And of course the roof vent provides fresh air and ventilation. A sliding door takes up less space than one opening into the room.

A side door to port by the galley can be opened for fresh air. A raised oven and grill is situated above a cupboard in the centre. To port is a double cupboard for storage with work top and a waste bin is built in to one end. To starboard is a flush mounted stainless sink with cooker hob next. The fridge is between the drawers and cupboard under the drainer. A 4 foot wide window has split sliding glass and hopper opening. A pull down blind is the safer option here. Mains sockets supply power for kettle and other appliances The floor is laid with vinyl.

THE SALOON has four 3 foot windows which provide plenty of light. A set of cupboards and drawers provide space for cutlery and computer. The coal fire is between the two port windows. This will be used to keep us warm and dry sometimes using 'free' wood. drawer and shelves. A radio / CD player is built into a cabinet at the port front bulkhead and the TV sits on top. The video is inside the cupboard. A similar cabinet is on the starboard side. They both house speakers for stereo sound. Two easy chairs from Ikea and a table are in the open plan saloon. Blue fitted carpet is on the floor here. A radiator in the opposite corner gives back ground heat from the diesel boiler.

Access to the front cockpit is via half glazed double doors. A 140 gallon stainless steel water tank is below the cockpit floor and either side are covered storage seats. Below the front is the bow thruster tube but the motor is not fitted. The cratch is a triangle frame which supports a cover to keep the rain out. The frame has windows to see forward. Two propane gas bottles are stored safely in the front locker. So that is what we wanted from the boat builder.

Our shell arrived

The steel shell arrived in December, three days before Christmas. It was great to see the boat already floating in the canal. A hollow tube with window holes already cut in the right places. Painted grey inside and out. Covered over in plastic sheeting to keep the rain out. Then the Boat yard closed for the holidays.

Thank you for reading Chapter 5. Return to Book.