Tuesday, 21 October 2008


A quick run through this summer's posts reveals that I haven't recorded the diesel use as much as I'd thought, but a rough calculation is around 220l total, responsible for 0.6T of CO2, roughly equivalent to, say, a return flight to Newcastle (all depends where you look for equivalents).

A quick bash at the marvellous CanalPlan site suggests my trip this year was 629 miles (and 458 locks). This very roughly therefore suggests that CO2 emmissions for the boat have been more or less per mile the same as flying (ignoring idling at locks, but we could cover that by talking about average CO2 per mile travelled). Also equivalent to around 3,500 miles in a small car, for comparison, but since I don't have one, I wouldn't know. The flying comparison is startling, although of course the timescale if completely different - we're comparing an hour or two's flight with a couple of month's travelling, being very much in the place (like cycling) rather than passing through - over - it.

Kind of what I expected, but interesting. I haven't calculated my total CO2 annual emmissions for a year or two, but I expect them to be around 2T. So total still pretty low compared to most, but not some - and still higher than what it needs to be for a liveable future for the human race. Hey ho.

I doubt I'll get a chance to do such a heavy itinery in the next few years, and in some ways I'd change it anyway, spend more time in places that deserve it - more looking, reading, hanging out. People, even.

(Meanwhile, goes to look at prices of Lynch motors and solar panels...)

Thursday, 16 October 2008

small spaces

I realise that the concepts of living in a small space have been with me for years - as a child at one point my 'room' was a 6x6 area partitioned off - long story, but it worked. A couple of things recently have set my mind off down this road - one of which was reading about homes made out of shipping containers, which at 20x8x8 the interior of which would only be a little larger than the inside of Tortoise.

I am all too aware that it's easy for me to get whimsical about small cosy spaces, what with having (an albeit small) house and all. So bear that in mind... ;-)

A few weekends ago, whilst at Battlebridge Basin having helped crew Granny Buttons there (things I learned - plastic flowers float, Christine is lovely and however hard I tried to avoid politics, I failed), I got to see inside Arrow's (I may have the name wrong) boatman's cabin, courtesy of Sandra, the owner. I realised I hadn't really experienced being inside one for a while, and it's quiet an ingenious setup. Curiously there's no diagrams with dimensions out there on the web, even rough ones, although there are plans to buy. I could do my own measurements if I ever needed too, although it more or less sizes itself.

Chris & I in the pub in Sunbury had been discussing small cabin layouts with regard to working boats (or at least having a large open bow section), and in some ways the rear 10' of Tortoise's cabin in a modern version of the boatman's cabin - on one side rear door & dinette (could be replaced by bunks), on other side toilet, kitchen & stove - all the basics. The remaining cabin in my case is more beds/seats & bookshelves, but that could easily be outside, with lockers that can form beds needed, clothed over at night. A 30' boat with a cruiser stern, 10' cabin and 12' deck might look a bit strange, and I won't be rushing to do it, but would be interesting...

Meanwhile, Bones brings to my attention that Leviathan is still for sale - I'd seen the same interior pictures two years ago, and very inspiring they are too - that woodwork is amazing. Curves aren't necessarily as space efficient as I need for Tortoise, but there's plenty of time & opportunity for aesthetic improvements to the interior, and even the odd curve, who knows?

(images copyright nb Leviathan/narrowboatshop.com)

Meanwhile I quite like this bender-as-cabin arrangement, nice doors, too (esp the rearwards one), even if the photographer (of NB Epiphany) wasn't entirely convinced. One 'one day' job for me is a folding front cratch type thing, inspired by this yurt door:

Addendum - a couple of notes for my own benefit, really:

a few days after writing this post, I found a book in a local charity shop - Living Large in Small Spaces - a photographic study of various flats in New York, from 100 sq ft to 1000 (1000 sq ft is small to some, but not others - my house is 770 sq ft, for example, and canal boats will go from 108 - mine - to around 300). It's all very arty, of course, and the ephasis is on design rather than pure practicality - not that those are necessarily diametrically opposed.

I'm also reminded of Erja's flat in Helsinki; the bed was in a bed-sized alcove on the wall opposite the windows, the 3rd side of the alcove being a tiny bathroom. It was a nice place, and it worked, and I also remember even the bed was flexible - the deep single bed folded out to a thinner - but comfortable - double. Since on boats storing 'spare' seating/sleeping cusions is a pain, that's worth bearing in mind.

Appropriately enough elsewehere in the same book acquisitions was 'No More Clutter' by Sue Kay - which promises the key to the small space stuff. I'm not convinced - I'm currently buying more storage drawers for screws and the like, and it does seem I have to buy more to see less... it's working, though.

Edit II; a couple of interesting links:

The art of living in small spaces

Tumbleweed Houses

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

14th Oct - Brentford to Iver

100th post here, they tell me, although some of the older ones were transferred over from the previous incarnation. Appropriate for the last little bit of the summer's trip?

I left Brentford with a couple of neighbours on board - both actually co-members of Brentford Recycling Action group and headed for the locks along with Jerry on Roanoake. A certain amount of excitement on the Hanwell flight - firstly we got filmed by Chris Jones (who was in my work department a little before my time, thirty years ago) & friend who were making a BW corporate video - apparently the people who do the maintenance on the lockside are winning an award. If they were the people who dumped several branches and a binbag of clippings into the canal which of course got jammed behind the gates further up, then, well - to be fair they may not have actually dumped them in the canal, but they didn't do anything else with them either...

Pretty shortly a BW guy comes down and asked us to pick up their dummy in the lock. Eh? Turns out that following an incident where someone fell through the lock water intake ('claimed to' the BW man said), they were doing tests with a weighted dummy to see what was possible. It was, and the dummy was happily floating around in the bottom of the lock. As far as I could see, however, no-one had thought to bring either a boat to collect it with, or a boat pole, or even a windlass so they could at least fill up the lock... so seemed to be waiting for a boat to do it for them. Hey ho. I blame management.

We did our civil duty collecting all the non-degradeable rubbish from behind the lock gates; I'm sure it's completely deliberate there's a rubbish point at the top of the flight. Nevertheless I still managed a fairly colourful prop clog:

Red cloth, blue carrier bag and white poster thingy - shame I'm no patriot, really.

Food and a pint at a forgettable pub just before Bulls Bridge; Jerry stayed for a second pint, my crew spotted a 195 bus home and I set off west, pausing to watch one of the gravel barges squeeze through an old bridge hole; inches to spare, and certainly no space for me to pass.

I'm actually quite fond of the section of the Slough Arm from the junction back to High Line; yes, there's the gravel factory place and passing under the M25, but it's largely as pretty as anywhere on the system. Shallow, and a bit rubbish laden, but nice. It'll never really get the traffic, not unless they ever build the Thames link to Windsor they talk about occasionally (but no-one will ever pay for), but it's a nice stretch few people see.

And then home, back alongside Benbulben to catch up with the fuzzy line between news & gossip for a bit, and then of course walking down the towpath to the station meeting my 'old' mooring neighbours for a chat and a beer, and a train an hour later than planned. ;-)

It's nice to be back, but it does underline the big difference in having a static boat and touring - a new view every morning, new places to explore, and hey, even a different pub. I understand that those who live on a boat don't get the opportunity to do extended trips in the way us weekenders do, and there's also the feeling in some that actually this is their home they're shoving around (and would rather not damage) and all that - but they are missing out, they really are. The other thing for liveaboards is the community that a static mooring gives, there's pros and cons left right and centre, of course, a thesis worth, but for me - it's about being out there, seeing the world (albeit the bits near canals).

10 miles, 7¾ flg and 10 locks

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Nothing to do with boats...

(although no boats at the Brentford moorings have moved since I arrived on Weds night. I'm sitting on the end as approved by the BW staff, but still a little close to the pump out point, and of course I worry about what passing boaters might think of me).

The fabled 'end times' must surely be upon us - not only did the teatime local radio show as featured in The Archers choose 'Love Will Tear us Apart' as suitable driving music (although Clarrie did say 'this song's depressing, turn it down') but now The Times, well known paper of choice of Indie Kids (possibly now, apparently), are not only giving away a Joy Division album next week, but also my favourite New Order CD 'Power Corruption and Lies'. I think the point is that these are records from more than twenty years ago, and I do need to adjust my angle of view - perhaps I should be reading The Times at times other than when I find it on a train seat, who knows.

I'm fascinated to know how long some of the older Times readers listen to these CDs for...

Friday, 3 October 2008

1st Oct - Sunbury to Brentford

The weather ended up being quite a mixture of sun and wind, with the occasional shower; not the ideal conditions, but in the end it was fine.

I did the run out of Sunbury, past Hampton and into Kingston; spotting this very strange shell

it reminds me of the landing stage on the Thames just a little way down from Westminister.

by Kinsgton bridge there's this charming houseboat, literally a 'floating cottage':

I was duw to go through Teddington Lock at 1630,and got there about four hours early. Time for a leisurely lunch and potter around the boat, but also a walk over to Teddington Studios, where I manged to blag my way in to see the Cbeebies crew, who I used to look after before they moved. Even Cbeebies is now franschised, and they're making links for Poland, Singapore and Australia, each with their own presenter and script. The stuidio set up looks very similar to what they used to have (indeed what I built for them) only a little newer & posher, the studio smaller, but it's a nice working evironment top be in (the site is a lot smaller & friendier) - especially if you live near that corner of south west London. Highly amusing, anyway, to pop in as I was passing, and then to explain exactly how I was doing that passing.

Before going into the lock another boat appeared, a canal-boat shaped GRP thing - not booked in at Brentford, they'd been advised to 'follow a narrowboat through' - so they did. It was a pretty high tide, the height adjustment in the lock was minimal indeed and we were out into the tidal Thames towards Richmond, staying to the middle of the stream as in some places the edge of the river, and towpath were flooded, and I had no intention of grounding on the side... it';s all familiar territory, having been walked & cycled many times over the years, as well as the boat trip done two years ago.

Approaching Richmond...

...and the iconic landmarks of home, the Towers of Brentford;

I'd been coming through at a fair old lick, and got in to Thames Lock at Brentford ten minutes before they thought, taking around 50 minutes for the journey. It's comforting to know I had the power and speed to cope with the high tide, and hoof it along with the best of them (with minmal wash, unlike most of the boats on the Thames).

Sadly I couldn't seem to raise Jim & Mary to see if they were still on Lyme Barge, although back in Richmond I had managed to get hold of Kathleen on Centaur to exhange waves; nice.

So - trip more or less over, but not quite; I'll take Tortoise back up to Iver in a few days, I've promised a few neighbours a trip, and they can always do the Hanwell Flight locks for me; last time i did them on my own, in the rain, which was a bit tedious.

I walked back to my house to find a letter from BW - signed by the very person I'd phoned to discuss overstaying near Oxford (and suggested staying where I did, saying it would be fine), saying I'd been 'reported' by the local cruising club and could I call them (the cruising club, not BW) to explain myself. Obviously the only reasonable response to this would be to scrawl in green crayon across the original letter 'you bloody well said I could', but I suspect a slightly more controlled response may be in order. You do what you can, speak to two dfferent people in BW who are happy with the agreement, and I still get a stroppy letter. I tried, but I may as well may have not bothered. Oh well. The boating bit's been great, eh?

13 miles, 2 flg and 4 locks

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

30th Sept - Maidenhead to Sunbury

A call to Teddington lock confirmed what I thought I'd worked out from the internet - that the high tides weren't ideally placed for a daytime passage up to Brentford. My best bet was to aim for weds 1630, getting into Brentford just before six - after that the tides get too late and yet the early one is still too early for a few days. So dawdling was put off - I can live without seeing Maidenhead one more time - so after waking up to rain, I set off in moderate drizzle...

At Bray lock a few lock keepers were gathering, including the guy I'd been chatting to at Boulter's lock the previous night - sadly, they were all gathered for a funeral, the lockkeeper's wife who also acted as a relief lock keepers up & down the system over the years. Lock keepers on the Thames may have an apparently idyllic job, but they don't even get paid breaks - they aren't actually paid from 1700-1730, but are then expected to work until six before going home (although of course from October they're on shorter hours anyway). Add to that the EA selling off the lock cottages, the homes of the lock keepers in some cases, the relatively low pay in the first place, and you feel that they're being taken advantage of a bit. I used to be told I could earn more, but I have the privilege of working for the BBC - I think it must bit a bit the same for them. That. and they can't stay in their nice little offices in the rain, as boats keep on coming along and disturbing them.

Topped up with diesel at Datchet - 22l (86p/l), which is reasonable for three days coming down from Oxford. I wasn't sure how much faster I was running the engine that normal, and even started getting paranoid the fuel gauge was stuck, but whatever, it's good to know I've plenty of fuel.

At Sunbury lock I asked about the moorings shown in the guide book on the south side, and he said 'ah, you've got a Nicholson then - it lies'. He did however direct me to the backwater behind the lock, where there was a nice spot to moor up by a bit of a park, close to the 'village' part of Sunbury, which did nicely.

For the last mile or two I'd be aware of something on the prop - once moored, I got the hatch up to find various bits of plastic cable & carrier bag. I did, however, note how clear the water was, and once I'd removed the unwanted additions was able to have a good look at the prop - it was fairly visible from the bank, too.

I'd missed looking out for Chris' old dutch barge 'Gertrude' above the lock, and his house alongside the river, but he was dragged down to the Pheonix after putting his children to bed for a few drinks. We'd shared a relatively close to the wire techincial hitch on the first day of the new show, but putting that behind us we chatted about all sorts of marvellous things. He's missing living on a boat, or even being able to travel a little on the river, and is looking out for a smallish canal/working boat to fit on his 40' frontage. He'll find something lovely, I'm sure.

So - plentyt of time to get to Teddington today (famous last words), but its actually sunny (if a little windy) to time to get my shit together and head off...

22 miles, 6 flg and 8 locks