Monday 25 January 2010

Galvanic corrosion

Well we went to have a look at yet another narrowboat yesterday. We were once again quite impressed with all the facilities onboard. During discussions it was pointed out that the boat had a "galvanic corrosion" inhibitor. This set me to thinking. Now, I will be the first to admit that a narrowboat is an important asset worthy of the best corrosion and electrical safety grounding protection available. While protective coatings cover the steel hull and sacrificial anodes can go some way to help protect your boat. What is needed is a sure method to deal with the galvanic corrosion created by the shore power connection and other vessels in close proximity.

Marine galvanic isolation is the principle of isolating electrical systems on board your boat so that an electrical ground loop charge cannot move from one boat to another. Usually because they are sharing the same mains electrical hookup supply. Galvanic isolation is used in situations where two or more electrical points are used to supply power, but their grounds may be at different voltage potentials. It is the potential difference that creates the ground loop. Using an Galvanic isolation is a method of breaking ground loops, by preventing unwanted current from travelling between two boats sharing a common mains power supply. However, there is a much better way then using Diode Galvanic Isolation and it is by way of an Isolation Transformer.

What is a transformer?

An electrical transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another. This is done through inductively coupled conductors - which are in reality the transformer's physical coils. A varying current (AC alternating current) or voltage in the first or primary coil creates or induces a voltage in the secondary coil. This effect is called mutual induction. By appropriate selection of the ratio of turns, a transformer allows an alternating current (AC) voltage to be "stepped up" by making the output greater than input, or "stepped down" by making output less than input. Transformers need an alternating current to work. They will not work with DC or direct current.

I.E. If we have a transformer with 100 turns on the input or primary winding. With 50 turns on the output or secondary winding the voltage will step down. 100V AC input on the primary would become 50v AC output on the secondary windings. If you turn the transformer round and put 100v AC on the secondary, then the voltage on the primary would be 200v AC.

This sound wonderful but.... there is a catch... An ideal transformer would have no energy losses, and would be 100% efficient. The efficiency of modern transformers is very good, but there are losses. Current flowing through the windings causes resistive heating of the conductors. A small transformer, such as a plug-in power adapter type used for low-power consumer electronics, may be no more than 85% efficient, with a 5-10% loss even when not supplying any power to the device. The no-load loss can be significant when your power budget is small, meaning that even an idle transformer constitutes a drain on an electrical supply. So always disconnect small chargers when not in use.

Also as in all things, size matters. The greater the power requirements the greater the physical size the transformer will be. We measure the power that the transformer is  required to constantly deliver in watts. However you should then add 100% to the power budget to cover requirements for intermittent items.

The closer you are to saturating (using the maximum current the device can deliver) the transformer the hotter the transformer will become.

Constant supply budget.
Battery charger.
Bilge Pump.
Heating Pump.

Intermittent supply budget.
Waste water pump.
Electric kettle.
Electric Iron.

A typical isolation transformer rated at 3600VA at 230v AC will happily deliver all you need from a 16A marina mains supply.

See this link

A isolation transformer is a specially constructed transformer, often with symmetrical windings, 1:1 same number of turns on the input and output of the transformer. I.E. 240v AC input and 240v AC output. An isolation transformer essentially allows the AC power to be taken from a mains power source. And as if by magic, fed into another circuit without physically connecting the two circuits. Thus preventing ground loops from forming. Ground loops are what cause radio interfearance and the damage to the boats hull.  Hopefully only causing actual damage to the sacrificial galvanic anodes.

There is no connection between the shore mains earth and the earth on the boat. This is what protects your boat from galvanic corrosion. The Neutral and Earth are bonded on the output side of the transformer. This recreates exactly the same situation as we normally receive from the national grid and is what allows fuses and RCDs to operate on board in the correct manner.

Finally note that there is a laminated metal core between the primary winding and the secondary winding which is connected to shore-power earth. This is so that any fault current in the primary (for instance from insulation breakdown) is returned to shore-power earth to trip the circuit breaker or RCD rather than electrifying the boat hull.

In effect, the transformer recreates a totally isolated AC supply electrically isolated from everything else.

Normal mains transformers are quite cheap to buy - for some reason Isolation transformers seem to be quite expensive by comparison.  However, there is a solution to save costs. Create a double isolated transformer from two cheap but identical standard ones. Take two 240v to 110v transformers and connect them back to back.

Voilà! an instant cheap isolation transformer. Much cheaper than periodically replacing galvanic anodes.

NOTE. If you fit a mains isolation transformer on your boat it is important that you remember to disconect the Shoreside Mains Earth conductor from being connected to the boats hull.


Friday 22 January 2010

Remember the thingy-whatsit!

Myself and Mags have a significant date in our relationship that comes around in February each year. So being the ever-loving and dutiful minion - I have just got off the phone with a narrow boat holiday company. Just done a surprise booking for late February canal cruise for me and the Mem-Sahib (1).

The Boat's Name is Dukes and we will be aboard for a week starting at Hillmorton. Just the two of us and the ever present Poppy. Between us we should be creating panic, mayhem and discord somewhere along the cut. - British Waterways stoppages excepted.

I should imagine that British Waterways will be creating panic, mayhem and discord of their own.

I am it must be said something of an electronic gadget person. I am usually to be found playing around with someone's computer. I love the challenge and interplay between a man and a troublesome gadget. Usually the gadget wins but every once in a while man triumphs. Whenever this happens it should be trumpeded around the cut to let those pesky gadgets know their place.

This last week we went to visit Mag's identical twin sister Ellen (2). She was sat with her computer hardwired into the wireless broadband router. It seems that all the experts had given up on making the laptop and the router talk via the wireless link. So I agreed to have a look at it. Twenty min's later the two were communicating via wireless elec-trickery. So I am sat with a smug, self satisfied look on my face and excepting the plaudits.

Many moons ago, on an ocean far-far away. At a time when Britain was still Great and we had a merchant fleet. I was a "sparks" or radio officer in the merchant navy for a short time. Un-surprisingly you will not be amazed to find out that another one of my hobbies is called Amateur Radio. At home I have a purpose built "radio-shack" where I can go, relax and have a chat with my friends around the World.

Now I am starting to spend some time concocting a list of what I would like to take on board the boat. I have a couple of 446mhz licence free walkie-talkie radios that we can use when negotiating locks plus a marine handheld. They will not take up much space, however, most of my radio equipment would fill a good sized local radio studio and I can't see the Mem-sahib agreeing to let me fill up the narrow boat saloon.

If I look confused it’s because I’m thinking.

(1) A white foreign woman of high social status living in India, especially the wife of a British official.
(2) Mag's is the Evil twin

Thursday 21 January 2010


I love our pets, we have four, (if you discount a tank full of tropical fish and a garden pond with a healthy population of goldfish and carp) First, there is Poppy, the Wire Haired Fox Terrier dog who you have heard a bit about already. However, we also have Jasper a very ancient and venerable 27 year old cat, who essentially rules the roost. Poppy and Jasper are best buddies and Pop's does her best to keep the old boy spick and span with the occasional enforced grooming. This lasts until the old boy gets fed up and gives her a boxing lesson.

Cat number two is Ebony, however, she is a nervous 90% feral cat, who can only be handled when we are wearing our biker clothing. Last but not least, there is Tigg's who is about 90% non feral, she can be handled, but prefers not to be! The last two live practically full time in the back conservatory and have little to do with Pops who they try to keep clear of.

We are in a bit of a quandary as we feel confident that Pop's and Jasper will adapt easily to sharing a berth on a narrow-boat. However, Ebony would be practically impossible to convert and Tigg's would be possible but it would be very-very difficult. However, to make matters worse, Ebony and Tiggs are inseparable.

Today we went down to the Sheffield Basin Marina to look at a narrow boat that was for sale (more out of interest, than with any intention to buy) We looked at a small 35' built in 2004 but it did not come anywhere near our expectations. The boat next door, on a winter mooring (a nice 57' inluding cratch cover and pramhood) was taking on water. We were given an invite from the owner to have a look around. Mag's was well impressed. She has much more of an idea of her wants now.

Must go .... Mags has just emailed a few more narrowboat brochures and adverts for me to look at.

Later .....

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Is it me - well is it?

I have a term of endearment for Mag's - its "Truffle Pig" now I know that you will think I am a bit OTT - but let me tell you why. Mags has this amazing sense of smell. I have practically none at all. Now in France The "Truffle Pig" is a domestic pig used for finding truffles in the forests. The pigs have a good sense of smell and a natural affinity for rooting in the earth for food. With the exception of the rooting around, I think Mags could give a truffle pig a run for its money.

I'm having a Meldrew moment…. Is it me- well is it?

What is getting up my nose (so to speak) are those people that own a dog, they are willing to take on the responsibility of making provision for what goes in at the pointed end, but seem to be unwilling to do the full trip and take care of what comes out of the blunt end.

We had a short walk along the towpath in Sheffield and found that we had to negotiate dog crap every few yards. Because it has been so cold it was easier to kick the poo into the cut, but you could see in places where some unfortunate had stood in it.

We always take a few plastic "poo" bags with us when out with the dog. It is so easy to bag the stuff and dispose of in a suitable container later.

I must admit, have been known to thrust a bag into an errant owners hand, give a smile and say "I know what it's like to run out of bags, here you are have one of mine." Do you know, no one ever declines and no one ever fails to clean up. It could alse be because I stand and watch them finish the job. I also note that people who have had the bag-thrust-into-hand treatment tend to walk the other way when they spot me comming. Maybe it was something I said?

Poo bins can be used for other purposes as well, just ask MP Alan Duncan.

As they say, it's all a matter of perspective, if you like to think you're a person of some influence, you can try out your theory by trying to order somebody else's dog around.


Tuesday 19 January 2010

Visit to Castle Marina in Nottingham

The weekend weather was such that we finally made a journey down to the Castle Marina in Nottingham. Our first port of call was at the Canal junction with the River Trent opposite Notts County football ground. The Trent seemed to be in spate so we watched for a while. (BW on Monday issued advisory not to use the Trent) We then had a short walk with Poppy along the towpath to give her a run and to clear the cobwebs for us before driving towards Beeston and the marina.

On our arrival at the Castle Marina the sun was shining on the boats for the first time this year, is that a good omen? We had a look round five boats in the marina. Being as I am not as lithe and nimble as I used to be (a very long time ago) one or two head bangs helped to remind me about maybe getting myself a climbers or bikers helmet. One boat with the same name as the dog (Poppy) was very much to our liking. However, although nb Poppy is currently at the top of our list of possible purchases. (It is a short list of two so far) Poppy did not tick all the boxes. I expect we will have to make a few compromises in our requirements before we find "our narrow boat".

Poppy the dog had an enjoyable time and met up with a couple of other dogs in the marina. An 18 month old Border terrier and a 7 month old Staffy mixed. They had a great time playing and chasing about. I wish I had the same amount of energy!

We are still looking round the various brokerages on the web. One thing that stands out is the difference in quality of presentation of the boats on offer. Some have a brief summary and a single picture. Whilst at the other end of the brokerage spectrum the better sites include line drawings of the boat layout, high quality internal and external photographs and a summery with the option to download additional fine details in a PDF file.

I expect we will curtail our cruising activities as each winter on-sets and then go out again as soon as the spring arrives. We are still on the lookout for a suitable winter mooring (Nov-Feb) within an hour's drive of Barnsley. However, we will also want to do the odd cruising weekend away over this period of enforced inactivity.

I was reminded today of the "Rochdale Cowboy" Mike Harding when a friend sent me a link to the following uTube video. I think the link was sent because it has something of a canal flavour. I do enjoy a good comedian, especially two from the wrong side of the Pennines. Mike Harding and the "Bolton Bullfrog" Bernard Wrigley who can also be found on uTube. Here is Bernard's advice on the world famous "Lancashire cough toffee" Birmingham has the wonderful Jasper Carrott and uTube offers his version of Jake Thackarys "The Bantam Cock" However, if you want a taste of the late great Jake Thackary, here he is waxing lyrical on a woman's ability to talk.

Must go, I have just found that a torch is a case for holding flat batteries....


Monday 18 January 2010

More Mind Musing

After Poppy went on her unplanned doggies paddle in the canal at Sprotborough lock. I decided it was time to "invest" in a dog lifejacket for her. A quick look on eBay popped up hundreds of possible items. We have settled on one which gives additional floatation, has high visibility and includes a carrying handle. Making it easier to extract for extraction of pooch from the cut. It even has a pocket for her "poo bags"!!

Now this device cost less than £10.00 including postage and packaging and the item is being mailed to us from China.

Now I know what you are thinking - Made in China - So let me explain why I am happy to purchase such an item.  Remember, we live in a throw away world. Little or nothing is ever repaired, if it goes wrong its replaced.

Just before Christmas, I purchased a radio for my 1300cc Honda Pan-European. The Pan however is not a car, its a motorcycle. The equivalent Honda product for the Pan costs about £300.00 and the speakers are an extra. However, this is one from China and cost £16.02 including postage and packaging. The radio comes complete with the speakers and wiring kit. It works a treat on the FM band. It also comes with a lead for an iPod or MP3 player.

Anyway I digress - back to lifejackets.

Everyone has slipped or tripped over at some point. I should imagine that most narrow boaters have been over the side for a quick dip. I know that the majority of canals (with the exception of the locks) are not overly deep. Whilst rivers on the other hand can be swift flowing and quite deep at the same time. Now maybe I should be looking around for something similar to pop's lifejacket for us to wear. Whilst I am a good swimmer - and even better whenever needs must! I have this thought in the back of my mind. What can I do to safeguard myself or Mags if either of us slips on the boat deck and disappears over the side or even slipping and taking a tumble into a lock. The vast majority of narrow boaters I have observed as a typical gongoozler don't seem to wear such items. So I guess we could be rocking the boat so to speak.

This train of thought had me wondering in greater depth about the different stern arrangements on narrow boats. The traditional without a guard rail looks a bit to exposed to me. The semi-traditional stern seems to be somewhat better in this respect. The cruiser stern doesn't seem to offer much more inbuilt safety than the semi-trad. So the type of narrow boat style has been narrowed down to cruiser or semi-traditional with a semi-trad preferred.

This also had me mind musing about alerting the crew or even stopping the engine if the helmsman has gone for a "flip and dip" over the stern. There are devices for applying the brakes on locomotives called a "dead-man handle".

  • A dead man's handle as its name suggests, is a switch that is automatically operated in case the human operator becomes incapacitated. The switch usually stops a machine, and is a form of fail-safe. They are commonly used in locomotives, lawn mowers, jet skis, chainsaws, and other such devices. To either stop an engine, close a safety valve or to apply a brake.

So I was thinking that a wireless "man over board switch" could be an interesting option. Such devices work when they hit the water when their signal is interrupted. However, Diesel engines generally don't require electrical power be present for operation once they are up and running. So a wired in lanyard style safety tether might be a better option.

I wonder if the boys and girls in China do a version?

The mind works in mysterious ways….. Mine more mysterious than most!


Friday 15 January 2010

BW's new Logo

I find it very curious that as we wait (in anticipation of the narrow boat adventures ahead) to kick start our retirement. Time apparently comes almost to a grinding standstill! I have it on good authority that we are now both best described as being "Gate Happy" apparently this is something that prisoner's get as they come towards the end of their period of incarceration. Maybe "Gate Happy" would be a good name for our boat!

We have even started to think about selling "Wits-End" the house and downsizing into a riverside cottage. You know, one with a mooring at the end of the garden. After Google earthing most of the canals and rivers in our area, what has become apparent is the lack of suitable properties with bank side access. We did find one - however it was within a hundred yards of a very fragrant sewage farm.

Official Announcement:

British Waterways has today announced that it is changing its official logo from a "canal bridge with reedmace" to a red, white and blue condom which resembles a boat's lifebelt. They have chosen to do this because it more accurately reflects its stance. The condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, and provides protection for pricks and other euphemistic organs. However, most importantly from BW's point of view, it gives licensees a sense of security while you're actually being screwed.

It doesn't get much more accurate than that!

Things are starting to look better on the weather front. I noticed last week that someone had been ice breaking on the local cut between Rotherham lock and Eastwood lock. I managed to retrieve a short length of rope off the ice before the thaw came or it would have eventually ended up round someones propeller.

This weekend we plan a trip to a marina in Nottingham. We have seen an advert for a used narrow boat that we like the look of. The description seems to fit in to what we think (at this moment in time) we need from our comfort perspective.

The temptation for me is to go for a new boat. But the extended waiting period for the eventual launch would be a drawback. I am minded that we could also get a boat of our dreams second-hand and at the same time save a few bob. However, being a typical Yorkshire tyke, (flat hat, clogs, racing whippet and squeak when I walk) saving a bit of brass is quite appealing.

Maybe its me, I was put together in the days of pounds shillings and pence, real money. In the days when a foot was a measurement as well as something used for walking. Are you like me, or am I on my own. Do you have to do a mental calculation of metricky things to appreciate the dimensions of something! To be honest, personally I wouldn't touch the metric system with a 3.048m barge pole!


Thursday 14 January 2010

Month number 2 and we are still waiting to start!

I have been a very busy boy this last month or so! I found time to read three "canal inspired" books and a few magazines over the Christmas and New Year period. The weather I must admit was somewhat conducive to doing reading in front of a blazing log burner, rather than cold uninspiring visits to the marina's we had planned to have a look around. Using the royal "we" we have joined a few "Canal Forums" as MandM or Mick and Maggie to give us a bit more background and to get a feel for the natives we might come across eventually on our travels.

We did venture out one cold, crisp and clear day to the canal basin in Huddersfield, just for a quick-look-see. This turned out to be a bit more of an interesting experience than we thought it would be. We found a nearby pub car park to leave the car in. A quick look at the marina showed that it was full of a variety of different sized narrow boats. Many had their Christmas decorations in place and the vista of a few twinkling lights helped to add a bit of colour to the cold drab basin. We had a walk around the boats - and enjoyed a quick chat on the towpath with an owner called Roger, who with a friend was doing some running repairs to his boat. He pointed out a couple of boats in the marina that were for sale, so we decided to go and have a closer inspection.

As we arrived at the first boat we saw someone who had "slipped" in the snow as he made his way back to the marina. It seemed it was the owner of the boat we had gone round to have a look at. Being a first aider I went into automatic mode. He was a bit battered and bruised and not altogether coherent. I had him pinned up against a car for a while, as the ground was covered in snow and ice. Eventually someone found a chair. It was at this point that I realised that the old boy was also quite full of the Christmas spirit as well. But as he had a cut leg and hand and an egg sized bump on his head - it was thought to be best to consult the professionals and an ambulance was summoned. By the time this was all over, it was almost dark, so we repaired to "The Aspley" for a warming meal.

I have a copy of L. T. C. Rolt's "Narrow boat" on the bedside cabinet ready to tackle sometime later. to be followed by "Canal and River Navigation's" by Edward Padget Tomlinson, I managed to pick-up a brand new copy for £5. I love getting bargain books through Amazon resellers.

I also did a big purchase of additional books on Amazon and included a couple of DVD's as well. The books include:


Ups and Downs of a Lock-Keeper by Jake Kavanagh "A very funny little book, well illustrated with cartoons. At the same time the book actually offers some good advice to new boat owners."

Narrow Margins by Marie Browne

Tales from the Old Inland Waterways by Euan Corrie

Voices from the Waterways by Jean Stone

One Man and a Narrowboat: Slowing Down Time on England's Waterways by Steve Haywood

Narrowboat on the Trent by John Lower "This is more of a pamphlet than a book, but it does give some useful insight into cruising the Trent."

The Forgotten Canals of Yorkshire: Wakefield to Swinton by Roger Glister

Canal and River Cruising by Sheila Davenport

The Complete Guide to Boating on Rivers, Lakes and Canals by Emrhys Barrell

Living Aboard by Nick Corble

Narrowdog to Carcassone by Terry Darlington This book cost me just 1p on Amazon booksellers...

Narrowdog to Indian River by Terry Darlington

Boat Joinery and Cabinet Making Simplified by Fred Bingham

Narrow Boats: Care and Maintenance by Nick Billingham

The Canal Boat Manual by Canal Boat Magazine

Narrowboats Explained (England's Living History) by Trevor Yorke

Living the Dream by Trevor Pavitt. "I found this book interesting, but a little bit predictable on the day-to-day, place-to-place voyage of Narrowboat Lady Elgar. I can also identify with "Elgar" who was their dog and the similarity to our dog Poppy. I found the point at which they had to give up their life on the canal quite poignant. It made me think that one day we would have to face the same prospect. But my attitude is to live for today and face whatever life brings tomorrow."

Narrowboats - Guide To Buying And Owning A Narrowboat DVD
Novice's Guide To Narrowboating DVD

Canal Guide:
North West and the Pennines by Collins

We also had a trip out to Sprotborough lock on the South Yorkshire navigation to have a walk along the canal towpath. Poppy accompanied us on this little trip and as she was being very good, we slipped her lead for a while. We met up with another couple and their dog as we were making our way back to the car. Suddenly Poppy was in the cut and doing a good old dog paddle through the thin ice covering. She had spotted a ball in the water and was on her way to get it! I was busy stripping off my coat expecting that I might have to climb down the towpath wall into the water to get her out. However, by this time she was trying to make her own way out. She was at the point of disappearing down a sluice when she was plucked from the water by the other couple. Relief came at a rush and Mags fearing the worse wanted to get Poppy home for a shower as soon as possible. Sitting in the car foot well under the warm air from the heater she seemed to be totally nonplussed by her adventure. I can't say the same for us! We did say thanks to the other couple - however, if you read this we should have offered you both much more thanks than we did.


In the past.

Observations of my childhood.

My childhood years were spent living in Rotherham, quite close to the confluence of the River's Don and Rother adjacent to Bow Bridge. In the mid 50's early 60's there was still a fair bit of traffic on the cut. In the summer months when we were off school, it was not unusual for groups of us to cadge a lift from the Rotherham lock on the Barges going up as far as Tinsley and occasionally beyond or down as far as Wash Lane (Aldwark)  lock. By way of payment we would help with the locks and occasionally got the chance to take the tiller. We considered that Tinsley and Wash lane were within easy walking distance home, just in case we were unable to get a lift back.

Our playground was around the river in the days before the "health and safety Taliban" arrived. Our play included "Tarzan" rope swings which were to be found hanging from the old twin arched "power petroleum" bridge. The "bull" ropes for the swings were often pilfered from the occasional, moored but unattended barge. In all the years, we never thought of un-mooring a barge - it just never occurred to us to do such a thing. We would sometimes go to the old Robinson's flour mill building on the banks of the Rother to watch the grain being off-loaded. Sometimes the dredger would be in action on our stretch and we would certainly take some interest in that. When we moved away from the area in 1958, I lost contact with my old friends on the barges and the childhood playground alongside the river.

My main fascination was for the wildlife. Even when the river was heavily polluted there were backwater places where the wildlife hung on. Sections of the Rother had been straightened and two small elbow lakes created and they were a haven for wildlife. I watched a moorhen build a nest on the branches of a bush that had fallen into the elbow. I would check the nest from time to time and eventually four chicks were fledged. Ducks like mallards would overwinter on the lakes but I don't ever remember them breeding there. I can remember going to Greasborough with a group of friends and walking home with a few fish in a bucket intended for the elbow. What we had not realised was that this area was regularly flooded and so any fish would have been swept away on the next flood. The other main item were the water beetles, frogs, toads and newts that could be found by doing a bit of "pond dipping" in the weed fringes. Years later the lakes eventually disappeared under the encroaching furnace slag tip that was created by the furnaces. In this time of "environmental impact surveys" I wonder if the wildlife would have been protected from the slag encroachment?

  • The Rother and the Don have improved in water quality, now there are people fishing this section. However, even as a child, I can remember seeing small roach at Robinsons flour mill wharf. I guess there must have been a bit of corn falling into the water from the grain lifters.

The river and the cut has always held a fascination for me. At one point in my 20's I was doing a course in local history at Sheffield University. One of my student projects was to research and write up something of the history of the Sheffield navigation. I have walked most of the Sheffield Navigation over the years and in that time I have witnessed many changes taking place. The best memories are still those of my childhood.


Wednesday 13 January 2010

Just looking!

The winter weather was heavy and overcast, a cold cold wind and a constant light drizzle being carried along in the air. One of those days where the conditions can soak you to the skin without you noticing until its too late. In reality - it was not the best day to do anything other than sit by the fire. We should have known, Poppy did not want to go out in the car. In fact she was such a drone that we turned around and dropped her back off at home! Pops seemed to be very happy at the prospect of not going out! But being the stalwarts (or idiots) that we both are, we went out just "for a look" at the Bluewater Marina on the Stainforth and Keadby canal at Thorne near Doncaster.

Just looking lesson.

When we arrived at Thorne, we found a group of boats moored up alongside the Louis and Joshua boatyard. We had a quick walk around and admired some of the boats on view. We waited for a while to watch a boat that was chugging down the canal towards Thorne centre. It was a nice pleasant experience to get a cheery wave and a few comments from the owner as he passed. However we had to ask a local for directions on how to get by road to the Bluewater marina.

In keeping with the weather, it was dank and dreary at the marina, it could not (under the trades description act) have been further away from reality than the Bluewater name suggests.  Lots of muddy grass and  various sized puddles to try and avoid. We had a steady walk round the marina looking at the various boats and in the time honoured (people watching) tradition looking at the people who populate them. It seems that winter is the time of year for boat maintenance. A few hardy sorts were busy doing indoor repairs and modifications. We had a nice chat with one owner who offered some advice about one or two of the boats on sale (in a nudge, nudge, wink, wink know what i mean squire sort of way). So we learned our first "just looking lesson" talk to the locals and be prepared to listen to their knowledgeable and sage advice.

Looking back, we seemed to have met both extremes in the narrow boat owner social circle at Bluewater. We met several very approachable owners who were all quite cheery in their demeanour despite the weather. Then we met Captain Glum, whose response to a proffered "hello" was an icy stare. We have also just learned our second "just looking lesson" and that is, for plodding round a winter beset marina, town shoes are not the best footwear - in such weather, stout footwear is certainly needed.

Poppy was glad to see us return! Plus, fish and chips on the way home helped to save the day. Tomorrow we are off to Birmingham, to the NEC where there is a motorcycle exhibition on. We hope to call into a marina in the Midlands area as well as visit family before returning home.

We have both enrolled for pre-retirement courses at our place of work. We have also had a word with our Human Resources department to sound out the chances of one or hopefully both of us leaving a bit before our anticipated retirement date. Another meeting has also been organised with our pension's provider to get the final figures.

Watch this space.

Friday 1 January 2010

Where Do We Start.

This is what I expect will be the first post in the narrow boat saga of Mick, Mag's and our erstwhile constant companion Poppy. A saga we hope will be a new and significant chapter in our lives. We are both fast approaching retirement from University life (a sort of modern day Mr and Mrs Chips!) and we are looking for something completely different to wind down the retirement years.

So what about him? - I think I would make a perfect boater, I'm interesting, highly educated, enormously well read and modest in all things. I'm opinionated, humorous and cantankerous in what I hope is equal measure. My one saving grace however is my generosity. My advice always comes for free, and it is administered whether you actually want it or not.

What about her? - Mag's is a natural born narrow boat "Skipper". She is a pocket dynamo, with more energy than the Duracell bunny. She enjoys organising both her day and especially organising mine. Her one saving grace however is, Mag's is a lover of all kinds of animals and so I know I am in good hands.

I suppose you are wondering who "Poppy" is? - She is at the time of writing a wonderful 18 month old Wire Haired Fox Terrier. "Pops" as she is better known, has brought a great deal of joy and pleasure into our lives. Pops is the child we never had together. The saving grace for Pops is, being the focal point of all of our love and attention and returning it in great measure.

So a bit about us as a family.

Some people would view us as being slightly "oddball characters" because of our love albeit late in life for motorcycling. I have been biking for some 48 years (and still counting) of event free enjoyment. We are both very keen on our two wheeled transport. So much so - that we still go from our home (Wits-End) in Barnsley, to our place of employment (The Salt Mine) in Sheffield most days by motorcycle. Usually with Mag's riding pillion behind me. But as Mags is an accomplished biker, she sometimes likes to get one of her own bikes out of the garage for a bit of a blast. At the last count we had five bikes to choose from! There have been times between us when we have had even more! We have also enormously enjoyed a few motorcycling inspired adventures. Including visits to the Isle of Man for the TT, biker holiday's to India as well as biker trips along the beautiful Turquoise Coast in Turkey.

Now we are planning for retirement.

We had thought for a long time about buying an MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) and touring round Europe. But we have come to realise since Poppy came along that a more - sedate life - is beginning to be a much more fulfilling option for our wants and needs. We have in the past had narrow boat holidays on the Shropshire Union canal and on the Norfolk broads. So owning a narrow boat and immersing ourselves in the canal life seems to be a potentially enjoyable prospect.

We started by enquiring about a short winter break holiday (to acclimatise ourselves to what winter on a narrow boat might be like) with "Sheffield Narrowboats - MUSN Grumble" based at the Sheffield canal basin. However, Mags needed to have some surgery done on her right hand and so we are still not in a position where we can go forge ahead with our plan. The next few days when the bandages come off will dictate our starting date! However, Mag's will also need some further surgery performed on her left hand sometime in the near future. So we will have to be very careful in the timing our winter jaunt.

(The "Winter Jaunt" hit the buffers when Mags developed some complications with dissolving stitches under the skin that refused to dissolve!)

Mind Mulling.

Last night we were both laid in bed musing about owning a narrow boat. The conversation eventually came round to what name we would use for our boat. Our house is called "Wits End" and there was some temptation to use the same name for the boat. However, I had mused over boat names many times in the past and "The Onion Bargee" was a name I thought could be quite humorous and actually say something about the fact that we are both curry aficionados. I imagine in my minds eye the name painted on the boat along with a cartoon of that most clichéd of images, the French, moustachioed, onion seller in a striped pullover and beret riding along on a bicycle festooned with bread and onions. But instead of a beret, my French onion seller would be wearing a turban!

Let the saga begin.

However, after much more musing "Wits-End" it is to be. So I have registered the domain name "" for a place on the net where our trials and tribulations can be recorded for posterity and hilarity.

There is much we have to learn, and we have about 12 months to go before we can commit to the lifestyle. So we have purchased a few magazines, had a long peruse of the narrow boats on eBay and wandered around the canal basin in Sheffield.

This weekend - we plan to do our first reconnoitre of a larger marina to get some idea of what's available and what might suit our eclectic tastes.

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This document will be updated from time to time. Latest update 23 December 2014