Monthly Archives: April 2013

Fit out Days 17 and 18

A very busy weekend! We had various social commitments – dinner with friends, seeing another friend who we’d not seen for years, our own boatwarming BBQ (which turned into a pub visit because it was soooo cold and windy), but in between these, we managed to procure, insulate and clad a lot of the bedroom area. It is already insulated below gunwale level, but not above. I think I’ve explained before but just in case, Willow’s cabin was originally wood – the big T&G planks you can see in the the first photo. A few years ago, it was reskinned in steel, so that it is much more waterproof, but the old cabin remains structural, in place underneath. This is really helpful because unlike many boats which are metal boxes with battening to support the insulation and lining, with Willow, we can screw/nail things to the wall anywhere. This made fitting the insulation boards much easier!

Thankfully, Amy Pyewacket’s dad was about,  to help the girls with Pye’s fitout and he had his van. They offered to help us pick up our tongue and groove cladding as well as two Celotex insulation boards.

We also bought a new toy – an electric circular saw to help with the cutting of the boards. Whilst we have kindly been offered the use of other peoples’ ones, it would be a case of bringing the wood to the saw which would be a hassle because we only have a 2000W inverter. This way we can chop things up to our heart’s content on the boat, which will speed things up a lot.

Using cladding clips helped too – a really simple and easy way to hold the T&G planks in place neatly without needing lots of nails sticking through the surface.

We ran lighting wires under the surface, so we’ll have two ceiling LEDs – one at each end. The room only has one window and it’s not fun getting dressed in a dingy room!

Once we’ve finished the cladding we’ll paint it. We plan on using a grey/fawn below the gunwales and a cream above to keep it light but warm.









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Pyewacket Rides Again (Again)

Many of you will have already read about Pyewacket, aka the wonky boat which has featured in several blog posts in the past
The boat is under new ownership now – belonging to our friends Amy and Kirsty. They have had a bad time trying to get Pye ‘seaworthy’ again, as the boat was built using 2mm steel as a lifeboat in about 1947, so after years in the water and without regular blacking, there was very little left of the hull. After several weeks in the hands of a boatyard which had at long last managed to get her into some semblance of flotation, we were ready to bring her home to her planned mooring spot.

Yesterday afternoon, a motley crew gathered at the boatyard in Earith, but the boat’s old Petter PH2 took about an hour to get started due to fuel line problems. Finally however, the engine was going relatively reliably and we set off, James at the helm as we wound along the twists and turns of the Old West River. On its way to the boatyard earlier in the year, the boat had hit a bridge in strong stream conditions, taking most of the rotten wheelhouse off, so we were a little nervous going under it again. Thankfully all was well and we were soon on the Great Ouse, having picked up more crew at the Lazy Otter. Pye is a quick boat so it wasn’t long before we’re were at Bottisham lock, kindly set for us by John on Pippin. He also distributed some books, in honour of World Book Night.

Eventually we arrived in Cambridge, where Pyewacket had a spot saved for her on the railings, held by a couple of dinghies. We moved them out of the way and secured the boat in her spot. It was a moment her owners had been waiting for over a year – their own boat to do up and live on, and we were happy to be able to help them achieve it!




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Fitout Day 16

Our first full day to spend on the fit out since we’ve got back from cruising, and it was a lovely day to be working on the boat. The aim for the day was to get the work tops in for the pieces over the fridge and to get the oven mounted if not connected. We also had a LOT of sorting of the stuff that had not been chucked or gone to the garage.

With the work mate out on the towpath it was fairly straightforward to use the jigsaw to cut the required pieces to size. The sunshine and solar panels meant that the batteries were well topped up for using power tools.

James soon had the over-fridge piece attached and then it was the turn of the oven section. This had to be cut exactly so the the oven would be supported all the way round, effectively hanging from the worktop. Measured and cut to the top of the oven we’d not taken into account how well the bottom of it would fit, so a section needed to be cut out of the base of the unit. But once that was done, it slotted in perfectly! Now it just needs connecting up to the gas.



Later on, after a good sort of things lying about in piles, the boat’s looking more homely. The lovely Edwardian table now has pride of place and is very useful. Sitting on it you can see the beautiful type writer that our HNBC friends Ros and Phil dropped off with us as they were in the area on Saturday.

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New Headers

Not a lot going on with the fit out at the moment – we’ve been preoccupied with sorting out the handover of the Duck (now mostly complete) and I’ve been catching up with work. Today I am at home essay writing and James is in Oxford compteing in their ‘Town Bumps’ races. But I did have a few moments the other day and I decide dto choose a new header for the blog, from all of our travel pictures. Alas I couldn’t decide, so I’ve set it to put a random one up on each page. Here they all are:







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Aside from the moving in process, the other vital thing we needed to get sorted was battery charging, as running the engine for charging isn’t really a desirable option. On Lucky Duck we had a 136W solar panel which kept us self sufficient through out spring, summer and autumn. We wanted to install something simlar for Willow, so James went to speak to our friendly local renewables company, Midsummer Energy. As luck would have it, they had two 100W stick-on panels which had been used for demonstration, going cheap. They had lost their stick, so we stuck them down with VHB tape but the edges still need a little more attention to get them sealed down fully. But they are now wired in through an MPPT regulator and happily pouring free, silent amps into our batteries – brillant! I’ve got the fridge on and everything!

We chose the stick-on ones again simply because they are so robust. The rigid frame ones are cheaper and more efficient, but when we are cruising on Willow, we found that we used the roof a lot to get on and off at locks and wouldn’t want to risk falling and breaking them. These can be walked on (with soft soled shoes) if necessary.

There’s also lots of space for more panels when we can afford them!

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Moving Home

The last couple of days has been quite hectic- we’ve been moving all of our possessions off the Duck ready for the new owner, and putting most of them in the garage. It is quite amazing just how much STUFF we had managed to fit on what now seems like a small boat!

Most of the garage moving was done using one of cycle courier company Outspoken’s freight bikes. Not only can these carry lots of boxes at a time, they are quick and they can get on to the Common, where a car couldn’t. Everything else was transferred directly to Willow by lining up the side hatches.


The Duck is now tied up, empty, on the visitor moorings.

Throughout all this Lyra has been noticeably confused and not a little distressed. Her territory is the Duck, but that has been increasingly inhospitable to her, with food, water and litter now on Willow. But she kept going back. in fact, she was the last thing to be passed through the side hatch before we moved the Duck. But now it is over and things have settled down, she seems much happier. In fact, she’s curled up, purring, on my lap right now!


Categories: Daily Life, Lyra | 2 Comments

Willow Pattern

I’m at work today, catching up on coursework. When I arrived, I was excited to find a large parcel on my desk. It contained a lovely gift from Sarah and Jim (and their cat Willow) of Chertsey & Bakewell – a set of beautiful Wedgwood “Willow” pattern cups and saucers plus a side plate, carefully wrapped in red tissue paper. Thank you so much! We look forwards to drinking proper tea from them!

I also very much enjoyed the sentiment on the accompanying card.

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Makes a change from ducks, doesn’t it? I see a collection coming on…

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Voyage Home Day 10: Waterbeach to Cambridge

Start 8:30am, finish 10:30am
River Cam
6 miles, 1 lock

Well, that’s it for our big voyage – we are home! Willow is now moored in the Duck’s old spot, and the Duck is behind our neighbours’s boat.

It was a short but momentous journey this morning, as we arrived into town in the drizzle. We moored up alongside the Duck and went to say hello to our neighbours on Light Enough to Travel. With the boats alongside each other, it’s amazing to see the contrast between our old boat and the new one!


We have made a start on transferring things across, but much of the Duck’s contents will have to go to the garage for now. We have a few days grace from the council regarding having two boats onthe mooring but early next week the Duck’s new owner will take her on and begin moving her about.

Of course the most important thing that needed transferring was our Lyra- we’ve really missed her, and although we know she’s been we’ll looked after, it is nice to have her back. She’s really settled in to Willow, having explored literally every nook and cranny including the bilges!



In the afternoon, we had lots of visitors coming to see our new home. It’s good to be back, but we have a lot to do!

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Voyage Home Day 9: Salter’s Lode to Waterbeach

6:30am- 6pm- with a 90 minute wait at Denver and a two hour stop in Ely.

Well Creek, Tidal Ouse, Great Ouse, River Cam

26 miles, 3 locks

We were up early today to catch the tide. After discussing tactics with Paul the lock keeper, we went into the lock.

Because Willow is longer than 63 feet, the normal lock gates to lock boats up to the high tide level could not be used. Instead, a small, low set of gates were closed behind the boat, and we locked down one foot from the Well Creek level to the slack water at low tide.

Once out we paused alongside the tyre wall for the tide to turn and start flowing inwards. Although there isn’t a big aegir or bore like on the Severn, when the tide arrives it does bring a surge.

Dead on time at 6:54, we saw a pulse of water heading up the river and Willow went rapidly backwards towards the gate, then rapidly forwards, as the surge carried us around. I was able to use the engine to slow us down, but even using lots of power couldn’t keep the boat quite still against the tide. It didn’t matter though; after a couple of smaller secondary surges, we were able to head to Denver sluice. The river had changed almost miraculously from dead flat calm to a visible faster-than-walking-pace flow inland within a minute. We were able to edge the fore end out into the stream slowly, and pirouetted around until we were facing towards Denver.

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As we went up the tidal river, we saw the large digger outside Denver start to dredge. We knew from Paul that the floating pontoons were not in place, and had been doubled up in front of the lock entrance with the silt pusher boat moored to them. There was no place to easily stop, so we ended up having the fore end moored onto the very end of one of the pontoons, and the back moored loosely to one of the vertical posts that the pontoons were normally moored to. Luckily because the tide was coming in we didn’t have to worry about touching the bottom and going aground, if we had we would have just floated off a few minutes later when the tide came in more. Much less stressful than on a falling tide!

Once we were safely moored, they started digging again, plunging the digger arm into the river about ten feet behind Willow’s stern which was very disconcerting!

We had a long wait for the lock keeper. He was due, according to the board, at 8:00am, and so we waited, having tea and bacon sandwiches whilst waiting. In the end, he didn’t come down until 8:40, because there had been a communication problem between them and Paul at Salters Lode and they weren’t expecting us until later. We only just made it under the bridge across the lock chamber, had they waited another 20 minutes the tide would have been too high and I suppose we would have had to wait outside the lock until it dropped.

Undeterred we locked through and set off towards Ely through the grey skies and light drizzle. Amy had to set up the laptop and catch up on work inside, but I steered on fortified by occasional cups of tea and planning in my head the next steps of fitting out Willow.

We arrived at Ely at 11:30 and emptied e cassettes and filled the water tank before moving down the town quay to find a mooring. We managed to hang off the end of a nice mooring with the back sitting alongside a tall wall, exactly the same place we have moored Lucky Duck on previous occasions.

Once safely moored we headed for Waterside Antiques. There were a few items we were considering purchasing, including a lovely brass bilge pump- first spotted in 2007- which we resisted buying for today. We did however come away with a shunter’s pole, not because i fancy shunting some loose coupled goods wagons on the railway but as a device to clear the propellor. As Willow doesn’t have a weedhatch, you have to poke and prod from the side with the cabin shaft (boat hook) but shunter’s poles, which have a spiked corkscrew end, are excellent at removing weed and fabric, because you can twist the corkscrew end into it and pull it off easily. We also popped into the chandlery and got some small diameter stove rope to redo the joint at the top of the flue to the collar which is dribbling tar- a job to do when it’s warm enough to let the fire go out!

We bumped into our friend Mark, AKA The Engineer, on a cruise on his new boat, WB Norwegian Blue (“This is an EX PARROT!” Etc.) and were joined by our friend Richenda for the journey to Waterbeach.

The weather stayed grey and there were occasional drops of rain, but it wasn’t too bad and we made swift progress. Bottisham Lock was against us as a Bridge Boats hire cruiser was locking up in front of us, but we reset the lock and went in. There was a slight hitch when the hydraulic pump that powers the gates and slackers (East Anglian term for paddles) refused to work and lower the slackers down again. After a few minutes of poking and prodding, moving the guillotine gate, and generally faffing with the panel the hydraulics decided to work again and we locked through.

We moored at the 48s at Clayhithe and went to The Bridge pub for dinner. Just as we were finishing our pudding we were joined by Big John and a work colleague, and a very convivial time was had, culminating in a tour of the boat. Plans were also made for a possible gathering in Sunday if the forecast good weather turns up, which would be very welcome.

Tomorrow we’ll head into Cambridge in the morning, and then start organising Lyra and our worldly goods so we can move off of Lucky Duck.

Categories: Lyra, Travels | Tags: | 1 Comment

Voyage Home Day 8: Whittlesea to Salters Lode

Start 8:45 am, finish 6pm

Middle Level Navigations

24 miles, 2 locks

A late start because we wanted to make the most of being able to use the showers at the leisure centre in Whittlesea. It opens at 6:30, so we were up early and both showered and breakfasted by 8:30. We waited until the boat breasted up to us was ready to go, and then we were off.

I didn’t see much of today – I had work to be getting on with and made the most of the lock free pounds when I wasn’t needed to be inside using my laptop. James was happy at the tiller, as although the route’s boring, at least it was novel doing it in Willow. The going was slow, but not quite as bad as we’d expected, and eventually we made it to Marmont Priory lock, which was looking lovely in the spring sunshine. Willow has never been this far East, as Marmont Priory was not lengthened until 1998, after Willow’s last Fenland adventure with her previous owner. Margaret the lock keeper and her daughter helped us through and then it was on to Upwell/Outwell, where the channel runs down the middle of the village street. The twin villages were looking gorgeous, with daffodils and celandines lining the banks. Here, we were in tickover all the way – it was too shallow to go any faster, but we made slow and steady progress. We stopped for half an hour on the town staithe for a breather, and to clean the propellor blades which had picked up a fair bit of weed.

Beyond the villages we were able to go a little bit faster, and made it to Salters Lode at 6pm exactly. We’ve been and spoken to Paul, the lockie, who confirms we are on for 6:30am tomorrow to lock out on the level tide, then we wait just outside the lock on the wall until Denver are ready to receive us. That’s the plan anyway! Fingers crossed.

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