Monthly Archives: August 2013

Willow from the Air

As we descended Bait’s Bite Lock last week, we spotted a chap on the bank with a remotely controlled GoPro quadcopter. One of these:


We thought nothing of it until today when a friend linked us to  a photo taken from the flying machine. It is fantastic – a view of Willow we could never have hoped for, and a great photo too. It turns out that it is actually a still from a video, and having got in touch with the chap who took it, he’s said he’ll share the video with me once he’s uploaded it!


The original


And the edited version

Both photos (c) Aaron Greenwood

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Summer Pootle 6

Littleport – Cambridge

Everyone was out boating on Bank Holiday Monday, it was lovely to see so many people out and about enjoying the river in different ways. When we got to Ely, we saw an empty space near the railway bridge and nabbed it. We bought some diesel from Bridge’s and had lunch and icecream before setting off again for Cambridge. At Bottisham lock there was a queue of cruisers and then Bait’s Bite was against us, but it was a lovely day to be out so we didn’t mind. While the engine was on, I used the breadmaker to make some tasty fruit bread – I’m finally getting my head around it’s different settings after a false start when I confused the “Rapid” button for the “go” button!

We arrived back just in time to make our friends’ leaving do at the pub!

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Summer Pootle 5 (Sunday)

The Ship – Brandon – Littleport

28 miles

A depressingly grey start, but the sun started peeking though. After a fried breakfast, we untied at about 9:30am and began the chug towards Brandon, where we would drop off Harriet and Peter, her partner.

The sun came out after making the turn onto Brandon Creek, and after passing all the moored boats at tickover the river opened out and we were able to make reasonable progress. There was a fair bit of weed about, and we had to chuck back and spin the blade in astern to remove it at times, but it wasn’t too bad.

Once towards Brandon itself, the sun came out properly, and as the river got narrower, the trees more overhanging, and the bends more torturous, I began to think back to when we came up with Lucky Duck last time, and how I thought it would be a challenge bringing a full length boat up this way!

It was interesting, certainly, and the last couple of miles were covered at little more than tickover because of the twisting sinuous bends and overhanging foliage. We had a bit of excitement under the railway bridge just outside Brandon itself- despite being a good two feet away from the central bridge abutment (taking the right hand span) we ran hard aground on a piece of stone or something and tipped alarmingly to one side, before sliding off- and then running aground again! I was able to slew the back end around and so we slid off again, and nothing fell over or was damaged, but it was very exciting, particularly as, at that exact moment, the river (which had been empty completely) suddenly became filled with a cruiser and several people on rowing boats and canoes!

Once at Brandon lock- the limit of navigation for us, being longer than the 42′ long (officially- we got the 48′ Lucky Duck through) lock, we had the fun of winding.

Although the river widens out, and there’s a fair flow from the sluices, it’s not 72 feet wide. I had to take the boat up beyond the lock cut, and then start to turn, pulling the back end into the cut so re would be space.

The first attempt didn’t work- the foreend ran aground and stopped spinning around, and the back end was pushed by the stream. Time for Plan B!

I took the boat alongside the small island between the lock cut and the sluices themselves, and looped the stern line around a convenient EA sign. Now, by going into hard reverse, the line from the stern pulled the back end tight against the end of the island, put the back end right into the lock cut and prevented it being pushed sideways by the flow from the sluices, and helped us turn. We made it with some space to spare- phew!- and got a round of applause from the assembled fishermen and women, and the families out enjoying the sunshine by the lock.

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Once around, it was a simple matter of mooring up on the visitor mooring, next to Kev on WB Avalon, who we know through his blog. We all went into Brandon itself, saw Harriet and her partner onto the train back to Ely and their car, and had ice creams on the way back to the boat. We left at 3:30, and went back downstream towards the main river.

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The GOBA moorings were all full, as we’re the moorings by The Ship and at the pub itself, so we carried on down the main river. Just as it was starting to get dark at about 8pm, we arrived in Littleport and saw a 10 foot long space right on the end of the moorings- so we tied the foreend to the bollards there, with some springs out, and put the back end- aground about 10 feet out from the reeds and lily pads- on a pin and long rope. We felt the boat was safe enough to leave, and so went into town for a lovely meal a our favourite Indian restaurant, the Indian Garden- we’ve never moored in Littleport without visiting it!

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Summer Pootle 4 (Saturday)

Ely – The Ship

Just a quick post until we can get some pictures off of various phones and cameras.

We met up in Ely with Amy’s mum (Harriet), her partner, and Amy’s sister Esther. Although the weather was a bit grey and dismal, we had a walk around town as none of them had been before, and had a fantastic lunch at Peacock’s tea rooms.


By mid afternoon the rain had died away, and so we headed off for a small cruise. Harriet and her partner were staying the night on the sofa bed, but Esther had to go back to London.

Luckily the rain stopped and the sun started to peek though. We tried getting onto the water point, but it was full with two cruisers moored breasted-up to it, and the winding hole was full of more moored boats so we couldn’t turn and put the fore end near the tap. There was nothing for it but to leave town and fill up at Littleport. Although there were a few boats on the moorings near the water point, there was just enough space to get the foreend and the first 10 feet of boat onto it, with the back end aground under the bridge! After filling the water tank, we dropped Esther off at the moorings closest to the station, in a 15 foot gap between cruisers- I turned the boat so it was across the river and touched the fore end on, sneaking it into the gap between the cruisers.

It was then a case of moving on down the river towards The Ship, at the junction with the Little Ouse/ Brandon Creek, where we planned to stay the night. We knew it would be very busy, on a bank holiday weekend, but we were very lucky to spot a Willow-sized gap next to a widebeam on the EA moorings just upstream of the junction.

Once moored we had a splendid dinner of roast gammon with all the trimmings, and managed to lever ourselves out of the boat for a walk to the pub and back before retiring to bed.


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Summer Pootle 3


We didn’t go anywhere today, just enjoyed the weather, and our prime spot just along from the Cutter in Ely (last night after dinner we moved moorings!)

In the afternoon, I got on with some work inside whilst James cleaned and polished one side of the boat. This is new to us – a long time ago I helped (big)James polish Kestrel, which was satisfying but hard work. But Lucky Duck‘s paint job wasn’t really smooth enough to inspire polishing, so we’d never bothered. However, with Willow we knew that the high quality paint job would benefit from a good polish and resolved to make sure we kept it looking nice.  We’d decided to cheat and buy an electric buffer tool, which James was eager to try out.

The bank at our spot in Ely was at just the right height. He first washed the side with OneChem Exterior Multi Clean, which is a boat cleaner we’d had recommended and is environmentally friendly. Then, it was on to the polish – he used Carnauba Wax, applied with a cloth then finished of with the buffer.

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In the evening, I made a couple of blackberry and pear cobblers made with fruit gathered from the little playpark on Willow Walk just along the riverfront. Annoyingly the gas ran out halfway through baking! Thankfully we had another so all was not lost, and we can go and fill the empty one at the boatyard tomorrow morning.

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Summer Pootle 2

Waterbeach – Ely

It was distinctly grey, dreary and damp when we got up so we didn’t hurry to get up and go  boating! At about 11:30 we set off to Ely. The weather cleared as we cruised along, and it was a nice trip. At Pope’s Corner, we saw Lucky Duck moored up in its new spot at the Fish and Duck, and we saw a little girl who called out that she reads our blog!

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Standing on the roof to take photos of the Duck!

I did a lot of the steering while James was inside. I know that rivers are way easier in terms of steering deep full length boats but I’ve been enjoying it all the same. Get it right, which is easier on the river because of the depth, and mostly Willow steers itself, requiring very little tiller work.

We moored up on a fairly awkward bit of wall, next to where Liberty Belle, the Lynn Union trip boat comes and goes. A very pretty little boat. The owner has recently opened a “micropub” also called Liberty Belle, in Ely, which is reportedly very good. Perhaps we shall check it out tomorrow night. Once securely tied up (as best we could on the annoying position rings) we went to the antiques shop where we finally purchased the brass bilge pump we’ve been admiring for years, as well as a 56lb mudweight (James was glad we were moored close by!). Then it was a trip up the hill, first to Cutlacks, where we bought a nice enamel mop bucket (none of this plastic rubbish for Willow!) and then to the big Sue Ryder charity shop, where we found a Kenwood breadmaker for £20. Now, I know 240V electric kitchen devices aren’t really ideal for boats, but we can use it whilst the engine is running and it is only 480W. Plus it has a 1hr quick setting. Looking forwards to trying it out!

In the evening, we went to the exceptionally lovely Boathouse restaurant, as a friend who works there was able to give us a properly good discount! It was, as expected, delicious. While we waited for our mains to arrive, they served complimentary nibbles: bread and olives, haggis fritters, with beetroot and whisky mayonnaise, cheese straws, and oriental vegetable parcels called ‘moneybags’. I had hake with potato cake and a white wine sauce, and James had roast duck breast with potato and shallot cakes, fried mushrooms and carrot puree. For dessert I had icecream: elderflower & gooseberry, strawberry and lemon, and James had chocolate brownie tart. All extremely yummy! Afterwards, a friend who lives locally came to visit.

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Summer Pootle 1

We are taking a few days before school starts again for James to go for a little local pootle. We won’t be doing long days or going far, just getting out and doing a bit of boating. Today we left town at about 5 and arrived at the GOBA moorings at Bottisham lock at about 7.



I’ve also installed a little widget (see the blog sidebar) which I can update with our location and I will try to keep it up to date! The time is misleading as it just shows that I didn’t record where we were until late!

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A Stowaway

We found a chrysalis attached to the bathroom ceiling the other day, and decided to leave it and see what it would become. Sadly we missed it emerging but once it had it stayed for quite a while before flying off out of the roof hatch.

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Categories: Daily Life | 3 Comments

Fitout 40

Progress has been rapid since getting the wooden saloon floor in. We’ve been working on the floor in the kitchen, having laid the red quarry tiles we finished off cutting the few odd shapes for the edges and around the fridge and laid them down, and then had a fun time grouting them. They need a couple more washes to remove the last of the grout, but they’re pretty solid and sturdy.


The other tiling project was the front hallway area. We’ve decided not to have a covered cratch at the foreend, and so needed a small area where you can take off wet coats and dirty boots with a tiled floor so it’s easy to keep clean.

There are a lot of rather swanky Victorian houses that we pass nearby to the mooring, and they often have wonderfully tiled front paths, and so we were inspired by this to put in a diamond checked pattern of black and red quarry tiles.

These tiles continue right across the width of the first part of the boat. Cutting the small angled pieces around the edges took nearly twice as long as putting in the majority of the tiles, but we think the end result is worth it, and certainly makes a grand first impression to visitors.


It needs grouting and a threshold strip fitting to the gap between it and the wood floor.

Other works included making a built in bookcase on the small part-bulkhead, on the side facing the living room. I made it out of 12mm plywood, and edged it with pine strips, before staining the wood to match the surroundings and applying several coats of varnish.


We also reassembled an oak bookcase that Simon had made, and which came in pieces, some of which we collected recently at an HNBC meeting in Farnham and took home on the train and tube, after he kindly found them for us. This fits under the gunwale neatly, and of course having new space for books, we had to go to the garage and collect some books to put on them!


Some of our canal and waterways history collection in it’s new home.



Having a browse!

We also had another first today. With the new floor in, and space cleared, we were able to invite our friends Amy and Kirsty of Pyewacket over for Sunday lunch. Whilst I’ve no doubt it’s not yet as practiced and superb as those cooked by “Sir” on NB No Problem, the cider-basted roast gammon, roast potatoes cooked to my Nan’s recipe, honey-roast carrots and steamed veg went down a treat!

One of the things we really missed being able to do when we had Lucky Duck was to invite friends over for meals; we just didn’t have the space for any kind of table. Having experienced numerous wonderful meals with other boating friends, on Melaleuca, Pippin, Kestrel, and other boats, we’ve always looked forwards to being able to repay the favour, and are glad we’re now able to.


The orange juice was because Kirsty had to go to work afterwards, and it seemed very unfair to subject her to the normal boaters’ boozy Sunday lunch! There’s time yet, though…

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Fitout 39: A Floor in the Plan

It’s been a busy few days! At the weekend we were both racing at Peterborough Regatta, where James’s men’s VIII won their race, coming home with a pot to show for their hard work. My boat made through our heat but got no further.

On Tuesday, my dad visited with his partner Karen and her son, Joe. My dad last visited in 2008, and none of them had seen Willow before. We took them for a little cruise to the Plough at Fen Ditton, and then when we got back, my dad kindly helped us move a load of wood to the garage. I totally failed to take any pictures, so will do another post when I get some!

Today, the oak floor went in. An exciting moment, as we’ve had the stack of “click-lock” solid oak floorboards since we bought the boat – they were included in the purchase – and we’ve been waiting to get them down until we had finished a lot of the other jobs. First, the underlay was taped down, then the boards. It was tricky to begin with but once the first rows were in place, the rest clicked together. Logistically it involved doing all of one side then shifting the sofa and arm chair over on to the newly laid floor so the other side could be done. It looks great. The oak is waxed to a gorgeous finish and is very good quality. Just need to sort out the skirting and trim round the hearth.





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