Whilst we still lived on the Duck, I made this little souvenir for James’s Christmas present. It’s a few little mementos of Lucky Duck‘s “adventures” in the style of a museum display. I intended it as something to take with us and display in our new boat once we’d sold the Duck. It lived in the garage until recently when I took it out of its box to display it on top of one of our bookshelves in Willow‘s living room. It’s a reminder of just how far we’ve come in nearly six years of boating, and the help we received from so many people when things when wrong for us is one of the main reasons we try and help other boaters as much as we can.

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Clockwise from top left:

Bits of Fotheringay bridge on the Nene which landed in the welldeck when we smashed into it under tow due to a slipped towing line.

A piece of the flexible coupling which needed 10 hours of angle grinding to remove, with the help of our boating support network!

The piece of coupling which had held one of the pesky grub screw until it came loose.

The offending sheared grub screw itself.

More bits of flexible coupling

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2013: an historic year (Part II)

Continuing with our review of 2013, here are the final 6 months:

A busy, sunny and fun month, with lots of work done on Willow as well. We spent a glorious weekend sailing on the Thames barge Pudge with the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, for James’s birthday, which was excellent fun! We rowed and coxed the annual Town Bumps races, we went to the somewhat disappointing IWA national and we got the gas man to come and finish off the gas system so we could cook and shower in the comfort of our own boat! Never is a shower or a cup of tea so satisfying as when you’ve done most of the work to make it happen!

August saw us frantically finishing off things so that my mum and her partner, Peter, would be able to stay with us for the weekend in relative comfort. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get the bathroom finished, but we did manage to get the solid oak floor down in the living room, which made a big difference, as did the bookshelves which James made. My mum and Peter arrived part way through our ‘Summer Pootle’, and we had some lovely weather! We met them in Ely, stayed overnight on the EA moorings near the Ship, then pottered up the Brandon Creek to drop them off. We always loving taking guests out because it helps us see the rivers through their eye, as a beautiful destination, not just a familiar backdrop that we’ve tired of. 20140103-215521.jpg

Back to school and university for both of us, but that didn’t stop us carrying on with work on the boat at weekends and evenings. I carried on with tiling bits of floor and James made the coat rail and shoe storage at the front of the boat. We went to the Shackerstone Family festival to see boats and boaters, where we picked up some presents for Willow: cheap ash trim and a brass toilet roll holder from one of the tat stalls! 20140103-220424.jpg

In October, we got stuck into researching Willow’s history, making contact with and eventually visiting the Waterways Museum and the County Archives in Gloucester. We visited Oak, Willow’s older sister, which is in very poor condition, and explored the city where Willow was based in her working days. We also found out a bit more about Willow’s work during the war, discovering that she was worked by the “Idle Women” for a time, and were kindly sent a photo of this- the earliest photo we have of the boat. We also had a great weekend staying on Ilford at That Fuller Do!

The biggest excitement of November was buying our first car, Jasper the Fforde. This allowed us to go and do things that we hadn’t been able to before, like load up with a massive pile of logs for the stove, and collect cans of diesel from St Ives. In fact we spent a lot of time at the weekends, when we weren’t working on the boat, collecting various types of fuel for the winter and for propulsion! We finally finished the bathroom, and were very pleased with the result, ready for visitors who came for the bonfire night fireworks on Midsummer Common.20140103-221634.jpg

And so that brings us to December. We had a lovely Christmas break in the Westcountry, despite some terrible weather for driving. Over the course of the holiday, Jasper took us nearly 700 miles there and back!

Now, not quite a year after setting eyes on Willow, we have a comfortable, spacious [its all relative!] home that we can be proud of. We’re not finished by any means but looking back has reminded me how far we’ve come! Here’s to 2014!

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2013: an historic year! (Part I)

On January 12th, it will be a year since we first saw Willow, so we thought it would be nice to reflect on these last twelve months with our (not so new now) old boat. I’ve looked back through my photo albums and chosen a special photo from each month. Most of them are related to Willow, but not all, we did get up to some other exciting things last year that weren’t about our new boat, although even those other things did tend to involve other boats of various varieties!

The month began unpromisingly. We’d hoped that we’d have an old boat by now, and although plans were afoot to purchase a converted Grand Union boat, Bournemouth, realistically our finances wouldn’t have stretched that far. Then we went to the midlands to meet with some boaty friends and everything changed. We’d cadged a lift from Milton Keynes up to Alvecote with Dan and he mentioned that Willow, the historic ex Severn and Canal narrowboat moored next to his up at Langley Mill was still for sale, and for a price that made us think about it more seriously than we had when we’d first heard about it the summer before. That evening, sitting eating our dinner at the Wetherspoons in MK, waiting for our bus back to Cambridge we realised that buying Willow and fitting it out ourselves actually made surprisingly good financial sense. So we called up Simon, the seller, and arranged to look at the boat the very next weekend. There was no need for deliberation. We both looked at each other excitedly whilst Simon was out our earshot, and said “Let’s do it!”. Our offer was accepted there and then. We announced it on our old blog.
Willow on the first day we saw it, a mostly blank canvas and a big project ahead!

then the waiting began. We wanted to get a survey done, mostly for the insurance but also to make sure the hull was as sound as we believed it was, but were beset with setbacks. There was a boat without a bottom in the only dry dock the right side of a long stoppage on the Erewash, and work couldn’t continue with it due to bad weather and various other things. We spent the time visiting the boat but holding back from actually doing anything to it at all despite the fact that we were itching to get going, and planning, planning planning. 20140102-232158.jpg
Here we are in the pub, with a scale drawing of the boat laid out, not even fitting on the table!
Eventually, towards the end of February, the survey went ahead, Willow passed with flying colours, the funds were transferred, and we were finally the owners of our longed for historic boat!

And so began several tiring weeks where we spent all weekend, pretty much every weekend, up at Langley Mill getting the basic services in. It was very busy, leaving work on the Friday night, getting straight onto the first of several trains to Langley Mill, and only returning late on Sunday night so we could go to work first thing on Monday morning. We camped out on the boat, subsisting on Asda breakfasts, IKEA meatballs and two for one curries at the local Indian restaurant, as well as simple cooking on a camping stove. Every single time we went to Langley Mill, it snowed! During this time, Simon, the previous owner, was very helpful, sorting us out with wood, coal and lifts as well as giving us a whole host of components he’d bought for or taken out from the boat when the bottom was done. He even kindly made us some additional bits and pieces from oak he had in his workshop. Eventually we had a couple of LED lights, a rudimentary kitchen and running cold water. We were ready to leave the boatyard and set off for home!

The voyage home took ten days. Compared to our trip back on Lucky Duck back in 2008, it was surprisingly uneventful. A potential issue with a stoppage on the Nene vanished as we approached, and there was no long wait for the right tidal condition at Salter’s Lode, as we’d thought there might be. The engine behaved itself all the way. It was a very cold but enjoyable trip marred only by my skin reacting to the sudden exposure to 14hour days in the sunlight which required a trip to the emergency doctors in Peterborough. Stern hauling the boat for a mile beyond Stanground lock was possibly the lowest point, but the sense of achievement when we finally moored up at Whittlesey that night was enormous.
Crossing the Trent (photo P. Sladen)

By May, we had moved off Lucky Duck, work was continuing apace on Willow and we’d hoped that we’d no longer have a fleet of boats- that the Duck would be in someone else’s hands. But alas, it was not to be. The sale fell through, leaving us with one mooring for two boats, and a problem! We decided to take it for one last cruise, to brokerage at Hartford Marina, who turned a bad situation into a good one by finding us a buyer within a week of it having gone onto the market. However, it wasn’t until June that all the paperwork was done and we said our final good bye to the boat which had been our home for nearly five years.20140103-000002.jpg
The Duck on brokerage at Hartford.

With the Duck gone, we were able to focus our attention on Willow, getting on with turning a boat into a home. At this point we still had to rely on using the showers at the boathouse, and cooking on by camping stove, but we allowed ourselves some weekends off doing fun things like joining the Indigo Dreamers for an adventurous trip back from Gravesend in a convoy of narrowboats.
Going under the QEII bridge.

July-December will be up tomorrow!

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Do you Follow?

As you have no doubt noticed if you used it, Google Reader is no more.

An avid user myself, I have spent the last few months trying to work out a suitable alternative.

If you like catching up with blogs via a reader, so far, the best one I’ve found is called Bloglovin. Click on the link if you want to follow our blog with Bloglovin. It works well on a PC and the app for Android/iPhone/iPad is also very good. It’s also very easy to import your feeds from Google Reader.

There are lots of other ways, too. You can follow via email (click the button in the side bar), like the blog on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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About this blog

Our old blog for Lucky Duck was started in 2008 and documented the process of buying, cruising and living on the boat. I used Blogger from the beginning and got used to its quirks and foibles, the way it does funny things to photos, the way it’s impossible to make satisfactory posts from the iPad, and the way the template I’d chosen limited me. It had begun to look outdated, but knowing that a new boat was on the the horizon for us, I didn’t invest time in a redesign, much as I was itching to.

So, when we went to look at Willow, and decided that we wanted to go for it if the survey came back positive, I set about researching the options. I actually created two blogs, one in WordPress and one in Blogger (I investigated Typepad too, but it costs, so that was out!). I played with them both, looking at the available templates and options for making it a webpage as well as a blog, with “Pages” etc. Although WordPress was less familiar at first, I began to prefer it to Blogger, and then after having tried various different looks, happened upon this template which we are now using. I like it a lot – it feels fresh, fun, and a little bit thrown together and rough round the edges, much like the current state of Willow’s interior, and I though it would suit a fit-out blog well. I also love the wood look background, as it was the quality of the woodwork that had been fitted that really clinched Willow for us.

As you can see, we plan to make this a place to find information about not only Willow but also the “Tree Class” and other Severners, as well as about the Severn and Canal Carrying Company itself. I also have plans to introduce a blogroll, but as there are so many and I don’t want to favouritise, it will consist of just historic boat blogs and those bloggers we have met in person. For a more comprehensive list of all the blogs, we use Nev’s Percy blogroll and Adam’s Briar Rose one, which have most of the regularly updated ones that we enjoy reading.

I hope that you will read, comment on and enjoy this blog as much as you all seem to have enjoyed nbLuckyDuck. I’ve removed comment moderation now, so all you need do is fill your name and email address to enable your comment to be posted. As we are new to this fitting our business, we’d particularly appreciate any comment you have on different ways to do things, and general suggestions and questions.

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Welcome to our new blog

First test post!

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