Seven years steering an unassuming narrowboat through the waterways of the "longest, friendliest village in England"  



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Onwards ever onwards

Posted on September 27, 2018 at 5:55 PM

The boat has made it to Bow and goes shopping in Tesco 100yds away.

Well actually, I walk up to the bus stop in front of Tesco and get the D8 bus to 1 Canada Sq. and Waitrose.

Very busy on and off the boat. But I am trying very hard to get things done and get back to the blog.

Every blog entry is editable and this is happening on-going ...

Endeavour? French devoir "must"

Posted on September 10, 2018 at 8:55 AM

This is the story of a Lass who, a few years ago, endeavoured to take to the water as a London Boater and succeeded admirably. 

Her story could be the template for the Ideal Lady London Boater ... except that she equals all but the elite and surpasses most males ...  

Elite boaters are those who can always be relied on to to have their water and deisel tanks full and their shit-tanks empty.

Our Lass  will always be well- moored and her boat well turned out or 'appointed'.Everything works and is known to work ...

Her plan A is designed to work and her plan B is a fall back condition which nails it ...Five years afloat .. she even has a plan C ...

Lass knows the days are shortening and we are entering boaters terror time when all sorts of things go wrong, go wrong, go wrong ...

Lass overhauled her fire last week, during a late September heatwave, and has over a months firing squirreled away for "emergencies"

Her diesel tank was cleaned out mid summer and her fuel filters checked over.

Her batteries are constantly monitored and are treated as the most important single item on board.

There are no internal leaks, the boat is dry and so it will stay right through the winter.

WIP ... Tues.11/09/2018 Pancras Library ... Thu.27/09/2018 Belhus

I'm just shooting over to Waitrose for the last of Arthur's Hopstore13 real ale from James' Gate ...

Mapping my Village

Posted on September 9, 2018 at 6:15 AM

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." 

On canals you make your own luck ...

and the more luck you make the more you get.

I have a water sprite who decides how my luck dribbles and she has been on my side for decades.

Coming in from the briny ocean seven years ago to a new life on inland waterways,

Neptune allocated "Sí Líath an Uisce Líath" and told her to 'mind' me.

Her name is Sadbh, say SIVE.

Other boaters have it less easy than I.

Their boats need regular watering, shit disposal, fuel supplies

and a myriad other things I can do without for days, weeks, months even.

Pentargon had these things sorted out during the writing of my original wish list for an ideal constant cruiser.

If I need a tailoring alteration, I have to find one in my current village, whereas the settled kozey already knows where to get a hem let down.

 Each time I leave a comfortable mooring, I leave a familiar mapped village centred on the boat.

Each time I tie up at a new mooring, my priority is to map a new village.

Sadbh decides where the centre of my village will be. It is where the boat will be tied up and how it lies at moorings. 

(On tidal waters it may be an anchorage and my village is self-contained, surrounded by water that goes up and down and in and out).

You lot think us nutters just ram our boats into a bankside and head off for a few groceries before the shop shuts or after the pub opens.

It is very different in reality. We boaters gotta build a whole "village" around our crash site ...

Noel Road Village Islington

Moving from my "gated compound" at Kings Cross to Noel Road Islington  is a case in point.

Slipping Kings Cross at 7am on Sat8Sep, Pentargon was ready to dive into Islington tunnel by 7.15am guided by Sadbh.

The tunnel light was set up and tested before slipping; the last place this light was used was at Bruce Tunnel mid August.

What?... You don't know Bruce Tunnel? ... Shee! Do you know Islington Tunnel?

Arriving at the eastern exit, Sadbh had organised a space just the right size for Pentargon's shortness  and having had the nod from Sadbh, I emerged into bright sunshine and tiptoed in with a classic "" target="_blank">4&2" , my personal water spirit guiding me quietly and unobtrusively into a 40' space and alongside starboard to by 7.40am. Once moored and caffienated, out came the onboard" target="_blank">Geographer's A2Z to map the elements of my latest village and where the nearest bus stop might be. Next I needed to locate the "nearest pint of milk" and routes and distances around my new address. Much of this would be done by shank's mare

Since the remainder of September is likely to be spent here or hereabouts and depending on what Sadbh decides,

it will be expedient to clear a long to-do list, effectively "winterising" the boat before the cool nights of Autumn creep upon us ...

(See blog entry "Endeavour")  

I need to establish supply trains and routes to source some or all of the following ...

... Batteries for my Roberts Radio,

... High Amperage cables for an underfloor project,

... screws and press studs for the back deck apron.

... shortest distance between various libraries ... 

My way of "mapping my village" includes rat-runs to bus stops, under grounds, over grounds, on the grounds,

so I can move around my village or escape from it. It is necessary to pinpoint ... food supplies,... beverages,

... libraries,... trade counters,... markets,... cafés,... maybe a cinema,... perhaps even a pub ...

These are all things you who live on land don't even think of mapping out for your own "village".

You know, and always have known, where your next loaf of bread is coming from or is stored.

Within your house you have your water supply, electricity, TV, fridge freezer all the creature comforts

... your great grandma never even dreamed of but without which your life would fall apart.

You have your wifi, your mobiles your laptop and maybe even Alexa.

I live "Off-Grid" on board, a 19th century concept which includes ladling drinking water from a plastic tube in the "Utility Room".  composting toilets, solid fire heating (Pentargon uses charcoal!), very low levels of LED lighting, Bed at sunset and up at sunrise and a serious regimen of wasting nothing and recycling everything. You who are part of the muggle community know your garden centre, shopping centre, church, pharmacy, grocery, doctor, butcher,barber, baker and for all I know your candlestick maker. You know where to buy a stamp or post a letter. You know a short cut to the bookies, where to walk your dog or cycle your bike. Everything is familiar and you may even have a car outside the door to save your legs.

Me? I change my village sometimes twice in a week or once in a month, and each time my new village needs to be mapped ...

My latest mooring is close to Angel, very close to Angel. An initial recce established  that ...

within 200yds of the boat I have a postbox, a grocery, dry cleaner, two cafes

extending to 300m I have bus stops at Angel and more on High Street.

I got a branch of my bank, Vue cinema in a shopping centre, two supermarkets, a tube station.

Wow! None of these when I was snowed in on the Oxford outside Banbury in 2014.

Keep those dogies moving

Posted on September 8, 2018 at 4:45 AM

You are supposed to look up words you don't understand. "dogies" comes from a song in a 50s TV series featuring a very young Clint Eastwood and the series was named after a song written and sung by Frankie Lane in 1958. Keeping dogies moving comes home to roost on London's waterways, where it might be the mission statement of the Waterways Authority, if they had a sense of purpose or humour, which they don't.

When the present authority took over from BW in mid 2012, just after the London Olympics, there was a right rabble afloat in London, who paid scant attention to anyone and obeyed no law, not even their own. They moored where they liked, when they liked, for as long as they liked, left debris on the banks, caused pollution in winter when their stoves were fired by  filched timber, much of which was discarded builders rubble, with old paint, bitumen and such other noxious substances as defies the imagination. When local residents in places began to grumble, then to act, and then invoke politics, councillers, police ... pressure came to bear on the Waterways Authority to act, with little sense of humour or purpose.

There is a [toothless] Act of Parliament from 1994, which is supposed to regulate the regular movement of boats as have no permanent mooring in London, but the law became subverted as all UK laws are initially or eventually. 

It must be emphasised that there has ALWAYS been an indiginous resident population of  skilled, experienced boaters, practiced at keeping the head down and playing the game according to an unwritten code which kept everybody happy. Many descend from when the waterways were commercial, (pre-1963 if you ask, when an appalling winter finally killed off the last of the real canal community and their trade and culture). These boaters are the salt of the earth and still exist on London's waterways, still keeping the head down and trying to play the game.

Around 2012 young people realised or discovered that their solution to impossible room rents in London could be found by purchasing anything that could float that could be slept on. And in a very short space of time the boat poplulation began to rise, at first by maybe ten boats a month, to ten boats a week, and in a space of three years the 100mls of London waterways which had had a pretty static 1000 boats in reasonably regular use was showing up numbers in excess of 2000. In 2014 the Environment Agency on the fresh water Thames declared all out war on itinerant boaters who were quite frankly taking the piss big-time on the fresh water Thames. EA evicted scores, if not hundreds from the Thames inside the M25 onto the tidal Thames, whence they began to flood in at Brentford onto the Grand Union. The London Waterways Authority, bless their cotton socks, had no method of filtering the migrants, no licence checks at Thames Lock and before they found a way to regulate entry, scores of GRP cruisers, mostly deathtraps had got in to the system and gravitated via the Paddington Arm and Regents to Ducketts Cut and thence to the Lea.

WIP ... Belhus Thu.27/092018

Crushed Eggshells Sink

Posted on September 1, 2018 at 4:05 PM

The stay at Kings Cross is very relaxing and the convenience of the libraries is being used to the best.

Over a period of two weeks I have been spending between two and four hours a day at the British Library and often the same Pancras Square Library,  where it has been possible, if properly arranged, to get almost 4hrs terminal time in any one day.

Moving to Kings Cross from Paddington released a fair amount of precious time which translated into more work done and more visits home ...

it also resulted in more housework being done on board, Inside, serious cleaning could be done and decluttering.

Chores left during the heat wave or impossible while the boat was out of the water at Shepperton began to be ticked off.

Just yesterday, the onboard radio which had not worked for almost nine months was repaired and is working fine

except that there has been a noticable drop off in sun to charge the boat's batteries using the diminutive solar panels

Today Wed5Sep the battery system has been cleaned up, checked out and all is well. (Tonight music concert outside Waitrose)

Work is ongoing on the canvas apron which encircles the cruiser deck. Arthur Beales supplied snap studs ... more to do ...

and Clerkenwell Screws supplied the tiny 3mm countersunk screws which fix the studs to metal surfaces.

Pentargon was moored beside "Helen" whose boat would not start. When looked at, the wiring was a total snakepit and there was no starter battery on board. The leisure batteries had been wired to start the motor and they were seriously on the way out. The battery isolator switch was permanently on and could not be turned of! Tests showed there was a current leak. which flattened the leisures. Needless to say, the leisures eventually went so flat that Helen's multimeter register 0.00v on each of the two. Having acquired a real starter battery and sorted out or disconnected most of the snake pit, the new starter battery was left connected to the solonoid via the (useless) isolator and the engine block negative was connected to the negative side of the new starter battery. The battery was then isolated by unscrewing one terminal and left for an auto electrician to get her a key start. This was all done over a period of about a week, with the last gasps being completed on Friday evening 7thAug. Pentargon had already been some 21days in one position and that being naughty, it was deemed expedient to move.

Islington tunnel was ahead.

Morning of Sat.8Aug, wakeys were at five oclock.

When we go to bed at 9pm, eight hours is about the most we will sleep for.

Edited: Belhus Thu.27/09/2018