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Quillan

Returning to the cut after a long time

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Hi let me just tell you a bit about myself. I lived on the cut for four years on a 70ft narrowboat with the wife, dog and two cats twenty years ago (late 90's). My wife would say she lived on the cut with a dog, two cats and finally me. The wife died of cancer this year here in France where I currently live. I have always had a yearning to return to the cut even though I had a sailing yacht down here it's just not the same.

 

So I am starting to set about making plans yet many things have changed since I left so I have lots of questions and am seeking advice. Below are some basic questions.

 

1) Seeing as I am 65 on my own and have no family I wanted to know if there is some form of check in system for single boaters like we have on yachts. Something like you need to call a phone number at frequent intervals say once a week and if you don't they can locate you through say your mobile phone. It's just the thought of dying in some remote spot and my dog not being able to open a tin of food worries me.

 

2) Fuel, how much does it cost. Last time I filled up on the cut it was pink and cost about 35p a litre if memory serves. Using "pink" for boats has long gone but I am led to believe that there is some type of "fiddle" you can do with regards to the type of heating you use. You pay the normal supermarket price for x amount of diesel and then more at a lower price for diesel heating and also if you have a fitted 220v generator. I have no idea if this however is true. Somebody said that paying more was to do with the EU and once we have fully left the price would drop again. I think that's rollocks but who knows?

 

3) Sort of to do with number 2 and with the question after this. Looking at the licencing bands I thought either 57ft or 60ft (narrow boat) they being the top end of each band. Thing is I will need a bow thruster having had heart surgery, being diabetic and having asthma and of course being single handed. It seems more likely to get a bow thruster on a 60ft boat. Seeing as I intend to be continuously cruising and liveaboard can I get round the whole system with a 60ft narrow beam boat?

 

4) So what form of heating is best and most economical for a boat up to 60ft long, coal, gas or diesel. I appreciate insulation is an issue and was led to belief the best form is spray foam which restricts condensation and rust. Didn't have diesel heating back in my day and they said then that gas central heating system were very expensive to run so are diesel ones cheaper? How does it compare with coal and is coal still easy to find?

 

5) Is there any good route planning software for Android tablets with gps out there with like bridge numbers, lock numbers, distance and location. Bit like naval charts but for inland waterways. I use to have a load of (A5) books back in the day that had maps for different canals plus information about services, shopping, moorings, things to see and do, places of interest to visit etc.

 

6) Last one for the moment, toilets. Was a big thing back in the day. We used to have a pump out with a macerator and pump so we could run out a pipe to a sanitary point and empty the tank  quickly. Meant we could travel without always looking for pump out facilities which were about 15 quid an empty (Braunston) back then. I have seen some boats having composting toilets and wondered if they were any good. I am a regular two dumps a day fella (sorry for being crude) and wondered if it would be smelly or whatever so any info on that with regards to narrow boats would be helpful.

 

I have loads more questions but that's enough for now I guess.

 

Thanks in advance to any and all who can help me out with answers.

 

By the way my old boat was called Merchant (from London), I don't know where it is now or if it still exists even.

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1. Not as far as I know, but if you are on facebook there are countless groups you can join, some quite good at that kind of thing.

2. red diesel is still available, and at your own declaration at present - although HMRC has had its wrists slapped by the EU and is maybe going to change it if we dont leave soon!! basically, the present system means you declare how much diesel is used for propulsion, and how much for living (heat/light/electricity generation etc)...propulsion is charged at full duty price - heating type is currently around 70-90p a litre. if you have a dedicated tank for a stove - this will be 100% domestic.

3. bowthrusters are fitted regardless of boat length - it is down to the commissioning owner - and there are no hard and fast rules.....many of us have up to 70 foot boats without, and dont struggle. If the boat is 60 foot exactly - you can probably squeeze through the whole system (a couple of locks you will have to reverse through).

4. if your asthma is serious - diesel stove may be better than solid fuel because of the dust. Gas is an expensive way to heat a boat in Winter yes. Spray foam is best. There are coal boats across the system which usually supply diesel and gas too - some do other things like pumpouts - but not all.

5 There are modern apps and software, but the canals dont change much. the books you used to use will probably still be fairly relevant although many named pubs may have changed/closed.

6. Toilets - pick and choose - empty cassettes several times a week, or pumpout once a month. Smelly(MR)l be along to tell you the cassette is the best thing on the planet - although his present boat is a pumpout. Composting - some say too much trouble - getting too in touch with your waste - however , seem to be getting more popular. 

 

Merchant is still around.

 

 

  • Greenie 3

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1 hour ago, Quillan said:

Seeing as I intend to be continuously cruising and liveaboard can I get round the whole system with a 60ft narrow beam boat?

Welcome!

If you are single handing the whole system, I'd recommend a 57' NB maximum. It is possible to take a 60' NB through 57' broad locks, but the careful positioning required is a lot easier with a crew member to help. I've single handed Huddersfield Broad and Calder & Hebble locks fine in a 57' boat. This has a bow thruster tube fitted, but no bow thruster. Could be installed easily were it required.

1 hour ago, Quillan said:

Seeing as I am 65 on my own and have no family I wanted to know if there is some form of check in system for single boaters like we have on yachts. Something like you need to call a phone number at frequent intervals say once a week and if you don't they can locate you through say your mobile phone. It's just the thought of dying in some remote spot and my dog not being able to open a tin of food worries me.

No such system I know of. I text my current location each evening when I cruise to a friend, or relative. Gives a starting point to look if anything went badly wrong.  Hopefully you can find someone to do the same for you.

1 hour ago, Quillan said:

So what form of heating is best and most economical for a boat up to 60ft long, coal, gas or diesel. I appreciate insulation is an issue and was led to belief the best form is spray foam which restricts condensation and rust. Didn't have diesel heating back in my day and they said then that gas central heating system were very expensive to run so are diesel ones cheaper? How does it compare with coal and is coal still easy to find?

Coal stove is the cheapest and most robust heating source if you are living on the boat all winter. Diesel heating is good for spring and autumn when you need to take the chill off early morning, or late evening for an hour or two. Can be run 24/7, but more expensive. Some find it unreliable if not run flat out. I've just got the solid fuel stove. A back up diesel stove is a good idea, but not essential, unless the stove breaks in a cold snap. Gas heating is still fearsome expensive. Easily two 13kg bottles a week in winter.

1 hour ago, Quillan said:

Is there any good route planning software for Android tablets with gps out there with like bridge numbers, lock numbers, distance and location. Bit like naval charts but for inland waterways. I use to have a load of (A5) books back in the day that had maps for different canals plus information about services, shopping, moorings, things to see and do, places of interest to visit etc.

I believe there are Android apps around now, but I've not bothered. I use Canalplan AC and paper Nicholson guides. CaRT do downloadable boaters guides from their web site, which are good for the latest info. When on the move I'll have the Nicholson's guide with me. Not too bothered if it drops in the drink. Would be much more upset if an expensive phone, or tablet went overboard, or got rained on. Only used GPS the first time I did the tidal Trent as I was concerned about the possible lack of features to pin point my location. Turned out not to be needed. Everywhere else, bridge numbers, lock names and so on let you easily find where you are.

 

I won't go in to fuel duty, or toilets. Loads of stuff on here to read through if you do a search. Especially not getting involved with the toilet holy wars! The arguments are almost as heated as the ones about Br3x1t

 

Jen

Edited by Jen-in-Wellies

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I use the eCanal maps, RCR sell them now but they were having problems on the latest iphones, i think. They work on Android 6 OK.  Great for new info but I still navigate by old Nicholsons, the canals haven't moved much. I use Maps.me for shopping.

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1 hour ago, Jen-in-Wellies said:

 

Coal stove is the cheapest and most robust heating source if you are living on the boat all winter. Diesel heating is good for spring and autumn when you need to take the chill off early morning, or late evening for an hour or two. Can be run 24/7, but more expensive. Some find it unreliable if not run flat out. I've just got the solid fuel stove. A back up diesel stove is a good idea, but not essential, unless the stove breaks in a cold snap. Gas heating is still fearsome expensive. Easily two 13kg bottles a week in winter.

 

I think you are referring to an Eberspacher or Webasto(other models are available)......which, I agree with you.

however, a diesel fuelled Lockgate/Kabola/Refleks are no different in cost (especially with diesel price dropping now), and only need a good clean once a month and they are very efficient and hot.

  • Greenie 2

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3 hours ago, Quillan said:

I will need a bow thruster having had heart surgery, being diabetic and having asthma and of course being single handed.

 

I'm not trying to put you off, but if you don't think you can pull a boat in to the side with a line are you sure you can (still) work locks and bridges single handed?

 

It might be worth trying it somewhere if you get the chance.

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Thanks for the replies.

 

I had coal fired central heating via a Morso and back boiler on Merchant. It was difficult to get the water circulation going. I don't know if this was normal or not. If the fire got to hot steam would start to come out of the header tank. I thought a wet diesel system on a 57ft boat would be better in areas away from the lounge area.

 

Think I will go for 57ft and trim my wardrobe a bit.

 

If I go down the route of having a 3kva alternator attached to the engine mainly for a washer dryer, diesel central heating, engine water heating, electric oven and a two burner induction hob what percentage of the diesel cost could I reasonably claim at the lower rate?

 

On Merchant which was 70ft I didn't have a bow thruster and I got to moor it quit well into some tight spaces. That was 20 years ago. I have a Beneteau Oceanis 48ft which came with bow thruster and I have to say it is magic and so much easier to parallel park with no effort. Having that makes me a bit over qualified having an Ocean Masters and Yacht Master certificates which of course are totally irrelevant on inland waterways ecept of course they also include the ICC inland Helmsman certificate as well.

 

So what does the average insurance cost for a 57ft boat and does having a Helmsman certificate (or any other competence certificate) give you a reduction. What othr things do they like to keep the cists down like burglar alarms etc.

 

Toilets were always a much discussed and divided subject. There were some who thought we should all have buckets (WW2 Elsan's), the Daily Mail for toilet paper and candles to read by. Having fridge would have made them rage and if you said you had a freezer as well they would go apoplectic. I see some boats now have dishwashers, that would probably kill them by heart attack. I want to enjoy the waterways. I don't want to spend my time (what's left of it) worrying about stopping and getting tonight's dinner, emptying toilet cassettes etc. I want to cruise gently, take it all in and when I hang up keys at the end of the day to sit in comfort, read a book (with a cold beer in summer) listen to some smooth jazz and relax.

 

Nicholsons guides, that's the one but I couldn't remember the name. Back in the day CanalPlan used to be a stand alone DOS program and was quit good even if the graphics were, well, rubbish, but it did plan your route well with estimated times. I think I will do the same as Jen In Wellies and others. I did find opencanalmap which I might investigate as it seems to be free.

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11 hours ago, Quillan said:

1) Seeing as I am 65 on my own and have no family I wanted to know if there is some form of check in system for single boaters like we have on yachts. Something like you need to call a phone number at frequent intervals say once a week and if you don't they can locate you through say your mobile phone. It's just the thought of dying in some remote spot and my dog not being able to open a tin of food worries me.

The problem with the system you identify is that after a week your phone battery is flat so no one can find you anyway.

 

You could always get a PLB (Personal Location Beacon) a one off purchase with no monthly annual fees to pay. Unless it is an 'instant death' you just press a button and the emergency services are contacted, it tells them your name, details of friends or relatives and your location anywhere in the world, to within about 5 metres)

You register it (free of charge), the batteries last about 6 years (and are replaceable) - that's it.

 

You are maybe familiar with EPIRBS from you boating days, it is a personal version of an EPIRB.

 

Very small, clip it on your belt of keep it in your pocket - feeling seriously ill ?

Press the button.

 

 

A1.jpg

 

Edited by Alan de Enfield

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Just now, Quillan said:

Right I have one but I thought you couldn't use it on land/inland?

You cannot use an EPIRB as that is registered to a ship / boat, but a PLB is designed to be used on Land, Sea, or 'air'. They are commonly used by hikers who may be in remote spots, slip and break a leg, and there is no telephone signal to call for help.

 

I have one for hiking, and SWMBO has one for when  she is horse riding 'in the wilds'.

 

Mountain rescue teams love them - it makes their job so much easier and puts then at lower risk - rather than combing a mountain in a snow storm they can walk directly to the casualty.

  • Greenie 1

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At 73, single hander, reasonable health (dodgy knees), 55' NB with no bowthruster may I suggest that you seriously consider a smaller boat (say 45'). I know all the benefits of larger ones, space etc but you can't escape the fact that in some circumstances larger boats more difficult to control on your own.

Whatever you decide, good luck,       

  • Greenie 1

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Slim - I need a new hip and knee. I have an appointment next week strange enough with the doctor so I hope that the hip will be done in three to six weeks and the knee after that. A friend of mine had a hip done. He used to row and ride a bike. He said if he went to fast he could feel the hip warm up. All the more reason to slow down. What you said about boat length is right which is why I was thinking bow thruster just to pull the front in. I was tempted to go wide beam but you need a lot more strength to pull it. You might think my fibreglass boat at 48ft would be easy but it's not hence they fit it with a bow thruster as standard. Locks I don't think will be a problem because the technique of opening and closing them is different like no rope to pull.

 

Still earning - My boat is at Gruisan and currently for sale. Hopefully I can buy a half decent narrow boat and pocket the difference. I am glad I have been here during the pandemic because from what I see France on the healthcare front is far superior (and quicker) than the UK. It also has better people running the country. Explain to a French person about wards and ten to twelve people to a "bedroom" and they think you are a liar. That said I never really wanted to move here and would have been happy staying on the cut but marriage is a two way thing so I gave it up to make my wife more happy. Now I can return and visit all those places I never managed. I also found the cut a very sociable place more so than being an immigrant in another county.

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re support - could try contacting Waterways Chaplains who do a great job, where they can, in supporting people who live on their own on the canals.

  • Greenie 1

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4 hours ago, Slim said:

At 73, single hander, reasonable health (dodgy knees), 55' NB with no bowthruster may I suggest that you seriously consider a smaller boat (say 45'). I know all the benefits of larger ones, space etc but you can't escape the fact that in some circumstances larger boats more difficult to control on your own.

Whatever you decide, good luck,       

I've not done any  cruising, yet, but have lived on my 57footer narrowboat, and I would say that given time, you could find a smaller boat [52-4 ft] that is nicely fitted out and well laid out, easier to manoevre and cosy enough.

I would prefer a single dinette [desk] , again making the thing more spacious, but with high seating which is more storage and good view out window, my cat sits high and looks out the open window, popping in and out as desired.

If you don't have a pumpout that gives you more storage, a smaller bed [3ft makes boat less "narrow", and ideally [for me I would have a very swish modern walkthough shower/loo. The cassette thing does create a problem, mine only lasts seven days,[thetford Excellence] if I am on board full time, and I have emergency dry loo of a primitive design. I like the Excellence 'cos it's a nice height, but ideally I would have two!

Once I have cruised the whole network,  expect to settle either North or South, but I would still like to have  proper boat again [dutch style], but that is in about eight year, when I am getting on a bit [hitting 80]. I don't worry too muh about emergency ill health, just cope with it when it comes along. You can always ring one of the emergency services or you will post on here ad someone will sort you out short term. You're never far from ciilization.

Edited by LadyG

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2 hours ago, Quillan said:

Slim - I need a new hip and knee. I have an appointment next week strange enough with the doctor so I hope that the hip will be done in three to six weeks and the knee after that. A friend of mine had a hip done. He used to row and ride a bike. He said if he went to fast he could feel the hip warm up. All the more reason to slow down. What you said about boat length is right which is why I was thinking bow thruster just to pull the front in. I was tempted to go wide beam but you need a lot more strength to pull it. You might think my fibreglass boat at 48ft would be easy but it's not hence they fit it with a bow thruster as standard. Locks I don't think will be a problem because the technique of opening and closing them is different like no rope to pull.

 

Still earning - My boat is at Gruisan and currently for sale. Hopefully I can buy a half decent narrow boat and pocket the difference. I am glad I have been here during the pandemic because from what I see France on the healthcare front is far superior (and quicker) than the UK. It also has better people running the country. Explain to a French person about wards and ten to twelve people to a "bedroom" and they think you are a liar. That said I never really wanted to move here and would have been happy staying on the cut but marriage is a two way thing so I gave it up to make my wife more happy. Now I can return and visit all those places I never managed. I also found the cut a very sociable place more so than being an immigrant in another county.

I can only comment from personal experience. As a singlehander I find that the bow is no problem. Approaching the bank with an 'offshore' wind I will just touch the bank with the bow stopping the boat at the same time. Tiller over and a quick burst ahead to get the stern alongside and step off with the centerline. Pull the boat fully alongside and moor up. All that's very simple most of the time. When the wind catches the 50' long cabin side it can be a different matter.and at that point a 'thruster is of little help. Yes, there are ways to mitigate the problem but there's no escaping the fact that a strong wind on a 55'-60' NB is harder when you're in your late 60s early 70s than when you were in your 40s.

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1 hour ago, Alan de Enfield said:

There appears to have been some 'pruning' of posts !

Alan Titchmarch/Percy Thrower?

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Hi Chris 

I hope you will carry on with your reports as you did years ago.

Mr Helpful was always  a favourite of mine ;)

 

 

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Well there is some stuff to consider that's for sure and I have made some basic decisions already. I will go for 57ft probably semi trad. I don't want a cross bed, to much effort involved making it up. If I find one with a bow thruster I will take it but if I find a nice boat without I will think on it. I will go for a pump out rather than cassette. I will have a table because I like sitting at a table to drink coffee in the morning while reading the newspaper. I have been through the WiFi stuff and will go for a router with external aerial. I don't want all potholes  because I like to sit and watch the world plus I like the light. Electrical supply will be a Mastervolt inverter charger with an engine driven 220 alternator. I have this on my current boat and it works very well. Got an insurance quote fully comp including contents for £300 which seams reasonable. Thing with boats they are like caravans, the minute you say 12V (48V seems even worse) it means they can double the price at least. Using 220 fridge freezers, televisions etc are a lot cheaper.

 

Done a bit of research on the PLB's and think they are brilliant. Perhaps the reason I didn't know they existed for land use was because they are relatively new. Great idea even for hiking on your own which I like to do. I mean for an average cost of £50 a year for peace of mind (batteries last for 5+ years after which you send it back to the factory for new batteries) working on paying a one off £250 and no other costs. One thing I did notice is that for these devices they have to be bought for the specific country in which you would normally use them i.e. the UK and the country code 0044 is burnt into them. They will work internationally of course but seeing as you pick up the bill for the rescue in some counties they need to know where to send it I guess.

 

I would still like an answer on the fuel percentage at a cheaper rate please, roughly speaking of course and on the wet diesel central heating.

 

Mentioning TV, digital was not around when I left the cut. I wondered if it is any better than the old analogue system for boating. Some boats I see have built in satellite dishes that automatically find the satellite. I have a UK Freesat box and thought of using that.

 

 

Here are a couple of photos, one of Merchant and the other of my current boat.Picture_0142.jpg.84ffb986748565a7706ce18f506e9bbd.jpgPatricia.jpg.bbf5c46d082fbe14075d1eac6821a973.jpg

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20 minutes ago, Quillan said:

my current boat.Patricia.jpg.bbf5c46d082fbe14075d1eac6821a973.jpg

 

 

Very nice, will she sell OK in France ?

 

 

I have a 'Cat' (in Plymouth currently) and a Motor Cruiser in Y Fellinhelli (North Wales)

 

Sailed the cat back from Croatia.

 

23-10-19c.jpg

 

 

 

 

Small Size Picture.jpg

Edited by Alan de Enfield

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4 minutes ago, Loddon said:

 

Hi Chris 

I hope you will carry on with your reports as you did years ago.

Mr Helpful was always  a favourite of mine ;)

 

 

Where you on one of the old bulletin boards before the internet really took off. I can't remember the name now it was like a lifetime ago. Funny enough somebody contacted me about 5 years ago who had bought Merchant. It had been gutted inside and made totally one plan which was a real shame. I also hade somebody contacting me about cats on the cut after the article I did years ago. So many cat stories and pump out ones especially at Braunston. Laying down on the floor inside with the curtains drawn when crossing the Pontcysllte viaduct to and from Llangollen being scared of heights and more. All the fantastic characters that used to be around back then. Do you remember Songs of Praise at Braunston when the guy who had the coal boat there got married? I know it won't be the same, a lot happens in 20 odd years. Some have moved off the cut, some have died (did you know Bob from Bob's Dream) and of course many new faces with new experiences. I still have Rolt's Narrow Boat which I get out and reread sometimes.

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I like cats, great fun. I spent a few years delivering and moving boats around the world. Crossed the pond three times. It is far more common to lease in Europe. You get a new boat with exactly what you want on it (mine has the full nav option and is set for single handed use) and the monthly cost includes everything except fuel which isn't much on this type of boat. She is so easy to handle I can "park" her under sail a lot of the time even on a pontoon. One thing for sure is mooring costs in France are about half the price of the UK (Barmouth no water or electricity and a 33ft Westerly) which includes water and electricity. With three cabins and just me now it is really is not practical anymore so she has to go. The only reason things are slow to sell at the moment is because of the virus but they say that anything you can live on may well sell quicker now because of being able to isolate yourself. The catch with these leases is you can't just hand the keys over and walk away.

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39 minutes ago, Quillan said:

I would still like an answer on the fuel percentage at a cheaper rate please, roughly speaking of course...

Many (most?) folk declare 60/40 with the 60% being heating/generation. It’s entirely your decision to declare what you believe to be the truth. I’m unaware of HMRC taking anyone to task over their declaration. 

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30 minutes ago, Quillan said:

Where you on one of the old bulletin boards before the internet really took off. I can't remember the name now it was like a lifetime ago

There are several on here from that era I will let them out themselves.

It was mainly newsgroups and mailing lists, uk.rec.waterways and canals.com/ blacksheep etc.

Google groups has a reasonable archive of some of it.

Internet took off for me over 25 years ago its been expanding ever since ;)

I remember various marriages and deaths to many to name on here

 

Edited by Loddon

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