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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Living Afloat - Part 3

Share boating has survived some dubious individuals and, despite causing some sharers a lot of heartache, it remains a popular option for those determined to take waterways holidays, willing to boat through much of the year, but better able to afford a part share in a boat than buy one themselves. It is an area full of pitfalls and options. Here is what you get, what you pay and what to look out for.

are-boating should be the logical half-way house - or stepping stone - between hiring a boat and owning one yourselves but the bad experiences of many at the hands of the collapsed and sometimes crooked Ownerships and Challenger share-boating businesses has left many people suspicious about the concept.
Despite the history, it survives, and is even growing slowly once more as new, more responsible and crucially more transparent operators take up the slack and more syndicates decide to manage themselves.
There are over 200 shared ownership boats on the inland waterways - that's around 2,500 owners - so there is a lot of experience of shared ownership about, and I quite admire them because we see them out on the water in deepest winter as well as the high season, so these people have to be regarded as serious boaters.

Even on a frosty winter towpath you are as likely to meet a shareboater as a private owner. They boat all-year round.

Andrew Cooley, who operates the useful Boatshare4u website ( says the concept is still growing steadily. “I'm not aware of any new privately commissioned syndicate boats, but at least nine new boats have been launched or are under construction by the major management companies in the last 3 years - that's over 100 new owners.”
He says he knows of just two of the syndicates which suffered in the collapses of Ownerships and Challenger which have sold their vessels but “almost all the ex-Challenger and ex-Ownerships boats are still providing great holidays for their syndicate members and are managed either by one of the three main companies or by the syndicate members themselves.”
Andrew says: “One of the other upshots of the Ownerships crash was that syndicate members really did appreciate that they were the owners of their boats and were able to make their own decisions about management.”

The key change seems to be that today's management companies all work on the basis that the boat is entirely owned by the syndicate members and that the syndicate has its own bank account.
Andrew Barton, Managing Director of BCBM Boat Share with bases at Nantwich and Braunston, says syndicate boating is a niche market, aimed at those who can't, at a certain stage in their lives afford the initial outlay of buying a boat and feel that they can better afford the £1,300 a year ongoing cost of boat-share rather than the £7,000 a year he estimates it costs if you own a boat.
Andrew Barton, Managing Director of BCBM Boat Share

How has he restored the trust in management companies like his? “I feel the answer has to be total transparency,” he said, “We have to demonstrate that we can be trusted.”
That means syndicate members don't have to pay up front once or twice a year. His management fees are invoiced monthly, “so if we went out of business they would just be £35 out of pocket.”
Members also have access to the boat's bank account at an time and even if a specific job on the boat is queried, a syndicate member can see the detailed invoice for the work, almost immediately.
He started the business three days after the Challenger collapse, aiming to provide those syndicates with a new option and now manages 48 boat-sharing syndicates, 38 on the canals, six on the Broads and four in France. The company has built three share narrowboats and the fourth shell is outside his office and aimed to go on show at Crick.
He said: “Some people will be syndicate members until they give up through old age of infirmity but for about 15-20 per cent it is a stepping stone to their ultimate goal of owning their own boat.”
Boatshare4U's Andrew Cooley says the collapses of large share boat firms means that all share owners now clearly understand that, even if one of these companies hit the buffers, the boat and its syndicate would carry on cruising. “In most cases, the individual loss would be no more than a month's management fees, while contributions into the syndicate bank account would be unaffected.”
And the sums make an interesting, argument for those who are regular and enthusiastic hirers, although the current slow-moving growth may reflect an unwillingness among some families to commit the £1,200 - £1,500 a year shared-ownership costs in addition to the initial purchase price of the share.
That's about what a family of four would pay for a week's high-season hire of a four berth narrowboat. So if you know you want holiday on the waterways every year for the next decade or so then having the use of a cared-for and modern boat for three or four weeks a year for the same money makes sense.
Of course you have to have the £7,000 to £10,000 needed to buy into a syndicate owning a new boat depending on length and specification. 

One of the BCBM share boats out on the water.

There are owners who want to sell their share in an existing boat and prices vary from around £2,000 up to the cost of a share in a new boat, depending on the current market value of the boat, the facilities it offers and it's age.
Bear in mind your own share will depreciate in the same way, although well-cared for boats have a long life.
Unless you are going into a self-managed syndicate you will probably use a management company and their fees – around £400 a year – have to added to the ongoing costs.
Of course, boating is not predictable and those annual costs can suddenly increase if your boat needs a full repaint, or a new engine, or substantial steelwork. However, as Andrew Cooley points out: “Owning a boat isn't cheap and B.O.A.T. may still stand for 'bring out another thousand', but to the owner of a 1/12 share that's just £83.33!”
Some people even use share-boating as a direct route to ownership. Chatting to a couple at Wheaton Aston on the Shropshire Union Canal recently, I was told they had purchased three shares in their syndicate over a period of years and were aiming to buy out the whole syndicate as money became available but were now thinking of buying their own boat as none of the remaining members wanted to sell. It is an interesting approach.
I know some dismiss boat-share as a form of time-share and the key difference is that you are not buying a 'right-to-use' a boat for certain weeks of the year you are actually buying the boat, or at least part of it, and with that comes both rights and responsibilities.
Most syndicates have a dozen owners – enough to give each four weeks on the vessel each year with another four weeks over for winter maintenance and other essential work.
 size is 12 or 12 plus a half share. Owners usually get at least four weeks holiday on their boat each year.
Syndicates have agreements you will sign which set out your responsibilities – filling with diesel, topping up the water and getting a pump-out as well as cleaning the boat before handing over to the next owner – although some contract out the cleaning and even complete turn-round to the marina where the boat is based.
The agreement also sets out what damage or repairs are covered by the syndicate or insurers and what will fall to the owner during their weeks on board. Major decisions, like re-paints, new engines, and changing moorings are made  at annual meetings and the rules usually specify a 75 per cent majority for selling the boat completely.
And there's the rub. With or without using a management company, you have to be willing and able to get along with other owners and to accept the inevitable compromises majority decisions create.
We have found joint owners complaining about fellow syndicate members 'who think they are the only ones who own the boat'. One older couple had bought a share after selling their own boat and couldn't understand why the others had insisted on a cratch cover – in fact they enlisted my help in removing it for their holiday.

Buying a boat-share will oblige you to negotiate the politics of a group of strangers, all of whom may expect something different from their purchase.

Most complicated of all is the sharing of weeks, but at least there are established, if sometimes complicated, systems.
Under the draw system the year is divided into four seasons and at the annual meeting owners draw weeks at random for each season. Once that is complete they can swap them amongst themselves. Unwanted weeks can be used by other owners.
The list system puts owners in a set sequence and the first choice of weeks goes to those at the top of the list and then on down. Each year the two owners at the top of the list move to the bottom.
Some have 'special' more expensive shares which give privileged right to school holiday weeks, others just find it easier for owners to co-operate by swapping school holiday weeks with those who prefer to go boating out of school holiday times.
If you are convinced boat-share may be your next step towards becoming a boater, you can buy or sell using one of the share brokerage firms, although some will,only sell shares in vessels they have built and manage, others will sell on behalf of a member of any syndicate, so you get a wider choice of second-hand shares.
There are also specialist websites and you'll even find them on E-Bay, but make sure you are paying the market rate and that you can see exactly what you are committing to.
You need to understand the true value of the boat you are buying into, especially at a time when prices are depressed, and that applies to new-build boats by management companies as well – what would a private buyer pay for a boat of similar length and specification?
You need to be happy that you will be able to keep track – not only of where your money is going but also that the finances of the entire syndicate are on an even keel and every member is paying their way. That means unfettered and regular access to the boat's bank account.
Whether you should go self-managed or pay for a management firm to operate the syndicate is still a difficult question to answer. One couple I met had a share in two ex-Ownerships boats, one self-managed and based at Norbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union and the other managed by BCBM at Nantwich on the same canal. 

Share boats at Norbury Wharf for winter maintenance.

They say it is a balance of cost against convenience and point out that much depends on the quality of the syndicate members in a self-managed set-up. That is echoed by Simon Jenkins, managing director at Norbury who has had between two and 25 share boats on his wharf over the past eight years.
“Some syndicates are very well managed and they plan ahead, recognise the work and expenditure needed to keep a boat running well and looking good.
“Others, especially with the older boats, tend to get away with as little spend as possible – just like private boat owners of some older boats – and the vessels go downhill.
“Despite that it is a good way of getting out on the canals and for some people it is a half-way house between hiring and full ownership.”

Simon Jenkins, Managing Director at Norbury Wharf Limited.

I suspect the boss of BCBM is correct when he describes boat-share as a niche market. To become a part-owner you will need to be an enthusiastic boater, have a lump sum about you to make the initial purchase and be happy to commit to spending a thousand or two every year on this type of of holiday for the foreseeable future. You probably should also expect to take a loss of up to 75 per cent on your original investment.
Many will be happy with taking a hire-boat holiday when they fancy it and doing something different with the rest of their days off. Those with deeper pockets, willing to settle for a cheaper form of boating or determined to spend every spare moment on the water will find a way to buy their own boat.
Meanwhile, and assuming they take the precautions the history of this part of the waterways industry show to be necessary, there will be a happy and slowly-growing band of share boaters who are already a fixed part of cruising our system throughout the year.
Welcome aboard.

Getting afloat - Part 2

Peter Underwood looks what turns ordinary people into boaters
British hire-boat firms attract customers from around the world to spend a week or two in a steel box, crawling along a ditch sometimes only twice as wide as the boat – and they come back over and over again and even buy boats themselves – so where is the magic? How do you get the best out of your hire boat holiday?

Hiring a boat is the first step off the bank and onto the water for most people. It is a giant leap for some as they discover for the first time whether that idyllic vision of slow-moving boats sliding through the countryside really is for them.
It was a three-day hire on the southern end of the Shropshire Union nearly 20 years ago that led us to buy our first boat within months, followed by two more boats and, nearly a decade ago moving to a home afloat.
It is the ability to sample a waterways lifestyle that makes hiring – from a simple day-boat, to a luxury broads cruiser – an essential key to transforming a towpath pedestrian to a boater.
Ian Clarke, who runs Pennine Cruisers with his wife Pamela and daughter Zoe. has a fleet of six day boats alongside their holiday hire fleet in Skipton, Yorkshire, and he has seen it happen.
Ian who lives on a boat himself, said: “For many people it is a spur of the moment thing. They see a boating holiday advertised and decide to try it or they just turn up in a place like Skipton and decide it would be exciting to take a day boat out for a few hours.
“The chances are that they have been walking by the canal for years or perhaps they have happy memories of a childhood family holiday on a boat and want to repeat that for themselves.”
He says it simply doesn't suit a small minority but many go on to hire from Pennine Cruisers three or four times. “That is about the maximum before they go on to hire in another area or even buy a boat or a boat-share themselves.”
In Ian's estimation only a small proportion go on to be boat owners – less than five per cent. He said: “Even if people can afford a boat they are time-poor and they just don't have the spare time to get good value from owning a boat.
“Only those who have become slightly addicted to the waterways and have a bit more time for themselves will be a boat for weekends and holidays, and that's why most boat owners are older.
“There are those that decide they want to live on a boat but we try to warn them it is not a cheap way of life and emphasise they need to be really certain they can do it before that sell-up and move aboard.”

Despite that there are now around 10,000 more privately-owned boats on the Canal and River Trust system than there were a decade earlier, and many of them will have had their first taste of boating through a hire company, which makes them essential ambassadors for the waterways.
There are more than 1,800 hire boats in the UK, according to the latest figures and in the 2011 season they hosted 615,494 “bed-nights” - so a lot of people got a taste of boating on our inland waterways.
It is probably the boats and the waterways themselves that seal the deal, both for deciding on a boating holiday and, for some, going on to own a boat. That magical feel of being somewhere apart from everyday life, yet still having the comforts of home, watching the buzzards circling high above the fields as you chug gently along the cut and then being able to relax in the comfortable cabin of your boat while the rest of the world walks past your windows.
And the view changes every day, with over 2,000 miles to chose from that include some of our country's most beautiful scenery but also offers the buzz of major cities, like London, Birmingham and Manchester.
What do boaters and wannabe boaters believe turned them from spectators? I asked members of the Facebook group Get Afloat.
Sometimes a family history of boating plays a key role as Don Harrison told me: “With my parents we twice had a week on the Norfolk Broads before my dad bought a 22ft plastic boat near where we lived. We fitted it out on the Paddington Arm.

“We got the bug and Dad bought a 36ft steel narrow boat hull, put the roof on, fitted a 1.5 BMC Diesel Engine and fitted it out inside. We had about 10 years wonderful years fun. I recommend it to all over you who have still to take the pledge.”
Others use hiring a test bed for their dreams and Mark Bratt said: “I hired a narrowboat for the first time in July 2011 with my wife Ruth. We did this because we believed there was an opportunity for re-inventing the old hostel boat concept. There was, and we did!” They now operate the Wandering Duck hostel boat.

Mark Bratt with his wife Ruth.

Alan Sharkey told me: “Coming from Liverpool a week on the Broads in my early twenties was like visiting a different planet. The whole experience was such a joy, it changed my life forever.”
Sometimes it is simply random as Michelle Bushby recalls: “Our friends were given a weeks boat hire as a wedding present from Simon Jenkins at Norbury Wharf, so we decided to hire a boat and go with them. My husband really didn't want to go, but now we're hooked. We've got our second trip coming up on the Llangollen next month.”
Paul Ost, the organiser of the Get Afloat group said he had never considered boating until his new in laws organised a big family holiday on the Llangollen with two boats from Dartline. He said: “I have been smitten ever since. I never realised I could still escape and explore in Britain and it made me appreciate what a wonderful country we have.”
For others it is about places and Don Harrison recalled: “I loved the Llangollen Canal. Its yet another place so beautiful and different from anywhere else on the Canal system.
Television plays an introductory role for many, and Steve Lansdowne recalled watching Water World on a satellite channel. “As we had some extra cash spare I suggested we gave a boating holiday a try. So we booked a week with Shire Cruisers on their boat Devon.”
Hiring sometimes lead to buying a share in a boat and Gill Lockett recalled: “We hired a 'day boat' on the Llangollen to go over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, as an aunt has cancer and it was one of her must do things before she's no longer here. 
“That was June 2012, by December 2012 we had purchased a four-week share in Sceptre. We were hooked after just one day!! Love, love, love it! Cannot wait to buy our own boat. Love the cut!”
It is not just boating but the whole waterways business that appeals to some. Linda Andrews went further than most, as she explained: “I got hooked on one trip, subsequently bought a boat, spent nine years living aboard and loved every minute, and now we have Cheshire Cat Narrowboat holidays, our little hire company with four boats, and an RYA narrowboat training centre. Be warned - it is seriously addictive!”

 Silver Moon, one of the hire boats in Linda Andrews small fleet - she got hooked on boating on one boating holiday trip and now runs four of her own as Cheshire Cat Narrowboat Holidays.

So that goes some way to explaining why people hire and why some of them move on to become fully committed boaters.

If you want to get the best out of your first boating experiences I wouldn't argue with the Canal and River Trust's advice to choose a place that you've previously fallen in love with or an area that you've always wanted to explore, and then do so by water.
But I would add an honest plea for a new hirer to avoid setting ambitious targets for travelling long distances to complete a canal 'ring' or specific journey. Yes, in theory your boat will travel at 3-4 mph and you can cruise eight or ten hours a day in summer – but that is missing the point.
Quite apart from building in frustration when you have to slow down passing moored boats or meet queues at the locks, you won't get the major benefit from boating – relaxation.
Get a map or, even better, one of the waterways guides available for your route and work out nice comfortable days of travelling that allow you time to stop and explore an historic town or enjoy a pint or two in a village pub. A good hire-boat operator will discuss with you the routes available.
Steering a boat really is not difficult, but learning all the little knacks that make life easier will take somewhat longer. Slower is almost always better than faster on the waterways and give yourself time, as well as working out in advance the possible consequences of any manoeuvre you plan to make. Other than that just keep to the right when passing oncoming boats. There is no driving test to pass and you will be given a full handover by the boat operator.
At first sight, the cost of hiring a boat for a holiday seems considerable, easily £1,000 plus a week, and more in the high season, but that is for the whole family. Go abroad and you wouldn't blink at paying several hundred pounds a head, so break down the cost on a per person basis and it becomes very competitive.
One word of warning – boating can become a bit of an obsession. Don't take my word for it, as I wrote this one couple were on their umpteenth hire – this time a six-week break on a hire boat from Norbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union canal – and it all started on the spur of the moment.

 Super-hirers, Maggie and Wilf Lloynd with their son and daughter who are also becoming waterways fans.

Maggie and Wilf Loynd are 62 and 67 respectively and run a builders' merchant on the Island  of Mull in the Hebrides – it takes them two days just to get to the hire base.

Maggie told me: “We spent a few nights on a boat in Little Venice owned by an acquaintance of mine through my days flying hot air balloons, but boats never again crossed my mind until our area won a government bid to get free computers.
“One of the first days I logged on there was a top of the page advert for Chas Hardern. I thought 'different' and booked a week on the famous Mr. Todd – every where we went people knew the boat.
“It took us a week to get to wind at Frankton junction for the Montgomery and back to Chas at Beeston. By now both of us were sodden but hooked.
“We then regularly booked one of Chas’s boats every year, growing to twice a year with some other firms and by 2008 took Yavanna through the Severn and the Avon on a four week holiday which we extended to 5 weeks on the way as we were enjoying so much.”
They have been regulars on the Shropshire Union and Llangollen canals as well as trying out the Grand Union.
Maggie say the best thing about a holiday on a hire boat is “complete relaxation, no responsibilities or worries.”
Even though they insist they hire because it would be impossibly difficult to own and look after a boat at least two days' travel from their island home – that's the reason they take four five or six week breaks. - the thought has more than crossed their minds, especially Wilf's it seems.
“Yes, we keep dreaming about having our own boat,” says Maggie, “and Wilf is always on the internet looking at the brokerages. Please just give us the cash! A boat share would not, I think, suit either of us. Being tied down to a particular fortnight rather than saying 'Let’s go now' is not us.
“We love the easy going camaraderie of folk on the canals. We have met some wonderful friends on live-aboards and in canal based businesses and are looking forward to meeting up with old and new this visit.”

 Maggie Lloynd enjoying some outdoor cooking on the back deck of Pippin, one of her favourite hire boats.

Their love of canals has been passed on to their 31-year-old son and 29-year-old daughter. “He has come with us several times and hired with friends once and our daughter has come with us several times too. They both enjoy the canals.”
So are Maggie and Wilf, just a relaxed older couple – well not really – they were both extremely active in motor sport, Maggie (Anderson) in saloon car racing and Wilf rallying (in the same era as Chris Coburn) so that the switch to 3 to 4 mph is something friends find difficult to grasp. Perhaps it has more in common with Maggie's earlier hobby of hot air ballooning?
And that rich background is something I find common among boaters of all descriptions. Many are people who have led interesting lives and want to go on being interested in life. Boating, especially travelling widely, gives them that ever changing interest as the scenery, the places and the history flow past their windows – or portholes.

Sunday, 23 February 2014


It's that time of the year now that the dayboats start going out. Today we have had all three boats out and from now until the end of March they are all out every Saturday and Sunday. There are also quite a few mid week bookings, so lets hope that the weather starts to improve and they gain in popularity. 

It is great to see families and friends have a great day out together. Most usually frequent The Wharf Tavern at Goldstone or The Hartley Arms at Wheaton Aston for lunch prior to returning in the afternoon to our yard.

Our three day boats are all similar in design. They are 32 foot long and powered by smooth running modern diesel engines. Each boat can carry ten people including the steerer. They are designed with enclosed seating in the main saloon and also outside seating in the front well deck. The kitchens are set up with hob, pans and kettle and has sufficient plates, mugs and cutlery for the boat's passengers. There is hot and cold water and a fresh water flush toilet.

Above: Typical dayboat layout. Variations do apply.

Download a map showing the North and South routes.

Don't forget to take advantage of our 2014 special offer. Pre-order Bacon or Sausage baps to be collected prior to departure for just £1.99 each. Tea or Coffee also available to take away and Buffet service available upon request.
Visit our website for further details

Regards, David.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

boat trips, sun and an unusual canal proposition

Just to let you know that we are running two fish and chip suppers a week Friday night 7th March and Saturday night 8th March, and also operating the public trips too on the Sunday, but at slightly different time, they will be an hour later than our usual times.

Its been another glorious day here at Norbury with unbroken sun and blue skies all day long, it really does make a big difference to the place and it sort of comes to life, long may it continue!

I was talking with an elderly gentleman recently in my local pub, a very interesting chap who has lived his whole life in this area and around the Shropshire union canal, we were chatting about a man called Richard Whitworth who lived at a place called Batchacre hall which is situated by the canal at Shebdon, any way I popped in to my local last night and the Chap had very kindly photocopied some pages of an old book and a map, the map showed a canal  which ran from Bridgeford to Newport and linked the river Sow which would also be linked to the Trent and thus via the Newport canal which would link with the river Severn, I read the text with interest and it transpired that Whitworth had written a book in 1766 at the age of 32 called "The advantages of inland navigation" amongst other proposals was this one joining the Trent with the Severn via a new canal, the canal would run adjacent to his hall at Batchacre; Now I had heard tales of this Whitworth and an idea that he had to build a canal to the hall for training men for his army and sailing ships down the canal, I used to think that it was a short canal linked to the Shropshire union canal, hard to imagine really? but he was proposing a new canal as the Shropshire Union canal didn't exist at he time, I really thought it was just a tale from the towpath but now seeing it in print is great, and that is exactly what he was proposing to do, bring ships to the middle of nowhere via a new canal and train a small army, of course all this was before the Shropshire Union canal was built!


Sunday, 16 February 2014

We ran some Valentine's cruises on the trip boat on both Friday and Saturday evening. These trip departed Norbury at 7pm and went to High Onn and back, collecting the popular Fish and Chips at Gnosall on the outward leg of the journey. It's the first trips that the boat has done this year. Unfortunately the weather was against us on Friday, but was much better last evening. Keep an eye out on our website for our forthcoming trips here

We had an extremely busy day yesterday, it was certainly a case of all hands to the deck and we even had to rope some of the seasonal staff in to work! In total we had Denise in the Tea Room, Ange in the shop, office and chandlery, Mrs. Handbag cleaning and Bernard, Billy, Fred and myself turning the boats round.

We successfully sent out Phantasy, Phoenix, Ember, Sphynx and Pacific. The last three have been hired by our regular customer Laurance who has taken 24 children, it was a great sight, but I must say that I don't envy him. Do give them a wave if you see them.

We have swapped in both docks today, so Pippin will have a bit of tlc on her paintwork this week before she goes out on hire on Friday.

Best regards, David.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

No quite back to normal

I am not referring to me in the title, you will be glad to know that I am all recovered from yesterdays little incident! I am however referring to the boat yard still being without power; as we have several boats out this coming weekend, the cottage too and we need to finish painting a roof on a boat in the wet dock we have had to improvise a little, we have two generators running the freezers, one computer and from lunch time we managed to get the phones back on, we have the trip boats inverter running other things in the office, a genny running lights in the dock and the girls cleaning the boats are using the inverters on them to power the hoovers, thank goodness for inverters and our trust generators, we cant however do any cooking, or serve diesel, or do pump outs, but the later probably isn't a bad thing given yesterday episode (Peter is still keeping his head down) as we cant cook anything in the tea room we ended up with a toaster on the wharf plugged in to one of the several extension leads just so we could have some breakfast, and fish and chips were in order from our local chippy for lunch!
We were lucky that after the really bad winds yesterday we have suffered no real damage except we have no power so I am grateful for that, and we have not been flooded like so many!

captured on camera this morning.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

WIND,rain, POOH and power cuts

It feels like the end of the world is upon us at Norbury at the moment, this morning saw the most horrendous rain, then the wind came, so coupled with the rain it was just vile, most jobs around the yard continued as normal although we haven't had Bernard,Mick or David in today so there wasn't too much going on, We docked a boat for survey first thing and then I asked Peter to do some pump outs on the hire fleet ready for the weekend, now Peter is new to pump outs and i had previously showed him how to do it, so he popped back into the office and said that he was just about to start doing them at which point the pub opposite rang us to say that"Now I don't know much about boats but it looks like you have a shower of Pooh coming out of the wharf" needless to say I shot out of the door and sure enough there was a shower of something coming from a slit pipe on the wharf, Unfortunately Peter had knocked one of the valves on the machine causing it to blow rather than suck, I ran as fast as I could through the shower to turn the machine off, the wind covered me in the stuff as I ran past the split pipe, once turned off it stopped and the rain was so bad you couldn't see any evidence of the incident except to say that I then smelt like I had just come out of a settling tank in a sewage plant, not too impressed with this I headed off home for a shower and to get changed, upon returning to work Peter was keeping a low profile, the wind had increased to near gale force and whilst talking to a customer on the phone everything went dead, and that was that, a power cut, probably down to a pole down somewhere, We waited for half an hour and decided to call it a day, so we locked up and we all went home.

If you have been trying to get hold of us late this afternoon I am sorry that you couldn't but alls being well we should be back up to speed tomorrow.

I hope you all have a safe evening!


Sunday, 9 February 2014

this and that

hi all, theres not an awful lot to report today but i will do my best.
we docked sphinx this morning for survey and then she was out we docked pacific which is the new boat going into the fleet this year. fred has pressure washed her today ready for peter to black her tomorrow and paint the counter bands then when she comes out we have to clean her ready for this coming weekend.
denise and i have been quite busy in the tea room today, at one stage the shop was full of customers :-)
david has been putting lights on the trip boat ready for this coming friday and saturdays valentines fish and chip supper....yes, we are running 2 three hour trips, one on friday and one on saturday, departing here at 7pm and picking the fish and chips up in gnosall on the way down to high onn. fridays trip has the full 42 passengers on and we have a couple of places left for saturday, so if you fancy a valentines evening with your loved one for £29.99 give us a call on 01785 284292. 
mick has been cracking on with gas checks on the boat and there has been quite a lot of people looking at brokerage boats.
well thats it from me until next time, sorry for the short post (they will get longer, honest)....byeee ange.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Titford Pump House 06/02/2014

Last Thursday evening saw me heading over to Oldbury to attend a talk presented by Malcolm Braine in the Titford Pump House. This lovely building stands proud adjacent to the top lock of the six that lead off of the Wolverhampton level at Oldbury Junction and is at the highest point of the Birmingham Canals.

Titford Pump House

The evening had been organised by the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society (BCNS) and was extremely well supported with in excess of 80 people turning out on a rather damp February evening.

Malcolm talked us through an incredible number of photographs from his first experiences on the canals, his introduction to the boatyards that maintained and repaired the boats and to his days spent at Norton Canes on the Cannock Extension Canal where he operated his own successful boatyard (rebuilding and maintaining old boats and building new boats). He begun at 7.30pm and concluded at 10.45pm with a short break in the middle.

Malcolm Braine, October 2013 at Weston.
Pouring canal water over the Cactus, celebrating his 50th year of ownership!

I always enjoy talking to Malcolm, but I must say that I came home on Thursday evening in ore of the experiences that he encountered on a canal system that is somewhat different these days and extremely enthused. 

Best regards,


Sunday, 2 February 2014

It's been a gorgeous day here today. The sun was shining when I came to work this morning and is still shining as a write this blog. Although the sun has been shining it has still been cold.

We had three dayboats go out this morning, one of which has already returned. They went south to High Onn, turned round and had Sunday lunch in the Navigation at Gnosall, which comes highly recommend. The other two boats have gone north to The Wharf Tavern at Goldstone.

We were inundated with customers at lunchtime. We had over 20 scooters turn up from the Stoke on Trent Scooter club. That kept Denise and Ange out of mischief in the kitchen for a couple of hours, and there was lots of washing up to be done when they departed. Here's a picture of some of the scooters on the car park.

Bernard has been busy finishing off a service and one of the engines over on one of the boats that is out next weekend.

That's it from me for today.

Until next week...

Best regards, David.

bit late

morning everyone, i was supposed to write this blog last night but had problems with my internet so apologies for that.
we had 1 day boat go out, it's a good job the weather was better as it has been absolutely foul here the last few days, freezing cold and very windy.
phoenix returned to us with very happy people aboard, they had a very relaxing week cruising to market drayton and back.
pippin went out on friday for a week with returning customers of ours and phoenix today also with returning customers, it is nice to see people return, we must be doing something right :-)
i have been in the office and tea room for most of the day today as david has been outside working on day boats and internal checks on the hire fleet and denise has been out cleaning boats and wharf cottage. i did a couple of holiday bookings and a couple of day boat bookings, i even had to do a bit of cooking. denise moans at me when i have been cooking as i make such a mess, she walked into the kitchen and thought i had been making breakfasts all day as it was such a mess in there and i had only cooked 2 bacon and egg sandwiches ;-)....sorry den, that will teach you to leave me on my own.
bernard has been servicing engines and mick is still wading through the gas checks on the hire fleet.
sorry for the short post but there is not much to report at this time of the year....roll on the summer, until next time, byeeeeeeeeeeeee, ange.