Saturday, January 4, 2014

What does it cost?

Frequently questions appear on various canal based forums asking how much does it cost to live on a narrowboat. The answers are never definitive and neither can they be. Narrowboat (and Widebeams) come in all shapes and sizes, and are all of varying ages requiring varying standards of maintenance etc. We are continuous cruisers and live on our narrowboat GUELROSE. She is 25 years old in July this year and is 70 feet in length. Because of her design, the multi fuel stove in the lounge area provided no heat to the rear part of the boat so we have a second solid fuel stove in use at the rear of the boat. This rear stove cost far less to run than the main stove as it is only ever on tick over to keep the chill off in the back cabin and main bedroom. (We do have a gas fired Alde boiler fitted that would provide heat via a primitive central heating system, however, the boiler is costly to run and is not working at present - you would not believe that our son has his own gas servicing business and has not yet fixed our boiler!!) In 2013, we cruised the canals and rivers of England, covering 919 miles and 573 locks in 430 hours. The engine was running for a total of 988 hours (we dot not move every day but have to run the engine for approximately 3 hours a day to charge our batteries and to provide us with hot water) and used 1199 litres of diesel. This works out at 1.2 litres of diesel per hour. On average this works out at a pound an hour. Our total expenditure for the year including licence, insurance, moorings (for when we leave the boat), maintenance, gas, diesel, coal and replacement of fittings worked out at 7200 pounds, i.e. 600 pounds per month. This was a high expenditure year as 1500 pounds was spent on hiring a paint dock for a complete repaint (done myself) and hire of a slipway for blacking, again done by myself. During the course of the year we suffered serious problems with diesel in the sump, see previous blog, which cost about 1000 pounds to sort out, requiring a new diesel injector pump, new armchairs were required for the lounge and a new cratch cover was also needed. If you deduct the costs of these 'extras' (bearing in mind everything will need replacing in due time, i.e. batteries in 2014 and new mattress also required) then 'basic expenditure' was about 3600 pounds, i.e. around 300 pound per month plus food and clothing. In 2015, she will require slipping again and will be due her Boat Safety Certificate. All these costs need to be considered very carefully when making the big decision to live on a narrowboat. Someone once likened it to pouring cash into a big pot - continuously!! But, we would not change our life style for the world at the moment. Happy cruising in 2014.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Diesel fuel in the sump

I have not posted anything on my blog for quite a while, there has not been much to say and nothing too much out of the ordinary has happened on our travels. However, there is one thing that has happened that I would like to share with you, I know some of you may already know about this and may have read about it elsewhere, but just in case, here goes. But, please bear in mind, I am not a marine engineer and all my comments are what I have gleaned from various people over the last few weeks. In July I noticed that the oil level in my sump kept on rising. My first thought was coolant in the sump caused by a cracked head gasket. I drew off some of the excess oil from the sump, put a sample in a clear bottle and left it for a couple of days. I looked at it again, and there was no oil/water separation. There also were no other signs such as the oil emulsifying. The problem continued to get worse and in the end I had to call out an engineer. His diagnosis was definitely not coolant (for the same reasons I have said above) and that it was diesel fuel leaking into the sump. His first thought was that it may be the injectors as they had not been replaced for a long long while. To cut a long story short, he had second thoughts about this and then diagnosed the lift pump diaphragm having a hole in it and possibly leaking into the sump. As the injectors were due to be replaced, I had them replaced and a new lift pump fitted. Problem solved? Actually no, the problem continued. In the end I resorted to posting the problem on canalworld forum, various suggestions came back, but, Tony Brookes of TB Training, came back with the answer that it could be a problem he had been expecting for some time since the introduction of bio fuel. The new formula could well affect old seals in old engines, and his diagnosis was that the bio fuel had probably damaged the seal on the main shaft of the injector pump! A new (well service exchange reconditioned) injector pump was obtained and fitted, and, hey presto, the problem has now been solved. My main reason though for posting this blog is the what could have happened had I not checked my oil level daily, drawn off the excess fluid and changed the oil regularly until the problem was finally solved. The build up of diesel fuel in the sump would have continued and if not checked and sorted would get to the level where the diesel in the sump reached the level where it crept passed the piston rings and the whole lot ignited, and with a great bit bang, goodbye engine! Luckily this never happened to me and thanks must go to those who have now sorted out my engine problems.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Quick update

Just to let you all know that we are still about and cruising. After spending the winter in the Midlands, we spent three weeks at Stafford Boat Club doing a complete repaint before heading south to the Canalway Cavalcade at Little Venice. After that, it was three weeks on the Lee and Stort before returning to London and the Grand Union Canal. Now moored at Winkwell, when I get anything really interesting to report, trust me, you will be the first to know.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Winter cruising.... and ice

Last Monday we were at Alrewas, we had several appointments made and had to make the decision as to where we were going to stay.... for a few days... if we were iced in.....or as to where we were wanted to be. This is our first winter as continuous cruisers, we have lived on the boat for many years but have always in the past come back to Hopwas to moor at the bottom of Mum and Dads garden for the winter with all facilities 50 yards away. This year is different, Mum and Dad have gone, the house at Hopwas has been sold and we are now continuously cruising. We had been moving around, we had left Stafford, been to Alrewas and need to be somehwere accessible for the forecast bad weather and cold snap. We decided on Whittington, a Staffordshire village with a regular (half hourly) bus service to either Lichfield or Tamworth, plus a local co-op, pharmacy, post office, take away and two pubs.... decision made. What else do we need. WATER!!!! Not in the canal but the drinking variety. We can survive with the various loos, (a combination of cassettes and pump out for a couple of weeks), food - no problem, diesel - we have plenty, coal and logs, getting low but good for a few days yet. However, our water tank is only 100 gallons, we have become expert at using very little water for washing up and our economy showers are something to behold, but, with the best will in the world, we can only last 4 days on our 100 gallons. (Compare this with the usage in an average household and you will see that we are being very miserly!!) This is where diplomacy kicks in..... or, as in our case, you know the couple who own the canalside house just 150 yards away. So, this morning, we started up the engine, selected forward gear and attempted to move forward. And stopped, this ice is different, normal ice cracks, ,makes a lot of noise and lets you go forward. This ice is like a sponge, you go forward and it absorbs you. Back a bit, forward a bit, and eventually we reached our goal, Eric and Doreen's water tap!! After filling our tank we reversed back to our mooring, this must be the first time I have managed to reverse 150 yards without touching the tiller, we just glided back through the channel we had made, moored up, sorted ourselves out and went back to Eric and Doreens for a cup of coffee and biscuits. Result!! Thank you very much.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 - and a Happy New Year to you all!!

Time for a post methinks.... it has been a while. Christmas was spent with the family in Hampshire and New Year was spent with friends at Stafford Boat Club. All in all, a very good Christmas and New Year. Time then, once the festivities were all over, to start cruising again, this being our first winter as continuous cruisers. One obvious subject is the weather, first we were forecast to receive the 'beast from the east'. Admittedly, we did get a couple of cold days, one morning the thermometer went down to minus 5.7C and there was a little bit of thin ice on the Shroppie. Then we were to get the 'pest from the west', i.e.rain, and that indeed we did get. Hopefully, there will be no-one telling us in 2013 that there is a water shortage amd that the resevoirs are not full. Obviously, every cloud has a silver lining and the wet winter SHOULD mean trouble free cruising in 2013. Then there is the weather we are getting at the moment, sitting here on Tixall Wide, it is more like a spring day than a winters day! The weather is mild, it is dry and the sun is shining. We have to keep the fires in otherwise it gets damp, but, we also have to have the sidehatch open sometimes! We've spent a couple of days here, peace and quiet after all the hectic festivities, there was a bit of sorting out to do, I always try to operate by the premise that if I get something new for the wardrobe then something has to go (BUT, this does not seem to work with her shoes!!) So, the wardrobe was emptied and tidied, but all I could find to thow away was a couple of pairs of old slippers, who needs five pairs of slippers anyway? We did venture as far as Great Haywood today, we needed water and to dump some rubbish, a newspaper and a couple of things from the shops, there were boats everywhere! Queues for the water point, no empty moorings, so, as soon as we had done our business we scurried back to the peace and quiet of Tixall Wide. What next? We may head towards Penkridge for a couple of days before turning round and going, firstly, to Rugeley for a couple of days and then Hopwas or Fazeley for a couple of days as I have a few meetings to attend in the next week or so and both these locations are good for access to the rail network.
Sunset over Tixall Wide 02.01.13

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winter on the Shroppie

During our first winter as continuous cruisers, we have spent the last 38 days on the southern section of the Shropshire Union Canal. All 17 miles of it available to us because of winter closures. We have moved up and down, and up and down, stopping at Brewood (lovely butchers), Wheaton Aston,(sanitary station out of order most of the time), Gnosall (lovely butchers) and Norbury. We have also managed to find plentiful supplies of wood to feed the stove to keep us nice and warm. I would like to think that we have complied with the rules, and, more or less, I honestly beleive that we have. We have thoroughly enjoyed the villages, the local shops, and their inhabitants, and last night, we had the pleasure of looking at the Christmas lights displayed in Haughton. They were absolutely fantastic and raise a lot of money for charity. But, all good things must come to an end and we are now heading south on the Shroppie towards the Staffs and Worcs to Stafford. From there we will head over towards Tamworth and then who knows where? All in all, our first experience of continuous cruising is going well. Other continuous cruisers seem to be very friendly and willing to offer advice. What a lovely community and one I feel honoured to be part of! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Winter maintenance...

One thing that I have noticed about the Shroppie is the standard of maintenance. I appreciate it was built later than some canals, but, most of the bridges seem to be in good condition and there is a reasonable depth of water in the canal. It has its problems with cuttings and embankments which will always cause problems... The main point of this latest blog though is that the Shroppie where I am cruising has just benefitted from the annual hedge to edge trim. I have first hand experience of this as one side of my boat IS COVERED IN A NICE SELECTION OF GRASS CUTTINGS, LEAVES AND MUD!!!