Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Our first sleep-overs!

'Friends... they cherish one another's hopes. They are kind to one another's dreams.' ~Henry David Thoreau

We moored on Thursday evening alongside Watermead Country Park, north of Leicester, and on Friday morning I took a walk around the lake there and discovered this fabulous King Lear sculpture.  The sun had been out earlier, but half way through the walk the heavens opened - so it cut short my day's exercise!

We then meandered along the cut to Mountsorrel, in readiness of our meeting with Andy and Helen of Captain Ahab's Blog fame (and if you click on that link you can read about our weekend in Loughborough - though just as an aside, it's the Australians that call it that funny name, not us kiwis, but that doesn't matter there may be kiwis here that do too!).  

I'm not sure if I've ever revealed how we all came to be such good friends, so I'll tell you the story in a nutshell ...

A few months into our first voyage aboard NB Northern Pride in 2009, I was staying at my parents house and received a Facebook message from Helen.  I know some people have a 'thing' about Facebook, and other social networking sites, and I'm sure there will always be the for's and against's for these.  I personally believe they're incredible tools, and used wisely and armed with the knowledge that whatever you post is in the public domain (apart from, one hopes, private messages on Facebook!), they make the world a smaller and friendlier place, especially for travellers.

Anyway, initially I couldn't remember who Helen was - I've had a number of 'Friend' requests on Facebook over the years from people I've met/worked with, and my long term memory isn't the best! Occasionally the request is from someone I've never met, who wants to connect for a variety of reasons, and I have no problem with that (unless they sound and look dodgy or their reasons are spurious!).  This time, I private messaged Helen asking how I knew her and of course as soon as she told me I instantly remembered her with great fondness.  We worked together as midwives back in the early 1990s.  Conversing, as you do, about what we'd been up to since that time, I told her about my emigration to NZ, meeting Barry and returning to live on the waterways for six months.  She then messaged back to say they also owned a narrowboat, and of course I told her about our blog and she revealed they too had one - it turned out we'd been reading each others stories for a long time!  

I truly believe people come into our lives for a reason, and was blown away at the coincidences of Helen contacting me at that particular time.  Needless to say, we've hooked up again many times since then.  The boys are now great friends, and Helen and I have renewed and strengthened our friendship.

So, back to our sleep over weekend.  Andy and Helen drove to Mountsorrel to meet us on Saturday afternoon, having dropped off a supply of jams and pickles for their Wild Side Handmade Preserves Company to 'Wandr'ing Bark ready for their trip to the Droitwich Canal Festival this Bank Holiday weekend (go and say hello if you're around).  Helen also brought me a special jar of 'No bits' Lime Marmalade with Medlar Vodka that she's been storing for me - and I had some on toast this morning - delicious!  If you haven't sampled her products yet you're definitely missing out.  

Helen had asked me a few weeks ago whether we were changing the name of our new boat, and I'd wondered why - this is the reason ...

She'd had this incredible and unique boat decoration made for us - it's just gorgeous!  Bless you Helen :-)

We talked together lots about our plans for spending more time on the waterways, and it was fabulous to be able to pick their brains about different canal festivals and running a small business in England - thank you again.  During our outward and return journeys, Helen and I chatted on board the boat, working the one lock between Mountsorrel and Loughborough, while Barry and Andy talked while driving the boat.  

It was great to have a larger boat to accommodate guests - on Northern Pride it was always such a tight squeeze with extra people and their bags, but now it's a dream!  We've got a few people lined up in the coming months - and next time I'll remember to take photos (luckily Andy was more on the ball, so check out his page for them - oh and we've pinched his photo of us for our front page - yet another thank you!).  I think Barry took some of Andy, but it takes him so long to edit them it'd be a week or more before we posted if I waited, lol! They may come eventually ...

In the meantime, we're back moored in Loughborough Basin, probably moving along a little tomorrow towards Trent Lock.  We've had notice today that our boxes from New Zealand left last Friday, and if all goes well will be with us at the end of June, so we'll be heading slowly towards Fradley to arrive by then.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Teething problems, wildlife, and some surprising synchronicity

'You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.'~Brian Tracy

Adjusting to a change of life takes a little while, even when it’s something you’ve been working towards for a long time. One of our challenges has been Internet access.  Having thought we’d got out internet and phone packages sorted with The Carphone Warehouse (TCPW), last Tuesday my phone suddenly wasn’t ‘allowed’ to tether to my laptop anymore. I’d been sold the package (Three Ultimate SIM 600) by TCPW on the understanding that it came with unlimited Internet and tethering – the only service provider to do so I was (un)reliably informed. Anyway, long story short, it didn’t and doesn’t and so we’ve now invested in a ‘Mifi’ (Mobile Wireless Internet) package instead, with 15MB per month, so that both Barry and I can use the Internet as much as we were able to back in NZ. Without this we wouldn't be able to earn as we travel.

So what have we been up to apart from a few teething problems?  I’ll condense some of the events of the last week and a half …

Tonight we’re moored up north of Leicester adjacent to the Watermead Country Park, having spent two nights in Leicester.  We’re often regaled with tales of terror about Leicester, but our experience in 2010 and recently are very different.  We’ve found it to be a fabulous city, multi-cultural, diverse, overflowing with history and interesting places to visit, and embracing their waterway.  Last night we went to a very uplifting live comedy show at The Guildhall where, sadly, we were the only people to have bought tickets up until about 15 minutes before the show commenced when another couple arrived.  The audience was made up of the four of us, plus staff and the support acts!  We were pretty incredulous that they continued with the show, and enjoyed a very intimate evening, filled with hilarity and farce – and wondered why on earth the event wasn’t a sell-out.  The main comedian was called Anthony King and much of his act consisted of amusing songs (anecdotal maybe?) he’s written, with a highlight being a recent one about King Richard III and the discovery of his skeleton in a car park in Leicester in September 2012.

Anthony King singing in front of the ornate fireplace in the Mayors Parlour at The Guildhall

The cobbled walkway to the Cathedral and Guildhall after the show

St Mary De Castro Church (1170), on our walk back to the boat, lit up magnificently

We wonder whether people are so busy watching all the bad news on the TV about whatever the media believe is the most fascinating current viewing (we don’t have a TV), most of which the general public really don’t need to worry about – or was it just because it was a Wednesday? 

Since our last blog, we spent two nights in Welford the weekend before last, then on Monday set off for Foxton.  Along the way we encountered an abundance of fascinating wild life.  That's one of the many perks of living on the waterways, having time to get up close and personal with natures wonders. 

On the canalside, moored just past the Bosworth Tunnel, I noticed some movement amongst the leaves, which turned out to be two very well camouflaged toads copulating, and captured a couple of amazing photos before they hopped into the water.  On a walk to Husbands Bosworth we saw a beautiful butterfly, had a bee on board, almost trod on a frog on our way back to the boat from the Bridge 61 pub on Monday evening, then when Barry was cleaning the boat on Tuesday before we set off down Foxton Locks, he spotted a water lizard …

In Market Harborough on Thursday, we’d just moored up when Barry spotted Pam and Terry’s boat ‘The Rooster’s Rest’ passing us by, so he shouted out a ‘hello!’ to them and they stopped.  Pam has been following our blog for a long time, and has been in touch on and off. It was lovely to see them and she spoke of reading our blog about our Boat wedding in 2009 at Bodymoor Heath – at that point I recalled being very touched by a sweet card sent to the pub from a blog reader, and asked if it had been Pam (having temporarily forgotten the name in the card).  Pam said no it wasn’t her.  We showed them around our boat, and as we stepped off the back, another boat pulled in behind us, and incredibly, it contained Angie and Dave on narrowboat Lady Esther – the people who’d sent us the card to the Dog and Doublet!  That really is synchronicity - the universe works in mysterious ways.

We had a fabulous day, chatting and sharing stories with Pam, Terry, Angie and Dave, culminating in an evening aboard ‘Lady Esther', Angie and Dave’s boat, as Pam and Terry had set off on their travels late afternoon.  I recall thinking we must get a photo of the three girls, then completely forgetting.  We’ve since taken photos of us with the two couples separately which will appear in the future – once Barry’s sorted his pictures out!  We caught up with Pam and Terry again on Tuesday in Leicester

On Sunday my eldest daughter Lisa came to visit us at Foxton, with our grandson, and we had an exciting though exhausting day with them.  You have to have eyes in the back of your head with a three year old on a narrowboat – but it was wonderful and made coming back to England so worthwhile for such opportunities.

Barry’s now got a brew of red wine bubbling away, and a barrel of beer fermenting. We’re so unused to paying ‘proper’ prices for alcohol, and have cut down heaps since we’ve been here – not a bad thing at all in my humble opinion!  We’re managing to find fairly decent red wine for around £4.50 a bottle at the supermarkets, but the brew we have on now should give us 30 bottles within three weeks at less than £1 a go, and 10 litres of beer for around £10.

And this weekend, Captain Ahab and Belle are coming to visit us – our first sleepovers! What fun we'll have ...

Sunday 14 April 2013

A weekend in Welford

Saturday began with the promise of sunshine and a tease of warmth in the spring air, but progressed during the afternoon to showers and a biting cold wind.  Sadly Barry's left his Gortex raincoat at my parents house; he’s also managed to ‘lose’ one of his possum/wool gloves and a pair of Clarks black shoes (friends reading in NZ will not be surprised by this, he's well known for losing clothes in random places).  I suspect the latter were left in New Zealand due to limited luggage space and won’t be discovered until Barry returns there in August – though he swears he’s worn them since we’ve been here! Heaven knows where his lone glove is, maybe it'll turn up one day - I may have to put them on a string in future ...

I wore three layers to ward off the cold at the back of the boat – a t-shirt, a thermal long-sleeved top, a Rohan polar fleece, and a Kathmandu waterproof – half way through our trip I added my thermal leggings under my jeans.  As we've said before, there's no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothes!

One of the delights of our new boat ‘areandare’ is the stove in the boatman’s cabin towards the stern (I had to ask Barry what the back of the boat is called, just catching up on boating terms, lol!), so at least Barry was able to keep warm by shutting the rear doors while steering the boat, even though he didn't have the right clothes, when I chickened out and hid indoors – I haven’t plucked up enough courage yet to take the helm, it was too windy I decided (!)

Barry very happy to be at the helm once more - in his waterproof bushman's hat

We managed to travel to Welford for the night, and made a brief visit to the pub in the basin after a hot chicken curry to warm us up. 

It’s amazing to be back on the waterways, despite or in spite of the cold – we both had to pinch ourselves Saturday morning as it felt like we were dreaming.  It’s been a long journey back, with many twists, turns and challenges along the way, but we wouldn’t change a thing – though it’d certainly feel better for Barry’s business to be sold, but we’re sure that’ll happen when the time (or someone as yet unknown) is ready J

Today, Sunday, we've had a chilled day sorting out paperwork and accounts, with a leisurely lunch in the sunshine and warmth of the cratch - what bliss.

From Monday onwards, we’ll be focussing on ways of laying more foundations to get my Life Coaching business up and running, whilst meandering slowly along the canals. 

Our next destination will be Foxton Locks, to have a chat with Sam Matts of Foxton Boats, about the engine and possibilities for reconfiguration to be able to use more of its power, whilst retaining the current appliances …

Friday 12 April 2013

Back on the waterways tomorrow ...

We're now aboard AREandARE, our new home for the foreseeable future, with many adventures and I'm sure challenges to come.  It's wonderful to be back living on a narrowboat, though it's going to take a while to get used to sleeping in a fixed double -  I'd forgotten how 'cosy' it can be, but at least we have a spare bedroom this time if we need more space!

We made the most of the hire care yesterday and did a huge Tescos shop.  Here we are below, late at night, having a well-deserved drink to toast the boat before eating for the first time since breakfast.

Today I took the car back to Enterprise Worcester, where the lovely Becky informed me I could've paid a bit extra and delivered the car back to the Rugby office - ah well, I saw my parents and had lunch with my sister Viv and her fiancee Ray there, while Barry mooched around getting to know the intricacies of our new home and doing some washing while we've got the electric hook up (such a  luxury).

Tomorrow we're venturing out and heading north for a while, Barry can't wait - the beginning of our next chapter on the waterways of Britain.  

Wednesday 10 April 2013

One day to go ...

... and we'll be on board 'AREandARE' - so exciting!  We're not sure at the moment how much will be left on board by the previous owners, fingers crossed they've been kind to us so we don't have to buy too much before our boxes arrive from New Zealand.

We hired a car through Enterprise, an on-line booking, and they phoned yesterday to confirm.  Then at just before 12 midday today, they phoned to say they couldn't find a car for us - hilarious!  No point in getting stressed, poor girls sounded beside herself.  She said they were still frantically trying to find one, and she'd phone back at 1pm.  So in the meantime I phoned their office in Worcester and explained the situation and asked if they'd have one if Kidderminster let us down - yes they said they did, and they could collect me from my parents house instead of me catching the bus for the Kidderminster one.

One o'clock came, and sure enough they didn't have a car.  Solution found, Worcester office will collect me between 5 and 6pm, and take me to sort out the paperwork ...

So we'll be loading the car up this evening, in readiness to leave around 9am (if we can get up in time!) and head to Crick Marina, and then to Yelvertoft Marina where our new boat is moored.  They have negotiated a week's mooring there, so we can sit and pontificate if we choose to, but I think it's more likely that once we've sorted out what we need to obtain to make the boat habitable, we'll be off.  My guess, knowing Barry, is that we'll move by Saturday, but we'll see.

In the meantime, here's the last of Barry's stunning photos to date, all from around Bowness-on-Windermere in The Lake District ...

The next post will be from our new home for the next who knows how long, so many adventures and experiences to look forward to, and so many wonderful people to meet and catch up with.  Oh happy days.

Monday 8 April 2013

Barry's images - take two

The money's been transferred today for AREandARE, so it's all on for taking over ownership from Thursday.  We're still obtaining insurance quotes, and importantly reading their small print!  It's amazing how much is in there, and the differences in approach to contents covered.

We're hiring a car for a couple of days from Wednesday, to take our belongings from my parents house to the boat, and then check what's on board and what we may need to purchase in order to live before our boxes arrive - in about ten weeks time.

Here's the next ten of Barry's images ...

The first six are around Ambleside Wharf ...

Walking around Lake Windermere and to Windermere ...

Ray, Sandra, Viv, Dave and Pete - all togged up against the cold

Many babbling brooks along the route

More to come over the next day or two ...

Sunday 7 April 2013

Barry's photography is back - the first ten ...

Well it's taken a while, we've not posted any of Barry's images of UK for almost twelve months, you've just had to read my ramblings instead!

With time to spare, living currently with my elderly parents, he's just sent me thirty amazing shots of our time here so far, so I thought I'd post ten a day rather than overwhelm you all at once ...

Paddington Basin, Barry's walkabout while we waited for the train to Worcester on our first day back

Little Venice - the delightful boat cafe 

Little Venice - incredible reflections on a crisp spring day

Barry gets his wish for snow, in Lichfield

Sandra, Kath (Sandra's sister), and Pete (Kath's partner), at The Bull in Shenstone

Bowness-on-Windermere, in Worsworth's Lake District - the view from the window of the house we rented for the week - picture perfect

One of the public Lake Windermere cruisers

Ray (my sister Viv's fiancĂ©), and David (my sister Linda's husband), all wrapped up on top of the boat!

Hire boats looking magnificent

Ambleside wharf - looking remarkably similar to Queenstown in New Zealand!

It's wonderful to be able to post Barry's work again - hope you enjoy them and look forward to many more over the coming days, weeks, months and hopefully years!

Saturday 6 April 2013

Any suggestions - which narrowboat insurance?

The contracts arrived in the post today for AREandARE, along with the offer of one year's IWA membership (free) and either two months free RCR (river canal rescue) or three months if we purchase twelve months cover.  ABNB have been an excellent brokerage to work with, and Barry (from ABNB!) collected Barry from the train station the first time he went to see the boat, and then us both the second time - great service!

We have two small challenges now.  One is transferring the money from my Barclays Bank account in time to clear two days before Thursday - I have a limit of £10,000 per day!  I'll give my branch a call on Monday, there's bound to be a way around this ...

The other challenge is narrowboat insurance.  ABNB recommended GJW - but having just looked at their  policy wording, they insist on there always being two 'competent' crew members on board when the vessel is moving if it is over 24 feet in length.  This would mean Barry or I could never move the boat without us both on board?!

We were insured with Haven Knox-Johnston when we owned Northern Pride, but recall having to state a mooring initially (we used the marina where we bought her), and trying to get an on-line quote from them today they're again asking for one.  As we intend to be 'continuous cruisers' (apart from possibly staying in a marina over the winter months), we obviously can't state a permanent mooring.

We'd be very grateful for any suggestions of ways around this, or which insurance company people would recommend ...

Friday 5 April 2013

Boat bought at last!

Things are beginning to fall into place now after two weeks and two days in the UK.  It was a bit of a mad rush arriving on the Wednesday then going away for a week on the Saturday.  Needless to say we didn't manage to get a lot sorted out until this week.

We did, however, have an amazing and magical time with my three sisters, their respective partners, and my parents (who celebrated 80 and 93 years of age that week), in the awe inspiring Lake District. Many people in the party were concerned about travelling in the wintry conditions, but all was well with clear roads all the way - and the scenery was spectacularly beautiful.  Barry was well pleased - he'd been asking for snow!  It's been mostly sunny, and we've not had a drop of rain since we arrived, though admittedly it's cold outside - especially compared to the temperatures we'd been used to in Gisborne over the past six months!  However, they're now coming into autumn, as we approach spring (I know, I know, it should be here already - but the daffodils and crocuses are beginning to bloom) ...

My mum's 80th birthday celebration - left to right Kath, Sandra, Don, Irene, Linda and Viv
At the top of 'Brantfell', overlooking Lake Windermere - with the scenery looking remarkably similar to Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand
This week we've managed to get UK phones and internet access sorted out, and with our two mobile phones and a dongle, we now have coverage for Three, T-Mobile (which we're told includes Vodafone), and TalkTalk (which we're told includes Orange).  So hopefully we'll have some sort of signal for most of the waterways network!  It's amazing how cut off we felt for just under two weeks without good internet access - whatever was life like without it?  For us both though, it's crucial to how we earn a living now, so it's imperative to have.

On Wednesday we went to have a trial run of 'AREandARE'.  The 'in-water' survey had been carried out while we were away, and the surveyor had highlighted to us a possible challenge with the current engine configuration.  I'm not going to bore you with the details, mainly because I don't really understand them (it's a blue job as my dear friend Rivka would say!), but Barry wanted to see how she performed.  After much deliberation, and advice from many engine 'experts', and fellow bloggers (many thanks for your input Tom and Doug & James), we've negotiated a slight price reduction which will enable us to get the engine configured differently.  We do realise there are hundreds of boats 'out there' for sale, but this boat is the only one Barry's found which ticks the majority of the specific boxes of our requirements.

So today, we've agreed the purchase, with a take over date of Thursday 11th April.  We'll probably then be travelling up the Grand Union to Loughborough, take a left turn onto the Trent and Mersey, moving towards Fradley Junction in time for our boxes to arrive from NZ at my sister's house in Lichfield.  Well that's the tentative plan so far ...

Barry back on the waterways and in his element!
Barry and 'AREandARE"
Thank you to Tom, John and Sue for your comments on our recent post regarding suggestions for the blog.  We've yet to decide what we'll do, but your thoughts and advice have been most helpful.

So not long now and we'll be back 'on the cut'!  How exciting is that?!