On Wednesday morning I set off in the boat to Napton Junction where I could wind and head back past this week's mooring to the water point at the top of Calcutt locks. After filling up with water we went down our first lock for three weeks.
Buddy taking us through Calcutt Top lock - note he still has his tinsel on
I had to leave Buddy on board as we were turning sharp left into the boat yard as soon as we came out of the lock. The yard is on the opposite side to the towpath so I wouldn’t have been able to stop to get him on.
When leaving the lock we had to turn sharp left and manoeuvre between the moored boats
As with all manoeuvres I managed it perfectly as there was no audience.
Just squeezed in inbetween those boats moored perpendicularly to the wharf
That manoeuvring maxim is the first rule of narrowboating. As with most things in life there are many other rules of narrowboating, such as
- If you’re going to meet a boat travelling in the opposite direction it will be at a bridge hole or blind bend
- Most locks will be set against you when you are single handing
- When gas runs out it will be raining, dark and cold as you have to go outside to change gas bottles over
- Wherever you moor you will only have two of internet signal, phone signal and TV signal
- There will always be a moored boat in the middle of a gap large enough for your boat and theirs
- Etc. etc.
Some people have asked about the running costs of a narrowboat so I thought I’d provide some information about the different fuels we use. Once we moored up at the yard I replaced one of the gas bottles. Most people always have two gas bottles so there is a spare ready to use when the first runs out - we use 13 kg bottles on our boat.
Buddy standing next to an empty gas bottle to provide an indication of the size…
…and two fit into the locker at the front together with the hosepipe, although in this shot there is only one gas bottle and the hosepipe has been taken out
I find that a bottle lasts for around ten weeks which is good value at around £26 a bottle. We use gas for cooking and boiling the kettle so it is used several times a day. On our first boat we had gas fired central heating but went through bottles in not much more than a weekend so we ripped out the central heating.
I am still trying out different types of solid fuel to find which burns best in our stove. I have already discounted one brand and as the yard had run out of my (current) favourite I bought a couple of bags of a different brand to try them out.
Coal tends to come in 25kg bags (some are 20kg so you have to keep a watchful eye out) and cost between £9 and £14 a bag. I store mine in the cratch with a couple of spare in the lockers at the rear. A bag of coal tends to last between five and seven days when running the stove 24/7.
Of course, kindling and logs are free – I can’t really count the cost of fuel for the chainsaw as it’s negligible.
Bag of Excel – the best for our stove so far
As mentioned the other day we also need diesel and I like filling up at Calcutt as they allow 100% domestic which means there is no duty to pay. I took on just over 60 litres which equates to 3 litres a day. Clearly our current lifestyle of not cruising a lot means we use less diesel but we still need to run the engine to keep the batteries topped up when there is no sun for the solar panels or we have a heavy need like the washing machine. We also have diesel central heating but don't use it much. On some mornings, when Karen gets up very early, we set the heating to come on for 30 minutes before she gets out of bed. It works out we are currently paying around £2 a day for diesel.
Whilst on services I’ll cover water as well.
This is a water point – most are kept locked and can only be opened by a ‘boaters’ key which you can buy if you have a boat licence
Water point in use!
Water tank is at the front of the boat inside the cratch - looks like some tidying up is required
We made the mistake of not asking for the filler cap to be on the outside of the boat as it would have avoided the water running over the deck when the tank is full. It doesn’t really matter as it drains away quickly and dries out pretty quickly too. One of the drain holes can be seen at the top left of the picture above (along with more bags of coal).
After getting all our services done – which included a pump out – we went back up the lock and moored back where we started from, by the reservoir.
I must say that we do try and use the fuel boats whenever we can but having chatted to Mark (who operates our local fuel boat) it seems we won't be bumping into each other for a few weeks due to the holidays coming up. Fuel boats tend to be cheaper than yards and we believe in supoorting small businesses.
And, if you're really interested, pump outs cost between £12 and £18 and we need one every three to four weeks.