In the Chair February 2017

Home comforts

NABO Chair Stella Ridgway offers some tips for liveaboards

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. We certainly did, as my eldest daughter surprised me by arriving from New Zealand for an extended visit on Christmas Eve. As you can imagine when you are surprised like that, there were many tears, hugs and laughter plus lots of catching up; online is good, but nothing like physically seeing someone.

The awesome coal-boats

Winter is a fabulous time on the cut and winter cruising has a magic all its own; little moves other than boaters going to empty the toilet and rubbish, and get water. It’s cold on the stern, but there’s nothing nicer than the stove going and getting back into a warm boat ‒ and, of course, for those with trad sterns, boaters on the tiller stand next to a stove. Which brings me to traders on and off the cut: we took a conscious decision when we moved aboard to use local traders to buy groceries, meat etc. (as we had always done where possible), rather than just relying on supermarkets. We find it cheaper as you only buy exactly what you need and waste little, and so the first time we met the ‘Coal-boat’ we thought that this was the future. We didn’t realise then that this coal-boat was the famous ‘Alton’, which did three-quarters of the Cheshire Ring and back within a day, once a fortnight. Now, due to ‘Halsall’ doing the Four Counties Ring monthly, Alton just does the summit pound from Fools Nook to Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin fortnightly, without fail – a godsend to liveaboards and canalside properties. They are awesome and deliver everything from parcels to diesel, flowers to coal, and are one of the reasons we love living up here. So, for those who boat in summer, when you are out and about and see a coal-boat, you know the diesel is fresh, you can have a pumpout and you can get most chandlery needs from them, thus supporting these canal traders who make a living on the canal. 

You need a stove or something similar to keep you warm on your boat in winter, and so a fortnightly coal-boat helps us, as we predominantly burn coal on our boat (other fuels are available!) and we wouldn’t be without our Squirrel and Ecofan. I can now hear boaters up and down the country saying either: “What a waste of Money” or “A brilliant idea”, and it does seem to be a bit like Marmite, you either love or hate them. All I can say is that we have our stove in the middle of the boat, we don’t have central heating and the fan certainly assists in pushing warm air around the boat.

Shopping online

Another basic requirement is food. While we shop locally for fresh fruit and vegetables, groceries need to be purchased from a supermarket and we have discovered the usefulness of online shopping and home delivery. We use a major supermarket chain, giving them the postcode of the nearest building to us, where the van can get near to the towpath … and voila … they turn up at the boat in the required time-slot and we take it in through the side hatch. No carrying from car to boat, which is a godsend. If you can give them a postcode and instructions, they will find you. A fine service and, of course, they employ shopping pickers and packers, so we are helping to create local jobs.

The other main thing, especially for those mooring online or those who cruise continuously, is mud. In the winter, with two dogs, our floor is swept twice daily, I have coir mats on the steps, but it still feels like you are pushing the mud around when you mop the floor. This year I bought some carpet runners which have helped, but any tips you can provide would be wonderful.

Licence review and renting boats

It was a good January Council meeting: we discussed the proposed CRT licence review currently underway, aimed at simplifying the types of licences issued. It has been stressed to NABO that this is to be a zero-cost restructuring and therefore I would urge you to read Mark Tizard’s article and send your comments to us. We also discussed the hazards of renting your boat out privately and noted that the BSS has already introduced a scheme for hire-boats. If you are considering renting your boat, please understand that this is not like renting out a house or flat on land, as legally a boat is a chattel and currently not subject to landlord/tenancy agreements. Please also be aware that if you are considering renting a boat to live on, a rental agreement does not currently give you any rights under law.

Could you be a new member?

Also under discussion were ways to attract new members. Thus, this issue of NABO News is being delivered by coal-boats to boaters on the Four Counties Ring and summit pound. I would encourage you to join NABO if you have not yet done so – if nothing else, you can save on your boat insurance (see the ‘News’ section for further details). NABO was the only boater’s organisation to oppose the new terms and conditions, introduced by CRT in January 2014, and the association is uniquely placed in that we have representation on all user forums in the country and on CRT’s Council. We also have representatives on the BSS committees. We assist boaters who have difficulties and have expert knowledge among our members that we share with other members. I hope you will join us in ‘Making a Difference’ to the waterways. There is a membership form in this issue of the magazine; please complete it and send it in. It’s the best £2.08 per week or £25 per annum you can spend.