Maiden Voyage

This weekend was a big one for us. After a month at the High Line Yachting marina in Iver, we have cut (unplugged?) the cord and set off for central London. As a reminder, Kiley and I have a “continuous cruising” license, which means that we can moor our boat just about anywhere along the canal network, but we can’t stay in any one spot for longer than 14 days. In addition, the canal authorities (Canal and River Trust, CRT) dictate that we undertake “bona fide” navigation, meaning we can’t relocate the boat in short moves between two or three spots. Rather, they require continuous cruisers to “genuinely navigate” in a logical manner (A-B-C-D…, not A-B-A-B…). The overarching goal for the CRT is to prevent liveaboards from staying too long in a single popular area, thus congesting the network.

Wait, why am I telling you this? Well, although we have “set off” for central London, we don’t have a specific destination. Rather, the goal was to get Kiley near shorter and cheaper transportation links (she had been taking an hour-long GWR train each way every day), while at the same time setting us up for “bona fide” navigation around London Business School. So, where did we end up? High Line Yachting in Northolt (we love HLY)—more specifically, the towpath directly across the canal from HLY Northolt. In total, it took us about 5 hours spread over two days to travel here (I told you narrowboats are slow), with a one-night layover in West Drayton. Although we are no longer hooked up to electrical and don’t have access to the marina facilities, this puts us close to people we know for our first couple of weeks “on the cut,” as they say. It also has decent tube links to Kiley’s school and other parts of downtown.

From here, the plan is to work our way east along the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal (where we are currently), stopping near Alperton, Harlesden, Kensal Green, Little Venice, and Paddington over the next couple of months. At some point, we’ll probably reverse course and head back west to Iver (or to another marina) in December/January to have some professional work done to the boat and, at the same time, any remodeling/larger projects that we’d like to do in the presence of 240v electricity, people with proper boat knowledge, etc. We’ll need to be out of the water during that time, so it’ll be good to time that (as well as electrical hookup and nearby facilities) with the coldest weeks of winter.

That’s not to say we haven’t done much work to the boat so far, because we have. The main reason why we chose to stay at a marina for our first month was to finish the thousand little projects that needed to be completed for the boat to be canal- and liveaboard-worthy. So what all have we done so far?

  • CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN. We’ve mentioned this before, but our boat does have a lot of gadgets, so someone clearly cared for her at some point in the past. However, this was certainly not in the recent past, because she was filthy, inside and out. When I say that we cleaned the boat, that doesn’t mean one big deep clean over the course of a day or two. No, this was a regiment of deep cleaning that took place every day (in some form or another) for several weeks, essentially amounting to several cycles of deep cleaning, just we make her inhabitable.
  • REFIT AND REORGANIZE. Starting alongside cleaning was our refitting of the boat. This was mainly the process of throwing away old sh*t, like knick-knacks and absurd numbers of throw pillows, but also large items, like mounted TVs, too-large microwaves, and accumulated junk in storage. In their place needed to come a new organizational regime because, above all, living happily in a small space means not having your stuff all over the place (can I get an amen, Nancy and Mitch?!).
  • SAFETY UPDATES. Although the boat passed its boat safety review, there were a number of areas that Kiley and I felt needed to be addressed, like updating smoke detectors and fire extinguishers (we have three, in case you’re curious). In addition, the electrical needed work, which is a story unto itself. You see, part of the pre-purchase engine work done by the marina involved taking apart some wiring to ease access to engine components. However, the initial wiring was done so poorly that the marina refused to rewire it in the same manner, lest it leave them liable for any subsequent disaster. So when we took possession of the boat, the solar panels, generator, and mains electric were all disconnected. Putting these back together correctly was one of the biggest jobs yet.
  • CLEANING THE BILGE. While the engine was serviced just before we took possession of the boat, the bilge was pretty dirty from a previous oil leak. This was exacerbated over the following weeks because the bilge pump wasn’t working properly, allowing small amounts of rain water to trickle in. Even after fixing the bilge pump, there were still small puddles of oil and water pooling. So where to turn? Nappies! Or as you Americans might call them… diapers! While most of you are undoubtably aware, Kiley and I were not expecting just how good these things are at cleaning up giant sludgy messes. In fact, it was so convincing that Kiley nearly threw up after I proudly showed her how much gunk each diaper could hold (she is notoriously bad with dirty diapers). Two hours and a half-pack of diapers later, we had a clean-ish bilge!
  • SEALING THE WINDOWS. It only took one hard rain for us to realize that we had some seriously leaky windows, which is not uncommon for older boats. No big deal though, just reseal the windows, right? Well, yes; however, sealing windows on a boat from the outside isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you’re not careful, you could be looking at a cool dip in some seriously stagnant canal water. Thankfully, we were spared the swamp swim and were able to get the windows nice and dry.
  • OTHER BITS AND BOBS. In addition to this work, there were dozens of other small projects that consumed just about all of our free time over the past several weeks. Things like prepping the generator, cleaning the water pump, sweeping the chimney, rearranging ballast, and adding personal touches like plants have been checked off the list as well. We’ve obviously been focusing on mission-critical projects like safety and service above cosmetic ones; however, now that we’re out of the marina, the blinds and sofa cushions are officially on the hit list.

Between our blog posts and social media updates, you’ve heard a lot about our boat; however, we’ve been quite rude and never formally introduced you two. Her current name is Suzanne Melody, but we are planning on changing her name at some point (different post for a different day). However, until that day, may I present: our boat!

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Suzanne Melody is a 42′ narrowboat, specifically designed for the canals of England.

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On the roof, she has two exhausts for the stove and water heater, two solar panels, a rear cover, and a few canal essentials (barge poles, plank, life ring).

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Our boat has a traditional interior layout, meaning that you enter from the rear into the bedroom. To supplement the solid fuel stove up front, we have two gas-powered radiators, one of which is located next to the bed, the other is opposite the stove in the living room.

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For clothes, we have one wardrobe closet (door on the right) and lots of storage under the bed that can be accessed via panels on the ground or by removing the mattress. We store clothes in pull-out vinyl storage compartments accessible via the panels.

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The bathroom is well equipped for a boat of this size; having a tub and a washer is quite a luxury. However, it makes for a very cramped space. The toilet is slightly out of view to the left.

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The small hallway leads into the kitchen/living room. It also serves as storage for our many tables.

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The kitchen has all the basics: gas oven/hob, sink, 12v fridge, and plenty of counter space.

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The kitchen leads right into the living room, with twin sofas on each side. These areas have since been updated with nice plants and other decorations.

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The living room houses our multi-fuel stove, which provides the primary heating for the boat. It also serves as the dining room, just insert table legs into the round plastic pieces on the floor and fit the table on top. We have two- and four-person tables. Out the front door is the cratch area with outdoor storage and a cover from the weather.

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