Monday, October 14, 2013

Boating bits and bobs

Well, the weather has changed dramatically and we've just had a weekend of violent wind and rain, so no further spuddles have been possible, which put me in a bit of a hump. I hope it won't get too cold now as I'd dearly like to be able to go out again on the boat, but I'm unashamed about saying I'm a strictly fair weather farer. Without a wheelhouse, there's no way I'm going to stand at the back of the boat and get either frozen or soaked - for fun.

So, to make up for it a little, I've read another couple of boaty books - this time they are both about narrowboating in England (I can always dream, can't I?), so here's my impressions of them. The first one is called The Narrowboat Lad By Daniel Mark Brown.

I downloaded it on my Kindle and read it in one sitting, so I don't think it's all that long as I'm not a fast reader. Still, I enjoyed it very much. The author is a young man who decided to buy a narrowboat when he realised he'd never be able to afford to buy or even rent a house that he would enjoy living in. Quite a loner already, Daniel loves the country and did a great deal of cycling and walking before he decided this was the way for him to go. When he buys his thirty foot home, he has never set foot on a boat before and certainly never 'driven' one, so the story of his hundred-odd mile trip from the marina where he found the boat, to his home town in Shropshire is a huge essay in trial and error, punctuated by occasional heart stopping dramas. Daniel writes in an accessible style and reading the book was very easy to 'down in one'. He obviously self published, so it lacks editing and fine tuning, but for all that, it's a thoroughly enjoyable, honest and sometimes hair-raising read. A goodie for the Kindle.

The other book is called Narrow Margins by Marie Browne. Also about novice narrowboaters, this is a very funny account of how a young family deal with the effects of the economic crisis and the collapse of their business by selling their house and buying a narrowboat. 

After months of searching, they finally find Happy go Lucky, buy it and only then find out that neither of them has a clue about how to steer or manoeuvre a boat, each believing the other has had past experience. Their learning curve is also enacted on a long journey to their new home and I have laughed out loud (as promised) at some of Marie's antics. She writes very well and clearly has a great sense of humour. I haven't finished it yet, but so far, I am loving it and can recommend it strongly. I'll definitely be after the sequel, Narrow Minds. The only, and minor, objection I have is that there's a bit too much trivia about how they keep their young son entertained. It's part of the story, I agree, but I feel she could have cut out some of the unimportant details. That said I might even buy the paperback of this one.

Reading aside, I am going well with the editing on my sequel to Watery Ways. It's working title is Harbour Ways and it might stay as that since the main thrust of the book is about how I convert the Vereeniging from an empty hull into a home. The 'Ways' part is now becoming the theme of my memoir series (sounds good to have 'A Series', doesn't it?), so I'll have to keep that, but I'm not sure yet about the 'Harbour' bit. I'm a bit stuck there, so any suggestions will be welcome. 

I also need a certain tall Dutch man to draw some illustration diagrams or doodles for me… 


  1. It's wonderfully reassuring to know that you batten down the hatches when the wind blows, Val - you always seem so intrepid., taking to the waves while the rest of us are huddling into our vests!

  2. Jo, I'm a complete wimp when it comes to bad weather - blubbering, lily livered and pathetic. I do it if I have to - and sometimes I do - but absolutely not for fun.

  3. Maybe you could send some of that wet weather over to us - we are quite parched for rain here!
    Always enjoy your book reviews, Val.

  4. I agree with you it wouldn't be fun standing steering in the wind and rain. These books sound interesting Val I'll keep them in mind.I won't tell hubby or he'll read them and buiy a boat. He now wants to move to Amsterdam,lol!

  5. Patricia, I'd be happy to do a trade! I'm very glad you enjoy the book reviews. I don't do them very often, but since boaty books are a sort of niche interest area, I like to specialise in that!

    Anne, I'm having lovely ideas about having you as a neighbour! Tell your hubby Amsterdam is very expensive - you'd be much better off in Rotterdam :-) Seriously, it is pricey there, but there are some other lovely old cities with boating communities like ours - Rotterdam is an acquired taste, but I love it - familiarity is the key really!

  6. Fair weather farer! I haven't heard that phrase before. Love it!

  7. Thank you, Carol. I'll keep you posted :-)

    Nas, I use the word 'farer', but it's a bit old fashioned. The trouble is we have no word as a translation for the Dutch 'varen' other than sail or cruise. On a canal, you don't usually sail (well, I can't) and cruising isn't what we always do, so I've made my own word :-)

  8. thanks for these recommendations, Val. They might both do for someone I know who loves books about narrowboating... assuming they're available in hard copy and not just in Kindle.
    Yes, I do not think you are alone in being a fair weather boater! :)

  9. Wharfside Ways? (Or Wharf Sideways? ;D ) But my preference is for Waterside Ways. (Just faring along the verbal channels, wearing my waders... in deep...)

    I'm always amazed that people venture on to the water without any notion of what it is about, or of the potential for disaster. A sink or sail mentality? Founder or flourish?

    Enjoyed coming back to read your blog after some time away.

  10. Jenny, thanks! I know you have a boat too, so you understand my feelings well.

    Christina, thank you so much! Maybe it will become Waterside Ways! I like it! I'll put it to the vote :-)

  11. PS to Christina. I saw the results of inexperience this last weekend. I am also amazed that people will do this, but from these two books I have read, it seems that as long as you take care, it is not too bad on the English canals. There is no commercial traffic to worry about. It would be very foolhardy indeed to risk it here! It isn't required for a boat under fifteen metres, but I don't know anyone who would dare without taking at least the theory exam.

  12. These two books sound interesting, thank you. I cannot wait to read Harbour Ways, I enjoyed Watery Ways so much. I agree that people should take some lessons in seamanship before they take to the water, but I would hate to see it made mandatory as this would put us on the slippery slope of regulation, licensing etc (and all the costs that go along with it), that may well put people off taking up sailing etc as a hobby or taking it out of their financial reach xxx

  13. You're right when it comes England, Fran. Boating and sailing are a major part of the leisure and tourist industry and there is practically no commercial traffic to worry about.

  14. val, I will agree with you on the rain and cold. I would stray away from that too.
    we are in "July" weather pattern, it has been 80 degrees or there abouts for weeks now. and no rain in sight. which I like, but not very good though.
    Interesting books you are reading.
    I remember a few years back, fishing on a lake with some friends on their boat, and I opted to have a quick lesson on driving it.....not a good thing for me, seems easy, but it is not!


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