Whatever the weather?

Wednesday November 18th is set to be ‘hand over’ day, when Froth should be completely ready for us. It’s so exciting. We have been visiting over the past few days, to begin setting her up for our first voyage. We have purchased all sorts of basic household items: bedding, fire tools, mats, kitchenware, seats, and so on and so on. We have also bought an anchor (incredibly heavy!) which we hope never to use, but is a legal requirement for river cruising.

Our plan was to move the boat to Market Harborough on Thursday. As we learned from the wonderfully useful Canalplan site, this is a 27 mile trip that will take three days (at 5 hours cruising per day). It includes both canal and river sections, with 27 locks, 2 moveable bridges, 5 small aqueducts or underbridges and 1 tunnel (Saddington Tunnel (880 yards long)). This is quite a daunting journey, especially with a brand new boat and a young dog who has never been on a moving boat before. And then, there’s this:


It’s probably hard to make it out, but what it shows are storms peaking on the very days we want to travel. The worst parts are the high winds: every boater’s nightmare, because a strong gust can easily pin a 67 foot narrowboat against the side of the canal. Other forecasts concur, even showing gusts in excess of 50 m.p.h! It would be quite crazy to attempt the voyage in those conditions. Apart from the difficulty in handling the boat, there is a real danger from falling trees or being tipped over the mighty weir at Freemen’s Meadow.

So, reluctantly, we have decided to postpone the maiden voyage to the following week, starting Friday 27th. The forecast is much better for that period. It means we won’t be at our new mooring for Andy’s birthday, but we simply cannot argue with the weather.

So many people are following this blog and enquiring about our progress. It’s wonderful. We know that lots of you want to join us for the launch and/or the maiden cruise. We hope you will understand that this is just too difficult to organise: it’s hard enough for us to deal with unpredictable weather, a new boat, and the time pressures from our work commitments, but also the boat is our home and we want it to look its best before we start welcoming people on board. We will be inviting you all as soon as we can, once all the various conditions are right. Meanwhile, please keep following the blog!

“Canal time”

We have a phrase – “canal time” – which we use to describe the difference between the length of time things should take and the length they actually do take. On the canals, things always move slower than you could imagine. Sometimes it’s because of distractions (pubs, most often!) and sometimes it’s to do with factors beyond one’s control. Quite often, it’s down to people moving more slowly, as if the pace of life on the canals affects everything we do.

Anyway, the fitting out of Froth is suffering from “canal time” at the moment and it’s getting a bit frustrating for us, as we wait eagerly for things to be completed. There always seems to be more to do: an additional door needs making; something doesn’t quite work correctly; a delivery is awaited; and so on. We are so close to completion, yet it seems as though there is another week, or two, of work to be done. After that, who knows, there may be more! We are hoping all will be finished by Andy’s birthday on the 21st of November, but if we are still moored at MGM at Christmas we would not be surprised.

But, on the plus side, the boat is now out of the shed and floating on the canal, which allows us these fabulous views:



IMG_0097 IMG_0095

She really is a beauty and attracts many appreciative comments from passers-by and visitors to the boatyard. Here is a movie of the boat, passing from bow to stern:

And here are a couple of views down the roof from the tiller position:

IMG_0088 IMG_0087

So, we watch and wait while the many extra items inside get sorted out. Canal time. More news to come when we have it!

Nearly there!

Excitement mounts! Froth is about one week away from being ready. There has been much progress in all areas of the boat over the past couple of weeks. So much of it has been in transition that it did not seem right to show photographs, but now things are really coming together.

In the bow area, the cratch covers have been fitted and the wooden ceiling added. It is such a lovely space, with views all around, but also warm and weather-proof. We can roll down the blackout covers too, for privacy. The next step in this area is to fit the banquette all round and the removable table in the middle. It seems likely that we will be spending a lot of our time out here!cratch1 cratch2 cratch3

The view into the saloon and galley is just beautiful. Wonderful woodwork throughout, and very restful colours in the tiles…

and the blinds:


The Morso Squirrel stove is fitted too:


Even though we have central heating (which can be controlled by mobile phone, by the way) we felt that a solid fuel stove is the heart of any boat, so we just had to have one.

The flooring is a rich and beautiful oak, and runs throughout the boat, with the exception of the saloon which will be carpeted (the last job to be done).


The bathroom has fabulous white tiles throughout.


And the downlighting over the sink creates an effect that is hard to capture with a camera!


The stern cabin combines the study, with its computer desk and pull-out extension…


…with a bedroom, with a tall wardrobe and drawers.


There will be many other photos of both bedrooms in due course, once the boat is out into the light and the camera can “see” better.

Finally, the seat that will go atop the ‘taffrail’ on the stern deck is being made. Such lovely wood!


The craftsmanship at MGM is wonderful to see.

If you go down to the cut today…

It’s another beautiful morning on the cut at Thurmaston. The ducks are quacking, the sun is shining, the boats are lying lazily in the water. The view up the canal from the lock bridge is delightful…


Let’s take a closer look at those boats.

IMG_1177Hmm. One of them has a very bright green stern, with vibrant tunnel flashing…

IMG_1178Could it be?

IMG_1179It is! It’s Froth on the Daydream, resplendent now in her full livery!


There’s lots of progress all over the boat today. We have bow thrusters:

Bow thrusterWe have gas:


There are lights now throughout the cabin:

IMG_1162In the bathroom, the toilet flush works, the sink area is done, and the shower works beautifully with excellent pressure and plenty of room inside:


Talking  of running water, the kitchen sink is also working:


And the oven is ready for that Christmas turkey:IMG_1172

We are just waiting on the central heating, which has an air lock somewhere in the system. This will be eliminated soon.

Meanwhile, the doors are all in place, with the exception of the large ones between each room. There were 59 doors, in the end!

IMG_1143 IMG_1144 IMG_1154 IMG_1158

It just goes on getting more and more exciting!IMG_1167

Fifty doors

There was not a great deal of change inside the boat today, and here is the reason why:


Fifty doors! Martin has spent the entire week in the workshop making these doors, which have to fit all the cupboards and doorways on the boat. It is an enormous labour.

So, our attention was mainly focused on the outside. We have brass ‘mushrooms’ and rails for the plank and pole.




Also, sitting on the stern deck in the autumn sunshine is a joy:


Which is not to say that nothing at all has happened inside. Rachel has done a lot of varnishing, and we have radiator covers being fitted into place:


We had some discussion about whether the bathroom sink is too small, and resolved to try it for a month or two and change it if necessary.

Now we are looking at handles for the fifty doors. The overhead cupboards can have knobs, but the lower cupboards need D-handles so that we don’t snag our clothes on them as we walk past. Of course, we don’t want just any old handles and knobs – they have to look good! Looks like we will be spending quite a lot of time this week researching and choosing.

About Face!

Froth has been turned around, so that the bow end is now inside the boathouse. This gives us a great opportunity to sit out on the back deck and enjoy the view of the canal and the back cabin area. It’s the first time we have really got an idea of what it will feel like when we are cruising.

The engine is very quiet and has a satisfyingly deep sound. We had been worried about this because our first encounter with it was indoors, where it sounded quite whiny and rather deafening! The central heating system is also working now. Mark explained to us the various settings on the instrument panel for drawing power from the various sources.

Inside, there are various developments. Some lighting in the saloon:


Hob and oven in place:

IMG_1111 IMG_1109

Louise cleverly had this surface/cupboard area designed around the waste bin. So many people forget that!


And we have tunnel lights at the bow:

IMG_1117 IMG_1116

The water tanks are now in place, under the seating in the well deck area:

IMG_1114 IMG_1113

And finally, a view of the saloon from the bow (as always, click the photo to see a larger version):


Details, details…

Despite work being about 4 weeks behind schedule (no real surprise there!) we are getting ever closer to the day when Froth will be finished. 

It’s time for me to start thinking about what we need to make the boat habitable. My first purchase was a rather splendid whistling copper kettle, because if I can’t make tea we aren’t going anywhere.

We commissioned www.juliasmithceramics.com to make our crockery. We were rather taken with the spirals and the bicycle motif. It seemed appropriate to have ‘Pataphysical time machines* on our plates and mugs.

Yesterday I realised that we hadn’t allowed a space in the galley for a rubbish bin. An insignificant detail until you need it. So I had a quick think about where one could go and went off to the boatyard to confer with Martin. We agreed a solution that I’m really happy with.

Now it’s time to make a list because my head is full of things I need to get in preparation for our maiden voyage, which we anticipate will be at the end of October. The move to our mooring at Market Harborough will take about 3 days, but from experience I know a good pub or 2 en route could easily double that.


* If you feel the need to know about spirals, bicycles and time machines, please ask Andy.

** I’m struggling with apostrophes and capital ‘P’s so please forgive me  – I’m just a ‘Pataphysician’s wife and I’m doing my best! 😀

Up and under

There have been two main areas of progress this week: out on the roof and in down in the back cabin. On the roof, we have solar panels and our satellite TV dish:

IMG_1095 IMG_1093 IMG_1092

As you can see, the solar panels can lie flat or be tilted to face the sun. We think three will be sufficient to provide most of our power. MGM reckon that we will be able to have 240v power for four days without having to run the engine or hook up to a shoreline to recharge the batteries.

The satellite dish is the self-seeking sort. On our previous boat, we had to adjust an aerial by hand, which meant far too many late nights in the rain swaying about trying to locate a signal!

The back cabin is Andy’s workroom and bedroom. The corridor leads directly into the bathroom. There is also enough space for the bed to pull out to make a full size double.


The bed base is sectioned into two and will lift up with a hinged mattress to make getting underneath easier. The Yamaha digital piano and stand will go under the bed, as well as a couple of spare toilet cassettes, and whatever other long term storage is required. There’s really plenty of room. Above the bed are numerous small cupboards. The ones over the bedhead will house down lights for reading.


There is another cupboard to the left above the computer desk area:


The desk itself is very sturdy and has a side pull-out drawer that opens over the bed to give room for papers, coffee mugs, etc.


The area to the left of the desk is carefully designed to accommodate the music keyboard, when in use. The rest of the time it is empty space.

These were not the only activities. Evidence of other work is scattered around, for example the cabin doors drying against the wall of the boathouse:


But probably the most evocative moment of today’s visit was standing on the back deck and looking at the view down the roof. She’s a long boat! Which is exaggerated by the solid roof over the well deck. On most narrowboats, you have to imagine the front 6-10 feet when standing on the stern. On Froth, the end of the roof is almost the bow of the boat. It seems very far away!


Froth on the Daydream

We have a name!

Photo 09-09-2015 16 45 37

The sign-writing was done by Robin Wagg of Real Sign Writing. Here he is at work:

Photo 08-09-2015 11 27 47 Photo 08-09-2015 11 27 27

The photos scarcely do justice to all the subtleties. Views from the bow end:

Photo 09-09-2015 16 44 39 Photo 09-09-2015 16 45 44

We like the jauntiness, the lettering, the spirals, evoking the spirit of the pianocktail. The what? We hear you ask…

‘Froth on the Daydream’ is an unusual name for a boat. People are intrigued.

It all comes from a beautiful novel entitled ‘L’ecume des jours‘, by the French writer, musician and pataphysician Boris Vian, The pianocktail is a piano that mixes drinks according to the combinations of keys played. This is just one of many delightfully inventive ideas in the book. Boris Vian is much-loved in France, but relatively little known in Britain. Indeed, we might not know about him at all were it not for the fantastic translation by our dear friend the late Stanley Chapman. The phrase ‘Froth on the Daydream’ is his invention (‘L’ecume des jours’ translates more literally as ‘spume of days’).

Stanley once sent me a copy of the book with his own hand-designed cover:


Cover for 'Froth on the Daydream' by Stanley Chapman
Cover for ‘Froth on the Daydream’ by Stanley Chapman

He included the following inscription in the flyleaf:


So ‘Froth on the Daydream’ is our chosen name because it is in the same spirit as Vian’s book and Stanley’s translation. It will be fun, free, and will go we know not where, for reasons which we cannot fully understand. It will be both a home and an inspiration.

Woodwork, power and weeds

The main activity at the moment is woodworking. Martin is busy crafting every single surface and cupboard, porthole and door. Narrowboats contain an enormous amount of wood. In the hands of a master craftsman, the interior becomes a thing of beauty.

IMG_1045 IMG_1042 IMG_1041 IMG_1040 IMG_1039 IMG_1036

At the same time, there have been developments out back. The engine is now in position:


It doesn’t look that special in the photo, but getting it sitting squarely and aligned in the engine compartment is no mean feat. The electrical panel is in place, and we have our throttle:



It’s hard to see, but there is also a control to the left of the upright in the photo for the bow thrusters. More on them in a future post.

And finally…we have a weed hatch:


Narrow boating would not be complete without the experience of releasing weeds (and other, even more tricky, materials) that get wound around the propellor!