Introducing Narrowboat Theadora….
So much has happened! I promise to try and condense it down, so here is a snapshot:
My husband and I decided to hop on the unconventional property ladder, and in January 2015 we commissioned the fabrication of a 70ft narrowboat by the wonderful boat builders Andy Thompson and Jez Harris of Andicraft Fabrications up in Market Harborough. By March 2015 we had a 70ft spray foamed insulated “tunnel” for want of a better word. Then the fun and challenges really began – we started fitting out the inside…. Now when you think about any DIY task in a house it is usually reasonably straight forward, for a start the walls are straight! On a boat everything is at some odd angle! Add to the mix neither my husband or I had ever done anything like this before and you begin to understand why it has taken us so long. We are both self-employed and had to juggle our various commitments in London and building the inside of our boat, while effectively camping out on it (on a hard stand). Side note: Market Harborough is a beautiful part of the world, I highly recommend visiting the area if you get a chance!
I filmed the very tongue in cheek “Lake Placid vs Anaconda” during this time, carried on my teaching commitments, directed my first Shakespeare play, Macbeth, filmed a pilot for the BBC (a great cook-a-long concept that you can see here: https://cake.pilots.bbcconnectedstudio.co.uk ) and oh, biggest life changing event of all, I had a beautiful baby boy, 6th July 2016!
We finally got the boat in the water in October 2016 and we set sail down towards our new home near London – at the beginning of November; 87 Miles and 78 Locks with a breast feeding four month old baby!
Only in the last couple of months have I had a proper functioning kitchen (a one pot camping stove was a little challenging) and in the last week we got the internet fully working (just in time for me to discover my MacBook pro’s batteries expanded & “nuked” my computer! – time to start saving!). Hence the big break from my blog/social media! My son is now 8 months old and we have just started to get his routine sorted. He loved the sail down towards London and got so used to sleeping in his buggy on the stern deck, over the gentle grumble of the engine, that it has been a challenge getting him used to naps in just the plain old cot during the day!
My apologies to all of you for the break but I promise to start recipe experimenting & blogging soon. In the last three months the most exciting thing I have been making is baby food! However just to really kickstart me back into it all again I will be appearing at the Ideal Home Show on the 30th March. They have a new Eat and Drink festival and I will be doing three live demonstrations throughout the day – 11am, 13.15pm & 15.30pm. So please do come along, I promise the recipes I have come up with, are a bit more exciting than baby food!
To get an idea of all the aforementioned boat odyssey, here are a few pics:
In the beginning there was just a base plate for the hull…
Then the sides went up:
We wired brushed and painted the baseplate – backbreaking work! Endless cups of tea required! Believe me I was just as grubby as my husband Phil by the time we finished but someone had to take the pictures!
The 70 foot tunnel (Bow to Stern) without the spray foam insulation…
Theadora is a big girl! All the grey primer paint you see, Phil and I had to sand, tack cloth (sticky cloths that get the dust off) and paint on three times before the same process was applied with the finishing top coat…. This took hours and hours and……
The finished job! Andy and Jez gave us excellent coaching in how to handle the topcoat paint as it is very temperamental!
The camping stove: Don’t ask what this meal was… it looks terrible! But I think anything tastes good when you have done a hard days boat building graft!
The below picture, believe it or not, is my actual cooker for the boat… The boat builders worked so quickly that when my Heritage Compact Range cooker arrived it had to literally be deconstructed and reconstructed piece by piece onboard to get it through the hatches! The sad thing was I had to wait another 10 months or so before this was plumbed in, so the above camping stove affair above was all I had to work with until then!
And there she is all shiny and new in amongst the 70ft spray-foamed “tunnel!” If there is a hell and you have ever wondered what it might be like – I am pretty sure it involves spray-foam insulation! That stuff gets everywhere and then to line the boat with the first fix of plywood, you have to spend hours cutting the excess foam back and just when you think you got it all, you find a new spray-foam growth!
When the boat was first “spray-foamed” it looked like someone had had an accident with an ice-cream machine! Below is a picture of me (well, my wellies) lying in our “bedroom” (Bow end) exhausted after hours of cutting the “devil’s spray-foam” back!
The Beta Marina Engine – just behind me.
Every one of these boards I hand aged with a blow torch, then I bashed them about with various implements, stained and varnished them….
And then I got busy with a nail-gun putting all 450 or so boards up… we started to say “bye bye spray-foam!” We still hadn’t put the portholes in at this point so it was still quite dark!
In the meantime my husband got busy shaping and polishing the concrete worktops for the galley! Phil became a man possessed using a wet-polisher, but look at the beautiful finish he achieved!
Before we had plumbing fully up and running (the range cooker does all the hot water and central heating too), we got a multi-fuel stove (A Salamander Hobbit stove we affectionately call “Bilbo”) which was an absolute god-send because by this point we had both been sleeping on our air mattress dressed in hats, gloves and coats!
And finally we got some plumbing in and our beautiful cast iron radiators, which really seem to work well against my hand aged boards!
I only went in a couple of times but Phil braved it quite a few more to prep and paint our water tank with potable ceramic paint! Every time he came out he looked like he had spent a day at the coal mines!
Launch day and into the water and Theadora went with the help of “Kylie” the crane (otherwise known for her work in the Transformers movies!)
Phil, Andy and Jez watch on as she is lowered into the water.
And she didn’t sink!
First set of locks we had to navigate our way through was the Foxton flight.
There are a lot of tourists/onlookers as you go through these locks but fortunately there are a few canal river trust volunteers on hand to help out. We also had our friends Jack, Joel and Katherine helping us too. I seem to remember I was stealth breast feeding under a large cardigan as we went through!
We had a few days where it was just Phil and I with the little bambino in tow. I would sail us into the lock, Phil would hop off and open the locks whilst I made sure the boat didn’t back into the cil, a ledge at the back of the lock. However sometimes the little bambino would wake up very hungry and poor Phil had to rush around doing it all!
Prime sleeping spot on the stern deck!
The scenery of the English countryside on the sail down was breathtaking! Highly recommended way to see it!
This is what the mile-long Blisworth tunnel looks like while you go through it!
You actually do see other boats coming the other way – its a tight squeeze and a little nerve wracking!
One hand on the tiller the other on the buggy!
Just to say a huge thank you to my parents David and Tricia for all their extra help and support over the last few years not to mention the crewing days too! Also thank you to all my in-laws too for their DIY help and expertise and becoming honoury crew members! Thank you: Dennis, June, Jim, Harold, Anne and Luke.
Jack Jacovou you are a star, thank you for giving up a few days of your time showing us the ropes, literally! Thank you to Joel and Katherine for your days crewing. I could not possibly do my thank you’s without mentioning Andy and Jez who were incredibly patient, helpful and kept us laughing throughout this whole adventure. Those guys work incredibly hard and it is amazing to see their almost psychic partnership formed over a 30 years of boat building experience. Must also mention my favourite bit of boat-building terminology that I learnt from the guys: “Hey Jez, just move it half a gnats-cock that way!”
All of this was a breeze compared to sitting inside a crocodiles mouth!
Favourite line from Lake Placid Vs Anacondas: “I need those baby ‘Crocacondas’ Alive!” Of course I was playing the villain of the piece, so much fun to play!