Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Narrowboat

I must admit that I did not have much clue about what to expect on a narrowboat; I mean before John had bought one I did not even know that there is such a thing as a narrowboat! So when I arrived I did not expect much - and was surprised a lot. After having spend the last 4 years mostly in a tent a narrowboat seemed like a palace!

Cream Tea on the boat
Let's start with some figures: John's boat is 18 meters (60 ft) long and weighs 17 tons. When I first saw it I would never have believed that I would once be able to steer that monster into narrow locks without even touching the walls... At least they do not run very fast: You are mostly ambling along at walking speed and you are legally not allowed to go faster than 4 mph. Most standard narrowboats including John's have the following areas: A sleeping area with a double bed, a bathroom with a toilet and shower/bathtub, a kitchen, a dining area with a table and seating and a lounge with comfy chairs and a book shelf. After having cooked on a camp stove with one pot only on my JoGLE hike I was mostly impressed with the kitchen: A real stove with 4 flames, a grill, an oven, a microwave, a fridge and of course, hot and cold running water. And to make luxury complete John even has a washing machine on his boat! Oh, I did forget to mention the TV...

Rainbow Lorikeet
Now you will wonder how all this is run. These boats have two separate battery systems: One small battery to start the engine and one big battery for all the electric applications on the boat. Both batteries are re-charged when the engine is running. There is a 450 litre water tank - that takes ages to fill up at the water points. The water is heated when the engine is running and can get so hot that you could burn yourself. In fact, the water is used as a cooling system for the engine. I was surprised to see that almost all waste water like for example from the washing machine or the shower is disposed directly into the canals. Only human waste is collected and disposed in sanitary stations. The boat is heated with a stove burning either solid fuel or Diesel like the engine. Considering the luxury such a boat offers I was surprised how little fuel it needs. The fuel tank holds 225 liters and John assured me that he usually only fills up once per month for around 120 £.

John bought his boat second hand from an Australian couple and that might explain its name: Rainbow Lorikeet which is an Australian parrot. The pre-owners apparently were great bird lovers as there are bird pictures and statues all over the place including a knitted sulphur-crested cockatoo. I noticed another peculiarity of the boating community: People are not called by their own name but by the name of their boat. John thus became Rainbow... Well, it could be worse.

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