Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Our favourite places - part one

As I suspected, it's going to be quite a challenge to continue writing this blog and attempting to make it relevant to those reading a waterways site.  Living as we do on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, it feels very remote from the canals and rivers of Britain.  However the experiences we had during those six months have changed our whole perspective on life, and it's still quite challenging to 'settle' back into how life was pre-Northern Pride.  In fact I don't think it will ever be the same again ...

Here's a shot of where we live in Gisborne, just to show you the difference in homes here compared to UK:


All the land you see is part of our 'section' which is what kiwi's call their garden or plot of land attached to their house. We're very lucky and it's really not a great hardship to be back here for the New Zealand summer!

But I digress; onto topics of a watery nature ...

One of our favourite places that we visited on the canals was Manchester and surrounding areas.  We'd had a lovely weekend with Lisa and travelled south east from Wigan on the Bridgewater canal.  Barry knew we'd be going over the Barton aqueduct which crosses the Manchester Ship Canal, and was so excited when we arrived and the gates were closed and the aqueduct was swung open.  And how fortuitous it was that we were the first narrowboat to arrive and subsequently got to spend almost two hours watching events unfold.  The tank of water that pivots around the central point over the canal holds 800 tons of water!  Amazing!


The canal journey into Manchester on the Ashton canal was very pleasant as we'd previously experienced some less attractive routes into other major cities.  We'd been informed by many boaters that stopping in Manchester wasn't recommended, but if we were feeling brave and bold to moor up only at Castlefield.  We experienced no scary encounters at all during our three nights in the city and would recommend it to anyone.

Salford Quays was amazing and we really should have spent more time there - if only we'd got out of bed earlier on the Friday morning!  As I missed the Lowry exhibition, Barry bought me two Lowry prints and a book (The Lowry Lexicon) for my recent 50th birthday - 'Gentleman looking at something' as this one was painted in 1959 (we have it up in the boat), the year of my birth, and a larger print called 'Northern River Scene' which depicts the mills of the north along with many people walking along the river.  We'll get that one framed and put up at home.

A highlight of the weekend was the Manchester Pride Parade - we loved being a part of it and all the colourful people involved, what a fabulous atmosphere, extremely enjoyable.


Leaving Manchester on the Sunday, I don't think we quite realised what a long day lay ahead, it was certainly a hard day's graft!  Luckily we were able to share some of the locks with another boat which helped.  Since we've been back in Gisborne, a few people have commented that they thought we'd have put weight on rather than lost it or stayed the same - it seems that folks have a mistaken impression that life on a narrowboat is all about cruising along gently, feet up, sipping cocktails and reading books!  Whilst the lifestyle is indeed idyllic (and maybe the experience of hire boaters doing a week or two is different to living aboard?), it's not due to lying around but to having fun and making the most of every day and every experience along the way, working hard to move through locks and swing bridges and keeping the boat ship-shape!

Ah well, onto planning wedding number two and we've been to see the venue for the reception which is the surf club at Wainui Beach.  Just to make you all envious, here's the scene last Thursday evening around 7pm ...


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Working to live; not living to work

Well I've survived the first few days back at work without too much trauma.  The main challenge has been accessing the recesses of my mind for my midwifery knowledge - my brain has been full of so much more (or could it be less?) during the past six months.  Of course, as one friend kindly pointed out, it's like riding a bike - once you get back on again it soon becomes second nature.  There's also the impetus of earning enough money to enable us to return to the waterways next year, which definitely provides the incentive to put my nose to the grindstone.

Barry has been busying himself visiting his dad and pottering around the house and garden, doing lots of maintenance and sorting and tidying; then today he's spent some fruitful hours rearranging our website of photos from our travels on the canals and some from New Zealand too.  He still has a long way to go to upload all the best ones, but there's a link on the blog now and an opportunity to purchase prints on-line if anyone so desires ...  We hope some people do if only to feedback to us that it all worked, as we've yet to test it out!

We've been experiencing better weather this week and I've walked to work surrounded by a clear blue sky and sunshine.  For some reason the sky always seems larger to me here than in England; maybe it's the lack of clouds most days that gives that impression?

Talking of size, we're still finding it strange adjusting to having so much space around.  Barry keeps putting things away in cupboards and I can't locate them.  At least when you're living in the confined space of a narrowboat you know there's only a limited number of places things can be!

We've heard from Joy and Bruce that Northern Pride is doing fine, so that's reassuring, and we're hoping they'll take her out for a trip sometime and possibly send us some photos.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Back to reality - initial reflections on life aboard

We've been back in New Zealand for six days now and we're beginning to settle back into the kiwi life, but it's tough!  The house is starting to feel like ours once more and we've caught up with most family and friends.  Tomorrow, Monday, I'm back at work; it's going to be a real shock to the system after six months off!

Having had time to reflect on our journeys aboard Northern Pride on the waterways of Great Britain from April to September, I've compiled a 'Top Ten' of my personal highlights - there's actually many more than ten but I'll keep it short initially!

Firstly though, some more pictures from the past week ...


A brief stop-over for refuelling in Hong Kong, ground temperature 31 degrees C


Feeling OK after the first ten hour plus flight ...


Sunrise over the east coast of Australia - awesome!


Our first dinner back home, kindly prepared and cooked by Sam, one of our lodgers - Left to right: Sam, Mariam, Tom & Sandra

P1150732 Welcome home banners - hand made by Barry's mum and sister - very touching bless them - note the blazing fire; it was so cold when we returned!  The photo on the wall is of reflections in the canal at Gas Street Basin, Birmingham, April 2007


This one is Jenny's, Barry's sister, we think it's the winner!

P1150907   The sun is starting to come out again ...


  Barry's family - brother Ray, Sandra, Barry, dad Frank, sister Jenny and mum June


Barry and Frank - leaning on each other at the front of our house

Barry was photographing a wedding on Saturday, and late in the afternoon there was the most amazing light across the ocean of 'Poverty Bay' where we live.  Captain Cook first came here in 1769, the inaugural setting foot on New Zealand soil, and it was the anniversary of the landing that same day.  Unfortunately they mistook the Maori greeting for a call to arms and shot many of the locals - hence the name 'Poverty Bay; as unsurprisingly they then had to set sail without provisions!



P1150959 Early evening light over Poverty Bay, Gisborne, New Zealand

So, onto my highlights of our canal adventures (not necessarily in order of priority):

  1. Writing the blog each day, or most days, was definitely number one for me.  I loved capturing our daily lives, what we saw, did and felt.  The feedback we've received from people across the world, some known to us but many we've never met, has just been incredible!
  2. Having the time to discover an England that I never knew existed.  Visiting cities, towns, villages and Hamlets (I didn't even know there were such things anymore!) and learning about the history of each place.  I was never really that interested in the subject at school, but it all came alive when we moved around the country.
  3. Of course being 'close' (they are so scattered all around England!) to my family for six months was awesome.  I believe that I have more quality time with my relatives because I live in New Zealand strangely enough.  When we do get together, we appreciate it so much more than if we all lived around the corner from each other.
  4. Catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.  There is, mostly, an amazing camaraderie amongst boaters.  We would talk to complete strangers most days and always have commonalities in the fact that we were on a narrowboat - whether people were on a boat they owned, part-owned, or hired.  The towpaths were also hives of activity much of the time; it was great to see so many people out walking, even though it was mostly with dogs.
  5. The wildlife on the canals and rivers - we've loved being so close to the mallards, swans, moorhens, coots, geese and herons and their offspring; and spotting the occasional mandarin duck, terrapin, water snake, peacock or other unusual beings.
  6. The peace and serenity of living on a narrowboat much of the time is an experience to relish.  Many times we moored up in the middle of nowhere and the only sounds we could hear were of the local birds and ducks.  Often though, despite the remoteness of the mooring, there would still be a major road somewhere nearby and you could hear the constant drone of the traffic - not a problem, we just treasured the fact that it wasn't us rushing around in a state of constant stress.
  7. Partaking of a drink or two in the local pubs.  We've met so many people this way and have found some brilliant places, and so many friendly people (there was a converse side but I'm not doing any negatives today!).
  8. The fact that each day was so different.  We probably travelled further than was practical in the time we had, but the beauty of doing that was we never knew where we would end up and what we would see along the way.
  9. A chance to catch up on some reading!  I read so many books in the six months we were away, life is so hectic most of the time that I don't think we take the opportunity often enough to expand our horizons by reading good books - or even bad ones!
  10. In fact, just the act of sitting, mainly in the evenings, and doing very little.  We'd write the blog and put on the photos, read books, I'd do my embroidery (haven't done a cross stitch for many years and still not completed the canal scene I'm doing!), talking to each other or phoning family/friends, visiting the local pub or just going for a walk.  We didn't watch the TV, the one left on the boat when we bought it was relegated to a cupboard - we rarely read a newspaper either.  We believe that the media influences people's perceptions of the world in such a negative way that it's best not to collaborate with them!

There are more positive reflections for me, but I'll leave them for another time.

The weather promises to improve here next week, just in time for me to return to work.  But working has a different focus for us now; it's a way of earning enough to return to the boat in 2010 to live once again in the parallel universe of the canals and rivers.

In the meantime, on the rare days when I'm not working between now and the middle of December, there's always an array of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy here too!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Back in the southern hemisphere; planning the 2010 trip

Thank goodness for the blog!  At least now we're back, during times in the coming days, weeks and months when it feels as though we never really left Gisborne, we can look back at the pages of memories, remember the experiences we had, and confirm that we really did live on a narrowboat for almost six months and we'll be returning in 2010.

 P1150634 The sun shone for our final couple of days around Amington

P1150641 Joy and Bruce prepare Northern Pride's parking place - a novel way of stopping your wife from falling into the canal!

Prior to mooring in Amington, we made a trip to Alvecote Marina for a pump out and to fill up with diesel.  Whilst there Barry noticed a fisherman along the towpath and was just reflecting on the fact that, although we'd seen many of them along our journeys , we'd never really seen any of them actually catch anything from the cut.  No sooner had that thought crossed his mind than out of the corner of his eye he saw a huge pike being pulled from the water.  Another reason not to swim in the canals; he had some scary looking sharp teeth, and a jaw that seemed as though it could wrap it around your thigh!


Matt and his pike - great catch!


Open wide ...


A bit to big and old to eat, so gently back into the canal to fight another dayP1150659

Alvecote Marina, where we went for a drink with Maggie, Gary and Mikey at the end of June, halfway through our adventures


Last leg of the last day on the cut - back to the mooring


The map on our wall showing how far we've travelled since we started towards the end of April - see the black lines

It was late afternoon before we'd finished all our respective jobs, and we could then leave Northern Pride in very capable hands - as you can see above Joy and Bruce had spent the morning trimming their hedges and weeding in anticipation of their guest.  Barry was very reluctant to leave; I thought at one stage he may try chaining himself to her, but thought better of it so he didn't risk being thrown out of England and not allowed back for ten years if he overstayed his welcome.

 P1150669 Joy and Bruce after a final walk-through

P1150670 Safely tucked and tied up

P1150672 Northern Pride from the bridge

Our lovely friends Maggie, Gary and Mikey put us up (or should I say put up with us maybe?!) on Thursday night before very generously giving us a lift to my parents in Ombersley (because they didn't see how on earth we'd manage on a train with all of our belongings!), where we spent our last night before heading back on the long journey down under.

P1150676 The Honeybee - our lunch spot on Friday - two lunches for six pounds!

P1150677 A cute little robin red-breast comes to Ombersley to wish us bon voyage

Because we flew with Air New Zealand and our outward journey was through the USA, we got to bring 46kg of luggage allowance each.  The problem was getting to the airport with it all!  My mum and dad only have a tiny car, a Matisse (not sure if that's spelt correctly!), but by some miracle Barry managed to get our four cases and two hand luggage bags in the car as well as the four adults!  Amazing!

P1150678 Mmmmm..., rather a lot of luggage - yikes!!


Waiting for the train with mum and dad

Our travelling 'home' was mostly uneventful; Droitwich to Worcester then to Paddington, then to Heathrow by train; on to Hong Kong, Auckland and finally, after 36 hours, to our home town of Gisborne by plane, the first city in the world to see the sun rise each morning.  Unfortunately when we arrived in New Zealand this morning the weather was appalling; around 10 degrees Celsius, pouring rain and driving wind from a sub-Antartic breeze(!) - it's ironic that we've experienced an abundance of sunshine and blue skies in England for the past few weeks so now the climate seems better there than here!  I suspect it will be short-lived ...

 P1150684No problem!  Of course I can carry three suitcases ...

P1150686 Making ourselves at home on the train; a beer for Barry ...



... and a cappuccino for Sandra


 Made it to Heathrow in one piece and with all baggage accounted for


A snack and a glass of wine while we wait for the flight ...

P1150694 P1150696

It was almost a full moon - the four lights under the moon are all planes coming into land - it's like a skyward highway!

P1150699Just a part of the huge terminal at Hong Kong airport, seems to go on forever!

P1150698 On the plane at last - 36 hours travelling from door to door to get to our home in New Zealand

Barry's father is still going, though we're not sure for how long, and it was good to see him and Barry's mum, sister, brother and son Tom at the airport; as well as another close family friend, Marie.  Bless them they'd been to our house and cleaned, tidied, washed and left us provisions, in addition to making two fantastic 'Congratulations' banners - June and Jenny had a competition as to who could make the best one; a difficult choice.  They'll be well used as we can also put them up at the next wedding, on 22 December, at Wainui Beach, Gisborne - the 'official/legal' occasion.

We're definitely missing being on board Northern Pride, the house feels so spacious which is good in some ways, but it doesn't have the cosiness of our narrowboat.

We have a focus to concentrate on though; pay off the debts incurred and save for next year.  We covered such a huge area of the canals and rivers this year; possibly more than we should have in the time we had available; and next year we plan to see the south of England's waterway system.

We appreciate that we're still very much novices having only experienced six months of boating; but we're considering going from Sharpness to Bristol in 2010 (though I can't believe I'm even suggesting it!), so if anyone has any tips or tales to share we'd welcome them wholeheartedly.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Haere Ra (farewell) to the cut :-( - we'll be back!

We've almost finished getting Northern Pride ready to be left for the winter on her mooring.  Barry's been grinding and painting, and generally making sure she's as sound as possible externally, while I've been packing, sorting and cleaning the inside. It's similar to getting your house ready to sell - it's always at it's best when you leave it rather than when you're living in it!

Last night we had Joy and Bruce on board, the couple who are very generously letting us use their end of garden mooring in Amington (of course we have to pay BW for the privilege!).  They had their own narrowboat that they sold a couple of years ago, so are well versed in what maintenance will needed during the coming months, and we're confident that she'll be well cared for.

Here's a few more shots from the wedding - expertly taken by Tim, my second cousin-once-removed-in-law (something like that anyway, it all becomes complex trying to work out relations)!!  You're a star Tim ...

Sandra and parents Being escorted to the boat by my amazing parents


The wedding party, on the roof of Northern Pride, with Margo the 'la la' celebrant - the bridesmaids are in the colours of my engagement ring: yellow, blue and pink sapphires

Barry and Sandra cutting the cake

Cutting the sensational wedding cake - bless you Arlene

Barry and Jamie

Barry and Jamie - don't they look happy bless them?

On the boat

We are family ...

We cannot believe that our Six months in a leaky boat (Split Enz song, lyrics below - actually as far as we're aware the boat isn't leaking and will still be afloat when we return!) has come to an end, but we're pretty confident that we've made the most of every minute while we've been here. 

Our journey started two and a half years ago when I brought Barry back to England for a holiday and he requested that we hire a narrowboat.  He'd spent six months in England in 1976 (remember that really hot summer?) and had come across the Norfolk Broads on his travels and saw the boats there and thought that it looked like a really neat existence.  We holidayed in April 2007 (hottest April since records began!) from Tardebigge, and completed the Birmingham Ring in four days - he was totally hooked.

"When I was a young boy I wanted to sail 'round the world
That's the life for me, living on the sea
Spirit of a sailor circumnavigates the globe
The lust of a
pioneer will acknowledge no frontier
I remember you by thunderclap in the sky
Lightning flash, tempers flare, 'round the horn if you dare
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Lucky just to keep afloat
Aotearoa, rugged individual glisten like a
At the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance didn't stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me? I'll conquer and stay free
Ah come on all you lads, let's forget and forgive
There's a world to explore
Tales to tell back on shore
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Six months in a leaky boat
Shipwrecked love can be cruel
Don't be fooled by her kind
There's a wind in my sails, will protect and prevail
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Nothing to leaky boat"

Two years ago almost to the day (my birthday party 2007), I recall one of his good friends telling me that he'd been talking seriously about his dream of coming to England to buy and live-aboard a narrowboat, and I have to admit I originally believed he was crazy, never imagining that it would work out.  Ironically it had been my dream to emigrate to NZ, so the thought of coming back to England for six months wasn't terribly appealing to me at that stage either! 

Barry's hope was that we'd be here last year, but for one reason or another that didn't happen which just made us even more determined, and once here we've embraced every magic moment.

Barry had read waterways blogs for months prior to his dream becoming a reality, and we're very grateful to fellow bloggers for all of their information, particularly Granny Buttons, aka Andrew Denny, whose blog Barry soaked up like a sponge.  Thank you Andrew.

Writing our blog has been a fascinating experience; experimenting with Barry's amazing photography, and trying to hone my writing skills.  We've had some very moving feedback from people in England, America, Australia and of course our home country New Zealand, and we thank you all for your kind words - it's been so touching.

We've met an array of folks along our journeys; some old friends and some new, and we hope you'll all keep in touch.

We're now completely hooked on blogging and will continue to write; we're just not sure how often or in what form as yet.  And of course we'll continue to follow narrow-boating blogs while we're back in NZ - poor Barry is going to be bereft to be away from 'the cut' so he'll be logging on daily I suspect, while I'll be back at work probably six days a week, at Gisborne Maternity Unit.  OMG!