Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

  • March 2019
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The bin man cometh

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/08/2018

Before we left Sue’s boat for the other Sue’s boat, I put a mail re-direction in to divert my (NHS) post from NoProblemXL’s winter mooring address to my friend Sally’s in Norfolk (Sally has been our postal address for years and provides us with a service second to none). I had to use NP’s address as I needed a GP and to be living in that hospital catchment area (little did I know at the time that, once in the system, I could have just changed my address with the hospital …. sigh). The hospital letters still kept going to NP, so I rang the Re-direction customer service line knowing that, by this time, Sue had moved NP off her winter mooring. I was advised that they couldn’t re-direct my mail from Sue’s mooring address as the address ‘didn’t exist’ (despite the fact that I had been receiving mail there regularly) and that hey had sent me a cheque to reimburse me. “Where did you send it?” I enquired – yep, you’ve got it; to the non existent address 4 weeks after the date I’d given for redirection. It took nearly 3 months and two more phone calls before I finally got my refund. Whilst I’m having a moan, I should mention that I still haven’t managed to get the results of my cardiac tests that were carried out on 4th and 6th of May – as its now the 2nd August I presume everything was OK; especially as I’m still here and have had no further black outs.

Anyway, here’s some of what we’ve been up to during my prolonged silence. We spent an entertaining wet and windy weekend moored by the bend in a river watching the sailboats tacking back and forth at almost 90 degrees to the bank to get round the bend – this was particularly entertaining when hire cruisers and hotel boats came the other way from around the blind bend. Sorry, I missed the shot of one of those big hotel river cruisers coming around the bend and trying to do an emergency stop as two sailboats cut across his nose from opposite directions! Quite a few of the sailboats didn’t hack it either.


Then the bogey man arrived and I thought he was coming to get us – but, fortunately, it was the bin that he was after and not Francoise. Nearly all of these Marrekrite free moorings – even the islands – have waste bins and we wondered how they were emptied. They put down spud poles, grab them, empty them and then they dunk them in the water to clean them before putting them back in a slightly different place to let the grass recover. The skipper says he empties about 60 a day. If you’re into boating then, being a bin man in Friesland, is a pretty cool job.


We set off in the general direction of Groningen again and our weather started to slowly improve, but until this last week or so we continued to have cold winds if you were out of the sun. We have only just started to experience the ‘pin you to the floor’ heat that most of the rest of Europe are still experiencing. We have had some amazing skies though.


We also had some stowaways on the tender which we liberated


We went into the industrial area of Drachten which, whilst not the prettiest of moorings, gave us good access to the town, supermarkets and parkland for dog walking. It also meant Gezina and Gerrit could park right next to the boat so that we could borrow their very large and heavy clamps when they joined us for a meal out one evening. We didn’t have to pay for our mooring either – but I realised later that we were camouflaged in amongst the van rental company, so perhaps we weren’t spotted! The town moorings  were a euro a metre (6th photo) and we didn’t think we’d get under this fixed bridge to reach them anyway (last photo); the height isn’t listed in any of our info.


We had a fabulous Lebanese meze meal out (it started off warm enough to sit outside) but, returning to the boat just after 10pm, we discovered that a refrigerated lorry had parked next to us and was running a very noisy generator. The driver was a very polite Polish man and we established he was on a 48 hour compulsory break – so we moved. Well Graham and Gerrit moved Francoise whilst Gezina and I trotted down the bank with the dogs. He did us a favour actually because, just a bit further along where we parked up again, there was a water tap which seemed to dispense unlimited water for a euro.


Our next lucky find was on a little canal through 3 low, narrow and oddly angled bridges at Opeinde; The Golden Wok restaurant. An amazing array of cooked and raw food, especially the seafood. Select what you want and take it to the griddle and wok to be freshly cooked to your liking. The puddings and choice of icecreams were to die for, including a chocolate fountain where I parked myself for awhile to dunk strawberries and profiteroles. Eat and drink all you like in 2 1/2hrs for 24.5 euros. I’m delighted to say that my appetite has, after some years, finally returned and I was able to get my money’s worth! The local cat was as attracted by all that seafood as I was. Nice little mooring too.


G insisted on moving the next morning; I think he was afraid I’d sneak back to the restaurant again. He was probably just being kind and thinking of my, rapidly expanding, waistline.


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There was a plan…..and then there was a rescue

Posted by contentedsouls on 17/06/2018

The plan was to remove ourselves to one of the isolated moorings and do some work – himself working outside on the superstructure (weather permitting) and myself decorating the bedroom. After we’d put a few days work in, we would cruise a day then work a day.

You’ll be surprised (well, we certainly were!) to know that this plan started off very well. We removed ourselves to a solitary spot where the animals could wander about safely and we could run power tools without disturbing anyone.

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The weather, however, didn’t hold up for long and we scurried about to get everything indoors as this lot approached us


It really did get quite unpleasant and uncovered a few more leaks that we didn’t know we had. Within 10 minutes our peaceful lake had turned into a raging ‘sea’, complete with breaking waves and no, I didn’t go outside to take the photos.


After a couple of days we thought we’d pop in to Grou for a day for a little R & R – last time we tried was in August and there was no hope of getting a mooring then. We were lucky this time and bagged the only mooring big enough for us – luckier than we realised as it was the official opening of a new stretch of waterway and there was ‘a bit of a celebratory do’ going on. Grou is pretty as you approach it, but the town itself was a disappointment to us consisting largely of restaurants and up market clothes shops and the weather was too cold to tempt us to stay – definitely not a day for people watching over a coffee. Having failed to get what we wanted, we did a quick food top up and left within 2 hours.


Another working day (during which the klik, finally, was re-united with the rudder) and I expressed a desire to visit the nature park at Earnewald hoping to see the nesting Storks still with their young before they fledged. This suited G as he wanted to go to the Skutsje Museum.


Tuesday morning got hotter and hotter as Muttley and I set off round the gorgeous nature park in pursuit of baby storks – wildlife and babies abounded, but not a stork nest was seen – just the one fully grown version. Incidentally, storks are now thriving in the NL and no longer protected.


Somewhere during that morning we discovered that good friends of ours were in a little bit of trouble (Betty). They couldn’t start their engine and had spent the night at anchor with half of them into the main shipping lane – a situation that doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep. So we abandoned our intention of heading to Groningen and got the chance to don our Thunderbirds costumes again – re-tracing our route and then beetling down the PMK – the main shipping canal that’s the fastest way to get anywhere in this neck of the woods. I love it as you see so many different craft; it’s a bit like the M25 but without the traffic jams. Before we joined the main canal, we saw this little house up for sale – we looked up the details later; 450,000 euros.


We picked up Noorderzon’s AIS quite away out – but even without the AIS we could hardly miss them; not many people choose to ‘park’ in such a daft place!!!!!!!!!!


Ah, that sign explains it – a shame for them that the ‘help’ was only the mottley crew of Francoise. We moored alongside and, like all good Brits, Jill put the kettle on. Noorderzon is big – a proper ship – and you get a fab view from up top.


A quick planning/strategy meeting and we left them there and headed for nearby land because we couldn’t agree the salvage terms we couldn’t attempt to move them until the wind had dropped. They weigh 70 tons to our 36 so it was going to be a bit tricky. Equally, we couldn’t stay with them as we didn’t want to add our 36 tons onto their anchor; increasing the risk of them being dragged further into the shipping lane. So we sat on the pontoon and waited…and waited….and waited. Eventually (around 9.30pm) the wind dropped sufficiently for us to go back and give it a whirl. With Noorderzon strapped to us (we felt very small) she weighed anchor and we headed slowly towards land in the setting sun.


Unfortunately, ‘towards’ land was as good as it got as she is deep drafted and there wasn’t the water to get her all the way in; none-the-less we left her anchored in safe waters as the sun set.

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The next morning we took Francoise across and picked up Jill, Gary, Chula and Gem (and, of course, the recalcitrant starter motor) and set off for land and the Archbold car. The ladies (that includes me) walked the dogs and retired to the local hotel for liquid refreshments in the heat of the glorious sun whilst watching the traffic roaring up and down the PMK – it was the first time I’d felt like we were properly ‘back’. Whilst we were relaxing, our intrepid skippers took the starter motor into Grou and then went on to do, “a few other bits and pieces”; looking very pleased with themselves on their return. Gary had ‘acquired’ an outboard for his tender.

It was no surprise then when Gary came across to us in the morning in the tender to see if G wanted to go out and play little ships – G, of course, couldn’t because he was far too busy.


So where has G gone – his equivalent of a Reggie Perry? Oh look; there he is!


They just can’t help themselves!

G took us across to Gary’s car by tender the next day and dog sat Baxter and Muttley whilst we went shopping around DIY stores for paint, curtain rings, tender bailers and goodness knows what else; it took forever but it was nice to get away from the boat for a day.


Gary made us new seats for our tender too and the repaired starter motor was recovered – we even found time to have a drink together one evening and sat watching the hot air balloons going over; some so low that we could talk to them. I think it must have been quite late when they returned to Noorderzon.


I had noticed that Baxter hadn’t come out on deck to join us for the evening (he normally likes company whilst he sleeps!) and G had had to carry him up the steps and off the boat before bedtime. He was no better on Saturday morning (back legs still not working) and Francoise was a very sad boat as G and I agreed to go back to Aldeboarn on Sunday to pick up the van so that we could take him to the vet on Monday. Living with a very old dog is like living with the sword of Damocles hanging over your head. Baxter, however, had stayed awake long enough to overhear our conversation and clearly had other ideas for his end of life plan. Sunday morning he took himself up the steps and off out for a wee, returning with a waggly tail looking for his breakfast biscuits (we took him to the vets on Monday anyway and got him a steroid injection – he’s now eating us out of boat and home).

We shared dinner with Gerrit and Gezina the two evenings we were in Aldeboarn but then had to leave as we weren’t actually getting any work on the boat done – so it was back off to ‘nowhere’ and the power tools.

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Home, smelly home

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/05/2018

We arrived back at Francoise 11.30am (local time) on Friday and it’s fair to say we had a bit of a mould problem, pretty much everywhere; so our priority was to de-mould the bedroom and make up a bed on the floor and sort out what we needed for the animals and us for the day and in the morning. Our bedroom had been emptied so that Gary could fit a new floor for us and the spare room, therefore, wasn’t an option either – as you can see from the second photo. Fortunately Gerrit and Gezina made us dinner (they also offered us a bed for the night but it seemed easier to be home rather than uproot the animals again).


Saturday morning I set about washing walls, floors, cupboards, all our clothes, bedding, china, pots and pans, etc., an ongoing situation which still hasn’t been completely finished – but I’m getting close now. G set about building a new, higher bed (a very high bed) with a rather cleverly engineered lift up system which allows you to lift it from the top, bottom, or either side. Fortunately Gerrit (The Other One) was on hand to help out and, miraculously, they completed it in one day. The bedroom is complete with new bedding and curtains now; just new curtain poles/hanging system for the portholes, painting and carpet to fit. I also rather fancy sewing contrasting covered buttons to some of the curtain pleats.


I’ve also taken the opportunity to throw out a load of stuff we never use and have re-organised everything to leave surfaces clear (particularly in the galley). My triumphs’ have not been quite so dramatic as ‘the rise of the bed’ but are none-the-less satisfying to me. Just look at my drawers Matron!


Boats being boats we have had a few set backs along the way; last Friday we noticed that the hot water tank above the boiler was tilting at an alarming angle from the wall. In the evening it fell off. Due to limited access the fridge/freezer had to come out (not a simple job) and all the water drained down on the Saturday morning. G thought this would be a good day to invite both sets of Dutch neighbours (from both moorings) around for food and drinks to say a heartfelt thank you; not only for offering us safe harbour and regularly checking the boat and her batteries, but for countless other acts of kindness. My suggestion that Sunday might be a better day was dismissed (amazingly we are still married). By the skin of our teeth Francoise’s rear deck was transformed back into party boat, the salon made respectable and food of a fashion cobbled together – bolstered by very welcome contributions from Gezina. We did have a lovely evening in the most perfect weather and it was good to unwind and relax for a change; I also managed to stay awake beyond 10pm!

Sunday morning we had lost all pressure in the water system and discovered water pouring out of the connection to the boiler and filling the bilges (purely co-incidental apparently). Out came the fridge/freezer again and a good half a day was spent pumping out under the galley floor – maybe it was a good job we did entertain on the Saturday!

That first week wasn’t all work though. Apart from our little party, G had a day out with G & G off-roading/hill climbing in the mud and Gerrit and he went out playing with little boats looking for a tender to buy. G also managed not to miss the Grand Prix or qualifying.


I went to school with Gezina on the Thursday afternoon where Gezina teaches the children to grow veg on their allotments; the children’s English was excellent but they were too busy to chat for long. It was nice to be back doing a bit of weeding on the terre; I was an avid gardener in a former – pre boat – life.  I also took 2 hours out to go to the supermarket and check out a writing bureau that two of the three male Gs had seen in a second hand shop (whilst doing massive fuel runs to re-fuel Francoise). I have been looking out for a small bureau ever since we bought this boat and the one they found was perfik. I added the little red reclining chair whilst we were there; 32.50 euros for the two – result.


Not surprisingly, neither of us cooked Sunday lunch, so we retired to the village bar for an hour for a beer and a toasted sandwich. Regular readers may remember that G had been able to research some of Francoise’s history whilst we were on the hard in Franeker last September, but that we had reached a dead end tracing the second family, by the name of Mud. A chance remark, whilst chatting in the bar, and there was a chap in there of the name of Mud who had been researching his geneology (you couldn’t make it up). He said that, in the late 1800s, there had been a split in his family tree, with one lot going down the boat route and the other lot (of which he was one) staying on the land. He is now going to see if he can find a link between his family and ‘Pax’ as Francoise was then called. Extraordinary chance meeting.

Given that Francoise is the third boat we’ve lived on in as many weeks it’s, perhaps, not surprising that we are living in some confusion. Wanting to check our water levels, I spent a considerable period of time looking for the water tank gauge before G pointed out that I needed to roll back the salon carpet, undo the cap and poke the dipstick in the ‘ole! I had similar difficulties when trying to turn the invertor on. Neither of us had any idea where we kept the dustpan and brush or the cat litter. Being a snail nomad is a doddle; being a boat squatting nomad is a lot trickier for my poor little, easily confused, brain. Each boat I’ve lived on has had specific things I’ve loved and the one thing that both NoProblemXL and Indigo Dream had that I really miss on Francoise is a side hatch. It’s so handy for letting Daisy out, emptying out your dustpan and having a thoroughly good nose as to what’s happening outside……now where do we keep the metal cutters?

By Tuesday morning we were just about sanitised, had food in the fridge and said our goodbyes; not for long this time though, as Friesland is a small place with a lot of waterways, so we’ll never be far away – time to go.


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Ouch, ouch!

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/05/2018

All locked out and hurting.

Before we left the Cape of Good Hope we got chatting to a couple with a beautiful dog – actually, we got chatting to the dog and then the people said they thought they knew us; but not the boat we were on. They remembered us from way back when, when we had been into their boatyard to get Matilda Rose’s engine mounts fixed which had sheared off. In an attempt to save us money, they had fitted us with alternative – cheaper – mounts than the ridiculously over-priced Vetus mounts. Unfortunately Matilda Rose didn’t appreciate our budget measures; vibrating her socks off and shivering Daisy’s food off of the work surface and opening all the cupboard doors and drawers. We were forced to return to Sarah and Gary at Lyons boatyard and refit with the original Vetus parts. It cost them money as their engineer, David, had to remove and replace the old ones and we only paid for the difference in the spare parts. They remembered us – get this – because we didn’t get angry and gave them good reviews for their service. A lovely catch up and big hugs from Sarah before we left them. Brilliant.

Meanwhile, back at our very tight mooring, Daisy introduced us to our ‘overlapping’ neighbours who, fortunately, are avid cat owners and lovers; Graham (I know, they get everywhere these Grahams) and Jan. We agreed in principle to do the Hatton 21 the next morning but we couldn’t commit to a time as toilet emptying had now become our highest priority. We phoned the Saltisford Arm boatyard and they advised us to reverse in for a pump out. G reversed her in perfectly and pump out achieved for a mere £15. Job done, we headed to the bottom of the Hatton flight to find our lock buddies just tucking themselves in and ready for us to join them. Unfortunately their Graham wasn’t well and my G was suffering from sciatica so Jan and I had a bit of a workout ahead of us with every lock against us.


Just over halfway up we encountered a volunteer lockie which allowed Jan or I to go ahead and set the next lock; 3 people makes such a difference. Hard work, but the fun company of Jan made the time fly by although it was the slowest time we had taken to do this flight; it didn’t matter – we were in no rush and we did it at a comfortable speed, rewarding ourselves with toasties and bacon butties, respectively, with icecreams all round to follow.

En route we encountered the most extraordinary couple coming down. He was on his own on a shortish boat and wouldn’t come out until our pair had left the lock below him; but, as a pair, there was nowhere for them to go unless he came out and pulled over to the side. Eventually he did, with great reluctance. I stayed back to close a gate for him and he then pulled out ramming the concrete adjacent to the entrance to the lock and ending up sideways across the gates, so I asked his lady lockwheeler if she would like me to leave both gates open. It took awhile before she could be persuaded to peel her earphones out of her lug’oles, so I repeated the question. Her response was, “whatever” (it’s the first time anyone has actually said that to me and I had a job to supress my giggles). I pointed out that I really did need to know if she wanted me to close the off-side gate or not. Her response was, “don’t care, whatever makes you happiest”. So I left ‘Mr and Mrs we’ve clearly had a row and would rather be anywhere else on this planet than doing the Hatton together’ to it – later finding out that Jan had had a similarly stimulating conversation with her at the lock above!!!!

We moored overnight on the embankment at one of our favourite spots and spent a leisurely day there before moving the tiny hop to the Tom O’ The Woods pub to pick up my friend Wendy for a sleepover additional crew to do the Knowle locks. For reference, the pub has been refurbished and is delightfully dog friendly.


All 3 of us were wacked, so it was an early night after a thrown together pasta supper. Wendy never changes (nor would I want her to) and she didn’t disappoint when she finished off the left-over cold pasta for breakfast in the morning – she is renowned for it.


We had not done the Knowle locks before (previously going the Lapworth route) and they were really pretty; despite a dull and chilly start to the day. Wendy, an avid gardener, had to be recalled at one point having spotted the lovely lock side border.



Shortly afterwards we reached the point where we had agreed to leave Indigo Dream and G drove Wendy back to her car. I know we didn’t have much time together but, that we did have, was very precious time.

So that was it for us; Just the packing and cleaning to do. The plan (yeah, I know. The ‘p’ word again) was to finish off everything we needed to do by around mid-day the following day, have lunch in the pub and sleep in the afternoon before leaving about 10pm to catch the 4am ferry from Dover. Around 12 ish on the Thursday we were just about done and G came up with a much betterer plan; so we skipped lunch and sleeping and headed off to Cookham to scrounge dinner off of say goodbye to Sue and Vic and the girls. The nearest point to their mooring that we could park the van was quite a walk for Baxter, but he managed it – just – in his own time and was very pleased to reach Penny’s new bed. Muttley was off like a rocket as soon as he spotted NoProblemXL.


Leaving them at 9.30 we were in time to catch the 2.00am ferry and we were very glad we had upgraded to the Premier lounge as the ferry was rammed with 500 teenage passengers from 10 unexpected coaches (due to a problem on another Company’s crossings). I must admit to travelling with some trepidation as my Dutch friend, Gezina, had forewarned me that Francoise was in, ‘a bit of a mess’. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the ‘essence of unloved boat’ that assaulted my nostrils as we opened the doors.

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Holiday boaters–that’s us

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/05/2018

We stayed in Braunston Friday night so that G could watch his grandson play in a big ‘finals’ footie match. Unfortunately a player was injured near the start of the game and couldn’t be moved until the ambulance arrived – 2 hours later! So the match was called off. Just as I was throwing dinner together to feed G in a rush before he had to leave, ‘Halfie’ (John and Jan) turned up, but we had only time for a quick natter. They told us that they had seen Matilda Rose turn off up the Oxford canal; so that put paid to any chance of a meet up with the new owners – perhaps it’s just as well.

Saturday morning we were holiday boaters in a hurry and left at 7.30 am; unfortunately it took us half an hour to top off the water and, by the time we reached the Calcutt locks, our friends on Funky Fish were paired off and locking down. Even that early in the morning there was a boat waiting for us to finish watering so that they could get in. I did manage to prise himself off the tiller eventually (after whacking him over the knuckles with a monkey wrench), but not for long.


We caught up with Funky Fish at the top of the Stockton flight and had just started locking down with them when Richard appeared on his bike to give us a hand.


We moored by the Two Boats and took delivery of the marmalade and chutney that had been overlooked (thank you so much Sue ID and eat your heart out Sue NP). After eating lunch at the pub, Richard kindly drove G back to Braunston to pick up our van; taking it onwards to our destination and returning G to the boat. This left us free to cruise our little socks off like holiday boaters in a hurry – we didn’t though, we stayed the night; well we had done 11 miles and 13 locks.



Daisy quickly recovered from an assault on the boat by an Alsatian which spotted her from the pub terrace and came hurtling down the towpath at her. She gave it the evil eye as it approached, before casually popping back onto the roof of ID. The Alsatian went demented; barking, growling and leaping in the air to try and get to her. Eventually, the owner sent a small girl (smaller than the dog) down to the dog which, by this time, had wound itself into a frenzy – Muttley and Baxter joined in the mayhem of course, whilst Daisy spat. I asked the girl to pick up the dog’s lead (still attached) and take the dog away, but she ignored me and looked back to her parents (still at the pub) for assistance. In the end it calmed down and trotted back to the pub. Extraordinary behaviour from the owners whose only response was to call it from time to time.

Sunday we had a lie in and didn’t leave until 8.45. We locked down the 10 locks with some pleasant people on a hire boat with their dog Zeta; the latter falling in at one point and having to be fished out by her life jacket. We warned them that we would be stopping at Kate’s boats for a pump out; we weren’t desperate, but wanted to be sure to get the job done (as it were) before we left ID. Not a soul around the boatyard anywhere so we gave up on that and carried on through Warwick to the last two locks of the day. Needless to say, the first flush of the loo after failing to get a pump out and the red ‘tank full’ warning light came on.


As I approached the Cape Locks G went up to work the one side for me and then I was joined by another boat – a single hander and an uphill lock, so G had to work both sides himself – how I laughed. My amusement quickly faded though when I realised that I was physically challenged on the helm of ID. With the tiller fully to the right I couldn’t reach the throttle; so I’m now restricted to the left hand side of locks! This boat swims so well that you really do have to be very light on the throttle.


We were looking to moor by the pub before doing the Hatton 21 in the morning. As usual it was very busy but G spied a space that he reckoned was just about big enough – I happily relinquished the tiller and, as always, he was right…nice parking skipper! It seemed that it would be a good idea to pop into the pub, so that was us done for the day.


Whilst we were sat outside enjoying the sun, the hire boat we’d locked with went past us. They’d already done the 10 Stockton locks before joining us for 10 more and were heading on to do the Hatton 21 at 3.30pm – what it is to be young and enthusiastic. It seems we’re still a bit too lightweight to be holiday boaters!

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Who would believe that one tiny switch could cause so much chaos!

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/05/2018

Having got everything sorted and ship shape on Indigo Dream in G’s absence, he arrived back to say that Jill and Gary were hot on his heels – Jill and Gary being our winter neighbours in the NL. They are back in the UK due to the imminent arrival of Princess Archbold; grandchild number ….? Can’t keep up with the numbers; it’s like with Chas and Liz Faux – a positive epidemic and world take-over bid.

They arrived with Chula the French Basset and Gem the greyhoundy, Collie, Sheperdy, rescue dogs. Dinner at the pub and then it was way too late for them to go off and find a campsite and pitch a tent; so we investigated Sue and Richards sofa which turned out to be a sofa bed; so that was that sorted for the night (no, we weren’t taking liberties with Indigo Dream; Sue and Richard were adamant that we didn’t pussyfoot around and should just enjoy her and treat her like home). Now one of the mysteries of the learning curve on Indigo Dream has been finding the light switches.  Eventually we turned the lights off (they hide behind curtains!) and we all turned in for the night. The next morning I went to flush the loo (sorry if this conjures up too much detail or you are eating) and nothing happened. Checked the water pump fuses and all the usual culprits….no water. Checked the water tank gauge and it was showing empty – this was crazy as it was 3/4 full when we went to bed. Had we sprung a leak? Nothing for it but to pull on our clothes (not as much as a cup of tea or coffee between us) and hot boat it back to the marina to fill with water. Attached the hose to the tap back in the marina and within 5 minutes the tank was overflowing. So we all sat down and re-thought it through logically trying to make sense of it – there’s a little switch that hides behind the wine glass rack


and then we realised we had twiddled it whilst looking for the ‘off’ switch for the saloon lights. We pressed it back to ‘on’ and hey ho we had water. Later on in the day I spoke to Richard and mentioned the switch, before I could say anymore, he said, “oh, the one that turns the water off? We never touch it”. How bloody daft did we feel – especially as we were under some pressure for me to make a dental appointment in Northampton at 10.30. By the time we got to the appointment G and I were gibbering wrecks.

Given that Jill and Gary were there with their car (and itching for a cruise), we hatched a plan to position a vehicle at Braunston and headed off. 13 double locks (I think) – my first locks in over 4 years and we arrived in Braunston around 7pm. What a heavenly, heavenly day. We shared the locks up the Buckby flight with a delightful couple and then picked up another delightful couple to share down with. We were all deliciously physically wrecked (my first locks in over 4 years) and I just about managed to stay on my feet long enough to throw some food at a pan before we fell into bed – remembering not to touch the water switch!


Gem had fallen in and had to be rescued. I was working ahead to set the next locks (and all the Buckby top gates had swung open of course – no change there then), with every one of the locks, but the first, against us. The paddles on the top gates coming down into Braunston were almost immovable with a blackboard sign saying, “ C & RT are aware that these paddles are stiff – the problem has been reported”. 4 European softies had a bit of a workout and also had a ball.

We woke in the morning to a normal, panic free day (where water flowed freely) and indulged ourselves at the Goongoozlers Rest narrowboat cafe for giant sized breakfasts – G couldn’t finish his; this has to be a first.


We waved fond farewells to the motley crew of Norderzoon yesterday morning, made another trip to the dentist and found narrowboat Funky Fish had arrived with Colin and Eva and their Norwegian friend, single handler, Kirsty on our return. Colin and Eva have a cat Diesel and two dogs Mutley and Misty. We haven’t seen them for 7 years when we poled up in Birmingham for a two night stop (for a concert) and got stuck in the ice there for 53 nights – we made friends when they kept us supplied with water during the freeze up from their Birmingham mooring. Later going to their wedding. We only made it to their wedding courtesy of Richard’s help locking us up the 21 through the Aston and Farmers’ flights after I had been unwell and wasn’t allowed to do much – amazing how things and people all tie up! So it was off to the pub for a good old catch up.


In the galley doing the washing up this morning, G shouted look, look! Couldn’t believe it; of all the boats and all the canals and this brief time of ours on the Grand Union. Nice to see that they hadn’t painted over my birds on the side shutters …yet.


So it’s onwards in the general direction of the Hatton flight tomorrow; early start and a long cruise. Perfik!

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Moving squats

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/05/2018

By 10am on Saturday, NoProblemXL was emptied of everything but our overnight stuff (not inconsiderable with the menagerie) and as clean and shiny as we could make her. Job done, G settled down to grab 40 winks when he was rudely awoken by visitors in a fleet of cars (well 2 cars actually); he was just about to grumble when we remembered that the ‘visitors’ lived there. For the next hour or 3, organised chaos reigned as Sue’s daughters supervised the unloading and Sue supervised the unpacking.


I was impressed by how quickly two car loads of stuff disappeared into their rightful places and order was restored– a credit to the packer at the other end. Just as well really because, shortly after, Sue and Richard arrived with greyhounds Saffy and Archie; new ropes and a licence for Indigo Dream and chutney and marmalade for Sue and I. Fish and chips all round and then they left us to see to the hounds that had stayed at home. By 9.30, the rest of us were all a bit tired and I nearly nodded off on the stern deck. Around 10.30 the others all revived and it turned into a bit of a party – inevitable really, what with Sue and Vic’s coming home at last and it being Sue’s birthday the day before….as the day turned into ‘tomorrow’, the remaining four dogs went to bed (they do have a bed each, but prefer to share – well Baxter doesn’t but he doesn’t get much say in the matter! – although Penny, of course, stayed on cat watch duty.


After a few hours sleep, G and I were up and creeping around loading up the van with our final bits; which was when we discovered that only one bag of preserves had been left – before I could sneak off with them, Sue was up and demanding half; the ensuing bun fight wasn’t pretty, but I did manage to hang on to the apple and garlic chutney but lost out on the smoky marmalade that Indigo Dream Sue left especially for me. Hmph.

By 8.45, the menagerie were loaded, goodbyes said (how I hate goodbyes) and we were on our way to Ascot; not the races but an early (bank holiday Sunday) hospital appointment for my echo cardiogram. Job done and we were on our way to join the traffic jams on the M25; destination the narrowboat Indigo Dream – our new squat.

How lucky are we to have such good friends willing to lend us their beautiful boats in our time of need.


We made the mistake of travelling Daisy sideways in her carrier; a mistake we won’t make again! I’ll spare you the details but it required a stop off in Tesco’s car park for a major clean up; not fun in the heat – the poor love was distraught.

Now one of the many wonderful things about boats is that, if you don’t like the neighbours, you can move. We had intended to stay the night in the marina and get unpacked and settled in. However, our marina neighbours were on board polishing and cleaning and he expressed considerable disapproval regarding Daisy’s presence – he ‘mentioned’ (in several different ways) that it was against marina rules to let animals roam free and how ‘unhappy’ he would be if Daisy was to set paw on his shiny boat – that was the gist of it anyway. I passed his feelings onto G who finished unloading the van, dumped our stuff inside the boat and left. Yeahhhhh – moving again.


We didn’t move (as) far (as I would have liked on such a glorious day) as we had to dunk Daisy in the sink – what a treat for her in her new home – settle Baxter and hotfoot it back down the road with Muttley to get the van and drive to Antony’s by 4pm for a family BBQ. Good fun in the sun with 4 of the 6 grandchildren there. When we returned to ID, Baxter was snoring on the sofa and Daisy was still sulking where we’d left her, although she quickly perked up.

By the time we’d made the bed up and found the necessary things to sort the animals out and make tea in the morning we were a little bit tired!

Monday morning G was off for an overnight visit to his Mum’s, which gave me a clear day to find where everything was and get our stuff stowed away without G trying to ‘help’. It was during this excercise that I discovered that the main box containing our food was missing (despite it having a red ‘dot’ label); due to our haste to get away from Mr Miserable the previous day I hadn’t noticed, so it was cold chicken for lunch and chicken crisps sandwiches for supper followed by a bar of chocolate for dessert – I understand G took his Mum out to dinner and had a rather nice, large rib-eye steak.

It was another scorching day and Baxter loves the sun but I feared he would cook what’s left of his brains, so I spent a considerable amount of time wrestling with a particularly recalcitrant umbrella. When I finally managed to get it to stay up in the right place, the system worked rather well.


Until Daisy came along and ousted him – that’s his indignant look.


Muttley? He hid indoors all day until it was cool enough for me to take him down to the stream for a walk and then he retired to the rear deck for the entirety of the cooler evening.


Clearly Daisy’s reputation has arrived before us as we haven’t been visited by a single Greyhound ……. yet!

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Brains, hearts and hill climbs

Posted by contentedsouls on 04/05/2018

Wednesday was a return visit to neurology for my brain CT and CT angio results – contrary to the opinions of both G and close friends’ I do, indeed, have a brain and it is ‘normal’. Here’s a picture to prove it.


Whilst it is very re-assuring to know that my blackouts are not being caused by any nasties lurking in my head, I would very much like to know what has been causing them so cardiology (seen last Monday) has fitted me up with wires. The nice wire fitting man did suggest I lose the rucksack and tuck the wires into my trousers before going out in public in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention from armed police and sniffer dogs.


I guess he did have a point. I only have this heart monitor attached for 24 hours, so I thought I’d take it out for a test drive. There are two ways up that hill; the steep climb or the more gentle one – in order to give the monitor something to think about, I decided to take the steep climb up there. It was quite steep in places too and I had to stop twice to ‘admire the view’ – mind you, having become used to the flatlands of the Netherlands, the escalator into Sainsbury’s looks quite daunting!


A lovely walk along the top with great views of NoProblem XL down below and a Red Kite ridge soaring alongside me (I nearly took a decent photograph of it). I came down by a more gentle route as I didn’t fancy reversing the climb – I’d have had to slide down on my bum. The bluebells were fabulous in the sunshine.



Muttley was desperate to cool off and have a drink when we finished and, much as I considered joining him, I waited until reaching The Bounty before quenching my thirst. He had a big cuddle with G when we returned to the boat to complain about the nasty woman that dragged him around the countryside for nearly 3 hours (conveniently forgetting to mention the bit where he ate pork scratchings at the pub).


We’ve had some quite dramatic changes in weather recently which always makes for good photo opportunities


Tomorrow the heart monitor comes off and Sunday I get to see what the inside of my heart looks like. I’m discovering new bits of myself on a regular basis at the moment, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to share my heart with you! Because of all this ‘stuff’ going on at various hospitals in this area, we have postponed our move onto narrowboat Indigo Dream until Sunday lunchtime ish. We are all packed up and stowed away on the van ready to move Vic and Sue and all their stuff back to their home tomorrow – I suspect Saturday night might be party night; especially as it was Sue’s birthday today. Happy Birthday my friend.

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In pontificating mode

Posted by contentedsouls on 29/04/2018

When we left Francoise in the Netherlands on the 11th January with the minimum of ‘stuff’; little did we know that we would still be here all these months later. Staying on the van for a little while in winter (and the temperatures are still no better apart from 2 or 3 days of warm sunshine) was just about doable; but not for all this time.

For 16 weeks NoProblemXL has been our very comfortable and luxurious home and our heartfelt thanks go out to Vic and Sue for making her unconditionally available to us and our menagerie; not to mention my re-arrangement of their galley to accommodate my personal cooking style (ie messy!). Our time is ‘up’ on NPXL for the very best of reasons – Sue’s return to better health and they more than deserve to have their home back unencumbered by us squatters.

On Thursday we shall be moving onto Sue and Richard’s narrowboat, Indigo Dream and taking her cruising a little – I’m very excited about being back on the UK canals for a little while and Baxter will find life a little easier as the boat is kitted out to accommodate ‘ancient’ dogs and the ‘bank’ doesn’t go up and down so much on the canals! So our thanks to them too for taking pity on us homeless people.

At this point (and here comes some pontificating and reflecting) I want to say thank you to the many people that have offered us their homes, boats, electricity and clothes!! We have never been in the slightest danger of being homeless and have had choices and been able to choose due to convenience of location re my hospital appointments and, of course, we will always take any boat options over houses because we are out and out water gypsies. It has been said before, but I make no apology for reiterating it; the boating community is absolutely incredible. Once a bond has been made with a fellow boater, no matter how briefly in some cases, they are always there for you. Over our boating years we have always tried to help fellow boaters and the response to our ‘hour months of need’ has been overwhelming – so thank you each and everyone of you for your incredible generosity.

So that’s enough of all that sentimentality – I don’t want my regular readers (if either of them still do read these, currently, occasional blogs) to think I’m going soft in the head; now there’s a thing as I get the results of my brain scan and angio on Wednesday when I shall find out if there is anything soft in my head or, indeed, any brain at all!

George and Carol breasted up with Still Rockin’ overnight and we walked round with Muttley to the Bounty for an early supper – a lovely evening but my goodness it was cold. We did have a couple of good, hot days during which time Baxter shared the shade with next door’s Bassets, Matilda (he’s in luuurve with Matilda) and Arthur.


This lovely day prompted Graham to cut off Mr. B’s winter coat which would normally happen sometime in March – we all know what happened to the weather then – pass the Superglue so that we can stick his hair back on. Poor boy is now spending life huddled up under blankets and fleeces to prevent him from shivering. I know he’s old – very old – but I was truly shocked to see him without his shaggy coat; although he seems much brighter in himself he does look really ancient poor sausage. Kevin and Sandra came over today with Herbie and Ralph (the new puppy). Ralph couldn’t understand why Mr B wouldn’t come out from under the blanket and play; in the end he tried to pull the blanket off him. Such a lovely, good natured pup – he’s going to be a cracking dog and was quite unphased by Muttley’s displays of disapproval towards him being inside the boat.



Whenever Sue and Vic were able to come back to their boat, we always made sure that there were two more dog beds down for Meg and Penny; the dogs however made their own arrangements. Penny, of course, spends her whole time on Daisy cat watch anyway and doesn’t really need a bed.


So that’s all my news. There might be more regular blogs once we’re on the move again on Indigo Dream.

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Still in Blighty on the River Thames

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/04/2018

Well here we still are and it’s the 2nd April – nothing much changes. Still it rains and all dog walks are a sea of mud again after a 3 day respite in the weather which let the ground dry out enough for me to walk right around the lake at last on a day when the sun came out; such a treat. There are signs of spring everywhere around me except for the weather itself.


Meanwhile, back in the Netherlands, Francoise’s free winter mooring in Dokkum was about to convert to the visitor rate of 90 euros per week from yesterday. After a bit of juggling with dates when Sue and Vic could visit again and avoiding the inflated cost of Easter weekend ferry crossings, G managed to drop S & V back at Portsmouth on the Wednesday, then leave here late Thursday to catch the 2.00 am ferry for Dunkirk on Friday, leaving me here with the menagerie; did I mind? Was I jealous that he was going to get a two day cruise? YES; VERY MUCH! It just wouldn’t have been fair on Baxter though to drag him out and back and there is no such thing as travelling light or travelling quickly when we move en famille. It was awfully nice having the boat to myself for a week though with only Baxter’s tune to dance to.

Our good Dutch friends, Gerrit and Gezina, arranged for us to moor at the end of (the other) Gerrit and Saskia’s garden again in Aldeboarn and G and Gerrit had a two day ‘man cruise and sleepover’ to get there (you have to go a long way round due to low bridges). G & G spoilt my G rotten; feeding him and taking him out to ‘boys’ night’ cards. I tried not to mind, but I do miss Gezina’s hugs. In our absence, our friend Gary will be putting a new floor down in our bedroom and making good the wall linings which had been water damaged from small leaks when we bought her – at last the renovations commence. I shall be able to start decorating when I get home….hurrah!

Meanwhile, back on NoProblem XL, Muttley was happy enough playing chase with his neighbour Matilda; Baxter peed and slept (nothing new there then) and Daisy sulked because I wouldn’t let her out due to the fast flowing river and the fact that she keeps trying to run up and down NoProblem’s very narrow gunwhales – despite her diminutive size, she is not the most agile or sure footed of cats


The river has risen over a meter in the last 48 hours as I post this; we now jump down off of the rear deck instead of up.

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