1 step forward and 3 steps back

I have been running my own business since 2002, and each time I upgrade my computer I keep the old one mothballed to support old projects.  Cheryl would never have allowed me to bring all these old PCs onto the boat, but one of my customers now wants a significant update on a circa 1998 product.  Well you can guess what’s coming next.

The snag being, one of the tools I use runs on Windows XP and I only have Windows 10 – 64bit on the boat.

The more frustrating thing is I had the ideal PC which could quickly load Windows 2000, Windows XP and the customer’s software.  In the effort to downsize ready for the boat I gave it to charity (tools with a mission-TWAM)  having not even turned it on for 6 years.  It would have been perfect for what I need – C’est la vie.

Since I use Windows 10 Professional, I can run virtual PCs with other operating systems without interfering with my normal desktop.  Something I have never done but Google came to the rescue finding me some instructions on how to enable it, and how to find a Windows XP virtual machine to load. It turns out Microsoft has recently removed their downloadable copies of a Windows XP virtual PC from the usual page, I guess in an attempt to stop people using XP, but luckily they have it hidden away in another location so I down loaded it anyway.  At home I would have downloaded the Windows 8, Vista, and Windows 10 in 32 and 64 bit versions while I was at it, but as we have to use 4G I have to not waste our download limits.

Still with me?

Got all that done – I have Windows XP running on a virtual PC in a window on my desktop and can load software as if it was a standalone XP PC – brilliant.

Well not quite.  The virtual PC does not support USB, which was the whole point in the first place.  Still, I found another interesting article on how to use USB devices with your virtual PC and what’s more, gives the advantage of full screen use – brilliant.  Well no.  Unfortunately, you can only use USB devices that will talk to your host operating system, which the device I want to use does not, which is the reason I started all this in the first place.

After a few days of research and playing around getting my Virtual Windows XP PC working – I am still back at square one.  So now I am going down the route of buying an old laptop with Windows XP professional on – just so I can use two old and obsolete USB devices.  The alternative is to go back to Suffolk and work from home for a few weeks, perhaps not, I don’t think Cheryl would let me do that either.




Another busy weekend, this time socialising, which means baking and eating and drinking.

And that was another boat learning curve.

My go to easy reliable dessert bake is a lemon tart.

(thankyou Jamie Oliver) make pasty case, pour in a lemon creamy custard and bake for half an hour.

What Jamie Oliver didn’t tell me, was not to over cook the pastry in your new fancy oven otherwise you’d have plenty of crispy trimmings to feed the ducks -yes the ducks knew there was food on offer and came begging at the hatch. it would have been mean not to share with them….

And that when you pour a pint of creamy eggy lemony mix into the pastry case everyone needs to stand still for the half hour it’s baking otherwise every time the boat rocks it will spill over the edges making a horrible mess to clean up.

however, said tart did emerge from wobbly oven reasonably intact and it tasted delicious once the crispy bits had been removed

And so we ate drank and were merry while we said a lot of fond farewells to the lovely people of Whaley Bridge, Bugsworth basin, and Poynton. In particular, thankyou for sharing so much kindness and hospitality to Kate, Annie and Martin from the studio and all the lovely knitters, John and Marion, Pablo and Carli, Lawrence, Carl and Lesley  And so many more people who we’ve chatted to along the way, either on the tow paths,  on their boats or in the pubs. I’m sure we will be back up the Macc and Peak Forest before long but once we’re done at Braidbar we are pointing our boat southwards for the next month or so.


Raising the flag

The flag iris are out in full flower. Hard to photograph en masse but beautiful to look at as we cruise by.

I wondered if I would miss my garden when we moved on board but a field full of buttercups is hard to beat

CRT do a lot of work to maintain the banks of the canals and where there’s been erosion (Not helped by the wake created by fast boaters) wooden stakes are inserted in the canal which hold thick hessian sausages pre seeded with suitable plants and then back filled with dredging. It’s a win win project. Practical and pretty. It won’t be long before this has all taken root and stabilised both backside and footpath.



Drinking and driving, at least he wasn’t speeding as well. Far too hot for that. Everyone was flagging today, but we’d had a busy day in the yard with ‘the lads’ working flat out to get things done before Braidbar set off to exhibit at Crick.

Yes, we’ve made good progress on our snagging list that I’m hoping to share very soon.

Anyway, back to today, hot and bothered and not expecting anything more to be done, we set off for an evening cruise. I made a cuppa but Eric wanted a pint, and I can’t say I blame him.

Manchester remembered

This evening we walked up to Lyme Park and as we turned towards the evening sun, and the urban conurbation in the distance,  we reflected for a moment in our tranquility, for all those in Manchester, who are missing loved ones tonight.


A week of treats ending with a big boaters breakfast this morning

A couple of afternoons spent crafting, making millefleuri crochet hooks out of fimo,

they’ll be making there way to my friends at Wiseheart studio in Whaley Bridge who have offered to sell them for me.

And purchasing a beautiful handmade coffee table from Eyewood Designs in Bollington.

Sharing the day with Tim and Veve, lunch for us at the Vale Inn in Bollington and fresh grass for the horses we met along the way.


And on Wednesday we were visited by Mike Carter who is an inspector for the Boat Safety scheme.  He was very complementary about Firecrest and apart from an ID plate that had been overlooked by Braidbar, (quickly remedied) it’s another box ticked. The yard is very busy right now with 4 hulls in build, a boat about to be handed over and the annual Crick next weekend so we might just have to be a bit more patient while we wait for our paperwork and snagging list to be completed.

Beware of low flying Pterodactyls

We spent the weekend at Bollington, mainly so we could attend the ‘Love Bollington artisan market’.  The weather was mixed but good enough for some pleasant cruising and walking.  Mooring at the Householes Lane, where the NCCC have made a very attractive area, meant we were able to watch the wildlife strutting it’s stuff.

Ducklings and goslings aplenty but sadly whilst growing in size, reducing in numbers.  There are a number of hungry Pterodactyls picking them off.  Ok they aren’t really pterodactyls they’re Herons, but oh boy are they vicious and what’s more they hunt in packs.

We watched in amazement as three herons flew low under the Bridge and attacked the mummy duck while another one picked up a duckling with its beak. They made several fly pasts but only got one chick this time.  Nature in the raw is both beautiful and heartbreaking. We also saw a mink checking out the delicacies but disappeared when it saw us.

Boating with a difference, How to spot a Firecrest

Narrowboat design is evolving to take into account modern technologies.  We’ve tried to incorporate a lot of the benefits behind the facia of  Firecrest.  We’ve chosen to embrace the environment, making Firecrest, albeit a very beautiful one, a means to an end, our comfortable home from home that maximises our ability to explore and enjoy our surroundings.  We’re reading that more and more boaters are pushing the boundaries of how much you can fit into a long metal box.  We’re loving the interest shown in our boat, and likewise how interested we are in the more traditional.

Firecrest’s features aren’t unique, just not as traditional as a lot of modern boats.

What makes her unusual.

1) Instead of a diesel engine we have an electric motor for propulsion, giving us totally silent cruising.

2) We are a gasless boat, so don’t use bottles of LPG for cooking as is usual, instead we have an electric oven, an electric induction hob, use an electric kettle, and an electric toaster.  These are all powered from the batteries so we can use them any time day or night without running the generator and disturbing the neighbours.

3) With my background in electronics and computer control, we have a modern computerised CANbus wiring system so all our lights, water pumps etc., are powered and controlled by a system much the same as is in all modern cars, lorries, coaches, and many commercial boats.  This gives me a lot of flexibility how things work, greatly simplifies the wiring, and reduces the amount of wire needed too.

4) Instead of the normal deck at the bow that is above the canal water level, ours is below the water level, a dropped well deck, at the same level as the rest of the interior of the boat.   Instead of the canvas cover (a cratch cover) we have extended the steel roof over the bow deck to make it an indoor sitting area, with headroom to stand up, and overhead lighting.  We have cratch sides that can open up, or be removed completely allowing us to have fresh cool air, but also shelter from wind.

5) Since we don’t get “free” hot water every time the engine runs, we have a modern high efficiency diesel boiler for our central heating and hot water, more like the ones found in homes with oil heating than the typical boilers used on narrowboats.  This means we have hot water all the time, Cheryl can wash up as many dishes as she likes and take as long in the shower as she wants.

6) We’ve opted to have a waterless Eco toilet, (composting toilet.) which are becoming a more and more popular choice for boaters. One of the biggest benefits is because we don’t flush, we don’t have to fill up the water tank so often.  And no, it doesn’t smell.

7) Our battery charging system is also computerised, and nothing like the usual alternator run from the propulsion engine.  This I have had to write the software for.

8) Our batteries are LiFePO4 (a type of Lithium battery that is much safer than the ones used in phones and laptops).  These have very different characteristics to the usual leisure Lead Acid batteries making them ideal for our boat.  These are charged from an onboard GenSet or shore power when available.  These need electronics and software management which I have also designed and built myself.

Lots of people seem interested in our electric propulsion and how we charge our batteries so I will add some “techie” posts in the future to describe that in some detail, and how we find it works in practise.

For all of Firecrest’s individuality, she still requires polishing and painting to keep her looking good.

Pop the champagne corks

It’s felt a little like waiting for the baby to be born today. Anxiety and excitement do not make for a peaceful nights sleep. Today we had our wiring inspected by Sandra the marine electrician and ….. Big drum roll please…… We are pleased to announce that we passed with flying (cruising) colours. And I can’t tell you what a relief that was.

The standard of Eric’s wiring skills has never been in doubt. Wiring a bespoke electric boat, that doesn’t come with an instruction manual but several sets of standards that sometimes require “a little interpretation” and a lot common sense, was a complete unknown.

We haven’t received the actual certificate yet but we’re happily celebrating, secure in the knowledge that not only did we pass but Sandra was extremely complementary about Eric’s workmanship. There are a few more bits and bobs at Braidbar to do before we can get our licence but hopefully that shouldn’t take too long.



Bluebell Woods

I knew I’d find a bluebell wood somewhere around here, it was only a matter of finding the right footpath.

My aim was to walk to Poynton Pool, an ornamental lake, built in the 18th century by Lord Vernon who owned all the coal mines in this area.

And this meant me using another of the many footpaths and I discovered Princes Wood and incline and Rabbit Burro Farm. (The inclines being the tramways and rail tracks that brought goods too and from the canals.)

The Lake was lovely,

But I think I found Bluebell Heaven