Sunday, February 05, 2006

Some People Are Living the Dream

I've been threating to write about my friend, Renee's, narrowboat in England. Here, now, I make good on that threat!

First, you'll need to know more about narrowboats. I mean, other than they're boats and they're narrow. They are barges designed for traveling the English canal system.

In the late 1700's during the very beginning of the Industrial Revolution, entrepreneurs realized the importance and convienience of using waterways to move raw material and goods between factories, markets, and suppliers. To this end they created a huge network of canals and other waterways for transport.

Northgate Lock
The total length of the water system is over 4000 miles, including canals, lakes and rivers. It includes some spectacular engineering - for instance, the Falkirk Wheel, which is a rotating boat lift. There are also elevated canals where you can float along an aerie, a hundred feet above the valley floor!

The UK has recently started programs for refurbishing and restoring the canal systems. It's been a major undertaking, but well worth it! The Falkirk Wheel site has a lot of history and information on the system. The IWA ( Inland Waterways Association ) also has a tremendous amount of information on the waterway and their restoration.

This all said, a narrowboat is barge, essentially, built for moving goods along the English canals. When they were originally built with manual labor it was decided that a good minimum width was somewhere around eight feet, apparently. Let's face it, if you've got to dig with shovel and pick, you'd rather dig something narrow than something like the Panama Canal. I know I would, anyway.Working the Northgate Lock

Corry finished with drydock
A number of people live on these boats, refurbishing them to quite luxurious homes. They are self powered, and at a around 7 feet wide by 55 feet long, provide a fairly large living space. Renee's is steel hulled. She's graciously provided some pictures of Coriander in drydock.

Every few years, like any other boat, Corry (short, she indicates, for 'Coriander') requires serious maintenance. Zinc replacement and other underwater inspection and painting are done. Clearly, it's a big job and Renee, like myself, does it herself (except welding and that sort of thing). I suspect that she'd do that, too, if she owned the equipment!

Please enjoy these pictures! Renee is refurbishing the interior that I have heard can be luxurious, and has promised pictures! So more on these lovely, useful, and comfortable boats later, I hope.

Well, see you on the water!

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