A rainy time in Windsor

After a couple of weeks at home attending to the mundane matters of having a house and two adult but dependant children we couldn’t wait any longer and cast off under bleak and cloudy skies.

There is always a sense of excitement as we leave the marina not quite knowing where we will end up or what we will be doing from day to day. At one time or another in our lives, this lack of certainty or safety would have been an anathema, but from where we are now it is perfect.

Although cloudy, the rain that was forecast was holding off. That was until we approached Shepperton Lock, which necessitates Nicola having to walk around to the bow (front of the boat) and prepare to throw a line (rope) around a bollard in the lock. She had just got to the pointy end and the heavens opened. From my position inside the warm, dry wheelhouse it didn’t look great out there! But someone has to steer the boat!

Unfortunately of the 5 locks we passed through, we were met with the same pattern of weather at four of them. A lovely cruise followed by a downpour just as we approached the locks. *Note to self – might be a good idea to offer to teach Nicola how to drive into locks*

We managed to secure a lovely mooring at Windsor, one we have been on before. Lovely views of the castle, dog walking straight off the boat and plenty to see on one of the busier reaches on the non-tidal Thames. We planned a few days of doing not much at all and were treated to an added bonus of the Royal Windsor Triathlon swim going right past Anticus on Sunday morning. One of the things we were looking forward to when planning to get Anticus was mooring somewhere and coming across things we would never have seen ordinarily – this was one of those occasions. Nearly every day we sit back and look at each other and comment on the fact that our dreams are coming true. We are very lucky.

Talking of which, we got an email from one of our readers in France yesterday thanking us for our website “which inspire dreams”. Considering that only just over a year ago, our dreams were just that as we read through blogs and web pages of barge owners and travellers, it was lovely to hear that we are now in the lucky position to be moving people towards realising their dreams.

Anyway, below are some pictures from the last few days. I think we are casting off again in the morning, heading upstream to who knows where?

Trooping the Colour

We are moored up at the moment back at ‘home base’ (Shepperton Marina), to have a little work done on our generator, and to attend HM Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Parade Trooping the Colour at Horseguards Parade in London. We were very privileged to be seated 4 rows from the front just along from HMQ. Can’t tell you how we got there, I’d have to kill you!

Anyway, words can hardly convey the pomp, majesty and sheer pride that flows from events such as this…………… So here are a few photos.

Barge Rally at Kingston

We are members of the DBA, The Barge Association. This is a loose knit group of people who own or are interested in Barges and inland waterways travel. There is an online forum which we used extensively when researching before building Anticus, and still find extremely useful in our day to day life on board.

During the year, all over the world, members of the DBA organise rallies, where members gather to show off and chat about all things boaty. Last week there was a gathering just down-river from us at Kingston-Upon-Thames. It was too good an opportunity to miss, so off we headed on board our boat.

It was a great weekend, where we met new friends on board a variety of barges, had a great afternoon in the sun, with cold beer in the company of our friends Alan and Gee, and even witnessed a dramatic river rescue by the RNLI crew from Teddington!


We were treated to a visit from the crew of the D-class lifeboat from RNLI Teddington, who told us about water safety, and gave us an insight on how to deal with a man-overboard (or indeed woman – or in our case, dog!). Little did they know at the time but at around midnight on Saturday night, they would be visiting us in earnest as they rescued a person who had entered the water from Kingston Bridge and found himself clinging to one of the barges awaiting rescue. All very dramatic!


Nicola returning from a walk with Alfie, who has never had so much exercise. (Alfie that is, not Nicola, – although thinking about it ………..)

Downstream ….

Originally we had planned to cruise as far as Oxford, which is the limit of our navigation on the Thames because of the size of Anticus versus the size of small bridges! However, Wallingford was very lovely and had plenty to offer, so after 5 days moored within a stones throw of the town centre, we turned around and started heading downstream towards Shepperton.

With no specific plan on where we were to stop on the way down the Thames, things felt right after a couple of hours to pull up and moor at Pangbourne. There are lovely moorings here adjacent to a lovely town closely associated with Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

From here it was a short hop to Sonning, where we were helped through the lock by John, a fellow retired Firefighter, who is now the resident lock-keeper there. Again we found comfortable moorings outside Uri Geller’s former residence. Luckily the power is no longer strong there, we woke up to a still straight boat !

On to Henley, one of our favourite spots where we planned to meet up with family visitors, and also Tom an engineer who is looking at a couple of issues with our generator.


Henley looking gorgeous in the early summer sun

Sally (Martyn’s sister), her husband Mark and their son Stan turned up on Saturday and mainly spent the day eating, drinking and messing about on the river.


Mark and Stan messing about on the river

Tom turned up on time as promised and after an hour or so managed to get the generator functioning properly. Great job done.

For those interested, Anticus has a bank of batteries which power everything on board from the lights to the washer/dryer and the music system to the draft beer chiller (yes really)! We have three ways of charging these batteries when we are out and about (as well as the ability to plug into power on shore). These are the engine, via an alternator, a generator and 8 solar panels on the roof.

We also carry around 1000 litres of water, which lasts us a couple of weeks. On leaving Henley we headed for Hurley lock which has a water station where we can fill up. We were down to our last hundred litres or so.

Anticus taking on water at Hurley Lock

Whilst at Hurley I spotted what must be one of the more unusual boats on the Thames.


The floating ice-cream van boat!

We had planned to press on to Cookham where we had arranged to meet our friends Paul and Marianne on ‘El Perro Negro’ a fellow Piper Barge. However on leaving Marlow lock we noticed that there was space on the lock moorings which is unusual, so we pulled up for the night.


View from the boat at Marlow Lock.

The following day, after less than an hour with the engine running we moored up at Cookham. We were joined, as planned, by ‘El Perro Negro’ and then a little later by Peter and Karen on ‘Joie de Vivre V’. We all gathered on our deck in the evening for lasagne, blackberry and apple crumble, and a fair bit of wine.


El Perro Negro, Anticus and Joie de Vivre at Cookham

The Upper Thames

We’ve had a busy couple of days as we cruised into what, for us, is uncharted waters – the upper Thames above Henley. To be fair, we were launched in Reading and then were piloted back to Henley by Vinnie and Josh from Piper’s (our boat builders). But that was 11 months ago, and we can’t seem to remember anything other than amazement that we actually had our boat under our feet!

Our generator has been playing up a bit but contacted Pipers on (bank holiday) Monday – great service from Josh, they have arranged for a Kohler (that’s the genny manufacturer) engineer to take a look. He’s based in Reading, which is quite handy as we will be passing  back through there at the end of next week. Hope it’s nothing too serious.

We’ve now done 93 locks since we had Anticus, one of which was Whitchurch. There was no lock-keeper on duty so I took a few photos of the procedure of operating the lock.


Anticus waiting in the “cut” on the lay-by approaching the lock gates.

Especially when there is no lock-keeper on duty we have to moor on the approach to the lock and, usually, Nicola wanders up to operate the lock sluices and gates.


The lock sluices are the red ‘h-shaped’ things on metal rods

The sluices need to be opened and closed at either end of the lock to allow water in or out to raise or lower the water level in the lock pound allowing boats to move up or down stream.


The lock operating panel

At each lock gate is an operating panel similar to the pic above. It is by pressing the buttons (in the right order!) that we operate the sluices and the gates. It’s pretty easy really, and after nearly 100 locks we are getting the hang of it!


And off we sail

The wild life, especially of the feathered variety is fabulous along the Thames, and travelling at just about walking pace allows us to take in the wonderful sights and sounds. If we are lucky, we get glimpses of things like this little fella.


A kingfisher perched alongside the boat.

We are aiming for Goring and then onto Wallingford in the next couple of days, so more to follow then, with pictures of Alfie our Border Terrorist Terrier because Nicola say’s Im ignoring him on here !!! 🙂


A look through the porthole

We thought it might be a good idea to show you around the inside of our barge. Not least because lots of you can’t seem to visualise how big Anticus is. Resulting in lots of questions such as, “how do you cook”, “is there a toilet”, “do you have a fridge”.

The interior living space is around 850 sq ft, (80 sq m), with an extra 40 sq ft of rear deck that the wheelhouse / dining / seating area opens out onto via bi-fold doors. This equates to a one bedroom flat in London.

I thought today I’d show you a couple of pictures we have hanging in the saloon (lounge), and the layout of this part of the boat.

Top left we have a view of the lounge from the stairway leading upstairs to the dining area. You can see a blue bed-settee, reclining chair, our dumb-waiter, Jeeves, the door to the en-suite master bedroom and Alfies dog bed (which he has never used!!) Just out of sight on the right is the TV and music system.

Moving on clockwise through the pics – a nice Tiffany style deco lamp we picked up on our travels, whiskey and port decanters (of course), portholes on the starboard (right) side with a painting by Jack Russell (which is shown in more detail on the left of the photos). More on that another time. The last two photos show a photo of me caddying for Seve Ballesteros at the Open Championship in 1998, a close up of Jeeves, and a long frame with pictures of random things which spell out “Anticus”.

And there you have the first of our views through the porthole.

Hopefully this will help to put your minds at rest that we are managing ok, not living the life of Rosie and Jim, and are quite comfortable 🙂

The boat, Alfie and us are looking forward to welcoming you on board.

And away we sail, into the wide blue yonder

Nicola retired on Monday after more than 30 years in the NHS. It was really the point that we were aiming towards when we hatched the idea to get a boat.

We had a few things to sort out, including me doing a days work for Middlesex Cricket – which I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, came as a shock. But eventually, not a moment too soon, we woke this morning, loaded our cars up and headed to the Marina to stock Anticus ready for 4 weeks on the Thames.

We have no real plan, in terms of where we will stop, but are aiming to get somewhere near Oxford, where hopefully my son, girlfriend and dog (Corbyn) will come and visit before we head back downstream.

And so it was, we turned out of the Marina, turned right and headed in a generally westward direction with 80 odd miles of the Thames stretching before us. Negotiating Shepperton lock got us back into the stride of throwing ropes and manoeuvring 30 tons of barge into a narrow lock. No problem, like riding a bike!

The next lock, Chertsey, woke us up though as there was no lock keeper on duty.


The approach to Chertsey Lock, upstream, showing blue board.

On our way towards the locks we look out for the Environment Agency notice board, see here to the right of the lock gates on the wall. If the middle of the board is blue it means the lock is on self service. Which basically means we have to press the lock operating buttons rather than the lock-keeper. There is also a safety system which means that the lock doesn’t fill or empty as quickly when on self service.

True to our plan, or rather – lack of plan, we had probably done enough cruising when we spotted a favourite mooring of ours at Runnymede. Perfect timing and a lovely spot.


Lovely spot at Runnymede. 

Who knows where we will be tomorrow?