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FREE NARROWBOATING EXPERIENCE on the canals and waterways of England, in exchange for your help with navigating and steering my narrowboat, working the locks and lift bridges, and a little boat maintenance and decoration!
My boat is "Hetty" - a 13 year old, traditional steel-hulled canal narrowboat - 70 feet long (21.3 m) and just 6ft 10ins (2.1 m) wide. She is fully fitted with modern equipment, yet furnished in a traditional narrowboat style with:
- Traditionally decorated boatman's cabin that sleeps 2 guests on a fold-out double bed.
- Double master bedroom (where I usually sleep).
- Dinette in the saloon that converts into a third double bedroom.
- Bathroom with large shower, chemical toilet and hot water.
- Multi-fuel stoves + central heating for cold weather.
- Full kitchen with fridge and gas cooker.
- Dinette dining / seating for 6 in comfort.
- Office with WiFi (printer on request).
- 12 volt and 240 volt electrics (no problem charging your phones, laptops and cameras, but no hair driers please!).
- Vintage diesel engine with traditional controls and brass bits to polish(!).
I am Colin - a native Brit in my early 60's. Late 2018 I returned to England after 25 years living and working in Romania, where I ran a small tour/travel operation for 21 years. Before that I worked with disabled children - in the UK and Romania. I am also a photographer, environmentalist, wildlife specialist, and am writing a book about my life in Romania.
Hetty is my second home and I am cruising her around England from her base at Napton near Rugby when time and Covid permits! Single-handed cruising is difficult for me (although possible), so I am looking for helpers to help me navigate, steer (drive) the boat, and work the locks and lift bridges. I also need occasional help with maintenance and painting of furniture, fittings and boat equipment. After that we will be out cruising and exploring, with just the usual cooking, cleaning and basic boat maintenance to be done.
You will get a free holiday and tour of the English canals and waterways, in exchange for helping navigate and steer. It's quite active, but not all hard work - some of the time you will be steering the boat while I work the locks and bridges. We will also be visiting local places on route and there will be time to watch nature, relax, chat, read, work on your English if you are not a native speaker (I also teach Romanian!), and maybe play some board games.
The ONLY costs to you will be your transport to and from the start/finish points of your visit (if we start at the marina I can collect you from local train/bus stations by car), and sharing the cost of food. I ask helpers to share the cost of food because I am offering more of a free canal boating experience than merely a demanding work placement. Usually we will buy food from local farms and shops and cook on board, at other times we may eat out at canal-side pubs (if they are Covid-safe).
Hetty is a non-smoking boat, but if you smoke you can do so outside. We are anti-racist, non-sexist and not religious but respect other peoples' religious views. I eat mostly vegetarian food but am happy for you to cook meat if you wish! I have worked with children for many years and happily accept people with children over the age of 6. Sorry, no dogs or pets though!
Discover the peace and tranquillity of rural England, travelling at a snail's pace along the delightful navigable canals with my narrowboat "Hetty" and myself! Please get in touch! :)
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
Creating/ Cooking family meals
Help around the house
Although originally British, I lived and worked 25 years in Romania and have hosted volunteers there for 9 years. Canal boating with me will show you rural England at its best - mostly nature, wildlife, peace and tranquillity, but also the fascinating industrial archaeology of Birmingham and the Black Country if you wish!
I am committed to volunteering, travel, and inter-cultural exchange. I do my own volunteering on the canals as a Volunteer Lock Keeper and with the Heritage Working Boats Group. I also teach English for 2 weeks every year in Romania. Helping me with Hetty, you will learn about the canals and waterways of England, which have traditions and a culture all of their own, and about the nature and wildlife around us. I can also tell you a lot about Romania (and teach you Romanian!) if you are interested?
Single-handing a 21 metre (70 ft) narrowboat around the canals and waterways of England is difficult without help! The help I need from travellers and visitors is just that - helping steer and drive the boat, work the locks and operate the lift/swing bridges. This is active, interesting and fun. You don't need any specific skills, but you do need to be reasonably fit and cheerful. Canal boating is as different to ocean sailing as chalk and cheese, so no boating experience is required. There is also no licence required to drive a boat on the English canals and inland waterways - anyone can do it and I will provide all the training you need!
I will also need assistance with cooking for us all, plus occasional boat maintenance, cleaning, and arranging boat furniture.
Work hours are not specific as I am asking for volunteer crew to help with all aspects of boat navigation, lock operation, cooking, etc., in return for a free canal boating, working holiday. Lock working can be energetic but you will also have loads of time to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the canals and English countryside.
This host offers a language exchange
- I love languages and am always happy to learn a few words of your language! - English is my native language and I teach English as a volunteer to colleagues in Romania every summer. - After 25 years living in Romania I also speak fluent Romanian and can teach basic Romanian to anyone interested to learn. - Many years ago I was an authorised teacher of Makaton sign language for children with learning disabilities.
In addition to myself (63) in my own cabin in the centre of the boat, Hetty can accommodate up to 4 helpers (2 singles, 2 couples, or a family) in 2 additional cabins. Narrowboats are narrow (hence the name!) and would never be considered spacious, buit Hetty is 70 feet (21.3 metres) long and is about as big as narrowboats get!
The traditional boatman's cabin at the stern of the boat is a fun space with traditional cupboards, a folding table, a fold-down double bed, and a small multi-fuel stove for cooler evenings. The main saloon at the front has a double dinette that sleeps 2 in comfort and during the day converts into a relaxation / dining area for the whole crew. I can supply bedding and sleeping bags but if you prefer to use your own that's okay too!
The bathroom (chemical toilet, shower, hot and cold water) is shared by the whole crew and is between the master bedroom (mine) and boatman's cabin. The kitchen and living areas are shared by all.
Hetty's kitchen is fully equipped with fridge, sink and gas cooker. Usually we will cook and eat together on the boat. However one of the attractions of the English canals is that there are still many delightful canal-side pubs. We may occasionally choose to eat at some of these (if they are Covid-safe) in which case I will ask you to pay for your own drinks and food. We will only do this if your budget allows - I do understand about travel on a budget!
One of the main points about living on a canal boat is that we take our home with us! Canal boats travel at walking pace - only 3 to 4 mph (4 to 5 km/h), so you get to see and discover much more of the nature, wildlife and rural culture of the canals and places we pass through than you would if driving or using public transport.
Every day we will stop at the villages and small towns to explore, and we may have to walk a short distance to them from the canal. Working Hetty through the locks requires some walking, especially when there are 3 of us it is greatly helpful if one person walks ahead to prepare the next lock. We will also help other boaters through the locks.
Running the boat and working her through the locks and bridges doesn't seem like "work" - it's much more a way of life - somewhat like driving a bus but gentler and much more fun! We probably won't be travelling for more than 5 to 7 hours per day, sometimes less, and I don't expect you to be working all of that, so you will have loads of time to explore and relax. As a host for 10+ years I am aware that helpers often also need time alone (as I do) and this will be built in to what we do and where we go. There is no fixed itinerary or route plan to keep to - we just travel and visit as we please. But if there are particular places you want to visit - like Stratford-upon-Avon for example - we can build that in!
I am a non-smoker. You can smoke if you wish, but only outside away from the boat. Strictly no drugs, and sorry but no dogs or pets either.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
My boat is connected to the internet using a mobile WiFi device. The signal is usually good but depends on the location we find to moor overnight while out cruising. The device has unlimited data usage, however the transfer speed is not always good enough for Skype or Zoom meetings with video. For e-mail, web surfing, Messenger, social media, and voice-only online meetings / conferencing the data speed is usually more than adequate.
I can provide free parking for small to medium campervans at my rental cottage. The marina where my boat is moored also provides parking but they may make a charge for larger vans.
More than two
25 hours maximum per week, 5 days a week. This is the minimum expected, however when we are out cruising the canals we all help every day with boat navigation.
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