Crossing the Channel

The Goal:  A pier marks the harbor at Calais France.

The Goal: A pier marks the harbor at Calais France.

On the scale of things, a two-week wait for a weather window to cross the English Channel is not much. We’ve heard stories of barges waiting two months for a suitable crossing weather. Even better, we were waiting at St. Katherines Dock, a particularly posh marina. Many barges are forced by the circumstances to stay in far less desirable locations. For us, having to stay longer at St. Kats was hardly a hardship. Continue reading

The Channel Crossing: Prepping the Barge

The waves of the English Channel can disrupt life inside flat bottomed barge like Wanderlust.

The waves of the English Channel can disrupt life inside flat bottomed barge like Wanderlust.

In the interest of helping others who will do the Channel crossing at some point in the future, I thought I share what we did to secure the loose stuff before things got bumpy. Though everything on Wanderlust held together and we didn’t have any breakage in relatively rough conditions, I would not advertise our preparations as necessarily reliable approach for others. Undoubtedly some of what we did was more than was needed. Also we could well have just gotten lucky that stuff that could have been damaged wasn’t. Everybody’s barge is different so, as they say, “Your mileage may vary”. Continue reading

The Crossing: The Weather and the Wait

A pretty sky doesn't mean that it is a good day to cross the Channel.

A pretty sky doesn’t mean that it is a good day to cross the Channel.

Numerous things must be done in order to take a barge such as Wanderlust across the English Channel. As a requirement of the insurance, a qualified skipper must be in charge. We needed to find and hire a delivery skipper for Wanderlust. Closer to the crossing date, Wanderlust had to be positioned on or near to the Thames Estuary. A few days before crossing, the insurance company has to be notified of the plans and funds must be transferred to cover the costs of the Channel crossing policy rider. And, just before crossing, all loose items on the inside and out must be secured to withstand the waves of the Channel. Continue reading

The Crossing: One If By Land, Two If By Sea

A mobile crane arrives at Piper Boat's plant in Biddulph.

A mobile crane arrives at Piper Boat’s plant in Biddulph.

Wanderlust was constructed to gives us a craft suitable for live aboard cruising on the inland waterways on the European continent. Instead of building new, we could have purchased an existing barge. As things worked out, we felt that our best option was to go the new build route. And once we decided to build new, we, for various reasons, figured that our best option was to have Piper Boats construct the barge. Choosing Piper Boats meant that our barge would be constructed in Biddulph, a short distance north of Stoke-on-Trent in the British Midlands. Continue reading

The Thames: St. Katherines Dock

Wanderlust moored next to Starbucks at St. Katherines Dock

Wanderlust moored next to Starbucks at St. Katherines Dock

A flat-bottomed barge such as Wanderlust needs to find favorable conditions to cross the English Channel. Some barges cross at the first opportunity; others must wait until the winds and waves calm so that they can make the crossing. Wanderlust’s Channel crossing plans fit into the later category. As the date of our planned crossing approached, the winds increased and the waves built. According to the forecasts, the weather would not improve for days. For the time being, we would be stuck on the English side of the Channel. But at least we were in London, assuming we could find a place to tie our barge up. Continue reading

The Thames: Hermitage Community Moorings

Wanderlust amongst the old boats at Hermitage Community Moorings

Bright and shiny Wanderlust amongst the old boats at Hermitage Community Moorings

It is difficult to find a short term mooring in London for a barge the size of Wanderlust. Most of London’s temporary moorings are geared either to smaller boats or larger full-time residential boats. We were caught in the middle with few reasonable options. Our search ultimately led us to Hermitage Community Moorings, located on the Thames just downstream of the Tower Bridge.

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The Thames: Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station

An iconic part of the Thames scene is the Battersea Power Station. This Art Deco-style structure dates from the 1930’s. It is the largest brick building in Europe. With its expansive cathedral-style design and 338 ft high smokestacks, Battersea Station commands the view from the Thames. Continue reading

The Thames: “L” plate

Wanderlust passes under a bridge on River Thames

Wanderlust passes under a bridge on River Thames

If you’re driving around Britain it is hard not to notice the numerous vehicles displaying a white plate with a large red “L” emblazoned in the middle. Displayed on a car, the “L-plate” signifies that the driver is a learner under instruction. On a motorcycle, the plate indicates that the rider has provisional entitlement to ride restricted motorcycles. A similar system is in place in France. In France, instead of an “L” for learner there is an “A” for apprenti. Either way, if there’s an “L” or an “A” on outside of the vehicle, you never quite know what you are going to get from the driver. Continue reading

Thames: Bird Life

Bald is beautiful: A young coot on the water.

Bald is beautiful: A young coot on the water.

Living on the water, we share our backyard with all sorts of birds. Some birds, the geese, the ducks, and the swans, are aggressive panhandlers who look food from every occupied boat. Other birds are shyer. Coots share the water and more or less keep to themselves. We’ve also come across a number of birds that are just a little stiff. Continue reading

The Thames: Escaping to London

Nothing like taking your home under London's Tower Bridge

Nothing like taking your home under London’s Tower Bridge

After a long stay on the upper section of England’s River Thames, we at last headed downstream. When we pulled in our ropes at Thames & Kennet Marina it marked the beginning of our passage to France and the next phase of our life aboard Wanderlust. Continue reading