Saturday, 21 January 2012

We have contact

Yesterday, I took Kay over to the boat to show her the progress that's been made and to check she's happy with the colour of the paint. Her response was positive on both counts.

While we were there, Mick and his son Peter were making final preparations to fire up the engine. Everything was connected, including the bank of 4 new batteries and sufficient diesel and coolant were in the tanks. After a couple of last minute checks for leaks, the key was turned to heat the glow plugs, we waited the required 10 seconds and it started like a dream. Obviously it sounded quite noisy as it was standing in an open engine bay at the end of a long metal tube but, once it's boxed in and the boat is sitting in the water, we'll hardly be able to hear it. All seemed to be going well. To make sure, we turn it off, checked it over and started it again. I would have been happy to do it a third and maybe a fourth time, but Mick and Peter appeared to have better things to do.

From a practical point of view, we will now be able to check for leaks over the next couple of months both to the engine and heating systems - this will help to avoid problems when we lay the flooring and after we are underway.

So, this was a key milestone and I was glad to be there to witness its first starting. Only another 10 weeks and we'll be starting her again - in the water - for real.

'All aboard the Skylark' - so where did this come from?

Noah and Nelly was created by Grange Calveley, and shown in 15 episodes on BBC1 in 1976. The five minute films depict a world loosely based around Noah's Ark. The story follows roughly the same pattern each episode. Captain Nutty Noah consults his map and randomly picks out a place to visit. After shouting, 'All aboard the SkylArk', Nutty Noah takes the helm. The SkylArk is then shown travelling to its destination by balloon, on wheels, underwater with snorkelling figureheads or occasionally even by sea. On arriving at their destination, the SkylArk's crew find various strange inhabitants such as talking television sets who are suffering some kind of problem they can't solve themselves (for example, the television sets are stuck showing the news over and over again and getting bored). The animals often help in some way, but the day is invariably saved by Noah's wife Nelly, who uses her knitting skills to create machines which solve the problem in some way. Nelly knits everything from drilling rigs to crash helmets; her supply of wool seems almost inexhaustible but she occasionally has to unravel the ship's sails when she runs out. If you don't believe me, look it up on Youtube. It's all true.

So, now you know.

Monday, 16 January 2012


Today, another 4 hours of painting the ceiling and walls - top coat this time, the silk buttermilk. I'm hoping that this will complete the tongue and groove painting apart from cleaning up a few runs.

Mick is nearing completion of the engine fit out. He has installed the central heating pipes and radiators, and fitted the Calorifier and Webasto water heater. They all just need plumbing in and, once the bank of batteries is in place, then the whole system will all be ready for testing. This will help test the whole system for water tightness - well before the floor goes in.

The Calorifier is the blue cylinder sitting next to the engine and, at 35 litres, is the largest size for a boat (I'm told). It is basically the same as a domestic immersion heater, transferring heat from the engine coolant to the hot water system. It includes a safety valve in case the temperature gets too high. Locating the Calorifier in this position keeps it out of the living areas where many other people put theirs - much better use of space I think. The diesel powered Webasto water heater is the small bit of kit to the top right corner. It's not cheap but, apparently, it's much quieter than the alternative Eberspacher and according to the instructions is much more efficient too.

The silver pipe (below) is the air intake, the upper black pipe is the cold water intake and the lower pipe is the hot water outlet. The small nozzle between the two is the diesel fuel inlet.

The cold water comes in a pipe from the water tank under the bows along the starboard side of the hull to the heater systems and then goes back along the same side to the sinks and shower. While this means there are up to 5 pipes running along the wall, it does mean they are easily lined up (and can be found in future) and will eventually be hidden behind a single box.

The next photo shows the pipework and three of the four radiators. The nearest one will be in the shower room, the next one in the dining room and the third one has been taken off its wall mounts (beyond) to enable me to paint the T&G wall.

Mick needed to use a little imagination to get the shower room radiator to fit. This required the pipes to take a slight bend but this will not be seen once the boxing is constructed.

Where the pipes go under the bed in the main bedroom, they will not be boxed in - making full use of the heat that they give off. To add to this, Mick has installed a fin-rad. Crafty or what?

While mentioning the water supply, it's worth adding that the water tank and the two other tanks (diesel and waste) are all fitted laterally across the boat. This means that however much liquid they contain, they will not adversely affect the trim of the boat. Obviously if they are all near empty, the boat will ride higher in the water but the boat will always remain on an even keel.

Another little bit of kit to go in the engine compartment is the stern tube greaser. You have to pump a little quantity of grease into the stern tube at the end of each day's cruising to keep it lubricated - only enough turns of the screw to make sure its full (usually half a turn or so). If you give it too many turns it just wastes the grease. If, in time, the stern tube starts to loose its grease, the 2 bolts holding the contraption together can be given a tightening.

We are also having a multi-fuel stove in the cabin located on the port side next to the cooker and oven. This position places it nearer the centre of the boat to more evenly distribute its heat than if it were located at the front of the cabin. The TV aerial cable is being fitted opposite, near the breakfast bar. It seems logical to me that the stove and TV point should be on opposite sides but at the same location so that people siting in the two easy chairs can face them at same time rather than one person being disadvantaged in any way. More on this once its fitted.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Today involved 2 trips to B&Q in Ipswich, once in the morning by bike (I'm training for a long distance cycle tour in the spring) and a second trip in the afternoon with Kay (for a second opinion).

I discovered, hidden away in a dark corner under a shelf, some very expensive looking hard wood laminate floors, an 'end of the line' laminate called BevelLoc Antique Oak Effect Plank Flooring at a hugely discounted price. It seemed to fit the bill. It was in character with the boating image (fairly rough), not too dark, warm enough to touch, thick enough not to buckle, good vfm and with an ingenious locking mechanism that does not need glue or nails. The fact that it was not totally waterproof, just splashproof, did not worry me too much (but I did take it into account).

Being new to laminate flooring, I understand the tight interlocking mechanism is a fairly common approach nowadays. This is a great improvement on the systems I have used in the past but then I am easily impressed. It should make the job of fitting the boards easy and quick and give the right final effect. The fact that they 'float' on the floor and tend to shrink and expand a little bit means that a gap of some 10-15mm must be left around the edges. This is good because I also understand the hull is likely to move by a similar amount as it gets hot or cold. As I don't know the exact physical properties of either material, I'm just hoping that this will work out in practice.

I also bought the highly recommended 3mm underlay designed specially for laminate floors (almost the same price as the laminate flooring) and will finish the job with a simple skirting board to hide the expansion gap. This will be fixed to the bottom of the wall so it will allow for the required movement.

As far as timing is concerned, this job will best wait until all the walls, bathroom, bedroom and the kitchen fittings are in place as the floor must not have these types of things fixed to the surface otherwise the 'floating' bit won't work. I'll post some photos once a few boards have been laid.

By the way, B&Q do a useful range of 'how to do it' video clips on Youtube so worth looking at.

I also picked up an extra soft paint brush to apply the final stroke for the top coat. The plan is to rub the last coat down with a fine sand paper, apply the top coat with my usual 4 inch brush and then gently stroke the paint backwards with the soft dry brush from the wet leading edge. This should remove any heavy brush strokes and should leave a smooth finish. Thursday looks like the best day to continue this. Further report to follow...

By the way, I'm sorry there are no photos on this post but once you've seen one B&Q, you've seen them all.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Even more painting

Another 6 hours of painting - first finishing the undercoat at the back end of the ceiling and then applying the first top coat. Following our decision to go with a pale green/yellow scheme, we have gone with a silk buttermilk for the ceiling and walls upto to gunwales. It looks good so far. The panels for the rest of the walls are likely to be a very light green with darker green frames but a final decision on this will be taken once the panels are in place.

The exterior will be dark green with yellow coach lines and a red oxide gloss for the roof and decks areas. The hull will be black with traditional red, yellow and white angular designs on the bow and stern. The name 'Skylark' will be painted in a semicircle above the small porthole at the stern.

Mick spent most of the day working on the engine (50hp Beta Kubota). He connected the fuel pipes and stern tube greasing system, and made a start on fitting the exhaust system. Once the batteries are fitted along with other final bits and pieces, we hope to run the engine up later in the week.

Home by 5.00. I wonder if Constable felt this tired after 6 hours of painting the Haywain!

Tomorrow, another trip to B&Q - to buy 26 square meters of laminate flooring (it doesn't get any better than this).

Friday, 6 January 2012

More painting

Another early trip to B&Q to pick up more undercoat.

I then spent about two and a half hours completing the ceiling and giving the port side tongue and groove panels a second coat. While I was doing this, Mick completed the wiring that goes behind the panels.

Then, much to my surprise, Graham Reeves turned up with a missing part so I chatted to him for a while and asked him to pose for a photo next to Skylark and Mick - something he is asked to do with every boat he makes I guess. He's the one holding the official looking folder with loads of signed cheques - no wonder he's smiling. Mick is the one looking at the old dog trying to get its head into the photo. They could be brothers.

A few snaps of the wiring follows, just to prove its there. Each wire has been labeled so that Mick, I and anyone who follows is able to identify which wire serves what piece of equipment. Without this simple approach, I think it would cause even the most expert Sparky to pull his hair out. By the way, some nice close ups of the insulation, eh? Bugs in rugs spring to mind.

The photo below shows the stage we reached today with most of the T&G in place, waiting for the ply panels to be glued and nailed to the remaining battons. The port side (to the right of this photo) will take the corridor running pretty much the whole lenghth of the boat and the darker panels on the starboard side are where the kitchen, dining room, bathroom and main bedroom will be. Once the rooms are laid out, the walls will be panelled.

The side hatch (on the left) will be just inside the cabin with a breakfast bar under it extended from the sink, drainer and worktops. The plan is to have this projecting from the worktops without a corner post or cupboards underneath so that a couple of bar stools can be slid underneath when they are not needed. It should be good to have this fairly informal seating area in the cabin directly next to the hatch, which can be left open or closed depending on the weather. The more formal dining area is between the kitchen and bathroom. The plan here is to use this space flexibly for eating, drinking, study, play and even sleeping if guests want to stay. By not having a fixed dinnette, we aim to create a more flexible space but if a future owner feels the need to have a dinette that converts into a bedroom, that option will still be avaiable to them.

The dark green exterior paint has arrived along with the yellow for the coach lines. We now have to decide on the colour for the name panel at the back (dark red I think) and the roof (maybe grey or red oxide).

The April launch date is looking like a real possibility.

More painting next week once I get the feeling back in my arms.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


4 January 2012. After a short visit to B&Q in Bury St Edmunds, to buy a pot of white undercoat, I arrived at Mick and Gena's at 9.30am. Over coffee, I showed them the revised contract and they agreed with the changes I had made. Mick and I signed and dated it. I then signed over a cheque for the opening deposit in accordance with the contract. From that point, the boat became mine. Our relationship changed from prospective purchaser and vendor to new owner and boat builder. The challenge is now to complete Skylark for the given price and within the timescale. Our continuing discussions suggested everything is on course for completion on 9 April 2012.

Once that was all sorted, Mick and I went out to Skylark. Mick showed me everything he had done to build the wiring loom. 12v and 240v wires were neatly strung along the starboard gunwales with branches to where the light fittings, switches and sockets will go. We agreed that we would leave the final decision on kitchen layout until the last possible moment so two sets of wires to the cooker and firdge were provided; one on each side. He then went on to complete the wiring for the two navigation lights, horn and spot light. The work Mick is doing is highly skilled but not complicated once its been explained so I have been able to follow what he's doing. I am pleased to see his work is top notch and will form the basis of a very sound and attractive boat.

I spent the rest of the day painting the tongue and groove ceiling and walls. They already had a thin coat of primer but I added a further coat of primer and undercoat, completing just over 3/4 by 3.30pm. This needs completing and probably a further coat to prepare it for the topcoat so I will return later in the week.

I got home by about 4.30pm and climbed into a hot shower; arms, shoulders, back and legs aching from a hard day of decorating. Well, I'm not used to all this manual work!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Why Skylark?

Having given Skylark the 'once over', we retired to the warmth of Gena's kitchen for a hot cup of coffee. Both Mick and Gena were happy with the redrafted contract and I agreed to make a few minor corrections and bring it up next time for signing along with the first stage payment for nearly half the purchase price. We aimed to return during the first week of January 2012 and combine this with a visit to Ely Chandlers to pick up some spare parts for our Morso Multi-fuel stove.

During our chat, Mick told us he is already planning his next boat, the hull of which should arrive by lorry on 9 April. His plan is to drop off the new 60' hull and then take Skylark up to Earith with me for launching. This will make full use of the transporter. It’s good to have a proposed date to aim for but I will not be surprised if it will change nearer the time. This date is both dependant on Graham Reeves completing and delivering the new hull on time and Mick finishing Skylark but I am given some confidence by virtue of the fact that Mick wants to get on with the next boat.

So why have we decided to call the boat ‘Skylark’. The skylark is a small brown bird, quite unassuming, a bit like a sparrow, that frequents all of the UK, especially the dense grasslands of East Anglia and, up until intensive farming came along, the stubble fields as well.

   Skylark in song-flight

During the breeding season it rises high in the air and flutters for hours singing a high pitched complicated tune to attract its mate. It builds its nest firmly on the ground which it hides from predators by camouflaging it in the grass. When it lands, it deceives predators by landing many yards away and running through the grass to the nest. Crafty or what? I felt this summed up what we are trying to achieve – somewhere secluded, where we can relax away from it all. It also ties in with the fact that the boat is being built in the watershed of the River Lark so, you can see, there is some logic to the name – oh, and I will be able to say, ‘All aboard the Skylark’ whenever we take on guests. If you are younger than 40 years old, you will have no idea what this relates to. But here's a clue...'ll fing the explanation elsewhere on my Blog.


A short visit on 11 December found Mick, Gena and Skylark in some more cold, winter sun. Mick had sealed the floor top and bottom, ribbed out the entire hull and spray foamed the interior.

We chatted about the project over a coffee. We confirmed our preferred choice of colour for the white goods – we chose…white! We agreed a TV aerial cable would also be fitted. And we then got onto the subject of the contract. The price was still the same as previously agreed and various stage payments were set out. The principle will be that on payment of the first installment, the boat will be mine. This avoided doubt although the contract was one of the simplest documents I had ever seen. No solicitor would ever agree to it but then no solicitor would be allowed any where near this contract. Further thought about the ‘contract’ convinced me that I whould redraft it to clarify who will do what, when, how, etc etc. This I did, with Kay’s help. All the main points were included – what is to be done by who, when it will be done, how much it will cost, when the payments will be made and what we will do if something should go wrong. Our next trip is scheduled for after Christmas so we will present our thoughts to them then. We were told my Gena that the engine had been installed before Christmas so that was good news.

In the meantime, I sent the 2012 annual fee to James at Lazy Otter Marina. We mentioned Skylark was not ready yet but due to arrive in April. James was not bothered – well, he had is money now so an empty berth was not a problem to him.

We took a trip up to see Skylark on 29 December. The engine was in place and everything seemed to be progressing well.

Making a start

Two months after the hull arrived on 19 November 2011, a call to Mick revealed some movement. Until then, occasional telephone calls had shown zero progress as Mick completed another boat, Little Owl, and carried out work to his new workshop. We knew his plan was always to complete Little Owl first, which had taken much longer than he had anticipated, and to redevelop his workshop. While I knew all this, I hadn’t quite realised it was going to take 2 months to get to this stage. By the way, I have read that boat building is always hampered with delays. Apparently the only boat that was competed on time, according to a reliable source, was the Ark, mainly because they had an urgent deadline. No such deadlines exist in the real world!

So, the message from Mick was that Skylark was being moved near the new workshop on Monday, 21 November. The first tasks would be to paint the inside of the hull with bitumen and lay the ballast bricks at the same time to ensure they bed in well. This helps to stop them moving or even vibrating, and of course the bitumen is essential for rust proofing. The floor boards will be laid at the same time along with the engine.

Mick asked if we had decided on a main colour for the exterior because he wanted to undercoat the hull before putting in the portholes. He would then be ready to spray the insulation – much easier with the windows in.

We went over on 26 November to find Skylark just outside the new workshop. We had a quick walk around the grey hull, looking into the open doors at the ends and where the kitchen will be. We could see the floor boards and that was about it. After a few minutes Mick turned up – he’d been in the shed and hadn’t heard us. We chatted for about half an hour, walking around the boat and climbing up the ladder to go inside. It all looked good. About 2 tonnes of very hard red bricks had been carefully laid in the bottom of the hull for ballast and good quality shuttering ply screwed to the bottom to form the floor. The glue used in the ply was of marine quality to avoid the wood falling apart if it ever gets wet. Nothing else was under the floor apart from 2 bilge pumps to cope with any water ingress, which should be nil. All pipe work would be above this layer to enable maintenance to be undertaken if needed.

We confirmed our external colour choice as being dark green – the only name we could think of was ‘British Racing Green’, with probably light cream coach stripes and the occasional red highlight. Mick was pleased with this choice, thinking, like us, that it would be look traditional. We also confirmed our choice of name (Skylark) and that we wanted ‘No 1’ painted alongside the name to denote the boat is privately owned and is not a hire boat.

His next job was to order the engine – a 50 hp Kubota with the two alternators. The whole cabin would then be battoned and the insulation sprayed.

So why is such a large engine needed when most narrowboats make do with something smaller, say 30hp? Mick has had quite a bit of experience of building boats and has lived on a couple in the past. He believes it is better to have a larger engine to cope better with the strains put upon it. A smaller engine can struggle especially when they are taken into the freer flowing rivers say nearer Kings Lynn. There are stories of smaller engined boats having to wait for tides to change before they go up stream. The speed limits applying to the rivers of East Anglia are also higher than the canals (7mph instead of 4mph). Because they are wider and deeper there is less damage caused to the banks from wash. This can also make a great deal of difference to travel times. All of this would put a great strain on a smaller engine so a larger engine it is. This will also help when the boat has to be sold.

A mooring

We needed to find ourselves a mooring we would be happy to hitch up to in terms of location, security, facilities and costs but it also had to coincide with the completion of the boat - no point having a boat if you don't have somewhere to moor it. I mentioned earlier that we decided to search in the East Anglian Fens as they are the nearest waterways to our home, are relatively flat (which means there are few locks), they are cleaner than the canals (being main rivers), they connect with the sea at Kings Lynn, are tidal for part of their northern section, and are relatively little used again compared with the main canal system. I was also taken with the possibility of accessing many of the key East Anglian towns such as Cambridge, Ely, Kings Lynn, Bedford, Peterborough and Huntingdon. A short trip to Northampton would also connect to the Grand Union Canal at Napton Junction and then on to the entire canal system.

A few emails to Marinas found on the Internet drew a blank. The Marina at Isleham looked a good possibility as it was fairly close to Mick and Gena’s but a site visit found it not to our taste and was at the end of an arm meaning any trip would have to navigate the same bit of river every time.

An email to the owners of the Lazy Otter Marina near Stretham (about 4 miles south of Ely and 8 miles north of Cambridge) looked a better option and, following a site visit, proved to be the best, by far. Set on the Old West River about 3 miles west of its junction with the Rivers Great Ouse and Cam, and next to a popular boating pub, it was ideal. Its central location in the Fens was also a plus factor.

We arranged a meeting with the owners one Saturday morning, agreed terms and conditions and put down a small deposit for them to hold the mooring until 1 January 2012. This may have been a quick decision but we had learnt that it pays to move quickly and, in this case, everything felt right so. While there was no great commitment on either side, it did leave us in a positive position with a very satisfactory mooring ready to take Skylark to when she was complete.

The Skylark has landed

Skylark's hull arrived on 16 September 2011 at Mick and Gena’s workshop at West Row. After months of planning, this event confirmed it was all going ahead. Up until then, it was just a plan - thoughts, discussions, notes, emails, drawings and so on. We arrived dead on time to find that the low-loader had arrived about 15 minutes early and was already unloading Skylark. What a sight. About 4 tonnes of narrow boat hanging in mid air above the trailer.

Skylark was lifted slowly off the lorry with Mick guiding with a rope. Their son Peter was driving the crane - he'll be involved in the build too. The internal and external metalwork has been primed but this will not keep the rust away so plans are already underway to paint her.


At least we weren’t starting from scratch. Having taken a few holidays in hired narrowboats and carried out a great deal of research on the internet, from books and visits to boat shows, I was very clear what we want from a narrowboat in terms of layout, fixtures, fittings, engine, etc.

I was also very clear that we would not be able to fit everything into a hull shorter than 60 feet so my planning was based on this length. Any longer and we would have difficulties negotiating some locks and mooring fees would be higher, any shorter and it would be too tight a squeeze to fit everything in that’s needed for long term cruising. I was also conscious of the need to sell the boat at some point in the future and I know 60’ boats are more in demand than others because they give greater flexibility.

That decided, I started to consider the detailed design. I kept to 3 basic principles - simplicity, quality and a traditional feel. On the last point, I didn’t want a perfect reproduction but a modern boat built to look and more importantly ‘feel’ traditional.

So, I took these principles and transferred them onto a free internet software package, opting for what’s called a 'cottage' layout with a long cabin at the front, followed by fitted galley, dining area/spare room/study, bathroom with pump-out toilet, double bedroom with a decent sized wardrobe and dressing table, utility room with washing machine and dryer and an engine room with a short traditional stern. All the rooms are accessed by a side corridor to maximise the space. Only the bedroom and bathroom have doors which will give the boat a light open feel. 
I know many boats have fitted beds, settees, and chairs, folding tables, bunk-beds, etc, to make full use of the spaces underneath for storage but I prefer free-standing furniture. We have lots of suitable furniture at home - smallish chairs and tables, cupboards and the like - these will be tried and tested for life afloat. If they work, fine. If they don't, they'll be changed. This will make the boat feel much more like a floating home rather than a half-submerged caravan or flooded railway carriage. I also think this will give future owners more flexibility to adapt the boat to their own uses and tastes.

Skylark will be fitted with portholes throughout, again because this has a traditional look. Some people might say, 'That will make it dark inside.' but, when I have seen portholes on other boats, it doesn’t cause a problem especially if the interior painting is light. I think portholes provide a perfect amount of soft natural light, they are secure (being smaller) and look more traditional than rectangular windows.

I have also opted for a complete timber fit out with vertical tongue and groove boards from the floor to the gunwales (previous boats by Mike and Gena had carpet up to the gunwales). I also wanted longitudinal t&g on the ceilings from front to back. The walls will be panels of ply giving a deliberate but complimentary change of surface; one that can be painted and/or papered. This will give the whole boat a sense of cohesiveness and character. To continue the traditional feel, most of the wood will be painted - exact colour combinations and finishes tbc but are likely to be 2 or 3 shades of cream and green. The bathroom and kitchen will have plain tiles and waterproof splash-backs and may have different main colours, eg blue or yellow. Dark wall to wall carpeting is planned at this stage with maybe a harder finish in the kitchen, utility and engine rooms but this might change as the design evolves. I aim to do all the internal painting to help keep the initial capital cost down.

A lucky find

My local knowledge of Suffolk and a brief scan of the internet, identified Ely as being the first place to start looking for a boat and mooring. Ely is a beautiful place situated in the Fens of East Anglia. Steeped in history and tradition, the town lies on the banks of the River Great Ouse (what a name!) and, being only a 40 minute drive from home and in the centre of the Fens, made it a prime location.

A day out to look at a narrowboat being advertised at the Ely Marina was planned but as we walked along the waters edge, we came across a brightly painted, boat called Midnight with a hand written sign in its window saying, 'For Sale'.

We tapped on the door, and out popped a head - it turned out to be the boat’s builder Mick Sparrow, followed closely behind by Gena, his wife. We were invited in and shown around their newly completed boat. After a coffee and a chat, and lots of questions and answers we left to think if this could be the boat we were looking for. It seemed all a bit odd, finding a boat so soon - the first we looked at. The price was good. It had everything we wanted. It was new, built to a high standard and would not have any of the problems associated with an old boat. Mick and Gena appeared very open, honest and trustworthy so we started to think about this option as a real possibility. We continued to run these questions through our heads as we walked back to the boat with the intention of speaking to Mick and Gena again. When we got back to waters edge, we found another couple in conversation with M&G. We sat down and waited politely for them to go. When they finally went, we sat down inside the boat and started to express our interest in terms of a hard cash offer to be told that the other couple had just done the same and their offer had been accepted.

While this was bit of a blow, we had not had time to get this particular boat too far into our thoughts so our disappointment was minimal. It was more of surprise really that something as expensive as a boat could be sold from the quayside in such quick-time. However, Mick and Gena were sorry that were disappointed and wanted to help so offered to build us another boat, to our specification for much the same price. It all sounds a bit surreal but that's how it all began.

In the beginning

This is my Blog covering the construction of our narrowboat Skylark. As I have started the Blog a couple of months into the project, the first few pages will be playing 'catch up'. It will outline my thinking behind her design, construction and fitting out, and the first practical steps to making Skylark a reality. 

If I manage to keep it going (the Blog that is) and assuming it turns out to be worthwhile, I may extend it to include accounts of our trips around the Fens of East Anglia and beyond. What else am I going to do, now that I'm retired?

I also think the Blog may turn out to be one of the only ways to stay in touch with family and friends, and so they can find out if we're still alive. I understand there are occasional public phones in the Fenland villages and towns, I'm told that some Post Offices are still dotted around and our mobile phone may work once we surface out of the low lying rivers and dykes, but you can't beat the good old Internet for staying in touch with the rest of the world. Of course, it has the added benefit that we (and they) can always turn us off.

So, please read on ... and, if you would like to make any useful, constructive and/or funny comments, I would love to hear from you.

I thank you (and apologise for any spelling mistakes) in advance.