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Leaving the UK: Southam to the White Cliffs of Dover

That’s it then. I’ve gone and sold my boat.

I moved on board on Friday 2nd April 2010. I spent my last night on board on Saturday 8th October 2016. For 2,383 days I’ve lived aboard a 62’ long, 6’10” wide narrowboat on the English inland waterways.

I had to adapt from living in a fairly large detached family home to a boat with just three hundred square feet of living space. Now I have to adapt again, this time to less than two hundred feet. I won’t be on my own either. I’ll share this tiny space with Cynthia and bassets Tasha and Florence. Fortunately Cynthia has had fatty Florence on a diet since she collected her just over two months ago. She’s not exactly skinny now, but there’s much less of her than to 105lb tub of lard Cynthia picked up from the kennels where she (Florence not Cynthia) had been used for breeding for the first four years of her life.

I expected Sunday to be a tearful day. When I moved on board both the boat and I were in a pretty sorry state. Since then, we’ve recovered together. James No 194 is now a pretty smart looking and superbly equipped live aboard narrowboat. I’m neither smart looking nor well equipped, but I’m in a much better place financially and emotionally than I was six and a half years ago.

I spent half a day with Deanna and Rob please-take-the-helm-from-me-because-I’m-scared-shitless Sharratt. We dropped down the three locks in the Calcutt flight, negotiated a narrow marina entrance made even more interesting by two boats waiting to ascend the flight, then pulled onto a vacant mooring close to our Hymer so that I could explain the boat’s workings to Rob and Deanna and remove the last of my belongings.

I’ve had two months to transfer over half a decade of accumulated possessions from boat to bus. I started slowly and methodically, carefully considering and packing each item or, as often was the case, donating what we couldn’t accommodate or didn’t need to a worthy cause, and then carrying it to the Hymer for storage in an equally carefully thought out spot. In the last week, all of that careful planning has gone out the window as the few remaining days passed at an alarming rate. On Sunday, when I finally became boatless mid afternoon, the Hymer looked like a bomb had exploded in it.

After an afternoon cramming stuff in already full cupboards, and wondering how on Earth we were going to fit Cynthia’s five suitcases into the already overflowing motorhome when I was due to collect her from her rented Rottevalle home on Wednesday, I relaxed for the evening over a meal in the King’s Head with Rob and Deanna.

Monday was last minute job day; changing all my English notes for Euros, last minute food shopping, donating some old cameras and lenses to the Southam College’s photography department, picking up a new pair of glasses to replace the ones I dropped in the cut last week and, last but not least, dealing with my repulsive thumb.

My thumb on Sunday evening. By Monday it was twice the size

My thumb on Sunday evening. By Monday it was twice the size

A few days earlier I suspected I had an ingrowing thumbnail. It swelled a little on Saturday, a little more on Sunday, and grew to the point where I thought it would explode on Monday. I popped into the local pharmacy for a remedy. They took one look at it insisted I visit my GP.

On a day already full of tasks and hour an a half wait to be seen was a little frustrating. I was a little apprehensive about my visit. Lancing the swelling didn’t bother me at all, but all I could think about was the cartoon below.

My thumb on Sunday evening. By Monday it was twice the size

I was sure the GP wouldn’t make a comic but painful mistake, but I wasn’t taking any chances

With both hands firmly clutched around my belt buckle, I stepped nervously into the surgery. My doctor told me that I had the worst infection of its type that she had seen in over fifteen years of general practice. Arms outstretched, she nervously stabbed the bulging skin with a needle, ducked as a jet of bloody pus shot across her desk onto her computer’s monitor, gagged at the nauseating stench, and sprinted across the room to throw open a door to the practice garden.

She told me that penicillin possibly wouldn’t kill the infection and that I would be wise to visit the nearest hospital to spend a few hours hooked up to an intravenous drip. I didn’t have time for a hospital visit so hoped that the prescribed medication would do the job.

Dusk was fast approaching by the time I ticked off the last item on my to do list. I had an appointment at 8.30am the following morning to have an MOT done on the Hymer, and then a service and habitation check booked for an hour later at the Kent Motorhome Centre. I also wanted a few small jobs doing by Kent Motorhomes before my 6.30am Eurotunnel crossing on Wednesday.

After a surprisingly restful night at Clacket Lane Services on the M25 I drove half an hour  Stockbury near Sittingbourne for my MOT. The garage was buzzing at 8am when I arrived, but they still managed to fit me in the minute I pulled onto their forecourt.

An hour later and sixty four pounds lighter for the MOT and a replacement headlight bulb – “I don’t advise you to try this yourself by the side of the road mate. You need two blokes with very long arms who know what they’re doing!” – I drove twelve miles to Kent Motorhomes ahead of time and feeling very happy with the day’s progress. I was feeling very happy until I arrived at Kent Motorhomes to find the business closed.

A lady member of staff sitting in her car by the business’s locked front gates told me that I couldn’t get in because the owner was stuck in heavy traffic on the M20. Not that his arrival would help me at all. She told me that their sole mechanic had died a week ago so they didn’t have anyone to do either my service or habitation check.

I appreciate that the death of a fellow employee and friend is a painful experience, but I was a little upset that they couldn’t find the time to let me know before I arrived on their doorstep.

The MOT was an important part of our future plans. We have to return to the UK every twelves months to have the Hymer tested. The previous MOT was done in March this year, but we didn’t want to be forced to leave our winter sun in Spain for a 2,000 mile drive north to a crossing at either Dover or Felixstowe next spring. An autumn MOT should coincide with us heading south to Spain after our northern Europe exploration draws to a close for the year.

A full service and habitation check were desirable rather than essential. We can get both of those done somewhere in Europe on our travels. Kent Motorhome’s failure to let me know they couldn’t accommodate me was an irritating waste of time, but nothing more.

I had the rest of the day free before my scheduled Eurotunnel crossing the following morning, so I headed towards an iconic British landmark. The three hundred and fifty feet high white chalk cliffs at Dover and the footpaths above them have been maintained by the National Trust since 1999. As is usual with the National Trust, there’s a high quality cafe and toilet block and plenty of strategically placed information boards.

Parking is always a consideration with the Hymer, now 30’ long with two substantial bikes strapped to the rear. There are two separate car parks on site, one for cars and another for coaches.

I had the tranquil coach parking area to myself. I picked the best spot overlooking Dover harbour with its constant stream of P & O  cross channel ferries entering and leaving. I sat on the bed with my Kindle and a sunny ocean view and promptly fell asleep.

The perfect spot for a quiet night. What a shame I couldn't stay there.

The perfect spot for a quiet night. What a shame I couldn’t stay there.

I woke to the sound of screaming teenagers. Three tour coaches and one hundred and fifty German school children now shared my not so peaceful space. A five minute walk along the cliff path was enough to leave the crowds far behind.

South Foreland lighthouse

South Foreland lighthouse

As I neared the end of a two hour brisk walk to 170 year old South Foreland lighthouse and back to the car park, I looked forward to a relaxing night above the cliffs… until I discovered that the car park entrance was due to be locked for the evening shortly after I returned.

The White Cliffs of Dover

The White Cliffs of Dover

As my channel crossing the following day necessitated a 5am start, and the car park wasn’t due to be reopened until 10am, I had to move. I suspected that finding a suitable alternative parking spot at that time of the night was likely to be a bit of a pain so I called Eurotunnel to see if I could move my scheduled crossing forward. For a very reasonable additional £3 I was able to switch to a 9.50pm crossing that night.

Eurotunnel’s terminal at that time of day is a pleasure. Using the automated check in service I was able to change the crossing again for no charge to an earlier 8.20pm crossing. I later discovered that Eurotunnel charged me an additional £77 for amending my crossing at “no charge”. I imagine that getting a refund is going to be a difficult process.

At 10pm I was in Calais. At midnight I was tucked up in bed wedged in the middle of an endless row of articulated lorries at a motorway service station close to Gent in Belgium at the end of a very eventful day one of our motorhome adventure.

{ 118 comments… add one }
  • Martyn jones October 15, 2016, 11:33 am

    Hi Paul,
    Best wishes to you both, hope you really enjoy your travels and all the new experiences you will encounter.

    All the best Martyn

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:47 am

      We’re certainly enjoying them at the moment Martyn.

  • Lis Dobb-Sandi October 15, 2016, 11:38 am

    Hi Paul and cynthia,
    Just a quick one to wish you all the very best.
    I love your adventures.
    x Lis

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:48 am

      Thank you Liz. I love my adventures too!

  • wendy duvall October 15, 2016, 11:42 am

    wonderful newsletter. Thanks. I do enjoy reading them, but not about your poor thumb. Was it an ingrown nail and did the pills work for you? Say hi to Cynthia for me.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:49 am

      All is fine with my thumb now Wendy, thanks to Cynthia and her Thieves’ oil. I have given Cynthia your regards. She promises to email you.

  • Gordon October 15, 2016, 11:46 am

    Excellent report, as a Hymer owner at the moment in southern Spain enjoying the sun I feel you are going to have a very interesting trip.
    As for your mot just book a date before you return to the UK in the summer and you are legal to drive straight to your designated mot station.
    Best regards

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:51 am

      Hi Gordon,

      We don’t want to return to the UK in the summer as we won’t be near Calais then. We’ll wait until later in the year when we’re passing through France on our way to Spain for the winter.

  • Christopher Miles October 15, 2016, 11:54 am

    I am going to enjoy following your new traveling adventures

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:36 am

      Not as much as I’m going to Chris!

  • Ken Argyle October 15, 2016, 12:11 pm

    Good luck to you both in this new adventure,

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:24 am

      Thank you Ken.

  • Peter Bernfeld October 15, 2016, 12:12 pm

    Good luck with your travels. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of boat you wind up with for the European waterways.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:26 am

      We had a look at a Dutch tjalk yesterday. It was a beautiful historic 120 year old boat, full of seasoned oak and character. Unfortunately it just wasn’t practical for what we want, so we are off to look at a classic motor yacht today.

  • pat Oshea October 15, 2016, 12:23 pm

    Glad hopefully we’ll. I hope you stop at UK Post Office to pick up the international health certificate for medical care abroad.
    Now you may appreciate NHS when no longer at the door. I hope your thumb is better. I miss not having NHS ..not tried to sort out Obama care..with negative..and cheating US insurance companies.
    Glad to hear you are on the road. Did you know about the ferry from Santader North Spain back to England?
    I consider as option..for like you I got back to England via Rotterdam..on P.O.
    Since I used to work for P.O. it seemed liked being back in a nice place crossing.
    Yet since I have visa issues..which I will.spare details..I agreed with customs to return back from Glasgow in 2 weeks time. This must get sorted.
    Yet made my way back to Morecombe then up to my caravan at Callendar Motor home. I like you know far to well what is like to shove all your things into a bulging. 22 ft caravan. This now had been three years left..to set..with all my things inside..I was suspecting the worst with damp and mold…to my surprise..everything as I left it. Now the tasking of sorting out and what I need to send back to the U S..finding that €100.post packages..were not in my short budget. Kindness of Gordon..who operates the Callendar he was able to left the heavy things and discard what to give away..yes not easy task to let go…now his kindness and little leg room..I manage a most enjoyable night in my caravan..who is good Nick…I know Gordon to be helpful
    He has done this for 30 years..
    I like you would enjoy your adventure
    I also went back to Hest Bank..near Lancaster..to say yes I want to spend days on my canal boat..and to locate one is task I want to achieve..just feels right there..safe journey..now to mornings to local bread and coffee at outdoor cafe..continue sending please

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:24 am

      Hi Pat,

      Yes, we are aware of the various ferry routes but, at this early stage of our travels, everywhere we drive is new to us so we would rather drive than be stuck on a ferry.

      We have pretty good health insurance so I’m not particularly bothered about NHS care. Cynthia doesn’t do Western medicine so all we need is cover in case we have an accident.

  • Peter Minter October 15, 2016, 12:25 pm

    Hi you two, having done a motorhome trip across Europe to Eastern Turkey I know you will have some interesting times, both good and not so good. I wish you all the best of luck and look foreward to reading about your adventures.
    Regards, Peter and Pam.

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 5:41 pm

      Thank you Peter. I know it won’t be all plain sailing, but nothing in life ever is. What I do know though is that every day we will be creating memories to cherish.

  • Peter October 15, 2016, 12:50 pm

    As a past bargee, caravan traveller and now Med-moored liveaboard thoroughly enjoy everything you write. Hope you have sorted your battery charging and solar power out OK.

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 5:43 pm

      Hi Peter,

      We have a 150w solar panel and two leisure batteries. I think that when the current leisure batteries need changing I will upgrade to a couple of 160ah AGM batteries.

  • JPR October 15, 2016, 12:54 pm

    Will be on the lookout for your Hymer passing through Southern Spain on your travels, I’m due back home in the Almanzora Valley, Almeria in early November, good luck with your new adventure, my wife and I are off to the NEC tomorrow looking for some inspiration in choosing our next motorhome, ours has served us well for the last 6 years and at 12 years old we need to make the change sooner rather than later.

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 5:45 pm

      Get yourself a Hymer, then you won’t need to think about changing it so often. Ours is thirteen years old and in first class condition. Almost every day we see Hymers on the road older than ours. I hope that we’ll be in this one for many years to come.

  • Sarah Malone October 15, 2016, 12:58 pm

    Good luck with your travels. I look forward to future instalments! But do look out for your thumb. Sepsis can kill. No joke.

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 5:46 pm

      My thumb is on the mend Sarah. It still doesn’t look too pretty, but at least the infection has gone.

  • Alan Cranford October 15, 2016, 1:04 pm

    Paul and Cynthia:
    Please make sure I am signed up to receive this “Land Yacth” Blog…. and your future European Waterways edition… Hope your trip goes well – I will certainly enjoy reading about it! Take care of that thumb Paul… there was just an article on Yahoo News about a girl who lost her leg due to an ingrown toe nail…. a fellow Brit!
    I just read in an RV site that using synthetic motor oil, synthetic gear lube will lower engine tepratures and extend engine life….
    BEST to you BOTH

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 5:49 pm

      Thanks for your concern Alan. I think my infection was due to dirt under my nail rather than anything else. My poorly body appears to be on the mend now.

  • Zachary Strickland October 15, 2016, 1:13 pm

    great..loved reading this

    which hymer is this?

    Happy travels!

  • Ian Carrington October 15, 2016, 1:29 pm

    Always a joy to read your blogs, very best of luck to you both and don’t forget my offer of a pitch if you are near Peurto Lumbreras. We moved to our villa on Tuesday and are still opening boxes

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 5:52 pm

      Be very careful what you offer Ian. We’ll be visiting everyone who is foolish enough to invite us!

  • Tricia October 15, 2016, 1:42 pm

    Hello Paul and Cynthia,
    Loving the expectations and details of you adventure.
    It is helping me stay focused on my impending adventure.
    At the moment still on house selling, divorce and ‘stuff’. In all honesty it will more likely be the Spring but who knows. I always have something positive to do and learn. And your blog is a comfort but a bit less of those sort of pains please. Hope it’s better now.
    Best wishes
    Will look forward to reading more.

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 6:24 pm

      Hi Tricia,

      The account of my travels is always “warts and all” so I have to add the occasional unpleasant bit!

  • Paul October 15, 2016, 1:51 pm

    Bon Voyage Mon Amis!! Good luck & enjoy your European tour.
    Perhaps we’ll meet up in San Pedro de Alcantara in December?
    Kind Regards

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 6:25 pm

      Hi Paul,

      I would be delighted to meet up. Have you sent me your address?

  • Tony Smith October 15, 2016, 2:00 pm

    Hi Paul you must feel sad at leaving James 194 but youn have now a new adventure to look forward to i will look forward to your blogs describing your travels and your pitfalls which i hope are few
    Regards Tony

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 6:27 pm

      The boat played a very important part of my life for over half a decade, so stepping off for the last time was a sad occasion for me. However, I would rather look forward than back and look forward to the adventures to come.

  • John Ashby October 15, 2016, 2:38 pm

    Safe travels…. will be following with great interest!!

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 6:28 pm

      I’ll be reading our account with interest too. I’ve reached the stage in my life when I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, so the site is a wonderful journal for both of us.

  • Malcolm Wood October 15, 2016, 2:43 pm

    You are an inspiration to those of us who procrastinate and eventually get the Balls to do what you do before the grim reaper comes calling, great reading

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 7:22 pm

      Hi Malcolm,

      My wake up call was last year when I received three emails within the same week from people who’s dreams came crashing down around their ears because of ill health. Seize the day. You don’t know how many of them you have left!

  • Graham October 15, 2016, 2:45 pm

    Cynthia & Paul,

    Enjoy and absorb the communities you travel through.

    Have fun

    G & K

  • Marnie October 15, 2016, 2:59 pm

    Great to hear you are on your way, looking forward to reading your blog…all the best to you and Cynthia Bw Marnie from windy Naxos island…….hope the thumb has cleared up.

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 4:19 pm

      My thumb is very much better than you, thanks, in the main, to Cynthia’s bandaging skills.

  • Richard October 15, 2016, 3:02 pm

    Like it,more please.

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 4:18 pm

      There’s plenty more coming Richard.

  • Angie Baldwin October 15, 2016, 3:57 pm

    Enjoy your life on the road- you certainly helped me to enjoy my new life as a singlehanded liveaboard. All the very best to you both ?

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 4:17 pm

      Thank you Angie. I hope that you have as much fun afloat as I did.

  • Helen fox October 15, 2016, 4:26 pm

    Yes Bernie and I want to hear all about your adventures , calamities and special moments together.
    Look after each other and the two dogs.
    You are experiencing exactly what Bernie and I hope to do from next year post knee replacement number 2.
    We hope to eventually meet up with you two at some time

  • Kristel October 15, 2016, 4:37 pm

    All the best to you and Cynthia. Looking forward to hearing about your new adventures.

  • Jan and Alan Webste October 15, 2016, 4:58 pm

    Hi Paul and Cynthia,
    All the best with your new adventures. We enjoyed a day aboard James with you last year. Lots have happened since then and we decided against a boat and have bought a VW t5 camper van! A tiddler compared to your Hymer but we’re looking forward to lots of adventures just the same!
    Looking forward to hearing more about your travels.

    All the best
    Jan and Alan

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 7:24 pm

      Great to hear from the two of you again. A smaller motorhome certainly has its advantages, especially in the wallet department when booking ferries. I hope that you enjoy your travels as much as we do.

  • Jean Moir October 15, 2016, 5:12 pm

    Yes please, love to hear about your new style adventures and mishaps – always more amusing in retrospect I am sure than at the time. Change of an era – really enjoyed the living aboard and look forward to hearing the rest. As an owner of a narrowboat and a motorhome I can appreciate some of the joys and problems. Hope it all works out fine for you both. Look forward to hearing Cynthia’s perspective on things too. Jeannie.

    • Paul Smith October 15, 2016, 7:26 pm

      Thanks Jeannie. Life would be dull if we didn’t have a test or two along the way. I think there might be another boat in our future plans.

  • Raymond Walker October 15, 2016, 5:15 pm

    Another most enjoyable blog, keep them coming, best wishes to you and Cynthia, enjoy yourselves

  • Pauline October 15, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Love hearing about your adventures as not brave enough to do it myself. Thumb looked horrid, hope all better now.
    With very best wishes to both of you xx

    • Paul Smith October 16, 2016, 11:23 am

      I’m not sure I’m brave enough either Pauline. A part of me wonders what on Earth I’ve done and how we’re going to manage financially. We’ve sold everything we own to fund this adventure. I think we’ll be OK though. We’re having a great time at the moment.

  • Kevin Kibbey October 15, 2016, 5:27 pm

    Looking forward to you adventures on land

    • Paul Smith October 16, 2016, 11:17 am

      Me too Kevin!

  • Angela Cairey October 15, 2016, 5:31 pm

    Good luck to you both, you are very brave, or quite mad, but what fun, I am sure your adventure will fantastic I will love hearing about it. X

    • Paul Smith October 16, 2016, 11:24 am

      I like to think that we both have a little madness and a smidgeon of courage too.

  • susie October 15, 2016, 5:49 pm

    I shall enjoy reading about your travels in europe,,,,,, we had done this for 20 plus years,,,working our way around,,,,,, back in uk and none moving at the moment,,,, the canal boats are of interest to us,,, possibly in the future,,,,,, your newsletters have been a great help to understanding what it all will entail,,,,,,, thank you,,,,,,, wishing you both luck and happiness in your travels,,,

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:28 am

      Thank you Susie. If you enjoy travelling and want to see a side of England you just can’t see by road, then a narrowboat is unbeatable. I think that there’s a good chance we will return to the English waterways one day, but who knows what the future holds for us.

  • Bill Thacker October 15, 2016, 6:05 pm

    As a member of a Comunity Narrowboat trust we own two narrowboats with full dissabled access (not least to avoid VAT) I have enjoyed your weekly emails for 3 or 4 years now. We take about 300 trips per season for disabled, elderly and disadvantaged kids so many of your tips are very useful to us especially when fitting out our replacement boats over recent years, Many thanks. I hope to follow your trips across europe in your giant tortoise shell.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:32 am

      Hi Bill,

      I’m delighted that I was able to play a small part in your noble cause. Where were the boats based? I regularly passed a couple of community narrowboats on my training days between Braunston and Napton. I was always in admiration of the adult crew who gave up their time to give underprivileged kids the chance to experience the English canals.

  • Justin October 15, 2016, 6:17 pm

    Great to hear about your new adventures. I’m in.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:32 am

      Thank you Justin.

  • Phil October 15, 2016, 6:32 pm

    Best wishes, look forward to hearing of your adventures on the European waterways.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:32 am

      Thank you Phil.

  • bob Harper October 15, 2016, 6:51 pm

    Well Paul ive been with you for some time now. You have been up to your elbows chopping weeds from the cut, keeping the twin tub going, looking after God knows how many people in the Philippines or was it Thailand. Trying to get married in strange corners of the world and eventually managing it. Scraping the motorhome on its Cornish trip and even at this late stage discovering that car parks close and you need to leave early.
    i wish you every good luck in your European adventure. Hemskerk and that part of the Netherlands is well known to me so enjoy it. im looking forward to reading your blog in the weeks and months to come. Good luck mate and i am only hoping that your mechanical skills improve a little you have been putting yourself down for far too long.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:20 am

      Thank you Bob. I don’t think I particularly put myself down with regard to my practical skills, just telling it as it is. I know my strengths and weaknesses. DIY and mechanics are way down on the list.

      We’re currently parked next to an unpronounceable lake close to Sandfirden. We enjoyed a day in the sun yesterday sitting on a lakeside jetty. Life on the road is pretty good!

  • Rob Lewis October 15, 2016, 7:15 pm

    Hi both
    Just a quick note to say bon voyage.
    I know you will have a fabulous adventure and I look forward to reading your updates telling us how it all goes, something you always do brilliantly.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:33 am

      I’m looking forward to the adventure too Rob. Our short time on the road has certainly been hugely enjoyable so far.

  • Monique October 15, 2016, 7:18 pm

    Hi Paul & Cynthia
    A very belated congrats on finally managing to get wed. Best wishes to you both.

    Thanks for all your newsletters and blogs so far. I’m looking forward to reading about your land based adventures together now.

    Wishing you safe and happy travels xxx

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:34 am

      Thank you Monique. Are you still on the UK network? I haven’t seen you around for a while.

      • Monique October 23, 2016, 10:13 am

        Yes Paul. I’m CC-ing all year round now and loving it. I haven’t been in Warwickshire for a while so that’s why you haven’t seen me.
        Like you, I still have lots of places to explore. ?

  • David Moore October 15, 2016, 9:23 pm

    Keep up the interesting posts!

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:35 am

      I will try David!

  • Mike Diggins October 15, 2016, 9:35 pm

    Always enjoyed the mix of humour and the practicalities of live aboard, the challenges and how you got around them. Looking forward to reading about your experiences as we’re thinking of taking a van to Europe next year – at the moment we trundle around the North Island of New Zealand for long weekends in what could kindly be described s a “mobile tent”.
    All the best, and don’t leave the swellings so long next time!

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:37 am

      I didn’t leave the swelling for long at all Mike. From the first sign of swelling to a thumb about to burst was just thirty six hours. Anyway, all seems fine now.

  • James Leck October 16, 2016, 3:48 am

    Looking forward to this ongoing saga. Best of luck to you all

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:37 am

      Thank you James.

  • Jeff Crookes October 16, 2016, 4:02 am

    Hi Paul,
    I have long enjoyed your narrow boat pages and have them all saved for future reference. All the very best to you and Cynthia in your new adventure.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:38 am

      That’s quite a lot of saved pages Jeff. I think that there are over 9,000 posts and pages on the narrowboat site.

  • Roger October 16, 2016, 7:34 am

    Good luck and safe travels, go find the sun!

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:40 am

      We’ll be heading for the sun in about a fortnight Roger. We have to wait for Cynthia’s passport to be updated to her new married name before we can leave the Netherlands. After that, we’re heading for Spain as fast as our little wheels can turn!

  • peter mace October 16, 2016, 9:17 am

    I am still following you on your web site since the very first one that you did and in that time I have smiled and cried for you .All I can say is that I wish you all the luck in what you do in the future and I wish I had the guts to do what you are doing. What a wonderful experience you are both entering into. I believe that what you are doing you will both have a wonderful time . The best of luck in what ever you do in the future / Peter

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:41 am

      Thank you Peter. The last six and a half years have certainly been interesting ones. I expect the future will be just as exciting. I’ll share those times with you through the blog.

  • Mike Rowe October 16, 2016, 11:25 am

    Hi Paul & Cynthia,
    Your blog is a real inspiration, and I hope to muster the balls to try it myself – before anno domini or ill health take over! I really look forward to your next epistle!
    All the best to you both in your new adventure together – not forgetting the dogs!

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:42 am

      Think positive Mike. I’m sure that you’ll be fit and well for many years to come. Maybe I’ll see you on the road one day.

  • Terry Martin October 16, 2016, 2:06 pm

    Hi Paul have a nice trip ……and enjoy life ..both of you.Maybe see you around the Costa del Sol ….We live in a fishing village Caleta De Velez

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:43 am

      Always a delight to pop in and say hello Terry. Let me know where you live if you want to spend an hour or two with us.

  • Tim Taylor October 16, 2016, 4:27 pm

    Looks like you’re living the dream. Hoping to do something very similar in three years time when l can access the pension so will be following you with great interest and hope you have a wonderful journey.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:43 am

      Good luck with your plans Tim. I hope you have as much fun as we are at the moment.

  • steve October 17, 2016, 8:03 am

    Hi paul/Cynthia before I moved onto my narrowboat I lived in a hymer
    good luck to you both your in for a great time all the best steve

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 9:46 am

      I am delighted we chose a Hymer Steve. Cynthia spotted it. She saw the “desk” in the saloon area and thought it would be a perfect work space for me. The reality is that I spend most of my writing time sitting on the bed with my MacBook on a bed table over my legs. I’m there now, looking out of the bedroom window over reeds fringing an expansive lake. It’s a wonderful way to live!

  • Anne October 17, 2016, 10:49 am

    Hi to both of you , look forward to hearing all about your escapades on your journey around the world. I am so Jealous.

    • Paul Smith October 17, 2016, 12:02 pm

      Hi Anne,

      Don’t be jealous, come and join us. Just sell everything you own for an uncertain life on the road with no real idea how you’re going to support yourself in the future. It’s easy! I’m just going to lie down now to think about my uncertain future.

  • Andrew Huxley October 17, 2016, 5:29 pm

    Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
    For our part, we travel not to go anywhere, but to go.
    We travel for travel’s sake.
    The great affair is to move.
    No time limit, no set direction or obligations.
    That’s freedom to us.

    Paul & Cynthia
    Good luck with your ‘adventure’!
    I’d like to say I had written the quote above, but I’ve copied it from an inspirational couple who have been touring the world on bicycle for the last
    8+ years. I had the pleasure of meeting them this summer on the west coast of France. When you get a spare hour, I’d recommend having a dip into their blog. (There isn’t many places they haven’t been)


    I thought the quote was very appropriate for you, and may give you further inspiration for your journey. (Not that you need any!)
    With best wishes for the future, & keep up the good work!

    • Paul Smith October 18, 2016, 10:33 am

      Thanks for that Andrew. I welcome all inspiration, especially from those who have already achieved what I hope to. Our adventure seems very tame compared to the two cyclists, but it’s an exciting time for both of us all the same. We have many countries and places of interest within those countries to tick off yet. It’s a very exciting time for both of us.

  • Paul kelly October 18, 2016, 6:13 pm

    Hi Paul and Cynthia,been following yr adventures for some time now,you 2 are about 2 yrs ahead of Sue and I,we plan to do Europe et al for 2 years then back to U.K. On a narrow boat,so will keep reading and envying-tell us allxx

    • Paul Smith October 18, 2016, 6:45 pm

      Hi Paul/Sue,

      We are right at the beginning of our journey at the moment, but we’re very much enjoying our adventure so far. The big difference that I have found is that there was far, far more space on the boat than there is in the motorhome. I have had a few problems adapting to the limited space, but I think I’m getting there. Cynthia is far more comfortable with it, but she has been used to living in much smaller sailing boats in the past.

  • Mick Fitzgibbons October 18, 2016, 9:57 pm


    We bought a motorhome two years ago and we currently spend about half the year on the boat (Rose of Arden) and the other half of the year in (Bessie) our motorhome. With the odd trip home to pick up mail…. We will be heading south to Spain in a few weeks.

    Mick, Maggie and Poppy the dog!

    • Paul Smith October 19, 2016, 8:02 am

      I think we’ll be heading south to Spain in a few weeks too. The weather here in the Netherlands is miserable at the moment, pretty much the same as what I’ve been used to in the UK. I need some sun!

  • Ann October 18, 2016, 10:18 pm

    Hi Paul/Sue
    Very best wishes too for your adventures.
    Have enjoyed reading your newsletters, and look forward to the next ones.

    • Paul Smith October 19, 2016, 8:02 am

      Thank you Ann. I’ll try to keep them interesting for you.

  • ian roberts October 19, 2016, 1:20 am

    Hi paul. I,m back in bali for the uk winter, renting nice house in the sun for £125/month. There is life outside of little britain. We,re both gypsies of a sort. Take care and enjoy. Cheers ian

    • Paul Smith October 19, 2016, 8:05 am

      Hi Ian,

      Glad you managed to get your boat shut down for the winter without a problem. How is that beautiful wife of yours? Is she glad to have you back on the same continent as her?

  • james SCARBOROUGH October 19, 2016, 6:42 am

    I’ve enjoyed the narrowboat emails and will surely enjoy your next missives. Have a lovely and relaxing time and hope you don’t miss the gentle rocking of the cut at night.

    • Paul Smith October 19, 2016, 8:07 am

      We actually enjoy a fair amount of gentle rocking in the motorhome. We don’t bother putting the “steadies” down at night so, as our bed is completely above the overhang at the back of the Hymer, there is a fair amount of movement on windy days. We both love it.

  • Alan Breckon October 19, 2016, 10:57 am

    It was always a pleasure to read of your boating experiences – good & otherwise and for you to share your considerable knowledge and combine it with elements of both achievement and frustration and a large portion of humour. So I look forward very much to future “chapters”
    Best Wishes to you both for a safe and enjoyable journey wherever you may roam!

    • Paul Smith October 19, 2016, 11:32 am

      Thank you Alan. I’ll try to live up to your expectations with the new blog posts.

  • Martin October 19, 2016, 5:09 pm

    Good luck to all 4 of you, hope you have as much fun touring as we do with our caravan. We are just back from Italy & France and looking forward to Spain this winter. Keep bloggin 🙂

    • Paul Smith October 19, 2016, 6:14 pm

      Blimey, do you know anyone who ISN’T going to Spain for the winter? I hope you’ll move over a bit and make room for us when we get there!

  • jacky melling October 22, 2016, 9:13 am

    Hi Paul, l remember you laughing at me when about 3 years ago I told you about wild camping when we were on a campsite in benidorm on a 3 month trip to Spain with 2 staffies in a vw! After a rapido motorhome which broke down in France came back on a low loader, broke and fed up we took on a Sam smith’s pub in Horncastle( again you laughed). It is a management job, no music close at 11, 10.30 on Sunday! But which for us the most important thing we both get paid as we still have nb miss George on the Ashby which is now after living aboard 6 years becoming a expensive hobby so might sell to buy a motorhome again!
    My point is, congratulations on your new life you never know what’s round the corner just enjoy everything at least we won’t moan when we are old could have, would have, should have x

    • Paul Smith October 22, 2016, 10:55 am

      Hi Jacky,

      It’s great to hear from you again. I didn’t laugh at your plans to travel in the motorhome at all. I was very interested in that part of your plans. I didn’t laugh at your new pub management job either. I have too may unpleasant memories of rough pub management over thirteen years to laugh. I hope the pub you have is more pleasant than the ones I had to sort out. I know that my life now is far more stress free than it’s ever been. I hope you manage an adventure or two on the road again at some time in the future. We’re currently on day thirteen. There are a few adjustments to make yet, both emotional and physical, but we’re having the times of our lives.

  • WILL A October 24, 2016, 10:31 pm

    All the best on your new adventure both of you.
    Kind regards Will.

    • Paul Smith October 25, 2016, 8:29 am

      Thank you Will.

  • Roger October 30, 2016, 3:35 pm

    Well done Paul, good move, you only live once! I wish you and Cynth all the very best for now and the future. Take care.
    Regards Roger, (nb whisky & wine).

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