These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Monday, 10 September 2018

27th - 31st August 2018. The Puzzler's final lift at Nieuwpoort, in Belgium, followed by bottom blacking. Across the English Channel to Dover, then on to Fox's Marina at March, in Cambridgeshire. This is our penultimate blog entry!

On Monday we moved out into the Ijssel estuary, to find the massive boat hoist. The tide is coming in as Andy manœuvres The Puzzler downstream underneath the hoist.
It was quite tricky, getting the boat to lie centrally, between the two sides of the hoist. Once the slings were in place, they had to be shortened individually, in order to lift The Puzzler straight up, out of the water. Here Andy is standing upright, while the boat is listing to his left. It was quite scary!

Finally right up in the air, the boat is ready to move!

The hoist operator controls this enormous crane remotely, and carried The Puzzler nearly quarter of a mile, right into the middle of the boatyard.

The next job was to pressure wash the hull, to clean off any zebra mussels, as well as any growth of weed.

This shows how many zebra mussels had taken up residence on the bottom plate of The Puzzler. These mussels are up to an inch long, and are most reluctant to let go of the metal hull!

Below the waterline, the hull was coated in limescale, which could not be removed by pressure washing or hand scraping. It only looked white once the boat had dried out. This is the result of four years on the continental waterways.

The limescale was no problem though, as we painted over it! Touching up was done on Monday afternoon, with the full blacking to be done over two days, before our lorry arrived on Thursday morning. However, the weather forecast for a wet Wednesday changed our plans! The first coat of blacking, shown here, started at 7.30 am on Tuesday, and was finished by 10 am. The first coat of yellow,white and red on the stern were next, taking us to 1 pm.

The second coat of blacking followed after lunch, then the colours after that, to be finished by 6.30 pm. A good day's work! On Wednesday we collapsed!

Shannon got used to being lifted down the ladder to leave the boat. She must think that this is a strange mooring!

Most of the other boats on the hard standing here at Nieuwpoort, are sea going yachts.

On Thursday morning our lorry from CPL arrived, and The Puzzler was lifted on easily this time.

The marina here at Nieuwpoort is the largest in Western Europe, with over a thousand yachts moored here.

We had a calm crossing from Dunkirk, so approached the port of Dover alongside the cliffs, which look very white today.

The Puzzler, with CPL, went via Calais to Dover, so may well be on one of those ferries we can see at the far side of the port. We will see her again tomorrow.

It is always a relief to see that your boat has arrived safely! From the hoist The Puzzler will be lowered on to the launching trolley, part of which can to be seen here – front right.

This hoist is a better size for a narrowboat, here at Fox's Marina in Cambridgeshire.
The Puzzler is on the launching trolley, rejoining the British waterways after three years in Ireland and one year in The Netherlands, followed by three and a half years in France and a month in Belgium.

We are now on our permanent mooring at Fox's, with many other narrowboats. We are lucky to have very pleasant neighbours.

Having turned round, we have a good view over this half of the marina. New beginnings here.


  1. Congratulations on your European Odyssey and welcome back!
    Martin and Jenny

  2. Hi from Wandering Snail. We are on the Macclesfield Canal (we too returned to the UK after that vote a year before you)and what should come by but Puzzler! Her new owner is very pleased with her and we wondered how and where you were now? Anne and Olly.