Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Our Fourth Anniversary

How quickly those years have passed!  Four years ago on 30th March we closed the front door of our house and became liveaboard boaters.  I feel a moment of reflection coming on!  So, what have we learned in the last four years?  What have been the major challenges?

Top of the list for me is:-

Feelings of vulnerability.  This comes in two forms :– 1.  In large towns and cities I feel threatened by the anti-social behaviour of others of my kind.  Sad to say this is usually groups of young people – predominantly males!  So sad.  2.  The Natural Elements.  We have learned to be extremely respectful of high winds and flooded  rivers!   

The following things are of far less importance but challenging nevertheless:-

Condensation in the Winter time.  This year we have gone a long way towards solving this problem by following instructions to make double glazing panels for the windows. (Thanks, Paul). It’s not just the windows that are a problem, however.  The inside of the cupboards also get damp.

Lack of Storage space.  It is quite a major issue. On the positive side it makes you very frugal with possessions.  Living in a boat has taught us that, as human beings, we don’t actually need anything near the amount of stuff we accumulate when living in a house.  A little butty boat for a shed – sorry - a workshop, is a thought though!

Boating Equipment.  Technical equipment seems to go wrong more often than it does in a house!  Much of it seems to be down to pumps!  Because parts are specialist and ‘marine’ as opposed to ‘household’ they are also so expensive.  It would seem that if something has a ‘marine’ label on it it’s automatically twice the price!  We have learned to source things outside of the chandlers whenever possible ie Wicks, Homebase and Autofactors.  Lee Sanitation, however, has boaters by ‘the short-and-curlies’!!

Amps/Volts/Watts ………………. (the Skipper’s main topic of conversation! )  The challenge is how to ensure you have enough of them!  We have learned that it pays to invest in good batteries and we have also invested in a generator ………….. say no more!  There are those who simply detest generators and it can cause disharmony amongst boaters!  Scathing comments are made about those who use generators and bowthrusters and we make use of both!  Now that diesel is soaring in price and we use a litre an hour to charge the batteries our thoughts are turning to solar panels …………….. watch this space.

Muddy Tow Paths  After lots of rain or melting snow, bathing two dogs every time you come in from a walk is a challenge believe me!

Regrets?     In the words of Mr Sinatra …….. we have a few …….. but, in the pattern of things, only flippant ……….

1.  We regret the interest rate going down after just a year of doing this!!  2.  We regret we don’t get good internet reception all the time!!

Despite all these challenges and others:-

We love the diversity of the environment we can enjoy and the freedom to move from one place to the next.  There is so much beautiful open countryside, fabulous little towns and villages and, although the bigger towns and cities challenge my sense of safety, they are interesting and exciting.  We love the wildlife we see.  OK it’s everyday wildlife but being able to watch a moorhen practising tight-rope walking, ducks practising their skating skills in the winter,  kingfisher fly-bys and barn owls hunting to state just a few examples……………… it was, for us, always going to be a winner!

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Yet another boat has just gone by and I’m starting to think I’ve done this all wrong!

NO!  We have LOADS of regrets!  It was SUCH a STUPID thing to do!  Sell the house and live on a boat?  COMPLETE STUPIDITY!  Don’t even THINK about it!  Every day is DREADFUL!

Onwards into year five …………………

Monday, 28 March 2011

Senior Moments

Oh dear!  They’re coming far too thick and fast these days!

The area around Braunston has been really busy over the weekend with both private and hire boats.  We had to pass at least six boats in the tunnel.  We were unable to moor at Braunston Puddlebanks so the Skipper (hero that he is!) reversed ALL the way back to opposite the church where we found ourselves alone!  We have moored here on many occasions and always managed to get TV reception – NOT THIS TIME!  An expensive new satellite system and …. we couldn’t get a thing!  Sunday – 1st Grand Prix race of the year so we were not staying there!  We moved on towards Wigrams Turn and stopped in a really open spot.  NOTHING!  PANIC!!  The final of the Ice Dancing was on in the evening too!  Skipper/Dog House – get the idea?  Then ……….. a picture!  It’s amazing what happens when one finds the correct satellite!!  A Senior Moment (actually, the truth is, it was a complete cock-up!).

So why are we on lap 15 of the race when it’s only 12.30pm and the race isn’t meant to start until 1pm?  Hang on, the TV is telling us that it’s 1.30pm.  What’s going on?  OMG!!!  We’ve never done that before!  No wonder lots of boats were on the move at 7.30pm or rather 8.30pm.  WE HAD FORGOTTEN TO ALTER THE CLOCKS!  Another Senior Moment (yes, another complete cock-up!).

Changing the Subject:-                                                                                                               

Who is brave enough to show their age and own up to remembering Lee Majors?  He was the Bionic Man – completely re-built when all his original parts malfunctioned!

Well, we have a Bionic Boiler.  Yet another part of our Eberspacher has been replaced.  This time it’s the temperature sensor.  This joins the flame tube combustion chamber, the burner motor, the fuel metering pump, the timer and copious numbers of glow plugs!  From memory Mr Major’s spare parts were more easily obtained and less expensive than these!

Today the weather has been lovely – we have had much more sunshine than Thailand (Ben is out there doing a scuba diving course).  Tomorrow we will probably go up the Napton Flight – probably!  That’s the joy of being a liveaboard – there’s no rush!!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Get set. Go! We have a plan …………….

Can you believe this warm, sunny March weather?  We are about to leave the marina so it’s bound to change!!

There’s no pleasing some people!

When we come in off the cut in November/December time I’m sad to leave the freedom of the cut.  Now it comes to leave the marina, (and we’ve been in here longer than usual this year) I don’t feel sad – just anxious!  I’ve obviously become far too used to the comforts of the marina facilities – water on-tap, unlimited electricity, instant rubbish disposal and no worries about where to empty the loo tank!  Maisie likes ‘her’ fields and ‘her’ hill too!

We have had a productive week.  Both gunwales are now painted and looking respectable, the boat has been washed inside and out, some of the paintwork has been touched-up, a new water gauge has been fitted and some of the brass has been polished.  Only ‘some’ because (here comes the ‘reason’/excuse) we have run out of ‘shiny sinks’!  So what’s wrong with brasso?  We have plenty of that!  I will be in such trouble – I can hear the skipper now telling me to get out there and do it myself!!  Woman’s work!!

Anyway, we are off down the South Oxford for the next month or so.  The Watford flight has been closed for repairs this week and has only re-opened today so there might be a bit of a queue of boats waiting to go down.  Time to dust off my old lock gloves and trusted windlass.

Another cunning plan ……

Back in November we anticipated regular trips to Staines throughout 2011 checking up on two old ladies – one in a nursing home and the other being cared for in her own home.  Four months later, things are so different ……………    Anyway, as a result we taxed our old campervan for the whole year and organised an annual mooring for the boat.  So, we have decided to make the most of this situation and, for what will definitely be the last time, tour Scotland in our van.  What with the soaring cost of diesel and maintenance costs we feel we can no longer justify keeping her.  She is unique that’s for sure.  Whenever we go back to Staines we are spotted!  But, as from July she will be up for sale.  It will be a sad, sad day as we have had many very happy times travelling around in her both in the U.K. and on the continent.

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Monday, 14 March 2011

D.I.Y. Rules ………………OK?

It has been really good to have a week back ‘home’ – albeit in the marina.  We have been really busy sorting things out and doing a bit of D.I.Y.  The boat is still afloat!  So ……………..

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       New kitchen flooring (all of eight tiles!) has been laid.                                                           




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                                                                     The kitchen towel rail has been painted …………


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       New nets have been put up at the front doors and ‘pretty bits’ and roman blinds made to replace the old    kitchen curtains.

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Where there were no shelves ……………………..

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We’ve also started to have a serious tidy up and sort out but that will now have to be resumed when we return because we have to go back to Staines to pick up the pieces there.

Lots of boats are now moving around the system and we can’t wait to join them.  Still have to address that petulant, unreliable water heater!

Megan is in Singapore and says it is the most amazing place.

Monday, 7 March 2011

To Float or not to Float …………

We have taken a week off.  We think we deserve it for good behaviour!  Anyone who has had to empty the abode of a deceased loved one will know what a soul destroying task it is!  Olive had SO much stuff.  She knew it too because when she was still in hospital before Christmas and saying that she wanted to go into a care home, she laughed and said she didn’t envy our task!

We have come back to our boat for a week’s sanity (we hope!) laden with things that we ‘can’t possibly get rid of'.  We need a bigger boat!  No we don’t.  We just need to have a thorough sort out ourselves and get rid of some of our own things.  This was on our winter list of ‘things to do’ anyway.  If we don’t, we are going to be sitting on the bottom!  The big task for the outside of the boat is to sort out the gunnels – they look a mess!

When we got back to the marina there were more cars in the car park than we have ever seen before.  Obviously lots of people have now come out of hibernation and are starting to attend to their boats ready for the cruising season.  We are not usually here at this time of year to witness this amount of enthusiasm and energy!  Within minutes of getting back on board the Eberspacher, which heats our water and the radiators, started to play up.  It has caused us problems from the moment we bought ‘Ellen’ and patience with it is now wearing very thin.  I think the time is fast approaching when we replace it.  Advice from other boaters would be very welcome.

Well, the sun is shining, all is quiet on the Midland front and …………. I have a lot to do!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Olive’s funeral

As funerals go,  and for her, I think I can confidently say that it was nigh on perfect.

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In my humble opinion, the Parish of Laleham has fallen on it’s feet with it’s new vicar.                                Given the chance to get to know him better, Olive would have really liked him.


Lots still to do but we can now at least begin to get our own lives back on track.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

On Your Marks ………..

We’re not at the ‘get set’ stage yet and definitely not ready to go but ………….. we are thinking about it and working towards it.

Historically the 1st March is when we leave our winter marina mooring, re-join the cut and start cruising around for the next nine months.  Sadly, that is not to be this year. Olive’s funeral is tomorrow. Such a lot has happened over the last few months and such a lot still needs to happen!  Despite this, I have decided to re-start our blog on this day as usual.  We need to go back to our boat quite soon to sort some things out there but, inevitably, we will be back and forth to Staines for some time yet.  We are really hoping to get out for a short cruise towards the end of March/April but we will have to wait and see.

Megan?  We spoke to her this morning.  The ship is at sea making it’s way to Bali having recently visited Komodo and it’s famous ‘dragons’.  She said that the scenery is absolutely stunning.  She is working incredibly hard and says she has ‘ups and downs’ – well, you would on the ocean wouldn’t you?!!

Anyway, “Pinch, punch, 1st of the month”………………..  Where did that saying come from and exactly what is it all about?

Happy St David’s Day to all those with Welsh blood in their veins.

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