Archive | February, 2015

The Disappearing Desk

24 Feb

I knew when I embarked on this watery lifestyle in a 47ft x 7ft metal tube, I would have to make the odd sacrifice. (That’s doing without something, not slaughtering a child in a white frock on an altar at midnight.)

And these are the external dimensions so, in fact, I have probably only around 264 square feet of indoor living space in total. Any fixtures and fittings on board therefore really have to earn their keep and need to be functional, preferably with multi-use capability. There is no room for ‘passengers’.

Not that I’m complaining. OK, so I miss the bath and the sofa sometimes but a small price to pay to be able to live the way I do. There is of course no reason I couldn’t have the above – it’s mainly aesthetics that stop me adding either or both.

More recently, I’ve hankered after a desk/table to work at…


Google image

It is, after all, essential equipment for a writer. I’ve managed to date with the laptop on the lap but now I’m getting into proofreading/copy-editing, I need somewhere to spread out the paperwork.

I’m lucky that John is good in the making things department so I designed a desk that works in the boat and he has made it.

John likes to work in 3D models and, having established mk 1 would do the job, he set about making mk 2. It’s a good system that works for us and, when I saw the first prototype, decided the boat could take something a little bigger. Easy peasy, rip it up and start again. (There’s never any waste when you have a wood burner.)

He started with good old potato box ply to make the framework and shelving and then we went shopping for the desk top itself. It had to be big enough but foldaway-able, smart enough but nothing that would break the bank and something that would sit well within Hobo’s ageing mellow and lived-in interior. Something we could up-cycle then.

We took a trip to  the ECCO shop in Harlow to see what was about. There’s a few of these outlets around here (2 in Harlow, 1 in Bishop’s Stortford and 1 in Epping) and they’re brilliant places for a bargain – if you have your creative eyes in focus. Lovely and jumbly. Nice and cheap.

This headboard spoke to me, made of good solid ply with an oak veneer… IMG_20150207_072108

Just the job at £2.

We also bought strip hinges to enable the folding away of and another clever little design feature that means I can have a medium desk…002

With the extension doubling as a supporting leg when in half-size mode, which is rapidly becoming the default position as is also proving to be useful as a table to land one’s drinks, dinner plates, newspapers – you name it, the possibilities are endless.

Or for those big jobs, just pull up to make a massive working surface…008003

As big as many an office desk I’ve worked at.

The really clever bit being that it folds away to next to nothing…005006

Genius. Now you see it now you don’t..!

It sits unobtrusively under the gunwale, getting in no-one’s way, when I don’t feel like working.

So now it’s back to me for the cosmetics. It needs a little refining, sanding and staining and general titivation but otherwise job done. Apart from re-organising my clutter that is.

Now of course I need a chair that works with the desk so it’s back to ECCO, this time the Stortford store. I really liked this…002 (3)But of course it won’t go low enough. John suggested an entry level typist chair like this…003 (2)Could be used as the base, fitting the top of the barstool to it. I admit I had my reservations but at £3 for the blue jobbie and (after much haggling) settled on £5 for the black leather one (marked up at £15) there wasn’t a lot to lose.

We pointed out the seat was very broken…002 (4)Nothing the John couldn’t fix of course, making what I think is a mighty cool stool…002 (2)

But is it a stool? Or is it a chair?

We’ve decided it’s a hybrid and are calling it a chool.

Whatever. In this position it lets me get my knees under the desk but will also raise up if I want to look out of the window at the river. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun go down.

I suspect the little boat may gain a chrome based, blue seated driving seat.

As my life evolves, so then does the space around me. I’m busy now working on a design for a unit to complement the new desk to fit on the other side of the boat. I’m thinking something modular, multi-purpose and sleek.

I’m a lucky boatbird to have the John, who actually enjoys turning my designs into real storage solutions. He’s really quite talented and, when he isn’t busy doing stuff for me or fixing up the little boat, he loves to make these…010

Want one..?

PS: You should see the owl boxes…

Snowshots – Now and Then

5 Feb

There is one definite advantage to being an occasional extreme early riser (that’ll be Boatbloke not Boatbird) and that is unusual photo opportunities…IMG_20150130_022121

Snowing polar bears at 03.00 hours, as seen from the little boat. Ragetty Ann catches the yard light while other hulls are seen in silhouette.

It settles on the roof…IMG_20150130_034756

Wonderful white fluffiness.

And just before it turned to mucky, muddy, mushy slush and sludge…IMG_20150131_122330

Dogdirt Alley in all its splendour, still looking pristine before the temperature rises and the march of everyone’s welly boots takes its toll, depriving us of that delicious crunch beneath our feet.

We’ve seen nothing (yet) this winter though. Nothing like one I remember when living at Hartford Marina in Cambridgeshire – I think the winter of 2009/2010 – when we had weeks of serious sub-zero temperatures.

Which meant the water taps on the pontoon froze for days on end…12

And the lake had ice an inch thick all over.

As I walked about inside the boat, I’d hear the ice around the boat cracking and, once I’d identified what it was, a strange yet fun experience. Even more odd was the sound of someone across the water breaking the ice around their boat with a pole – a kind of echoing noise, almost like an underwater explosion . And this one took me quite a while to figure out.

We get so used to familiar noises, knowing each and every one from ducks nibbling the hull (weird and worrying till you work it out) to a flight of swans (unmistakeable), a skein of geese flying homeward (noisy), the dismayed whimpering of a neighbour’s cat that has taken an unexpected dive into the drink (pitiful) or a neighbour topping up his coal scuttle (frequent).

Each with its own distinctive signature.

The wildlife were fun to watch…3 10Swans and their cygnets walking on water

So comical as they nonchalantly went about their daily routines.

I learned how to eke out my water, often using the marina showers so as not to deplete what remained in my tank as topping up would not be possible until the outside taps thawed. It was a good lesson in water conservation that has stayed with me. Here at the farm the hose and or tap will freeze – as will the water points on canals and rivers – when a cold snap snaps.

The surroundings became beautiful…15 1613Serene…Iced in at the marina

Austere beauty at the marina

But despite outward appearances…Winter in the marina-but cosy inside

We all stayed warm and cosy inside our boats.

These are a few of my pictorial reminiscences of a previous life. What were your memories of that winter..?

The Lister Lives..!

2 Feb

Remember this…?100_3101

Our first look at the little boat, which was full of water and floating debris. And a three pot Lister that was obviously somewhere one stored one’s junk.

John pretty soon removed the junk so he could see what he had…
077It’s a Lister SL3 with round cylinders, producing 12.5hp at 1800rpm. Last made in 1958; after that the cylinders were square and produced more hp at a higher rpm.

Not sure about the carving knife and steel though.

He’s finally been able to throw a bit of time at it…


So, that said, let’s see if the old girl will run…001

Scary moment.

But one I wanted to witness, though I stayed on the back deck just in case.

Here goes…002

Not yet…003


Start again…005

Not quite…006

And there she blows – cor Blimey, what a noise…!


Where’s John gone? The smoke has swallowed him up!

The exhaust isn’t rigged up so no silencer. In fact nothing is properly ‘plumbed in’ as yet but well enough for these purposes.

Seems the back deck might not have been such a good idea. I am right in the line of fire – well smoke to be more precise. Of which there is A LOT. (You might have spotted that but I have a degree in stating the bleeding obvious and like to make use of it occasionally.)

Some of the immediate neighbours are looking concerned. Not sure if that’s because of the deafening decibels or the dense, choking smoke. Or simply amazement that the Lister is actually running.

Is this the look of dejection…?


Surely not.

Nope, there it is. The grin…009

The Lister lives..!

Of course, there’s a long way to go but at least we now know it runs and is worth more time and effort. And probably money will need to be thrown at it too. It’s a boat thing.

There will be injectors for cleaning, new gaskets (all cork), leaks to seal, timing issues to address and on and on.

Proper ‘plumbing in’ too/deciding where to mount the starter button/how and where on earth to route the exhaust pipe – in fact make the exhaust pipe.

But it’s a labour of love for the John. I can’t tell you how utterly shocked delighted he was when she finally fired up but maybe the little boy grin in the last pic says it all. Quite something on a freezing cold winter’s day when it hasn’t run for a very long time that we know of and probably a lot longer than that.

I am well pleased too – despite the black face and sooty nose. This means we are one tiny step closer to getting her in the water.

And that will be a day…IMG_20141126_0002

“Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow – but soon.”

Can’t wait..!