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Shit Happens..

5 Jan

It’s a fact.

Put two or more boaters together and, in a flush (remember that whoosh of water that came with the pull of a chain as the flush fairy disappeared your bodily waste like magic?) they’ll be talking toilets/bantering about bogs. So put them all together in a facebook group…

For my land-based readers who believe that life on the water is all roses and castles: idyllic, blissful, one long holiday, a delicious escape from reality and one way to keep under the radar – I confirm this. It is.

But..

It does come with some less than desirable little jobs, so to speak, not least the emptying of the loo. A small price to pay, in my book, for the privileges this lifestyle affords but not one I look forward to – I’d have to be one seriously sad sicko if I did.

For those of us with a cassette type or porta-potti arrangement, the best one can expect is that a disposal point – or tip out as I call it – is within easy reach, clean and at the very least not full, overflowing or blocked. And for those with a pump-out system, I imagine they’d want similar – plenty of and in working order.

Sadly, this clearly isn’t the case.

Shite is the plight of the London boater it seems, as voiced by LB Jacqui..

“My lifestyle, that of a liveaboard boater, means that I have accepted certain challenges and inconveniences like emptying my own “heads” and limitations on weekly water consumption in accordance to the size of my fresh water tank. This I am ok with.

What strikes me as not “ok” is the fact that although my community is growing – 300% in London – over the five years I’ve been on the water, the powers in charge of maintaining the waterways for this country have, in that time, been allowed to close facilities in London. This means going further for water and elsan points and much greater strain on those facilities that are still in use. In real terms, over the past 4 -5 weeks it has meant three of the five elsan points (where one can safely dispose of toilet content) and get fresh water along the 20+kms of the Lea River have been “out of service”.

I live in Britain, the fifth wealthiest country in the world, yet must travel, sometimes hours, to obtain water and dispose of my loo.

Yesterday I was at fields weir elsan. I was there going through the lock. In the time it took me to moor, set the lock and enter it, four other boaters, two by car had been and used the elsan. The folks in the car, from two boats had three cassettes and had come from Broxbourne to empty them.”

And Jess, also a LB said..

“In ten years, this is the first time we’ve really been up shit creek (literally). We’ve now got three full cassettes. Send help.”

I’ve singled out just a couple  from many comments aired on the LB facebook page, often more graphic and occasionally accompanied by pictures but I’ll spare you that..

This is nothing short of criminal and, as a liveaboard boater myself for ten years, a subject very dear to my heart. Whilst I’m not a continuous cruiser (though will be when I can secure an income without having to commute) I do live on the London waterways, albeit a bit in the sticks and with a home mooring (and a reasonably acceptable ‘tip out’).

That said, I have cruised through the city a few times now and have also chugged around a fair bit of the rest of the network so am all too familiar with the problem. There was one rather epic journey when I moved my 47ft of loveliness from Cambridgeshire to Hertfordshire in 2010 – epic because of the time it took as we were jumping a van along with the aid of a bicycle in order for John to travel to work. I made many homes along the riverbank along the way, as work got in the way of boating, as it does.

This trip took in the River Ouse, Middle Levels, River Nene, GU, the London Canals and the Lea and Stort navigations. It was brilliant, with notable highlights – one being the tidal crossing from Denver to Salter’s Lode in order to access the Fen ditches from the Ouse – but that’s another story.

To keep on topic, it was the facilities at Denver Sluice I wanted to mention here. I’d been led to believe they were superior  as well as having plenty of mooring and a good pub. Perfect. Not..

Around 90% of the mooring space was cordoned off with that orange plastic stuff, presumably in readiness for some improvement or other, with no sign of actual work being carried out or offer of alternative tying up space. Eventually we located the Elsan point, first priority as ever, but struggled to find a suitable place to park while we (I) did the deed. We ended up having to tie to railings around the slipway, thereby blocking it, but needs must – we wouldn’t be long..

A tortuous and treacherous trek led to a building (locked and chained as if a nuclear facility) in a field. My EA key did, surprisingly, open the padlock and with John’s help I managed to unleash the fortifications and open the door. All this time we stood in a lake of liquid that looked and smelled disgusting and on entering the Stygian gloom – no lights thankfully – a leaking and decidedly unsanitary tip out was revealed. I’ve never seen anything as horrid – before or since – and I have seen some grim sights.

Needs must so the deed was done. I walked just around the corner, by way of taking in some fresh air, to discover the Environment Agency offices – state of the art building surrounded by a huge and very smart car park full of extremely swish motor cars, which no doubt belonged to the fat cats of the EA quango. Did they even know what was less than 100 yards from their plush suite of offices? Did they even care? I doubt it. Obvious where their priorities lie.

To the pub then, where we hoped we could moor, but no rings or other means of tying up. On asking a member of staff, handily clearing glasses outside, were told that mooring had been stopped for health and safety reasons. My fuse, already considerably shortened, had nearly burned out. But what can you do? We spun her round and trawled along the opposite bank, which looked decidedly private/club-like, until we found a Hobo-sized gap, where we smacked in the pins regardless, secured her and wandered off in search of the bridge that would take us to the pub.

All along the way there was a vast amount of new fencing adorned with EA health and safety notices. Not shy of spending money on that then.. of course not!

The London waterways come under the care of The Canal & River Trust but, other than in name, I see little difference between them and the Environment Agency when it comes to upkeep, maintenance and attitude towards the need of the boater. And given that a licence that allows navigation on these waterways, depending on the length of boat/waters navigated, can easily be in excess of £1000 per annum, I for one think it’s shocking that such low levels of maintenance and, in certain cases, total deterioration, are allowed and so little is forthcoming in return for our money.

I don’t rant without good reason or criticize without offering a possible solution. So how about this..?

What if those big old rusty barges we see about, some used for rubbish dumping, were converted to swallow our human waste? They could be moored on the offside, to discourage potential vandalism, boats could tie alongside and tip out… simple! And with a little ingenuity, some sort of hose and pump arrangement to facilitate the use of canal/river water for rinsing. Or even some simple structure – like a low lever water tower maybe – it doesn’t need to be high tech.

Then the (in my opinion) under-used C&RT/EA barges and workers could be adapted to empty these. Regularly.sunrise

 

 

East – West… Hobo’s Best

21 Dec

A real John-ism to be sure, something he said earlier as I trapped off about my horrid journey home this afternoon and unadulterated pleasure at finally getting home. Home to my cosy cocoon: Hobo the boat.Old West-Streatham

Despite abandoning the couple of errands I wanted to do on the way, it was worth the sacrifice, just to escape the madness.

I’d planned a little foray into ‘Arlo, where Aldi stock my coconut water at a fraction of the price charged by the local health shop. I do this every Monday, pretty much, without trauma. And I’d pick up a paper and have a rummage through their bargain bins.

From the A414, ‘Arlo is approached from the right-hand lane of the dual carriageway, whereas home is left hand lane. My mind must have been elsewhere as I joined the queue on the right and it took me a full 60 seconds to realise I was even in a queue (not being one that enjoys this sport at all whatsoever) and that the road off the roundabout into town was bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see. The left hand side that leads into the sticks was clear.

No brainer. Long – as opposed to quick – squint due to the appalling visibility (yes, raining too) into the nearside mirror and I’m gone. Water will wait for another day and I can pick up a paper at Bludgeons in Sawbo.

I have to take a left at a T-junction to go uphill for Sawbo and, wouldn’t you know, another stonking line of cars backed up there. Oh well, have a smoke while I wait – except I smoked the last one an hour ago – cue Simon and Garfunkel. Pox..!

There was some piss-poor interesting parking at the store, they’d sold out of all papers apart from the Guardian (and I’m not buying that) so I picked up some bread and headed for the till. Another long wait by the looks as it was manned by the slowest till tapper in all the world and even the kiosk was beset about by hoards of impatiently queueing  shoppers that had no right to be out in force like this at this time of day.

Bread abandoned, I’m heading for Hobo and the river.Ouse-Pike and Eel

What was all the traffic/extra people about? I left work at three, thinking no school run would equal an easy commute, to find the world and his wife were out in force and clogging up my route big-time.

I know, I know – time of year. I would, if I could, avoid all roads and commercial outlets during silly season. Not so much Bah Humbug as hating the way the world goes mad for shopping, bunging up the roads and making the simplest of purchases/journeys an ordeal of note.

But I don’t do Mrs. Angry any more. I’m in a good place and no longer have to share my space with the crazies of this world…as long as I remember to bail that is. What’s more, I’ve received some lovely greetings via social media wishing me well for the season and I treasure those people and their messages – thank you all.

One, from an old boating buddy, wishing us both a happy solstice and that, to me, means more than any of this other nonsense we get embroiled in – something to truly celebrate. So thanks again for that my friend.

So it’s all onward and upward from here – longer days and a new year. I’ll work the bit in the middle and it will pass as all things must.

To you all I wish the very best for this solstice, the season and for 2016.

Much love, BB

PS: The mud here is frightful as usual when the slightest drop of rain falls but, you know what, let it rain all it likes; I am not made of sugar, I have wellies, waterproofs and my very own ark, complete with one boatbird and one boatbloke.DSCN1437

That’ll do me.

 

 

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…

100_0525

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…

Out with the Old and In with the New..

29 Dec

By that I mean water pump. Naturally.

I’m hoping this is the last in a long line of things that have become dysfunctional of late in Boatbirdland. In this case though, I’ve been aware the day was coming; just a matter of when really. I excuse my meanness sense of not subscribing to today’s throwaway culture by saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” but John’s been nagging me for ages to do something about it. Apparently, I’m a bit stubborn..?

My old Shurflo water pump…003

Has been getting less and less effective over the last months. When the pump fails to produce enough pressure, the gas water heater fails to ignite, resulting in the shower performing a vicious hot cycle/cold cycle routine and only occasionally settling on a constant temperature under which I could bear to stand.

I’ve manfully put up with it (why was that?) until the week before the world as we know it comes to a grinding halt when it became either freezing or boiling, no middle ground. So much so that I stopped showering altogether.

That’s fine except for hair washing – Boatbird’s is very long these days – and, after more than a week of bad hair…images

I was going crazy. With hair in permanent pigtails, I probably looked ever so slightly dotty/a tad eccentric too. The next stage was habitual hat wearing…a-bad-hair-day

But, at least with the weather turning so cold, I think I may have got away with it.

Also, the flow from all taps was now no more than a dribble with the pump taking longer and longer to bother to cut in and surely only a matter of time before it totally gave  up the ghost. I coerced John into stripping the pump so I could clean all its innards (massive limescale and sludge deposits) but despite my misguided optimism high hopes that this would fix it, it damn well didn’t.

No seasonal miracles happening here then.

I was seriously considering the scissor option before I came to my senses and fired up the computer to see who had a suitable new pump in stock. Jones Boatyard in St. Ives came up trumps with a Jabsco that operates between 20 and 40 psi, shifting eleven litres a minute, suitable for long pipe runs and multi outlets. Sounds good to me. It was even on offer at £73.00 and, more importantly, in stock.

I really rate Jones and have not yet managed to find a chandler in this neck of the woods that comes close. It’s just a whack along the M11 – about an hour’s drive from here – though, so worth the trip.

By now it’s the C-word-Eve and they’ll be closing at 4pm (I discovered when I rang them) so John is despatched post-haste to sunny Cambridgeshire.

Once back here it was bish-bosh-bash…002

New pump installed. And again…001

Showing the accumulator, which this pump doesn’t need but will probably work better for it being there.

And all worked wonderfully well once more. I had a fabulous shower, water temperature not deviating a single degree for a single second. Perfect.

So now I wait to see what’s next…

Actually, I just found out and you’ll never believe it. Two more fails – one mechanical and the other directly caused by a very blonde moment on my part. One might be costly and the other making me loads of extra unnecessary/messy work. Both very vexing.

Find out what’s gone wrong now in the next thrilling instalment of Boatbird, coming to a computer near you very soon.

Oh, and all the best for next year. Here’s hoping 2015 brings joy to you all. And an end to all this crazy shit for me!

Ijsvogel

27 Nov

Pronounced I-c-e-v-o-g-u-l and translates to Icebird for those non-Dutch speakers among us. It’s the original name of the little boat and not one that John feels he could live with. I think, he being a tropical flower, it’s the ice part he has trouble with.

Tradition/superstition has it that it’s OK to change a boat’s name when out of the water so, if he ever makes up his mind which name that might be, it won’t bring bad luck.

Remember when we waded on board in those early days of just having acquired the little boat… ?100_3100

Well amongst all the watery wetness, we found a handwritten letter from the first owner to the one before John…001

How lovely, what a find, and joins up a few dots. There were also some old photographs of her build, launch, test run and subsequent trips on the water. Shame about the missing engine room pic – would have answered a few questions. Water damaged and curly edged, we rescued these and stowed in a safe place – ie Hobo – until such a time that we (I) could be bothered to scan them on to the computer.

Having found that time yesterday afternoon (and shelled out on a new printer/copier/scanner to replace my old defunct one) I am now in a position to share these with you.

It’s quite something to have just these few pics – a little bit of her history.

This one shows the armature construction in April 1976, according to the back of the snap…IMG_20141126_0007

Sadly, many of the build shots were too damaged; hard to make out from the photo so wouldn’t scan so well I figured.

These show her being loaded for transport – November 1976 – to the river Kennet…IMG_20141126_0006

IMG_20141126_0005The hull, engine and cabin completed.

And her trial run on the Kennet…IMG_20141126_0002

Also November ’76. What a beauty and cutting along by the looks.

The sharp end is quite different now…IMG_20140530_133436

Much needed extra cabin space having been created by the previous owner. This makes the bow tiny from the outside – barely standing room – but does make a much more usable space inside…

As she is now…IMG_20141117_210515
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A lovely space for the John. He’s gradually putting his stamp on it by adding a desk, restoring the little stove which works very nicely..IMG_20141126_180110And John’s hand-crafted chimney doing the business…
IMG_20141124_090507

And will look the business too, once he adds the copper strips.

There’s many ideas/good intentions/plans/stuff still to do in the cosmetics department but all this has to take a back seat until the major things have been dealt with. Notably the engine and hull.

Much has gone on that can’t be seen: like pulling 12 and 240 volt wires through, connecting (after first unblocking) the fuel lines and painting the under-bed storage spaces white – and filling them with stuff. It makes such a difference when you are looking for something under there.

And of course, that perennial problem with boats, finding somewhere to put everything. Just his tools would fill an aircraft carrier. Twice over.

But it’s coming.

On this one, back in the day, the sailing mast is visible…IMG_20141126_0003

And here in use for a family trip on the river Kennett, summer 1977…IMG_20141126_0004

You’ll note that windows have been added by now.

Much of the work that John is gradually now doing is of the not very photogenic variety. As in the engine. He’s found a couple of snags – things sticking that shouldn’t stick and bits that should be bolted on that aren’t. He’s just discovered that it’s the fuel pumps that are jamming up the works, so they’ll be taken to bits now and inspected.

He’s very methodical and takes great pains, which is good, to ensure all is as it should be before he winds her up. Thus avoiding any calamities. Both dying to hear her going though and hoping that the Lister sounds good and is as bombproof as we think it is.

So, we have the proof that she floated and ran once upon a time. Lets just hope she will again. Soon.

Perfect Doesn’t Get it Done

9 Oct

Words I read on another boatie blog recently and, believing them to be so true, stole them for here.

I used to be a bit of a perfectionist – If a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing well/Good enough isn’t good enough/It’ll do won’t do – all overused maxims in a previous life. I’m not sure if it’s living afloat, advancing years or some other strange phenomenon but I’ve had a complete change of heart on this one.

Now it seems to me that it is far better to get going on a job and achieve something, rather than constant agonising over method, materials and mastery. I’ve reduced myself to total paralysis in the past by this over-thinking process.

It is a bit of a trait of mine and, to be honest, I still find myself going down this route on occasions and have to give myself a pretty sharp talking to. Unless of course the John is around to save me from any harsh self-criticism – he’ll always delight in delivering a lecture on the evils of the maladjusted mind – mine in particular. He’d have me in therapy quick smart…test-therapy

As ever, in writing about what is on my mind, all becomes clear and that other strange phenomenon I mentioned earlier is clearly John. I’m not admitting to being easily influenced or anything here but he does have a way of making me see things differently. And that’s a good thing in my book; I like to think I am open to new ideas/ways of looking at things and never let it be said I am set in my ways or incapable of a little spontaneity.

In case you are wondering what all this head-shrinking is about, it’s just me justifying my attempts at fixing up the cratch board and re-attaching the TV aerial.

My last post told of taking the canopy into St. Ives to have the zip replaced, which was done efficiently and quickly – took less than two hours. Just enough time for me to fail to visit friends – I found their boat but was all locked up, which is most unusual; they must have seen me coming.

Instead, I had a nice chat with Caroline in the chandlery at Hartford Marina (the old home) and spent a small fortune on coffee at the nearby garden centre but managed to resist the urge to do similar at Jones’s Boatyard by only buying what I went there for. There’s a first time for everything.

So: stainless screws to replace the rusty ones that held the aerial mast and new toggle thingies for the cratch cover, by way of a treat.. 002

Not sure I’ve got them on the right way round but they seem to hold better like this.

Anyway, I’m well pleased with the service I received at S. Robb and Son in St. Ives and thoroughly recommend them if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods needing work done on your canopy or a new one. Take a look at this link – they seem to do all sorts.

As for re-mounting the aerial… I studied it long and hard to ascertain the correct way to fit it then got busy with the screwdriver. As a blonde, I’m not allowed anything sharp or powered so this is the manual variety, making it hard work. Well I seemed to make hard work of it anyway. I struggled to drive the screws all the way into the wood and quickly gave up stopped just short of them being all the way home, thinking this would do till I have a qualified electric screwdriver operator on my roof.

Up goes the aerial, which is held by a ratchet device that is secured by rotating a lever. I’ve only put it on upside down – would you believe it? Fortunately, it does seem to still work so, with new thinking engaged, I leave it be. It is blowing a hoolie right now though so my fingers are firmly crossed.

And the cratchboard…?

I’ve had a bit of a go, looks a tad better…001

But is by no means perfect and needs more work.

And that’s where I came in – perfect doesn’t get it done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the Worst that can Happen…?

31 Aug

Technically this (Google image)…boat1

But let’s hope it never does.

No, this week’s drama for BB was not in this league, thankfully, but it seemed pretty damn distressing at the time.

I don’t shower every day, partly water conservation and partly because I don’t think it’s necessary. But, before you think too hard about that, I do of course wash. Consequently, when I do hit the shower, it’s a most enjoyable experience. Those of you who think boats don’t come with such mod cons (the same ones no doubt that think boats are cold, damp, dank and draughty places) need to know that most actually do.

And mine is a very good one. Usually.

So when I was doing my best Herbal Essences impressions the other day, enjoying the piping hot water cascading over me as I lathered the shampoo into my hair, imagine my pissed-off-ness when the pump that takes the water out of the shower tray failed to work.

I should say at this point that said pump has given me grief before but not enough to replace it. It often gives me a heart-stopping moment when it doesn’t spring into action the first time I flick the switch but will then play ball when I repeat this. OK, sometimes it takes two or three attempts and a bit of coaxing or even a few harsh words before it gurgles into life and sucks away the water but it usually does at some point.

Not this time. No amount of sweet-talking/swearing and cursing/violence made the slightest difference. When the water in the shower tray reached the point that it was about to overflow onto the bathroom floor, I reluctantly turn off the taps, consider bailing and try desperately to remember what John did to fix it the last time this happened.

He’s had the pump to bits before – no way was I attempting this. And then it dawned on me. Wiring. I won’t go into details as I’m sure I’ve blogged about it before  but suffice it to say that I knew this was what I needed to check.

So, dripping and with frothy/soapy head (and by now a bit shivery too) I head for the bedroom where the fault was last time. The 12 volt wires run along the wall under the gunwale and, at a point where it is most difficult to see/get at, they are joined by way of a chocolate block.

I, fairly hands-on with most things, normally give electric a very wide berth – be it AC/DC or whatever persuasion. Unless it’s wiring a plug/replacing a fuse, this boatbird will give it the swerve and find a man who can. But, I’m hardly looking the part to pull right now. I need to rinse my hair and want to finish my lovely shower moment.

Conscious of the fact that I am soaking wet and vaguely aware this is a bad thing around electrickery, I dry my hands then assume an impossible position to get me in the right place to look, hoping that something looks obviously out-of-place and fixable.

And there’s no way a picture of this moment will appear anywhere other than in your head.

And what do you know? It did and it was – a wire had come adrift from the chocolate block and just needed re-connecting. Now where’s that tiny electrical screwdriver…?

Luckily, it was in the first place I looked and, with mental pictures of hair standing on end as deadly current flows through me, I re-assume my contortions and (without shock or drama) fix it. Simple.

The pump worked and I (feeling pretty pleased with myself) continued my ablutions and lived happily ever after.

So where was boatbloke when I thought I needed him?

Well, it’s that time of year…IMG_20140820_131447

And when he isn’t hurtling around a field in one of these…A combine harvesting this year's crop

And Pete isn’t thrashing or crashing or bashing…IMG_20140823_155229

In order to affix a new knife blade or similar, he’ll be hanging around waiting for the rain to stop and the wheat to dry out again before they can continue with the combining.

At least he’s making stuff while he’s otherwise unoccupied. A chimney right now for the little boat so we can resume the fixing up of and blogging about that little project.

Lets hope that’s soon.

 

 

 

Walking on Water

7 Jul

Hobo, the John and BB are now back on the riverbank and once again floating/walking on water. So to speak.

Marvellous. All is as it should be in boatbirdland and life carries on as (I almost hesitate to say) normal.

I may have told you that John is doing a little work on the farm here and, being multi-talented as he is, his daily tasks vary enormously. Just the way he likes it.

It could be anything from rowing dinner across the river…010 (2)

 

012013015To the Highlands that live over there…017

To pulling a boat out and up the slipway…IMG_20140628_103816

And parking it. Somewhere amongst all the other projects that live on the hard.

Or it might be building a donkey shelter…002

Very friendly donkeys who just love their new shelter…IMG_20140703_185331

Which doubles as a scratching post it seems.

Or dog kennel/run…025

This is his first; the second even sports a porthole. They just get better and there’s more to build. A career in canine architecture.

All made from old wood that has accumulated here over the years. John loves to work with old wood and is making good use of everything that can be found here – sometime he’s re-cycling parts of old wooden boats that came to rest here.

I like that thought – their lives to continue and remain useful, albeit in another guise.

And BB?

Just the usual and when I’m not out at work I’ve been sky gazing…001_stitch 002

009Been some interesting ones of late. Incredible.

Feeding Swannee River…017018015016

He will also take food from your hand, quite gently, but a little tricky to photograph.

Or practising Pilates. Or strumming my guitar – or trying to.

Or cutting the nails of my left hand in order to be able to hold down the strings. Yes, I’ve sacrificed a very handy set of (fast-growing) tools to this cause so I must be serious about it.

BB has also been tending the garden…004

Which has been a picture, with the flowering beans and marigolds.

Sadly, the radishes pretty much all bolted. Shame as they are my current obsession and I go through 9-10 supermarket packs a week! Will keep trying.

I’ve eaten the first of the courgettes…006

Yummy and more to follow.

And the broad beans look ready now…005

The colours have been glorious…009

Just waiting for the nasturtiums to do their thing…014

They’ve started…013

012Funny, I thought I bought red ones.

And Gerry, as ever, stands proud on the bow…015

And his brother…010

Trailing from the roof. Waiting for a neat John- style box to live in.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers…011

For John.

Loving the old clay pot (a slag-heap find) complete with moss.

I’ve also been watching the little birdies…017

Which of course do a disappearing act the minute I even think about thinking about switching on the camera. They have been here though – trust me, I’m a boatbird – now we’ve sussed out how to magpie-proof the fat balls by putting them behind bars.

Does anyone know what this is…?100_2226 100_2227

Not just an ordinary dandelion. Seen at the seaside.

Or this…?IMG_20140627_142334

A most unusual poppy, sprouting magnificently from the muck heaps.

All that AND I’ve managed to put in a few hours on the little boat – MAINSTAY/TITANIC/GYPSY/PHOEBE whatever, still can’t choose. Pics and progress report to follow in the next update. Suffice to say that she’s coming along and proving to be a super, comfy, functional space that is very… John.

Speaking of concrete boats…

A very good friend of mine informed me that there was a community of concrete boat liveaboards at Burnham-on-Crouch. So, always hankering after a visit to the Essex coast, off we trotted by way of research.

Never one to give a bum steer, my old mate came up trumps again.

Though they were all on a completely different scale to our own little version, there was something about them… 100_2222

Individual…100_2224

100_2217 100_2223 100_2220Rustic…100_2216

This one had gorgeous gardens…100_2221

Fore…100_2219

And aft…100_2218

And charming…

100_2215A work in progress with tricky boarding. From instantly hating it, this one has become my favourite. Don’t ask me why.

Take a closer look at that jetty…100_2215

The more observant ones among you may have noticed that not all these boats were concrete – the odd steel one having snuck in.

We had hoped to pick the brains of the occupants but saw no-one about. Must have all been passed out inside out at work. It was a Wednesday afternoon; I suppose most good folk would be.

We spotted another project…100_2225

Beached across the water.

We’d also wanted to see where the Chelmer/Blackwater joined the sea so, after a quick bit of smartphone googling, we headed off to Maldon. A lock-side pub called to us so we sat awhile there before strolling along the beautiful, clear river, taking in the different craft moored there, the wildlife and generally breathed it all in.

Aaaah! Lovely day out.

Back at the funny farm, I’ve made a fabulous new feline friend but more of that in the next post.

Oh alright then…

008

Just a taster.

 

 

Bottoms Up!

30 Jun

Hobo has a very nice bottom. It’s official.

Three weeks ago now, we had the old girl pulled out of the water to have her bottom re-blacked. The last time this was done was four years ago now (and four years before that, just before I bought her). This is probably twice as long as recommended but, I’m happy and relieved to say, that she has fared well – despite mental pictures of lace curtains that haunted me as the day approached.

But none of that – she is fine and in very good shape.

Her first two ‘outings’ were at Welford’s dry dock where I believe they did a splendid job. This time, Welford being so far to cruise to when you are constrained by having to go out to work, it seemed favourite to make use of the facilities here – ie the slipway with its bomb trolley, as John calls it, and the  excellent workmanship of Andy and Jess.

We’ve witnessed their handiwork on many occasions; business here picking up no end since they took on this service. No surprise really as they do a brilliant job.

I was at work when they decided to pull her out and couldn’t wait for me to get back – time and tide waiting for no man (or even boatbird it seems)  – other boats already lining up to take their turn. So I authorised John to skipper the operation to drive her up the slipway. Not that I had any fears on that score; just a bit miffed to miss the event.

Perhaps as well. I can turn into a real old woman when it comes to Hobo’s well-being. And driving into the yard to see her sitting safely atop the trolley on the slipway was a huge relief…003

As Jess made a start on scraping off the sludge…001

Andy pronounced Hobo a very well made boat and her hull in great condition. Music to my ears.

I always thought she was a good boat but there’s nothing like hearing it from someone that knows about these things and is totally unbiased.

They set about grinding her back to the metal, observing strict health and safety regs of course…011

Even the, now eight year old, anodes had stood up well…010

But I decided to add four new ones…008

As I didn’t think they’d go another four years.

On closer inspection, there was one place that caused concern, this being on the waterline where the red stripes around the stern…004 (2)

As much as I wanted to keep this traditional cream over red design, I conceded it would be prudent to lose this to further bitumen. Really quite nasty pitting so best get rid.

Protection over cosmetics every time.

And here it is gone…007 (2)

After all, I can always re-instate it at a later date if I feel so inclined.

Actually, I’m quite liking the green stripe that has been used for masking – called frog tape and apparently brilliant.

On the bow too…009 (2)

We shall see. More work to bring the superstructure up to scratch first though.

I’m getting more and more ideas for decoration and I reckon, by the time Hobo is tiddled up enough and ready for some artistry, I shall have a plan.

The truly marvellous thing when it comes to slipway versus dry dock is that boatbird can still live aboard while work is carried out, courtesy of some giant steps…002

The noise and dust is a bit of a pain but that stops in the evening so not all bad. I do struggle to walk half sharp when she’s not floating though. Feels so weird.

We were so lucky with the weather – the whole three days were glorious, sunny and, most importantly, dry. Well done, for once, to whoever arranges the weather. Just check out that sky…023

Not forgetting the good old digger that pulled her up and kept her there…024

My rudder and propeller. Before…009

And after…008 (2)

Minus the tangle of wire/weed/whatever.

The team in action…001 (2)

Supervised by the John…002 (2)

Looking good now the paint is going on.

Notice which gender isn’t standing around/watching/chatting?

That said, they both grafted furiously. Indeed, once we saw how hard they worked, any guilt at not having done it ourselves (and saving loadsamymoney) simply evaporated. We conceded we are just too old disinclined to undertake that level of physical effort.

A view from afar…

018

Because I can.

There’s even a short/boring/vaguely amusing video of Hobo as she comes off the slip – I was present for this – but I’m too mean to upgrade this site so it can’t be shown here. Maybe I’ll just post it on fishface instead.

There was a bonus too. My kitchen sink has been bloody useless decidedly inefficient since day 1. Any waste drained (or not) into the u-bend then into a thinner pipe, which actually went uphill – I may have mentioned this before – a right royal pain in the arse.

Being on the hard was the perfect time to work on her so we did just that. With Andy’s advice and a borrow of his tools, John drilled another hole (eek) in Hobo’s hull (lower and larger than the previous one) to take a 38mm skin fitting, this being provided by a kind neighbour who just happened to have one going spare. This then linked to a larger hose, pointing downhill, we did away with the u-bend altogether and BINGO – the water now actually drains away. Quickly.  Along with any gunk I happen to carelessly throw down it.

And John has plumbed it in such a way I even have more under-sink cupboard space, which on a narrowboat is back of the net.

All in all a pleasant experience. And you can’t always say that about routine maintenance.

 

 

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

10 Feb

Just to let you know that the river here is almost back to normal, thanks to a couple of dryish days and some pretty efficient draining onto the land.

I’m making the most though ’cause it’s not going to last – yet more Atlantic lows waiting in the wings, bringing a possible further two inches of rain or so and yet more windy wind.

But you know all that.

And my own personal ark will continue to protect me.

Anyway, I went out today in brilliant sunshine, without the usual bundles of warm layers and serious waterproof  gear. It was heaven. Gorgeous. Not even a breeze.

But every silver lining has a cloud and, just as I arrived back, it chucked it down: cats, dogs, stair rods – you name it. Terrific. A short sharp shower, just enough to make me nice and wet before I’d made it across dog-dirt and on to the boat.

By the time I’d changed out of my totally unsuitable clothing and slipped into something more comfortable – and dry – put the kettle on and made up the fire it had stopped. Typical. Should have waited in the car.

Anyway, good time to nip out and fill the coal scuttle.

And there it was… 001

003

Whoa, never mind  silver lining, how about that?

Had to be stitched…002_stitch (2)

Bugger, didn’t even see it at first.

That twirly drier taking centre stage. How could I possibly have missed that?

But, with careful cropping and more patience than a score of saints,  it was wiped…002_stitch

How good is that?

It’s a bit of a cheat, but hey, why not? We have the technology.