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All Good Things..

25 May

Seven weeks of living out in the watery wilderness has come to an end…IMG-20180507-WA0000.jpg

We’ve chugged up and down this lovely little river, moored at various middle of nowhere locations, walked the towpath and discovered the footpaths through the adjacent park and got to know the regular dog walkers and runners.

We’ve heard and seen all sorts of wildlife, some – scarily – on board… IMG-20180426-WA0001-1.jpg

The web of a funnel web spider in Hobo’s engine room!

A more conventional outdoor web…IMG-20180507-WA0001.jpg

A toad on the towpath…IMG_20180510_103931.jpg

Mother and chicks…IMG-20180514-WA0000.jpg

Cows…IMG-20180418-WA0002-1.jpg

All of these will benefit from zooming in.

There was a snake on the towpath on one of my walks but it was far faster than me, slithering into the safety of the long grass before I could even think about grabbing the camera.

No amount of zooming will help here. Another of many of my marvellous pics that got away.

John calls this Queen Anne’s lace…IMG-20180513-WA0000-1.jpg

But has always been keck to me.

It (and the nettles) has grown madly while we’ve been out. Hobo was visible from way back at one spot but completely hidden a few weeks later – at first scaring the hell out of me, thinking she’d gone on without me!

We’ve even carried out some exterior boat maintenance.

Before…IMG-20180328-WA0000-1.jpg

After…IMG_20180525_150424.jpg

It’s far from finished but I’m happy with the story so far. Making a start, as always, was the hardest part. The rest I can do in bite-size pieces – as and when – starting with the hand rails I think.

Now I’m all for a bit of serendipity and synchronicity, and my next little tale is certainly a bit of both. John got chatting to a dog walker one day who introduced herself as a cat magnet. Knowing I was hankering after a feline friend, he called me to come talk to her. She’s involved with re-homing rescue dogs and cats and said she’d keep me in mind.

That very evening we had a visitor…IMG-20180510-WA0000.jpg

She was very hungry and, after wolfing down a can of tuna, became very affectionate and soon made herself at home…

Do click on any image to big it up.

She helped me with the writing…IMG-20180429-WA0007.jpg

Making the bed…IMG-20180429-WA0001.jpg

IMG-20180429-WA0002.jpgA bit twitchy at times…IMG_20180428_133325.jpg

But mostly quite content…IMG_20180428_220630.jpg

She slept at the bottom of the bed every night, waking me by pummelling my stomach and head-butting me at an ungodly hour each morning to be let out.

She spent the day playing in the woods…IMG-20180509-WA0002.jpgIMG-20180509-WA0001-1.jpg

Returning intermittently to feed – and I think to check we were still there. We speculated as to where she’d come from. She seemed very au fait with boat life – had she jumped ship? But surely her human would be looking for her – but no evidence of this: lost kitty posters, concerned person calling her name. Nothing.

I messaged the “cat magnet” but it was not her doing. A puzzle.

And a dilemma. It seemed wrong to leave her when we left and wrong to take her with us. Such a gorgeous creature…IMG-20180429-WA0006.jpg

The cat – just in case you were wondering!

As ever, doing nothing proved to be the best plan. One day, a chappie pitched up looking for her. He’d been moored nearby and noticed she was missing when he’d moved his boat further downstream. We told him we’d met her and said she’d be in the woods so he called her but to no avail.

I then called out “come on then”, she appeared from nowhere, avoided her human and jumped aboard Hobo! It was like she had made a choice. Well they do say cats choose their owners. Of course, I had to let her go. It was heart-breaking!

But that’s not the end to this story. John walked down the towpath that night and saw her on the roof of “her” boat…IMG-20180504-WA0001.jpg

It wasn’t until he arrived back at Hobo that we realised she had followed him. It was quite a way and in the dark. Unbelievable!

Kitty-cat moved in with us again. Double dilemma – now that we knew where she belonged. Again, any decisions were taken out of our hands, she was collected once more and her boat moved further away. I  am resigned to never seeing her again but live in hope that the “cat magnet” will come up trumps and find me one of my own. Till then though, I miss her. Every day.

And so, all good things have come to an end. John’s gone, cat’s gone, I am back on my mooring and looking forward to the next time. Maybe in the autumn.

But I have lovely memories of a lovely time, lovely little trip, lovely company and lots of lovely photos.

And a cupboardful of lovely cat food.

 

 

 

 

 

The Daily Grind..

24 Apr

The long overdue maintenance begins…IMG_20180418_172747.jpgIMG_20180418_172441.jpg

It’s horrifying to see how much rust is bubbling under the paintwork so just as well we’ve made a start.

We’ve established a system. I go first with the chisel and expose the problem areas, then John follows up with the noisy machinery and grinds it out. This is followed by painting on a rust treatment, which is wiped off the following day.

It was great when we started  and can’t think of a better place to be to do this job. But now looks cold and mis for the foreseeable. Typical.

I’ve now sourced the cream topcoat, so all we need now is the weather to behave again.

We chug up and down in the meantime; for fun, a break or to load fresh supplies and unload rubbish/waste.

Harlow Mill is a good spot…IMG_20180418_113517.jpgIMG_20180418_113627.jpg

With a water point too, which is handy.

There’s also a useful little road that gets the car right next to the boat…IMG_20180418_113637.jpg

Perfect.

But the main road is too close so we choose not to stay here. Easy peasy – swing her round and back upstream to somewhere quieter…IMG-20180419-WA0000.jpg

That’s more like it.

You’ll notice the chimney is smoking. Thought we’d moved into warmer times but, sadly, fire-free days didn’t last long. One day to be precise!

Still, at least the towpath has dried up nicely now – I’ve even shed the boots.

One woman and her dog…

IMG_20180420_143548.jpg

There’s also a lovely lady who comes by picking up litter. Good job that woman.

Also plenty of joggers/walkers and a cyclist or two. A few boats come by – but not many.

Sunrise…IMG-20180419-WA0001.jpg

Sunset…IMG-20180418-WA0000.jpg

It’s a hard life.

We nipped back upstream yesterday evening, through the lock to where we could turn her – I did a splendid job if I say so myself.

Back into the lock, which is the ideal place (close to where our cars are parked) to load new gas cylinder and offload a full carzy, which I shall drive to where my home mooring is and empty it in the appropriate place -just in case you thought it went in the river or down a lucky rabbit hole…

rabbit hole

I wouldn’t!

Very useful operation and a lovely little jaunt.

Bit short on pics this week but we have been busy. Hope to soon be able to update you with some impressive paint job type shots before too long. Will of course depend on the weather.

But here’s three John took early one morning for me to stitch together…

m. mist 2_stitch

Back soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down River..

14 Apr

Sunset lock didn’t disappoint…IMG_20180403_194110.jpgIMG_20180403_193402.jpg

 

IMG_20180403_193524.jpgStunning.

So we had an extra night there.

Next morning saw us back on the mooring to top up, tip out and replenish supplies. More coal and gas was loaded aboard and I (reluctantly) shopped to fill the fridge and cupboards.

A couple of days later we were off again. You can’t beat that feeling when you slip the mooring – freedom. And a sense of not knowing where you’ll be at bedtime.

Through a couple of locks, stopping just below the second one. There’s great parking close by for the car but, sadly, poor phone signal and no WIFI.

We’re now moored further down at a lovely middle of nowhere spot…IMG-20180412-WA0000.jpg

Did you spot Hobo?

Ah, there she is. Such a welcome sight when you’ve trekked from the car…IMG-20180412-WA0002.jpg

Yep, there she is…IMG-20180412-WA0001.jpg

Home sweet home.

With good phone and WIFI but can’t tune the tele in. Still only a 15 minute stroll along the towpath to the same secure car parking. Who needs the TV anyway?

You might notice that we have had a go at the roof and side. Big improvement but more to do. Mostly John’s good work because I had to go and see a man about a car…

IMG-20180410-WA0000.jpg

Such a sad day.

Bye-bye Battlestar, my trusty steed for twelve years. Gone. She was still going strong but wouldn’t have gone through another MOT without costing me a small fortune, so I did what I had to do.

She fetched more than I thought she would – looking after me till the end. I now have an older smaller job that goes like a rocket, a mere 41k miles, showroom condition – a bargain at just £200, including 12 months ticket, new battery and full tank of petrol!

Brothers have their uses.

Back to Hobo, from the little bridge just downstream…IMG-20180410-WA0001.jpg

I’m liking it here.

I have good neighbours…IMG_20180414_153549.jpgIMG_20180414_153618.jpg

And the garden is great…IMG_20180414_153647.jpgIMG_20180414_154048.jpg

With extra water features.

Of course, the towpath is a bit muddy in places, but then so is my home mooring.

Being Lea Valley, there’s lots of walking roads…

IMG_20180414_153755.jpg

And the dog walkers are friendly.

Today the sun came out and it was really warm. What a treat. I even let the fire go out – first time for months!

It’s lovely to be able to roll up the canopy and open up all the doors and hatches. I was even moved to sweep up the mud, mop the floor and shake out the mats. It doesn’t seem worth the effort when it’s raining all the time. Try as much as you like, taking off the boots in the cratch, the mud and muck still sneaks indoors.

I’ll be spring cleaning next!

We are planning on doing some bodywork to the old girl while we are out. I’ll show you what we get up to when we get to it.

She’s done really well, considering her last proper paint job was twelve years ago. 2006 was a big year for me – new home and new car.

I want to get her gleaming again and have a cunning plan for some snazzy new signwriting. All will be revealed in due course.

But now seems like a good moment for a G&T…

pexels-photo-616836.jpeg

Cheers!

 

Making the Most..

3 Apr

Such a lovely spot…IMG-20180330-WA0002.jpg

Especially at silly o’clock with the mist. Needless to say, John took this one while I slumbered on.

We decided to stick around for a day or so. Can’t beat a bit of secluded riverbank. So quiet.

Apart from the odd train…IMG_20180330_153730.jpg

But that’s being in the south east for you. The railway is never far away.

Zoom in a bit…IMG_20180330_154728.jpg

A solar panel. The John, a firm fan of foraging, fancies harvesting this for Hobo’s roof. Bit naughty though.

I am planning to go solar this year – the bought and paid for variety of course. Be a great addition to Hobo’s equipment. Free power – why wouldn’t you?

This is Woody Woodpecker’s wood…IMG_20180330_153817.jpg

Just to complete the picture. See that rain bouncing off the river?

We studied the weather forecasts and decided that Sunday would be a good day to move on. No rain as such on the cards, so we headed upstream.

Just three locks and a steady tootle saw us in Bishop’s Stortford by early afternoon.

There’s a sanitary station there; not the nicest of places but handy if you have a full carzy and/or an empty water tank. Water was OK so I dealt with the former – get all the good jobs me!

To be fair though, John does do the carrying before he beats a hasty and leaves me to do the deed.

Not far from here is the end of the navigation, requiring the boat to be turned. There is a good winding place there, although you end up turning against the flow (quite strong after all the rain) so easier said than done.

There’s also mooring here and a waterside café so you are in the spotlight a bit – at the mercy of the dreaded gongoozlers who, no doubt, would all do a better job!

John drew the short straw but did a damn good job without incident, accident or damage – always a bonus!

Bishop’s Stortford is a nice little market town but, after being in the middle of nowhere for several days and nights, felt like the big city, so we skedaddled right out of there.

The Stort is a fairly unbusy river at the best of times but we’ve barely seen another boat on the move…IMG-20180401-WA0001.jpg

And that suits us fine.

Easter is traditionally the time for boats to start moving again but I think the weather has kept them away. Inclement weather has its uses.

Hobo is running well and we are having a lovely time. Believe it or not, the weather is dry as predicted and not too cold, providing you wrap up well.

The obligatory lock shot…IMG-20180401-WA0002.jpg

Well, Boatbloke has to do something while he waits!

The river must be quiet – we actually managed to tie up above Tednambury – aka sunset lock. A spot that’s previously always been taken…

IMG_20180403_141504.jpg

An old picture from a previous cruise, taken from inside the lock, illustrating the reason we call it sunset lock…

100_1594

So this is where Hobo has been sleeping.

And this is where the John has come to rest…IMG-20180330-WA0003.jpg

A tropical flower.

And me? Mixing the G&Ts of course!

John went off to work this morning and spotted this on the towpath…IMG-20180403-WA0000.jpg

Local wildlife.

My immediate neighbours are a little less delicate…IMG_20180402_153257.jpgIMG_20180402_153232.jpgBlimey, another boat…IMG-20180402-WA0000.jpg

Bloody bad timing! They are going to get very wet working that lock in this lot!

My aft view…IMG_20180403_141545.jpg

And portside…thumbnail_IMG_20180403_161032_stitch

Tomorrow we will slip through the lock and, providing we can still get under the very low railway bridge, be back on Hobo’s mooring in half an hour or so.

Supplies will be replenished – coal, gas, groceries etc – then we’ll be off again on Thursday/Friday.

See you then.

 

 

About Bloody Time..

30 Mar

I’m not about to share with you just how long it’s been since Hobo was let off the leash but, trust me, it’s far too long.

I worried that Hobo had become known as HMS Neverbudge..!

I could offer all manner of excuses/reasons but I won’t. Let’s just say that life got in the way. Like it does.

The good news is…IMG-20180327-WA0000.jpg

We are out now and loving it!

State of that roof!

But that’s a part of why we needed to get off the mooring – to find a spot where I can clean off the winter’s grime.

OK, so we only cruised about an hour – including a lock…IMG-20180327-WA0003.jpgIMG-20180327-WA0002.jpgIMG-20180327-WA0001.jpg

Before we lost the light and moored up – probably less than a mile from base, but that’s really all it takes. A new view from the window and a new perspective on life.

If you ignore the roof for a mo, John has kindly captured Hobo’s good side. The other one, that sleeps under the willow tree, is pretty grim.

There was the odd battery drama in the days leading up to our escape, but hey, all sorted soon enough…with a little bit of help from my friends. Hobo’s engine sounds as sweet as a nut, no doubt enjoying a run as much as me.

Yes, so the John is back for the time being and we are making the most of it. Or we will, if the rain stops for long enough!

It finally cleared up late Wednesday afternoon, turning into a super evening. We decided to tootle a little further downstream, then turn and see how far upstream we could get before we lost the light.

This is the spot…IMG-20180328-WA0000.jpg

Where we moored on Wednesday evening. Gorgeous eh?

Gotta get on that roof and scrub…

I saw a barn owl in flight soon after we tied up, and heard the woodpecker hammering away in the wood, just out of shot to the left, on Thursday morning.

How good is that?

Friday afternoon now and still here. Still raining.

Maybe move again later, if the weather improves. Or maybe I should spray some fairy liquid on the roof and make the most of the rain…

There’s a thought.

Be sure to let you know when/where to next.

 

 

 

Time for a re-boot..?

19 Feb

I may be being a little bit previous and don’t want to jump the gun or do whatever the opposite of hedging one’s bets is (rash? intrepid?) but am considering a re-boot here in Boatbird land.

That’s not anything to do with computers by the way – far from it. No, it’s a simple waiving of the wellingtons in favour of something a little less rubbery and cumbersome. The replacements will still have to be sturdy and functional. They’ll still need to be waterproof, so the Uggs are out and, preferably, something that the jeans will tuck into the tops of. Mud is, at the moment, still an issue here at dog-dirt alley, albeit receding slightly.

BB has a very suitable fur lined leather pair, which fit the bill quite nicely. They are waterproof, moderately trendy and dead comfy. If only I could remember where the hell I put them! They won’t be in deep storage at this time of year but clearly out of sight and in some clever hidey-hole on board…somewhere. I shall have to go hunt the boot before I can re-boot.

OK, so we’re a long way off from plimmies and flip-flops but, forgive me, it’s a big deal for the riverbank boat dweller, even the merest hint of not needing to be constantly constrained by sensible footwear that you have to be forever changing into and out of. Or, in my case, be stylishly sporting down the High Street here in Sawbo central.

You cannot fail to have noticed that the last few days have been positively spring-like. Apologies to those of you living in a less clement part of the UK, that is the north and west, but here in the south east, at least, it has been glorious – off and on – and I’m struggling to contain my optimism. I’ve even been out without a coat…

The bulbs I stuck into boxes in autumn are shooting and hope to soon have some spring flowers adorning the deck, not to mention some pics worth taking.  Amazing really, considering the local wildlife were having a field day digging them up as fast as I could put them in.

Speaking of wildlife and pics worth taking – South African style…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-02 at 16.33.51

Leopard claw marks. Close to where John had been exploring – in the wilds of Toast River.

He found a  natural spring…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-02 at 16.29.30WhatsApp Image 2018-02-02 at 16.30.21

And…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-02 at 16.28.10WhatsApp Image 2018-02-02 at 16.38.51

Back in Bot River…WhatsApp Image 2018-01-22 at 17.45.41

Edible fruit that no-one knows the name of.

Big game…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-02 at 16.43.18

Aw.

Birdlife…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-16 at 16.12.55WhatsApp Image 2018-02-16 at 08.52.18

Buzzard and heron came calling by the bus.

A baby weaverbird…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-16 at 16.20.28WhatsApp Image 2018-02-16 at 16.12.12

That flew into and couldn’t get out of the bus.

Birds love to feed on John’s sunflowers…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-15 at 11.33.00

And drink at his bar.

Obligatory cute cat pics…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-15 at 12.02.43WhatsApp Image 2018-02-15 at 11.09.47

More wild fires…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-05 at 17.33.29

This one too close for comfort – just across the road.

Ash on the steps of the local store…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-05 at 17.35.25

Damage to local scrappie…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-05 at 17.33.06

Cape Town and thereabouts…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-18 at 16.09.23

Disused quarry.

Graffiti…

What’s Hobo doing there? Surely not rushing!

More like art…WhatsApp Image 2018-02-11 at 14.16.12

Love this.

And that’s all from the SA album for now.

Finally, back on the water, I so want one of these…

27332314_10214459481788186_5084806198878252571_n[1]

And have challenged John to make one for Hobo’s stove.

Footnote:

Writing course tutors urge their students to bury newly written work for a day or so before submission/publication; editing then being more objective.Being the good little student I am, that’s what I did with this post. Which is just as well because it has rained all night and day, so it seems I was indeed being a little rash and it looks like I’ll be booting up once more…IMG_20180219_153733.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the wellies.

 

Snakes Alive..!

21 Jan

Warning: This post does include shocking images and live snake footage, so not for the faint-hearted.

But I’ll start you off gently with some prettiness…IMG-20180110-WA0000.jpgIMG-20180115-WA0001.jpg

IMG-20180115-WA0000.jpgSome mild scariness…IMG-20171229-WA0000.jpgIMG-20180103-WA0000.jpg

And some too close for comfort wild fires…IMG-20180111-WA0000.jpgIMG-20171230-WA0000.jpg

Just over the road. South Africa of course.

But back to the snake story. Our man in that other, warmer hemisphere did say there were a lot of snakes about…IMG-20171129-WA0001.jpgIMG-20171211-WA0000.jpgIMG-20180118-WA0000.jpgWhatsApp Image 2017-11-10 at 17.27.45

You may need to big up some of the pictures though to actually see them.

Most of these pics were sent to me with a caption – can you spot the snake? Wasted no end of time / gave me hours of fun. Hope it does the same for you.

You ready for the big one?

Sure?

Sure you’re sure?

OK, here it comes…

 

Bet you didn’t have one of those in your Christmas tree..!

John is well known for his snake handling ability and often gets roped into catching and removing unwanted ones. He’s very fond of them and always returns them to somewhere suitable for the snake and far away from where it wasn’t wanted. So, be assured that no snake was harmed in the making of this video.

Loving the health and safety footwear.

Now, in order to soothe your nerves, I shall break with tradition and bombard you with cute, cuddly cat images…

WhatsApp Image 2017-11-10 at 17.26.54IMG-20171208-WA0000.jpgIMG-20171221-WA0000.jpgIMG-20171218-WA0000.jpgIMG-20171217-WA0001.jpgIMG-20180115-WA0002.jpgIMG-20180111-WA0001.jpgAnd a couple of battle-scarred ones…IMG-20171224-WA0001.jpgIMG-20171224-WA0000.jpg

Aw..

Meet Ginger. Thought to be feral and refusing to be sociable with other humans in the neighbourhood, but succumbed to John’s cat whispering technique.

He likes to hang about with John in the bus and garden and even goes walking in the bush with him.  A great companion.

I want one now! A ship’s cat.

I always said I wouldn’t; litter trays and all that on a boat – no way. But, if anyone knows of a boat trained/water-loving/ever so cute one that is able to swim and use what would pass as a cat-flap on board and just happens to be looking for an exciting new home…

Hobo and I are surviving all that the elements can throw at us – even the wind which can be a bit wild on a boat – especially if everything isn’t tied up or nailed down. But I learned that the hard way. It’s amazing what can be blown off the roof if not suitably secured!

We were separated, Hobo and me, between 23/12 and 02/01 while I did a house sit. A nice little earner and some unaccustomed luxury for me, but poor Hobo suffered and was freezing cold and damp on my return. A few kind words and a roaring fire soon saw me forgiven though.

And, in case you were wondering, all the weird shit seems to have stopped now. Bugger, shouldn’t have said that out loud..

This was the culprit that took out my 12 volt…IMG_20171223_132252.jpg

A burned out in-line fuse located at the back of the fuse box which, despite all my investigations and those of helpful neighbours, proved elusive. I ended up fetching a friend from Huntingdon who knows Hobo’s wiring intimately and, indeed, fitted it in the first place – a belt and braces measure.

It took him all of two minutes to uncover AND fix. Thank you Steve. It’s so good to have normal service resumed.

And, in other news…

Mud. That’s pretty much it.

 

 

 

 

WTF..?

21 Dec

Tell me now, just what IS going on?

It’s happened before. And it’s happening again – right now.

You ever have those times when everything conspires to confound you? Sure you do.

Those times when everything goes awry and life’s normal rhythm goes to pieces and stuff breaks/stops working/blows up in your face.

It started with the specs: the ones I now know I can’t do without – despite constant denial on my part. They fell in half. So now I can’t see sharp to do almost everything I need to. Great. But, with a little help from my friendly optician and the Royal Mail, a temporary repair involving a drill, paperclip and super glue was expertly effected.

Then it was the car’s engine management light. Last time it came on it signalled a hole in the radiator – lots of steam and drama. This time though the temperature gauge stayed dead on normal so I bravely/stupidly continued on my 90 mile journey (to the wife of afore-mentioned optician and my dear friend), with one eye glued to said gauge. And at a considerably slower speed than my norm. Not a good feeling. Made it though. The next day we travelled into Leicester for eye test and to order new specs – stronger lenses required – and to acquire  new frame for current lenses, which will act as a spare pair in the future. Good plan, even if the horse has bolted.

And the EML went out yesterday as mysteriously as it went on.

Next up was the big freeze, which stopped my propane gas regulator from working. No gas = no oven or hob and no hot water.  So cups of tea or coffee/hot meals/showering out of the question.  It didn’t last long but is now wrapped up and covered to prevent any repetition.

Yesterday morning  saw a total 12 volt failure on board, meaning no lights or pumps. Shame it had to happen as I was all lathered up in the shower though… When the water pump packs up it means the water boiler stops working so the shower goes cold and then stops altogether. And, as if receiving a cold shock and being unable to rinse isn’t bad enough, the pump that takes the water out of the shower tray doesn’t.

But BB is a coper, so I cope. Last night I had a lovely candlelit boat and music playing. The TV and radio are powered by 240 volt but the booster required to get a half decent signal is – of course – 12 volt. The Squirrel stove is powered by coal so I was warm and cosy and, as a friend pointed out, G&T’s require no power to produce…

I resolved to investigate the lack of 12 volt this morning in daylight and couldn’t be arsed last night in the dark. And I was feeling mellow with all the candles/G&T/music etc. I will report my findings when I find them… I am off to the engine room in a mo.

I am left wondering what’s next though.

Well, for a start, today is the Winter Solstice and that can only be good news and  more worthy of celebrating than the C word in my book. Could be the pagan in me or maybe perhaps the fact that days will now start to get longer, a minute a day and rising to two minutes plus come January. And that can only be good.

So happy solstice shipmates!

An arrival..

29 Nov

As we pulled into Hartford Marina I, at the helm, was nervous…

I knew a few people there and felt under pressure to not look a total twat be in control, appear competent, to glide serenely by.

There was a small plastic boat in front of the arrow that showed the way to the sales pontoon, where I was to report, so I chugged unknowingly down a blind alley. On trying to turn around I, to my eternal shame, bashed one of the moored boats, panicked, leaned on the throttle and fled.

As I was explaining to Lorna how I missed the big red arrow, we passed said yoghurt pot on which a man was fishing. He laughed and said it was he who’d inadvertently sent me the wrong way…and sort of sniggered.

So, rather than a landing, it was an arrival – as they say in aviation circles. My only hope was that everyone was comatose/out to lunch/gone fishing or seriously not paying attention. (No-one ever mentioned this incident but I suspect it was very quickly the subject of the towpath telegraph.)

We eventually tied up in the appropriate place where  a friend and new neighbour was waiting to greet us – I’d texted him our ETA – and his young daughters presented me with a card and bottle of sloe gin. What a welcome!

I checked in and was given a choice of two berths (adjacent) so decided to decide which one when we got there and crashed slipped into the one that was easiest to negotiate. No more heroics today. A neighbour appeared, grabbed the ropes and tied us up. We shook hands and he offered help if needed – now or at any time.

How nice was that?

Little did I know that within the hour I’d be knocking on his boat because all my electrics had failed. He was as good as his word and sorted it out. My batteries were dead and I would need to buy a battery charger, which he would fit for me.

We’d had problems during our journey there. We’d cruise all day but the lights would dim soon after we moored up. I should have twigged the batteries were knackered but, like I said, I was a complete muppet novice.

Rewind a little to when Lorna and I stopped in March on the Fens. We went to the Tesco Express there for top-ups and look for candles. Couldn’t find any so Lorna suggested I should ask. Having already come to the conclusion that we must look like a couple of dykes on a dyke there was no way I was asking for candles!

Funny looks all around as we collapsed in fits of giggles. Fen folk can’t help looking funny – don’t be rude! We didn’t immediately take to March but I’ve been back to the Fens many times since and love it. Old-fashioned shops, totally barking charming people and those great big skies.

Marina life was great. It was like a village down my pontoon, a real community; friendly and helpful. Despite my car being parked only a hop, skip and a jump from the boat, it could take hours to get home. That’s because everyone chatted to you. And by the time you did get to the boat, it was only to fetch a chair and a glass because you’d been invited to the pontoon party.

Drinking and boating do seem to go hand in hand and some were better at it than others. I won’t name names but they were the ones who (if they were lucky) fell in the hedge on the way back from the pub/club – or the lake if they weren’t. But there was always someone on hand to fish them out or check they’d made it safely back to their boat after a session.

Bit of a theme emerging. But it’s not all about the booze. Really.

Every time I entered the marina on my return from work, one look at the lake and my shoulders dropped down from around my ears and, more often than not, audibly sighed. And it didn’t take me long to figure out that work was getting in the way of my life. I actually enjoyed the boatie chores, even the more unpleasant ones. It all made me feel so alive, in charge of my own destiny and much more in tune with nature and the elements.

That first summer was hot hot hot and people jumped off their roofs and swam in the lake. Evenings were abuzz with folk who chatted for England, BBQ’d, strummed and sang, making the most of those long, hot, sultry evenings.

The flip side of this was the winter, though even this was special for me. I learned how to keep my woodstove going 24/7 and that if you had a brilliant neighbour as I did, he’d rev it up when he returned from work (around 4pm) so it was toasty for me when I got back around 7pm. He even put a kettle on top so there was boiling water ready for a cuppa.

We became good friends and often cooked for each other, swapped stories and had many a good laugh. He taught me tons about boat life, maintenance, safety, how to tie knots and which to use where.  He worked on my boat as and when necessary – electrics, plumbing, stove and flue work and even fitted a new kitchen for me. And, in Billy-no-mates times, he’d crew for me.

I think it was the winter of 2009/2010 when the temperatures really plummeted. Minus 17 at one point. Water taps on the pontoon froze for days…

12

And I became adept at water conservation. Who needs to wash anyway?

The marina became magical…

Austere beauty at the marina63Iced in at the marina

And, to the untrained eye, boats looked cold and icy…

Winter in the marina-but cosy inside

But look close to see swirls of smoke from the chimneys and know that those in side were cosy and snug, so warm in fact that sometimes doors and hatches were thrown open and clothes discarded in order to cool down. True. Ask any liveaboard. And the smell of wood smoke is right up there with freshly cut grass and coffee brewing.

I always felt safe and secure on Hobo but new noises would  dement me until I could identify them. One that took me a long time was the ducks nibbling on the bottom of the boat – I was convinced for ages that I had hobnail – booted rats in the bilge or a body banging against the hull.

That winter we were all frozen in with sheets of ice inches thick…

Swans and their cygnets walking on water

Giving rise to another previously unheard sound. It was a weird one, sort of underwater and echoey. Spooky. It wasn’t until I spotted a chap across the water attacking the ice with a pole that I cottoned on. He was breaking up the ice so it didn’t damage the hull. Strange how sound travels under water.

The Great Ouse is a fabulous river for cruising; all the way to Bedford upstream and Denver Sluice downstream, with many, many lovely stops along the way. Truth is you don’t have to go very far at all to be somewhere completely different with lovely views, pubs, villages and walks. But that’s the beauty of boats. They move.

There are several tributaries – the Lark, the Little Ouse/Brandon Creek, the Wissey and the Cam – all ripe for exploring. Which we did. But that’s for another time…

For me, those four years in that marina were an ideal start to life on board. I made good friends there, who educated and nurtured me. I was safe, happy and had found the perfect lifestyle for me.

Until I got the urge that is to let go the ropes/unhook the umbilical …

Unplugging the Umbilical

And head for the big,  wide, watery world out there.

P.S. Great that so many of you wanted to hear more of my early adventures. Thank you both.

 

Boatbird’s beginnings..

22 Nov

I’ve never talked here about my previous life on land, before boatbird was born and, don’t worry, I’m not about to now.

It’s just that this picture popped up on my facebook page today…

Littleport

You know how they do – ‘your memories on  facebook’, ‘we care about your memories’. Blah de blah. I do remember the occasion but choose to forget that chubbier version of me.

FB says this was from ten years ago but I dispute this. It was eleven years plus –  July 2006 to be precise. I remember it well. Moored outside the pub at Littleport, where we met up with my brother for lunch/to show Hobo off. It was such an exciting time for me, having just bought my boat and in the middle of an incredible journey to move it to its new mooring.

I knew nothing about boats then, let alone how to drive one. Looking back, I was lucky not to have bought a heap of junk, but I just knew I wanted to embark on this way of life. At least I was sharp enough to know I knew nothing, take some advice from boatie folk, which mostly consisted of ‘Stop thinking about it. Just do it’. And, courtesy of my niece, hooked up with a colleague of hers who might be able to help me move her.

Lorna came to meet with me and Hobo, had a chat, a nice lunch at Welford Wharf and a mini cruise along the Welford arm. We all hit it off and, despite my obvious ineptitude, she agreed to help and a date was set. July 1st it was!

Exciting times!

I furnished Hobo with what I thought was necessary to see us through the two week journey, booked the time off work and was totally puzzled by studied the river maps kindly provided by friend Malcolm.

Tools and equipment were acquired, largely by guesswork, and included new ropes, a big pole and a cupboard full of booze. My niece had told me that Lorna like the odd glass of something alcoholic but, as she hadn’t specified exactly what, I bought a  shed load little of everything.

We met at the boat on the day, went off and did a huge food shop and readied ourselves for what was to come. The Wharf manager fuelled her up, Lorna carried out the pre-flight checks while I panicked watched and learned.

It was a very steep learning curve for me but Lorna was a good teacher and I soon became proficient on the helm, at the locks and emptying the carzy.

I was blissfully ignorant Everything was new to me  – a great big adventure – and I loved every minute.

Our route took us down the Welford arm and onto the Grand Union, then the Northampton arm to the River Nene…

A friendly wave on the NeneThat perfect mooringSwans and cygnets

 

The Middle Levels…Floods Ferry sunsetFlax field at Floods FerryMarmont Priory-sunset

The tidal crossing from Salter’s Lode to Denver Sluice and the Great Ouse…

Ouse-Pike and EelOld West-StreathamThe old bridge at St. Ives

It took us thirteen days in all to reach Hartford Marina near Huntingdon – Hobo’s new home and my new life – a journey that takes about an hour by road.

But what a journey it was. A journey in every sense of the word – physical, emotional, educational and then some. Those two weeks at the beginning of July 2006 were in the middle of a heatwave and we burned to a crisp tanned beautifully, arriving at our final destination looking like we’d just come from the tropics.

Malcolm popped up randomly during our journey, always at the end of the phone and ready to provide us with anything we needed: more booze/chocolate/name of local boat mechanic/whatever. He once walked for miles in the rain, to a particularly inaccessible spot, to deliver a case of Bud. What a hero!

Lorna and I also became firm friends on that trip. The booze cupboard was a resounding success and inspired themed evenings: beer night/gin night/Pimms night/cocktail night etc. We really did get regularly shitfaced have the time of our lives and made memories that will haunt us forever last us a lifetime.

This is but a small excerpt of life before this boatbird became fully fledged…

Did you know....

But there’s much more to tell if you want to hear it…