Tuesday, 19 February 2013

High hopes - sad reality

Monday 18th February to Tuesday 19th February 2013

Busy at work at the dinette; Diane hovering around – looks in cupboards; looks out window; looks in washing machine; stands in thought – then suddenly it’s

“Get your gear off”

Like most males the thought process immediately jumps to “things are looking up” and so the clothes start to be peel away.

Then equally as quickly it’s

“Just the jeans will do”


“I only need the jeans to give the machine a full load”

Sadly deflated in more ways than one, it’s a clean pair back on and back to work.

Not even a cup of tea or coffee and certainly not a thank you – I just feel a little bit used and nothing done to help the ego either.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Time is everything - but only 24 hours in a day!

Monday 11th February to Sunday 17th February 2013

We have been back in the marina for about 4½  months and you start to get to the point where you are just wanting to get out cruising again – but a reality check early in the week when we realised that it is only about 3 – 4 weeks to go before we actually set off again – also given that we are away for effectively a week before this we really only have a bit over 2 weeks to finish all of the important jobs.
Mid-week snow and cold weather

Banjo suitable attired for the weather.

There will be a number of items that we cannot do before then and those will have to wait – things like re-sealing the windows and varnishing the ceilings etc simply cannot be done during cold, wet and unpredictable weather.

But there are still things to do and this last week we have been pulling out all stops to get things finished and behind us.

Anyone who has been boating and living aboard will tell you that all of the planning in the world doesn’t include the little things that go wrong and then the unplanned but pleasant visitations that inevitably occur.
We are not the only ones busy - CaRT have been busy with
their winter maintenance - this past 2 weeks it has been on
Aston Lock

Around we have a few people who are finding it difficult to occupy days whilst waiting to start cruising – we have been thoroughly busy  and that is apart from the boat work.

So what exactly have we completed and done …

-          a second coat of paint on the walls – now looking great;

Painting of the walls was optional - it seems
that it was all about making a mess - nothing
has changed in 30 years

-          all of the light switches back in place – including 4 replacements which needed resizing the openings in the walls and fixing loose connections;

-          another look at the shower pump – this has now been resealed to overcome a lack of an O-ring;

-          re-painting the burner caps on the hob – after failing to be able to buy a new set, Diane has sanded and repainted 3 of the 4 with a stove paint – so far so good and all ok;

-          both the fridge and washing machine have been taken out of their cubby holes to allow floor tiles to be put down and then the galley floor to be tiled – this part is almost finished;

-          all of the curtains retaining rods needed to be put back up as well as the galley blind – this is not as easy as you would think given that the wallpaper is thicker than a piece of paper and requires some care and patience.

-          The fire blanket and a mirror have been reinstalled

-          We have put a piece of reflective metal backed insulating foam behind the bedroom radiator to improve the efficiency of heating – will wait to see how that performs.
To finish the week off, the sunshine was present - a sign of
things to come?

The village of Aston basking in the sun

Sunshine maybe but the air was still cold enough to keep the
coats on

Tuesday was busy – Elly was over for dinner; Wednesday was Champions League night so Paul and I were off to The Talbot for the match on live; Thursday we were off into Stone; and Friday was our Valentine’s Day night at The Three Crowns (a lovely three-course meal for just under ₤18; Saturday back to Stone; after all of that it was a chance to collapse and that is where we find ourselves on Sunday night after a much milder weekend.
Maybe a little warmer than we
first thought - very grateful for
the breeze to keep the temperture
down a bit

Jobs, jobs and more jobs!!

Friday 8th February to Sunday 10th February 2013

Another busy few days for both of us – just trying to fit everything into the allotted timeframe that we have set ourselves – there is a bit of a list of things that we want to get finished before the end of this month – before we start cruising again.

Friday and we were off to Stafford to get a few bits and pieces – high on the list was paint for the walls and also another roll of the insulated lining paper – alas there was none of the wallpaper in stock (it is one of those items that isn’t always there), and we have nearly finished the two rolls that we had purchased previously – not to worry.

The paint was there and Diane now has the colour and finish that she wants – I should have bought her a new paintbrush as an early Valentine’s day present (but I forgot).

As we had been waiting for the bus earlier to take us into Stafford I remarked to Diane that we should get in touch with Peter and Ruth (ex-nb Kathryn) and arrange time for dinner with them before they move off to Scotland – well, who should we meet on our way to B&Q in Stafford – exactly, Peter was there about to cross the street – so off for coffee and a catch up and some tentative dinner arrangements – pre-ordained or just luck !!

Over the weekend we managed to finish off the rolls of wallpaper, so that now we have the saloon, galley, dining area, rest of the starboard side of the inside of the boat down to the back cupboards – it looks quite good.

In addition to this, Diane has also painted the lounge in the new colour that we have picked out – looks good – and I managed to get a fair amount of paying work finished.

In amongst all of that we also managed to see a bit of the six nations rugby – Wales had a good win over France – to avenge their loss at the World Cup.

I did the usual Saturday engine and battery checks as well as checking out the shower pump that we took out – it diaphragm wasn’t perished as first though so it has been cleaned and reassembled, now it needs to be tested and perhaps put back into service.

By the time the weekend had finished we were both knackered.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Mmm – Oven Food Again!!

Monday 4th February to Thursday 7th February 2013

Being without an oven for over a month has not presented any problems apart from having a freezer of food that has been waiting – just waiting.

The new oven that we picked up from Jan and Tom (nb Waiouru) on Saturday had been sitting in it’s box in the cratch area waiting for a space in the schedule. It had to wait until Tuesday, but why that long – surely Monday would have been better.

Nothing seems to interrupt the coffee afternoon – after a big day last week we had lower numbers but still an enjoyable time – plenty of laughs and information passing along from everybody.

Diane was off to the dentist in Stone to finally get her tooth fixed – the crown this time fitted well and the pain had subsided – it was numb from the needle, but later it was OK as the anaesthetic wore off.
Smile is back again - pain has all gone

Tuesday and it was oven day – got the old one out without any problems and the new one needed a bit of further wood around the edges to complete the fit – we were lucky to find a decent piece above the water tank – stored in with the rest of the wood there.

Gas fitting was OK and could be adjusted to fit well.

The unit fitted so well into the opening by the time we finished with the surrounds that we really didn’t even need to screw it in to hold it tight, but we did fix it in.

Gas was turned back on and after a bit of burning off it all went well and we now have a working oven.

New oven fully installed and working

Last week we started the process of wallpapering our walls – it is an insulated wallpaper lining which can be painted – the object of the exercise is twofold – one is to provide more insulation on the walls to reduce the condensation problems; the second to brighten/lighten up the interior.

We have now completed the saloon, galley and dining areas and it has indeed achieved the twin purposes for which we started the project; we still have a bit to do – still deciding if we will complete the whole of the boat.
wallpaper in place

for us it is much brighter inside

A week or so ago Diane found quite a deal of water in the bilge and we were not sure of where this might have come from – checked the water tank area and nothing out of the ordinary; the water pump has not been on any more than when we use the taps; so the last resort was to check around the calorifier, which is in the back cabin, beneath the bed.

This checking was tied in with rearranging how our storage is sorted out – beneath the bed is quite warm because of the calorifier and therefore we decided that it would be better to store the duvets, pillows, cases etc here so that the effects of condensation would be lessened severely and the items which were not affected by the condensation, such as the cassette toilet cold be stored under the dinette seats.

Well what did we find – the calorifier was quite OK, but the shower pump was leaking quite a lot – fortunately we had a spare one and this was installed and tested – again we have a leak with this but much less – there is a third pump that we can install – it is actually a spare water pump for the whole system.

We will resort to this if neither of the other two can be fixed – the original has a perished diaphragm and the second appears to be leaking around the hose connection.

At least we know where the water has been coming from – we had only used it recently for a bath and on a second occasion to wash the dog, so not a lot but most went to the bilge.

The repacking went well and we still have space where before it was full; we managed to part empty another cupboard, so giving us some more space – it was all good to get this done.

It has been a busy week so far; very glad to find the water leak; very pleased to do so much of the wallpapering; and very happy to have a fully working oven.

One last thing - when Mike was here in November to do the galley, I also noted that he was able to install a drop down extension for our bed - I have finally managed to take some pictures of this.

with the extension down

and then up in place - the horizontal piece at the bottom allows
the supports to be pulled or moved back into the side of the bed

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The week that was

Sunday 27th January to Sunday 3rd February 2013

So much can happen in a week and we have not been disappointed with this past week.

After the downside of not being able to get any power turned on in the cedar huts for our Australia Day get together, the party went ahead anyway; people got into the spirit of Australia, perhaps non more so than Barry from nb Winton’s Folly producing a cork-dangling hat and very much into the vegemite sandwiches. The lamingtons and sausage-in-bread went down well and even the odd can of Fosters’ appeared and was consumed. Plenty of Australian red and white wines; background music of Australian bands and singers – really great day.

from left - Gordon, Barry (Aussie Barry), Mick (in a happy mood),
and Carol

Gordon just before he seemed to be likely to break out with a song

we have spoken to Dot about the things that she puts into her mouth

Everybody had there opinions about all things Aussie, but we could leave it with Mick to show his true patriotism by being upstanding in somewhat less than full support of some.
Tuesday and Wednesday were rather mild days after Monday but we have managed to start wallpapering the front lounge – some time ago Diane had the brilliant idea that we should buy some insulated wall-lining and apply it to the walls and then paint it to brighten up an otherwise darkish boat – a fair idea – and so this week we have started with it – by week’s end – well Thursday actually we had finished the front room and it does give a much whiter, brighter feel and helps to reflect the light. So far we are quite happy with the result.

In addition to this on Wednesday there was a general gathering at The Swan for a farewell drink for Mick who is on his way back to Australia for about 6 weeks.

Gordon is not asleep - just seemingly not listening to Dot;
Richard (r) interested in the camera

Mick, Carol and Barry enjoying the night

Elaine (nb Caxton aka nb Manly Ferry)

there is that woman again - been following me
for 30 years now

We moved on from there to The Swan; it finally ended about 11pm with Paul, Gordon and I arriving back to the marina – all others had left some time before then – fortunately no recriminations from our better halves – pass me another bandage for my head.

I have written previously about this - about a week before xmas our oven decided to stop working and we started down the track of getting it fixed but found a better option – buy the oven surplus to Tom and Jan’s needs on nb Waiouru – it being the same size as our existing one, but brand new. We had been in contact and during our messages and phone calls it transpired that they had purchased a self-pumpout kit that George and Carol on nb Rock’n’Roll no longer needed, but unfortunately the distance between them had precluded the said kit changing boats. As Rock’n’Roll were just a few miles away, and we were going down to the London area anyway we offered to pick up the kit and transport it down to Tom and Jan when we were coming to see them for the oven pickup.

So we made the journey to Barbridge to see George and Carol and had a good old chat with them – I had met with George when we were both at Tattenhall marina in late 2010.

George and Carol (nb Rock'n'Roll) and Diane - also Molly the dog

We had a good look over the boat but were most interested in their recently acquired composting toilet – something that we have become interested in – well not actually their particular one but the style in general.

Having discussed the manner in which it operates; how they are learning more about it all of the time and how they are finding the differences we came away with an increased determination to pursue this more vigorously.

We had a lovely time with them as well.

Friday was eye-testing day for Diane and we needed to get down to Watford – it was a total of just half an hour in all – the first time we have seen such efficiency. The downside of course was that Diane had blurred vision for about 4-5 hours – it was the only side-effect of the consultation; no change in anything else – seems that she still had enough sight to advise of where I went wrong with the driving; enough sight to panic at the sight of anything bigger than a Robin Reliant in front of us; and certainly enough to tell me where I should go.

We caught up with her aunt – Pam; as well as Lisa and Jonathon and then dinner with Mags and Paddy, David, Phil and Jessica.

Friday night we stayed at Kings Langley in a Premier Inn – we quite like these – and this one we were lucky enough to get for just ₤19 for the night; a pub right next door where we enjoyed a quiet drink before flopping into bed exhausted from a long tiring day which had started about 6am.

Saturday was allocated to getting down to Aldermarston Wharf to deliver the pumpout kit and pick up the oven. No major problems with the drive down except that along the way as Diane was texting to our son Mitchell back in Australia, the directional instructions became a bit less concise and much more general with the outcome that we did make a wrong turn – or as Diane would tell me, I didn’t listen to what she said (and of course to what she meant to say but didn’t say).

In the end there were no broken bones or blood loss and so we came out with a nil-all draw; made it to see Tom and Jan.

Time seemed to disappear very very quickly as we talked about so many things that boaters always have in common – the obligatory discussion about toilets, batteries, other boaters, non-movers and boat layouts.
with Jan and Tom aboard nb Waiouru

Have to say that we were very impressed with their boat; it’s inclusions and how very open it is; Diane made a couple of little suggestions to Tom about what could be done and I could almost hear him saying “yes dear” just to get her to change the subject.

Tom explained how most of the gizmos worked in the boat and how problems had been solved along the way – it certainly gave food for thought about what can be done to improve life aboard.

Thanks to you both for a wonderful time and look forward to catching up with you when you move northwards later.

We drove to our next rest stop at Stanwick – we booked this as a result of Lloyd’s bank giving us 2 nights away for opening accounts with them (1 night for 2 for each of us).

Not pretentious but very comfortable – again we were feeling a bit tired so a night in was called for – catching on this blog and with the paper.

Sunday greeted us with some cloudy skies and we decided to take a leisurely drive back, picking up Banjo along the way.

It didn’t take long to find detours along the way – Diane thought a short trip into Market Harboro would be nice – she hadn’t been there before. An antique and collectibles market got our attention; a short walk through the centre of town got us thinking – “Now where is the canal?” – a man with a dog answered Diane’s query with very specific directions, so we naturally had to see – we found the basin and quite a number of boats – but it was a short walk along the arm from the basin and we came across nb Tilley with Tracey and Pat aboard – we hadn’t seen them since Watford about 18 months ago and prior to that it was the Llangollen.

We had a nice little chat for about half an hour and discussed what we were doing this year; how they were going and about to do. Pat was doing quite well with his singing and doing a lot of shows in the area, even as far as Leicester so it was pleasing that all was well.

After that we were off again but were sidetracked when we saw the sign to Foxton Locks – couldn’t go past that by, so another detour, but mighty glad we certainly did.

The top of Foxton Locks

Looking out over the landscape from the observation deck

The inclined plane as it currently exists

Looking down the locks - 2 sets of staircase locks with sidepounds
for water conservation - a remarkable feat in themselves

A complete look at the two sets of staircase locks and the remains of the inclined plane.

The views from the top are also magnificent; certainly glad that the water levels on this line are now excellent – we stand a chance of getting to do this part of the system sometime soon.

Finally we were back in the car and back on track. Being where we were and where we needed to go to get back to Stone, we had decided to pop in and take a look at Mercia Marina as well as Midland Chandlers (who were there as well).

You just never know when the information will come in handy – certainly had a good look around the facilities and got first hand information about the marina and management.

If nothing else was constructive I did get Diane aboard a Dutch barge as well as a wide-beam – she seemed less than enthusiastic about the barge but did like the space on the wide-beam. We may need to win the lottery to change one boat for another.