Saturday, 2 April 2016

Well, here we are back again!

Friday 1st January to Thursday 31st March 2016

Well what have we been up to in the last three months, and has it really been just that long. We seem to have been very busy during a quarter of the year – that is now over.

When we look back on it there is no doubt we have been busy – busy in different ways – but busy none-the-less.

This has been our second year out of a marina-based environment over winter and it has been far different to last winter.
For starters there has been no chance of being “iced-in”, having been south of the midlands – primarily around the London area.
We have taken a bit of a holiday and flown the coop, heading off for a month in Mojacar Playa to catch up with Paul and Elaine and seems that we dragged along Sue and Andy – they are still there – maybe they might take up residency as well.
This shot was taken from our bed as we watched the sunrise over the Med.
Not a bad way to wake up each morning

Dear friends - so hard to come by that we want to be with them all of the time

One of the forts along the coast - originally built to ward off the Moor invaders

Whether you like it or not, Spain's culture and heritage has included the "sport"
of bullfighting - we visited the the ring in Vera

It is still used today - although the conditions for the bull are a bit better

One off the bucket list was to visit Granada to see the Alhambra Palace

It lived up to the grandeur and magnificence of the
hype associated with it - combining the best of Moorish
and western architecture 

With hot weather being part of the landscape, cool quiet areas such as this
were in abundance

Water was a central theme as well and whilst it is a beautiful palace
it was also a fortress.
The water supply coming from high in the mountains a few miles away,
through some ingenious engineering

Looking out over Granada

We also took in Cordoba and in the very centre of the city is a magnificent
cathedral, originally built by the Muslim Moors but retained and enhanced
by the later catholic rulers.
We wandered around its interior for a good hour and almost missed....

...a full-sized catholic church in the middle.
The whole building with its entire contents was worth the
the trip on its own

Looking out from Mojacar - the one in the mountains

We have been into Paddington Basin and out again; hovered around places and avoided stoppages; kept our doctors appointments and cruised as well – there seems to be nothing more invigorating that a wee cruise on a cold day with the sun, hopefully, out to provide a bit of inferred warmth on your back.

We have to say that we have found the situation in London a whole lot better than it was when we first came down last year – CRT are doing a great job of making sure that boats are moving and not accumulating in the one area for too long – some may say that they are not doing enough, but the improvement in being able to find mooring spots and also not seeing loads of boats just simply stopping for months in the same spot is to be congratulated.
We know that there will be many (not the majority) who would see this as something infringing on their rights to “squat” in a mooring spot and never move, but most will see it as being fair and reasonable.
Bad luck to the former!!

We have had the chance to catch up with family and really have had an enjoyable time for longer than we have previously managed – when we have been further north; the downside of this is that we have missed seeing many of our wonderful friends as regularly as we would want to do – but life is about making choices and decisions – good and bad with every decision but decisions need to be made and taken.

The boat has been wonderful over the winter – sure there are things that go wrong, but these get fixed and we move on – it has been very cosy on board – our only problem being the recent high winds in Paddington Basin (the “wind tunnel”) – it was so bad that the stove blew out on a few occasions, but we have a solution and that is now done.
We have purchased a new chimney – made to look like an “H” which is used in high wind conditions –predominantly experienced by vessels off-shore, but which can happen to us all.

Our time in London was again pretty good -
A walk over Tower Bridge - long on our list of things to do - now crossed off

A visit to the Globe Theatre

A replica of the original Golden Hind - as seen with
Sir Francis Drake and a few "friends" from Spain

The weather seems to have been pretty mild for winter, but then again it isn’t snowing and cold every year – we asked the locals for some verification on this and they agreed; we, of course, buggered off to Spain to escape what might have been a cold spell – it certainly was warmer there and we enjoyed our time immensely – sampling the food and the local customs as well as meeting new friends.
We are contemplating returning there again next winter – but haven’t made a decision as yet – still plenty of time to do so.

We will advise of the only downside of our trip – if someone was to ask us about hiring a car from Europcar (which is the company that we used) we would advise to you (based on our experience) to spend a bit more and go with another company.
In Europcar we found a company that suddenly charges for damages to a car that were not present during our possession of the car (before and after condition was witnessed and photographed); did not want to inspect the car on return; would not provide any proof of said damages, nor will they engage in any communication about it – charge you, not justify it, and then not talk to you.
We are taking action to recover all of the money.
Next time? We will stick with Enterprise.

Lastly for this time we have wandered off to the north of England to catch up with Dot and Gordon who are house sitting for friends in Northumberland – we were here 2 years ago with them as well and have needed to be able to spend some time with them– they are very dear friends and we have been away from them for too long, so we instantly jumped at the chance to come and see them.
At the home of the Marmalade Festival - have never seen so many jars of
different marmalade ever.

Two cheeky fellows there at the back

I think it is a credit to the greater family of boaters and boating friends that you meet over time and then meet and meet again that we have faith in one and another to be able to leave our precious craft in the care of others and know that they will look after it as their own.
In this regard we have such lovely friends in Carol and George (wb Still Rockin’) – for our time in Northumberland they agreed to keep an eye on Ferndale, start the engine every day to charge up the batteries and do a thorough cut’n’polish of all of the paintwork (this last one might not have been discussed, but I am sure that telepathically speaking there was an understanding on my part); we, of course have reciprocated the favour with their travels to catch up with their wide-spread family – on our part it was disappointing not to find a suitable buyer for them for Still Rockin’ but there will be time in the future.

Not just for looking after the boat, but simply for their company we have have a great time with them in Paddington and at Yiewsley as well as at Cowley over this last month or so – it is just simply wonderful to be able to call all of our friends “Our Friends”.

Molly, Carol and George - definitely a highlight of our winter was
dog-sitting Molly whilst Carol and George enjoyed a night out without the "kid"!

Having had the chance to have a bit of a break from the blog I can see that there are still plenty of things to write about and I will be easing back into it from now on – I don’t think that it will be everyday, maybe monthly or a bit more often – I will just have to see what happens.

We have changed plans on the next part of our adventures – we have a trip planned to see our lovely son and equally lovely daughter-in-law in LA coming up so that has an influence on what we can do before then.
In there somewhere was a desire to cruise the Thames from Brentford to Oxford before truning back onto the canal and mooring the boat before heading off.
Trouble is that the recent rain has brought the water levels up along the river and we cannot plan to head that way and still be sure that we can fly-off.
So we will now be heading northwards along the Grand Union and visiting places that we have not otherwise stopped to see before; we will venture down the Aylesbury Arm; see a bit more of Milton Keynes; and other spots as we cruise – maybe places we won’t have a chance to see again.
Later, after our return from the US we will be heading down the South Oxford and onto the Thames heading towards Lechlade and will cruise the Thames heading eastwards, and maybe the Basingstoke as well.
Again, I get to finish off with a lovely Kingfisher.
This time as we cruised the Slough Arm at the end of March.

100 Miles, 39 Locks
YTD: 100 Miles (161 km) , 39 Locks

Total: 3898 Miles (6273 km), 2743 Locks, 112 Tunnels, 45 Lift Bridges, 167 Swing Bridges