Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hallowe'en Party

One of the several advantages of being at Yelvertoft Marina is the social life of the moorers.  I have just returned to the boat after helping to clear all of the lights, decorations, sound system, tables and chairs from the marquee which had been erected next to the lounge for yesterday's Hallowe'en Party.  The highlights were the good company, the opportunity to get to know new people, an excellent quiz, and the food and drink - takeaways from local Indian and Chinese restaurants, real ale and hot mulled wine.  The lowlight was the wet and windy weather, which created an enormous amount of noise with the marquee!

The weather yesterday was the coolest I have experienced here, and wind was very strong again, unlike today, which is warm again for the time of year.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Where's the time going?

As I write this, my former teaching colleagues are enjoying their last couple of days of the half term break, and we've been on Kantara for that whole half term plus the break - eight weeks!  We've just arranged with Colin for him to winterise the boat on 5th December, and we'll be going home on that same day.  Twelve weeks, and these first eight have gone fast.  There just remain the covers and curtains to be made, and Grace will do those at home in St Albans.  Oh, and there's the not insignificant matter of the generator not working.  I'm hoping to hear from Foxton Boats about that soon.  I've only emailed them twice!  We'll need that to provide us with 240v AC power while we're on the cut - largely for the washing machine and microwave oven.

Tonight there is the marina Hallowe'en party - fancy dress, Indian or Chinese food, wine, ale and good company.  And Grace and I are singing, this time, we hope, with better equipment.  We have four songs prepared, and a bassist to rehearse with later today.  Michelle will be glad to know I've chickened out of the Michael Buble song I had prepared - I have the looks, but I'm not sure about the voice!

The weather is still wonderful.  Yesterday and the day before, the sky was clear blue, and the water very still.  It was a shame we didn't get out, but we had things to do in the marina.  I even washed one side of the boat!  We'll have to bowhaul her over to the adjacent, empty mooring to wash the other side.  Today, perhaps!

Nearby Watford Locks

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


A few weeks ago, we had to cancel the visit of sister Jill and her husband Rod, because we were both feeling unwell.  On the same day, Howard rang to ask if he and Linda could visit that afternoon, and we had to turn them down.  On Sunday, Jill and Rod came to see us, and we spent a really good day together.  The wind was well up, and the weather generally was not inviting, so they declined the offer of a trip up the canal, but I'm sure they'll come again, in better weather hopefully, and spend some time on the cut with us.

The next day, along came Howard and Linda, old friends of ours from church, whose son, John, was one of a large group of teenagers Grace and I took on a wide-beam canal boat for a week about fifteen years ago.  What a fantastic week that was, too!  It had been the first canal experience for all of them apart from our three, so the excitement level was very high.  They were a terrific group of kids, though, and the week brought us all closer together, with a great deal of fun and laughter.

Nearby Foxton Locks

The weather was better for Howard and Linda than it had been for Jill and Rod, so we took them out for an eight mile, two hour or so trip which we all enjoyed a lot.  Howard has a 3D camera - I'm really looking forward to seeing the pictures he took.

One of our intentions with Kantara is to host lots of such visits of friends and family, so, if you fall into either category, please email us, and we'll happily make arrangements with you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cushions, covers and curtains!

The last few days have seen Grace busy with a fairly major project upon which we, mainly she, has embarked.  The seats in the dinette need to be recovered. The curtains, while being very pleasant, and having nothing wrong with them, are just not to our taste. And we need some floor cushions upon which to seat people when we have visitors, since our sofa only seats two.

So, Grace brought her sewing machine back to Kantara from home on Monday, and has started by creating a set of eight floor cushions with the filling from six larger ones brought from home.  Today we went on a fabric hunt for curtains, seat covers and cushion covers.  Not entirely successful, I have to say, but it gave us our fist visit to Leicester.  We didn't see much, but what we saw was quite amazing.  It has the  most impressive shopping centre I have ever seen, both in terms of the architecture and the range of shops - and believe me, I am not usually impressed by shopping centres!

Secondly, it has an incredible outdoor but roofed vegetable and fruit market.  It is vast, and the goods are laid out very tidily, but the oddest thing is that this market has perhaps 100 or more traders, and they all sell pretty much the same wares at the same prices.  One wonders how any of them makes a living.

Tomorrow will have us shopping again, this time mainly to stock up with food.  We have family and friends visiting next week.  The weather forecast looks promising, so we hope to get them out on the canal. After that, we will have perhaps another three weeks before we overwinter. We just might get a longish cruise in!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weather, close up!

Returning to Kantara yesterday after a weekend at home sorting out various domestic matters, we found the marina yet again being buffeted by very strong, gusty winds.  The water looked like a sea, and the boat rocked more than we've previously experienced. I lit the oil stove, which was great, but it did mean having to go outside in torrential rain before going to bed after midnight, to take down the chimney, and the 3G antenna, too, for the sake of their safety!

I guess it's even more true for those who camp in tents, but being in a boat really makes us very much more aware of the weather, to an extent we do not have when we live in a house. Today's newspaper warns of colder weather on its way, with sub-zero temperatures before the clocks go back. This is most likely to occur further north than we are, but it is certainly something we have to be more wary of in Kantara than we would at home. The central heating system needs to have the right mix of anti-freeze in it, and there is always a danger of pipes freezing and splitting in the hardest frosts.  Before we finally leave Kantara and go home for the winter, we have to "winterise" her, which we will get done professionally for the first winter at least. This involves draining all water pipes and drains, and insulating things against severe chill.

So in winter, we will really know it's winter throughout the day, living in this strange steel cylinder home called Kantara.  And on sunny, crisp days like today, the same is true for me... we are far closer to the weather, somehow. And I love it!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mind put at rest

The evening of the day Nome and Steve came, Kantara suddenly suffered a massive drop in her battery output'  Lights went very dim, the fridge turned off, and the water pump couldn't switch itself off.  I rushed to the electrics cupboard, and switched on the mains-powered battery charger, and all was well.  But the battery monitor was showing only eight volts just before I did that, and this had looked pretty serious to me.

The boat has two domestic electrical systems.  There is a 12 volt system powered by three big lead acid batteries which are trickle-charged by four sizeable solar panels.  This system powers most of the lighting, the CD player, TV, fridge, central heating pumps, shower pump and water pump.  And there is a 240 volt system for five lights, the microwave oven and grill, the washing machine, a battery charger, and a number of 13 amp sockets for computers, vacuum cleaner, bread-making machine and the like.  In the marina, we have a shoreline which plugs into a mains outlet just by our mooring, and supplies mains electricity to us.  Whilst cruising, the 240 volt devices are powered by an engine-driven generator (which has just broken down) or an inverter, which uses DC energy from the batteries and converts it to AC.  If our batteries fail on the cut, we are without electricity altogether.  We can still cruise, though, since the starter motor is powered by a totally independent battery.

Since the evening when the batteries slumped like that, I have been rather paranoid about them.  They are brand new, having been put in the boat just a few days before we sailed her away from the marina at which we bought her.  To cut a long story short, the various battery management and monitoring systems were giving me contradictory information about the state of charge of the batteries, and I was both confused and concerned.  Enter Simon, who had done some minor jobs on the boat before we bought her.  He came along today and checked the lot for us, answered my many questions, and put my mind at rest.  The batteries are not damaged.  I now understand the monitoring units, and can happily manage the power while we are cruising.  I have literally lost sleep over this, being very angry at my own ignorance, and concerned about the possible consequences of that ignorance.  Once again, I have learned something new about the boat, and am much better for it.

And the weather today - wonderful!  Blue, cloudless sky, warm and still.  It was a shame, yet again, that we could not get out on the canal, but it was fantastic just to be out in weather like that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A day off the canal

Yesterday, after Kantara's engine had been serviced and reported healthy (apart from a very dirty alternator, which may have failed, or may just need a good clean), we decided that today we would take her out "for a spin", and enjoy a bit of cruising again.  However, we were awoken in the night by horrendous winds which had not abated by the time we got up this morning, and there was no chance of getting out without some unnecessary stress.  So we cancelled that plan, and took ourselves off to nearby National Trust property, Canons Ashby.  This is a beautiful Tudor manor, with grounds which must be wonderful in season, and a fascinating interior.  We are NT members, and have enjoyed many such days at their properties over the years, and this one did not let us down.  We will most definitely go back next year in the summer, and see it at its best.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Our first visitors

Finally, our kids' work schedules allowed Naomi and Steve to come up and see Kantara yesterday.  Jess was worse than peeved, though, because she could not swap shifts with anyone, and had to work, as did Eddie, Naomi's husband.  But it was great to see Nome and Steve, and to spend time on board with them.  Oddly, we didn't take Kantara out.  Our kids are very familiar with canals and boats, so there was not the novelty factor with them.  Instead, they must have discerned our need for a bit of exercise, and we went for a walk together.  The weather was OK, the view from the top of Cracks Hill was superb, and the walk did us good.  Thanks, both of you!

That said, we both woke up this morning feeling headachy - nothing to do with Nome and Steve, I hasten to say! - and have had to cancel the visit of my sister, Jill, and her husband, Rod.  Sorry guys - we'll do it another time.

Tomorrow, Sam is coming from Foxton Boat Services to service the engine.  It will be very good to have it thoroughly checked and serviced, and to know that we will then have a healthy engine on which we can start to do the routine maintenance with confidence.  I hope to learn a fair bit from Sam - all part of the pretty steep learning curve we are in at the moment!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

We're not going anywhere today!

The marina has waves with frothy tips!  The wind is gusting violently, and boats around the pound are rocking against their moorings.  I dislike the sedentary habit, but we're going nowhere in the Kantara in this!  Perhaps I'll go out for a walk later.

The alarm clock went off at 6:30 this morning... cold memories of weekdays as a teacher... and my mobile rang 15 minutes later with a delivery driver saying he would be with us in half an hour to bring our sofa.  Sure enough, our sofa was delivered and squeezed in through the forward doors.  And it's lovely - so much better than the leather chairs, which were also lovely, but just not right for the space.

Space has been an issue three times today.  First the sofa.  Second...

We called in a boat fitter to look at the shower room/toilet, and he arrived today.  The shower room has a problem...

It has a lovely shower, perfectly good toilet (as far as boat loos go), but, the basin...  The basin has been fitted into the tiny space left between the shower and the outside wall - around 15".  And it's been set back about 6", too.  It's unusable.  I can't understand how the previous owners managed, how the first owner had it made that way.  Kantara was featured in the July 2000 edition of Waterways World magazine, when she was brand new.  The writer goes right through the boat, and sings its praises, but when he comes to the basin, he is more than a little surprised.

Now of course we knew about this when we bought Kantara, and we knew that we would have to do something about it, so along comes Roy, the boat fitter, to look at the problem with us.  And he came up with an excellent suggestion, and has gone away to draw up plans and a quote for us.  It's going to be usable!

Third space issue today...

Our conversation with Roy turned at one point to the washing machine, which sits in a wall cupboard opposite the basin.

What's the problem here?  Well, not that Roy can't do the job without obstructing access to the machine, but simply that, if ever we have to get rid of it and replace it, it simply cannot get out of any of the doors and hatches in the boat.  It can't even get out of the shower room door into the corridor outside.  The first owners of Kantara must have had her built around it!  How's that for forward thinking?  We hadn't spotted that before - but it wouldn't have stopped us buying Kantara if we had.

"Space, the final frontier!"

Monday, October 03, 2011

That wind is back!

The wind is back today, gustily rocking the boat, and rendering careful boat manoeuvres rather difficult, so we stay put, still waiting for the engine service engineer anyway.  The weather in the coming days looks as if it will not be as good as we have enjoyed, and the temperature in particular is due to drop nearly 50%.  That doesn't bother us, nor does a bit of rain, so after the engine has been serviced, and the sofa has been delivered... well, we shall see.  One of the beauties of this lifestyle is that we don't have to do any particular thing at any particular time - except change the cassette under the toilet!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Yelvertoft Marina Barbecue

Yesterday evening, Jenny and Bob, manager of the marina and her husband, organised their second annual barbecue.  And what an event that was!  Over one hundred moorers, baked potatoes galore, barbecue for DIY cooking, barrels of real ale, wine, competitions, and a great atmosphere.  It was a good time to meet new people, and our circle of friends expanded as we sat and chatted with folk we'd only said hello to before.

Oh, and I sang.  Strummed my guitar and sang some folksy songs with rousing, singalong choruses which went down well, I am relieved to say.  It was not easy.  I was supposed to be supported by Nick on bass guitar, but, because of various shortcomings of the PA system, I had to stand at my table inside a marquee, with my lyrics on papers illuminated only by candle, while Grace held my microphone to my mouth and Nick played along from outside of the tent!  I could neither see nor hear him, and he may well have given up, for we had not rehearsed together, and I couldn't even let him know what key I was playing in!  Still, a good time was had by all, and I got two free pints of ale out of it.

At the end of the month, there will be a Hallowe'en party.  We're looking forward to it!