Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Kantara project

It has to be said that life on Kantara has taken me by surprise in a number of ways - none of them unpleasant. The one on my mind at the moment is the degree to which I am finding, with Grace, the need to personalise the boat, not to leave any detail, however small, which was to the taste or preference of the previous owners, but is not to ours.

When we chose Kantara out of the dozens we had looked at, we knew that there was a chance that the wash basin would not be usable long term. We would give it time, and see if we felt it needed to be replaced.

And the time came - pretty quickly! We weren't surprised. That space the basin sits in is just ridiculous! We called in boat fitter Roy Grassby of Days Afloat, and he drew up a plan. After a couple of visits to chat over the plan, and hours of poring over catalogues of basins and taps, we have now booked for the work to be done in the last week of April. We'll take a couple of days to sail down to Braunston, where Roy's workshop is, and we'll have to leave it with him for a couple of weeks - we'll go back to St Albans for the duration.

And then there is the carpet. There's nothing wrong with the look of the carpet, but, well, it's not ours. It started off smelling very doggy, and still does to Grace, despite several cleaning sessions with all sorts of preparations. Our problem is that, as is common of boats of Kantara's age, the carpet is also on the walls, up as far as the gunnels...

...(ignore the seats - they're no longer there), so replacing the floor carpet might also involve replacing that... after removing radiators, wall cabinets, power sockets and hi-fi speakers. Our challenge now is to find a plain carpet of a different colour from this, lay this on the floor and have the existing wall carpet (still in pristine condition) being what in any house would be wallpaper. We think we've found the carpet. Today, we measure up and get it costed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Good morning!

Well, this was supposed to be a photo of the new blinds and cushions in the dinette, but turned out to be a picture of breakfast instead! The gold and red of the fabrics really warm the interior of the boat, especially with sun shining through the blinds, like this morning, or at night in the cosiness of the electric lights, but I think it's going to be difficult to capture that with the camera, simply because I can't get far enough back to get it all in!

It's another beautiful day. Lots of little jobs to complete, and a quiz tonight here at the marina. Weekend boaters are much in evidence, and many others returning after the winter. Have a good day, all of you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Settling back in

It's incredibly frustrating that, now we are back on Kantara, we are still having to wait even longer for our AC generator to be repaired and fitted - at huge cost, but a third of the cost of replacement! - when the engineer involved has had it for nearly four months! Sam came to see us today (to sort out the problem we had in the matter of the engine ignition system being dead - we had both thought that an isolator switch was on, when it had been off!), and he told us that the kit will be repaired and back to him in just over a week, at which time he will refit it and... we'll have 240 volts on the cut at last! And not too soon!

A further frustration has been that the guy who designed and quoted for a remodelled shower room was not replying to my attempts to contact him, but he did call today, and we drove out to see him, to discuss the finer details of the job.
The work is going to take a week and a half to do, and we'll have to drive the boat to his workshop in Braunston for the duration, so it will mean us having to go home for that time, since living aboard with no shower room and toilet is out of the question!

Other jobs to do... replace the rather odd brown carpet tiles on the foredeck with more suitable rubber tiles (dark grey, not blue!)...

...find a suitable mat to cover then engine hatch on the stern deck, something like...
...get a satellite TV system installed - we are currently missing some good TV, and watched none for the three months on Kantara last year. We don't watch a lot, but are annoyed when we have to miss something worthwhile.

...get a handle fitted to the stern deck hatch above the weed hatch (a secure hatch through which access is gained to the propeller, on occasions when it gets tangled with weed, fishing line, plastic bags, anoraks, shopping trolleys) It has never had a handle, and lifting it is something of a challenge!

...replace the carbon monoxide and propane gas alarms, both of which have just died on us, and fit a smoke alarm, too.

The weather these last two days has been amazing... too dry by far, but amazing! I have been outside for long periods without jacket or jumper, and it's been really mild. I'm sure the birds think it's summer, listening to their songs. And we're seeing those dramatic sunsets, too, just like last autumn. I am worse than itching to get out there and do some cruising!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's raining!!

We went back home on Thursday afternoon, to fill the car again with things for life on Kantara, and got back here yesterday afternoon. The weather was cold and dull, but there was much talk about the need for rain - serious ongoing downpour rain. One boater observed that he had seen a fall of about eight inches in the level of the canal over the past weeks - bear in mind that canals are usually only waist-deep when they are full, and that the average boat needs about 24 inches to travel in.

But this morning, we awoke to the sound of rain on the boat! Not a lot, it has to be said, and it's stopped now, but... it augurs well for the future, I hope! Forever the optimist, me! Otherwise, we take the advice of many... Head north, and don't stop!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back at last!

With most of the domestic chores sorted out at home, we returned to Kantara yesterday, with a car full of new cushions, blinds and curtains, along with the essentials for an overnight stay. The weather at Yelvertoft was beautiful - clear and sunny, still and mild - and moving stuff into the boat was not the damp affair I had feared it would be.

We de-winterised the boat almost without a hitch - but I won't give you the pleasure of knowing the rather daft mistake we made! The dinette cushions and all of the blinds were installed - they look superb! - and the bed was made up. It was getting too late to shop for food and do any cooking, so we drove out to The George for an excellent meal.

Back at Kantara, the night was clear and cold, with mist rolling across the marina, we were tired out, and headed for bed early. We'd had the oil stove on earlier, but the boat was cold, and we were glad to get into bed and get warm. Shortly after I fell asleep, however, I was awoken by the piercing scream of the gas alarm. We fell out of bed and investigated. There was absolutely no smell of gas anywhere (propane has a very strong, unmissable smell), but the only way I could get the alarm to stop was to take the back off it and disconnect the power supply. Silence at last! Just to play safe, I braved the cold night in my dressing gown to turn off the gas supply.

We awoke before seven to a misty morning with a touch of frost, and installed the router and antenna for our Internet connection (the router still with an intermittent fault, despite testing by the vendor and manufacturer who could find nothing wrong), and drove home in time for lunch. We've just finished getting together all the things we need to take back tomorrow. I wonder what we'll forget!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Back next week, then!

Many thanks to Mike and Marian, also moored at Yelvertoft, for giving us their first-hand assessment of the water situation - the Leicester Arm is not closed! In fact, the canal is so full at the moment that it's overflowing Foxton Lock. So we can look forward to some good cruising as soon as we return to Kantara next week.

Grace has made new covers for the dinette cushions and eight floor cushions, and new curtains for the seven windows, not including the galley, and two sets of door curtains, so one of our first tasks is to hang those curtains. They all look fantastic here, but they're going to look even better on the boat. I can't wait to see them.

One of the good things we've done over the winter months here at home is to line up a good number of friends to come and spend time with us on the boat this year, all of whom have very little or no experience of canal life. That's going to be great fun.

I went back to the Academy today, to meet with friends with whom I used to work. They are doing a brilliant job in very difficult circumstances, but I do worry for them. I am so glad that I was able to retire when I did, and to be able to take voluntary redundancy as my way out of that particular school. It was sad in many ways that I was greeted by several former colleagues, as I was when I visited after Christmas, with comments about how well I look. It's very good to know, but not good that they know they don't look or feel the same way. I think they all deserve a good holiday on the canals!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Getting ready to return

After what seems like a long time back at home, Grace and I would have liked to be back on Kantara last week. However, our home central heating system has decided to throw a wobbly, and we've had to call in an engineer to look at it. The problem has been occurring on and off for months, but has now developed into a full-on failure, so we'll have to wait now until that's been fixed. We're aiming for next week now, and starting to pile together the things we will want to take back with us.

What awaits us when we return?

Well, the major concern is the news that the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal - the bit where we are moored! - is reported to be closed until April. What's meant by closed I shall discover tomorrow when I phone Jenny at Yelvertoft. I doubt that it will mean we won't be able to cruise at all, but it may well be that we are not allowed to leave that arm of the canal, which will restrict our movement somewhat.  However...

...there is still the problem of the AC generator which Sam at Foxton Boats has had for many weeks. He's not very good at communication, and we have little idea of the current state of things. Whether or not that will be working and fitted when we return, we do not know.

Then there is the 3G router with which we get Internet connection on the boat, which had to go back to the manufacturer because of an intermittent fault we had from it from day one of using it. It's been returned to us now, and they say they found nothing wrong with it. Naturally, they say it is working just fine, and we need to try it again in situ, so... we shall see!

And there is also the matter of the shower room/toilet which we are planning to have altered so that our ridiculous wash basin becomes usable. We've had a quote from one builder, and are still waiting for one from another, but he was a bit of a ditherer anyway, and did little to gain our confidence. We'd like to get the job done fairly soon after our return.

And the batteries! I believe we will return to a set of defunct batteries. Grace disagrees.

New to the boat will be a folding exercise bike. We have such a bike at home, but bigger and heavier, and we've been doing 10 to 12 kilometres each day for some weeks now, striving to increase both distance and speed over time. It's all very well doing daily walks while we're on the boat, but it's just not going to be practicable to do a decent distance every day, and the bike ensures we exercise well wherever we are, regardless of weather. Add to that Grace's weights and my Bullworker, and we should be able to keep fit and strong in what can be at times a fairly immobile lifestyle.

Our cruising plan is to do a number of trips out from Yelvertoft, lasting from one to several weeks, returning to the marina at the end of each one before heading off in another direction. I've said before that the beauty of the spot where we are based is that we can go off to all points of the compass and enjoy months and months of cruising, with easy access to many of the other canals. This is the life!

Roll on next week!