Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sunny days

At Braunston, Kantara was moored under clear sky. No trees nearby, no overhead lines. Yet she got covered in bird poo! I suspect ducks were largely to blame. I guess they didn't like the colour of the roof, and the deposits down the sides were the result of bad shots. On our way back from Braunston, a boater, moored at the towpath, with a wet sponge in his hand called out, "I see you've had duck problems, too!" It was that obvious! Graham, from "19th Hole" next to us, noticed, stood back in horror and shook his head as if in disbelief. "What the hell did they do with your boat, Roger?"

So yesterday, the weather being rather less sunny and not quite so hot, I started the job of cleaning Kantara. With a water shortage and consequent hosepipe ban, I used canal water and a broom to remove the worst of the mess. This was followed by car wash in clean water, applied with a cleaning glove and a nail brush - I was going to be thorough! I finished the roof. The second round for the rest will have to wait until another day, because today was just too darned sunny again!

Graham pointed out a tern sitting on the tiller of a nearby boat.

The photos aren't very good - I needed a tripod to get clear shots with the zoom I was using. But this is the female of a pair who seem to have made the marina their home. She sits on a boat, while he goes fishing for her, bringing back his catch and feeding it to her. What a life, eh?

We've had just a few minutes of heavy rain today, twice. The sky is very heavy at this moment, but it's not raining. It would be really good - and great fun! - to have a huge downpour tonight, and a thunderstorm!

More jobs to do tomorrow.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Farewell, Braunston!

Yesterday morning, we said thanks and farewell to Roy, and sailed Kantara out of Braunston, 34 days after arriving there for the shower-room refit. Roy had sorted out the snags, and we were eager to move. The weather was hot and sunny, and lots of sun-screen was applied, and it was good to watch the countryside pass slowly as we cruised back towards Yelvertoft. We had an early lunch, so that we were able to ascend Braunston Flight and go straight on to do the Tunnel - 2042 yards long, shortly after which we moored for the night.

This morning, we rose rather late and made our way towards Norton Junction, to turn left and head northwards up the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union. After a short wait at the bottom of Watford Locks (Watford as in Watford Gap - a small town in Northants, not the ugly town in Hertfordshire; although, the Grand Union does pass through that one!), our progress up the staircase was smooth - and in very much more clement weather than our outward trip down it!

A quick lunch, and then on to Crick Tunnel (1528 yards), and back to Yelvertoft Marina. Grace had a tough time, getting Kantara into the narrow entrance in a significant cross-wind, but she did avoid hitting Moody Cow as Kantara slid into our mooring. 11 lock miles in six hours! The pace of life on the canals is not fast! ( 30 miles, 26 locks)

And now we have a week of jobs to do before the Canal Boat Show next Saturday, and a marina barbecue on the bank Holiday Monday. And then... we shall see!

erm... a bridge!
Rape fields, approaching Yelvertoft
Old bullrush flowers looking rather like candyfloss! 
Just before the marina

We're still here!

We are now well into week five of the two-week shower-room/toilet refit! At least we get to spend the week on the boat, though. Roy's idea of us staying here for "a couple of days" for snagging was a good one, for we have had a few snags, not least a new toilet which intermittently leaks water into the bowl. Roy's had to get a new valve for this, and hopes it will arrive today. It should only be a quick job to fit it.

Another problem was an air lock in our central heating system. Roy fitted a new radiator in the shower room, so he had had to drain the system, but the new radiator failed to get fully hot, while the bedroom one would not heat at all. This turned out to be quite a long job - and can you imagine how hot we got with the heating on full on a day like yesterday, while he was testing it?

We have had a few jobs to do, and bits of shopping to get, but we're fidgety now, and very keen to get moving. The mooring is pleasant enough - with the bonus of a free landline to bring mains electricity on board - although it's at a very busy canal junction, and we are frequently passed closely by other boats, most of whom are travelling too fast, and bang Kantara against the wall as they pass. The weather has been very hot and sunny. We'll have to apply lots of sunscreen, boating in weather like this. The solar electric panels on the roof are generating a good charge well into the evening - most impressive.

As I was writing this, Roy arrived, not with a valve for the toilet, but with a complete new loo, and he's fitting it at this moment. Which means that when he's finished, we're free to leave. Having said that, we may stay one more night. We have to go into Rugby to pick up some things we've ordered over the Internet, and may possibly go to the cinema there, too, to see "Dark Shadows". So we'll be heading back towards Yelvertoft tomorrow, with a week of cleaning and servicing (the boat is covered in bird poo!), and then the Crick Boat Show next Saturday.

After that...? Well,who knows, with the way things have been going for us!

Monday, May 21, 2012

We're back!

At last, after four weeks away from Kantara, we're back! Arriving before lunch, the first thing we did was look at the shower room - it looks really good. Roy is a fine carpenter and fitter, with an eye for detail, and the quality of the work is excellent. At last we can wash properly, without having to squash into a tiny space. The new shower cubicle is even larger than the last, and the whole room feels bright and tidy.

I wanted to post photographs, but my camera does not have the wide angle focus needed to shoot in such a confined space. The one picture I have will have to suffice to give you some idea of how it looks.

So, we are here for the next two days so that we can identify any small problems, and Roy can put them right straight away. We've already found a couple, but they are easily corrected. It'll give us time to shop for a few bits and pieces we need for the boat - mooring pins, for a start, and a mirror for the shower room.

The weather has been good to us after a dismal start this morning, and I'm sitting here looking out over a clear blue sky and a beautiful sunset. It really is good to be back on the canal. It was great to see the kids, and to get some gardening done. Naomi has done a lot of work for us in the garden, but she's a busy lady, and it was good that I could do some. She cooked us a superb supper last night, enjoyed by all six of us, and it was a lovely way to end our stay.

The next few weeks should see us cruising, getting a new battery charger fitted, repainting the foredeck, getting new fore locker lids/seats fitted, and going to the Crick Boat Show. This is the life!

Friday, May 18, 2012

At last!

I've used that title before!

On Monday, three weeks to the day after we left Kantara with Roy to have the interior work done, Grace and I went back to Braunston to see how things were progressing. Clearly, the foundation work had been done - the plumbing, electrics and most of the woodwork. The craftsmanship is excellent, and we wouldn't have wanted Roy to rush anything. Additionally, we had asked Roy to change the structure of a cupboard in the saloon, and he had started that, too. The correct shower basin had at last been delivered, and was now fitted. The shower door had arrived, too. Roy said the work would be finished by the end of the week. We took that to mean today.
Sure enough, Roy phoned just a while back, to say we could return to Kantara tomorrow! Well, our weekend is now planned with this home in mind, so we agreed we'd go back on Monday - four weeks to the day we left Kantara with him. Roy asked that we spend a couple of days moored there, so that we can "test" all of the work he has done before taking the boat away, so we'll do that. It'll just be so good, being back on board!

Roy had a laugh at the photograph I sent him, suggesting he might make some drawers like these for Kantara.
Very imaginative, brilliantly crafted, but not practical!

The better weather this week has allowed me to do some of the gardening which was so badly needed. A glance at the forecast tells me that I have today and tomorrow to get more done, and that the start of next week will be largely dry. Moving back in to Kantara in the rain would be miserable. Roy was amused by how much stuff we took out of the boat before we came back here, and I had to point out to him that so many things in the boat are simply part of living, not specifically canal living, so they have to move with us.

I'm feeling a bit smug that I'm actually looking forward to using the exercise bike which we left on Kantara. The one here broke a few days ago, such is my enthusiasm and vigour while I'm cycling, and I miss the exercise!

So, three more days, then back to canal life. I can't wait! (Oh damn... I have to!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Now this is getting silly!

We are just coming to the end of the third week of Kantara's shower room refit - and it was originally scheduled to take just two weeks. I phoned Roy this morning, and he said (he didn't promise) that it would be done by the end of the coming week. That'll be four weeks away from the boat, when we only anticipated two, and we're not happy.

Roy has had some setbacks, it's true. He had to send back the shower tray twice because the suppliers delivered the wrong one. And the shower door was very late arriving. Add to that the bad weather we've had, when he has to transport wooden panels to the boat from his workshop across the yard, and had some exterior work to do on the boat (cutting new drainage holes and plugging old ones), and it's not surprising that there has been a delay, but it has been very frustrating for us.

It wouldn't have been so bad if the weather had allowed me to do some gardening here at home... home in St Albans, that is! The coming week looks as if it might have some dry spells, so perhaps I'll be able to get out there and get some work done.

With the sunny skies appearing this morning, Grace and I went out for lunch and a stroll in Ashridge Park...

...and then on to nearby Bluebell Woods.

This really lifted our spirits!

Well, we're deep into May now, and meteorologists were promising us the coldest, wettest May on record... it's not looking that bad yet. Let's just hope that we'll be able to cruise in sensible weather as soon as we return. After all, that's what boats are built for!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Home from home

(For some odd reason, this post did not get published when it should have. It belongs BEFORE "More delays")

It's very odd having two homes. Since ours are so very different from each other, there is a huge contrast in the kind of life we have in each. The biggest one, of course, is about the space available to us. The boat may be small, but it's cosy, and easy to keep clean and tidy! Our house, however...

We came home to a kitchen like that of a student house, and a living room which has been converted into a recording studio and practise room for Said the Maiden, with stage lamps over the floor, too, and an exercise bike! The main TV is in there, but, since St Albans has now gone digital, and our TV is not yet compatible, we have no need to squeeze in there to watch it. It's just as well, really.

I phoned Roy this morning, to see how he was getting on with the shower room refit. He's happy with progress, and says it all looks awful now, with the whole room gutted and ready to rebuild. We almost feel sorry for Kantara.

The weather is indeed, as I had hoped, very rainy. This is, of course, very good for waterways and land alike, but it has meant so far that we can't get out to do any gardening. So we're feeling a bit loose-endy, to say the least, not quite twiddling our thumbs, but close to it!

More delays

We went today to Braunston, to see how Roy is getting on with the shower-room refit. After referring to the weather forecast, we decided on an afternoon visit, since the morning was going to be very rainy, clearing up by the afternoon. It was not raining when we arrived, but was pouring again as we left about an hour later.

Rain has been one of Roy's problems. Although the work is inside the boat - most of it, anyway - Roy has to go backwards and forwards from boat to workshop quite a lot, and he has to keep timber dry... and the interior of the boat. So recent weather has slowed progress. Add to that the delivery of the wrong shower tray - twice - and the delayed delivery of the shower door, and it looks as though we won't be back on the boat for another week. The job was scheduled to be finished tomorrow or Saturday.

The shower-room was empty! The door and its wall is down. All of the furniture is removed. All of the plumbing has been done, ready for the installation of the shower, basin and toilet. The new radiator has been fitted in a new location. The very good news is that the AC generator is finally fitted and working - after some six months of waiting for removal, testing, repair, return, removal testing, repair, return and installation. I can't wait for the bill!

So, back home again, with another week to wait. It already seems as if we've been here for months. But still, with the coldest May on record being forecast, perhaps we're in the best place for now.