Saturday, November 30, 2013

Our last day before we leave Kantara...

...was beautiful!

There wasn't a cloud in the sky most of the time. It was cold, but still, without the bite that there was yesterday. It was good to see a number of boats pootling past the marina, making the most of the weather. We we've been busy shopping, packing, and doing various jobs to prepare for returning to St Albans tomorrow. It's been a great year, with more cruising than last year, and we're looking forward to a good deal more than that next year.

I doubt that I'll be blogging over the winter, but don't forget to come back to the blog next year! We'll be back at the end of February, or the beginning of March. Have a very good Christmas, and a happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

That last trip of the year

Shortly after Colin left, having carried out Kantara's annual service, we took the boat out. Heading north up the canal, we spent almost four hours navigating to the winding at bridge 28, having lunch shortly after winding, just above bridge 27, and returning to the marina. The weather was good as we left - cold, but still - and improved still further on the return. We passed only four other moving boats, and the world was very peaceful. It was really good to be out again. I really miss it when we're not cruising.

I took no photos. That stretch of the canal's been photoed out!

It was already starting to get dark when we got back, and we cosied in under the glow of the fairy lights and the fire.

Not the best photo, but... our fairy lights :-)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our last week this year on Kantara

We've just come back from watching "The Butler" at the cinema, another extremely good film based on reality and featuring a superb cast from both sides of the Atlantic.
As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.

Last Friday, we saw "Philomena", starring Judy Dench, and Steve Coogan as journalist Martin Sixsmith.
A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman's search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

These Tesco vouchers we get (we don't shop much at Tesco any more, but our credit card is one of theirs) have been really well used on cinema tickets this past year, having paid for our entry to 16 films in the past 13 months.

Yesterday, I forgot to switch on the water pump when I lit the Bubble stove, and the system overflowed a bit over the floor. Consequently, there was not enough water/antifreeze in the Alde for us to have it alight overnight. Of course, we then had the coldest night so far! Today, I added more antifreeze, having checked that the system will be protected against frosts of up to -15ยบ Celsius, and we'll be warmer tonight, whatever the frost.

Colin comes tomorrow to give Kantara her annual service. I really ought to do that job myself next year. The next day, we have a man from Bescan coming to fit fasteners along the bottom of our cratch cover, to attach it to the hull so that it doesn't sag inwards under the weight of snow or strong winds.

After the annual service, we really need to take Kantara out for one last trip this year, in order to mix the new antifreeze through the system. The mix is weak at the moment because of the water loss the last time Colin worked on the boat. We didn't have enough antifreeze at the time to add to the gallons of water we had to use to top up. Fingers crossed for lovely weather like we had for our final trip last year.

Then it's back to St Albans, our home from home. We've been warned to go back after Saturday, because Naomi and Jess are having a joint birthday party then! Hmmm... 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Winding down

As I write, the sun's shining brightly from a clear blue sky, but there's a strong, cold wind blowing. During the night, however, and for most of the morning, it rained hard, and there were flurries of snow from time to time. It was very cold, and we left our Alde gas stove on a low setting all night - too low, as it turned out, for it was still too chilly in the boat when we awoke.

It was sunny and bright as we drove back here from St Albans yesterday morning, too, but it was very cold in Kantara when we arrived, and it took a few hours of Alde alight, and later the Bubble stove, to make her feel cosy again.

Sarah-Beth and Jamie's wedding on Saturday was a good occasion, and the journeys to and from Newbury were good. Sunday we lay in a bit, then had a lazy day. On Monday, Grace had a dental appointment, and the rest of the day was spent avoiding the weather.
Donnington Grove Country Club

Carole and Stuart on Jimsonweed have had a canopy fitted over their stern and, speaking to the guy who was doing the job, I think he's the man to fit fasteners to our cratch cover/hull. The price he gave me is far less than I had expected when we discussed the job with AJ Canopies some months ago, and he's done a good job on Jim. I'll try to get ours done before we leave Kantara for the winter.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One fine day!

The week's weather has been awful, with the strong wind and heavy outbreaks of rain continuing. Friday, we went to the cinema to see "Gravity", a film we had to see because of the cast - Sandra Bullock and George Clooney - and because the very nature of the film meant that the 3D projection ought to be spectacular.
A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
Frankly, I wasn't expecting it to be that good, but it was superbly done, with amazing effects, brilliant use of the 3D, and outstanding performances by Bullock and Clooney.

We woke this morning to a cold, but beautiful day. The sky was blue and almost without cloud, there was no wind. The sun was very warm. I applied rust-inhibitor to a few patches of scratched paintwork around the boat, helped rescue a lady who'd fallen off the front of her boat as they were making their way to the service platform, sucked water out of the engine room bilges with the wet-and-dry vacuum cleaner we bought for the job - SO much better than the hand pump or the rubbishy thing I cobbled together with a shower pump - and went for a walk for about an hour and a half; just along the towing path as far as bridge 22, then back along the road. It was beautiful.

We'll be back in St Albans for a few days on Thursday, so this is what the weather forecast predicts for us.

It's a niece's wedding on Saturday, so fingers crossed!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Halloween - and weather, and stuff

Saturday, the weather was as bad as ever, but the marina's Halloween event went ahead as planned, as did the coffee morning in aid of the local Air Ambulance and a small local organisation dealing with children affected by cancer. As usual, there was the huge selection of cakes, tea, coffee, soup, and a bric-a-brac stall (is there another name for it these days?), and over £300 was raised in the morning.

Then there was the Halloween social event in the marquee - this year sturdy enough to withstand the very strong winds, and dry underfoot thanks to the drains dug since this time last year, when thick straw had to be laid on the sodden, grassy floor. It was a good event, with part of a quiz (two rounds only!), Indian or Chinese food, and a charity auction which raised a further £800+. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera, so the fancy dress has to be imagined - look at last year's photos if you're lacking imagination!

On Sunday, the weather was fine, and a team of us were able to clear and dismantle the marquee, pack it, and put it into storage for the winter. That took the best part of the day, and we finished in the lounge with a final beer and cake. Monday, the weather was even worse than Saturday, and the best we could do was to stay in the boat and amuse ourselves.

Today, Wednesday, Roy Grasby came to look at our plans to improve the galley, and we went later in the day to his boat, NB Wells Fargo in Braunston, to see the new galley he had fitted there - "finally, after eight years!" - to give us some ideas as to how ours might be done. Over the course of the day, a number of ideas were thrown around, and now we need to consider how we're going to proceed.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Not a lot to report

There's not been much happening recently. We've accepted that there will be no more cruising this year. The weather - strong, gusty winds and heavy rain - seems to be set for the foreseeable future, and we're not inclined to go out when drying rained-out clothes becomes a frequent issue. What's more, we have to go back to St Albans in a couple of weeks' time, for a niece's wedding. 

Before that, we need to plan our galley rebuild - no, I've not mentioned that before, but it's been on the cards for some time now - and get Roy Grassbee involved; he'll be the man to do the job. And we need to take Kantara out onto the cut for a day, just to deal with chipped, scraped paintwork, to keep rust at bay. Having run out of the blue paint for the boat, and in the light of the fact that that particular shade is no longer obtainable, any damage sustained over the coming eighteen months will have to be left unpainted until the whole boat is repainted in 2015.

We have water in the engine room bilges which needs to be pumped out, but there's no point in doing that until after the winter service which Colin will do at the end of this month. He will need to add antifreeze to the cooling system in order to bring it up to strength after he lost an engineful of coolant into the bilge when fitting the new bottom hose. That task will necessitate letting yet more coolant out in order to make room for the additional antifreeze. I have to say I deeply regret getting that hose replaced. I took the advice of the RCR engineer, but should have checked it for myself. The hose was in perfect condition, and there was no need for the not inconsiderable expense of getting a new one fitted, and of the numerous litres of antifreeze which have had to be replaced; not to mention the inconvenience of the gallons of water having to be pumped out of the bottom of the engine compartment.

We drove to Stoke Bruerne yesterday, a spot we both love, and through which we passed on our cruise with Michelle back in the summer (remember the summer?) As reported some weeks ago, Grace was unable to get onto the boat painting course being run there earlier in the year, and jumped at the opportunity to attend one next May. However, Stoke Bruerne Museum's email account wasn't working, and no-one answered the phone, so we drove out there to book in person instead.

It was fairly quiet there. The woman in the museum didn't know where the book was to record Grace's place on the course, so she had to leave details for the organiser to get in touch with her later. We had a very good lunch at The Boat Inn, and drove back along the beautiful country route on which we had travelled out.

Today, we saw "Captain Phillips" at the cinema; an excellent film, gripping, tense, and superbly acted and directed.
The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.