Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jolly good boating weather? Hey ho!

Strong, cold wind; rain; very strong, cold wind; heavy rain; sleet; thunder and lightning; more wind – strong. OH! Sunshine! But still the wind! We were expecting to start a week's cruise this week, but the weather outlook is miserable, so it might have to wait. The skies have been amazing.

Meanwhile, Colin has fitted the new pump in the Alde, and closed the extraneous hole in the hull. He'll be back soon to drill the new hole for the cratch cover stud. Roy's just been to look at our latest ideas for the galley renovation. Soon we cruise, hopefully. But the weather has to show willing first!

We have six cruises planned for the year, totalling around 16 weeks. Market Harborough, Brentford, a week with Michelle (not 100% sure where to yet), Llangollen, the Ashby canal and Coventry with Christine and Mike, and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Yesterday we saw "The Grand Budapest Hotel", a strange, often surreal film with an unusual cast list. Fascinating, amusing, very entertaining.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel recounts the adventures of Gustave H., a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune -- all against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent."

This afternoon, we stock up with food so that we can set off to Market Harborough just as soon as the weather lets us. The is no point getting wet, cruising in the rain; nor is there any sense in mooring up at the bank in the rain when we could be moored here with a landline! And, oh! - it's just started to pour down! With hail!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Best boat clock ever!

I've just hung a clock, given to us by Grace's sister, Christine, and her husband Mike - a gift on the occasion of our Ruby Wedding Anniversary back in December. It's just perfect for boaters!

Sorry about the reflections!

Ready to cruise

With the car empty and the stuff now home on Kantara, we're ready to go. Did I mention the Alde boiler not working, though? It turns out the pump has died of old age, so we're waiting for Colin to get one, and he'll fit it for us when he comes to close a hole in the hull which used to accommodate the vent from a tumble drier. The hole is currently covered externally by a grille, but we found that the recent gale-driven rain actually forced its way through that, so it's best to close it altogether.

Colin will also re-locate the misplaced stud for the foredeck cratch cover. When a man from Bescan came back in November and fitted four studs to fix the bottom edge of the cover to the hull (to stop it flapping about and sagging so much under the weight of wind, rain and snow), he located one stud about two inches offset from its other half on the cover. Fortunately, I didn't pay them and told them to come and put it right when we came back this month. They've gone into liquidation. And the canopy job they did for one local boat before they folded was rubbish! No further comment!

Last Friday, we joined two ladies at screen 5 of Rugby cinema to see "12 Years a Slave", rather late, but one we had to see after its recent awards successes.
"In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty at the hands of a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity."

A very disturbing film, but brilliantly acted and directed.

On Saturday, we made our final trip back to the house for that last carful of stuff. We're going to use the car more this year as a shed! If we keep unseasonal clothes and footwear in the car, along with a lot of of the books we want to read, then we don't have to stuff the boat so full.

Naomi cooked us all a wonderful family Sunday lunch. Her dear cat, Samson, attacked my hand when I was trying to save him from being beaten up by a local moggie, leaving me looking like an extra from a vampire movie. It swelled up painfully, and I had to see the doctor the next morning, who put me on a course of antibiotics.

We returned to Kantara that afternoon. The weather's been rather wet and windy since, until this morning, when it's milder, less windy and dry. We're to do just a short trip to Market Harborough next week. We have a friend's wedding to attend next month, then we'll be off down the GU to London.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


We came back yesterday. The day had started very foggy in St Albans, and the fields alongside the M1 were variably swathed by the stuff all the way up. We arrived at the marina as the sun was beginning to appear, and the afternoon and evening were gloriously springy.

We offloaded all the stuff we'd brought, dewinterised the boat, cleaned right through - it was surprising how much light mould had developed over the past three months, which we've not had previous years - and packed the stuff into drawers and cupboards. The Alde stove didn't work when we switched on the pump - very odd, since it was working the day we left Kantara back in December - so we lit the Bubble stove, which smoked profusely, filling the cabin with diesel fumes. The chimney wasn't blocked, and all was fine when I relit it fifteen to twenty minutes later. I can only imagine the chimney couldn't "draw" because it was cold and damp. After a quick meal and a bit of telly, we went to bed feeling quite exhausted.

Our unexpectedly early return to St Albans on Monday afternoon coincided, as I said in my last post, with Said the Maiden's invitation to support Clannad in their appearance at St Albans Arena. Grace, Steve and I got tickets to attend. It was a wonderful gig. The Maidens performed superbly to an audience of almost 800, and Clannad - I'm not a great fan - were well worth hearing (now 40 years on from the start of their career). Said the Maiden attracted a lot of attention, sold lots of CDs, and lots of new followers joined their mailing list. It was a brilliant evening.

Clannad & Said the Maiden
It was foggy again this morning, after our first night on Kantara for thirteen weeks. I couldn't see one end of the boat from the other end! But the weather's really beautiful again now, mild and sunny. And we have a number of little settling-in jobs to do!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Well, not quite the day we expected

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning and knew it was the right day to be returning to Kantara. I'd packed most "stuff" into the car yesterday, so it didn't take us long to hit the M1 north towards Yelvertoft. By the time we got there, the weather had become dull and very windy - but then wind and Yelvertoft are old acquaintances! Sitting in the warm car, eating our sandwich lunch before boarding the boat, we noticed a pit dug in the footpath, exposing electric cables. A few words with Neil from Moody Cow revealed that there was a power failure. Water had got into the electricity supply.

Once on board Kantara, with the floor and most other surfaces covered with bags, cases and boxes full of "stuff", we realised that we needed mains electricity if we were going to settle in quickly and comfortably. The vacuum cleaner was needed to get rid of mould spores in patches on the carpet, we needed heating pumps working to get the place warmed through quickly, and the batteries were probably not adequately charged to supply those needs. Anyway, we needed to go back to the house again at least once more, to complete the move of our "stuff". We had thought that would be at the weekend. But we now had another reason simply to go back until the electricity supply is back, because...

...just as we were driving into our parking space when we arrived, we got a text message from Jess, with an excited announcement that Said the Maiden are to support Clannad at the Alban Arena on Wednesday evening! Clannad arrived at the Arena today with the news that their support act had had to pull out, and did the Arena management know anyone who could replace them?

The Maidens were highly recommended, and they got the gig! So, Grace and I got Jess to get tickets for us, we locked Kantara, and returned to St Albans. Not quite what we expected, but hey! Well done, Maidens!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

WOW! The weather!

Do you remember the weather, a year ago this very day?

What a difference! So, back to Kantara tomorrow with the first carload of stuff. Back to St Albans next weekend to collect whatever else we need (and Naomi's promised us a family Sunday lunch), and then we're on the water for the rest of the year. How I've missed it!

One of the things that's kept us here a week longer than expected is the need to get someone to cut ten trees in the garden - a row of cypress at the bottom, which need to be reduced by about a third, a hawthorn which needs the same kind of treatment, and a hazel which needs gentler thinning. I've had four guys in to quote for the job. One was a bit of a cowboy who really knew little about this kind of work (despite what his ad said!), one was twice as expensive (but knew his job), one was three times as expensive, and we're still waiting for the other.

The garden's in something of a mess at the moment, but Naomi's set about redesigning it for us, and has made a start on the work involved. Central to the design is a number of raised beds, walled with railway sleepers, in which she'll grow vegetables. This will relieve the patio and the rest of the garden of a number of pots, so the whole space will be much tidier. It's a bit of a mess at the moment, though!

I've just listened to what will probably be the final mix of Said the Maiden's first full album, " A Curious Tale", due to be released next month. It's sounding fantastic! One of the tracks features Dave Swarbrick, founder member of Fairport Convention, who's being supported by the Maidens on his tour in April and May. Exciting times ahead!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

I missed some!

Sorting out stuff here in the house to take back to Kantara next week, I found two more books about canals which Rod gave us, which have to be mentioned.

Another large volume by the very prolific Anthony Burton, this one spans 200 years of the history of the canal system. Says Mr Burton,
"Canal Mania reached a peak in 1793, in which year no fewer than 21 new canals were authorized by Act of Parliament, and story of these "1793 canals" forms the core of this book."
The book is superbly illustrated with colour or black and white photos, drawings and diagrams, and the history is detailed and fascinating. Every narrow boat should have one!

For those interested in traditional canal food, there's Favourite Boating Recipes - Traditional Cabin Fare.

With 34 recipes and numerous canal photos and drawings, this is a useful little book for the cook who likes to experiment. Recipes are simple, but are modernised, inasmuch as some of the original ingredients have been replaced with others which are more easily sourced than those our predecessors used - tomato puree, for example, mango chutney and curry paste. Tasty, nonetheless!


On Tuesday, Grace and I did a basic First Aid course, organised by our friend Ray - who's been a well-qualified first-aider for years - and held in our church. It was very useful, and covered most of what we think we need to know as boaters. What wasn't included we're learning from appropriate web sites and books.

As I said at the start, we're beginning to work our way back to the boat now. Who knows what the weather has in store, but I'm feeling very envious of Nikki and her partner on NB Miner Bill, and the Slees on NB Epiphany - and others - who are tweeting their travels, and reporting some lovely weather recently. So it's a matter of collecting together all we think we're going to need on the boat this year, stuffing it into the car, and moving home again. It'll probably take two trips - at least!

NB Kantara, here we come!