Monday, 25 April 2011

Water and Electricity don't mix, but the opportunity would be nice.

We have been very bad bloggers! Just as everything started getting exciting we abandoned our reader for a whole fortnight. For this we deeply apologise – our only excuse is that we have been a bit busy of late. Here’s a quick summary of Listless happenings.

We found Ken! On Sunday Mum & Dad took us to Lincolnshire, Glen and Steve put us up for a night and on Monday Glen and Holly gave us a lift to Boston where our lovely big Kon-Tiki had been languishing while we were away. While we were there we went up the Boston Stump.
Poubelle passed an MOT test on Tuesday with no problems and was insured and taxed on the same day.

On Thursday we helped Karen clear out her garage and rolled her old 2CV out into the daylight. She wants to sell it so she needed to know that any prospective buyers could actually get to see it.

On Friday we spent a couple of hours clearing Mum & Dad’s patio; there’s now room to sit round the table. In the afternoon we went to Odiham bowling club with Dad and watched his team nearly win.

On Saturday morning, with military style precision and timing, we A-framed Poubelle behind Ken from Fleet to Cook’s Wharf – the place we checked out last week.
After uncoupling them we left Ken in the car-park and drove Poubelle over to Cow Roast where we took possession of the keys to our new home. We also met Chris, the guy who used to own and live on Legend. He was sad to part with it but we think he knew it was going to be loved.

On our maiden voyage aboard Legend we set off from Cow Roast at around 11. We’d arranged with Karen, Andrew, Lauren and Ben to meet up somewhere along the way, they were driving to Cooks Wharf and walking back along the tow-path. We’d not gone far before we came across them and with a crew of six we were down the locks and past the Aylesbury arm in no time. Andrew and Lauren both had a go on the tiller,
everyone took turns lock-wheeling, we picked up a bag of coal on the way and the whole operation went like clockwork. We passed a couple of people who knew the boat and asked after Chris, we told them we’d bought it that morning and they wished us luck with our travels. Around 2.30 we tied up at Cooks Wharf right next to the car-park and Ann-Marie produced tea and bacon butties for the whole crew.
In the afternoon everyone mucked in with general boat cleaning, then in the evening we went up to the pub in Cheddington for dinner. Karen and Andrew dropped Dave off at Cow Roast on their way home so he could bring Poubelle back, so our first night in the boat was spent with both our vans less than 20’ away.

On Sunday Ann-Marie started cleaning from stern to stem while Dave tackled the Engine Room. In the evening Frankie and Harry came over to see us,
and Ann-Marie scored a hit with her first go at the oven. We also found out that the batteries wouldn’t hold a charge; not entirely unexpected, and Harry came up trumps with 4 new ones at trade price. We’ll have to wait till Thursday for them so till then we’ll be running the engine for a couple of hours each day to keep the fridge cool.

On Monday we went into Aylesbury for some bits for the bathroom, ordered a new sofa-bed and bought a new tap for the kitchen. When we got back Dave took off the old tap which involved removing 2 compression olives, then we found that the new tap wouldn’t fit without adaptors. So within 3 days we’d got no electricity and no water.

On Tuesday we hired a van and went to Chesterfield. By 1.30pm Anne had an empty walk-in wardrobe and we had a full van. By 6.30pm, thanks to some help from the people in the next boat, we had an empty van again and a very full boat.
On Wednesday, with intermittent power and bottled water, Ann-Marie started unpacking the many boxes, while Dave went off for the right pipe fittings then set too with a scraper and a wire brush in the well deck. (To be fair, there isn’t a mountain of work to do; she needs a lot more storage building in, a thorough clean and painting. There are one or two urgent jobs that need sorting PDQ; the well deck has got flaking paint round the corners and the whole boat lists to port – re-siting the batteries on the other side will probably fix that.)

On Thursday we went to a timber yard and came back with two 8’ x 4’ sheets of thick plywood in the back of Poubelle, one for cupboards and shelving and one for fitting out the engine room. In the afternoon Mum & Dad turned up bearing gifts; we’ve used their address for mail-order stuff and they delivered a nice shiny new genny and a box of LEDs. In the evening we went over to Frankie & Harry’s for tea and batteries.

So by Friday morning we had reliable power, a beautifully working kitchen tap, bright, warm-white LEDs all the way through and, due to all our boxes of books all being on one side, a level boat. Having got Legend a good deal on the way to how we want her, on Friday afternoon we locked her up and drove up to the camp-site at Holbeach Hurn where our adventure began nearly a year ago. There was a 2CV club Easter camp on over the weekend and load of friends that we haven’t seen for yonks were going to be there, including Chloe, who we hadn’t seen for 8 months and who is now back from Cyprus and working in the new Birmingham hospital.

As for becoming listless, we seem to have suddenly acquired a very big one.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Hello England, we've missed you.

Having found our boat and agreed a price in double quick time we then had to wait a week before we handed over the cheque and signed a bill of sale. The seller can only get there at weekends so we’ve now got another week waiting for the cheque to clear until we get possession.

Yes, we know. Some bloke we hardly know has now got all our money and the keys to our boat. However, Ann-Marie did a super job compiling the paperwork, we got it witnessed and we know where he lives.

We know you’re all waiting with baited breath, so here’s some photos of the inside. Click to enlarge them.
Our time has not been wasted though; we got our little van back from its barn, gave it a service and checked it all over. It’s booked in for an MOT next Tuesday.
We also went up to Chesterfield for a couple of nights with Anne. While we were there we went mining in her walk-in wardrobe where what’s left of our stuff is, and came out with a bag full of winter clothes, just as spring arrived. Best of all we got to see our mates Ian & Annie. Now all we have to do is find our kids…

The latest news on Ken, our big camper, is that he’s alive and well and living in a lock-up in Boston. Steve, the bloke who fixed it after we went abroad, has himself gone on holiday, resulting in us squatting in various people’s houses for a week and borrowing Ann-Marie’s mum’s car. Steve is now back and we can pick Ken up on Monday. Hurrah!

On Saturday, when we handed over the cheque, we had a little test drive in Legend. We went down to the Cow Roast water point, filled the water tank, backed it to a winding hole, turned it around and moored it back where it was, pointing the other way. Not the world’s greatest adventure, but enough to see that everything was working OK.

As we were tying up, Adrian & Ellie came along to see our new home and witness the grand signing. These two are friends of ours from 2CVGB. They reckon that our travels inspired them to pack up and wander off, but they’re the sort of people who would have done it sooner or later anyway. We had a fine lunch with them and Mat, another Citroen-ist, out in the sunshine at the nearest pub.

In the afternoon we had a walk down the towpath to Berkhamstead then a recce further up the cut in the car, looking for a convenient tranship point for when we move all our stuff on board. The BW yard at Tring looked good, but then further investigation turned up a public car park right on the towpath near Marsworth. That’s about 5 miles and 9 locks from where we are now. Perfect. we'll get up there next weekend and hire a Transit to move everything the following Tuesday.

So this week we will be mostly re-uniting our camper vans with the tarmac. As soon as we get Ken back he’s going up for sale, but we’re going to keep hold of Poubelle until after the International Meeting of 2CV Friends in Salbris, France. After that, sadly we’re going to have to sell her. It’s going to be a wrench, Dave’s had that van for 16 years. He’ll just have to console himself with Legend’s engine room instead.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Don't buy the first boat you see.

Ann-Marie’s parents picked us up from Heathrow on Thursday morning and took us back to their house in Fleet where we are staying for a few days while we get ourselves sorted out. After 18 hours in the air and a 10 hour time shift we spent the rest of the day sleeping and drinking tea.

On Friday the Big Boat Hunt began. We’d already made a shortlist before we came back so it wasn’t long before we’d got 4 lined up to see on Saturday. Our criteria were; 50’ to 57’ long, trad stern, proper engine (ie. Not modern 4 cylinder) , decent sized well deck, from a well-known hull builder with some scope for putting our own personality into it. What that meant is that we could rule out about 99 out of every 100 boats for sale. Our shortlist had about 15 boats on it, but a couple of them were stretching our budget.

By strange coincidence, 4 were all to the west of London on the GU. Peter & Carole kindly did the chauffeuring; two more people we owe so much to. The first one we looked at was 57’ and the second one was 50’. That made us realise just how big that extra 7 foot is.

We had a lot of discussion about what we should do. We could live in 50’. Cheaper licence, easier to handle and we’ve been living in a damn sight less for the last 9 months. But we have a lot of stuff and it’s good to be able to have enough spare beds to put 4 extra people up. The 50’ was beautifully fitted out, but the 57’ was nicely panelled and gave us scope. We went back and forth all day on Sunday, then on Monday we borrowed Carole’s car for a week and set off northward. Our goal for the day was Dave’s sister Anne’s house in Chesterfield, via Blisworth and the Oxford canal. An hour into the journey we'd been turning it all over and ruled out anything less than about 55'. The two boats in Blisworth were shorter, so we headed straight to Oxford. These two and the other two we’d looked at on Saturday re-enforced the opinion we were coming to ourselves; the first one we’d looked at was the best. We fired off a couple of e-mails to people whose opinions we trust – they agreed with us. Was there any point driving around anymore when we’d found what we were looking for? Decisions.

Here’s our new home.
 For the Technical amongst us.

1990 Hancock & Lane, Lister SR3 air cooled, 90amp alt, 3+1 batteries <18 months, Thetford cassette + spare, SS water tank, Solid oak flooring, Panelled sides and ceiling, Shoreline fridge, Instantanious gas water heater. Bath & shower. Out of water survey Feb 11 – all recommendations carried out.

What it needs.

Painting. Lots more cupboards. A new side hatch. Front doors with windows. Cleaning in the engine dept. A new seal on the weed hatch and the access improving. All within our capabilities.

We should be moved in in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime we've got two campervans to sort out. At the moment we don't know exactly where either of them are.

Hello Darwin, Goodbye Australia. Thank you, you lovely, lovely people!

Sorry this took a long time to get posted, when we haven't been getting over jet-lag we've been tearing round the country looking at boats.

We took Ann out for lunch in Alice on Sunday, then popped round to say goodbye to Damian & Julie. After a very enjoyable afternoon playing cards we stuffed our ever increasing luggage back into Ann’s poor little Polo and set off through Heavitree Gap towards the Airport. As our plane taxied down the runway we passed the RFDS hangers.
2 hours later we were walking across the tarmac in a hot, damp evening in Darwin waving at Rachel.

Rachel & Pete have a tree removal and pruning business, and run a small garden centre. Their lovely house and both businesses are all on the one site and they very kindly put us in their annex; our own self-sufficient pad for three nights, just what we needed to sort all our stuff out for the flight home.

On Monday they’d both taken a day off to show us around Darwin. The city played a major role in Australia’s military involvement in World War II and there is still plenty of evidence. We drove round what is now the Charles Darwin National Park. This used to be a huge munitions storage facility; hundreds of buried Nissen huts are amazingly well hidden among the gum and palm trees; there is one open to the public with a very informative display inside, explaining Darwin’s military past.
Down at sea level there are 5 enormous steel lined tunnels in the rock under the city. They were constructed to safely store diesel fuel for the navy; the above ground concrete tanks were considered too easy a target.
Ironically the war ended before any fuel was pumped and they now offer visitors the chance to muse over the effort and expense involved.

Our next stop was Doctors Gulley. For two hours every Monday around high tide, this former boat ramp becomes a fish feeding frenzy.
It’s been happening for years and we joined a crowd of people having our fingers nibbled by quite big fish.
On Tuesday Rachel & Peter had to work, but they’d very generously organised a trip for us out to Kakadu National Park. An Australian Pacific Tours coach picked us up at 7 and throughout the 3 hour drive out to the park the driver proved to be a bottomless mine of information about everything concerning Darwin and the “Top End”, the tropical northern part of NT.
We had a breakfast break, visited the cultural centre then the coach stopped at the Yellow River.
We got on a VERY sturdy looking aluminium boat,
and were taken out across the flooded creeks and marshland and onto the yellow river itself. Darwin and the Top End are just about at the end of the Wet, but you wouldn’t know from the amount of water that is still around. In the Dry this is a walking track.
The wildlife is stunning; a whistling kite,
a red headed Jacana and his 3 babies.
Guess who punched holes in this float?
She did.
If you can’t make out what you’re looking at it’s a head. Click on the photo to make it bigger. The top of the head and eyes are out of the water and at the 10 o-clock position you can see the tip of the nose. Directly below that you can make out a tooth. The camouflage was amazing; we were right next to her in the boat and we had to be shown where she was. No wonder the geese live in the trees.
The boat trip was followed by a very tasty salad lunch, then we were back on the coach again and off to Anbangbang to have a short walk to a viewpoint and see some Aboriginal cave painting.
Dave found a butterfly doing its own version of rock art.

Rachel and Pete lent us their Ute to get around in while we were there.
We felt like proper Aussies!

Our last full day down under was spent strolling along Darwin beach, paddling in the warm sea and picking up a few final souvenirs.

Rachel dropped us off at the airport. We were really sad to go; they’d been so welcoming and generous. We’ll never be able to thank all these wonderful Aussies enough for all they’ve done for us. We get very emotional and feel very special.

This was our last glimpse of Australia.
Singapore at night.
Blighty. Raining. Cold.

But it's good to be home!

Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Stourbridge Canal. BCN. Grand Union Canal. Kinver to Kixley Wharf

There are 25 locks from Hyde Corner to Merry Hill, but we had a fabulous day working up through them all. The Stourton and ...