Moving east highs and lows!

Monday morning dawned and we were up bright and early in order to carry out the final checks and packing of our possessions and the final ‘wrapping up’ of Heavy Metal to keep her safe and protected during her journey to Norfolk on the back of a lorry. It was quite exciting and all went well, the lorry arrived spot on time, the boat was loaded easily and we set off on our car journey to Norfolk, with waves and good wishes from the Redhill Marina crew, to start a new chapter of our lives.

We had, early the previous week, rung the Norfolk marina where we had booked the lift to take the boat off the lorry and put her back in the water, to check that all was good. When Martin spoke to the woman in the admin/reception office she confirmed the lift and also said that they had a mooring available for us if we wanted it. Now we did have a temporary mooring agreed with a boat yard just over the river from the marina but this new mooring would be in a marina, have all the facilities of a marina, and would be long term, so we said ‘Yes, please’. Moorings around the Broads for a boat of our size and draft are few and far between so we were really pleased to have secured this one. In order to be fair we called Steve at the boatyard and thanked him for his offer of a temporary mooring but that we now had the promise of a permanent ‘home’, or so we thought!! He was fine with this and wished us well.

On arrival at the marina that Monday morning we booked in at the office and asked to look at our promised mooring berth, it was then that the bombshell was dropped, ‘Oh no it isn’t vacant yet. We are waiting for the current person to let us know if they want to keep it or not. They have paid for it up until April, and although we don’t think they will be back, we can’t let anyone else have it until they give us proper notice’.

This was not what they had told us over the phone, and each of the two women in the office seemed to be saying that it was the others ones fault that we had been misinformed – not helpful or apologetic at all. They said they would try to ring the gentleman and try to get an answer from him re his future intentions and let us know.

It was like your worst nightmare, we had arrived in Norfolk, the boat, all 30+ tonnes of her, was on its way on the back of a lorry and we had nowhere to moor it. Basically we were mooringless or strictly speaking homeless. As I said the staff at the marina were very far from helpful, neither of the women would take any responsibility for their mistake. I felt physically sick and very upset. The yard man at the marina, who by the way, was very helpful, advised us that he did not even know we were expected and he was currently moving boats around to facilitate some dredging in the marina basin. Brewery and p..s up came to mind!! Martin, bless him, assured me it would all be okay, but I couldn’t see how. A few deep breaths later we decided we needed to go and speak to Steve who had previously offered us a mooring, throw ourselves on his mercy and hope he hadn’t let the spot to anyone else in the last week.

Steve became our saviour and my hero, in the matter of minutes, he was wonderful. He said the temporary mooring was still free and ours if we wanted it. We agreed that we would stay on a temporary mooring at the marina overnight and move to his pontoon the following afternoon, tides permitting.

We were very relieved but I still struggled to see how the staff at the marina could just say ‘Well, we haven’t been able to get in touch with him today, but we will keep trying, and let you know’ Not sure what they expected us to do as a 30+ ton boat needed a home and would need to come off the lorry as soon as it arrived, in about an hour!!

This whole scenario thoroughly spoilt our first day in our new home county and has most definitely clouded my view of the area since.

The following day we were to move the boat to Steve’s mooring, across the river. Some of you may recall that we had a new engine fitted at Redhill and we had been unable to test it until now, so it wasn’t silence we wanted to hear when Martin turned the key, but silence we got, as nothing happened when he did; only tumble weed and silence! At this point we did begin to wonder if it could get any worse. Luckily Martin had a contact at the engine suppliers who advised him of a couple of things to try and eventually, the engine began to make the right noises. During the maneuver to reverse out of the temporary berth Heavy Metal came into contact with one of the plastics boats close by. You have thought we had almost sunk Royal Yacht Britannia rather than just scratching the deck of a small pleasure craft. As I said my state of mind and mood was not good due ; due to the unhelpful attitude and shrugs we had received from the marina staff and the uncertainty of having a home mooring, consequently when the man whose boat it was started shouting and glaring, I did feel I had to point out, politely, that it was an accident and that no one had died!! We moved the boat, sorted out insurance details and proceeded out onto the Broads. We needed to take a longer route round to Steve’s to avoid a low bridge and coincide with the tides. The weather was terrible, rain and mist, looked like December not September, my mood was about on a par with the weather, maybe not that good actually! Usually Martin and I are good together, we don’t tend to get upset over the same things and so compliment each others moods generally, not today, we were both upset about the slight accident, some of the people we had encountered and the general experience of our first days in Norfolk. Few words were spoken on this trip.

We arrived at Steve’s (my hero) and with his help, got safely moored up, he made us very welcome, which was amazing had we had really messed him about. Suffice to say we have been happily ensconced here since. Unfortunately this is only a temporary mooring and we will need to move in April. This in itself is a worry as I’ve said mooring for boats of our size are rare.

I have had a couple of big time melt downs in the the past couple of weeks and have probably not given Norfolk much of a chance. The weather has been mostly wet and miserable so far and so we haven’t had much opportunity to get out and explore. Just need to wait until it stops raining……….

Suffice to say we have still to hear anything from the Marina about the promised mooring.

Countdown is on……

We are counting down to our departure from Redhill and looking forward to a change of scenery. It is really quite good when you can move and not have the hassle of packing and unpacking, whatever we own is on the boat – the whole package!

We had a lovely few days in Bristol , lucky to get good weather and we were able to see all the things we had wanted to – including SS Great Britain, which was fascinating; learnt all about Isambard Kingdom Brunel and what an amazing engineer he was and way ahead of his time. We also visited the Clifton Suspension Bridge, another of his designs, which he unfortunately did not live to see completed, again amazing piece of design.

We have also taken time to reflect on our time here and in the main we have enjoyed it, although now we are ready to move on.

Our experiences of Redhill have been many and varied – here are just a few captured in pictures that we will take with us……… will miss those cooling towers!!

now Norfolk – here we come!!

September already…

Okay so who stole 2020? September already and what have you done? You all know what we have or have not done. We are on the final leg now of our stay at Redhill and in many ways we won’t be sorry to move on. It is a strange place.

In the meantime we have just about caught up on most of the jobs we had on the list. So much so that we have given ourselves some time off in the last couple of weeks to catch up with family and friends. We’re even treating ourselves to a few days away later in the month.

One of the best things here has been the variety of wildlife a few examples are below.

What next?

Well things have progressed and the engine is installed apart from some electrical works, for which we have had to employ an electrician to undertake and are now at the mercy of his schedule. I have reached Chapter 4 of my novel and am enjoying drawing on past experiences and people to ‘furnish’ it!!

In other areas circumstances have overtaken us and due to some unforeseen events we have had to rethink and reschedule our plans (nothing new there!). We should be getting quite good at this now!

We will remain at Redhill now until late September – Heavy Metal will then be loaded onto a lorry and transported down to Norfolk where she will be lifted off the lorry and back in the water. We have secured a mooring on the River Waveney in Norfolk, a few miles from Great Yarmouth. We are planning to stay there for at least 6 months and from there we will be able to access the Broads and even have a jaunt out into the North Sea should weather conditions and confidence allow during the winter months. Finding a suitable mooring in itself posed problems as we appear to be ‘too big’ for most of the Broads marinas. The Waveney is a tidal river so I’m sure there will be ups and downs (at least twice a day!) as it is not something we are used to.

Our foray across the Channel and into Europe is on hold; it may still happen but we have had need to leave our options open at the minute. If it does – then great – we will embrace it, if it doesn’t, then we will think again, regroup, change direction, whatever…………..

Life is strange and continues to challenge us at what feels like almost every turn at the moment; but we will be okay and although we may not have the adventure we had originally planned – we will have an adventure – be together, be stronger.

I will continue to blog over the next weeks and months, and will also put up photos of our journeys, surroundings and the wildlife, and I will try and make it interesting and fun (we do laugh a lot despite everything life throws at us) – if you want to come along and see what the future holds…. you are most welcome.

A quiet week

Not much to report this week, we remain in our prime viewing position of the Ratcliffe on Soar cooling towers, East Midlands railway line and East Midlands airport flight path – so always something to look at!!!

The new engine is on the boat and Martin is now fitting it – this will take a couple of weeks at least, so we remain as we are for now.

We will then be reviewing our options – so you know as much as we do at the moment – will update next week.

We progress…slowly

Another week here at Redhill draws to a close and we see Heavy Metal taken out of the paint shed with her new ‘paint job’.

Looking good…..

We had enjoyed our change of scenery but were now ready to get back on board our home. As you can see our new resting place was some 12 foot above the ground! Accessed only by a ladder or some rickety steps with a crate and a wooden sleeper on top to allow those of us who are vertically challenged to be able to access their home. Not ideal and initially it felt a bit like being marooned.

We were however left sloping slightly forwards and this meant that the shower tray was likely to overflow if we weren’t very careful and things kept rolling away when dropped. This new ‘mooring’ gave us yet another view of Redhill life, although no longer near the water there was plenty of activity and comings and goings from the boat building and painting sheds – to feed our thirst for a story. We were also in sight of the flight path to East Midlands Airport and as lock-down is relaxed this is getting busier. We watched a plane the other evening which we think must have been a training flight as it looked as if it was coming in to land several times and then pulled up and didn’t.

Engine update

Martin had disconnected the current engine and this was then quickly and efficiently craned out the boat, leaving a large empty space for the new one to be installed once Martin has completed all the preparation works.

Passing the time…

I have spent some time this week on my sewing machine making, among other things, facemasks for us to wear on our forays on the train. We do spend much of our time just us 2 and luckily this isn’t a problem for us – although we both came from different lives and with differing experiences and tastes – we have melded – Martin has introduced me to rock music, Harley Davidson and the undeniably Yorkshire ‘a spade is a spade’ outlook on life; I think I have introduced him to the National Trust, Doc Martin and the idea that it can be quite useful to sometimes actually read instructions!

We do however both love nature and we were lucky enough this week to have the company of a female kestral, very close by.

We now await the new engine installation and then we will be able to reassess our plans.

At last… bye bye Piano Boat

We woke this morning to much activity in the yard, to find 2 camera crews and various Tristar Boats and Redhill staff looking very busy. It wasn’t long before the boat transporter lorry arrived and loaded the Piano Boat – this was filmed from all angles including by drone. We waved her off, wishing her well in her new starring role on the Thames.

A little calm before, during and after the storm?

We were entering our third week at Redhill and Martin was getting impatient wanting to get a workable schedule agreed to progress our works. It was the weekend so no one was around to answer our queries. The rain came again and during the dry spells we enjoyed the sunshine and local walks – on one occasion we came back from a walk to Sawley by a different route and although we could see the Marina and the boat our way was blocked by a huge mass of flood water and the bridge we needed to get across was also surrounded by water – now I had my wellies on ( as it had been raining!), suffice to say Martin didn’t, so I suggested that I walk through the water back to the boat and fetch his wellies back for him – we agreed this was a good idea until Martin thought he may as well just roll up his jeans, which he did, take off his shoes and socks, which he did, and paddle across, which he did. Luckily it wasn’t too deep, but I didn’t want to dwell on the colour of the water or what was actually squelching through his toes, for too long, as the field was usually full of cows!!

We witnessed another ‘how many men’ moment the next day when there was much commotion whilst trying to move a work barge and get a JCB with pile driver onto it. Turns out it takes at least 4 men, about 2 hours and some very ripe language!!

Update – Piano Boat….

The Piano Boat finally came out of the water and was due to be put on a lorry and taken down to London – we met the pianist and owner, Masayuki Tayama, and his partner, Rhiana Henderson, both obviously keen to get their new business started. Seems there is a problem with the flooring they had chosen and so their departure is still facing a delay.

Let battle commence…….

As Monday morning approached and with it our opportunity to try to nail on our schedule with the Redhill ‘powers that be’ we lined up our teddies, rattles and various Fisher Price products along the edge of our pram just in case we needed to start launching them later!! However we are pleased to report that no toys were harmed in the making of our plans as we were advised that our boat was scheduled to be taken out of the water on Tuesday morning, it would then be pulled up to the shot blast area, so we could confirm arrangements with Martin, the shot blaster, to come over the Wednesday morning – all systems go – we would then be due into the paint shed later that day for welding and repainting and would remain there for possibly a week.

We spent the night 12 or so feet up in the air and not altogether level, it felt very strange. The next day the shot blaster came early to scour her bottom, which was a dusty, noisy job, so we had to stay well away for the two or so hours it took. It turned out that although every crack, crevice and hole had been covered, bunged or stuffed the dust had got in everywhere and the boat was covered in red dust inside and out!

As I said it was all systems go and the new engine was also due to be, and was actually, delivered, on time,that morning. We had also made arrangements to meet up with the welder once in the paint shed as Martin wanted to get some stabilising fins welded to the sides of the boat to help reduce the amount of roll we could experience when at sea, prior to painting.

All this and it was only lunchtime…………………

As I reported before we were unable to stay on the boat whilst she was in the paint shed due to the potential fumes etc. So it was time we moved into our temporary accommodation ‘the Container’, still on site, still on the water but away from the dust and fumes, and we finally felt we were making progress. We packed our bags, clothes and food and drink and made our way to our temporary home. It was compact and bijou but perfectly adequate and comfortable. This bit was slightly stressful as we wouldn’t have access to the boat for a week so anything we forgot to take at this point; we went without, that included clothes, food and drink!!

We did manage to relax that evening and enjoy being back at ground level, and so we settled into what was to be our new home for the next week, with a wonderful sunset and a bottle of wine – life was good….

Redhill Life…

So we continue to reside at Redhill Marina. The negative aspect of this is its location i.e. pretty much in the middle of nowhere and with us having no transport (still mourning my little car!) Luckily the positives do tend to outweigh and we are only about 15 minutes walk from East Midlands Parkway station, so have been able to get the train to Loughborough to get to the bank and post office, the nearest post box is about the same distance walk away and we have also managed to secure Tesco deliveries – so we won’t starve. We intend to try and book a Chinese takeaway delivery this weekend! The weather had, so far, been kind too and there are some lovely walks around us. See, it’s not all bad…..

Marina is a bit of a misnomer – it is not in the classic Mediterranean way a marina – it is really a working boat yard, this in itself keeps us occupied as there is always something going on. Boats being put in the water, boats being taken out of the water, boats being moved around on land. The site caters for many types of boater and has facilities for craning , welding, painting, buying and selling. There are people with day/weekend boats, people fitting out their own boats and people just enjoying ‘messing about on the river’ in boats, canoes and on paddle boards. As you would expect there are many different characters employed, and passing through, here – we spend many a happy hour sitting up in the wheelhouse adding backstories to the people we see. We have had plenty of spare time to ‘people watch’ while we wait our turn for the various facilities, which has been great as it is one of our favourite pastimes.

Poppies among the rubble!!

Rachmaninov – The Piano Boat

The star boat this week has been Rachmaninov; the ‘Piano Boat’. This has been built on site by Tristar boats and is shortly scheduled to be transported by road to London. It will then have a grand piano installed and will be based on the Thames and offer musical soirees for 12 participants, afternoon teas and what they call an ebony and ivory experience – a private piano recital and meal. There was much activity when it was first taken from the sheds and put into the water, we spoke to a lady who was taking photos and she informed us that the boat was going to be the subject of a Channel 4 documentary in the future – we will keep a watch out for that.

Progress.. we hope

We are moored at the moment at the side of the public footpath, so have regular interactions with people out and about enjoying the countryside and good weather. Many comment about the boat – Heavy Metal is a Branson Construction Dutch Barge, built in 2003, purchased and subsequently lived on my Martin since 2006. She is 55″ long, 12″ wide (beam) and weighs about 25 tonnes. She is registered as Category C which means she is built for going to sea. She is our home – a warm, comfy and relaxing place to be.

We must be on about Plan G or H by now – to be honest this week has not be totally enjoyable as we have had so many changes to contend with to try and coordinate the various work which needs doing. When people say they feel that they are on a roller coaster – that is how we have felt this week, there have been times when we even have been unsure how to support each other – but we are strong together and we will get through.

We think we may have cracked it now.

Martin – hoping we may be moving forward now…..

We have a date to be taken out of the water and have managed to book the welder and shot blaster to come and do their bits, then we follow this by being transported on a trailer to the painting shed – what did I say about best laid plans?!

Another spanner in the works….

Martin spoke to the on site painting team when we first arrived and we have since decided to get the painting team here to do the paintwork for us – the advantages – the boat will be under cover so we are not weather reliant, they have the latest equipment i.e. spray guns etc., they quoted us a good price and most of all (from my point of view anyway) it was one less job for Martin to do. Then a couple of days ago another spanner came flying into the works… the paint shop manager said he didn’t think we should stay on the boat while it was being sprayed due to the potential fumes which could build up overnight when the painting shed was closed and the main extractors were switched off. So now we are going to be homeless!! We roll onto the next dilemma -what do we do; where do we go? Plan J anyone?

My Hero

When we originally planned to go to Boston we arranged for a parcel of spares to be delivered there, which it was and there it remains – we need to get it to us here.. we thought of our options, going to Boston by train, then taxi to the boat yard and return; we could hire a car – this proved to be very expensive and due to our location difficult as we needed to get to the hire depot. We decided we would arrange a courier collection instead and priced this up. I then contacted David, the Fosdyke Yacht Haven manager, in Boston. I can now announce that he is now officially my ‘hero of the week’. He said he was really sorry we wouldn’t be going to them to have the boat works carried out and that it would be no trouble at all for him to take the parcel over to the post office and send it to us – how b****y lovely is that? Restores your faith in human nature doesn’t it? Thank you David at Fosdyke Yacht Haven.

The rain continues, but so does our faith and determination…..

Will add new blog next week – hopefully with a record of the progress we have made. Are you holding your breath – I know I am!!