Boris has spoken

..cometh the hour

We, as did many, waited with baited breath on Sunday 10th May at 7pm to see what the plans were for relaxing the lockdown we had lived with over the past weeks. We seemed to have adapted quite quickly and easily.

As many pointed out maybe more questions were raised than were answered and it left us personally no further forward.

We had discussed that we would be at least a month behind our intended schedule and how we would or could cope with this. We looked at the possibility of changing our dry dock location, maybe somewhere nearer to cut down on the journey south when the work on the boat was complete.

We looked at a yacht haven near Boston and thought it looked good (provided the boat would be able to get through the famous ‘Glory Hole’ in the centre of Lincoln), on paper this seemed fine. The marina had space so we just had to decide where we wanted to go.

Canal & River Trust have spoken….

On Wednesday 13th May the Canal & River Trust advised that they would be relaxing some of their restrictions too, and fully opening up the waterways on 1st June.

That was all we needed to know.. we swung into action to try to bring all the components of our plan together: buy a river licence, contact the company who are supplying the engine to see where they were at with the manufacture of that and make a decision over the marina.

Martin’s excitement was palpable.

what will they have to tell us?

Within a couple of hours we had a plan – we would head over to Boston on Monday 1st June, this was gareed with the marina and the engine company given the new details for the engine delivery.

We had decided on Boston as this gave us less open water to cover on leaving dry dock and depending on weather, European restrictions etc. gave us a chance of maybe getting over the channel and into Europe this year.

Boston isn’t a huge marina and it is a bit in the middle of nowhere so I shall have to find things to occupy myself while Martin shot blasts, paints and installs his new engine.

We will still need to progress our RYA Day Skipper practical but hopefully we can incorporate this on our journey down to east coast.

Am I excited – yes but as ever I think I will always have doubts about how I will cope with a transient life, leaving family and friends and heading into the largely unknown. The books and maps are out – we are hoping for fine weather so we can get moving soon.

Corona what?

So we almost sat back and heaved as sigh of relief, almost ready to go – we had a planned prospective departure date on the calendar.

Then another obstacle raised its head in late March – Corona virus. The virus had seemed quire remote to us, hearing of its presence in China and then into mainland Europe earlier in the year.

We were going into lockdown – the Government set out its guidelines and the Canal and River Trust advised that boaters should not move around the waterways on unnecessary journeys and proceeded to withdraw staff from manned locks etc. asking that only in extreme emergencies should these facilities be accessed.

Social distancing was to become a new way of living and only essential travel should be undertaken. The Government advised that if we all played our part we would help to prevent a serious countrywide pandemic and help to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed by what was potentially a pandemic.

So even if we could travel with adequate food and fuel, no outside contact or stops we were unable to do so. Hull Marina advised that they were also closed and not allowing any craft in or out of the marina – so our fate was sealed for the now.

This meant we were staying put for the foreseeable future. I can’t deny I felt some relief at this respite; so we started to plan our ‘lockdown’ time.

Lockdown

Martin had been trying to get all of his tools etc. out of the shed on our mooring and onto the boat in the days before we had to acknowledge a further delay. ‘quarts into pint pots’ I thought probably described that operation. Martin is a very tidy and methodical person so he did know what he had got and where he was intending to store it.

I had looked in the shed one day and seen 5 very large tins of paint ‘Not sure where these will fit’ I was told. I did, at this point, ask the question as to why we (the Royal ‘we’) had not left ordering the paint until we got to the marina in Hull – just for once no rational explanation or quick witted quip was forthcoming! Silence – a tumble weed moment! Doesn’t happen very often – so excuse me while I milk it.

We decided to take up running again we had both completed the couch to 5K course in 2019, but had lapsed during the winter time. So we decided that at 6am three times a week we would restart our regime. I like to go out early – mainly because no one can see me struggling and also as makes social distancing easier. Martin is, of course, faster that me, so I get a 5 minute head start, he will usually pass me about half way around our chosen route and then be waiting for me at the end as I collapse in a heap!!

Jobs Martin had been keeping for Hull, as time was tight, have now been tackled. Martin has decorated the interior of the boat all through.

I am also keeping busy – only so may times you can dust and hoover and we don’t make that much mess anyway, extra baking only puts on the pounds; so I have taken to writing this blog – ‘hurray’ I hear you all cheer!! I have also started my novel (think I will need to put the usual – any likeness to any known person is purely coincidental – reference; as I think one or two people I have made acquaintance with in the past may think they feature. Water colour painting is something I have enjoyed in the past, so having another go – was pretty rubbish before and nothing leads me to think this time will be any different, but I intend to persevere, so may improve. Ooh look there’s a pig flying over!!

We have also been playing chess. martin bought me a chess set a couple of Christmas’ ago and I have always wanted to learn. When I say play – it tends to consist of Martin playing, me asking a lot of questions about which piece can move where, Martin explaining (again) and then him winning – but I am sure my day will come.

We walk on the days we don’t run and have discovered lots of parts of the village we have lived in for 5 years tat we didn’t know existed.

We are waiting now for Sunday evening as Boris is going to talk to the nation about a possible relaxation of the lockdown.

Watch this space….

And I thought north was north!

During February we studied for our Royal Yatching Association Day Skipper theory exam.. exam?.. yes exam. We would need this to allow us also acquire the necessary certification to allow us to cruise in foreign waters. We were advised that we would need at least 40 hours of study – this was an online course with assessments built in, with an exam at the end.

There is also a practical aspect of the exam which of course has to be carried out at sea – we would address this when we got to Hull.

Our ‘bible’ and navigation equipment

The course was hard – it is always harder to learn new things the older you get, and this terminology was totally new to us. We closeted ourselves away for several full days and did study hard, almost fell out on a couple of occasions.

I didn’t know that north could be magnetic or true, which way is latitude and which is longitude, planning courses, estimating positions making allowances for tides and weather. Learning about safety is a big part, knowing what different buoys look like and what they mean can make the difference between making your destination in one piece or not!!. Finally we took and passed the final exam – we have the certificates to prove it but no doubt the practical course will put our ‘classroom’ learning to the test.

We ticked this off our ‘to do’ list and felt a step closer to our departure time, but there was an unseen enemy out there who had other ideas.

A boat but not afloat…

obstacle number 1

Where we are currently moored is prone to flooding and during the last really bad floods in February 2020 it turned out to be the worst we had experienced…..and locally for several years

During this most recent flood a narrow boat along the bank from us slipped its mooring and was swept on the current to the bridge downstream, where it became stuck, broad side on. Luckily no one was injured and the fire brigade attended and managed to get the owner to safety via a ladder upon to the bridge parapet. The boat then nestled itself onto a barrier on the side of the bridge and sat ther nose up.

Unfortunately we continued to have more rain, re flooding and the barrier collapsed under the strain and deposited the boat back into the river, the current jamming the boat against the bridge broad side on completely blocking any access to the bridge arches.

There it still sat some 5 weeks later.. we were told several times that it would be moved ‘this week’. So we watched and waited. Martin getting quite impatient as plans for ‘the off’ were progressing and we knew we would be unable to move from our mooring to start our journey northwards due to the bridge inaccessibility.

at last…

Luckily it has been moved – it all started one Monday afternoon, sending divers down, attaching chains and air bags – we stood and watched for two hours as the ‘salvage crew’ tugged and pulled – and little happened – I just thought ‘how many men does it take a move a narrow boat!’ The blue overalled ‘boss’ shook his head, gave ordered and changed tactics several times – in the end we got fed up, cold and went home for our tea. The next morning we went out for a walk and saw that they had indeed successfully moved the boat, it was afloat and moored up – looking none too worse for wear – at least on the outside – so that was a good result. We were sorry we had missed the main event, but pleased too, to know our passage was now clear.

The Grand Plan

The grand plan is to take the boat via the River Trent and River Humber to Hull Marina where the boat will be craned out of the water and into ‘dry dock’. The boat’s hull will then be shot blasted (by a shot blaster) and then repainted (by Martin). We are also going to have a new, more efficient and horrendously expensive new engine fitted. Once this is all completed, we will make our way down the east coast of England – eventually to Ramsgate and from there make our foray across the Channel.

We have asked for guidance on this trip from via the Dutch Barge Association forum – we have had various advise; e.g. to just head straight out over the North Sea (I don’t think so – I would like to be able to see land at least 80% of the time we are at sea), don’t do it (not an option) and we have had several offers of help from more experienced mariners. Thank you DBA – they really are genuinely lovely people.

Once in Europe (via either Holland or France) we will head roughly east to the Rhine and then the Danube – passing through Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria – then leaving mainland Europe into the Black Sea, south via Istanbul to the Aegean and south again to Greek waters where we are hoping to stay and island hop for a few years.

So January 2020 sees the end of an era, but the start of our adventure. It will be hard leaving family and friends for a while but with modern technology there is no excuse for us not to keep in touch.

I have many very dear friends – some (you know who you are) have been there for me over some very hard times. There have been those who I thought would be, but when the chips were down – they are nowhere to be found. But I am a believer in fate, in just deserts and the old adage ‘you reap what you sow’ (as my very dear friend Karen used to remind me, when the days were very dark).

However we still had a couple of obstacles to get round – the biggest one we thought being Brexit and any restrictions or paperwork this would create; little did we know!

Turn right at Ramsgate?

Who would have thought that I would end up here – on the bottom rung of a ladder up to the biggest adventure I could have imagined.

Heavy Metal

Panic had previously set in on a couple of occasions as I voiced by fears and had more than one wobble about what the future may hold.

I sit here on a Dutch Barge in Leicestershire planning an adventure with Martin, my second husband, that will take us across the Channel and into Europe to who knows exactly where or when – it doesn’t really matter too much as we won’t have anywhere we have to be at any particular time, or even be in too much of a hurry – which is a definite down shift from us both having worked full time for over 40 years.

Retirement is a funny thing – It is strange to suddenly be able to do what you like when you like after the restrictions and responsibilities of a full time job, a home, a family and financial responsibilities have had such an influence and pull on your time and attention over the years.

Much has changed in my life over the past few years and with reflection of what might have been and what maybe I now see as years not made the best of. I know that this is where my future lies

As they say hindsight is a wonderful thing and I am sure we can all confess to ‘I wish I had’ or ‘What if’ moments.

Into Europe

The Dream

Martin had always had the dream of buying a boat and taking it into Europe. When we first met, almost seven years ago, this seemed such a distant prospect, that I didn’t cerebrate on it to any great extent – it was ages away. We would talk about what we wanted to do and where we would go, but a lot can happen in seven years.

I just enjoyed being with Martin, living on the boat, falling in love, getting married and generally having a feeling of true contentment, happiness and peace.

But as Martin’s partner and then his wife I needed to buy into his dream and I did…

I have…….

Honestly…….