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!!

The best laid plans……….

So the next morning arrived and I think it can be said that we were both feeling low and with mixed emotions. Where do we go from here because we literally can’t go on as we had been stuck and on checking the Canal & River Trust website we find at least 2 other locations we need to get by have problems with low water; we can’t go back as we are unable to get by the first sandbank.

This trip was supposed to be fun but at this moment it didn’t feel much like that was how it was panning out.

In this situation I think we can firmly say that ‘Nature Rules!’

At 8.30am we started one of our brain storming sessions – this is how we solve problems or have a debate about a situation…it works for us and am pleased to report that by 10.30am we had a plan coming together. We had previously spent so long planning our trip and the one thing we didn’t think of that would be a problem was lack of water! We could wait for it to rain (and rain) and fill the river again but who knew how long that would take, as we realistically needed at least another meter of depth. The idea of having a plan is to build in some kind of flexibility to allow for unseen situations and so ensure that we progress. I was concerned about trying to go on as felt we would both be on edge all the time waiting for that terrible grinding and crunching sound. Martin was also concerned about the propeller and any damage it may already have or might sustain if we had a repeat problem.

We called Rod at Redhill Marina and discussed our situation, after a ten minute phone call we felt things were starting to come together.

We made plans to go into Redhill Marina the next morning. We would have to fit into their prior booked schedule but would be able to moor there safely, then get them to lift the boat out of the water, we would then have the bottom shot blasted and painted. The new engine delivered there and Martin would fit it. We would then be craned onto a lorry and taken down to Ramsgate and put back in the water down there. Not exactly as we had envisaged the first part of our trip but that’s life…. Once in Ramsgate Martin can complete the Day Skipper practical course (this allows us to cruise in European waters), we can get the new engine trialed at sea and once these things are sorted we can look at dates and he weather and decide if we can get over the Channel this year or if we have to sit out the winter in Ramsgate and wait until next spring.

If we even had a plan B – I think we are probably up to about D or E now………………………., but it is all part of the fun

calm before the storm!!

Not exactly as we planned it but we are safe and happy so can ask for no more. we will continue to make the best of everyday and are happy to share it with those of you who decide to ‘come’ with us.

Canal & River Trust to the rescue!!!

We set off the next morning the sun was shining and we were feeling happy and pleased to be on our way again and not too far behind our vague schedule.

That is until we went around a bend and heard that awful grinding sound again – we slowed and stopped; we had again run aground. Martin tried some manoeuvers but to no avail. So again we contacted the Canal & River Trust – they said we should call the Canal & River Rescue as we would need to be pulled clear again. This we did and after several conversations with the CRT and our insurance company, received an estimate for rescue for £1030. I think it was one of those situations where choice is not an option so we had to bite the bullet and agree. Luckily it would seem that our insurance would cover all but the agreed excess. We sat and patiently waited – after all it was a lovely day. We heard the sound of a boat approaching and a narrow boat came around the corner, Martin waved and shouted at them to go around us but they kept on coming and took us on the inside of the bend and they too became stuck.

free at last

We were pulled clear by the CRT Rescue team – they fixed a steel rope from the opposite bank and we went on our way; with much waving and ‘thanks’.

We were now running late so had a berth booked at Beeston Marina – we just had to go another couple of miles…..we reached an area on the river known as Barton Island we headed to the west of it as directed by the signs and maps and then….. that grinding sound again… we couldn’t believe it – we were stuck again. We debated what to do as we were again out in the middle of the river – I called the CRT rescue crew as we had their direct number from our previous conversations – luckily they had not left the previous grounding scene and said they would come and see if they could help again. At this point Martin decided he needed to get a rope to shore for safety reasons and went into the river – at some points it was only up to his knees and then it fell away to nothing.

It seems that the lack of river traffic during the pandemic, the floods of late last year and early this year and then the really warm and dry spring have all had a hand in making the river unstable.

The rescue crew arrived again – bless them – and pulled us clear – we decided our only option for the moment was to return to our previous nights mooring, open a bottle of wine and rethink our plans in the morning.

Thank you Canal & River Trust Rescue; Pete and team.

Also thank you to the lovely lady from the insurance company who was as concerned for our safety and welfare as much as the policy small print.

Not that Sandbanks!!!

We were doing so well – got through 4 locks with no mishaps – although we were trying to practice social distancing and so we politely refused offers of help and were met with ‘Well we didn’t want to hold hands with you’ from one man. All was good.

We stopped for lunch and had our sights set on our overnight mooring.

Passing under the A453 and in the shadow of Ratcliffe power station we saw a narrow boat moored just our side of the Ratcliffe Lock, a lady stood on the bow of the boat and was waving (not unusual, as boaters are in the main a friendly bunch), we realised that she was shouting ‘sandbank’ at about the same time we realised what she was saying there was an almighty grinding sound as we hit the sand bank and came to an abrupt stop!

We spoke to Canal and River Trust to let them know we were stuck and virtually blocking the waterway. Another boater advised that the same thing had happened to someone the previous weekend and kindly gave us the details of the local marina who had helped that boat out.

going nowhere
(in)famous!! on the Canal & River Trust website

We were eventually pulled clear by Rod and Darryl (with his tractor) from Redhill Marina and set on our way again.

Bye bye Barrow…..

Well we are all packed up and ready to leave. My little car has been sold so everything we have is now on the boat. It is a lovely morning and so with mixed emotions we cast off from our mooring home of the past 6 years.

We have enjoyed living in Barrow – the mooring was a quiet spot that we put our mark on – with decking, a shed and flowers. I hope the next guardian looks after it. We had a couple of good neighbours and although one of them set fire to his boat (luckily it didn’t do us any harm) and another almost blew himself and his boat up, we will ‘miss’ Proctors Park and its characters. We have good memories of our special times – especially our wedding and the reception we held at the Soar Bridge Inn, thank you Rob and Amie for making our day extra special and for the lovely meals we have had there over the years. They have been very innovative during the lockdown and we wish them well when the restrictions are relaxed and they can get back to normal life.

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….