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…….