Saturday, 21 February 2009

Spending time vs. Spending money...

Still waiting to hear back from the marina on one or two things, and our legs are getting tired of all this solid ground to walk around on!

Yesterday we visited some friends of Jem's from way back, Kate & Corwen, who are currently renovating their gorgeously unique narrowboat, The Duke of Bridgewater, which has quite a history behind it! Judging by what they told us and from the photos on the boat's webpage here, it's been a hell of a project! And how many narrowboats are fitted out with hemp insulation?! And that's nothing compared to some of the things they have planned for it! Can't wait to see how it turns out in the months and years to come...

Our less idle thoughts have been turned towards various aspects of Wils, and we've decided to go for a wood burning stove (nothing new there) but with a back boiler feeding into our fin radiators, and hopefully the calorifier too, thus negating our reliance on gas for all things but cooking. It's a case of preferring to have to take the time to chop the wood rather than the time to work to earn the money in order to buy the gas. And that ain't all, folks...

I've said from day one that I don't want a washing machine onboard, for me that falls into the catagory of trying to bring modern house life onto the boat, and a convenient modern lifestyle isn't something I'm hunting for in any sense. We shan't have a washing machine, so instead we're investigating the world of washboards, copper possers (thanks Kate & Corwen!) and mangles! Yes, it's more work but work is just what I'm after; it's electricity and convenience living and unecessary machinery that I'm trying to escape from! A little bit of hard work can't be a bad thing, right? And the thought of mangling away on the towpath in the early morning mist is very tempting... Make that the midday mist, and it's almost a realistic image!

Hand powered water pumps are looking attractive too, given what we've been hearing about burst pipes causing pumps to turn on and flood boats... Simply it's electricity and gas NO - natural power YES! I know we're reliant on a thumping great diesel engine for the time being - but one step at a time! The day I find a sufficiently large collection of swan-sized harnesses then we'll really be away! Swan-drawn boating, it's the future. Maybe!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The survey's done! We're creeping towards completion...

Hot off the press, a few photos first:

Wils, as she looked moored up this morning...

Simon, Anne, me and Jem on the Grand Tour!

Two days ago, when the sun was out. Briefly!

Quite a major day for us newly initiated boaty types... Our in-water survey took place this morning so Jem and I drove up to the marina to meet the surveyor and talk it over, which was great because he was able to show us in person exactly what was what, rather than us having to piece it together from the written report.

Suffice to say, all is well, on the whole! As with any surveyor's report, it was up and down but the ups far outweighed the downs so we're still legging this project through the darkness of First Time Buyers Tunnel....

Currently we're trying to occupy our time constructively and not get frustrated with how long it's taking to get onboard. This generally takes the form of the weaving/knitting/sketching of any and all things for the boat, hunting out fruit picking/WWOOFing jobs for the summer time, investigating exciting things such as which eco-friendly detergent to use etc.

Without revealing all of the details of the survey before we've completed purchase, it's enough to say that we're still on course, and although the survey has brought a number of things to our attention, we're still positive that this is going to be our home, and soon too. We hope. Ever the optimist*, I'm focusing on the good things we have planned for it.

I've even had dreams lately where I've been sat on the roof, strumming away on the mandolin beside the towpath on a very hot day... I'm sure there was a cold pint there somewhere too... BRING IT ON! I think the roof needs a good scrub before then, though. All in good time... Just let us at it! We've even gone and bought scrubbing brushes in preparation!

The question is, how much more "good time" can it take to get us onboard?

* Other - "Won't it get cold with all these vents in it?"
Me - "Nah, that's our constant, crisp fresh air supply! People in houses would pay a mint for that kind of real luxury!"

Sunday, 15 February 2009

The snow is gone and we've really started planning and preparing!!!!! eep!!

Well, I thought it was high time I got myself onto the computer to write a blog seeing as Toby has kindly invited me to!!!

The work on the boat is now moving on and the work on the boiler and gas systems (fingers crossed) should have been completed on Friday. With any luck now we can get the in-water survey done, and a cheque written very soon!! All of a sudden things seem to be moving quickly and are we actually ready yet? Seeing as it shouldn't be too long until we can move in we thought we had better get organised!! Lists have been written and we have quite a few things to get done!

Most of my stuff is packed up now, although I know I need to sort through what I have and what we need... ah another list is to be created!!!

Toby is in the process of packing... I suppose I'm lucky in a way, all of my stuff is in boxes and just needs sorting to make sure I have everything I want. It all seems to be taking time but it has definately helped the last week go quickly! Hopefully within the week we will have everything packed and sorted and will have also been shopping for food essentials and general stuff - dried foods and herbs and spices, washing up liquid etc. I am obviously going to be getting the more eco friendly washing up liquids and I have also been looking into eco friendly shampoos and things. I don't really like the thought of chemicals going into the canal that really shouldn't be there, so we're going to try to be as eco friendly as we can. Toby really liked the idea of growing soapwort and making our own soap and such, but I think we may try and build toward that stage!

Speaking of growing things, our bow garden plans have started and we have literally just ordered some seeds!! This is what we have coming so far...
  • Nasturtiums
  • Wild Rocket
  • Peppermint
  • Mesclun Mixed Leaf Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Oregano
Toby's going to be on the hunt for his plant pots etc and we're hoping the seeds that we've ordered won't be too much, I can imagine an overgrown mass of green things overflowing in the bow!! I really wanted a potato bin but seeing as that would take up quite a bit of room it seemed unlikely! We're also hoping to supplement our food with things we can forage for, we have a couple of good books so I reckon we'll do quite well, here's hoping anyway!

We decided we don't want to change anything on the boat until we've had a chance to live with it. Then we can make a decision based on experience - there's no point in changing anything and then realising we've done it wrong... mind you, there will probably be times when that does happen. Anyway, through deciding this it made us make some decisions on the music system, the main thing being we won't be taking the tape player out - yet! By chance, in Tescos we found a dirt cheap tape adaptor that can be plugged into mp3 players. This just happens to plug into anything that would take headphones - including the laptop. So we could use the laptop, or an mp3 player! The mp3 player can be charged using Toby's handy portable solar charger and therefore be more economical, which is even better!

We have managed to arrange to see the boat tomorrow!! WOOP WOOP! So we will be taking Toby's Mum, Simon and Anne to see it!! Plus I am very excited at seeing it again and will be making lots of notes of things to get and do etc.

All of a sudden everythings happening and its really exciting! I just cannot wait to get onboard and start our riverway adventures!!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Snow halts everything... Scheming on all things homegrown & home brewed...

Work on the boat has been postponed due to the snow, and with only a boiler servicing, an in-water survey and a cheque to write, this is more than a little frustrating! Feels like we're SO close! Jem has packed up all of her wordly goods, and I'm in the process of doing the same, we're really just killing time until the work is finished.

Investigating stove prices and insurance companies are the jobs of the week with regard to the boat and we're trying to decide whether or not to have the stove fitted ASAP or to hang on for a while and rely on the radiators to keep us warm for the first few weeks/months. I think our first cruise will be down the Grand Union from Daventry towards Milton Keynes but nothing's set in stone. We're waiting for the imminent arrival of Millie Bubbles too, Jem's neice-to-be, whose due date is today! She's been pegged as an Aquarian, but Pisces looms...

Also investigating the cost of polytunnel material or similar, to construct our 'Bow Garden' in the near future. Digging out plant pots and old seeds too... I'd like to grow the following but practicalities may change this list considerably:

  • Swiss Chard
  • Root Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Numerous herbs
  • Peppers?
  • Chestnut Mushrooms
  • etc
The list is ongoing and very flexible at this stage. I don't think it's very realistic but I'm also looking into growing hops. If it's easily done in a small space (not too likely, so I'm told) then I won't have to buy it for the homebrew! But hops aren't particularly expensive to buy, and neither is the malt I'll be using in my first ales. I've not made homebrew before so I'm hoping to begin on the boat! As long as we can keep the bins at a relatively constant temperature, should be no problem. As for cost, ingredients and equipment seem to be available to buy online for very little, and I might be able to find my mum's glass demijohns which would be amazing, she says if we can find them we can use 'em so why not?! It'll be an ongoing experiment...

Music onboard is another issue, currently Wils is fitted with a tape deck/radio which is inconveniently located on the ceiling right where the future stove flue is going to fit so we're left with an interesting conunderum. Between us, Jem and I have LPs, 45s, CDs, MP3s (and probably a few tapes) that we want to bring with us. What to do? Having a record player onboard, particularly something like an old 50s Dansette, would be great, but storage of records is an issue. Do we copy everything to the laptop? I think we'll rely on CDs o the whole, and buy a small portable player. I'd also like to move the tape player as it is to a different location and run a line-in-tape plugged into the CD player for full-boat audio goodness if we can!

So things are on hold for now. It's beginning to look like the thaw is coming, slowly. Hopefully we'll be able to get up to Welton Hythe on Monday and introduce Simon, Anne and Mum to Wils!

Monday, 2 February 2009

IT'S SNOWING! Oh, and some things are happening with the boat...

We've been on tenterhooks for the last week or so, tracking the progress of the dread ship Wilshamstead by phone! We're back down south for the time being, but the marina has kept us updated on things. She was out of the water for a few days at the end of last week, and this morning we had confirmation that the hull replating has been completed and she's back in the water already.

A new gas locker has been constructed in the cratch because apparently it was too awkward to weld the gas locker where it originally sat right down in the bow. So we're going to be using three 6KG bottles rather than the original 2 13KG ones. Easier to lug up and down future towpaths and easier to haul in and out of the locker is my guess.

That might minimize outdoor space in the bow somewhat, but as we're planning to turn it into a greenhouse anyway, I can't see it being a major issue. If anything it'll just give us another shelf on which to sit plants! Is it going to be an issue having our gas bottles in a slightly enclosed space? What we're hoping to construct (or purchase) is a clear cratch cover, hopefully having the gas bottles in there will be okay... We can work our way around the new locker if not.

Now we're trying to get hold of our surveyor to arrange our in-water survey. Boiler servicing is the next job for the marina, and we also had word that the current owners have bought seven (!) new 110 a/h batteries for Wils, to replace the smaller collection of very, very dead ones that are currently sitting inside the stern.

We're investigating potential marinas and how much they charge for moorings, as well as insurance companies, and where we're going to cruise first! The logistical issue of where we're going to be when we start installing new work surfaces, wardrobes, sinks etc - not to mention the stove - is also on our Stuff to Ponder list. As she is currently on the Grand Union I think some exploration there would be a supoib choice.