Tuesday, 4 December 2018

A Not So Happy Post

It's Winter. And I'm feeling all those familiar lows that come with short, dark, rainy and cold days. I don't think I suffer from SAD, but I certainly feel a huge lift when the sun is out. But there's much more to the lows than the weather, which - of course - confronts us with heating issues. By the way - as I'm writing on my laptop, whenever I'm pondering, I look up and I see the river flowing past my round window and the river bank on the opposite side. It's always such a lovely view, whatever the weather. It has probably become one of my favourite places to be on the boat. Anyway - where was I? Ah, the lows. Yes, recently I've been up and down a lot, probably more down in the valleys of emotions. This new life of ours - yes - I wanted it. And I still do. Now comes the 'but'. But I also feel constantly challenged by so many little things. The biggest challenge is when Ewan says: "Let's take the boat out." My body goes into complete shock before I feel the fear creeping up in me. What if we bump into a bridge, another boat or the river bank? What if Ewan panics - I have no clue how to maneuver this monstrosity, nor would I be at his end fast enough to help avoid a collision. Usually, as soon as we set off I start feeling more at ease, knowing that my man is feeling confident and happy with moving and mooring her. We have walkie-talkies, so we can communicate, as he's at the stern end and I'm at the bow end. That helps enormously. Yesterday we moved Coddiwomple just from Shillingford to Benson, a journey, which takes just under half an hour one way. We needed to pump out. Ewan was amazing, but there was one moment when I thought we were heading straight into a boat by the river bank; we were going sideways instead following the stream. We would have crushed it, if Ewan hadn't last minute re-gained control over our 37 ton vessel. As always, he managed it well. When we were back home, I was completely exhausted from the stresses of stressing. I am trying to stay calm and focused, and I think I kind of am, but man do I worry. There are moments while moving, when I just feel totally amazing and happy, and I am then looking forward to summer, when we'll be moving about much more. But in windy, rainy weather conditions, I feel our boat is becoming more like a weapon when we move. I am so incredibly proud of Ewan and his confidence. Without him being my rock (as ever) I would have already run away screaming (not sure where, but honestly I would have). I just also want to mention that our dog Jack is always completely freaked out when the engine starts, until it turns off again. He shivers the whole way, bless him.

The constant awareness of limited water, power, limited sewerage tank space, gas supply and wood/coal - I'd never been confronted with that before. Water was always available, so was heating, electricity and sewerage. I never thought about it much. Now I do. I pee into a bucket, I poo at the hotel, and I ask our guests not to flush and use a bin for used paper; I shower rarely (don't worry, I do wash properly), I use washing up water twice or top up with hot water from a kettle; I have to get drinking water from the hotel every 5 to 6 days; I have to think about when and which way to heat, so that I'll be warm going to bed and getting up .... It goes on and on.

Recently I went to a women's meeting, and one of them had lived on a narrow boat for 6 years, so we got chatting. She warned me that Shillingford Bridge Hotel's garden floods from time to time, and that we then would need poles between river bank and boat, so that the boat wouldn't drift into the garden, and that we needed a dinghy to get from boat to land. That set me off into fight and flight mode, and I couldn't sleep that night. Just imagining myself floating meters away from the land and having to get into an unstable inflatable boat with my dog, just when he needs to do his business..... Oh God Almighty!

Yes. I'm finding this hard. I admit it. Now you can have the last laugh.

But I'm not defeated. I'll soldier on with my knight in shining armour. Because Spring and Summer will make it all worth it. I see that going into this venture at the end of September wasn't the best move, as dealing with Winter as newbies really is hard. We still have no canopy, and Kinver are so bloody slow, I think they might actually have forgotten about us or can't be bothered. We still have no working batteries and have to be plugged in all the time, which costs us about £100 per month. And no solar panels either, yet. All ordered. All happening in January, we hope.

So, now is the time for some good news and another 'but':

But, we have an amazing community here at Shillingford Bridge. It really is so lovely to know these special people and feeling the support and friendship. We are not alone. The hotel staff are also very welcoming and nice.

This place is absolutely beautiful; our views stunning. The swan (we call her/him Lesley) comes on a fairly regular basis, and we feed him/her duck food. We enjoy the wildlife, the sounds/noises, and seeing it. Often at night we hear an owl - magic. It's quiet; no noisy, horrible neighbours. The walks round here are gorgeous. Ewan and I are going strong. I have time to heal my body and do the occasional coaching with clients. We have no mortgage no more, no money worries. I enjoy the slow life. I love it when friends and family are with us on Coddiwomple. We have wonderful times together and so much laughter. The Wi-Fi works, slow, but working. By the way - we have a Mi-Fi box from TP Link with a Sim card from Three.com - "All you can eat", which means unlimited data for £25 monthly. The best deal on the market here. The TV is working. Glad we kept it LOL. Winter nights can be quite long.

So here goes. I'll get through my struggles, I'm sure. It's probably mainly my physical issues that bring me down. So much pain all the time.

Lots of love to you all,

Monday, 22 October 2018

A Dream Has Come True

So, let me introduce you to .... Coddiwomple.

Yes, you've read that right. To coddiwomple = to travel in a purposeful manner to a vague destination. We love that word, we did from the first time we heard someone use it ("....coddiwomplin' around...."). It's kind of unbelievable that no-one had yet registered it with the Environment Agency. We secured it nearly a year ago, and now she's ours.

This is where she was delivered  by her former owner and his crew; Abingdon-on-Thames, by Abingdon Bridge, opposite Annie's Boathouse Cafe. The previous owner, John, took pleasure in a last cruise with her and offered to deliver her to us (just asked for expenses), while we were on holiday in Croatia. So, when we came back, we found her like this on a beautiful Monday morning:

Our hearts were pounding, as we approached and stepped onto her for the first time with our own keys, as the owners. Very exciting indeed. I had asked Ewan to play "Millenium" (by Robbie Williams) and carry me down the steps, inside. He played Millenium, but he didn't carry me down the steps (boooh). I forgave him instantly; I am a very heavy girl. Instead, we hugged and danced inside our new home and were just totally overjoyed. Our dream had come true. We did it!

That was on the 21st of September 2018. It will go into history as one of our biggest mile stones, and we're proud as Harry.

Here are a few pics from the inside:

Yes, you're looking at an en-suite bathroom. And - guess what, ... we have another bathroom. Yes. Two showers, two toilets. That's what I call luxury.

Reality kicked in quite quickly, when we had to realise that Coddiwomple was not made to be off-grid. At all. We discovered 5 starter batteries, instead of 1 starter and 4 leisure batteries. Apart from the starter battery for the engine, the rest of them were knackered, didn't hold any power. We had to plug in somewhere. The closest, affordable and available spot we found was here:

Shillingford Bridge Hotel, near Wallingford, Oxfordshire. How lucky are we???!!!

But we couldn't go before we welcomed my oldest daughter and her husband, who came for a week's holiday from Germany. On Friday morning (28. Sept), with the help of 2 wonderful friends, Martin & Janet, we emptied and filled the boat up at Abingdon Lock (filling up took 1 hour!!!) and then set off to Shillingford. A beautiful 3-hour journey in the sunshine - that was just glorious, and again, very exciting. I felt so happy, and Coddiwomple moved so easily through the river. My daughter and her hubby shared the happiness with us, that was very special indeed.

Once we paid our dues and charged the power station, we were finally able to use our appliances. Up until then I toasted my bread like this 😂:

Fortunately she has 2 gas hobs and a wood burner, so we could cook and be warm, before we plugged in.

After my daughter +1 had left, we smelled the fumes coming out of the sewage tank very strongly - urgh - very horrible. So, not long after we had moored up, we needed to go and pump out again. That made us realise how careful we need to be with 'businesses'. Luckily, there was a space at Benson's "Le Boat" rental. They were ever so sweet and helpful. And we had our first ever cruise on our own, even though it was only half an hour 😉. I had been so nervous, but Ewan is a natural. He moved, turned and moored her so smoothly - I was well impressed. Me at the bow, giving hand signs. We're a good team.

This is the view onto the Hotel garden:

Our lovely neighbour, Tim, has since moved to the other side of the bridge, as he got a space with free electricity, lucky him. We won't get a space there this year, unless we're very lucky. Seems like we're paying about £100 per month for power. But that's okay, given the rent at this mooring is very affordable.

The vinyl signs are in the making, the stern canopy as well (might take 3 months though). Talking to the boaters community on Facebook, we found an absolute earth angel, Graham Mills, who is helping us sort out our batteries, power and solar power needs. He's already been for one morning, and he'll come back on Friday for a full audit, as we're totally dumb-arses when it comes to electricity. He's not charging any more than his expenses, as he's retired, wants to be impartial and unbiased, wants to help dummies like us and has "enough money - don't need more".  We can't believe our luck. What a great community the boaters are. Totally wonderful.

Look at Captain Ewan - he's smiling like a HoneyCakeHorse (Honigkuchenpferd - German expression for someone who's smile couldn't be broader). Last Friday, we took her back to Abingdon for another pump-out and Diesel fill-up. In the meantime we've discovered that we can fill up with water for free at the hotel (yippeeh). The weather was  f a b u l o u s. We stayed a night and went back on Saturday - another warm, sunny day. And this is what the Missus did:

Well - not all the time 😄 But it seems that I get a lot more relaxation while Ewan is doing all the hard work. Yes, I am very grateful indeed. But I seem to always prepare meals and constantly keep her clean, which is not to be underestimated, given that a lot of grass and dirt comes in with paws and shoes all the time; and the wood burner makes the space very dusty indeed.

This is what happiness looks (and feels) like to me:

We've been on Coddiwomple for almost a month now. And we both honestly haven't looked back, not one millionth of a second. This is what we wanted, with all it's discomfort, challenges, stresses, worries ... and ... wonderfulness. Life has indeed slowed down big time. We love the convenience of having the hotel here and that we can park both the private car and the work van. The Hotel staff are so accommodating, friendly and welcoming - it's fantastic. Wallingford is delightful with its Cafes and independent stores. My life couldn't be richer. So many friends and family have already paid us a visit and compliments, and many more to come. Sharing Coddiwomple with others is what makes our life even more amazing.

And the walks around here .... Have a look yourself:


And the views from the barge on sunny days/nights:

Speaks for itself, right?

Jack is a very happy boy:

We also love our new pets:

Not to forget the ducks, who also come to be fed. I've seen my first Kingfisher - Oh my God - I was so excited, I screamed. Ewan thought I had hurt myself LOL. And so many herons and other river birds.

I'm sorry I didn't post earlier. I had to settle in a little bit first, and we had to deal with so many things, like Wi-Fi, accessories, wood, lots of visitors, getting stuff to work etc etc. I went through several worries, mainly at night, having thoughts of her sinking or leaking, the water pump stopping to work, the toilets stopping to work, the heating stopping to work ..... LOL. But that has all calmed down. It was just new. And I call it growing pains. I've been expanding, and I have no intention to stop here.

I intend to post more frequently from now. Looking forward to your comments and getting to know more of the boating community. In the meantime:


Monday, 10 September 2018

Day Five of River Cruiser Life

I feel so tired. I haven't slept enough or properly for 4 nights now in a row. It's taking its toll. The bed is hard, and I don't have space to move around, and my back and neck are killing me. Concentration is still okay, yet, my eyes feel like wanting to close. I might just have to take a nap, like Jack, but can't yet. It must be fab to be a dog, especially mine.

Today we're moored at the Abingdon Outdoor Swimming Pool, which I wanted to do for ages (well, since we've had Nirvana II). It's very windy, and the boat is rocking. I like that.

Last night was peaceful, again, and we were on our own, apart from pheasants, songbirds, crows, herons and other wildlife creatures. It was heavenly.

The inverter has given up its ghost again. I think it started going pear-shaped when our neighbour, Carl (a boater originally from Chicago) explained how to deal with electricity (batteries) on Nirvana II. I didn't understand much, but he spoke about 'Both' (which it was set to), '1' and '2'. He told me we needed to start the engine on '1' or 'Both' and give the engine a quick 1 or 2 roars in order to activate the .... Oh what was that word again?? Anyway, he did that and showed me the 'Amp' reader, and I kind of saw what he was talking about. He then set the battery thing to '2', which seems to feed the appliances (leisure). '1' is the starter battery. I hope he was right. But since he went, the inverter showed a red light, and he's gone now, so I need to wait for hubby to sort it. The new fuse might already be gone again. A lot to learn.

The engine is running all day, while I'm on the boat, so that the fridge is running. In the night, from 8 pm latest, we need to turn the engine off, and the fridge needs to be turned off as well. So far, we've been managing. But I'd rather not have the sound of the engine all the time and enjoy some silence.

Ewan is at work today, and from tomorrow he'll be on his well deserved 2-week annual leave. On Thursday we're off to Croatia for 10 days - We are so looking forward to that. And afterwards .... Hopefully the wide-beam barge will be delivered to us on 24th September, so that we can fill it with the contents of the storage. On 27th my eldest daughter Lisa will come with her husband to visit for a week. They are so excited; how sweet.

I'll better get ready to pick hubby up from work, as I've got the car, and he'll leave the work van at work.