Thursday, 20 December 2007

No, we are not cold :-)

The most frequent question we are asked is, "Isn't it cold on a boat?" Our resounding answer is NO! In fact, we are often so toasty warm that we have to open the side hatches. Why? 2 reasons. 1) We have a thermometer on the stove pipe showing us when the fire gets to the optimum temperature to allow heat, but no stodging up of pipes. When it is this hot, but not so hot to shoot through the coal at ridiculous rates, it sends heat waves up and out of the stove. 2) A glorious little (and we mean little) fan sits on the top. Called an Eco Fan, it sits so that it catches cold air behind it and hot air beneath it. This causes the fan to go around and power a small motor which keeps it going around. This sends hot air all over the boat. SO much so that when we hang wet clothes on the airer, positioned tight up to the ceiling in the clothes room, wash loads can dry within hours. Amazing.

Couple all that with a central heating system, on for two hours morning and night; foam insulation between our wooden walls, floors, ceilings and the steel hull and the fact that we are but single storey, we are warm indeed. You'll need to spot the ice right up against Bella's outside to realise how insulated she is on the inside.

No, we are not cold.

The fan which keeps us warm in full flow

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Inside twinkly lights and red flowers - almost a tree!

Bella's lights from across the marina

We decorated for Christmas today

Well, twinkly lights outside and twinkly lights in, mistletoe hanging down from the ceiling and Santa on the shelf - here we are! All ready for our first Christmas season in Bella. We've been sharing cards with our marina neighbours and we are all off to a dinner next Saturday in Braunston. We thought we could go by boating convoy, but with all the ice, it looks like we'll be hiring a minibus on the roads instead.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The Coal Barge opposite Bella

Mrs Moorhen on Bella's gunwhale

Some walking, some swimming

Neighbours feeding Birds on ice!

Over a week since our last entry!!

Oh, dear blog fans, how time flies! Elizabeth's been to Wales and back again teaching project management. Pete's been perfecting the perfect fire, carrying coal, emptying cassettes, filling the water tank, doing all the laundry... E has the easy life!

Its been so cold lately, but oh so toasty inside. Our stove is now working fantastically. We found a thermometer which attaches to the stovepipe which tells us when the heat is up to the temperature high enough to not creosote up the door and pipes, but cool enough to burn efficiently. With our amazing heat fuelled fan on top, we get so warm inside, we often have to open the hatches! Who'd have thought...

The ice outside is fascinating. Sitting this lazy Saturday morning, we heard a tinkling/crunching kind of sound. Following it, we saw our two swans, Rosie and Jim, doing their ice-breaker swim. Rosie was first, chest breaking a slice or two, with Jim following behind. In the clear water behind them, ducks followed. What a sight! The ducks braved the ice for walking to the crumbs the swans couldn't quite ice-break to in time. Eventually the moorhen joined them, but sat on Water Troubadour's rudder to keep her feet warm.

More ice was broken later by the coal barge, calling in to sell the necessary. Such service! Pete walked around the marina to the working boats mooring expecting to heave coal back around. No way! Delivered with a smile and a wheelbarrow directly to Bella's quay. And they gave us a Christmas card for the pleasure.

Speaking of Christmas, our neighbours on Zelda, Sue and Bob, popped by with mistletoe. Lovely!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Is this Woody?

Bird on Parade

Pete's birdwatching

Well, we can't really travel yet, so we're taking in the local wildlife. We'll post pics of the red crested green woodpecker and more, and the swans are getting quite bold in pecking the side hatch for snacks. There has been a huge amount of rain, but we're still quite dry and toasty, thanks to the brilliant stove.

Friday, 30 November 2007

New curtains make Bella much more home!

The Galley is looking like a kitchen

Pete at breakfast

Marine Interior Design

Well, seeing as we are not moving because of necessary canal closures (this is the season for British Waterways to maintain them), we're concentrating on the inside. So, we've replaced all the hire boat curtains with our own, hung pictures, placed lights, organised inside cupboards (Elizabeth's particular joy :-) and otherwise sorted out the home side of this wonderful excursion. Piccies to follow.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Regular evening visitors for food :-)

We're still here!

Sorry all Blog fans. We are deeply frustrated by our internet connectivity. We have 56k every sort of OK moment via our data cards. If we put them on our booster antennae, we are variously on gprs or 3g, depending on what it can find. As it switches from one to the other, we loose connection (Grrrrr). So, uploading photographs is interesting, if not downright annoying. We are in conversation with Blue Haven Marine about installing wireless hotspot connectivity for us all and when we are thus connected, we'll search for other, more robust means to communicate on a more regular basis. Tomorrow, when Elizabeth is on fat band in London, she hopes to upload more pictures! Although connectivity has been dubious, Pete's photography skills have kept up apace and are waiting for uploading. Watch this space!!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Josie huddled on the move

Captain Pete on the move north

Bella's first snow

Colder out and warmer in

Well, we could hardly believe it, but we have snow. Snow! In November. In Oxford, we usually see it in Janurary or Feb... We have no idea if this is usual in Rugby, but here we are. We did hear on the radio yesterday that global warming will mean England gets colder (same parallel as Alaska), so maybe this is a foretaste? However, the inside of Bella is as toasty as it gets. Our solid fuel stove is shockingly effective, and since the boiler was serviced (did we not tell you we were without central heating for a number of days?) all is fantastically warm. Bella is wonderfully insulated and Elizabeth has been making new curtains as Pete fits new rods. It is cosy and cheery. Winter out, summer in. Lovely :-)

Friday, 16 November 2007

November Frost

Morning Ice

Frosty Marina

Misty Marina

Chilly recycling

Sky over Bella

Life keeps on keeping on!

Apologies to all Bella's blog fans - life has not stopped! Frustratingly, Elizabeth just has to keep working (she likes teaching project management and theology too much!). But she is very frustrated not to have had the time to make Bella home on all fronts. We still have the hire boat curtains up!! For those who know us well, this is not good :-) We're trying to find the right kind of rods, as the ones installed are the plastic runner kind which clog up with dust... We need thin, brass, tight to the wall fitting - all ideas would be welcome!

We've had our first guests since the last update! Friends Max and Jane on the night of the 10th and with them, we took our first trip since our arrival. More about this later, with a piccy of course. We said goodbye to our Jeffrey on Monday and he now lives in Australia (sniffle!). Our James visited last night and Pete took him back to Oxford, planning on picking up more coal on the route back. More later, but we wanted to let you know we're still here!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Sky over Bella

Pete in lounge

seeing life in new ways

Bella didn't move today, but lots of her life was sorted. As Elizabeth was in London at her committee of reference for her post ordination training work, Pete found out how to light the stove of coal and keep it going. And he caught some gorgeous sights!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Learning to manage life aboard

Elizabeth was still in Wales today (thankfully back home now!) while Pete did all the boat managing stuff. He learned how to change the toilet cassettes (don't ask what he calls them) and went to Braunston to get a wizzy antenna for us to access the internet far more speedily. He also got a power cable for our shore power, now well connected. He is delighted to have woken up to no condensation (something about polar air?) while Elizabeth woke to Welsh frost. Standing on the stern, he saw a Kestrel land - oh, and on the way to Hillmorton, a wonderful Kingfisher led them for a number of miles. Magic. And in between Napton locks, there were water buffalo.

During the day, Josie met a few more canines and had a little run. She travelled with Pete to Braunston and Heyford, where Pete talked with David and Nigel about Bella and ballast.

A good day of settling in.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Now normal life resumes...

We made it, and are exhausted!! Pete's now acquired a cold and Elizabeth feels every muscle rather too much! We'll get photos of Bella moored as soon as possible, but we just have to say - we are thrilled. Much better than we could imagine.

Monday we made contact with Jeremy and Dominic from the boatyard (who were duly impressed with the Coalcroft hull, Izuzu engine, ? inverter, etc). Pete and Elizabeth did a normal thing, like going to Sainsbury's. However, small trolley - careful with space!!

Real life resumed, with Pete off to Oxford Credit Union on Monday, taking Josie. Elizabeth got a train to Wales in prep for two days project management training for Merthyr Tydvil Council. Its from the dear Bessemer Hotel bar that she writes this blog!!


The Bella crew grew on Sunday with the wonderful addition of Brian and Jill Rich, complete with Windlasses and local knowledge. They ran the locks, Pete navigated and Elizabeth got the boring but critical job of Josie sitting - she hates locks. Through the locks around 11am, the Richs were on their way and Bella started the no-lock run to Hillmorton. We all discovered a very new version of Sunday drivers (!).

Finally, just before sunset, Bella skirted her way round a sharp bend into Hillmorton Marina. We made it!!! New neighbours Bob and Sue helped us pull Bella into 'place'. She's not completely moored properly, the canal being a little low at the moment. She's stern end in and bow out at the moment, but she'll adapt. And for a final treat, we were welcomed by our friends Jane and Simon.

Waiting for Napton

The run to Napton

Cropreday dawned wonderfully. Clare and Elizabeth (with Josie) took to the road again, driving Reg and Aragon to Hillmorton, Bella's mooring. Reg parked up comfortably and the three girls got Aragon to Claydon, where Bella was due next. A quick walk down the tow path and all were joined again, yet quickly to loose Mike, taking Aragon to Fenny Compton for later collection. The next stop was Fenny Compton where the Revd Mike Meachin, RN Chaplain and Captain Peter BK Gray conducted the ship's blessing service on the aft deck.

The fantastic Meachin crew then departed and Pete and Elizabeth made their way to the top of the Napton flight, ready for the morning move.

From Adderbury to Cropredy

Friday, Elizabeth had to be in London, at Olympia, speaking about Social Enterprise at the Business Start Up Exhibition. So, the entire Meachin clan (without Twix) arrived at the mooring at 9:30. Mike, Peter and Rebekah helped get Bella to Banbury while Clare drove Elizabeth to Heyford to collect Reg (car). Elizabeth drove to Oxford to catch the train to London while Clare drove to Banbury to meet the crew. After a small shopping expedition, all boaters returned to Bella to motor up to Cropredy. Elizabeth arrived back to Oxford, collected Reg and drove to Cropredy while Clare cooked dinner and Mike ran to Banbury to collect the Meachin Land Rover (are you confused yet?). All met up in a tight six person squeeze around the dining room table for a wonderful dinner, warmed by dear friends.

Morning in Adderbury

A few missed Blog Days!

Well, we started a few hours later than we wanted to, but there we are. Pete, Josie and Elizabeth made their way through wonderful weather and spent night one in Adderbury, just south of Banbury. The view when we awoke was staggeringly beautiful...

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Bella Ready to Go

Josie Sitting

A lounge beginning to take shape

Moving In

We missed a day, but here we are, moored up in our new home!

Yesterday was so exhausting we can't really believe we did it. Pete and Reg went back and forth while Elizabeth packed. It seemed endless. Jeffrey came to help move things from all floors to the front hallway, in prep for moving. Mid afternoon, Pete was heard to say, "We need a man with a Van!!" Lo and behold, Elizabeth found Ian and his van, who duly arrived, packed it full and went to Bella where Jeffrey and Pete were waiting for the offload. By the time Pete went to Rectory Rd AGAIN and collected Elizabeth and Josie, all three were on their last legs. However, unpacking called and oddly enough, they managed to cook a real meal in their new home. They fell into bed - 2am?

Up at 6:30 for Bella to be moved out of the shed for an engine service, water fill, small snags taken care of, Pete back to 43 Rec for one more visit of stuff, then we were all underway. Shockingly, Josie stayed on deck, did not fall in the canal, bounced on and off Bella to deal with locks and other than trying to crawl under the coal sacks at an odd bump, seemed to fare well.

Another home cooked meal, done by Pete while Elizabeth prepared for teaching project management next week, and here we are, moored up by Nell's Bridge, southeast of Adderbury. Wonderful.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Bella has a name

She now has ner name!

One more day to go! Bella is now officially named - at least, has a name. She now also has a stove with a cool chimney, a washing machine, a dressing table (hello? of course!), a fantastic run of shelves and so much more. She also has many of our posessions now, being taken down in Reg sized increments. Tomorrow is the big move. We sleep aboard tomorrow night. Watch this space!!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Turning colour...

She's turning Green!!

Another visit to Bella today. All going according to plan and looking terrific. We took another Reg-full and unloaded. The trick today was to stay out of Mark, the painter's, way and to keep the doors of the shed closed. It is wonderful seeing her turn from her hire livery to her Bella livery. Toby is still doing brilliantly, and Simon was busy on electric points. It is all getting rather exciting!!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Kitchen cabinets taking shape

Mess in the lounge!

Tired but still going!

Another day started with heaving boxes of starboard side ballast into Reg to take to Bella. In other words, taking boxes of books and anything else of weight for the right side of the boat in the car. Wonderful! From there, we made our way back to Ikea for more ready made stuff to save Toby's time and brain! Some great finds, as ever. Back to Bella to unload; we were delighted to see how far Toby had got on the kitchen units. We left a more wonderful boat to go back to Oxford for more sorting, packing, sorting, giving away, going up and down stairs (who ever thought a four story house was good idea???). We'll be pleased to be on a level soon!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

The most important bit - Pete's camera cabinet!!

Dining room table and cabinet in situ

She's looking like home!

How strange. A few things from one home and the new home begins to really look like home. We made three visits today, or really, Pete made three visits today. Josie and Elizabeth made two. Josie!! Two visits! The first one, we filled Reg (car!) with everything we could for the starboard side - a little too high in the water line. Then Pete and Elizabeth went to B&Q for cupboard carcasses, took them to Toby, then went back to Rectory Rd. Lots of packing later, all three were back to Bella. She is looking so much like home, and feeling so much like home, that Josie barked at some visitors....

Friday, 26 October 2007

A lovely new floor

Office taking shape on the near right

Sanding down

Real building work today!

Well, a very frustrated Toby nearly gave up on the office space with fold down desk which Elizabeth designed. But she is happy he's pursued the elusive! Nigel at the boatyard has been a star, and all the floors are finished and trunking made good. Paint is being sanded off, but what with painter Mike's tooth abcess, it may be a while until Bella turns forest green! Pete was on and off site all day, off to buy essentials, back to deliver, telephoning Elizabeth for design decisions and generally helping Toby. E was frustratingly in London for a meeting, but got back to Oxford for a late afternoon of ironing, packing, sorting, carrying.... After a lazy pizza cooked by someone else, they'll spend the evening packing whatever can go now on to the starboard side. Bella has a little lean to port at the mo...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

An eyeline from the stove end of the lounge, over the galley to the dining room/office

Elizabeth checks space for a jackets cupbord

The building begins...

Today's visit showed us the final stripping out - the bulkhead between the galley and the lounge cut down to give a view through nearly the whole boat from the stern. And the building begins! The new oak floor was being laid as we watched. We measured up for extra cupboards, measured the inside of the cooker (!) to see what other cookware we had to shed and we measured the new office space. Over a cup of coffee in Kizzie's Elizabeth drew out the new office storage, while Pete tried not to glaze over. From there, after one final lot of measuring, we went to Howden's for new oak doors for all the port side cupbaords. Thank you, Taylor's Services, for being the traders to allow us to buy from Howdens!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

More Stripping out!!

Well, when we visited Bella today she was in the shed. Protected from the expected weather, but still dry, she was gutted. Literally. Little left! So, for the first time, we saw a little of our vision realised. Open plan for much with room for our own furniture. Instead of thinking she'd shrunk, we realised she's the right size!. We took a small chest of drawers with us to see if it fit, and it did. We realised we could put in a few more chests than we thought, which was great. We left her and travelled on to Ikea (where else for storage?) in Milton Keynes and took home a few great things to move with. The fun thing is that packing into the new storage now means that we just shift over next week. Those who know Elizabeth well will know that this is a great joy!!!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007