Thursday, 26 February 2009

Hotting up to get going!

Well, Levi's gone to have his wires uncrossed so he can help get the laundry done. Colin comes to service Bella's engine on Saturday, Pete has sorted out the elecrolites in the propulsion battery, cleaned out the engine hold including the gutters under the stern deck, Elizabeth is taking stock in 4-store (deep storage) to visit the wholefood shop and the coffee is ready for collection at the Fairtrade shop. We are getting ready for being OUT. We have not been in the marina long - just over 6 weeks - but it's amazing how quickly we've got used to electricity and easy multi access shopping. So, we're getting ready to rely on ourselves and our foward planning again. And we're having fun just planning! We expect to see James on his way to the USA on Sunday, then set out going north on the Oxford Canal on Sunday afternoon.

Monday, 23 February 2009

A new bed!!!

We couldn't manage anymore. The aroma of mold coming from under the bed just did our heads in. We had
problems in the forward wardrobe and managed those by removing the wooden front and door, replacing it with a curtain and installing a tiny dehumidifier. The problem is that in such a tightly packed space, with every corner and crevice being used, there is not enough air to circulate to deal with the condensation. So it molds when it can't dry. And the bedroom is the worst place, as it is farthest from the stove which could dry it out, does not have a radiator and has at least eight hours of breathing every night... We considered stopping breathing whilst we slept, but then reconsidered.

Under the bed was not helped by the hot water pipe from the bathroom, running under the wall side of the bed, then under the floor, along the opposite side of the bed under wooden trunking and then to the radiator on the opposite side of the bathroom. More condensation under the bed to join the condensation over.
All this was added to the reality that under the bed is the equivalent to our loft - all the stored suitcases, Christmas decs, out of season clothes, etc, etc. All in all, tightly packed, little air and little heat. You should have seen how happily the mold was taking over the wall...

We had more-or-less designed the solution over many a conversation, and somehow this weekend was when we agreed to get it all done. Saturday was the shopping and Sunday afternoon the installation. It all started with the bed slats - something on which to put the mattress and make sure there will be air circulation. We went to a furniture show room to ask if they might, in case, perhaps, if a bed had been broken, have some spare slats. No frame or fittings, just slats. And they did! Wonderfully, they had the lovely gently bowed shape slats, in half bed width in order that each sleeper has independently sprung slats. High brow for a narrow boat, but hey - they were £10 for the whole lot!

The first installation step was for Pete to borrow Barry's jigsaw and cut four holes out of the solid plywood base, in order to give the slats a frame. Then Elizabeth came in with a heady mix made with advice from the Forestry Commission website - 1 part detergent to 10 parts bleach to 20 parts water. This removed all the mold. After that, they laid duck boards under the bed in order to take all the storage. This will let air circulate underneath all the 'loft' storage.

The next step was to install the slats holder down the middle of the bed base, now bed frame. Pete put a 3cm wide piece of wood on top of a 1.5 cm wide piece of wood and then screwed them to the frame. This gave a lip under which to insert all the slats in the centre. The outside of each slat fit to either the wooden lip on the hall side or to the carpet on the wall side. Then Pete had to cut the ends of 26 (26!) slats, as, of course, our double bed is a little smaller than the King sized bed for which the slats were made. Just so you know - our bed is 4' x 6'3". Odd, but it means there is enough length not to have to sleep on an angle!

So, onto the slats. This is where Elizabeth moved back into the bedroom with staple gun and tape. She fit all the slats a tissue box distance apart, then stapled the tape to keep them the right distance. While Pete was fixing the base and frame and working on slats, Elizabeth was making a thin top mattress (a Swedish practice - see Ikea's website :-). A thin top mattress means that sheets need only be tucked under the top mattress, not the whole thing. This is quite a relief in the boat. As you can tell by the final pictures, the bed really fits into a three sided box. Very cozy, but very difficult to prise a solid mattress up from the corners to fit sheets. A thin top mattress is the answer. She piled up three deep mattress covers, folded them in to make a 4' x 6'3" shape and stared sewing.

Before anything else on the bed, Elizabeth replaced all the deep storage underneath. As you know, planning what goes where is her thing. The final step was to unroll the memory foam mattress we bought from a boat chandlers and let it inflate. With lots of air, it breathes, but it is shockingly comfortable! The thin mattress on top, all made up with fresh cotton sheets and feather duvet and my - what a mold odour free blissful sleep! Hooray!!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Pete becomes a chimney sweep again

Well, after two months without the fire going out, the stove and chimney needed a clean. Pete and Squirrel (the stove is a Morso Squirrel) have developed quite a relationship. They have a real affinity to each other, him knowing just how much heat we want and Squirrel having a way of letting him know just how much coal to add, to clear the ash tray before adding it, to riddle the base plate after adding it, etc, etc. They have their own way of knowing these things. Elizabeth and Squirrel have a shakier relationship, her hoping Pete comes back soon whenever she is in charge.

So, this deep and abiding relationship meant that
Squirrel let Pete know that the chimney was about as furry as wanted (think of not brushing your teeth for two months. Yuk). So here is the scene. Cloths laid on the floor around Squirrel, paper inside to catch the fur, Pete on the roof with the chimney brush (no, he did not start dancing a'la' Dick Van Dyke - but probably because he didn't think of it.) and the roof and side to gunnels covered with a dust sheet with a hole in the middle to wrap around the chimney to catch the outside dust. The sitting room furniture moved out of harm's, though not dust's way, Josie sitting in the stern door steps because the noises were too alien and then - whoosh. Pete the chimney sweep started to work. Oh, and it was a warmer day than the deep frozen cold, so we could cope with a slightly chillier boat to be able to let this wonderful event unfold.

Change of plan 2

OK, we're not going to make it to Saltisford Canal Centre in Warwick for Elizabeth's jury duty after all. She refuses to commute by car, so the only option is to be close to Banbury station, meaning to us, Cropredy, or being close to Leamington Spa, if we think of being to the east of Warwick. We can easily get to Cropredy for the first week of the duty, but we could not make to Leamington, as that is west of the closed locks. And though we could make it to Cropredy, we could never make it from Cropredy to Warwick in the mid weekend between the two weeks jury duty.

So we have decided to approach Warwick from the west... We'll go north on the Oxford Canal, join the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction, travel west on the Coventry then join the Birmingham and Fazely Canal just north of Birmingham at Fazeley Junction. Then we'll travel south down the east side of Brum, through the centre, then go east onto the western end of the Grand Union, continue east through Solihul and end up in Hatton. Hey presto, five minute train journey from the west to Warwick. We have done most of this route before, clockwise round the Warwickshire Ring. (See October 2008). But we'll use a faster route from Birmingham when we take the Grand Union as compared to what we did before by travelling the northern end of the Stratford on Avon Canal. It will take us 6 days or so for the journey, and we're looking forward to it!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

A change of plan

So much for being in Warwick for the whole of Elizabeth's jury duty starting the 9th of March. Locks 12 and 13 on the Grand Union main line to Warwick don't open again until the 13th... So, we're planning on where else to be until we can moor up in Saltisford. Canal maps spread out, road maps spread out, rail maps at the ready... watch this space!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Thawed out!

We're now thawed with no more ice to be seen. The temperature is knocking on 10c and, compared to months of freezing or lower, it almost feels like Spring! We're now starting to get excited as we prepare to move out to the cut and work our way to Warwick for much of March. Elizabeth was called to jury duty in Oxford and when she said she didn't live there any more, they called her to Warwick Crown Court. So we decided that we had liked the Saltisford Canal Centre in Warwick so much that we would move there for the period of the jury duty. The courts are walking distance and Elizabeth is quite looking forward to it. We take James to the airport on March 1st, for his move to the USA, then we up ropes and set out on March 2nd.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Ice, ice and more ice

This is Blue Haven Marina basin with Bella on the bottom right - you can just see her yellow stern trim. And look at the ice.

Yesterday, a boat and butty (boat term for non-powered towed boat) were pulled out of the water onto low loader lorries. The ice had to be broken to get them in position to be lifted by a crane. So, broken it was, and the sections slid onto the solid ice nearby. Over night, those slices froze to what they had slid onto and the rest of the marina froze. This was the view at 8am this morning! Layers of ice and snow just catching the morning sun. To us, beautiful.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Still snow!!

Like many, we've had quite a week of snow. A few more centimetres filled in the snowy footsteps we made in the old snow in the last few days. James came for a visit in advance of his move to the USA and we had two lovely sunny yet cold days. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful. Last evening, well after he was safely on the train back to Oxford, the snow fell again. The night froze as it has done in the last few weeks, so we woke to icy snow. Josie loves it!!

Friday, 6 February 2009

A few snow pics - has to be done!

Here we are on another snow day. We are watching big flakes and have seen about 5cm fall since we got up this morning. We KNOW it is frustrating for many, but we are so enjoying it. Our Josie enjoys it muchly! She enjoys trying to find snowballs when they fall into white and has now sussed that she goes for the holes and hunts for something which smells like our gloves. Then of course, she catches them and has an unexpected 'drink'! Great fun.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Magic white

Oh we wish we could have photographed last night's walk. It was so white we didn't need our torches. All the boats in the marina were long white shapes, quietly nestled next to each other, surrounded by flakes bringing more night light and softening all the sound. Magic. It was cold and beautiful. Today, we hear both the slide of snow off the sides of boats and the growth of ice in the middle of the marina. The cut is nearly frozen, though a Dutch Barge shaped narrow boat managed to make the journey north just now. We think that the cabin helped keep the driver warm!

We're heavily into baking and using the oven in these cold days. The oven adds to the warmth of Bella, adding heat to that made by the wonderful solid fuel stove. Yesterday the results were a batch of our own digestives, orange chocolate biscuits and cheese scones (eaten with yummy potato soup). Hmmm. Calories seem to be expended keeping us warm!

Monday, 2 February 2009

February brings the snow

Here we are, our third week into being in Blue Haven and it feels like forever! Itchy feet to get out onto the cut, but we are in the best place for this weather. We've got the electric oil filled radiator to help dry the laundry and keep the frost out the Bella in the deep frozen night. Our stove provides the most warmth, though - as ever! And the mains electricity means we don't worry about having the odd extra light or two to brighten the dark days. But water is not so the moment, Pete is pouring warm water on the standpipes we can reach to see if we can get any water out of the pipes, but according to the news, we boaters are not alone. Many houses are struggling too. The good news is that the water is now flowing. Though the snow is beautiful and seasonal, we are beginning to wonder if warm air exists (especially in light of last August parading as September). Yet, we think of Jeffrey suffering a heat wave in Melbourne...