Monday, 15 December 2008

In, Broadbanded up, and ready to blog

OK, I know it's been a long time but we've only just got our phone line and broadband sorted out, so here's a entry that's been pending for a while and with luck more will follow soon to be you up to date.

We have lived on Real for about 2 months now. Admittedly our new home now resembles a cross between Steptoe’s Yard (if you can remember that far back) and student accommodation. We have squeezed all of our belongings, the contents of a 3 bedroomed house, into the very almost completed converted half of the hull.

Surprisingly, it has worked and we do have space – so the manic culling of useless items, bric a brac, clothes and anything that had sat still for 18 months – was a success after all and comes highly recommended to reduce the amount you have to find a home for when you finally unpack.

“So, what’s it like living on a boat” many people have asked me. If you already do then you know the answer to this – it’s wonderful! The gentle, almost unfelt, rocking, the creaking of the steel as she warms up and then again when she cools down, the swans “beak tapping” for attention on the side – ahhh bliss.

As yet, we haven’t identified a down side yet, just minor annoyances – like having to fill up the water tank at inconvenient times as we haven’t linked up to the mains yet (its on the “to do” list”), and the same with the oil as the tank needs to be cleaned with a teaspoon (I will let Laurie tell you about that one) and checked for leaks. And does anyone out there, or is it just me, experience a swaying feeling when they set foot on dry land? It’s most unnerving at first as it’s not quite sea sickness just a feeling that your wobbly legs will give way at any moment and you’ll end up shuffling up the road on your knees or worse still over the side of the pontoon making mud angels.

We now have a working cooker/oven YAY! And a washing machine, YAY again! Oh the joy of simple appliances and no more microwave meals in which we learnt 50 ways to cook and serve a potato!

Our cats (Sam and Iz) have taken to life afloat like ducks to water (excuse the pun). Old man Sam is now too old to venture far, but Iz treats it like one big adventure. On his first trip outside on deck he literally bumped into another “seasoned to life on board” cat who just popped round to say “ahoy” and poop on our deck (now I know where “poop deck” comes from!). Iz, who on a good day loves visitors, howled for England and promptly saw the other cat off the premises. On his second trip outside, feeling braver and a bit cocky he decided to disappear for a while, which unbeknown to him (and does he care – I don’t think so) sent us into a blind panic where we had all sorts of visions – drowning in the strong current, pulled down into the mud like it was quick sand. Plans were made to fit him with water wings on his return, we even invented a new cat collar that set off an alarm when it touched water or an attachment that inflated into a mini dinghy that floated him back to safety. I have no idea why we worried, why we ever worry about him. He finally returned, purring his way up the deck, feeling very pleased with himself as if all he’d been doing is tackling the waves in his canoe like a scene from Deliverance. The only evidence we had of his unknown adventure was mud up his legs and muddy paw prints up the gang plank – we can only assume that he jumped in to test his ability not to sink – failed, panicked and ran for dry land!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Time and Tide should wait for us

No pictures this time, except for this one, fortunately not us.

Monday we were due to go into dry dock, we called the shipyard on Tuesday to check all was well only to be told Real hadn’t turned up. After several phone calls we found that the company that were to tow us hadn’t done it as it was too windy. Nice of them to tell us! Fortunately they had told the Shipyard. Anyway, after several days and loads of phone calls (Maureen has done a brilliant job of this) we’re still at the Marina and probably won’t be able to go into dry dock for several weeks. This now means that we’ll be moving in and then moving out again into some sort of temporary accommodation, as we’ve already given notice on the house we’re currently renting. Best laid plans… and all that.

This means I’ve got to put the gangplank back, not the easiest job in the world as most of the fixing takes place over the water, and then back off and on again in a few weeks. Thanks to my brother for his help with this.

Suppose I ought to find some good news.

Packing is progressing well, as is getting rid of things we don’t need.

Kitchen 90% complete, can’t really finish it completely until we have a finished floor covering down and we haven’t quite decided on that yet. Oh yeah and install the gas for the cooker.

That’s about it for now, let’s see what the weekend brings.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Captains Slog

Brief update on this weekend


moved a loada stuff on to Real, completed pipe boxing on one side, fitted another socket for the cooker, painted toilet door, fitted edging strip on kitchen worktop (twice), plumbed in kitchen sink, hung pictures on the wall, had a fight with the kitchen sink waste that insisted on leaking, booked dry dock for next week to have underside cleaned, welded and painted and to have sides painted ....


.. packed up more boxes and crates in the house, dismantled cabinet ready to move, looked at bank account with dismay, had a cuppa, bought some tools, found an oil drum caught behind the rudder, oil drum behind rudder disappeared, fed the ducks, watched the tide...

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Painting, Kitchening and OSCCD

This is my first posting on this Blog, Laurie’s got writers block or something.
So here goes…

It’s a really exciting time for us and Real. We are moving just that little bit closer to moving on board and calling her home.

We have had loads of ups and definitely some downs and I am still like a cat on a hot tin roof every time I hear Laurie shout “Help!” as visions of him falling overboard still haunt me. I have, in the last few months, contracted OSCCD (Obsessive Shackle Checking Compulsive Disorder) and each time I hear it creak we rush out with tools in hand just to make sure that the gang plank isn’t ready to toss us into the very murky depths of the Medway. My trust is improving and my confidence increasing following a visit from my Mum for the first time last month, she’s 82 and doesn’t particularly like being around water, so if she can feel brave then so can I!
I have painted, not once, but 7 times, one half of the interior hold. 7 bloody times! I now have shares in Dulux who presented me recently with the honorary Old English Sheepdog in recognition of my services to their company. As we have 2 cats I thought it best just to use him as a paint roller before returning him to them for safekeeping. 7 coats of paint – 5 white, 2 grey I ask you – are these the actions of a sane person!? I honestly went snow blind at one time. I now have an extremely good roller arm and would offer my services out if it weren’t for the fact that I now hate painting. And now when so called friends joke around with the comment “you missed a bit” I have a very good use for the fluffiest of paint rollers that would baffle even the most competent medical practitioner!

We now have an almost fully functioning kitchen, YAY! Its installation being very interesting – after all how do you level up anything that floats? We should find out how level it all is when we have moved on and can judge it based on which direction the peas roll on the worktop. Fitting the kitchen we developed a technique called “How much on the wonk”. No it’s not a new name for a game show (although that’s a thought). We started with a corner unit and measured the distance from the floor, making it even. Then we fitted all the other units to this measurement. To get the tops all level we then got out the spirit level and checked how much they were all “on the wonk” and made them all the same.

After building the kitchen we now have a big box of spare parts – screws, nails and other thing-ummies. Out of interest I looked on the suppliers website and found a piece that went something like this: “We only sell to the trade so you get a professional finish with no funny bits left over!” HA! Of course you don’t – the carpenters got a big box in his van full of screws, nails and thing-ummies he’s collected from every job! And another thing - why don’t kitchen manufacturers design kitchens that use one size screw for everything? I am sure that they’d save a fortune.

We also have a working loo – something I thought we’d never in a million years get excited about. Sitting on a proper seat rather than posed over a bucket is something I can honestly say is the best thing ever – more so than a new pair of shoes (which only a woman can understand!). And don’t even get me started on running water – hot and cold! Oh what joy!

Well, that’s all for now.
Late breaking news… we’re going back to dry-dock to have the underside and side cleaned up and painted (along with a small amount of welding),and then… we’re going to move in!!! More on all of this next time.
To be continued…

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Late an' Long

Cor! We’ve done some Blood, Sweat and Tears in the last few months, but we’re getting there.
We finished the spray foaming, quite successful if I do say so myself. Brian the Carpenter came back and finished the lining and a fantastic job he did too. All the electrics are complete (for this half of the boat, anyway). Actually, talking of electrics, a piece of advice, don’t hold a terminal block in one hand while trying to hold the wires in place while screwing it up. Chances are the screwdriver will go through your hand or at least far enough to lift the skin on the other side. At least that’s what happened to me and I ended up in hospital for 2 days over New Year and I had to have it operated on to clean all the nasties out. The surgeon did suggest that I use a clean screwdriver in future, so I will be adding an Autoclave to my toolbox. Next, and still in progress, is the mammoth painting job (this is inside, never mind the outside). This involves filling the 8 million screw holes, sanding them down and applying 4 coats of emulsion. Over a space of 15 metres by 5 metres by loads - this is taking forever, but it’s getting there. We are now sick of the sight of white paint and are permanently suffering from snow blindness. Dulux should give us a whacking great discount on the amount of paint we have used!

Our gangplank (an engineering marvel that possibly competes with the Forth Bridge) is held in place by a network of shackles, meaning that it can move in all directions, so that whatever Real and the pontoon do it always remains in place. Shackles…Shackles… another piece of advice, regularly check the bolts on your shackles. The gangplank has been in place for about a year now, we’ve moved loads of material off and loads of material on, up and down the gangplank, we’ve moved 3 wood-burning stoves, a kitchen, vast amounts of rubbish, loads of scrap metal, up and down the gangplank. On what was probably the coldest day this year (it snowed), I needed to get rid of more rubbish. So I waited until high tide as it’s easier to move stuff when the pontoons are level with the car park, and off I went to get a trolley. The gangplank threw me in!!!!! That water was f-f-f-freezing! I called out to Maureen, but she had the radio going and didn’t here a thing, I swam over to the pontoon and held on, I couldn’t pull myself out as I was cold and very heavy (loads of clothes, cold day don’t forget). By pure chance Maureen came on deck as she ‘had a feeling’. She had to go and get a neighbour to help pull me out. I went inside and stood in front of our little Calor gas fire, shivering, while Brian the Carpenter who had just turned up to take some measurements set the gangplank upright and tied it up with rope. I then had to strip off (we hadn’t got proper heating yet) and ended up dressed in a spare fleece and a dustsheet. I looked like some very poor Buddhist monk. I had to walk to the car like this! I did wrap the sheet around my legs a bit tight so it was difficult to walk. How do women walk in tight skirts?? Fortunately there was no one around, although I bet it’s on the marina’s CCTV, and could well be on You Tube.
Basically what had happened was that one of the bolts on one of the shackles had worked loose so that when I stood on it, it just tipped sideways. We now have all the bolts wired up, plus extra steel cable wrapped around so the if anything comes loose there’s still something left to keep it together. We got a note from the marina advising everyone to check their shackles. Horse – Door – Bolt.

Brian came back a couple of weeks ago. He is the most reliable contractor I’ve come across, starts when he says he will, finishes when he says he will and costs what he says it will. He’s now fitted a lovely new roof on the other half (I’ll get some photos posted soon). It’s been done in such a way, that this is also the ceiling, the insulation’s built in so no spray foaming necessary. Barge purists may be spinning on their windlasses at this, a wooden roof on a barge! Well it’s a cost and time thing, so there! We don’t ever intend to take Real out, she’s a static houseboat and the roof looks good, we like it. Actually it looks better than the steel roof on the living area. This is the half we haven’t even touched yet, but will become the bedrooms and main bathroom. So now we’re water tight, no more rain dripping in, which means we can use this area for a bit of storage. When we look at this space it does help remind us what the living area used to look like and does keep us motivated.

Plumbing is in and almost complete, just waiting for the boiler to be set up and we’ll have running water at last. Plumbing isn’t my favourite bit of DIY, it doesn’t matter what you do leaks sneak up on you. Electrics, no problem, they either work or don’t work, and as long as you don’t grab hold of live wires there’re no problems. Plumbing on the other hand, it doesn’t matter how nice a job you make or how careful you are, a leak will appear, and usually where you can’t get to it. At least that was the case until I discovered ‘push-fit’ connectors and plastic pipe. We’ve used Hep2o, and it’s brilliant! Less joins as it bends round corners, and when you do have joins you just push it together and it’s done. No leaks. Leaks in a boat, bad!

So, when are we going to be able to move in? I don’t know, but it’ll be soon, and once we have we’ll then start on the outside. So that’s 130 feet times 2 plus the deck and the roof of the living area, wheel house…

2 inch brush and 4 matchpots ought to do it.
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