Sunday, 18 December 2016

Do you believe in Gremlins?

Hi, nice to see you again.

We've been away for a couple of days visiting family "up north" so David came to stay and boat and dog sit for us.  As a reward when we got back we let him drive the boat.

He liked it so much he's coming back again early January.

He also helped Roger put the decorations up


and in

Our grandchildren are coming to stay over Christmas so we've gone a bit over the top this year......and I LOVE it!!!

Now for the Gremlin.  Ever since we moved onto Bluey odd things have been happening and small items go missing all the time only to turn up again a few days later. For example, I looked everywhere for a t-shirt that should have been in one particular drawer. I emptied every drawer on the boat but it was nowhere to be found.  A week later I opened my sock drawer, which I go in every day, and there it was right on top of everything else.  My computer mouse went missing only to turn up at the end of the bed!  At the moment all the adapters to fit the hose pipe onto the water stanchions are missing.  It's always small things and they always turn up in plain sight.  I told David I was certain we have a Gremlin living on board and he jokingly suggested we get a priest in to exorcise it.  No sooner had he said it than a ceramic plaque that has been firmly fixed on the wall since we moved in fell off and smashed into smithereens.  Spooky or what?????

Providing the Gremlin doesn't make me disappear for telling you about it, I'll wish you all a very Merry Christmas and see you again soon.

Bye for now

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Sharpness Success

Hi, how are you?  We've had a fantastic day, let me tell you about it.

It was a beautiful sunrise with no sign of mist or fog in the marina.

We were in the lock by 8am where we were met by Carl, our pilot for the trip.

They let us down the lock and opened the gates

to the big expanse of the Bristol Channel. It wasn't quite high tide and the sand bank outside the lock was still just about visible.

Carl drove, Roger watched his every move picking up hints and tips along the way and I sat on the upper deck taking in the views

The light was perfect and there were some spectacular views

Originally the wind had been forecast at Force 4 but in actual fact it was flat calm

This is the New Severn Bridge

and this is the old one

It was like a mill pond with the only ripples being the ones made by our wash.

It was just too nice a morning to be indoors so I stayed up top for the whole trip, only going inside to brew up and make bacon butties. As we got closer to Sharpness it got a bit misty in places, but the channel marker buoys were still clearly visible.

This is the approach to Sharpness. We'd come out from here on the narrowboat back in June, never thinking for one moment that we'd be returning on a different boat.

The wooden staging at the lock entrance is to stop damage to the huge commercial ships which also use this lock.

It only took about 10 minutes to raise us up to the docks level and it was a good job we'd bought our CRT licence on Monday because you're now no longer allowed to buy one on arrival. It all has to be done online before you're allowed passage into the docks.

Carl told us the docks are busier than ever and this year there have been more narrowboats than ever doing the crossings between Sharpness and Portishead. If you're reading this and considering doing it yourself, I'd say go for it. We've now done it both ways and it's a wonderful trip. It's not cheap though as it's a requirement of a narrowboat's insurance that you have a pilot and he charges £200. We're now a Cat C boat so don't actually have to have a pilot and next time we'll probably go it alone, but seeing as it's our first "proper" voyage we thought we'd better be safe than sorry.

This boat came into the docks yesterday, we'd been tracking it online in case we met it en-route. Carl will be back again tonight to take her out of the docks at 1 am.

They opened the swing bridge for us and let us out onto the Gloucester & Sharpness canal

where we've moored in one of our favourite spots overlooking the estuary.

It's wonderful to be back in the countryside. Bristol was OK but being out of the water and then moored on the brokerage was making me stir crazy.  We bought a boat, not a floating apartment, and boats are meant to cruise so that's what we'll be doing over the winter; cruising between Sharpness and Gloucester. If the River Severn stays out of flood we hope to have a few trips up that way as well.

"Out of the Blue" really feels like our home now, especially once I'd hung the washing out!

That's all for now, see you soon.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Fog stopped play


We were up early this morning.  6am to catch the 7.30 lock. That's way too early for me, I didn't realise there were two 6 o'clock's in the day!

We made our way into the lock as soon as the green lights came on

only to be told by the lock-keeper that the pilot had been trying to phone us to cancel due to thick fog out in the channel.   We have our phones set automatically to go silent between midnight and 8am and had stupidly forgotten to alter the setting so we'd missed his call.

Oh well never mind.  It was good practice at reversing out of the lock and back to our mooring spot. We struggled a bit with the manouvre as it's the first time we've gone any distance in reverse but we managed.  When we get on the G&S we'll be practicing reversing a LOT!!!

See you again soon to see if we manage to get away.

Bye for now

Monday, 5 December 2016

And we're off......

Hi, nice of you to drop by again.

Well we did it!  We finally left Bristol, three months after we bought Bluey.

The bridge out of the harbour was booked to be opened at 10am so I stuck the L-plates on and we moved the 100 yards from our mooring to the bridge.

Just as we were waiting for them to open it Roger had a phone call from the Harbour Master's Office......"that'll be £27.90 please".  I suppose in the scheme of things that's not too bad, considering that they had to stop the traffic, swing the bridge to let us into Cumberland Basin and then operate the lock just for us.

It wasn't butterflies fluttering in my stomach.....more like a herd of elephants having a disco!  We've done scary things before but always in the company of other boats.  This was different, we were all alone.

They opened the gates and let us out onto the River Avon

By the time I'd stowed the ropes the elephants had buggered off disappeared and it was time to settle down and enjoy the journey.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge looked lovely as we passed underneath.  While we've been in Bristol at least 2 people have jumped from it, one caught on the CCTV cameras stark naked! He/she must have been more concerned with ruining their clothes than ending their life.

This was the first time I've had a decent drive of Bluey and I LOVED it.  It's very different to steering a narrowboat but I don't think it'll be long until I take the L-plates off.

We've got two steering positions, inside and out, but until we feel more confident we've decided to use the outside upper deck. After all, we've been used to steering the narrowboat from outside for the past 8 years.  It was cold but we were well wrapped up so it wasn't too bad.

It was just before high tide when we set off from the lock and slack water as we cruised up the river which was like a mill pond. It was great to be mobile again and we saw lots of different birds, which made a great change from those awful seagulls that had pooped all over our roof while we were in the harbour. It's going to take me ages to clean their muck off the roof once we get onto the G&S canal.

It didn't take us long to get to the M5

Once we'd passed under that we had our first glimpse of the shipping channel. Roger used the VHF radio to contact the Bristol VTS office to make sure there wasn't any large ships in the vacinity

David and Bob, this photo is especially for you. We missed the green buoy by a long way this time (we'd hit it when we came up the river on Fizzi back in June)

The waters in the Severn Estuary were quite a bit rougher than our last trip, but Bluey coped admirably and we didn't rock and roll too badly.

Portishead soon came into view

Radioing ahead meant that the lock was set ready for us

and we were met by Kelly, one of the engineers who'd worked on the engine. He lives locally and came to make sure we'd had a safe passage.

They opened the gates and raised us up to the marina

where we're moored for the night

Providing there's no fog in the morning we're booked to go out of the lock on the morning tide, accompanied this time by one of the Gloucester pilots.  If for any reason it's cancelled we'll have to wait here for the next available passage, and at £42 a night I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that it all goes to plan!

Please come back again soon and find out how we went on.
Bye for now.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Our Floating Life is back underway

Hi, nice to see you here again.

It's official.....I detest Windows 10!  Every time I get my laptop out to write a new blog the b****y thing needs to update itself . It's just taken over 45 minutes to update and reboot, good job I didn't need to do anything in a hurry.

Now, where was I before Windows 10 took over.........

Oh yes, I was going to tell you that we're now back in the water again having been craned back in on Friday morning.  The prop shaft works are complete, along with some new structural steelwork that I'll tell you about another time (I forgot to take photos and it's dark now). We've fitted a Prop-Protector the same as we had on Fizzi so hopefully we won't need to go down the weed hatch very often. The weed hatch had to be extended upwards by about 4" as the boat builder hadn't thought about what level the water would come up to when the boat was fully laden with furniture and personal belongings and it was almost up to the top.

We hired a car last week and drove to South Wales to buy an anchor as the original one was missing.  I dredged back into the memory banks to when I used to be able to splice ropes in my sleep and (with the help of Google)  managed to come up with a pretty decent join between the chain and rope.

Rob the engineer came with us for a sea trial around the harbour to make sure the new prop shaft was properly sealed. The difference in boat handling without that bent shaft is amazing. It's now beautifully smooth and turns on a sixpence.  This boat is definitely jinxed though. No sooner do we solve one problem than another one appears and the generator packed up so we were back to needing a landline hook-up.  It's a good job Roger is a marine engineer and could fix it himself, once he found the fault that is. The hardest part was locating a new oil pump locally and by lunchtime on Saturday we were up an running independantly again.

When we first looked at Bluey it didn't have any CE certification of any kind as the builder "doesn't believe in all that" and the original owner had to keep the boat until it was 5 years old and could be sold without any paperwork. Part of our pre-purchase offer was to insist that it was fully inspected and post-certified so that we wouldn't have any hassle taking it over to France. The certification inspection threw up quite a long list of uncompliances but the vendor agreed to put them right at his expense. These works have now been done, although having waited weeks for the engine fire extinguisher system to be designed and made when it finally did arrive it was wrong.  This was something the broker was arranging on behalf of the vendor and not specified by us, so now they will have to come and find us when it has been remade and redelivered.

They'll have to come and find us because we're finally leaving Bristol tomorrow morning. We'd booked to go out from Bristol lock on Tuesday but the pilot phoned us yesterday to bring our trip forward by a day. This is due to the weather being so settled at the moment and also because there is a lot of commercial traffic later in the week. They said if we don't go now we may not get such a good weather slot again for a long time.............and we've had enough of Bristol now.

So, fingers crossed that nothing else goes wrong, next time I blog we'll either be in Portishead or on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal.

Come back soon to find out where.

Bye for now

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Landlubbers - again

Hello, I'm sorry it's been so long since my last blog. I prefer to blog about good things, but at the moment we're having a few issues with Bluey and I've found it difficult to find good things to write about.  However I've been contacted by a couple of readers recently asking if all's well here, so I thought I'd better give you an update.

We're both very well, just having a few unexpected problems with Bluey.

When we were still moored at the broker's getting ready to leave and go back up the Severn Estuary to the Gloucester & Sharpness canal Roger checked under the bed in the rear cabin and found water. On further inspection the new stern seal was leaking.  Rob the engineer came out and discovered that the propeller shaft was bent!!!!  He also discovered that the prop shaft must have been bent when originally installed by the builder as the steady bearers had been packed up with rubber to try and disguise the problem.  Unfortunately the surveyor had missed this - which we are NOT happy about -  but he has lots of disclaimers in his contract so we don't really have a leg to stand on.  To cut a long story short we had to get lifted out of the water as soon as possible and be put on hard standing at Bristol Marina while a new prop shaft could be made.

It's not quite as bad as I'd expected being out of the water, although Chico isn't too happy at having to be lifted up and down the ladder every time he needs to go out.  

As with everything about boats, ordering parts takes time and having things made to order takes even longer so we've now been out of the water for a month. The prop shaft finally arrived late last week and Rob's been working hard trying to get all the other outstanding engineering works finished as quickly as possible so we can leave as soon as we're back in the water.

Roger's almost finished the upgrade to the front bedroom which originally looked like this. It had two child size bunks and only one tiny cupboard so we removed everything and started from scratch.

Once again the builder had done a shoddy job.  Under one of the bunks was the bow thruster which was wired up wrongly and the space was being used to store the spare mattress to make up a double bed. Unfortunately this mattress had to rest on top of the bow thruster and would have been a fire hazard had the bow thruster been used a lot.

Roger's now rewired the bow thruster, moved the battery and charger and boxed in the tube properly with plenty of ventilation so we know it's safe.

The small single beds have been replaced by one double which is built over Ikea drawer units at the foot end, but still leaving plenty of storage space at the head end for infrequently used things like suitcases etc.

In place of the other smaller bed, we've fitted sliding wardrobe doors (from Homebase) above more Ikea drawer units. Roger's even used the space behind the wardrobe and under the gunwale to give me LOTS of room for my wool stash and my collection of Doc Martens.  There's still room for more boots, so if you're reading this Santa you know what to bring me.......

And thanks to reader Phil who told us about these Olby sensor lights from Ikea, I also have interior wardrobe lighting. They're battery operated and work on motion sensors when I open the door and go off again after 30 seconds.

Before our emergency lift out of the water we had a fortnight full of visitors which was lovely.

David came to stay for a few days, friends Martin and Maggie came to check out our new home and our son and his family came to stay for almost a week.  Having a bigger boat is certainly paying off and our grandson had a wonderful time running about and driving the boat.

He was absolutely fascinated by The Mathew when it came past

It'll be so nice when they come back in the Spring and we can take them cruising and he can really drive the boat.

With a bit of luck we're hoping to go back in the water this coming Friday and then, providing we don't have any more unexpected problems, we'll be heading off up towards the G&S for the winter.
As continuous cruisers this enforced extended stay in Bristol, both in and out of the water, is really starting to make us stir crazy and we're both looking forward to being mobile again.

Hopefully next time you come back for an update I'll have more interesting things to share with you.
Bye for now