Friday 27 October 2017

1 Year on...

Well Happy Birthday 'Ellis'.  YES - 1 year ago today, the boat was launched/craned on to the water here at Stanley Ferry, Wakefield!

This morning, I'm up and about early for no reason really...  RATHER pleased I'd bunged a few more ovoids on the fire about 10pm before retiring...

as it was 3.6 degrees Celsius outside and still a comfortable 21.9 in the lounge saloon.  Mick is always making a point we need to use 'Boaty' terms for different parts of the boat...  *sits on the naughty step*...  

Hey ho.  I've given the grate a bit of a riddle and chucked on a few more coals so before the sun gets up, it'll be back to about 25-26 degrees in here again.  I've never liked being cold so it's come as quite a relief how HOT a boat really can be... especially given that the first 18 or so inches of the living space, is under cold water!

So then -  NOW we've had the boat 12 months, I thought I'd look back at how it's all gone.  I'm in danger of just writing a list here so bear with me... I'll try NOT to but you know how it is ... sometimes a list IS the best way.

STARTING with the Bedroom  sorry Mick, CABIN, ... you may recall on the orginal plan
 we'd planned to fit fin rads in the bottom of each wardrobe... THAT didn't happen.  I did buy them but in order to get the 22mm piping hidden behind the front bulkhead and bent around rather than have 90 degree bends, the big one just wouldn't fit and as for the smaller one, by the time the piping went in for macerator toilet, there wasn't room in there either.  Also, on the plan, we'd intended building a cupboard to house the compact tumble dryer to the left of the front door - in reality, due to the curve of the boat, it wouldn't fit either without seriously obscuring steps/door.  As such, it was relocated to the bottom of the larder cupboard in the kitchen.... which in use, actually works quite well as the vent hose hangs easily out of the porthole above the sink.

Moving through into bathroom (what Mick expects me to call that I don't know) that was as planned - except 1 ft larger than we wanted.... the builder sort of bullied us in to that - I now wish we'd stood or ground and had it a bit shorter as that extra 1ft would have been more useful in the lounge.

Writing of the lounge, that (with the exception of 1 less porthole each side) is also more or less as planned... I've still not gotten around to putting the ceiling level vent in above the fire into the back of the storage cupboard in the bathroom - I bought all the bits required (12v computer fan, ducting etc.) but in reality, when the fire is lit, the bathroom is warm enough anyway - IF we get a really bad winter and we feel cold in there, I might get around to doing that.  The position of the stove HAD to be moved slightly more centrally due to the wiring loom in the ceiling ending up RIGHT where we needed to cut the hole for the flue... which in turn upset the ballast a bit when the toilet tank is full.  We've now gotten around that with the heavy steel plates Tony gave us.

Kitchen wise - Sorry GALLEY, that had to be changed a bit... with the removal of a dishwasher (there was no way of opening the door without having it open into the lounge, (which would have meant moving a chair out of the way each time you put a mug in) .  GIVEN what we now know about "power" generation and management, it's probably been for the best.  We also LOST a cupboard space opposite the sink because the Oven had to be fitted there...  despite (on the plan) it going opposite the fridge, the wiring for the fridge ended up being the wrong side and rather than squeeze it on top (it might have fitted) we opted to fit it under the kitchen work top.  IT's a bit of a pain and at some point, we might replace it and the 2 burner hob with a free-standing full size one.  It IS perfectly usable but  it did take a bit of getting used to.

The larder cupboard and 2nd toilet have worked out well - although they too have swapped sides - it being easier to plumb the loo in as the pipes to the kitchen/bathroom ran down that side.  

Dinette wise, that has gone to plan, with the fin rads being fitted under the floor which do a good job of keeping long term storage stuff aired, whilst the 3 little radiators take care of 'proper' heating back there - besides, so long as the eco-fan is on the fire, it's usually only a couple of degrees cooler than the lounge anyway - clearly having the stove roughly in the middle of the boat WAS a good idea.

One thing I now accept I DID get carried away with, were (was?) the number of radiators - ONLY by 1 though ...  this one to be exact

On paper it seemed a good idea  - being able to lean on a hot radiator and look out of the side hatch....  in reality a) heat wise it's just not needed and b) space wise, it means when we have the chairs facing THIS way,

due to the "lost arm space" under the gunwale, the walkway between the chairs is a bit tight... We'e both taken to sitting this way of an evening so we can put our feet up and feel the heat from the fire WITHOUT one of us sweltering in what became known as 'the hot seat' lol.    Sitting this way ALSO means we can make good use of the usb points over our left/right shoulders with the usb reading lights we have.  

AS for the hull, the only change there was we only have 5 portholes down each side rather than the planned 6... it hasn't made any difference (other than knocking £1000 off the final  invoice)... the glazed side hatches (1 on each side) HAVE made a big difference.   I still need to buy a sheet of clear perspex to place on the outside  - currently when it rains/blows, due to the tumble home, the water runs to the bottom of them and drips inside.... having something on the outside will direct it down the exterior instead and still allow day light in.

OTHER than the things mentioned above, it's gone pretty much to plan.   

One thing that definitely WAS a good move, was the engine upgrade ... from a 38 to 42.  The "power" as such isn't really noticeable unless heading upstream against fresh flow on the river but the resultant PRM 150 Hydraulic gearbox AND 175amp 2nd alternator it runs, DO make a big difference ... especially when the washing machine is running.  

RE. the washer - whilst it is cold fill, I HAD planned to fit a " Y " piece in and connect it to hot and cold supplies with 'stop taps' in each pipe... The risk there though would be unless I remembered to intervene mid wash, it might end up rinsing hot water too...   SO in practice, we've got 2 x empty 5 litre water bottles that live in the 2nd loo cupboard which I fill with hot water and pour in the drawer at the start of whatever program... that saves an awful lot of battery drain and does mean I can have a load done and ready to peg out on a morning, before the 8am engine starting time slot.  

NOT that many people seem to adhere to that around here...  WE do and for the most part don't get narked that others don't... we've learned to adopt a 'live and let live' attitude - live-aboard boaters sometimes run out of electricity/battery power so  needs must and all that.

We're still managing on just the 3 135ah batteries... the de-sulphication charges appear to have done the trick and although this morning when I looked, they were down to 66%, yesterday they didn't start off full anyway.    Our charging regime at present is to run the engine for about an hour first thing - which gives hot water for the day and does the bulk charge.  The Solar then (hopefully) trickles away all day putting the rest in.  Generally, I'll run it for another half hour or so after tea to top up the hot water.  

Once a week (ish) I get the generator out and charge using the inverter until the charge current drops to under 2amps...  assuming that means the bank is as close to 100% as it will get. This seems to be working ok.  

The generator is a bit loud so I've asked the boaters moored nearby to let me know if it' gets on their nerves and I'll move the boat a few hundred yards up the cut when it's running for more than a couple of hours - EVER the considerate one that's me 😇

Until next time...

Thursday 26 October 2017

650 Hour Service...

I WAS hoping to be able to get to the 27th but alas, yesterday morning, the engine hours were on 649.4 ... ergo, time to change the engine/gearbox oils and filters again.

I know I'm a bit anal - taking photos of said consumables against the hour gauge but I do it to create a maintenance record for the boat.  At some point, I'll print them out and stick them in the service book so any future owner of "Ellis" can see things were done when they SHOULD have been... AND as proof to Engine's Plus in the event of a warranty claim.

This time, it was a lot harder squeezing myself in and around the engine to drain fluids and replace the filters - a combination of me getting fatter AND the palms of my hands still not being much use.  

The air filter looked particularly grubby and I did have to double check whether I'd replaced it LAST time or not...  

NO matter - the job is done now and all that remains is a trip to the local tip to pour the used oil into their recycling drum... I'll get around to that some time next week.

WHY was I hoping to get to the 27th I hear you ask? - well, it'll be 1 year tomorrow since the launch of the boat.  THIS time last year I was uber stressed, barely slept a wink and worrying about what might go wrong.  

This time THIS year, I'm more chilled and relaxed than I've ever been... We're happily living on the boat that is almost completed.  We both still can't quite believe it only took  a little over 6 months of extremely hard work to get it  it done.  Given in my head I'd allowed a couple of years, modesty a side, I've done a good job - considering it's a first attempt.

When I've done some more work on the website, I'll come back here and have a look through the time line to see what's gone well, what we changed as we went along  AND what we'd do differently if we knew what we know now. 

Until next time...

Saturday 21 October 2017

Non-slip roof and Horn signals...

Despite my right hand still being a bit useless, this week I've forced myself to get on and make the roof a bit safer...  I've had the rubberised anti-slip granules in my car for months.... AND the masking tape lurking in the front locker with the paint and rollers - just waiting for me to be arsed  some decent weather.

On Wednesday, I could put it off no longer.  Spurred on by a couple of chaps further down the cut painting the roof of another boat, I'd ran out of excuses.

SO I got the stuff out and then had a bit of a ponder how I was going to go about it.  BEING 'Mr Prepared', I'd long ago bought a flour dredger to use as a sprinkler - at work we used to drill holes into a plastic Heinz baked been jar and use that.  FINDING the darn thing took quite a while I'll grant you.  Instead of putting it with the paint or granules, I'd filed it in a foot stool with some paper work I needed to deal with - LUCKILY, whilst getting ready, I spotted Dan (from another boat) who'd asked me about solar controllers a few weeks back and I remembered where I'd put an article I'd saved for him... yes, in aforementioned footstool.

We don't often walk on the roof by the solar panels but I decided to do a strip of non-slip down either side anyway... given that if someone has walked half way down on non-slip, their brains will assume the hole roof is too if you follow.

The instructions tell you to mix the granules with the paint and then apply.  Having learned (the hard way) at work on the floor of the chair-o-planes, I decided to roller a layer of paint on first, sprinkle on and when dry, apply another layer to bond granules... doing another final coat when that was dry.

I carried on masking up the port side and completed the roof quite quickly.

It occurred to me to turn the boat around to do the other side but as clouds were gathering I decided I'd take extra care and do the other side from the gunwale.... Mick was pottering around so I warned him to listen out for a splash and get ready to rescue me lol.

LUCKILY I came to no harm and got the whole lot done, with time for dry before the rains came.

It's not the neatest off jobs I'll admit but once it's had another coat, it'll hopefully serve it's purpose and stop me slipping into a lock.  Time will tell on that one.

WHILST in the footstool digging out the info for Dan, I also came across something else I'd filed away - a long time ago.... it was a sheet I'd printed off, describing what horn signals mean.

I decided to dig out the label machine (I knew where that was, having knocked it off my shelf the other day) and abbreviate them with a view to sticking them outside.

I've stuck them where they can be seen when chugging along - I doubt many people know them anyway but at least if someone does and uses them, they'll be to hand.

I gave old Mick the sheet in case he ever needs them and he tested me on them  - even doing the "noises"... oh and btw, remember his DVLA eye test? - well it turned out he CAN see well enough and has been granted another 3 year reprieve!

Until next time...

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Steam pig, October-fest (Leeds) and people-watching...


It's been a busy and varied weekend which began on Thursday afternoon when we set off towards Leeds on the boat... we didn't get far - just to Woodnock Lock before the river thwarted our progress.  It hand't occurred to us that it might have been in flood.  Primarily because we'd not had any rain to speak of.  IF we'd paid attention in geography, we'd have remembered that the flow of the river tends to be governed by what's happened UPSTREAM....

SO, as our plan for Thursday had been to go as far as Lemonroyd or Woodlesford to overnight, we patiently waited on the lock-landing for a few hours whilst the level dropped...  THAT was the plan.  It was still in the red around 5.00pm so we wrote the day off (it's 2 hours ish from there to the relative safety of Lemonroyod above Fleet wier).  Around 5.45 the traffic lights changed from flashing red to amber meaning we could proceed but as it'd soon be dark, we stayed put.

For the first time in ages, we set an alarm and were up, breakfasted and away by 7.30.  It WAS a bit windy and the river was still in the yellow but as we were heading down stream it didn't cause much of a problem... that was until we did the turn at Castleford from the Calder onto the Aire.   There was quite a bit of flow coming towards us, along with the occasional crocodile to negotiate.

All was going well but on apprach to the lock off the river, I noticed the morso control was loose - very loose.  Once into the lock, I did an emergency tightening before Andy began filling it.

We made good time despite the wind and once safely moored in Granary Wharf, we were joined soon after by a steam powered boat heading towards Doncaster/Rotherham (can't remember) to take part in a musical thingy, in which their role was to blow the steam whistle.

The boat itself was nothing special but the silent cruising must be lovely - I got chatting with the old blokes running it and their passion was infectious.  It's not for us though - bloody hard work keeping the steam up and maintaining it... not to mention lugging an awful lot of coal about all day.    I was curious about how they managed to keep the batteries charged so they explained they've got an alternator connected up to the drive shaft with gearing so it charges as it moves.   I felt a bit daft then.

As Friday evening began, we started to notice a lot of pedestrian traffic passing by the boat in various fancy dress outfits... well I say various, I may have well just have said lieder-hosen (spelling?).  We presumed it was just a works night out and thought nothing more about it.   We'd already made plans to visit some friends to see how their conversion works were going and go out for dinner.  The downside being that as we'd been unable to confirm our arrival (cause of the aforementioned river in flood) the only table available in the Italian we wanted to go to wasn't ready until 8.30pm.... and as anyone over 40 will agree, THAT time on a Friday night is a bit loud to be able to talk.  I don't know WHY these places always think having booming music on so loud that you have to shout at the people you're sitting with is conducive to spending more isn't... in fact, we ended up eating quickly and returning to the boat for a couple more drinks.  When our friends left, we sat on the back deck watching the world go by with a night cap.  

It's really amazing SO many different things go on in a small space.  Within a couple of hours, we observed every thing from couples arguing, drug deals (allegedly) young love, PAID for love (if you follow) jolly drunks, aggressive drunks, FALLING down Stupid drunks and even a spot of pre,during and post coital affection on a balcony above!

Andy was shocked and it took him at least 4 minutes before he could look away lol.

It really was an eye-opener all the things going on around us.  The atmosphere was for the most part, REALLY friendly and convivial....  Alcohol can be useful like that.  

ONE thing that was consistent was the friendly interest passers by have in our life sitting on the boat.  At one point, a group of young ladies  ended up coming on board for a nosey around.  It got a bit cramped with a boat full of people but they were well mannered and genuinely interested and friendly... even the cats enjoyed the attention.  During the visit, a random bloke arrived looking for them and it transpired he was their chaperone/responsible non-drinking adult.  His name was Mark too although we never did get any of their names.

As more and more pepole came by chatting, we discovered it was October-fest hence all the wankered  jolly drunks staggering back in swaithes.  One passer by was moaning bout having spent £20 on 2 jugs off beer, only to be told their time was up and NOT being allowed to take it out with her.... some folk later on  managed to smuggle theirs out though.

We did think about going ourselves but to be honest, it seemed like a bit of a waste of money and we were really enjoying the evening watching everyone else whilst whilst we had a few gins.  YES I know we started Dry-October... well gin IS dry isn't it?

Sunday morning arrived and we'd planned to get off home around 7.30am...  UNFORTUNATLY the River Aire had other ideas about that...

IT was still in the red and falling VERY slowly.  We've got a powerful enough engine to have been safely able to manage it but we weren't going to risk it.  SO went off to weatherspoons for breakfast and kill an hour or so.

An hour wasn't going to be long enough so we did a bit of washing (and tumble drying), watched a bit of telly and chatted to the steam boaters who were also stranded...  every hour or so, we wandered to the marker board and by 1.00pm it had dropped enough for them  to make a dash for it.

We helped work them through the lock and closed the gates but the flow of the river wasn't helping the helmsmen get out onto the river.  He had to back up and take a bit of a run.

They shot off down the river and did appear to struggle a little with the current as they turned the corner under the bridge.

WE gave it another half our or so and then made the same journey - complete with our life-jackets on.  Rather helpfully, the chap who skippers the party boat, worked the lock for us to save me having to hover on the landing to pick Andy up and we shot off downstream too.  To be honest, whilst it WAS a bit fast flowing, the engine was clearly up to the job and even the turn into Clarence dock above the weir was negotiated safely enough with a bit more power requited than usual.

It was a lovely day and we made really good time, going with the flow down-stream.

The new weir at Knostrop flood lock has now been completed and  you can see how much water was still coming down with us.  

Luckily, when we got to the Calder, it wasn't as high as the Aire had been and although we did need to put a few more revs on, we made good time - OK, so it was dark by the time we got home and as we we'd arranged to meet Tony and Vicky in the pub for a drink, we had tea on the hoof in the dark.  

The reason it looks like "dropped" lasagne is because it WAS lol.

No matter,  we were safely back on our home mooring by a little after 7pm...  and I proceeded to batten down the hatches/tighten up the ropes well in preparation for the storm heading our way..

Until next time...

Saturday 14 October 2017

Sweeping the chimney and a new coal bucket....

Our lives are SO exciting I'm sure you'll agree!

Well, dull as it may be, keeping the chimney clear is rather important... if you don't, at best you'll get a messy roof - at worst, it'll kill you from co.

SO, the other day, I went looking in the gas locker for a bit of chain to dangle down and wiggle about (all very technical isn't it?) but whilst looking, old Mick came over and asked what I was up to.  It turns out he has a suitable brush.

To begin with I removed the fire bricks to make access to throat plate removal easier...It might have been an idea to have left it a couple of hours though as it'd been in over night and was still quite hot.

Once  that was out, I got on the roof and removed the china-man's hat (coolie thingy).  Mick warned me that once I began shoving the brush down it might get wedged so it' be a good idea to have a pole ready...  

Having thought it through, I decided to do it the other way around - i.e., pull it through from the bottom.  I rummaged in my chaotic tool cupboard handy shelf of bits and bobs, for some para-chord which I threaded down from outside and then tied to the brush handle.

Having gently positioned the handle inside, I closed the door AND vents before going back on the roof to begin.

I pulled it through a few times and have to admit, was surprised just how much gunk was in the grate when I came to clear it out.  It does draw much better now though and ever since, we've not had any muck on the roof either - even when the fire is shut right down for over night...  success.

I'm really enjoying having the fire on all he time now - it CAN be a bit if a pain running out of coal (in the boat) when it's wet and windy outside ... the existing coal bucket, whilst looking OK, didn't really hold enough for more than 1 day ... and that's 1 day at current usage rather than "winter"  - SO, we went into town to look for a bigger one.    First stop was a shop called Scartop.  It's a brilliant store with everything you might ever want for the home.  The downside being, a lot of the things you want are NOT cheap... and of course we did find a bigger one but at £29.99, decided it was too dear.

Next stop was Homebase - having modified the search for a metal bucket...  t'dah

AND only  a tenner - BARGAIN!

It holds 2 and half times the amount the little one does so, combined with that, we can go nearly 4 days without getting wet now... probably 2 days when it's really cold.

I told you - we DO lead an exciting life...  

Until next time...

Monday 9 October 2017

RYA Helmsman's Course...


We kept our plans to undertake this a bit secret I'll admit... MAINLY in case we failed it.  A select few knew of course that on Thursday gone, we had our first (of 2) training days.

Typically, it had rained hard in the hills overnight which meant the river was angry and the flood gates locked shut.  This meant our cruising range was limited to the canal with the automated gates...  and of course along with the flood  conditions, the wind was blowing a proper hoolie which made some of our manoeuvring fecking difficult a little more challenging than we'd have liked.

To be honest, neither of us particularly relished the idea of being assessed -  both having left school an AWFUL long time ago.  My most recent training/examination being a week long intensive Microsoft Certified Professional course at York University which (whilst I did qualify) nearly tipped me over the edge... it being full of 18-22 year olds all keen as mustard  to learn to PASS the exam at the end to prove they were brilliant IT boffin whereas there was I - in my 40's, ALREADY an IT boffin but struggling to do it Microsoft's way.

With the memory of that awful week burning in my head, when the trainer arrived we were both pleasantly surprised to discover a retired Physics teacher and scout master with 40 years boating  experience and a relaxed training technique.

The first hour or so was spent sitting in the boat chatting about our boating experience whilst he showed us some of the models he'd made to demonstrate various lock mechanisms AND boat manoeuvring techniques.   We set off chugging around 11 am and it didn't feel like training OR assessment.  We knew he was watching everything we did and ticking off boxes in his head - It didn't matter though... it was a relaxed and pleasant affair.  Every so often he'd ask a question about positioning or how what we were intending to do on approach to a lock - we were both quite candid in our replies... even as far as saying that whist we intended to do one thing, IF on approach the wind messed things up, we'd reassess and formulate another plan on the hoof.

Initially I felt that might NOT be the right thing to admit but it worked in our favour... being prepared and able to  try something else WAS the  correct approach to safe boating.

Given we were BOTH wanting the qualification, we'd planned to take turns at the tiller and swap roles periodically.  We went as far as Foxholes where we tied up and stopped for lunch.   This gave the chap opportunity to assess our mooring techniques and discuss springs etc.  The spacing of the rings at our chosen spot was NOT ideal but sufficient to explain the differing options none the less.  After a chatty lunch (previously prepared by yours truly and left in the oven to reheat whilst we chugged) we set off again towards Fairies hill before turning and heading back home.

Poor Andy was at the tiller when we got back to Kings lock which is notoriously windy but I tried to distract the chap whilst he wrestled to get off the lock landing... I'd almost managed it until he pulled into the lock and the wind did it's usual trick of placing the boat no where near where he'd intended to put it.  No matter, the point being that he was able to correct it and retain control.

Soon after he passed the tiller back to me to continue the rest of the journey homewards.  Whilst waiting for the next lock to empty, the trainer suggested that if we both wanted the qualification, Andy would have to spend more time on the tiller - we've previously gotten into a bit of a routine with me steering and him chatting working the locks.    Once back on our mooring we did a bit more classroom work (if you can call it that) said our goodbyes and agreed to do our 2nd day on Sunday - subject to river levels as we'd need to go up stream to work through manual locks.

On Saturday morning, we decided that whilst usually I'm the one on the tiller when we approach Fall Ings lock, we should have a practice with me being crew and Andy driving.  The river had gone down but the warning light was flashing read ... flashing red means navigation unsafe.  NOT to be deterred, we took a look at the board and the water whilst had been in the yellow was well down into the green.

I phoned CRT to ask for an explanation and was told the light was a bit dicky!  Still a little apprehensive, Andy motored into the flood lock and off we set up the river.    The wind was still blowing quite hard but he tied on to the lock landing perfectly and between us we made it look easy.  Typically no one was around to observe our success.

Confident at his ability, we returned home and prepared for day 2.

Yesterday's weather couldn't really have been much calmer and everything went swimmingly.  Andy taking the boat from the mooring up the river and into Fall Ings perfectly.  Things briefly went ary in the lock because we shared with another boat (which was re-locating from Stanley to Dewsbury ) Marina) and rather than climbing the ladder and holding our boat steady from the lock side, Andy opted to stay on board - the result being a few bashes and clonks as the instructor and I wound the paddles up.

Whilst talking with the other boat, it transpired their engine was over-heating.  Their intended route requied a couple more river sections before getting into the (relative ) safety of Broad cut.  With this in mind, we decided to go a little further upstream than planned to proved safe escort in the event they broke down on the river  - the theory being we could tie them on to stop them going over either of the weirs ahead.

As things panned out, their boat made it ok but our intention stood us in good stead with the RYA chappy.

The extra miles added a couple of hours on to the course but gave us all opportunity to play at turning on the river a few times.

ANYWAY - around pm we got back to our mooring whereby he confirmed he was happy with our ability and produced our certificates.

Not flattering photo's but I suppose they never are.  I'd have preferred "Marti Pellow circa 1985" on mine but apparently you can't do that!

Hey ho.

So there we are -  we've done it now and another step closer to being able to run "Ellis" as a hotel boat in the spring... First Aid here we come!

FYI - the RYA instructor we used was a chap called Geoff Auty.  He's the Scout leader trainer.  I came upon him via an enquiry on their website I'd sent a couple of months back after following a link from the RYA.  Initially, we'd planned to book with Bear Boating up at Apperley (spelling?) Bridge and do it on one of their boats....that would have cost us £275 EACH!

Geoff on the other hand does it on a voluntary basis - either on the Scout's boat or your own .  He charges the costs of the paperwork and RYA book  (£20 each) and if you're NOT using the scout boat (which they charge out at £80 a day) suggests a contribution to Scout funds.  We gave him the daily hire rate which he'll pass on so all in we had the 2 day course and certification for £200 for both of us.
A saving of £350.

Whilst the saving was important, the best thing about it for us was being able to do it on our OWN boat.

We'd certainly recommend doing one ...

Until next time...

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Golden Wedding Anniversary, Brilliant Ballast and a rogue nipple...

Sorry for the absence - we've had a weekend away with my family to celebrate my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary.

We're NOT party folk and in a bid to avoid any fuss, Mum and Dad (aka Joyce and Cliff) had decided to take us away for a weekend to be together at their expense.  Given that Andy doesn't work Monday's, we asked to add on another day happy to pay for it but my dad wouldn't take a penny - moreover, BECAUSE we'd asked for a bath, we ended up in a superior room.

It was an all expenses paid trip (by my parents) for immediate family - which consisted of my cousin Rachael (and Husband Mike) brother Ken (and Wife Heidi), their son Sam and of course Andy and I.   There should have been my niece Kim (and boyf Tom) but they couldn't get a pet sitter)...

That's the thing about big families... my dad came from a catholic background with way more siblings than either space OR money.  AS a result, he's the most generous, sharing sort of chap you'll ever meet.... the rest of his siblings being the same - whatever they have - they'll happily give away to anyone.   I couldn't even buy a drink at the bar without my dad pushing some money into my hand - it was the same after lunch on Saturday when a few of us ended up at a bistro a few miles down the road... I'd paid simply because I pushed my way into the queue at the bar but on route home, mum insisted on giving me some cash.

It's a trate I try to replicate... and for the most part I succeed.

Anyway - we stayed in the Victoria Hotel at Banburgh, just up from the Castle.  It's a dog friendly place in certain rooms (luckily not ours) and the lounge/bar areas have quiet dogs sitting by tables watching the world go by...  it's got a good vibe.

We had a meal in their Bistro on Friday evening - (note the bottles of wine at the far end of the table where Andy and I were sitting near Mike)...  suffice to say, Saturday morning was a delicate affair!

When everyone else went home on Sunday, we continued our weekend - drinking less thank heavens and took a visit to the castle.

If you think we look rough here, it's because we were...  having set off on a walk to Seahouses (about 4 miles down the road) the morning after the night before...  we managed to get a lift back as we just couldn't face the return hike!

The castle is quite interesting  -  learning it's history from circa 600ad (give or take) when it was first on the map.  The staterooms are well maintained and there's also an Art gallery and Armstrong musueum.    ANDY was clearly bored stupid  pretending to be enamoured by the "stone exhibition" 

whilst I was more interested in the Accumulator... (same principle as the one on the boat - just BIGGER)

After the Castle, we ended up back at the hotel for Another bath each...  if you're of a nervous disposition, please look away now:

Control yourselves!

BATHING is probably the only thing we both miss about living in the house/bungalow.... I've always been a water baby - quite often placing the laptop on the loo and watching a film surrounded by bubbles... topping up/letting out as the water goes cold.

Even IF we'd managed to fit a bath on to the boat, we'd have had trouble getting enough hot water.  ANYWAY - it was a lovely change to be able to have umpteen soaks over the weekend.

MEANWHILE - back on the boat, (the cats were at the cattery by the way) during last weekends Gin session with our friends on their boat, we got discussing toilet tanks (again) and our continued frustrations at our 'starboard' list when the holding tank under the bed gets more than half full - we term this as "tipping point".  It's a gradual list that gets worse the fuller the tank gets.  

ON plan, it was supposed to be offset by the position of the stove... however, as the wiring loom ended up RIGHT where the flue would have needed to be, we positioned it more centrally - thus messing up my original calculations.

Up to about the 3/4 full level, we've been able to counterbalance using jerry cans full of diesel and the generator locked away.  HOWEVER, once above 3/4's you end up sleeping with your head down hill.

Tony mentioned he had some old steel plates somewhere in his man cave garage and one morning last week, he turned up with 3.  

BLOODY heavy doesn't come close - small though they may appear, I could only lift one at at time with my feeble hands.  

They do fit easily under the port side kitchen units which is really handy.  The result being we can get nearly another week out of the tank before pumping out... and with the other 2 he gave us a few days later, get the tank almost full! 

OK so it's an awful thought but fiscally, that's potential saving of 4/5 pump outs per year (circa 70 quid) ... a saving  certainly not to be sniffed at! 

Until next time...