Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Littlehampton Rest Home for Lost Tugs.

We made it. The Pilot and Harbourmaster boarded us while we lay at anchor about a mile off the harbour entrance (where the above pic was taken), and Storebror delivered Wendy Ann 2 to Littlehampton at spring high water on Wednesday 11th March. Becky, Mark and Pete were all at the berth to take ropes and pull us in. There were no problems, but you’ll have to wait for all the action pictures.

Clearly, I’m a little overdue in reporting this fact, various friends and family members are already aware of this rather old news. This is largely because I chose to remain on board and keep an eye on our treasure while she settled into her new home- when the tide goes out, Wendy sits down on the mud and is left high and dry- so amongst other things ropes needed adjusting. And everything has changed- so much that I dithered over whether to title this blog entry ‘The End’.
Certainly I’ve recently gone through a bit of a personal apocalypse, from a couple of weeks before the launch where I felt I could accomplish anything; to now, when a sense of powerlessness prevails. All the recent internet chat about engines, which although I know is well intentioned, only serves to add to my current frustration- here’s why.
The first ten days at our new home were a literal return to the dark ages; unforeseen problems with obtaining shore power meant that when the sun went down, that was it. Candlepower was all I had. No toilet on board meant long walks to find the local public loos, followed a few days later by constipation, resignation and the use of a bucket. Becky thinks I’m obsessed with poo, maybe I am (a bit)- but there’s something satisfying and poetic about having a dump on your own boat, and anyway I have a suspicion that the bucket bit at least is an experience common to many liveaboarders at some point in their life on their vessel.
After a week of coming home to darkness after work, Jan kindly lent me the small emergency petrol generator that Storebror keeps on board, and I lugged it on board Wendy Ann before starting it up, plugging in a bunch of lights and a stereo, and rejoicing. This took some time. The next day I enjoyed discovering which power tools it’ll run.
So the only engines we'll be getting for now will be for a generator, however, even that will be a huge investment for us.
The financial times that Becky and I are currently enduring are seriously not pretty, the launch and all the final mad dash that led up to it was Expensive to say the least. I ran out of gas earlier in the week, and was too scared of bouncing loan payments to buy any more for a couple of days. Therefore I didn’t eat (in the dark), I just went to bed. We need our wallets to recover a little before embarking on the next step, so for now I’m commanded by employers and partner to rest, relax and enjoy the scenery. Something I’m almost managing.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Flying Solo.

Certain logistical facts regarding Wendy being back in the water are proving to be a bit of a culture shock. Some of these are probably blindingly obvious to the knowing outsider. But in our haste to transform our vessel from a gracefully shaped lump of metal in a huge shed to her proper status as an actual floating boat in the big wide world we overlooked a lot, so a few basic lessons are being learned in a hurry. Jan kindly allowed me to climb the first mountain last weekend by granting me the use of Storebror’s RIB tender. I’ve driven it before, but only twice- and then briefly, and only under the watchful tuition of my employer. So my heart was in my mouth last Friday as the sun was setting and I found myself lowering the small boat into the water from the tug’s HIAB crane. After carefully making all the checks I could think of I started the recently serviced outboard motor, cast off, and opened the throttle extremely gingerly. I crawled across the river Itchen to a waiting Tim, and two fine steel vessels.
Over the course of the weekend I made three more short trips, one of which involved collecting Becky (!) and with each I learned something new, and I’m filled with the newly acquired knowledge that this pocket rocket must be treated with the utmost care and respect.

Thanks to Tim, and Jan, for providing me with some valuable insights in order that so far, I’ve not had to learn the hard way, mind you- there’s a first time for everything.

Other news this week is that the weather forecast is looking encouraging for taking Ms Ann round to Littlehampton on Wednesday. Not only am I nervous as all hell, but I’ve an awful lot of preparation to do, not to the boat itself, she’s as ready as she’ll ever be- but I’ve crews to organise, both for the actual trip, and to receive us on arrival, pilots and small workboats to arrange, and a myriad of other details, not one of which can be overlooked.

We live in interesting times indeed.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Work will make you Free.

Sometimes you just really need to bring in the money. Thankfully Jan and BP Norse Marine are lately keeping me busy as fuck. Takes my mind off the fact that Wendy Ann is stuck powerless in the middle of the river Itchen waiting for the spring tides and good weather for her home berth. Illustrated is a recent short tow of the laden hopper barge VR49 out of berth 202 in Southampton as the sun sets on a marvellous force nothing sea, promising an easy ten hour trip with the tide. Please gods, let the weather be like this next week for Ms Ann’s big tow.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Wendy has left the building.

In the dead of night last Wednesday we brought the work tug Storebror alongside Wendy Ann 2, tied on the spring and bow lines, made fast the stern line, cast off Wendy’s mooring lines and sprung my absolute pride and joy away from Saxon wharfs launch berth. I was so busy that I got precisely no pictures whatsoever. It was dark anyway. She’s on her way to Littlehampton, but due to things like work going bananas, spring tides for Littlehampton not being until 11th March, and not least the uncomfortable fact that the launch berth weighed in at a hefty £85 a night- she’s going to do the trip in stages. Maybe she’ll send us postcards from where she’s been.
So guess where we put her… Go on, guess. She’s not gone far, yet.

Yep. She’s temporarily rafted in the middle of the river Itchen next to a distinguished host, and one you’ll likely recognise if you read the other boat blogs- Lady Jane. My employer Jan’s crane barge ‘Norse II’ is currently enjoying the welding attentions of the gifted Mr Camilleri, so Jan kindly agreed to allow Wendy to occupy the barges usual spot for a week, arrangements were made with Associated British Ports and Southampton Vessel Traffic Service, and the next thing I knew I was ringing Timzim on Friday to beg a lift across the water in his Rib to the two fine old ladies, who’d clearly got together to have a party without us.

I had things to do, and I guess I got some of them done, but for a large proportion of the time I stood still and marvelled at Wendy being afloat. Being able to see Lady Jane for real (my last visit was AGES ago) and clearly being able to compare the two vessels side by side was inspirational to say the least. Tim and I ballasted ourselves with a few glasses of good stuff during the evenings and he and his boat introduced me to the possibilities (and potential limitations) of a life afloat. It was just what I needed. The last week or so I’ve been boggling at the utter change of rules that Wendy Ann becoming a real boat has imposed. Away from her awesome presence in the tent and all that convenient (but cold) workshop space the inside of the vessel is cluttered with hastily packed tools, ballast and materials, shore power is obviously no longer available, and bugger me but she’s alive again, she gently moves around in response to tides and other boats, I’m still trying to get used to this seismic shift in my world, and it’s a profoundly pleasant sensation.
The Harbour masters paid us a visit on Saturday morning and were hugely complimentary, I was only slightly unhinged by the fact that Jon (who occasionally skippers Lady Jane) seemed to know far more about me and Wendy than was strictly necessary for a first meeting, it turns out he reads this blog, he was full of encouragement and gave me a tour of the Harbourmasters launch ‘Portunus’ just for the hell of it. This was an absolute blast. We backed up from Wendy Ann and Nigel showed me around Tims other neighbour ‘Laligina’, a wooden vessel which needs someone to show her a lot of love, throw their life savings at her and/or a bleeding miracle, as she is going rotten bigtime but is nevertheless pretty incredible inside.

Leaving the two grand old girls was very hard indeed this afternoon, but Storebror was tied up maybe a quarter mile away and in direct line of sight, and I needed to get back on board, start the main engine pre-heater and fill the air start tanks ready for a short trip up to berth 202 with the silt barge. After doing the other checks I finally opened the air start valve at 3pm and fired 825 horsepower into life, and off we went again.
What a world I’ve chosen to live in, its hard, often dirty, and absolute magic.