Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Broken Things part 1.

Here’s a picture of our gangplank, which this week is vying with the toilet for top spot on the chart of really annoying broken stuff. Funnily enough I’m quite happy to live with a broken toilet, at least we have a temporary alternative. When I say ‘quite happy’ I actually mean am able to tolerate. The alternative to this load of bollocks can be seen on the top right of the picture. Yes, we are tight-roping our way across the chasm of certain mud every day on two 6x2” planks, loosely bound together with a couple of second hand screws. What a shambles. As if that weren’t fun enough it has suddenly turned very frosty indeed so walking the planks has become shall we say um, a little exhilarating in the mornings.
As you can see from the picture I was so disgruntled at storm Angus’ handiwork that I’ve just abandoned the wreckage where it landed. In my defence it is/was quite heavy, but it has to go as it’s bringing down the tone of the neighborhood and attracting the wrong sort of crowd. 
Obviously I’ve got to fix this, and before too long. The two planks near-death-experience arrangement will not survive the next spring tides without near constant mothering, so that’s less than a week. Oh goody.
This was Thing 2 of gangplank/staging construction, and somewhere waaay back in this blog I’ve written about making it in the first place. I don’t know if you remember but Thing 1 was completely total rubbish and just floated away on a surprise tide when I wasn’t looking. This one was never really meant to be a long term thing, cobbled together out of scrap timber so I’m amazed it’s survived something daft like five years. 

But its all over bar the bonfire now, I suppose the wager is, in three weeks time will Seb and Becky still be tottering across this deeply unsatisfactory arrangement? Will either of us have fallen in, and if so how many times? And to what extent will I have managed to have begun construction of an adequate replacement?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Inside the Iron Lady.

I’ve always resisted doing this, defiantly stating that I was protecting my privacy or something. But when earlier this week I was asked to get some pictures of the important bit, the home thats inside our vessel- insight slowly dawned on me. I wasn’t protecting anything at all, I’ve just found a really noble excuse to avoid tidying up.

The incredible shrinking home that we live in is difficult to photograph, at least, armed only with an iphone it is. It’s small. There are bits I stub my toe on, other bits I bang my head on. None of the walls are straight. Its fiddly. Half finished, and often a bit of a mess. Drifts of paperwork don’t look so great on film. Nor do socks, phone chargers, cat food, unmade beds or the sodding washing up. It basically took a day to get these snaps, during the course of that day my method changed from ‘just hide the piles of crap out of shot’ into something that at least did an impression of a responsible attempt at tidying like a grown up. This only happened under duress, because I quickly discovered the piles of crap were making friends with more crap and soon I was spending the whole time just moving big piles of crap around. So I was forced, somewhat reluctantly, to actually tidy the mess up. Around this point I found the new flexible exhaust coupling for the generator hiding behind the stereo. I don’t know how it got there, but it’s clearly been there for some time. I filed it out of sight underneath the cabin sofa, with all the other things that I’m supposed to fit, or re-fit, or screw to the walls one day. There is a very real chance that it will remain there, lost with all its companions; until we change the sofa, at which point I will triumphantly announce that I’m off to renew the generators exhaust system which will take me about a fortnight to nearly finish this time before I get distracted and I’ll have to hide some different parts behind the stereo..

So for your viewing pleasure here is photographed some of our home, as she is now. In all her unfinished, unvarnished, state. The rest of it wouldn’t fit in or was covered in piles of paperwork and socks. Show home she is most certainly not at the moment. It’s probably a common experience for many many homebuilders in the closer they get to the end result, the longer achieving that result takes. And I am clearly no exception. We eventually reach a state of equilibrium, where just enough is complete to enable life to function. Looking over these pics I’m reminded of the various promises I made myself to finish this or build that, but maybe the important place to start might be more storage to hide crap in.
But, for the eagle eyed, or really keen to know, here is a list of the most obvious (i.e. large) bits that are next, waiting to be done:

polished concrete worktops in the galley
hardwood strip lining the engine room hullsides and deckheads
all those radiators want plumbing in
Yup, the real cabin sofa one day
Putting the wheelhouse table back together might be good
And the oak bathroom wall instead of that plastic.
Oh and my god do we need our electrician to visit for the 240v side of things.

I keep playing this trick on myself, to make a short list that suggests I’m nearly there. It’s a simple trick that keeps me calm. Obviously this works by excluding from the list a TON of smaller things to install, fiddle with or finish, enough to keep me going for probably the rest of my life, or longer, whichever is sooner. Becky is fond of calling them ‘snags’, but to be blunt, some of them, like sanding and varnishing that parquet floor are big and involved enough to warrant avoiding like the plague for some time longer. And it’s probably for the best that I don’t even get started on describing the list of things that are currently broken down because I will start twitching, getting cross and having palpitations and sweaty palms and that will not do at all.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

We're Back.

I tried staying away but it didn’t work out.
We’re back, I mean, we never went away but anyhow, things happened that meant blogging was practically quite difficult for a while. But I’ve decided I’d like to make the effort to do it again. There’s an awful lot to tell and lots has happened to our little vessel, I will try to catch you up on a bit of the boring I-did-this, then I-did-that home building stuff in the fullness of time but for now:
People said we were daft to live in a swamp... but we did it anyway. 
Off grid living has become this sort of fashionable buzzword for all kinds of ways to live away from the usual services that some people expect; and we honestly weren’t thinking of living like this but we’re doing it, feet first. We’ve kind of got to. Its a direct result of the practical remoteness of our little spot, even getting our water standpipe done years ago took negotiation. So it’s simpler to solve our power needs ourselves. After a while we’ve found out that we get by fine without microwaves, tv’s and haircurlers. Obviously we have to make our own power, which is in common with other tugs but the ones I went to sea in had three phase. We’ve got a small diesel generator, a wind turbine that vandalised itself last winter, a solar panel that’s too small and some old submarine batteries, they’re doing remarkably well.
It’s a really tough way to live in some respects, something always demands immediate attention. Starting the generator, filling the freshwater tanks, topping the battery up, emptying another tank, dragging LPG on deck and endless firewood below all winter long. Stopping the generator. Remembering food from the workshop fridge, but forgetting the sodding milk and going for the ten minute walk of the cursing man to retrieve it.  There’s ALWAYS something to do. Mindful of the phrase ‘careful what you wish for’, I do realise that I asked for this. When it’s howling a gale and I forgot the milk, again, I usually have to remind myself through gritted teeth that yeah, this is pretty much what I wanted.
It’s amazing too, many evenings after the days work is done, we experience bursts of complete joy. Or is it wine?  There’s an amazing and quiet beach of sand dunes a mere five minutes stagger away. We have a home. Most nights you can hear the seas changing moods, there are really clear stars at night, and at the moment the kingfishers are back. They fly in at about a thousand bright blue miles an hour at about the same time every winter and hang around for a month or two. There’s a naked cyclist in the summer and a feral peacock called Po bamboozling the tourists all year round. You can tell which ones are tourists because they stop, get out of their cars and take pictures of him as if seeing an angry giant Indian pheasant in the street causing traffic jams isn’t completely normal. The locals just beep furiously and in some cases have a go at running him over. Peacocks can fly, with the right persuasion.
So it all works, and I’m astounded some days, but it does. And as time goes by I’m less and less inclined to return to life on solid land. I like that when I go to stay with a friend I always wake up marvelling at how far away the ceiling is, and how power comes out of the wall, just like that. On the other hand, the island we are moored to gets really muddy this time of year and sometimes flailing about in the mire, usually with shopping, or milk, does me in and induces a forlorn wish for whatever normal is, or at least some paving slabs to stand on.
I guess what I like most is that we still see everything we now have at home as a luxury of sorts. Like ok we don’t have a toaster, but you can make toast in a dry frying pan really quite quickly on our fancy gas cooker that took no small effort to find, transport, get on board, partially dismantle to get it to fit through the galley door, and rebuild at the cost of grazed knuckles, contortionists fingers and muttered swearing; not to mention the whole finding a gas fitter who was prepared to work on a boat for four hours without charging us approximately three million pounds saga.

There is never a dull moment. Our toilet. Is broken. Again. The result of this particular mechanical hiccup is that we are back to a portaloo, the one I had the foresight to stash in the forward bilges, I really did clean it first. Now, a portaloo is really just a fancy looking bucket and, although I have come to admire its stout simplicity and therefore elegance of design it is, lets face it, a box of poo. I consider myself extremely lucky to have a partner who has not just run away screaming at the sight of this familiar box of awfulness, thus there are three upsides to consider. 1) it’s just an inconvenience, 2) My wife is pretty amazing really and 3) when we eventually get a new loo sorted (because this one really has died this time) we will spend half the evening flushing it in wonder, like those apes at the beginning of ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’.
Funny old life, it can be so benign in summer, endless evenings of barbecues on the island of content and a genuine feeling that the boat is looking after us, providing us with a retreat and comfortable haven from the world, even if it is only half three quarters nearly finished. But then next thing you know the winter arrives and it’s Oh For god’s sake the gangplank has fucked off in storm Angus. So it’s six o clock in the morning, I’m wearing a fetching ensemble of dressing gown, wellington boots, sou-wester and frightened expression whilst dangling about trying to sort things out so that we can get off the boat without using a catapult.

Like I said, we’re back. And it’s pretty much the same as ever on board Wendy Ann 2, but with a few more mod cons than we had at the beginning. They all work, usually. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Oh bugger.

Sorry about that. Does anyone still look at this blog? Should I start again?