Boat plans eh?
Earlier in the year we set out a plan to have our first Christmas aboard LJ.
We knew that she'd be on the sales market early spring and we have had quite a few "Last time we'll ... on LJ" moments over Summer we thought we'd add Christmas to the list.
Jess was going to meet up with us for a bit of boating mid December, pop back home for a week of work and then come back for some more boating leading up to Christmas. We were heading up to Birmingham to spend a couple of weeks in civilisation and looking forward to some restaurant deals (we we're on the cancellations list for Birmingham University College Restaurants gourmet dinner), Christmas markets, Classical recitals, and maybe the odd band if we could find anything beyond our usual free jazz doo's.
Time was getting really tight and with the imminent launch of NB Ernest we needed to moor close to a railway station on Wednesday the 12th for a possible launch day. The launch happened on Thursday, as per a previous post, and we we're chilling out on Friday with a bottle of wine working out where we could pick Jess up on the way to Birmingham the following week to get some extra locking hands.
That's when it dawned on me that, with us wanting to be out of Birmingham a bit earlier now Ernest was safely tucked up in the paint shed and with Jess needing to get back to her car and head back to work; we'd be boating up through the 30 odd locks, staying for two and a half days and then turning around and coming back down. Adding winter weather into the mix, that didn't sound like a lot of fun.
We'd stay somewhere around Fazeley to Alvecote, and get the train into Brum for a day of markets and fine dining. If it was nice weather for Christmas we'd head out to Kingsbury Water Park for the day in the peaceful countryside. Sorted. Just a bit of boat work, planning and shopping to sort out now.
We get back from a long hard day working on Ernest, including an hour each way on the motorways. It's border-line too late for charging the batteries but we can replace a few amp/hours before the 8pm curfew. The boat is cold, the fire had just kept in over the last 12 hours. Deb goes to the airing cupboard to restock the empty loo roll holder. Its all damp... "I think we have a leak!"
Buggah!. It's quite a compact space and to have a good look the airing cupboard needs to be emptied, the lower door needs to come off alongside the hinge mounts before the shelves can come out. The bathroom starts to look like a war zone. With the inspection lamp it's not too difficult to spot the issue. The insulation has exploded off the side of the calorifier (hot water tank). It was an ex-calorifier, it had ceased to be.
There was one saving grace though. Recently the pressure relief valve had been dribbling causing the pump to come on a few times an hour. As a quick fix I put a pump isolator switch in the galley so the pump was only ever switched on if we needed water. If I hadn't done that we'd have come home to 600+ litres of fresh water in the bilges as the pump would have kept pushing water through the hole in the calorifier.
With engineers on Christmas breaks and chandlers low on stock it looked like we'd have to go into emergency mode for water. And as we have a macerator pump-out loo, for that too. We have all the kit; portaloo, 2 x 10L water containers, 9L hand pump shower. Not a drastic situation for us but we weren't sure how Jess would feel and of course that meant going a bit basic for Christmas.
|I already had a new accumulator tank to fit so I fitted a new expansion tank and pump at the same time|
We rarely have indulgent Christmas's but there are a few things that are non negotiable. Lots of games, lots of cocktails including buckets of egg nogg, home cured Gravadlax and relaxation. Walking to water points and driving the portaloo cassette to the local marina (as the Canal and River Trust has closed the only other one in Fazeley) was never part of the festive plan. We all agreed that with three days to go we'd go to Jess's house in Poole.
The problem was Jess had nothing in and she was working. Every supermarket delivery slot was booked and I couldn't face a four hour drive and then going shopping at the peak time on the busiest day. The decision was made that we'd buy all the non perishable food and drinks the night before setting off and go to Asda in Tamworth at 7 in the morning to get the rest before driving down.
|Duduley does like the car|
Apart from the lack of decorations, Jess usually squeezes at least three Christmas trees into her small place. It was indeed a relaxing and very enjoyable Christmas. I even managed to negotiate an upgrade from a daily stroll to a walk once we'd defined the parameters of a walk and involved a pub stop. A few we're dangerously close to a hike but I got away with it... Just. Will we get next Christmas on a boat? Who knows, far too early to foresee what state Ernest will be in by then. I think my vote would be somewhere sunny and warm.
|Why do I wait until Christmas to make Gravadlax?|
|New forest drinks after a soggy 5 miles|
|Windy, and hilly. Although not as hilly as a lot of the South Coast Path|
|The footpath in the centre used to look a bit less drastic|
|View towards Swanage from the top|
|On the way back down to the pub, I thought this would make a nice composition in Black and White at some stage|
|A very agreeable pint brewed next door to the Banks Arms, one of my favs down here|
|A Christmas day swim for Dudley...|
|... and this girl, it did say keep off the Groynes though.|
|And the sun came out|
|Quick stroll around Poole Park after Mary Poppins in Bournemouth|