Sharpness

A beautiful, wild place.

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The hulks’ graveyard between Purton and Sharpness

 

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The new sea-lock and its channel- low tide at sunset

 

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Picnic benches with wind breaks built in…

Big skies, gorgeous sunsets, and a stunning contrast of wild beauty and industrial decay.

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Battening down the hatches, and other tips for winter survival

We’ve had a couple of named storms so far this autumn, of course, so I thought I’d acknowledge them and offer a few suggestions for the theme of bad-weather boating.

Living in a simpler way means more exposure to the elements- there’s no getting away from that. Being responsible for your own heating and lighting mean that as simple a thing as forgetting to stock up on logs, paper, kindling or coal can leave you shivering- so it’s useful to have blankets around as well! I’ve mentioned elsewhere about the solar panels on Dreams not quite keeping up with the battery maintenance- at this time of year, after Samhain, when we are into the dark days, we’re obviously using the batteries more for light while at the same time drawing less power from the sun to charge them. I’m writing this on a really grey day, knowing that when I get home I’ll have to run the batteries for a good couple of hours to both charge the batteries and to heat the water. Lots of people have generators and if you have higher power consumption- running a telly, say- that’s certainly a good idea.

On my list of things to do is obtain a large jerry-can to fill with diesel, so that I can fill the tank right up again once we get into the marina and plug into shore power, without having to spend a day physically taking the boat to the oil place (half a day’s navigating away, and the same back again). It’s recommended to keep the tank topped up because it reduces the possibility of condensation forming, contaminating the fuel, and increasing the risk of diesel bug.

I also need to get the stove serviced. It wants new fire bricks and the baffle on the door is a bit broken and comes off at times. One mystery- perhaps you can help- is why some wood burns really hot, so hot we have to turn it right down; while another burn will be really cool, even with the draft right up and burning fiercely. Last night was a cool-burning night, while wood from the same load the night before burned very hot. Mystery.

So most people keep their stoves in with coal. I haven’t, yet- it’s been quite mild, and we’re usually out and about during the day- but I will do, so a few bags of coal are a key requirement. Then there’s the wood store. I do prefer wood- usually I find it easier to light, because I don’t like using firelighters, and it’s carbon-neutral. Of course, coal as a primary domestic fuel isn’t as harmful as using power generated by a coal-fired power station (secondary domestic fuel) but it’s still, in the words of a Twitter user, filling this atmosphere with pollutants from the Jurassic atmosphere. I think as long as we can avoid keeping the stove in, or can maintain a good supply of wood, I’ll try to do that rather than using coal a lot.

In the bedrooms it does get cold at night. A hot-water bottle is nice, to warm the sheets before you get in. Thick wool socks, leg warmers, and warm pyjamas are also important! I have a feather duvet and Boat Girl has a wool one (a baavet 🙂 ) and we’re both toasty at night. We have blankets available for extra layers as required.

What else? Don’t forget to add anti-freeze to the coolant tank in the engine. Wipe your window frames in the mornings, to dry the condensation before it can soak into the wood. Get decent thick curtains. Be prepared to feel damp if you don’t have a fire going. Tie your belongings down in high winds, and make sure your fenders are sound. The boat will bump and creak and your ropes will slacken off as the water levels rise or fall. Use chains rather than pins. Set aside time to do your prep, to lay the fire, run the engine, fetch drinking water if you don’t use your tank. When it’s a still day, do the jobs that need you to move the boat (like fill the water tank, or pump out). Get used to switching lights off that you aren’t using.

We’re out much later than we were last year but when we move next weekend I’ll take us in. It’ll be nice not to have to run the engine but to have hot water on tap. A bit of luxury for the darkest of days.

The nights are drawing in…

The clocks go back on Saturday night and recently I’ve been noticing the solar panels haven’t been topping the batteries up fully any more, so I’ve been running the engine for a couple of hours each day. This may be because coincidentally, the dry, sunny weather we enjoyed for weeks this autumn disappeared at the start of October, to be replaced by some much murkier days. IMG_0448I did wonder if it was partly my own fault- I hadn’t cleaned them for ages- but I have done now and it’s not a massive improvement. They’re still brilliant, but we just aren’t getting the bright, long hours of daylight they really need for full effect.

We have had a lovely autumn so far. Gorgeous sunshine, beautiful colours; not much in the way of crisp mornings though. We’ve had the fire in during the evenings but not needed to keep it in during the day or overnight. Some lovely clear dawns; still days, good for boating- and of course a couple of named storms! Tom helped me attach some of my fenders directly to the corrugated steel bankside before Ophelia arrived, which stopped the worst of the bumping. After nearly losing my boat last time I was at Patch, back in the summer (thanks, cruisers… and strong winds) I didn’t risk pins but used my chains and metal hooks and so far they’ve worked well (touch wood!).

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Autumn dawn
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Breezy, cloudy, cool autumn day… rain on the air.

The rain which arrived on Monday has made the towpath muddy and all the gaps on the boat show up, as the wind blew moisture in under the witch’s hat on the chimney, in through the windows and vents… times like this I’m grateful for gaffer tape! I’ve also rejigged the interior a little bit- my sawing arm is getting good!

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Taking the chance to get outside on a rainy day…

It’s also been a fruitful season. The neglected allotment did me proud, with weeks of beans, several sweetcorn, little squashes, and loads of apples from the communal trees. Boat Girl and I have been baking and making chutney, jam, cake and biscuits. IMG_0424There’s something about autumn which inspires the domestic goddess in me, that sense of chill that you get on a damp day can only really be chased away by making the home warm, with appetising smells wafting around… mmm! This cake was a traybake from Good Food (I think)- it had four eggs in it, apple, pear and blackberry, but you could easily vary the fruit according to the season. I replaced some of the flour with ground almonds, and it was wonderfully rich and moist- I took it along the row of boats and it went VERY quickly (this makes me happy- I think I was made to mother a large family with food, but when it’s just Boat Girl and me that impulse doesn’t have much chance for fulfilment…

I also made a chutney using windfall pears from the towpath. They weren’t nice to eat so I hope they’ll be okay as chutney! I ended up staying up until midnight because it took so long for a ‘channel’ to develop (Delia’s signal that a chutney’s ready to go into jars…)!

What with Boat Grandmother’s productive garden and my allotment, we’ve done pretty well for veg. The last sweetcorn was eaten on Monday; the last of the beans the previous week; I have some beetroot relish from Mother in the fridge and she’s now digging carrots and celeriac, so hopefully some more soups in the offing! She also has chard, with its beautiful bright stems and crunchy green leaves. I had some in a pot on the boat earlier in the season but it bolted in the dry weather when we were in France. It makes a good substitute for spinach or kale, and is robust enough to stand up to stewing in soup or curry. IMG_0382IMG_0426

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the current DIY is finished, the next project will be clearing the allotment and covering it with manure and cardboard ready for the spring. I’m hoping to do a lot more with it next year- onions, more squash, leeks, beans, carrots, chard, kale or broccoli… it’s incredibly satisfying to gather food you’ve grown yourself.

 

 

Back to school

So Boat Girl’s back-to-school photo wasn’t in front of the fireplace or the front door, but instead was on the stern deck and on the towpath. She was so excited to see all her friends again- Y2, the last year of KS1. She’s getting so big!

I’m not putting her BtS photo on here, but instead some seasonal pictures of autumn on the canal 🙂

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Early morning

 

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…and evening light

Jobs I did last weekend included sweeping leaves off the roof, but I did a partial job because I didn’t clear the roof and do it thoroughly, instead just swept along the rails at the edges and scooping the leaves off. I also did the deck. I checked the oil level in the engine and failed to move the boat to fill the water tank- should have done that when visitors came over on Saturday, because the wind’s picking up now and that makes manoeuvrings more difficult!

 

 

 

 

Changing seasons

We came back from a holiday in France to some beautiful weather, but waking early for work this morning (boo!) I noticed that the quality of the early light has changed to an unmistakeably autumnal hue. It’s not autumn officially yet (some say it’s 1st September, some say it’s 21st) but it does seem to be here in the hedges and the air. I made blackberry jam and the temperatures are dropping…

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Leaves on the deck

 

 

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Making jam