Tuesday, 7 April 2015

"Spring"ing into action

I find that when we meet folks from around the world who have visited our fair shores, their abiding memory of Britain is often how much rain they had to endure. This is further reinforced by foreign travel guides, with their principle recommendation to always pack a sturdy umbrella, whatever time of year when visiting the UK.

Pat in action at the marina's Easter Monday craft fair, collecting on the local Air Ambulance stand
Now I am well aware one of our national pastimes is to obsess about the weather so I will be true to stereotype and whinge away. Well, maybe not whinge but comment, as it seriously affects what us boating types can get up to. Especially as we do not have a car at our disposal.

There has been a lot of rain about since we got back to the UK, and an awful lot of wind. Last week we had white-topped waves scudding over the marina as we were lashed by 70mph winds. Today it is glorious, as it was yesterday on Easter Monday, but I guess that is not particularly unusual at this time of year.

The change has meant I can get on with the remedial work needed on the outside of the boat. Nothing serious, but if you leave the scars and battle damage that goes with extensive cruising, then you are asking for a rusty boat.

Our roof top box (where we keep our chimney and excess wood) was one of the first targets. As you can see from the first picture it was pretty bashed up. I contacted a few canopy makers in the Midlands and they all wanted over £100 for a replacement. Pat went to Dunhelm, and made it for £15, and it looks good. The girl is a genius with a needle and thread. I am in awe.

Our old roof box cover 

replaced by our all new, Pat-built, cover

When it has been fine, we have been out walking. The tow path is always muddy at this time of the year, but we have a number of good walks of various lengths and the sound of new-born bleating lambs is never more than a few feet away.

These little chaps live just across the road from the marina

We have already welcomed our first guests. Vic, an old school friend, who divides his time between New Zealand and the UK. He visited us last weekend with his partner Liz. They are actively looking for a narrowboat to live on over the summer months, a bit like us, and were on their way round the dozens of brokerages and marinas in the Midlands, looking for something suitable.
At present the marina is hosting an art boat, and one of their community-based projects has been to construct a willow spiral in the field between the marina and the canal. It’s a bit like a maze that curls around itself. So we spent last Saturday morning cutting and bending local willow into shape. It looks pretty “pants” at the moment, with lots of holes, but it’s already budding and I am sure when we come back into the marina in the autumn it will have some shape.
Planting out the outline of the Willow Wheel, helped by our first guest of season, Liz
Easter has come and gone and after a cold and cloudy start it picked up. We took part in an Easter Egg hunt at the marina on Saturday lunchtime, though spent more time in the pub than walking the towpath looking for clues.
Searching for clues along the towpath, with Ian, Louise and Sarah, on Saturday's Easter Egg Hunt
Easter Sunday was surprisingly warm and on Easter Monday we volunteered at the marina’s craft fair. I thought we would be put on litter or car parking duty but we were asked if we would help on the local air ambulance stand and I am really glad we did. We had a very good four hours, talking to boaters and visitors who flooded into the marina. Mercia is certainly a real magnet for visitors when the sun shines, and it was the first time we had really seen the marina bathed in sunshine. The local air ambulance is a popular charity and many visitors were very generous. This essential service receives no government funding, which surprised many people - £20 keeps the helicopter in the air barely 10 minutes and it turned out that Pam, one of our neighbours on the next pontoon, is one of the helicopter doctors that man the service. She popped along to say hello.
"Give us yer money"
We have also had a visit last week from a marine engineer that our boating pals Eileen and Ian recommended. Even though we changed our propeller last autumn, after hitting several subterranean objects in and around Manchester, bending one of the blades, I am still experiencing excess vibration through the tiller bar. I have also been getting a lot more water in the bilge that I should.
I feared the prop shaft might be at fault. He lifted the lid, looked at the engine and told me it was clearly out of alignment. He can sort it out, but has recommended we get a new Centraflex coupling to replace what is already fitted. We have a chandlery on site and the price is over £300, but luckily they are having one of their “Freaky Fridays” this week, where everything is 20% off.
Hopefully, he can fit it before we leave the marina at the end of the month.
Toodaloo chums


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